Related: William Kong's Breakthrough to Anatta
William Kong posted in AtR group:
Hi, I'm just introducing myself to the group.
I'd been a long time visitor to the AtR site, although many years have passed since I'd regularly visited. Only recently did AtR "resonate" with me, this time in a very different way - I was only a casual visitor before. I am slowly going over material, since it seems to speak to me in a new voice now, and familiarizing myself with the AtR terms, and definitions.
When Soh wrote that Thusness said certain practitioners get stuck at certain stages for a decade, I can totally relate. I had felt "stuck" for some while - there were important insights, but after several years, the underlying experience was the same and it seemed I was cycling through the same experiences and insights. I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating that was.
My background has been a mix of Advaita/Buddhism/non-traditional, but mostly Advaita. A little over a decade ago (a Buddhist teacher had mentioned a koan "What is self? Shine the light of awareness back on itself"). After about 12-18 months of meditation and revisiting this koan, there was a radical shift, realizing that "I" was not-mind, not-body. There was this Awareness/is-ness/Still Presence from which thoughts and sensatons of body-mind, which I was previously identified with, emerged. I had no spiritual education outside of a book and a few CDs of dharma talks by a well known Buddhist teacher (back then the wikipedia page for "non-duality" consisted of maybe 2 sentences and what was online at the time was sparse, confusing and misleading) ... while the first few months were filled with bliss (and a tremendous letting go of energy), I was left disoriented with how to contextualize and interpret my experience. At the time, I had no words for whatever i was experiencing.
But most noticeably, for the first time in my life, I could simply be without any thoughts. There was just ... Stillness, Awareness without thoughts, just utter peace. (I described this as no-mind, but I do not know if it is the same term as how AtR would define it) The process of "selfing" would often subside spontaneoulsy and the Stillness deepend. Of course, this was always temporary.
Over time, I realized there was not longer an "I" that was in the world, but the appearance of the world was "in" Awareness. Nothing was ever experienced, could be experienced other than Awareness. When this happened, there was like a small "pop" and what I felt as physical, corporeal body was just sensations and a concept of "body" arising within Awareness. Ever since then, the experience of the body has been empty, hollow (but not in any negative, dissociated sense), spacious. The body as an identified contraction lifted, old aches and pains disappeared. There was no particular location where I was (But identification with sticky thoughts/stories remained as a problem)
I would articulate this phase as the Universe aware of Itself, experiencing Itself. I have read that others describe their experience as "I am the trees, I am the sky" ... but I found that misleading, as it implies as if the "I" became a larger physical self and somehow one was identified physically and mentally with trees or sky, as if I was inside a tree or that my body had enlarged its boundaries to somehow incorporate trees and clouds... no..
I would describe it more as...the entire phenomenal radiant Universe, the trees, sky, birds, cars, every sensation, every thought, these all shone with a brilliant immediacy as appearances in awarenesss, with no boundaries separating them, arising no-where and everywhere. Everything was "you", for there was nothing not illuminated by awareness, and "I" was not other than the open field of awareness. This was your Original Face as it had always been, appearing to no-one.
What AtR refers to as luminosity, I would've refered to as the brilliant radiance of Awareness. From the first shift, everything looked different. Objects seemed to shine with a brilliance I had never experienced before. The first meal I ate post-shift was the most delicious meal I had ever experienced. And especially, at first, every natural thing, trees, ocean, sky danced with a rhythm and vibrancy I had never experienced, not even as a child. Every moment was fresh, every moment new (and this has carried me steady even when I fell into occasional nihilistic views)
There was just consciousness and the appearances within consciousness, and I was that. The most simplest expression was simply abiding Awareness of Awareness, until there was just Awareness. There was seeing, but no seer, hearing but no hearer, feeling but no feeler, just seeing, hearing, feeling (thought it was no-self within the context of a background awareness). But the realization and articulation of insights seemed important - it seemed to lock the experience in.
Sometime last year, I realized that the self, the "me" never was. Prior, there was always some expectation of a "me" gaining insights, losing a "self", but it was very clear the "I" that arose was simply another thought.
But last year, there were several insights. I realized that the self never was. Prior, it felt like there was some "I" that was progressing and gaining insight, then there was just the seeing that the "I" never was, itwas simply another thought...there was never anything other than consciousness. I could sense a shift, but intellectually, in terms of a path, I couldn't find anything.
Intellectually, I knew that there is no gap between the backgroudnd awareness and its objects - it was just Awareness, but this gap never fully dissolved. I felt some dissonance and confined by the current crop of Advaitic/Neo-advaitic teachers on the circuit, unsatisfied with some of their arguments. I felt stifled by the Advaitic obsession that Awareness was the unchanging, permanent, Reality, all other forms being unreal.
From my early stages, I had read several books by western Buddhists: Hagen, Kornfield, Ingram, Wilber (he says he is a practicing Zen buddhist, but he seems to writes from an Advaitic perspective where consciousness is the absolute reality).
David Loy's Non-duality seemed to confirm my conviction that Advaita and Bhuddism led to the same insights but with different terms (and in reverse, many Advaitins claim Buddha was really talking about the same thing).
So over time, I gravitated towards Advaita/Neo-Advaita, Goode, Wheeler, Ramana/Nisargardatta, Spira, Tollifson, but I never liked any of the more nihilistic non-dualists (Parsons, etc) .... the experiential component of Direct Path was very compelling.
I went through a period of textual deconstruction, realizing that our normal way of linguistically constructing the world was reinforcing objects as inherently real and self-existing. (But this was always within the assumption that Awareness/Consciouness was the "I" of experience...at the time, I had not encountered convincing arguments, or perhaps was not ready, to deconstruct awareness itself)
I felt a desire to revisit emptiness teachings again, and after reading AtR, this time around, I realized I had interpreted everything within the context of a background awareness, what Loy called substance-view.
From reading the first 2 stages, and a brief read of Soh's No-Mind/One-Mind, those descriptions are very familiar with me. Although I was familiar with many of AtR concepts, the nuances and how Thusness differntiates different aspects of each stage are very new.
It was not easy, but I began the process of questioning the existence of an all-pervasive, permanent, background awareness.
In the same way that there is never a form that arises without a background, never does a background arise without a form. Even awareness is not the ultimate, it is empty itself, and arises co-depently with form. In a way, it is simple, but this dropping was both subtle and radical.
Soh's description of Advaita's view of non-duality is very apt: that it subsumes all forms as modulations of awareness whereas Buddhism gives primacy to emptiness and the dependent origination of forms.
In the wave vs Ocean metaphor, the Advaitic interpretation is not that "you" are simultaneously wave and part of the Ocean (like an arm belonging to a body), but the identity of the wave is identical to the Ocean and the wave is a modulation of the Ocean.
In the Buddhist view, there is no ocean nature from which the waves spring forth, nor is there ocean nature found inherent or embedded within the waves, but the myriad waves of forms all arise co-dependently, empty of inherent existence. There is form, there is no subject/agent/doer experiencing form, prior or after to form, just the luminous display of form.
Before, I did not realize how central DO was to understanding emptiness, anatta. In Advaita, transactional reality is almost negated, with emptiness and DO and forms, conventional reality regains a kind of poignancy. It is hard to describe, the fundamental experience is the same, the emphasis and flavour is very different.
Thank you Soh, Thusness, and all contributors to AtR. For a long time, I felt stuck without a path forward. I'll probably have many questions moving forward
[7:54 AM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Not bad. He should relook these insights and experiences and ask the following:
1. If everything is me, then the sense of "me" must also disappear at that moment of experience. Otherwise one must mature the experience into no-mind and then anatta as an insight.
2. If later it is realized that there is no me/self/Self as an insight and experience (anatta), then one must refine the view and question how does the sense of me/self/Self arise in the first place?
3. Then bring this insight from the refinement of view into all phenomena and all actions.
4. Therefore not only there is no seer in the seen just the seen, there is no seeing and nothing seen. No self, no others and no aggregates.
5. If this is understood only as negations, then one is not free from extremes and all elaborations.
6. Therefore conventionally, there is self, others, seer, seeing and seen. There are causes and effects. There is arising, abiding and ceasing and the only valid mode of arising is dependent arising.
7. Point 1, 2, 3 praxis is on samatha and vipassana. Direct experience and insights. To mature this insight of anatta, the path of analysis is needed.
8. Point 4-6 thorough reasoning and analysis is added to relinquish cognitive obscuration.
9. If he is interested, he should look into mmk (Nagarjuna's text Mūlamadhyamakakārikā), it will expose the many hidden nuances and subtleties of our cognitive obscurations. Patience is needed to get used to the line of reasoning of Nagarjuna. But no need to get involved in those polemics of the Tibetan schools.
[8:08 AM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: 10. Lastly one should understand the praxis of the 2 stanzas and mmk are different. The 2 stanzas are using samatha and vipassana to directly see through mental constructs to realize one's nature (direct path) whereas mmk is via path of analysis and reasoning. So when reading mmk, one must adhere strictly to the conventional 3 fold structure of seer-seeing-seen. See through the structures and deconstruct step by step. The ultimate purpose and result are the same except mmk exposes all the very subtle and hidden cognitives obscurations that we are unable even post anatta insight. So if one is interested in bringing anatta insight to maturity and perfection, mmk is needed.
Soh quoted from book:
Tsongkhapa notes that yod min (lit. “existing-not”) means nonexistent (med pa) while med min (lit. “not-not-existing”) effectively means existent, and accordingly he interprets the first alternative to mean “not existent ultimately” and the second to mean “not nonexistent conventionally.” 491 Otherwise, Tsongkhapa claims, this view would be none other than that of the “Chinese Hashang.” To empty the mind of all concepts of existence, nonexistence, etc., does not constitute discriminating wisdom (prajñā, shes rab), which should be acutely aware of what exists and what does not exist. This kind of emptiness is simply a state of unawareness. In the LRC Tsongkhapa expresses the opinion that most traditions in Tibet had deviated to this extreme. What needs to be negated, he asserts, is not all conceptuality whatsoever, but the false apprehension of true existence (bden ’dzin). By refuting the object of that mistaken concept and focusing upon its emptiness of true existence, one realizes the nature of reality. Having properly identified the apprehension of true existence, it is readily apparent that there are many concepts (rtog pa) that do not involve apprehension of the true existence of self or phenomena. This refutes the position that all concepts are to be refuted. 492 Tsongkhapa and Go ram pa evidently understand the relationship between conceptuality and the apprehension of true
existence differently. Go ram pa understands conceptuality ipso facto as involving apprehension of true existence, whereas Tsongkhapa does not accept that conceptuality is always associated with the apprehension of true existence. 493 Go ram pa agrees that the object of the apprehension of true existence must be refuted. But to maintain that the mere absolute negation that is the nonfinding of that object through rational analysis is the definitive ultimate (don dam mtshan nyid pa), 494 and to maintain that clinging to or apprehension of that emptiness is not an object of refutation, 495 is “alien to the Mādhyamika textual tradition” (dbu ma’i gzhung lugs las ’das). Go ram pa quotes several Indian sources that support his contention that a definitive view is beyond verbal-conceptual formulation. The definitive ultimate is realized non-dualistically by sublime beings’ meditation (* āryasamāpatti, ’phags pa’i mnyam bzhag). He also quotes Candrakīrti to the effect that deceptive reality (saṃvṛti, kun rdzob) is the object of false seeing. 496 Therefore, unlike the emptiness seen directly (pratyakṣena, mngon sum du) by sublime beings, the emptiness of absolute negation that is ascertained by inferential reasoning (anumāna, rjes dpag) is just deceptively true. 497 One might object that in some contexts the ultimate reality is said to be the mere absolute negation of emptiness, and that both realities
are posited only by a worldly mind (’ jig rten pa’i blo) 498— which seems to imply that it is incorrect to define the ultimate as the object of sublime equipoise. In reply, Go ram pa explains that truthlessness is realized in relation to a mind that apprehends true existence, and the designation of “ultimate reality” there refers to a conceptually formulated ultimate. The reason that designation is made is because its referent, the conceptually formulated ultimate, is the object of a mind that understands (rtogs) the nature of reality instead of (lit., “in relation to”— la ltos par) apprehending true existence. It is necessary to call the conceptual ultimate “ultimate” because it must be realized prior to realizing the nonconceptual ultimate (aparyāyaparamārtha, rnam grangs ma yin pa’i don dam). To claim that a conceptual object, which is apprehended as the absence of true existence by negating true existence, is the definitive ultimate (don dam mtshan nyid pa), is to confuse the concept (sāmānyalakṣaṇa, spyi mtshan) of the ultimate (a pointing finger) with the ultimate per se (the moon). 499 The implication is that if the conceptual ultimate is designated and accepted with reference to a worldly mind (’ jig rten pa’i blo), then there is no reason why the nonconceptual, definitive ultimate should not be defined in relation to a nonconceptual mind, which is sublime gnosis. Thus, Go ram pa does not deny that
reasoning and concepts are necessary in realizing the nature of the ultimate. He grants a propaedeutic function to the conceptual formulation of emptiness but does not accept that the Gelug formulation of emptiness as absolute negation qualifies as a definitive ultimate. This follows logically from his assumption that conventional reality is pervaded by conceptuality and that conceptuality is pervaded by ignorance. 500 Thus, any concept— even a concept of the mere absence of inherent existence— is not a definitive ultimate. 188.8.131.52.2. Go ram pa on Meditative Practice Go ram pa’s critique of Tsongkhapa’s approach to meditation is based on the implication that clinging to (zhen pa) or apprehending (’ dzin pa) emptiness is not something to be abandoned. According to Go ram pa, Tsongkhapa reasons that if the apprehension of emptiness is only something to be abandoned, then there is no point in ascertaining it in the first place, as the antidote for apprehending true existence (bden par ’dzin pa). Go ram pa counters with several quotations from sūtras and śāstras, such as the famous statement of Nāgārjuna, The victors have taught emptiness To definitely eliminate all views.
Those who have a view of emptiness Are said to be incurable. 501
Pettit, John W.. Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection (Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism) (pp. 139-140). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition.
[11:15 AM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: You agree more with tsongkhapa than gorampa on this point right
[11:35 AM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Yes so you must be clear. What does freedom from extremes entail? Tsongkhapa or the rest of the schools? Actually even in Gelug system, there is notional and non-notional ultimate. Non-notional ultimate is freedom from all elaborations and notional ultimate is DO and emptiness. Both are equally important. This is explored in Tsongkhapa ocean of reasoning. Therefore even Mipham 2 models of 2 truth is nothing new to Tsongkhapa.
Now even though all other schools emphasized on freedom from all elaboration, they then still qualify it does not mean this and that...🤣. It does not deny mere appearances...an so on and so forth...so it doesn't really differ much.
If you read mmk directly, there are two aspects that come out very clearly:
1. No essential nature
2. Freedom from conceptualities
You can go either way or integrate them.
[11:40 AM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[11:41 AM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Tsongkhapa emphasized and placed a lot on the importance of discerning wisdom of the conventional and the non-essential nature of phenomena while other schools emphasized the ultimate intention of mmk is freedom from all views.
[11:43 AM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: What book is this?
[11:45 AM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Pettit, John W.. Mipham's Beacon of Certainty: Illuminating the View of Dzogchen, the Great Perfection (Studies in Indian and Tibetan Buddhism) (pp. 139-140). Wisdom Publications. Kindle Edition. Lol
[11:46 AM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[12:03 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: No wonder sounded so familiar
[12:03 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: 🤣🤣🤣
[12:03 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Lol
[12:05 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: After that you have to have mmk as well as prasannapada free from Tibetan scholars interpretations
[12:05 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Then your collections can be considered fairly complete to have an [un]bias study
[12:12 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic.. which translation of mmk should i read first?
[12:18 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: you should separate. Translation you should use Jay L. Garfield. Comment you should read Mark Siderits. I m still unable to find full version of prasannapada.
[12:19 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Subscribe to Scribd, they have both.
[12:20 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Means have a raw version of translated text from Jay Garfield. Easier to read.
[12:23 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[12:23 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Which is the best Translation for Nagarjuna's Mulmadhyamkarika
"I am currently reading about sunyata and MMK from SEP and IEP but they seem all over the place. I have one translation/commentary by Jay l Garfield. Is it any good? are there any better translations?
Add a Comment
Ornament Of Reason: The Great Commentary To Nagarjuna's Root Of The Middle Way
(Garfield himself said that this translation renders his own translation obsolete.)
[12:23 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Page 3-83 of Garfield is the translation.
[12:23 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Krodha says garfield say his own translation is obsolete lol
[12:24 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Kyle
[12:24 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Translation or commentary?
[12:24 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: [deleted]
Garfield's translation is very good. Mark Sidderits's translation is also excellent and more recent. Why not use both? You can find free pdfs of Garfield's.
I would strongly recommend Jan Westerhoff's 'Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka: A Philosophical Introduction'. Where was that book when I first tackled Nagarjuna? A gleam in his mother's eye, apparently! ;-)
Ocean of Reasoning contains a marginally updated translation by Garfield, and one that is more in line with Tsongkhapa's commentary in that book. Of course, you would prefer the older book by Garfield if you don't care about the commentary. Sun of Wisdom or The Middle Way if you want good explanations rather than the complete text.
I haven’t read any translations but Jan Westeroff’s Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka is a good work that’s goes presents Naharjuna’s arguments and their contexts. I definitely recommend reading it.
[12:24 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Kyle said translation but idk
[12:25 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: I think the translation is easy to read. But you can use others to 参考.
[12:25 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[12:28 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Jan westeroff is also quite insightful.
[12:28 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Ic..
[12:29 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: But I have my own explanations🤣🤣🤣
[12:29 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Coz many are presented not from experiential perspective
[12:30 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: You mentioned a kagyu book on mmk that is experiential?
[12:30 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Yes
[12:30 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: That mahamudra book is quite good.
[12:33 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: The karmapa’s middle way?
[12:34 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: If emphasis is on primordial purity, then reading is skewed towards freedom from all elaborations which is very crucial. Infact mmk do suggest that.
If emphasis is on no essential nature, then reading can be both and conventionalities are as relevant as ultimate, non-cocneptual and conceptual can be blended using the wisdom and insight of essencelessness.
[12:35 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Yes (on: The karmapa’s middle way?)
[12:36 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: This I think is intent of Tsongkhapa. Which I say is the dual purpose of the chariot analogy.
[12:37 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic.. so mmk is more on primordial purity? Tsongkhapa emphasis seems unique then
[12:38 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: No mmk actually emphasizes both and indeed Tsongkhapa is very insightful.
[12:39 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Yeah there is a chapter in mmk that talks about how emptiness allows the conventional. Chapter on four noble truths
[12:41 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: That is y I told you to have a raw translation text of Ur own also. But it will take a while to get used to the different reasonings in mmk. So still a lot of research needs to be done. Start will chapter 1,2,7 first. They contain all the reasoning logics. Rest are just applying the same reasoning methods.
[9:35 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Timeless Deviation to the Nature of Knowables The meditation of inseparable phenomena and emptiness is called “emptiness endowed with the supreme aspect.” Not knowing how emptiness and interdependence abide in nonduality, you decide that emptiness is a nothingness that has never existed and that is not influenced at all by qualities or defects. Then you underestimate the cause and effect of virtue and vice, or else lapse exclusively into the nature of all things being originally pure, primordially free, and so forth. Bearing such emptiness, the relative level of interdependence is not mastered. In this respect, this is what is known as mahamudra: one’s basic nature is unoriginated and, since it is neither existent nor nonexistent, eternal nor nil, true nor false, nor any other such aspects, it has no existence whatsoever. Nonetheless, its unceasing radiance arises as the relative level of all kinds of interdependence, so it is known as emptiness having the core of interdependence and interdependence having the nature of emptiness. Therefore, emptiness does not stray to the nature of knowables. In the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way it is said: Anything that doesn’t arise dependently Is a phenomenon that has no existence. Therefore anything that is not empty Is a phenomenon that has no existence. And as said in the Commentary on Bodhichitta: It is taught that the relative plane is emptiness, And emptiness alone is the relative plane.” – The Royal Seal of Mahamudra, Volume 2
[10:07 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: 👍
[10:10 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Emptiness is ultimate nature whereas the radiance of clarity is relative as illusionariness of appearance arising dependently.
[10:12 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Mahamudra seems to be in line with Tsongkhapa thought.
[10:12 PM, 6/3/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[10:13 PM, 6/3/2021] John Tan: Actually Mipham also. However they seem to suggest the ultimate purpose of mmk is to cease conceptualities.
[10:01 PM, 6/4/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Nāgārjuna states:
"When the perfect vidyā sees
That things come from ignorance as condition,
Nothing will then be objectified,
Either in terms of arising or destruction...
...Since the Buddhas have stated
That the world is conditioned by ignorance,
Why is it not reasonable [to assert]
That this world is [a result of] conceptualization?
Since it comes to an end
When ignorance ceases;
Why does it not become clear then
That it was conjured by ignorance?"
[10:02 PM, 6/4/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Nagarjuna seems to see the end goal as the exhaustion of all phenomena through the dissolution of ignorance and its conceptualization
[10:09 PM, 6/4/2021] John Tan: I have told u there r 2 purposes already. Cessation of conceptualization in what sense? If cessation of conceptualization is enlightenment, then any one that sleep or fainted is enlightened.
[10:14 PM, 6/4/2021] Soh Wei Yu: its analytical cessation through wisdom
[10:27 PM, 6/4/2021] John Tan: What does this wisdom involved? Seeing through is one thing, realizing is another? What is realized? The nature of mind/phenomena? Uncompounded and unconditioned? Non essential nature? What does understanding the unconditioned and uncompounded or essencelessness tell us? How is this linked to conceptualities?
[10:29 PM, 6/4/2021] John Tan: Then when u come face to face of ur nature u know and will understand.
[10:32 PM, 6/4/2021] John Tan: Also go slow, it is not a one day thing. Be patient and allow mmk to slowly integrate with ur insights. No need to rush. Analyse and at the same time be effortlessly in non-dual anatta, one say everything studied in mmk will become clear.
[10:54 PM, 6/4/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[11:03 PM, 6/4/2021] John Tan: It is like me studying mmk. The thinking mind may assume that it already knew most of the stuff post anatta so don't let ego get in our way.
Only when u come face to face with all the cryptic verses u began to understand that mind is still block and hinder by lots of constructs similar to self/Self in a deep way. If we r sincere then we go further to penetrate and release the deep tendencies. After some time there is really nothing much to read, most of the line of reasoning are known, just how much effort u put in to make it as an experiential insight.
If u were to approach mmk like me in the earlier years, 10-15 years can past and still nothing gain. Y? Because without having a focused mind, sincerity and reverence heart, merely reading and picking here and there a bit, how will genuine insight dawn?
[11:13 PM, 6/4/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[12:16 PM, 6/6/2021] John Tan: Do u understand my 10 points?
[1:30 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: think so.. emptiness does not negate conventional
[1:30 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: was just reading through some of kyle old posts which i like http://www.awakeningtoreality.com/2021/06/the-ultimate-nature-of-phenomena.html
[1:30 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: one of his posts:
It is important to understand the concept of 'conventional truth' in Buddhism, because you may ask why these texts are stating that there is a 'self-nature' and a 'basis' and so on, why would they be doing this if these things are in fact unestablished and ultimately unreal? It is because the ultimate truth of things is their non-arising or emptiness, and what are those 'things' that are ultimately empty? They are conventions which are mistaken to be real things. So these alleged conventional objects are precisely what are realized to be unreal, and this means that we can relate to conventions freely because they are never pointing to anything actually 'real' or established. All conventions are simply useful nominal designations, tools for communication. The problem arises when we mistake these conventions to be something more than just a convention.
Conventions are reliable as long as they are not subjected to keen investigation. That is how 'convention' is defined per buddhism, a correct convention [tathyasaṃvṛti] is, according to Śāntarakṣita; "something can be tacitly accepted as long as it is not critically investigated, that is characterized by arising and decay, and that has causal effectivity." So the validity of a convention is measured by its efficacy, if it appears to function correctly, then it can be accepted as a correct convention prior to its investigation. In the wake of investigating any convention it will fail, since conventions cannot withstand proper scrutiny.
So there is no problem stating that there is a 'self-nature', because when that convention is subjected to scrutiny that self-nature would be ultimately unfindable. Yet the term "self-nature" is a conventional designation that is pointing to the capacity of 'wisdom' mentioned above, which is completely free from the extremes of existence, non-existence, both and neither.
For instance, Longchenpa discusses that nature here:
"Mind itself [i.e., the nature of mind: tib. sems nyid] - naturally occurring timeless awareness [i.e., self-originated primordial wisdom: tib. rang byung ye shes] - has no substance or characteristics. Since it is empty yet lucid and free of elaboration, it cannot be conceived of as 'this' or 'that'. Although it can be illustrated by a metaphor - 'It is like space' - if one reflects on space as the metaphor, it proves to have no color, no shape, or anything about it that is identifiable. Therefore, if the metaphor being used does not refer to some 'thing', then the underlying meaning that it illustrates - mind itself, pure by nature - is not something that has ever existed in the slightest."
8 liked this (Wednesday, September 10, 2014 at 10:14am)
[1:32 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: William kong realised anatta
[1:36 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: therefore what is negated is not conventions per se nor their causal efficacy but the four extremes
[1:44 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: also point 1 and 2... just like the Self, the Awareness seems so absolute and unchanging only due to a wrong view that misperceives luminous appearance into an inherently existing substratum, likewise the world seems so real and inherently existing due to an unexamined view of inherency that reifies and solidifies appearances
[1:59 PM, 6/6/2021] John Tan: What Kyle said is good. However that is not what Tsongkhapa key insight. U have to understand Tsongkhapa elevated the status of conventional that is dependent arising and emptiness of the conventional to equal the uncategorized ultimate. That is the categorized and uncategorised ultimate are of equal status. Means Pt 5 and 6.
[2:11 PM, 6/6/2021] Soh Wei Yu: Oic..
[2:23 PM, 6/6/2021] John Tan: For the 3 other schools, the conventional that is based on conventions and conceptualities r to be discarded after seeing through much like post anatta insight into direct non-conceptuality and non-duality.
But y is conventional so important? As I have said many times Tsongkhapa did not dis-regard freedom from all elaborations and in his early days he did accept the ultimate purpose of mmk is freedom from all elaborations. Further he did mention about the categorized and the uncategorised ultimate, so the question is y did an accomplished master placed so much emphasis of the conventional?
[4:20 PM, 6/6/2021] John Tan: Many enters mmk without having direct taste of what emptiness of svabhava entails. Like what Westerhoff said:
"... give us very little insight into how the removal of such superimpositions could be possible and what it would entail. The reason is obvious: according to the traditional Buddhist view, those who have realized (as opposed to merely understood) the absence of svabhāva and thereby emptiness are few and far between."
Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka Pg 51 by Westerhoff
So those having post anatta insight have the advantage to orientate themselves better and not get swayed by too much philosophical concepts and ideas abt mmk and missed the essential points.
However getting used to how Nagarjuna structured his lines of reasonings and agrumentations can be a real pain initially if we do not have background y it is done that way. Nagarjuna was refuting the various views of his opponents and the major Buddhist systems of his time and frankly the tenets held by some of the major systems r still deeply ingrained in most modern ppl today including u and me. So going through mmk helps us uncover all these traits and put them into perspective with thorough investigations. This is the part where many ATR ppl will find difficulties when jumping into mmk as their approach was more of koan based -- direct and intuitive. The mmk on the other hand is opposite, very academic presented by the scholars even in the case of Westerhoff that is also y I din intro u his book. But he prompted many very important points like on page 126, Westerhoff said:
"The Mādhyamika therefore has to explain how we can account for an object changing and persisting through time without having to assume that there is some unchanging aspect of the object which underlies all change. Nāgārjuna claims that this can indeed be done. Understanding how this can be the case becomes particularly important in the context of the Buddhist conception of the self when the temporal continuity of persons has to be explained without reference to the concept of a persisting subjective core (ātman)."
Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka Pg 126 by Westerhoff
This is I think what Tsongkhapa clearly sees where many din where he creatively talk about how the mere-I takes rebirth.
Also in page 99, Westerhoff remarked:
"It also has to be noted that Nāgārjuna asserts, somewhat puzzlingly, that the absence of svabhāva, that is, emptiness, is not compatible with causation either"
This part is also important how should dependent arising be understood on top of the idea of "no essential nature".
So if u really want to understand what I meant by point 5-6 in my reply to William, u must understand these few questions.
Otherwise u can learn from mmk to see how dependent relations in terms of nominal and existential dependencies, agency-action, object-properties and cause-conditions-effect relationships help to
render svabhava as untenable.These reasonings will help the mind to release itself from grasping after svabhava in time to come. If the verses of mmk can go along with some vipassana exercises, that will be excellent. The combination will liberate the mind from all ghost images created by languages and conceptual superimpositions in a thorough and powerful way. Unfortunately this can't be found in books so u have to devise urself along the way...lol. 😂
The Coughlin translation is my preference these days, 'cause Buddhapalita.
It’s ok, Coughlin’s book is better. Buddhapalita is the definitive commentary on MMK.
It is not possible to understand MMK without reading Buddhapalita, or, Bocking’s translation of the Pingala commentary preserved in Chinese.
Not if you are unable to identify who is saying what to whom in the text, for example, Kalupahana’s stillbirth of a translation utterly misconstrues nearly all of MMK because he tried to understand the text without relying on Buddhapalita. You have also misconstrued exactly the same points he did. Therefore, read Buddhapalita and get back to me. You will thank me.Studying Nagarjuna’s other writings should be considered reading the qualified materials for the MMK.