How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

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Kenneth Chan
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Sat Dec 10, 2016 11:25 pm

conebeckham wrote:Kenneth-
You must realize that here, on a Buddhist forum, the prevalence of arguments against a certain interpretation must have SOME weight, at least. Would you at least consider enlarging the breadth of your reading, vis a vis Madhyamaka?
This is not a popularity contest. In any case, the fact that the reading of the same text can result in such differing interpretations is the reason why, in Tibetan Buddhism, maintaining the lineage of transmission is absolutely crucial. It is so crucial, in fact, that should the lineage of transmission be broken, the lineage is considered lost even though the texts of the lineage are still available.

Malcolm
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Malcolm » Sun Dec 11, 2016 1:04 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:It is so crucial, in fact, that should the lineage of transmission be broken, the lineage is considered lost even though the texts of the lineage are still available.

There are in fact ways of restoring an interrupted lineage.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Lobsang Chojor » Sun Dec 11, 2016 1:09 am

Malcolm wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:It is so crucial, in fact, that should the lineage of transmission be broken, the lineage is considered lost even though the texts of the lineage are still available.

There are in fact ways of restoring an interrupted lineage.
I know it's off topic, but what are these methods?
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boda
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by boda » Sun Dec 11, 2016 1:18 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:
boda wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:The process of the collapse of the wave function is therefore the process of dependent origination.
Couldn't ANY process be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination?
Sure, probably any process can be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination. The cause of the collapse of the wave function is, nonetheless, the main longstanding unresolved problem in quantum physics. It even has a name, which is "the measurement problem." Essentially, what I am saying, then, is that this Madhyamaka viewpoint is, in fact, the solution to the measurement problem.

The collapse of the wave function is what happens when an observer makes an actual measurement of a particle. Prior to this act of measurement, the particle actually does not manifest as actual particle in a particular position. All we have, prior to the act of measurement, is the quantum wave function, which is a mathematical entity that only provides us with a probability distribution of where we might find the particle if and only if we actually measure its position. That is what Heisenberg means by saying that the particle only makes the transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' upon the act of measurement by the observer.

What exactly causes this process of transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is the measurement problem, and it has puzzled physicists for over a century now. The correct solution, to me, is that this transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is actually the process of dependent origination.
In Buddhist doctrine dependent origination consists of 12 causal links. Breaking these links results in the cessation of dukkha. Cessation of dukkha = no dependent origination. The Buddha, for example, achieved this cessation. He broke the cycle of birth and death so in his case there was no dependent origination. Yet there's ample evidence of convergence between his cessation and others who were still in the cycle of birth and death. They interacted with each other and that interaction could only occur with the 'actual', or the collapse of the wave function by an observer (Buddha) with whom dependent origination no longer applied.

I wonder if this puzzle needs to be resolved or if I'm mistaken about some aspect.

Kenneth Chan
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Sun Dec 11, 2016 1:48 am

boda wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:
boda wrote: Couldn't ANY process be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination?
Sure, probably any process can be correctly interpreted as a process of dependent origination. The cause of the collapse of the wave function is, nonetheless, the main longstanding unresolved problem in quantum physics. It even has a name, which is "the measurement problem." Essentially, what I am saying, then, is that this Madhyamaka viewpoint is, in fact, the solution to the measurement problem.

The collapse of the wave function is what happens when an observer makes an actual measurement of a particle. Prior to this act of measurement, the particle actually does not manifest as actual particle in a particular position. All we have, prior to the act of measurement, is the quantum wave function, which is a mathematical entity that only provides us with a probability distribution of where we might find the particle if and only if we actually measure its position. That is what Heisenberg means by saying that the particle only makes the transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' upon the act of measurement by the observer.

What exactly causes this process of transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is the measurement problem, and it has puzzled physicists for over a century now. The correct solution, to me, is that this transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual' is actually the process of dependent origination.
In Buddhist doctrine dependent origination consists of 12 causal links. Breaking these links results in the cessation of dukkha. Cessation of dukkha = no dependent origination. The Buddha, for example, achieved this cessation. He broke the cycle of birth and death so in his case there was no dependent origination. Yet there's ample evidence of convergence between his cessation and others who were still in the cycle of birth and death. They interacted with each other and that interaction could only occur with the 'actual', or the collapse of the wave function by an observer (Buddha) with whom dependent origination no longer applied.

I wonder if this puzzle needs to be resolved or if I'm mistaken about some aspect.
When I used the term "dependent origination" in the passage above, I was not actually referring to the 12 causal links. I am using the term "dependent origination" in the other sense, which has to do with how things only exist in dependence upon causes and conditions, and so on. Sorry about the confusion. Also, the terms "collapse of the wave function","transition from the 'possible' to the 'actual'" are all referring to the concepts found in the formulation of quantum mechanics, and are not meant to refer to other things not related to quantum mechanics.

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conebeckham
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by conebeckham » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:37 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Kenneth-
You must realize that here, on a Buddhist forum, the prevalence of arguments against a certain interpretation must have SOME weight, at least. Would you at least consider enlarging the breadth of your reading, vis a vis Madhyamaka?
This is not a popularity contest. In any case, the fact that the reading of the same text can result in such differing interpretations is the reason why, in Tibetan Buddhism, maintaining the lineage of transmission is absolutely crucial. It is so crucial, in fact, that should the lineage of transmission be broken, the lineage is considered lost even though the texts of the lineage are still available.
Sure. But of course, there is always the possibility of new texts, new commentaries, and new "transmission lineages." For example, Tsongkhapa's tradition. Fortunately, older commentarial traditions exist. You would do well to investigate them, IMO, if you would understand the original intent of Nagarjuna and the Prajnaparamita sutras. But this investigation would, I fear, not suit your purposes, which seem more focused on some qualified ontology of the seeming.
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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Bakmoon » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:53 am

Tsongkhapafan wrote:What does that even mean? We need to define what the ultimate is, that's a view. Emptiness depends upon the object of negation, so the fact that it depends on explicitly negating this object, is a view. The ultimate must be defined, that is also a view. "Emptiness is the mere absence of all the things we normally see or perceive" - that's a view. You cannot meditate on emptiness if you don't understand what it is, and what it is, is a view. In Gelugpa we talk about 'the correct view of emptiness' so to say that there are no views in ultimate truth is incorrect - the ultimate is a correct view.
Putting words together to make a statement about something isn't quite the same as taking up a view. Having a view of something means not only to make a statement about something, but to say "this is how it really is." In contrast, if you make a statement about something, but acknowledge that it doesn't get at the way things are, but is only a conventional expression used to further some purpose, that isn't really holding a view, that's just a statement.

For example, if I make a statement about how conventionally, non-virtue leads to painful results, that isn't a view in this specific philosophical sense of the term. This is because I am only accepting it conventionally, I'm not saying that this is how things truly are, but I am just giving an expression to convey how things function in terms of appearances.

Emptiness is the same way. Making a statement about emptiness isn't saying "this is something that gets at how things truly are" but rather, it is a conventional expression that is adopted to refute wrong notions. Statements about emptiness are also incorrect in a sense because they are partial and don't truly convey how things are, just like all other conventional expressions. But such conventional statements about emptiness are necessary in order to refute other mistaken ideas.

This is why many Madhyamikas make a distinction between two kinds of ultimate truth: the actual ultimate (i.e. how things really are) and the approximate ultimate (i.e. what we can say about the ultimate in words). In the freedom from extremes presentation, it is understood that the actual ultimate is totally free from all views and concepts, and is inexpressible in words, and the approximate ultimate is our attempt to give the next best thing in words.
Yes, of course emptiness is not an independent phenomenon. It depends upon conventional truth and it depends upon negating the correct object of negation. Non-emptiness (inherent existence) is a non-existent, but nevertheless, it can appear to mind because of ignorance.
Let me check to see how far we are in agreement. Do we both agree that the ultimate truth is not truly empty, but rather we say that the ultimate truth is empty as a conventional expression?

If so, let me ask a further question. Because ultimate truth is how things are, and conventional truths aren't, but are accepted because they reliably indicate how things function, can we furthermore say that emptiness, which is a conventional expression, doesn't truly get at how things really are, but is rather the closest approximation we can make to that in language?

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Kenneth Chan » Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:14 am

conebeckham wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Kenneth-
You must realize that here, on a Buddhist forum, the prevalence of arguments against a certain interpretation must have SOME weight, at least. Would you at least consider enlarging the breadth of your reading, vis a vis Madhyamaka?
This is not a popularity contest. In any case, the fact that the reading of the same text can result in such differing interpretations is the reason why, in Tibetan Buddhism, maintaining the lineage of transmission is absolutely crucial. It is so crucial, in fact, that should the lineage of transmission be broken, the lineage is considered lost even though the texts of the lineage are still available.
Sure. But of course, there is always the possibility of new texts, new commentaries, and new "transmission lineages." For example, Tsongkhapa's tradition. Fortunately, older commentarial traditions exist. You would do well to investigate them, IMO, if you would understand the original intent of Nagarjuna and the Prajnaparamita sutras. But this investigation would, I fear, not suit your purposes, which seem more focused on some qualified ontology of the seeming.
I am, of course, willing to consider any arguments based on logic and evidence. Still, it is important that the person interpreting the text is part of a lineage of transmission. That does not mean blindly following, of course. But it does mean that, since there are so many differing ways to interpret even the same text, it is good that the person is not just interpreting the text purely from his own individual perspective. The other consideration that is important in understanding a text is one's own spiritual realisation. This, in fact, can be crucial, depending on the level of one's own spiritual attainment.

To me, the thing that has the lowest priority would be the literal meaning of the individual words themselves. We have to understand the limitations of language, and that words can mean so many different things in different contexts, and to different people. I have actually written a book on Shakespeare, and it is obvious that Shakespeare realises this fact about words and language, and he, in fact, deliberately makes use of it to construct sentences that mean, at the same time, two, or even three, different meanings. Permit me to quote Shakespeare here (from Twelfth Night):

Viola: Thy reason, man?

Fool: Troth, sir, I can yield you none without words, and words are grown so false, I am loath to prove reason with them.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Malcolm » Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:16 am

Kenneth Chan wrote: When I used the term "dependent origination" in the passage above, I was not actually referring to the 12 causal links...
The general theory of dependent origination (Where this exists, that exist; with the arising of that, this arose) was taught so that monks would stop bugging the Buddha about their past lives.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by boda » Sun Dec 11, 2016 4:42 am

Kenneth Chan wrote:When I used the term "dependent origination" in the passage above, I was not actually referring to the 12 causal links. I am using the term "dependent origination" in the other sense, which has to do with how things only exist in dependence upon causes and conditions, and so on.
Synonymous with emptiness?

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Tsongkhapafan » Sun Dec 11, 2016 10:59 am

Malcolm wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote: When I used the term "dependent origination" in the passage above, I was not actually referring to the 12 causal links...
The general theory of dependent origination (Where this exists, that exist; with the arising of that, this arose) was taught so that monks would stop bugging the Buddha about their past lives.
That's a ridiculous statement. Buddha taught dependent origination to show how samsara arises and how to cut its root - he taught it so that people would develop wisdom. Buddha can't be 'bugged' by anything.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Malcolm » Sun Dec 11, 2016 2:57 pm

Tsongkhapafan wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Kenneth Chan wrote: When I used the term "dependent origination" in the passage above, I was not actually referring to the 12 causal links...
The general theory of dependent origination (Where this exists, that exist; with the arising of that, this arose) was taught so that monks would stop bugging the Buddha about their past lives.
That's a ridiculous statement. Buddha taught dependent origination to show how samsara arises and how to cut its root - he taught it so that people would develop wisdom. Buddha can't be 'bugged' by anything.
The Buddha was trying to forestall a lot of stupid questions (bugging) by monks with regards to their past lives. In response, he taught the general theory of dependent origination. Please see the Abhidharmakośabhaṣyaṃ at 2:25cd.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Jeff H » Sun Dec 11, 2016 3:58 pm

I learn a lot every time this topic, about how wrong Tsongkhapa was, comes up. I do not reject attacks on his position about the object of negation, but neither am I ready to renounce it, or all the masters who have propagated his teaching, including my teachers. Cone may be right that today Tsongkhapa’s is a minority teaching –- and it certainly appears to be so on DW. But in my personal, lineage-oriented world it is highly respected. And I think valid.

It seems to me that in the end the negation of inherent existence and inherent non-existence comes to the same place as the negation of existence and non-existence. Neither side is saying that anything exists independently. Tsongkhapa is saying that what we experience is a relative existence in the minds of people like me. I start from a place of not recognizing that I actually perceive phenomena as independent “ping pong” balls (to use Berzin’s expression). Tsongkhapa provides me with a stepping stone of conceptualizing inherent existence first. But the Tsongkhapa lineage always teaches not to confuse the experience that is left after negating inherent existence for any kind of concrete reality. The principle is that we simply can’t deny our experience –- experience simply is.

I still think that Kenneth is using the Madhyamaka-Prasangika method correctly to negate the view of materialism among physicists, and without affirming another view in its place. He’s simply using the particular version of an ancient teaching, which he was taught, to show them that when faced with conventional evidence contradicting materiality as they know it, they should accept that evidence rather than trying to stuff it into a materialistic box. That would be a great lesson, but not a view.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Malcolm » Sun Dec 11, 2016 4:36 pm

Jeff H wrote:I learn a lot every time this topic, about how wrong Tsongkhapa was, comes up. I do not reject attacks on his position about the object of negation, but neither am I ready to renounce it, or all the masters who have propagated his teaching, including my teachers. Cone may be right that today Tsongkhapa’s is a minority teaching –- and it certainly appears to be so on DW. But in my personal, lineage-oriented world it is highly respected. And I think valid.
The sectarianism concerning this was started by Keydrup Jey who violently attacked people who disagreed with Tsongkhapa. You can read the tenor of his polemics in A Thousand Doses of Emptiness translated by Jose Cabezon. Keydrup Jey too was the one who began the earnest canonization of Lama Tsongkhapa. There is a recent book Authorized Lives which explores this. It is very interesting and worthwhile reading.

Dudjom Rinpoche wisely quips that if one were to take seriously all of the polemics in the history of Tibet, no one's teachings could be regarded as valid.

It seems to me that in the end the negation of inherent existence and inherent non-existence comes to the same place as the negation of existence and non-existence. Neither side is saying that anything exists independently.
There is no term in Sanskrit niḥniḥsvabhāva. This is only svabhāva and niḥsvabhāva, inherent existence and the absence of inherent existence.

It is an argument which mainly concerns 1) pedagogy 2) Tsongkhapa's novel attempt to create a system out of what he called "Prasangika" which would be largely unrecognizable to any Indian Madhyamaka scholar. A great deal of the debate turns on how definitive Nāgārjunas own writings are. For those who consider Nāgārjuna definitive and straightfoward, many Gelug attempts at subtly and nuance seem off-base. Gelugs respond that Nāgārjuna needs interpretation, which is tantamount to saying that Nāgārjuna's own writings are not definitive.
Tsongkhapa is saying that what we experience is a relative existence in the minds of people like me. I start from a place of not recognizing that I actually perceive phenomena as independent “ping pong” balls (to use Berzin’s expression). Tsongkhapa provides me with a stepping stone of conceptualizing inherent existence first.
Be honest— did you have any idea of "inherent existence: prior to reading any Madhyamaka?

But the Tsongkhapa lineage always teaches not to confuse the experience that is left after negating inherent existence for any kind of concrete reality. The principle is that we simply can’t deny our experience –- experience simply is.
The main criticism of Tsongkhapa's view is that it supposes that a nonexistence (the absence of inherent existence) is ultimate. This makes Tsongkhapa's point of view subtly nihilistic.
I still think that Kenneth is using the Madhyamaka-Prasangika method correctly to negate the view of materialism among physicists, and without affirming another view in its place.
Instead he is encouraging another fault— regarding ultimate reality as a negation.
He’s simply using the particular version of an ancient teaching, which he was taught, to show them that when faced with conventional evidence contradicting materiality as they know it, they should accept that evidence rather than trying to stuff it into a materialistic box. That would be a great lesson, but not a view.
As far as I can tell, he is trying to convince himself that Madhyamaka confirms quantum mechanics. But it does not.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Bakmoon » Sun Dec 11, 2016 4:50 pm

Jeff H wrote:I learn a lot every time this topic, about how wrong Tsongkhapa was, comes up. I do not reject attacks on his position about the object of negation, but neither am I ready to renounce it, or all the masters who have propagated his teaching, including my teachers. Cone may be right that today Tsongkhapa’s is a minority teaching –- and it certainly appears to be so on DW. But in my personal, lineage-oriented world it is highly respected. And I think valid.
I actually don't disagree with Lama Tsongkhapa on all that much. For the most part I recognize that his presentation of Madhyamaka is just formulated primarily from the perspective of conventional truth, and I don't really have any problem with that, it's just a different way of putting it all together, that's all. The only key issues I think there are is whether or not Madhyamaka has a view about ultimate reality (Lama Tsongkhapa teaches that Madhyamaka does have such a view, namely the view of emptiness, whereas the freedom from extremes presentation of Madhyamaka says that the ultimate truth itself is inexpressible, and is free from all concepts and elaborations, and emptiness is just an expression we use to convey this in words), and the issue of inserting qualifiers into the negations.
Jeff H wrote:It seems to me that in the end the negation of inherent existence and inherent non-existence comes to the same place as the negation of existence and non-existence. Neither side is saying that anything exists independently. Tsongkhapa is saying that what we experience is a relative existence in the minds of people like me. I start from a place of not recognizing that I actually perceive phenomena as independent “ping pong” balls (to use Berzin’s expression). Tsongkhapa provides me with a stepping stone of conceptualizing inherent existence first. But the Tsongkhapa lineage always teaches not to confuse the experience that is left after negating inherent existence for any kind of concrete reality. The principle is that we simply can’t deny our experience –- experience simply is.
I agree. All Madhyamikas, both Gelug and non-Gelug, agree that mere appearances are not negated. We negate the idea that appearances are somehow established, but we do not negate the mere fact that appearances appear to us and that they can function and be described. The only differences is what kind of technical language used to describe that, and I think they come out equivalent.

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by BuddhaFollower » Sun Dec 11, 2016 6:07 pm

conebeckham wrote: You would do well to investigate them, IMO, if you would understand the original intent of Nagarjuna and the Prajnaparamita sutras.

Original intent is Nonarising (anutpada).

"It is equally apparent that one of the important features of the Prajnaparamita positition is that of the nonarising (anutpada) of dharmas." - Dr. Richard King

Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 7.33 says:

"Since arising, abiding, and disintegrating are not established, there are no conditioned phenomena.
Since conditioned phenomena are not established, how could unconditioned phenomena be established?"
- translated by Karl Brunnholzl

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Jeff H » Sun Dec 11, 2016 6:12 pm

Thank you both, Malcolm and Bakmoon! These direct responses are particularly good grist for my still churning mill. I'm struggling to formulate a coherent question about all this to put to a couple of my teachers.
:shock:
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by boda » Sun Dec 11, 2016 6:50 pm

Malcolm wrote:
boda wrote:Interestingly, quantum events like decay occur without a cause.
Perishing does not have a cause, perishing occurs due to absence of a cause. I.e. when that does not exist, this does not exist, with the perishing of this, that ceases."
The significant aspect is not decay (perishing) but the impossibility to predict the occurrence of decay. It cannot have a cause. You write:
If there is a proposition that something arises either from itself, from another, both, or in absence of a cause, that proposition automatically fails the dependent origination test and can be regarded as conventionally invalid from a Madhyamaka point of view.
So what, if anything, does it mean for a quantum event to fail your dependent origination test?

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Virgo » Sun Dec 11, 2016 7:16 pm

boda wrote:
So what, if anything, does it mean for a quantum event to fail your dependent origination test?
It would not correspond with reality, I would venture.

Buddha's Dharma is the ultimate teaching, not the teaching of a bunch of unenlightened scientists in a lab doing trial and error and guessworks.

Kevin

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Re: How Madhyamika Philosophy Solves the Mystery of Quantum Physics

Post by Bakmoon » Sun Dec 11, 2016 8:34 pm

Jeff H wrote:Thank you both, Malcolm and Bakmoon! These direct responses are particularly good grist for my still churning mill. I'm struggling to formulate a coherent question about all this to put to a couple of my teachers.
:shock:
Would you like to talk over some of these issues in a new thread? I know from experience that these subtle issues are really opaque if you haven't studied the subject fairly closely already, so I can definitely sympathize with the confusion.

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