, v.3, chapter 17, “The Actual Object to Be Negated”
Geshe Tashi Tsering advises that Lama Tsongkhapa’s most crucial explanation of the object of negation is contained in chapter 17. He recommends re-reading it often. The three chapters that follow it are considered the most difficult section of the Lam Rim Chenmo, so I plan to stop here, after chapter 17.
Objects of negation fall into two types, those negated by the path, and those negated by reason. The first pertain to objects of knowledge, namely existent things. The second pertain to misconceptions, namely non-existent things.Objects negated by the path include the afflictive obscurations and the cognitive obscurations
, all of which are objects of knowledge which keep us tied to samsara.Objects negated by reason include misconceptions of mind and the intrinsic natures they apprehend
, that is, two types of misconceptions to be negated. Of those two, the apprehended intrinsic nature is the primary object of negation. “For, in order to stop an inaccurate consciousness, you must first refute the object which that consciousness apprehends.” (p.204)
Once it is understood with certainty that such inherent objects do not exist and have never existed, the misconceptions dissolve. Negating by reason does not cause
the apprehensions not to exist, it merely illuminates the fact
of their non-existence.
In v.3, p.204, LTK wrote:This latter object of negation cannot be among objects of knowledge because, if it did exist, then it could not be refuted. Still, there are mistaken superimpositions that apprehend it as existing, so you must refute it. This refutation is not like destroying a pot with a hammer; rather, it is a matter of developing certain knowledge that recognizes the nonexistent as nonexistent. When you develop certain knowledge that it does not exist, the mistaken consciousness that apprehends it as existing will stop.
Quoted on p.204-5, Nagarjuna wrote:What use is it to establish the negation
Of what does not exist anyway even without words?
To answer that, the words “does not exist”
Cause understanding; they do not eliminate.
We distinguish “observed objects” from “referent objects”. Observed objects actually exist (meaning they function conventionally) and are the objects of the applied antidotes on the path. Such antidotes counteract specifically targeted afflictions. Referent objects do not exist and are the objects of negation.
In the case of the self of persons, the I that exists and functions is the observed object. That is the agent and subject of method practice, cultivating compassion and purifying karma. The intrinsically existent I we grasp onto is the non-existent referent object to be negated.
In v.3, p.206, LTK wrote:In general, there are a limitless number of conceptual consciousnesses that apprehend the object of negation; however, you should carefully identify the incorrect conceptual consciousness that is the root of all faults and defects and you should eradicate its referent object. For, if that is stopped, then all faults and defects will be stopped.
Moreover, the remedies set forth in sutra for other afflictions, such as attachment, cure a portion of the afflictions, whereas the remedies set forth for ignorance cure all afflictions. Therefore, ignorance is the basis of all faults and defects.
LTK also says, “ignorance is the opposite of knowledge, and this does not refer to just any knowledge, but to the wisdom that knows the reality that is selflessness.” (p.208) This does not mean the absence of such wisdom or the presence of something other than wisdom, but it means a conception that is "wisdom's contradictory equivalent", superimposing a self. Geshe Tashi points out that the opposition of ignorance and wisdom works like a scale: the more of one we have, the less of the other, in perfect balance.
Quoted on p.209, Nagarjuna wrote:When ignorance is stopped
Compositional activity will not arise at all.
That which stops ignorance
Is knowing and meditating on reality.
(Compare this with the discussion of “nature” in chapter 16.)
Quoted on p.210, Nagarjuna also wrote:Seeing what is not real, you are bound;
Seeing the real, you are free.
Geshe Tashi comments, the referent object of innate ignorance imposing intrinsic existence is the principal object of negation. Therefore, do not be distracted by the imaginary constructs developed by the tenet schools to explain inherent existence. It’s the innate ignorance that binds us, not the acquired ignorance of Buddhist and non-Buddhist schools. It must be known clearly, with specific and certain knowledge, that this is the case and to focus on identifying the innate ignorance that is our nemesis.
To summarize: The ultimate wrong consciousness is the innate mind imposing intrinsic existence which is the first of the twelve links. Acquired ignorance merely superimposes based on this innate ignorance. Thus, reasoning does not negate all cognitive processes through non-conceptual consciousnesses (perceptions). Reasoning does not negate the computer I’m typing on, for example, it only negates its falsely apprehended quality of existing in its own essence without need of conscious input. Only conceptual cognitive processes are negated by reason, and not all of them. Rational analysis never negates perceptual consciousness -- otherwise there would be nothing to observe, nothing to analyze. The thing is there; the issue is how we apprehend it. So reason does not refute perception, only the referent object of the conceptual mind. More specifically, two conceptual minds are refuted: that which superimposes an intrinsic self on objects, and that which superimposes an intrinsic self on persons.
We who are like children shrink from pain but love its causes. - Shantideva