Inherent deja vu all over again

Jeff H
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Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Jeff H » Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:30 pm

In the thread concerning Kenneth Chan's essay on Madhyamaka and Quantum Mechanics, there was a familiar sub-topic critiquing Tsongkhapa’s use of “inherent existence”. The sub-topic started around here, and reached a pinnacle for me here, with my summation and the replies from Malcolm and Bakmoon that followed, concluding with this from Bakmoon:
Bakmoon wrote:
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.

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.


I’d like to take Bakmoon up on his suggestion of a thread to explore the critique of Tsongkhapa. I’m putting this in the Gelug forum because my purpose is to compose a question for my Gelug teachers, and I’d like some assistance.
[Moderation note: thread nevertheless moved to Sakya, because Sakya/Nyingma views are simply dominating this thread in it's course. It is no good style, if Gelugs have to defend Gelug view within their own subforum.]
[Edit 2, explanation: Because there is a domination of anti-Gelug bias in this thread and at DW in general, I took the liberty to move this thread with it's dominating opinions here. Like this, there is no need to restrict "free speech", even if the claims about Gelug view are false.
If I had moved this topic to the subforum Tibetan Buddhism instead, the very few Gelugs at DW would have been forced to defend their tradition endlessly without any scope for true exchange of informations, (IMO).
Here in the Sakya subforum, people can announce their Sakya view about Gelug view of emptiness as much as they like, without being disturbed.
_()_


On DW it seems like a foregone conclusion that Tsongkhapa’s teachings on the topic of inherency as the object of negation have been overturned. Tsongkhapafan always takes up the banner, but it appears that most of the rest of us who follow Gelug teachings aren’t really up to entering the debate.

How should I present this question to my teacher? Here’s my starting place:

“Some say Tsongkhapa’s qualification of ‘inherent existence’ is unnecessary. Worse than unnecessary, as one person put it, ‘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.’

“They point to references from Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti that indicate the object of negation is simply existence and, by extension, non-existence. They say there’s no reason to belabor conventional appearance as an instance of what might be called ‘false existence’, and that to do so leaves an impression of true existence in the student’s mind.

“I revere the Tsongkhapa-based teachings I have received, but I do not know how to respond to these criticisms.”
Last edited by Ayu on Fri Dec 16, 2016 11:53 am, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Left note and moved the thread.
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Malcolm
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 12, 2016 4:41 pm

Jeff H wrote:In the thread concerning Kenneth Chan's essay on Madhyamaka and Quantum Mechanics, there was a familiar sub-topic critiquing Tsongkhapa’s use of “inherent existence”. The sub-topic started around here, and reached a pinnacle for me here, with my summation and the replies from Malcolm and Bakmoon that followed, concluding with this from Bakmoon:
Bakmoon wrote:
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.

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.


I’d like to take Bakmoon up on his suggestion of a thread to explore the critique of Tsongkhapa. I’m putting this in the Gelug forum because my purpose is to compose a question for my Gelug teachers, and I’d like some assistance.

On DW it seems like a foregone conclusion that Tsongkhapa’s teachings on the topic of inherency as the object of negation have been overturned. Tsongkhapafan always takes up the banner, but it appears that most of the rest of us who follow Gelug teachings aren’t really up to entering the debate.

How should I present this question to my teacher? Here’s my starting place:

“Some say Tsongkhapa’s qualification of ‘inherent existence’ is unnecessary. Worse than unnecessary, as one person put it, ‘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.’

“They point to references from Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti that indicate the object of negation is simply existence and, by extension, non-existence. They say there’s no reason to belabor conventional appearance as an instance of what might be called ‘false existence’, and that to do so leaves an impression of true existence in the student’s mind.

“I revere the Tsongkhapa-based teachings I have received, but I do not know how to respond to these criticisms.”


The actual problem is that the Gelug view promotes relative realism (not nonexistent in the relative) and ultimate nihilism (not existent in the ultimate).

Your teachers will probably tell you to stop listening to Sakyapas and Nyingmapas. But the truth is that the Gelugpas have never amounted an effective rebuttal to Gorampa or Mipham. The scholar who has the most balanced view about all of this in the modern epoch is HHDL. He is committed to Tsongkhapa's view, but has the largeness of heart to try and understand the critiques against Tsongkhapa's view and to try and see where there is commonality among them.

The normal trope is that Tsongkhapa explains the view from the perspective of an ordinary person; the Sakyapas explain the view from the perspective of the path; and the Nyingmapas explain the view from the perspective of the result. It is a gross generalization, but there is some truth in it.
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:00 pm

Jeff H wrote:In the thread concerning Kenneth Chan's essay on Madhyamaka and Quantum Mechanics, there was a familiar sub-topic critiquing Tsongkhapa’s use of “inherent existence”. The sub-topic started around here, and reached a pinnacle for me here, with my summation and the replies from Malcolm and Bakmoon that followed, concluding with this from Bakmoon:
Bakmoon wrote:
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.

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.


I’d like to take Bakmoon up on his suggestion of a thread to explore the critique of Tsongkhapa. I’m putting this in the Gelug forum because my purpose is to compose a question for my Gelug teachers, and I’d like some assistance.

On DW it seems like a foregone conclusion that Tsongkhapa’s teachings on the topic of inherency as the object of negation have been overturned. Tsongkhapafan always takes up the banner, but it appears that most of the rest of us who follow Gelug teachings aren’t really up to entering the debate.

How should I present this question to my teacher? Here’s my starting place:

“Some say Tsongkhapa’s qualification of ‘inherent existence’ is unnecessary. Worse than unnecessary, as one person put it, ‘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.’

“They point to references from Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti that indicate the object of negation is simply existence and, by extension, non-existence. They say there’s no reason to belabor conventional appearance as an instance of what might be called ‘false existence’, and that to do so leaves an impression of true existence in the student’s mind.

“I revere the Tsongkhapa-based teachings I have received, but I do not know how to respond to these criticisms.”

I think the first place we should go to examine this kind of issue is to ask ourselves what Lama Tsongkhapa's real purpose was in arguing for a restricted object of negation (inherent existence) as opposed to a more general one (existence in general).

I think it is fairly clear that Lama Tsongkhapa's main reason for insisting on this is that on the face of it, asserting that existence is the object of negation seems to completely wipe out everything on the level of conventional truth as well as ultimate truth, and of course it is not the intention of any of the great Madhyamaka masters to wipe out the conventional level. This is an issue that all interpreters of Madhyamaka have to explain somehow, and different interpreters have done this in different ways.

Lama Tsongkhapa's approach to it is to start from the get go with the principle that conventional truth is not to be negated, and that everything explained in Madhyamaka should be explicitly formulated in such a way that this principle is crystal clear. As a result, any passage in Madhyamaka text that seems to indicate a total negation of everything even on the level of convention is a passage that must require further interpretation. For Lama Tsongkhapa, if you don't admit these texts need further interpretation, then you have a contradiction on your hands because these same Madhyamaka texts that talk about negating without qualifiers also indicate the need to accept conventionalities.

Lama Tsongkhapa formulates the principle that conventionalities are not negated (which all Madhyamikas accept) in very explicit terms and then all the other formulations about negation etc... need to take that into account.

That isn't to say that non-Gelug interpreters of Madhyamaka don't have the exact same issue to deal with. They just resolve the issue without seeing the need for expressing this principle in detail in the technical terminology of Madhyamaka. For other Madhyamikas, it is enough that after explaining all the arguments, to just clarify this point by saying that appearances are not refuted, and that the world is able to function in a conventional manner, without the need to make this clarification in each and every passage dealing with negation.

Many of these Madhyamika thinkers will even on occasion use the term conventional existence and say that it is not rejected. Even very fierce critics of Gelug Madhyamaka will do this. For example, in his commentary on the Ornament for the Middle Way, Mipham Rinpoche (who was quite the critic of many aspects of Gelug Madhyamaka) defends the use of certain Yogacara ideas in Madhamaka (especially self-cognition) by saying that all of the Madhyamaka arguments against them are forms of ultimate analysis, not conventional analysis, so they refute that self-cognition exists ultimately, but don't refute that it exists conventionally.

I guess my main summary of the whole issue is that everyone (both Gelug and non-Gelug Madhyamikas) agree that mere appearances are not refuted, but the Gelug tradition puts qualifiers into all the negations to make this clear up-front, and non-Gelug Madhyamikas generally leave the qualifiers out and don't feel the need to make all of the technical terms fit together into a detailed and comprehensive philosophical system.

I'd love to get into the details on the individual issues and arguments, but this is the main idea to keep in the back of your head I think.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:10 pm

Malcolm wrote:The actual problem is that the Gelug view promotes relative realism (not nonexistent in the relative) and ultimate nihilism (not existent in the ultimate).

Although I agree that that presenting the ultimate as a negation as opposed to being free from all view is problematic, I can't agree with the criticism that Gelug Madhyamaka is a reaist system on the relative level. The danger of emphasizing conventional existence like the Gelug tradition does is that it can give the impression that conventionally, the world is just the way we take it to be. However, Gelugpas recognize that conventional, or mere existence cannot be distinguished from the object of negation by an ordinary being, so implicitly there is a recognition of that already. Misunderstood Gelug Madhyamaka can be realist on the level of convention, but properly understood Gelug Madhyamaka isn't, so far as I've seen.

Malcolm wrote:Your teachers will probably tell you to stop listening to Sakyapas and Nyingmapas.

Honestly that might not be bad advice to someone who for the time being at least is committed to studying the Gelug presentation of Madhyamaka. There comes a point where studying other interpretations is beneficial, but until you get to that point it can just make things hard.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:23 pm

Bakmoon wrote:
I guess my main summary of the whole issue is that everyone (both Gelug and non-Gelug Madhyamikas) agree that mere appearances are not refuted, but the Gelug tradition puts qualifiers into all the negations to make this clear up-front, and non-Gelug Madhyamikas generally leave the qualifiers out and don't feel the need to make all of the technical terms fit together into a detailed and comprehensive philosophical system.


Appearances are the object of analysis, but they are not the object of negation. For example, when we have a moon in the water, we do not say, that moon in the water does not exist. We do however subject it to analysis to understand that it is not the real moon. Also the appearance of the moon in the sky is an object of analysis. However, since conventional appearances are not able to bear ultimate analysis, any concept regarding their existence or nonexistence has to be abandoned. It is the only way the creation stage works. For example, the third Docupchen asks Gelugpas, "If for you appearances are conventionally established in the perception of ordinary people, does this not render the creation stage a mere imputation and a false appearance?"

In reality, when practicing Vajrayāna, Gelugpas use a species of Yogacara Madhyamaka just like everyone else.
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 5:45 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Bakmoon wrote:
I guess my main summary of the whole issue is that everyone (both Gelug and non-Gelug Madhyamikas) agree that mere appearances are not refuted, but the Gelug tradition puts qualifiers into all the negations to make this clear up-front, and non-Gelug Madhyamikas generally leave the qualifiers out and don't feel the need to make all of the technical terms fit together into a detailed and comprehensive philosophical system.


Appearances are the object of analysis, but they are not the object of negation. For example, when we have a moon in the water, we do not say, that moon in the water does not exist. We do however subject it to analysis to understand that it is not the real moon. Also the appearance of the moon in the sky is an object of analysis. However, since conventional appearances are not able to bear ultimate analysis, any concept regarding their existence or nonexistence has to be abandoned.

Fair enough, but as I understand it, conventional existence isn't meant to be an ontological concept. Gelug Madhyamaka accepts that conventional existence is, like everything else, a mere imputation. If I say that horses exist and unicorns don't, I don't think that is an ontological statement about the nature of reality. I think that is just a distinction between things that are rejected on the level of worldly convention and things that are accepted on the level of worldly convention.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:01 pm

Bakmoon wrote:Fair enough, but as I understand it, conventional existence isn't meant to be an ontological concept. Gelug Madhyamaka accepts that conventional existence is, like everything else, a mere imputation.


Asserting things are mere imputations is an ontological concept.



If I say that horses exist and unicorns don't, I don't think that is an ontological statement about the nature of reality. I think that is just a distinction between things that are rejected on the level of worldly convention and things that are accepted on the level of worldly convention.


Unicorns are imputations. Horse are imputations. Now you have to define the difference between a false one and a true one. And that is where you start making ontological assertions. A true imputation involves a correspondence theory between what you perceive and what is out there. Now, we already know that a correspondence theory is invoked by Candrakīrti on the basis of the distinction between two modes of false cognitions: 1) false cognitions about natures 2) false cognitions about common appearances, i.e., seeing one moon as opposed to two.

However, this does not bear up to analysis either since in the experience of a yogi, he or she may see a given space as the pure land of Avalokiteśvara, Potala, where we all see a midden heap filled with trash. In this case then, is the experiential appearances of a yogi deluded, like the drunk's perception of two moons? A madmen too may see his region as the Potala buddhafield. A madman too may believe he is Avalokiteśvara.
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby BuddhaFollower » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:10 pm

Jeff H,

Gelug masters such as Geshe Thupten Jinpa say:

"The traditional Geluk understanding of these deviations in Tsongkhapa's thought attributes the development of his distinct reading of Madhyamaka philosophy to a mystical communion he is reported to have had with the bodhisattva Manjusri...It is interesting that the tradition Tsongkhapa is claiming to honour is, in a strict sense, not the existing system in Tibet; rather, it appears to be in the tradition of Manjusri as revealed in a mystic vision!"
--------Self, Reality and Reason in Tibetan Philosophy. Routledge 2002, page 17.

So, the question to ask a teacher is if Tsongkhapa really received his view from Manjushri or not.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:27 pm

Malcolm wrote:Asserting things are mere imputations is an ontological concept.

And yet all Madhyamikas do this when they have to address the issue of accepting conventionalities.

Malcolm wrote:Unicorns are imputations. Horse are imputations. Now you have to define the difference between a false one and a true one. And that is where you start making ontological assertions. A true imputation involves a correspondence theory between what you perceive and what is out there. Now, we already know that a correspondence theory is invoked by Candrakīrti on the basis of the distinction between two modes of false cognitions: 1) false cognitions about natures 2) false cognitions about common appearances, i.e., seeing one moon as opposed to two.

However, this does not bear up to analysis either since in the experience of a yogi, he or she may see a given space as the pure land of Avalokiteśvara, Potala, where we all see a midden heap filled with trash. In this case then, is the experiential appearances of a yogi deluded, like the drunk's perception of two moons? A madmen too may see his region as the Potala buddhafield. A madman too may believe he is Avalokiteśvara.

Can't you make a distinction though based on the mind of the perceiver though? A Yogi has a valid yogic direct perception, whereas the madman has impaired faculties.

In any case, I'm not surprised that you can easily get into trouble when you start looking at these issues in pramana. It's like the old chicken and egg problem with perception relying on inference and inference relying on perception. Under analysis, pramana falls apart just like everything else, so if you are trying to work things out conventionally, you have to accept that pramana is able to function and remember to steer clear of the issues that lead you to analyze too deeply.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 12, 2016 6:47 pm

Bakmoon wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Asserting things are mere imputations is an ontological concept.

And yet all Madhyamikas do this when they have to address the issue of accepting conventionalities.



No, actually we don't. Direct perceptions are not imputations. Conventional designations are subsequent to appearances. Appearances do not arise from conventional designations, conventional designations are made on the basis of appearances. Relative truths are not determined by conventional designations. Relative truths are appearances to an non-analytical mundane mind which is not influenced by adventitious delusions.

Bakmoon wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Unicorns are imputations. Horse are imputations. Now you have to define the difference between a false one and a true one. And that is where you start making ontological assertions. A true imputation involves a correspondence theory between what you perceive and what is out there. Now, we already know that a correspondence theory is invoked by Candrakīrti on the basis of the distinction between two modes of false cognitions: 1) false cognitions about natures 2) false cognitions about common appearances, i.e., seeing one moon as opposed to two.

However, this does not bear up to analysis either since in the experience of a yogi, he or she may see a given space as the pure land of Avalokiteśvara, Potala, where we all see a midden heap filled with trash. In this case then, is the experiential appearances of a yogi deluded, like the drunk's perception of two moons? A madmen too may see his region as the Potala buddhafield. A madman too may believe he is Avalokiteśvara.


Can't you make a distinction though based on the mind of the perceiver though? A Yogi has a valid yogic direct perception, whereas the madman has impaired faculties.

In any case, I'm not surprised that you can easily get into trouble when you start looking at these issues in pramana. It's like the old chicken and egg problem with perception relying on inference and inference relying on perception. Under analysis, pramana falls apart just like everything else, so if you are trying to work things out conventionally, you have to accept that pramana is able to function and remember to steer clear of the issues that lead you to analyze too deeply.


A common person cannot make a distinction between the mind of a madman or a yogi. He or she can only make a distinction on the basis of their conduct. Even this not certain, since most people will regard a yogi engaged vratacarya, or the conduct of strict discipline to be lunatics. The point is that in the Gelug persentation, conventional truth is put forth from the perspective of Sautrantikas following reason, which is essentially a pramana based perspective. Why do you think other schools give Gelugpas such a hard time. No only are the contradictions in Tsongkhapa's teachings with respect to what Nāgārjuna fathers and sons have said, but there are problems with his resorting to the conventional truth perspective of pramana.

Your last sentence just means you have to cripple yourself.
Last edited by Malcolm on Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:12 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:03 pm

Malcolm wrote:No, actually we don't. Direct perceptions are not imputations. Conventional designations are subsequent to appearances. Appearances do not arise from conventional designations, conventional designations are made on the basis of appearances. Relative truths are not determined by conventional designations. Relative truths are appearances to an non-analytical mundane mind which is not influenced by adventitious delusions.

Agreed, but my point is that when you have to start talking about things in the conventional world and describe them as illusory, mere appearance, mere designation, or anything like that, if that is to assert an ontological concept, then it seems like asserting ontology is totally unavoidable, so why pick on the Gelugpas?


Malcolm wrote:The point is that in the Gelug persentation, conventional truth is put forth from the perspective of Sautrantikas following reason, which is essentially a pramana based perspective. Why do you think other schools give Gelugpas such a hard time. No only are the contradictions in Tsongkhapa's teachings with respect to what Nāgārjuna fathers and sons have said, but there are problems with his resorting to the conventional truth perspective of pramana.

I don't like Gelug style pramana, so you'll get no complaint from me there.

Malcolm wrote:Your last sentence just means you have to cripple yourself.

That kind of an issue is something that everyone who wants to make use of any pramana has to deal with, not just Gelugpas. The way I see it, the Munchausen Trilemma is a form of ultimate analysis that refutes pramana, but conventionally we can still accept the helpful aspects of pramana so we can distinguish bad argumentation from good argumentation. I don't see how other systems of logic can dodge this issue either to be honest.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 12, 2016 7:17 pm

Bakmoon wrote:
Malcolm wrote:No, actually we don't. Direct perceptions are not imputations. Conventional designations are subsequent to appearances. Appearances do not arise from conventional designations, conventional designations are made on the basis of appearances. Relative truths are not determined by conventional designations. Relative truths are appearances to an non-analytical mundane mind which is not influenced by adventitious delusions.

Agreed, but my point is that when you have to start talking about things in the conventional world and describe them as illusory, mere appearance, mere designation, or anything like that, if that is to assert an ontological concept, then it seems like asserting ontology is totally unavoidable, so why pick on the Gelugpas?


What the Gelugpas seem to describe in ontological terms, the Sakyapas and others described in phenomenological terms.



Bakmoon wrote:
Malcolm wrote:Your last sentence just means you have to cripple yourself.

That kind of an issue is something that everyone who wants to make use of any pramana has to deal with, not just Gelugpas. The way I see it, the Munchausen Trilemma is a form of ultimate analysis that refutes pramana, but conventionally we can still accept the helpful aspects of pramana so we can distinguish bad argumentation from good argumentation. I don't see how other systems of logic can dodge this issue either to be honest.


pramana is not really for distinguishing bad argumentation from good argumentation, it is really for understanding how we perceive things.
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Jeff H » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:07 pm

:reading: :popcorn:
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby DGA » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:14 pm

Jeff H wrote:
“Some say Tsongkhapa’s qualification of ‘inherent existence’ is unnecessary. Worse than unnecessary, as one person put it, ‘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.’

“They point to references from Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti that indicate the object of negation is simply existence and, by extension, non-existence. They say there’s no reason to belabor conventional appearance as an instance of what might be called ‘false existence’, and that to do so leaves an impression of true existence in the student’s mind.

“I revere the Tsongkhapa-based teachings I have received, but I do not know how to respond to these criticisms.”


I think this question is perfectly sensible as it stands. It would be worthwhile to follow up on it.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:37 pm

Jeff H wrote::reading: :popcorn:

By the way, have you studied any other texts related to Madhyamaka since your thread on Inherency and the Object of Negation last year? I think in particular, Lama Tsongkhapa's Great Treatise on the Stages on the Path is very relavent because in it he gives his arguments for his distinctive understanding of Madhyamaka.

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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 8:42 pm

Jeff H wrote:“Some say Tsongkhapa’s qualification of ‘inherent existence’ is unnecessary. Worse than unnecessary, as one person put it, ‘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.’

“They point to references from Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti that indicate the object of negation is simply existence and, by extension, non-existence. They say there’s no reason to belabor conventional appearance as an instance of what might be called ‘false existence’, and that to do so leaves an impression of true existence in the student’s mind.

“I revere the Tsongkhapa-based teachings I have received, but I do not know how to respond to these criticisms.”

DGA wrote:I think this question is perfectly sensible as it stands. It would be worthwhile to follow up on it.

I do think it would be very beneficial though to get some clarification from your teachers about what exactly conventional existence means and what it doesn't mean, because I think that's the real crux of the issue. If it is recognized that conventional existence as understood by Lama Tsongkhapa is very different from the idea of existence in general as understood by ordinary people, I think the tension between Gelug and freedom from extremes Madhyamaka is significantly reduced.

Bakmoon
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Bakmoon » Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:00 pm

Malcolm wrote:What the Gelugpas seem to describe in ontological terms, the Sakyapas and others described in phenomenological terms.

Well, Gelug Madhyamaka presents things primarily from the perspective of ordinary beings, so to an extent that's to be expected. The question of which approach is better is largely one of pedagogical concern with respect to that set of issues I think. Personally I find issue that Gelug Madhyamaka not propounding freedom from all views with regards to the ultimate to be a much more significant issue. Primarily because that issue doesn't seem to be primarily an issue of terminology.

Malcolm wrote:Pramana is not really for distinguishing bad argumentation from good argumentation, it is really for understanding how we perceive things.

Either way, Madhyamikas of all stripes in Tibet use aspects of pramana conventionally and find it to be useful, and conventionally make distinctions between things that are accepted conventionally, and things that are not accepted conventionally, and many find it convenient to use some variation of the word 'exist' on the level of convention rather than a much longer technical term.

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Malcolm
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Malcolm » Mon Dec 12, 2016 9:05 pm

Bakmoon wrote:
Malcolm wrote:What the Gelugpas seem to describe in ontological terms, the Sakyapas and others described in phenomenological terms.

Well, Gelug Madhyamaka presents things primarily from the perspective of ordinary beings, so to an extent that's to be expected. The question of which approach is better is largely one of pedagogical concern with respect to that set of issues I think. Personally I find issue that Gelug Madhyamaka not propounding freedom from all views with regards to the ultimate to be a much more significant issue. Primarily because that issue doesn't seem to be primarily an issue of terminology.

Malcolm wrote:Pramana is not really for distinguishing bad argumentation from good argumentation, it is really for understanding how we perceive things.

Either way, Madhyamikas of all stripes in Tibet use aspects of pramana conventionally and find it to be useful, and conventionally make distinctions between things that are accepted conventionally, and things that are not accepted conventionally, and many find it convenient to use some variation of the word 'exist' on the level of convention rather than a much longer technical term.


I think a major difference is that Sakyas and those who follow Sapan, as well a Nyingmapas, reject the idea that Buddhist epistemology (pramāṇa) has any soteriological value; whereas the Gelugpas and some Kagyus, such as Drigung, think it has soteriological value.
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Jeff H
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Jeff H » Mon Dec 12, 2016 10:47 pm

Bakmoon wrote:
Jeff H wrote::reading: :popcorn:

By the way, have you studied any other texts related to Madhyamaka since your thread on Inherency and the Object of Negation last year? I think in particular, Lama Tsongkhapa's Great Treatise on the Stages on the Path is very relavent because in it he gives his arguments for his distinctive understanding of Madhyamaka.


I did read Lopez’ The Madman’s Middle Way after Malcolm recommended it in that thread. It is my hope to go back over Gendun Chopel’s text in more depth with the help of an FPMT teacher I know in Santa Fe. Too many things have gotten in the way of that plan this year, though. My impression at the time was that he was basically prasangika-ing the head prasangika-er of Gelug; which seemed to make perfect sense to me since any teaching is on the conventional level and therefore subject to reductio ad absurdum in reference to the ultimate. I'm struggling to grasp Malcolm's points about the implications, but at my level it seems reasonable to, first, clearly conceptualize what "self-being" could mean (inherent existence) before dissolving that concept into "no existence/no non-existence". As Shantideva puts it
Shantideva at 9:34 wrote:When something and its nonexistence / Both are absent from before the mind, / No other option does the latter have: / It comes to perfect rest, from concepts free.


Here's my history. It’s short. I took Geshe Tashi Tsering's Lam Rim Chenmo course online (Jamyang Centre, London). It's a 2-1/2 year program examining the three volumes of The Great Treatise. Prior to that I spent 1 year studying The Way of the Bodhisattva on my own, following Kunzang Pelden's commentary (The Nectar of Manjushri's Speech). Before that, I had taken Geshe Tashi's Foundation of Buddhist Thought online course (2-year study). And in the beginning, which always gets me in trouble when I admit it, I was introduced to Tibetan Buddhism at an NKT center, at which time I spent 2 years attending weekly sessions while studying GKG's "Foundation Programme" texts on my own (and, incidentally, also attending HHDL’s teaching when he came to NYC - I never considered myself a member of NKT). GKG's texts cover the same material as Geshe Tashi's "Foundation" course. After the Lam Rim Chenmo course I did two modules of the FPMT Basic Program at the Shantideva Center in NYC (Presentation of Tenets, and Shantideva, though only through chapter seven.)

What has been sorely missing is any close association with a center or teachers in person. Ven. Robina came into my practice early in my Buddhist involvement and to this day her teachings resonate very deeply for me. We correspond 2 or 3 times a year, but now that I've moved out of the New York area, I expect I'll have very little opportunity to actually hear her teach, except by video.

All this is just to say, I have some structured background but I’m very new and neither my studies nor practice hold a candle to the erudition and experience on DW.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva

Jeff H
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Re: Inherent deja vu all over again

Postby Jeff H » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:03 pm

Malcolm wrote:I think a major difference is that Sakyas and those who follow Sapan, as well a Nyingmapas, reject the idea that Buddhist epistemology (pramāṇa) has any soteriological value; whereas the Gelugpas and some Kagyus, such as Drigung, think it has soteriological value.

That is something I consider to be a feature of Tsongkhapa's teaching, and it suits my particular learning style. I may be too mired in concepts, but I've thought from the start that it's good to have an esteemed method (and it is esteemed in other circles than DW) that helps a person work through conceptualizations to the other side.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva


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