What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

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Tenzintharpa
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What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

Postby Tenzintharpa » Mon Jan 09, 2017 11:24 am

I am a Gelug practitioner of Tibetan Buddhism and understand Tsongkhapa’s view but am a little confused on the different views of conventional phenomena held by other schools of Buddhism.
According to the Kagyu, does conventional phenomena:
A) Exist as Illusion, existing only as a projection of the mind, (literally unreal).
B) Exist as Illusion ‘like’; real but existing in an ethereal manner, lacking any inherent true essence; nominally existent.
C) Do Kagyu’s deny the existence of conventional phenomena and/or matter?

Gelug presentation
The Buddha often described life as dream-like but he never asserted that life was a dream or that phenomenon did not actually exist.

Observed phenomenon don’t exist as mere images, projections or visions in the mind but rather exists as separate entities from the mind. The mind and matter are two separate things. Matter is separate from the mind that cognizes and dominates it. And although observed phenomenon are not simply created by a mind, their ultimate mode of existence is dependent upon the mind, so the mind doesn’t create the matter but the matter is dependent on the mind that imputes it as the imputer. Therefore, their mode of existence is separate from the imputer but their existence is dependent upon the imputer. Their mode of existence is separate but their existence is dependent. Nothing can exist independently from the mind which perceives it. ~ Dalai Lama

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conebeckham
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Re: What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

Postby conebeckham » Mon Jan 09, 2017 6:22 pm

I'm not sure there's a standard answer to your question, frankly, as there's no "orthodox Kagyu interpretation" that all Kagyupas ascribe to...but I think it's safe to say that phenomena are mere appearances to minds, and they have no ontological status. Whether they are separable from mind, a part of mind, or extrinsic to mind, will vary depending on who you ask.
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Re: What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

Postby PadmaVonSamba » Mon Jan 16, 2017 1:51 am

According to the Kagyu, does conventional phenomena:
A) Exist as Illusion, existing only as a projection of the mind, (literally unreal).
B) Exist as Illusion ‘like’; real but existing in an ethereal manner, lacking any inherent true essence; nominally existent.
C) Do Kagyu’s deny the existence of conventional phenomena and/or matter?


My background is some 32 years as a lay practictioner in the kagyu tradition. I will answer according to my own understanding, and if I can find it, cite one reference that may answer your question directly in a subsequent response. This will be from a commentary By His Eminence Thrangu Rinpoche, on the teachings of Khenpo Gangshar Rinpoche (the book, Vivid Awareness) in which he states that physical matter does indeed "exist".

However, "exist" a loaded term. I prefer the word "occur". Phenomena occur, but they have no intrinsic existence, nothing outside of conditional arising right? Physical matter occurs, it happens, but it is empty of any inherent existence. There is no point at which anything can be dissected, deconstructed or reduced to a point of its own, indivisible essence. Space, which is not phenomena, can be. No matter how much you divide space, it is still space. Phenomena occur, but as an interaction of temporary events, which is, of course what the Buddha taught that people mistakenly cling to.

In this sense, B in your list of options is closest. energy, atoms, molecules, heat, movement, they all occur regardless of whether a mind is grasping them or not. But even saying this is somewhat tenuous. Does a tree falling in the forest make a sound if nobody hears it? No.

However it does create all the conditions for the experience of sound to occur in the consciousness of a being. The vibrations of air molecules are just that. it isn't until they hit an ear drum, and that signal converted to an electrical impulse in the brain, and that impulse experienced by conscious mind as a noise do they become sound. The falling of a tree can be recorded on audio tape. Does the tape make sound? No. The playing of the tape through speakers vibrates air molecules, etc. etc.

Likewise, if you put a painting or photograph in a lightproof box, the image ceases to exist, although most of the causes of the image remain. The most important element, light reflecting off its surface, is required for the image to occur.

Regarding option C, "existence of conventional phenomena", no. but, "conventional existence of phenomena" perhaps, meaning that phenomena occur in a conventional or provisional sense. That conventionality is a projection of mind. Otherwise, there would be nothing to even talk about!

I have seen it argued that the correct answer is A but I haven't seen this substantiated.
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Re: What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

Postby smcj » Mon Jan 16, 2017 2:34 am

From a sutra perspective the Karma Kagyu subscribes to a standard (non-Gelug) Prasangika Madhyamaka view of conventional phenomena .

From a tantric view all form, sound, and thought are the body, speech, and mind of the deity. What that means in plain English I have no real idea as I have not had the experience myself. Evidently it does actually mean something though. You'd have to find someone that has had the experience to explain it.
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Matt J
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Re: What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

Postby Matt J » Wed Jan 18, 2017 4:31 am

I don't know, a lot of Kagyus seem more Yogacara Madhyamaka --- depending on what they are explicating.

smcj wrote:From a sutra perspective the Karma Kagyu subscribes to a standard (non-Gelug) Prasangika Madhyamaka view of conventional phenomena .
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Re: What is the Kagyu assertion of how conventional phenomena exists?

Postby smcj » Wed Jan 18, 2017 7:20 am

Matt J wrote:I don't know, a lot of Kagyus seem more Yogacara Madhyamaka --- depending on what they are explicating.

You could say that conventional phenomena are the "dependent nature" using the 3 natures terminology shared by the Yogacara and Shentong. But given the way the question was asked I'm comfortable with my prior answer.
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