No External Objects

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smcj
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Sun Nov 22, 2015 1:37 am

I have noticed inconsistency, some objects do not exist as ithey appear to me.
According to the Buddha; more importantly you yourself do not exist as you appear to yourself.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Sun Nov 22, 2015 9:31 am

Matt J wrote:Are you saying that Mipham's approach is not consistent with Dzogchen, that Dzogchen does not make use of Chittamatra concepts, that there is simply a difference between Yogacara and Chittamatra, or that the Chittamatra concepts used by Mipham et.al. doesn't establish a really existing mind and is therefore not really Chittamatra?
While we are waiting for Malcolm to provide us with a proper answer to your questions: It appears that there is no single standard Dzogchen position with respect to your original question. It is Capriles, I think (or maybe Pettit in his Beacon of Certainty? Anyway, I recall Malcolm voicing a similar sentiment), who notes somewhere that there are at least two solutions posited by Dzogchen commentators.

One of them would be what Longchenpa champions -- the quasi-Kantian Sautrantika-Madhyamaka position, according to which we must distinguish between the appearance and that which appears; the latter, however, would not really be an 'external object' in the proper sense of the phrase because it lack svabhava (as much as everything else). It is discussed at some length here: http://www.amazon.com/Primordial-Experi ... 157062898X

The other is the thoroughly anti-realist Yogacara-Madhyamaka take, whose proponents claim that there indeed are no external objects whatsoever, fullstop. What produces appearances are merely our karmic seeds (which, naturally, are also devoid of svabhava). This is one of the views which Ju Mipham has been associated with.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Wayfarer » Sun Nov 22, 2015 10:19 am

Once we get to discussing 'doctrinal positions', haven't we lost the flavour of dzogchen somewhat? OK, I'm not a dzogchen initiate, but I would have thought the general approach of positions and doctrines and fine distinctions, is very much what such a dzogchen teaching was an antidote to. I would have thought that both Cittamatra and Dzogchen, and other esoteric teachings, are thoroughly subversive of 'established doctrine'. Once the subversive ideas behind both teachings become understood and solidified in terms of definitions and concepts then they fall into the very trap that they were originally designed to subvert.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:02 pm

Oh, I agree. The reason why some Dzogchenpas got into such debates seems to have been one of practical necessity (Pettit explains it nicely). It is true that it does amount to demoting Vajrayana to the Sutra level.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Sun Nov 22, 2015 4:32 pm

If you're going to talk about "Ultimate Truth" you can make Zen riddles or articulate approximations. The only other approach I see is instruction only, which itself gets problematic.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:27 pm

Thanks. I have Primordial Certainty, but it is fairly difficult going given the translation choices.

It seems to me that external objects fall under both a Yogacara and Madhyamaka POV. The most difficult thing for me to grasp with Madhyamaka is that objects have no existence from their own side (unless one is a Gelugpa, perhaps). Using the classic example of the water seen by humans, the pus seen by pretas, etc., Prasangika Madhyamaka seems to say that there is external object there, only appearances. Mipham criticizes Tsongkapha for positing that there is something there, some X that gods see as nectar, humans see as water, etc. and establishing a "slightly" existing object of some kind.
treehuggingoctopus wrote:
Matt J wrote:Are you saying that Mipham's approach is not consistent with Dzogchen, that Dzogchen does not make use of Chittamatra concepts, that there is simply a difference between Yogacara and Chittamatra, or that the Chittamatra concepts used by Mipham et.al. doesn't establish a really existing mind and is therefore not really Chittamatra?
While we are waiting for Malcolm to provide us with a proper answer to your questions: It appears that there is no single standard Dzogchen position with respect to your original question. It is Capriles, I think (or maybe Pettit in his Beacon of Certainty? Anyway, I recall Malcolm voicing a similar sentiment), who notes somewhere that there are at least two solutions posited by Dzogchen commentators.

One of them would be what Longchenpa champions -- the quasi-Kantian Sautrantika-Madhyamaka position, according to which we must distinguish between the appearance and that which appears; the latter, however, would not really be an 'external object' in the proper sense of the phrase because it lack svabhava (as much as everything else). It is discussed at some length here: http://www.amazon.com/Primordial-Experi ... 157062898X

The other is the thoroughly anti-realist Yogacara-Madhyamaka take, whose proponents claim that there indeed are no external objects whatsoever, fullstop. What produces appearances are merely our karmic seeds (which, naturally, are also devoid of svabhava). This is one of the views which Ju Mipham has been associated with.
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If only there is no picking or choosing
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Mon Nov 23, 2015 7:33 pm

If external objects are not really there and are only conventions, how come there are no unicorns around?
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Nov 23, 2015 10:24 pm

In my philosophy (which I don't claim is orthodox from a Buddhist pov,) you can distinguish reality from existence. So when you say that 'things don't really exist', what I would say is that they're not ultimately real. No ' manifest object' is utterly real, because it is a compound and impermanent etc. but on the level of conventional truth a bullet wil still kill you, so you can't claim that is is merely or simply non-existent.

Buddhist philosophy has in the background the sense of 'degrees of reality' although that terminology is not necessarily used to describe it. But a consequence of this understanding is that material particulars are not real in themselves, but only by virtue of their designation (which I think is orthodox Madhyamika). The problem is that if you leave it at the point of saying that 'nothing really exists', you fall into nihilism. That is why Nagarjuna and the Buddhist traditions say not to teach sunyata to the untrained - because it is then taken to mean the 'mere unreality' of everything, which leads to nihilism (and nihilism is an extremely easy thing to fall into.)

So in my philosophy 'reality is totality' meaning that reality includes the knower and act of perception and is not simply the thing being observed. So understanding the nature of knowledge means 'knowing how you know' which means in turn insight into the way the mind generates vikalpa. That is what you learn through meditation - you see how the mind creates the world - not the natural world but what phenomenology calls the lebensworld. Science doesn't go into that because it is pre-reflective, it takes the world of sense perception naively is being reality itself.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Malcolm » Tue Nov 24, 2015 3:47 am

Wayfarer wrote: The problem is that if you leave it at the point of saying that 'nothing really exists', you fall into nihilism.
One does not proclaim that nothing exists. One discovers that no existents can be found. This is why Buddhapalita states, "We do not claim nonexistence, we merely remove the claim that existents exist."
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Tue Nov 24, 2015 4:45 pm

So while on break, I've picked up a copy of the Ninth's Karmapa's Feast for the Fortunate. In the introduction, there is discussion about how Tsongkapha positing the inherent existence of a vase as the object of refutation, and that this is somehow different than the vase.

Gendun Chopel (trans Tyler Dewar) says:
No matter how much one verbally distinguishes the objects that are to be negated by reasoning, the truth is that, as far as refutation is concerned, you need to refute the vase; you need to refute the pillar; you need to refute existence; you need to refute nonexistence. What use is there is positing the vase and then refuting a "truly existent vase off to the side?"
Mipham more or less makes the same point.

Regarding nihilism, Gendun Chopel says:
There are those who fear that if vases, pillars, and so on were refuted through reasoning, everyone would come to espouse nihilistic views of nonexistence. Their worries are pointless. For in the case of ordinary, everyday beings who are looking at a vase in front of them, how is it possible that a nihilistic view regarding the vase to be utterly nonexistent could arise? Even if such an outlook did happen to arise in someone, he or she would directly cognize that the vase can still be seen and touched. Therefore, if a mind naturally arose that thinks, "The vase is appearing to me, but while appearing, it is utterly nonexistent," that is the Middle Way view known as "the two-fold collection of appearance and emptiness that cognizes how appearing phenomeon do not exist in the way they appear." How is that nihilism?
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Malcolm » Tue Nov 24, 2015 5:29 pm

Matt J wrote:So while on break, I've picked up a copy of the Ninth's Karmapa's Feast for the Fortunate. In the introduction, there is discussion about how Tsongkapha positing the inherent existence of a vase as the object of refutation, and that this is somehow different than the vase.

This objection has its origins in Gorampa's writings, in fact.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:18 pm

Matt J wrote:Thanks. I have Primordial Certainty, but it is fairly difficult going given the translation choices.

It seems to me that external objects fall under both a Yogacara and Madhyamaka POV. The most difficult thing for me to grasp with Madhyamaka is that objects have no existence from their own side (unless one is a Gelugpa, perhaps). Using the classic example of the water seen by humans, the pus seen by pretas, etc., Prasangika Madhyamaka seems to say that there is external object there, only appearances.
You have lost the 'not' in the last clause, did you not?

I am but an amateur here, but to my knowledge Prasangika does not get rid of the distinction between 'external objects' and 'appearances' the way you suggest it does. At least not according to Longchenpa.

An 'external object' in the proper sense of the phrase is an impossibility, of course -- it cannot be ultimately 'external', and it cannot be an actual 'object', i.e., it cannot be something that is self-existing (existing independently of everything else, outside of all relatedness and beyond all change). It does not mean, however, that there are only appearances and nought but appearances (which are not self-existent either). The 'thing which appears' (which is not really a 'thing', actually, as it lacks svabhava) in a sense remains -- thought it is and must remain entirely unthinkable, nor could it possibly be directly cognised. Which is why I said Sautrantika-Madhyamaka is somewhat quasi-Kantian in this respect. Or so it seems to my amateur eyes.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Malcolm » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:38 pm

treehuggingoctopus wrote: I am but an amateur here, but to my knowledge Prasangika does not get rid of the distinction between 'external objects' and 'appearances' the way you suggest it does. At least not according to Longchenpa.
Actually, "Prasangikas" in general are happy with whatever conventional truth view you want to bring to the table. They may not agree with specifics of this or that view, but as they are all conventional, and therefore, rooted in delusion, conventional truths are not to be taken that seriously. But some people just don't get this and waste a lot of time arguing over the number of horns a rabbit has.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by treehuggingoctopus » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:46 pm

Thanks for the clarification.

Btw, I recall you recommending Peter Della Santina's book on Indian Madhyamaka. Is there anything about later, Tibetan developments you would recommend?
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Re: No External Objects

Post by conebeckham » Tue Nov 24, 2015 8:59 pm

smcj wrote:If external objects are not really there and are only conventions, how come there are no unicorns around?
For the same reason I do not have horns growing out of my head.

On the level of convention, there are valid, and invalid, appearances. There is the concept of "Unicorn" of course, as well as many other conceptual "entities" which do not have "form." But form, as well as "idea," as well as "feeling," etc., are all mere appearances, differentiated only on the level of convention.

On the level of Truth, Emptiness, there is no need to differentiate between these objects of negation, as they are all mere appearances to mind.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: No External Objects

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Nov 24, 2015 9:55 pm

Speaking about 'the real vase' and 'the real table' is an exercise in scholastic reasoning. Here we're using examples like 'table' and 'vase' to draw out the implications of certain philosophical views.

If you were playing Russian roulette - not that anyone should! - then you have a revolver with one bullet in six chambers. So in five chambers, no bullet exists; in one chamber, it does exist. Pull the trigger on that chamber, you die; pull it on the others, you don't. So is the bullet in the sixth chamber 'not truly existent'?

I think the 'realisation of emptiness' is actually a state of being, in which you're aware of the interdependent nature of everything. That is the 'antidote to clinging' in my opinion. And what 'clinging' is, is the belief that the phenomenal realm, the domain of sense, is the only reality, which is worldliness.

I looked up some google references on this topic. In Jay Garfield's essay, Why Madhyamika is not Nihilism, there is a quote from Tsongkhapa:
We do not say that because the Tathgata is empty he is nonexistent, because that would be to commit the error of deprecating him. Moreover, the Tathagata has been shown to be essenceless. Because we aspire to present the undistorted meaning, nor do we say that he is nonempty — that is, that he exists inherently. We do not assert both of these; nor do we assert neither that he exists nor does not exist because ultimately, none of these four alternatives can be maintained. On the other hand, if we did not assert these conventionally, those to whom we speak would not understand us. So, from the standpoint of the conventional truth and for conventional purposes, we say “empty” and “non-empty,” “both empty and non-empty,” and “neither empty nor non-empty.” We say these having mentally imputed them from the perspective of those people to whom we are speaking. Therefore, we simply say that “they are asserted for the purpose of designation.”
The key there is 'from the perspective of those people to whom we are speaking'. (I am among them!) So from the conventional viewpoint - their viewpoint - objects exist, and to deny they exist is nihilism. But from the ultimate viewpoint, objects are unreal, because they are essenceless. However that audience doesn't yet understand what 'essenceless' means.

Here's an interesting fragment I stumbled on from medieval theology:
an affirmation concerning the lower (order) is a negation concerning the higher, and so too a negation concerning the lower (order) is an affirmation concerning the higher. ...In other words, a particular level may be affirmed to be real by those on a lower or on the same level, but the one above it is thought not to be real in the same way. If humans are thought to exist in a certain way, then angels [i.e. 'celestial beings'] do not exist in that way.
Eriugena.

So there's no way to understand this if there are not degrees of reality. That means, there are states and beings that are of higher and lower orders. And this has been completely lost from 'modern' culture. So from the 'modern' point of view, things either exist or they don't. So there is no way, against the 'modern' cultural framework, to translate or understand that idea of something not being 'truly existent' - the vase either exists or it doesn't. And that's why Madhyamika can easily be construed nihilistically - it has nothing to do with the original intent of Madhyamika, but with the nature of the audience!
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Re: No External Objects

Post by conebeckham » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:26 pm

What Madhyamaka is really saying is not a statement of ontology, so much as a statement of inconceivability. Not "higher and lower orders" of reality at all. Abandon all constructs. Garfield, and many other Western academics, view Madhyamaka through a certain somewhat distorted lens--the issue being, Malcolm tells us, one Gorampa raised, the one 9th Karmapa commented on, and the one modern Geluk scholars defend, this idea of an "inherent existence" which is somehow a different entity than the object itself. All of this is a sort of conceptual legerdemain as a bulwark against a sort of supposed nihilism.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
སྐལ་ལྡན་ལས་འཕྲོ་ཅན་གྱིས་རྟོགས་པ་སྟེ།
དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


"Absolute Truth is not an object of analytical discourse or great discriminating wisdom,
It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")

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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Tue Nov 24, 2015 10:50 pm

On the level of convention, there are valid, and invalid, appearances.
[smcj edit]
On the level of Truth, Emptiness, there is no need to differentiate between these objects of negation, as they are all mere appearances to mind.
That's the crux of the matter. If there is nothing other than "mere appearance" then hologram of a horse is as much an entity as an actual horse. Or rather, the horse is as much a non-entity as the hologram.
I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Malcolm » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:09 pm

Wayfarer wrote: If you were playing Russian roulette - not that anyone should! - then you have a revolver with one bullet in six chambers. So in five chambers, no bullet exists; in one chamber, it does exist. Pull the trigger on that chamber, you die; pull it on the others, you don't. So is the bullet in the sixth chamber 'not truly existent'?
No, the bullet in the chamber conventionally exists.
I think the 'realisation of emptiness' is actually a state of being, in which you're aware of the interdependent nature of everything. That is the 'antidote to clinging' in my opinion. And what 'clinging' is, is the belief that the phenomenal realm, the domain of sense, is the only reality, which is worldliness.
You have given into realism, in so far as that you think the phenomena realm is real, in any sense at all.

I looked up some google references on this topic. In Jay Garfield's essay, Why Madhyamika is not Nihilism, there is a quote from Tsongkhapa:
The key there is 'from the perspective of those people to whom we are speaking'. (I am among them!) So from the conventional viewpoint - their viewpoint - objects exist, and to deny they exist is nihilism. But from the ultimate viewpoint, objects are unreal, because they are essenceless. However that audience doesn't yet understand what 'essenceless' means.
As Buddhapalita says, "It is not that we claim nonexistence; we merely remove claims for existing existents."

So there's no way to understand this if there are not degrees of reality.
There are no degrees of reality -- things are either real or they are not, whether or not they appear to be real. It is more accurate to say there are levels of appearances. Those levels of appearance depend on the presence or absence of delusion. A buddha could not be harmed by the bullet in the chamber.
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Relax, don’t worry about all the problems of samsara. Everything is relative. But try to be present.


— Chogyal Namkhai Norbu

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Re: No External Objects

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Nov 24, 2015 11:24 pm

Malcolm wrote:You have given into realism, in so far as that you think the phenomena realm is real, in any sense at all.
With air conditioning, and a nice swimming pool, thanks. And medicines, and computers, and many of the other benefits of scientific realism.
Malcolm wrote:A buddha could not be harmed by the bullet in the chamber.
The Buddha was harmed by a rockslide caused by Devadatta.
In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities; in the expert's mind there are few ~ Suzuki-roshi

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