The limit of compounded phenomena

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Grigoris
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The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Grigoris » Sat Aug 02, 2014 4:18 pm

I am currently watching a series of video teachings by Khenpo Sherab Sangpo on the Heart Sutra. At the end of the following video he states that physical phenomena, due to the fact that they are compounded, have a limit beyond which point they cannot be reduced, as there is nothing after that.
phpBB [video]

That seems weird to me. I thought that the idea was that there was an infinite regression, not a defined end point, to reduction. Not some sort of basic particle, but neither a complete absence. I thought this was the case since something cannot arise from nothing.

I am interested to hear peoples opinions and especially to see some scriptural quotes that verify/contradict this.

Thank you!
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Re: The limit of compunded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Sat Aug 02, 2014 11:15 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote: I am interested to hear peoples opinions and especially to see some scriptural quotes that verify/contradict this.
He is perfectly correct. Since particles cannot be established since they do not bear ultimate analysis, there comes a time when under analysis they cannot be found at all. The chapter refuting permanent functioning phenomena in the 400 Verses demonstrates this very well.

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Re: The limit of compunded phenomena

Post by Grigoris » Sun Aug 03, 2014 9:17 am

Malcolm wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote: I am interested to hear peoples opinions and especially to see some scriptural quotes that verify/contradict this.
He is perfectly correct. Since particles cannot be established since they do not bear ultimate analysis, there comes a time when under analysis they cannot be found at all. The chapter refuting permanent functioning phenomena in the 400 Verses demonstrates this very well.
I wasn't doubting that he was correct, he is a khenpo after all, I was just looking for scriptural verification/contradiction. I imagine there would be other schools/traditions, that may care to disagree.

Thanks for the info.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: The limit of compunded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Sun Aug 03, 2014 12:35 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Sherab Dorje wrote: I am interested to hear peoples opinions and especially to see some scriptural quotes that verify/contradict this.
He is perfectly correct. Since particles cannot be established since they do not bear ultimate analysis, there comes a time when under analysis they cannot be found at all. The chapter refuting permanent functioning phenomena in the 400 Verses demonstrates this very well.
I wasn't doubting that he was correct, he is a khenpo after all, I was just looking for scriptural verification/contradiction. I imagine there would be other schools/traditions, that may care to disagree.

Thanks for the info.
Not in Mahāyāna.

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by anjali » Sun Aug 03, 2014 11:32 pm

As best I can make out, here is what Khenpo said from 37:29-39:16,
We investigate, you cut this finger, and this piece of the other one you cut again. You cut again, cut again, cut again, cut…. Eventually, what happens? In Buddhist point of view, eventually nothing. Nothing. That we call emptiness. But some people say you cut, and cut, and cut; no end. No end, right? People think that.

But this finger is what you call it, compounded, right? Something is compounded, eventually finish. If you cut and cut and cut, eventually finished, because this material, you know.

There is no way to endless. Many people say that, even though that when I was in Tibet with learning these things, and we have every day debating people, really some people, monks, think endless. You cut, and cut, and cut, you know ok, this piece you cut in two, divide into two, and then that piece divide into two, that, do this eventually there is nothing, nothingness. There is, you know, limitless, like, you know, endless. But that's, they don't think this finger is this part of the, you know, the compounded, or made by cause and conditions. They don't think, they just think in their mind. They think their mind is, of course you can cut and cut and cut--endless, right?

But this is not your mind, this is your cut finger. So, eventually become empty. Do you understand that? Ok. If you understand that, that is emptiness.
This analysis doesn't seem right.
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Mon Aug 04, 2014 3:48 pm

anjali wrote:As best I can make out, here is what Khenpo said from 37:29-39:16...
But this is not your mind, this is your cut finger. So, eventually become empty. Do you understand that? Ok. If you understand that, that is emptiness.
This analysis doesn't seem right.
Fundamental to the analysis of the two truths is that when an object is subject to ultimate analysis, it does not remain as an object of cognition. What he is saying, perhaps not so well, is that at a certain point there remains no object at all which can be identified as a finger, no finger remains before the mind to be apprehended as such. That objectless state of mind is called "recognizing emptiness".

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Grigoris » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:29 pm

In the video he is explaining the statement: form is emptiness, emptiness is form. He seems to be talking only in regards to physical phenomena having a limit, at another point he explains that mind can be reduced indefinitely.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Mon Aug 04, 2014 4:49 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:In the video he is explaining the statement: form is emptiness, emptiness is form. He seems to be talking only in regards to physical phenomena having a limit, at another point he explains that mind can be reduced indefinitely.
What precisely does he say?

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Grigoris » Mon Aug 04, 2014 5:03 pm

It is around the same point as the statements that anjali transcribed. Maybe anjali remembers the time mark?
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

"Butchers, prostitutes, those guilty of the five most heinous crimes, outcasts, the underprivileged: all are utterly the substance of existence and nothing other than total bliss."
The Supreme Source - The Kunjed Gyalpo
The Fundamental Tantra of Dzogchen Semde

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Mon Aug 04, 2014 9:15 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:It is around the same point as the statements that anjali transcribed. Maybe anjali remembers the time mark?
The mind is not a material thing, so it cannot be divided in the same way as a finger.

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by anjali » Mon Aug 04, 2014 10:10 pm

Sherab Dorje wrote:It is around the same point as the statements that anjali transcribed. Maybe anjali remembers the time mark?
Just after what I quote, Khenpo says this from 39:16-39:34:
That is emptiness, then again appears. Everything. That is what we call the union of emptiness and appearance. If you understand, that is all. Now meditate!
Maybe you are thinking of this sentence from the earlier quote: "They think their mind is, of course you can cut and cut and cut--endless, right?" Especially if you take out the punctuation: They think their mind is of course you can cut and cut and cut endless right? The only other place he explicitly refers to particles and decomposition is at 21:22-21:54
If we take one stone and divide it into four pieces, you know, and we will have done away with our concept of it as a single thing. And as we continue to divide one of these sections into, you know, parts and we will end up with a conceptual particles that have no inherent existence--become emptiness.
Personally, I wouldn't express analytic decomposition the way he describes it. The classic argument is that there are no unitary, partless particles. Every particle (form), no matter how small, can be decomposed. Which leaves us in a infinite regress situation. But that's ok because, at each level of analysis, particles (forms) are shown to be aggregates, and are therefore empty. Which means that it is emptiness all the way down the analytic chain.
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by conebeckham » Mon Aug 04, 2014 11:03 pm

Right--as Malcolm once said on a thread here, "It's Emptiness all the way down."

This example of cutting, or dismantling, etc., is, IMO, sometimes misunderstood, or is misleading. The idea that by taking a given phenomenon and dismantling it's parts, until you get to the place where there is nothing left to dismantle, does indeed "end"--you can see, at that point, that the designation of the phenomena relies on it's parts, but that is not sufficient to truly and thoroughly understand emptiness. It's s a start. One could also speak of the compounded aspect of the parts themselves, down to subatomic levels, etc., and metaphorically, analytically, "take the parts apart." But these methods seem to set up a dichotomy between a supposed, possibly inferred material reality, and a conclusion based on method, pointing to a lack of material essence. This is all well and good, but the fact is, phenomena do appear, in endless and unimpeded ways, and there is no dismantling process that is needed, in order to truly understand the primordial empty nature of all this appearance, as the very appearance of phenomena, and their very ability to appear in the first place. No need to take the wheels off, you know?

Then again, maybe this is difficult.
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 12:39 pm

anjali wrote:Which leaves us in a infinite regress situation.
There is a limit to how far you can decompose a particle. The point is that Madhyamaka and Yogacara reject the limit proposed by Sautrantika, i.e. partless particles. The point which I mentioned holds true: when the particle one is decomposing ceases to be perceived through analysis, that perceived absence is the emptiness of that particle.

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Sönam » Tue Aug 05, 2014 4:48 pm

Malcolm wrote:when the particle one is decomposing ceases to be perceived through analysis, that perceived absence is the emptiness of that particle.
Crystal clear and obvious ... once more

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By understanding that any and all mental activity is meditation, you are freed from arbitrary divisions between formal sessions and postmeditation activity.
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by anjali » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:20 pm

Malcolm wrote:The point which I mentioned holds true: when the particle one is decomposing ceases to be perceived through analysis, that perceived absence is the emptiness of that particle.
Agreed. As practitioners we only need to analytically decompose a particular form into enough parts such that the original form is no longer perceived.

Still, wouldn't you also agree that we can shift the level of analysis from the original form to its parts, and demonstrate that they too are empty through further decomposition? And that we can can, at least theoretically, continue to do that indefinitely? Otherwise we would eventually arrive at partless parts, no?
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:27 pm

anjali wrote:
Malcolm wrote:The point which I mentioned holds true: when the particle one is decomposing ceases to be perceived through analysis, that perceived absence is the emptiness of that particle.
Agreed. As practitioners we only need to analytically decompose a particular form into enough parts such that the original form is no longer perceived.

Still, wouldn't you also agree that we can shift the level of analysis from the original form to its parts, and demonstrate that they too are empty through further decomposition? And that we can can, at least theoretically, continue to do that indefinitely? Otherwise we would eventually arrive at partless parts, no?
well, we break pots into shards, shards into gross particles, gross particles into subtle particles, and then subtle particles disappear under analysis, because it turns out they are impossible since they are defined as partless. What are particles composed of? Nothing, as far as anyone can tell. So they are either real or unreal. Madhyamaka suggests that in the end they are unreal.

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by anjali » Tue Aug 05, 2014 7:49 pm

Malcolm wrote:well, we break pots into shards, shards into gross particles, gross particles into subtle particles, and then subtle particles disappear under analysis, because it turns out they are impossible since they are defined as partless. What are particles composed of? Nothing, as far as anyone can tell. So they are either real or unreal. Madhyamaka suggests that in the end they are unreal.
Hmm. That transition from gross to subtle is an interesting one. Would you elaborate on how that decomposition happens?

I take it that gross particles are still compounded? I'm guessing a gross particle has one last decomposition into its compound parts, but those parts are by definition uncompounded/partless. But by definition such partless particles don't exist, therefore, none of the upper level stuff exists either.
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 8:07 pm

anjali wrote:...therefore, none of the upper level stuff exists either.
Other than conventionally. In Vajrayāna, it is understood that everything that appears is an appearance of pure consciousness [jñāna, ye shes].

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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by anjali » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:18 pm

Malcolm wrote:
anjali wrote:...therefore, none of the upper level stuff exists either.
Other than conventionally. In Vajrayāna, it is understood that everything that appears is an appearance of pure consciousness [jñāna, ye shes].
As a practitioner, I totally get that everything that appears is an appearance of pure consciousness, and that that pure consciousness is empty. :) In terms of analysis, though, this issue of indefinite decomposition is still left unresolved. In doing a little research, the view that,
Malcolm wrote:...we break pots into shards, shards into gross particles, gross particles into subtle particles
seems to be a Vaibhasika view. From p. 53 of Buddhist Philosophy: Losang Gonchok's Short Commentary to Jamyang Shayba's Root Text on Tenents, By Daniel Cozort
According to the Vaibhasikas and perhaps some Sautrantikas, the basic elements that comprise gross objects are so-called "indivisible particles. " These tiny or "subtle" particles are for them the principal units of impermanent physical entities, the "building blocks" for gross objects. Hypothetically, these particles are indivisible because they are too minute to be physically subdivided. They are too small to have directions, so that we could not say they have sides to the north, south, east, or west.
Vasubandha (and others) demonstrated that gross objects can't be made up of subtle particles. Essentially, the classical argument is that spacial objects must be composed of spacial parts. And because spacial parts are always extensive, they can always be further divided.
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Re: The limit of compounded phenomena

Post by Malcolm » Tue Aug 05, 2014 9:37 pm

anjali wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
anjali wrote:...therefore, none of the upper level stuff exists either.
Other than conventionally. In Vajrayāna, it is understood that everything that appears is an appearance of pure consciousness [jñāna, ye shes].
As a practitioner, I totally get that everything that appears is an appearance of pure consciousness, and that that pure consciousness is empty. :) In terms of analysis, though, this issue of indefinite decomposition is still left unresolved. In doing a little research, the view that,
Malcolm wrote:...we break pots into shards, shards into gross particles, gross particles into subtle particles
seems to be a Vaibhasika view. From p. 53 of Buddhist Philosophy: Losang Gonchok's Short Commentary to Jamyang Shayba's Root Text on Tenents, By Daniel Cozort
According to the Vaibhasikas and perhaps some Sautrantikas, the basic elements that comprise gross objects are so-called "indivisible particles. " These tiny or "subtle" particles are for them the principal units of impermanent physical entities, the "building blocks" for gross objects. Hypothetically, these particles are indivisible because they are too minute to be physically subdivided. They are too small to have directions, so that we could not say they have sides to the north, south, east, or west.
Vasubandha (and others) demonstrated that gross objects can't be made up of subtle particles. Essentially, the classical argument is that spacial objects must be composed of spacial parts. And because spacial parts are always extensive, they can always be further divided.
Vasubandhu's analysis ends at mind. Candra's ends at the impossibility of establishing even mind.

But it not the case that any Buddhist analysis of particles is carried out ad infinitum

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