No self (and no non-self)

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rachmiel
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No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:13 pm

Rather than asserting

The phenomena we perceive have no self.

doesn't the Madhyamaka assert:

The phenomena we perceive have no self and no non-self.

?

So when I look at these words popping up on this computer screen, the words (and the screen (and the looker = me)) have no self, no essence, no ultimate identity. But, that's only half the story. The rest: Neither do the words/screen/looker have non-self, no essence, no ultimate identity.

I'm asking this because "having no self" is a cornerstone of Buddhist teaching. But, again, per the Madhyamaka (and the Heart Sutra, if I'm reading it correctly) it seems like just a half-truth.
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rachmiel
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:27 pm

I just got a response from Alex Trisoglio (student of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche who taught the online Madhyamaka course over the summer).

He said, yes, the OP is right, the Madhyamaka doesn't stop with no self, it goes all the way:

Things (including objects in Buddhist teachings like self, karma, rebirth) neither exist, nor don't exist, nor both, nor neither.

Bearing this in mind really changes my way of looking at ... stuff. I was hammering in "No self, no self, no self" but now it's more "No self no non-self, no self no non-self, no self no non-self). With the latter all you're really "left with" is ... things as they are, i.e. the unfathomable mystery.
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Dan74
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Dan74 » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:03 pm

As I understand it, Madhyamaka denies immutable essence and a fixed position. So to assert that there is no self as some sort of a inherent essence is a fixed position. Avoiding the clinging to any sort of essence and the thicket of views, the practitioner is liberated to see it as it is.
Last edited by Dan74 on Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:45 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Malcolm
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Malcolm » Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:09 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:13 pm
Rather than asserting

The phenomena we perceive have no self.

doesn't the Madhyamaka assert:

The phenomena we perceive have no self and no non-self.

?

So when I look at these words popping up on this computer screen, the words (and the screen (and the looker = me)) have no self, no essence, no ultimate identity. But, that's only half the story. The rest: Neither do the words/screen/looker have non-self, no essence, no ultimate identity.

I'm asking this because "having no self" is a cornerstone of Buddhist teaching. But, again, per the Madhyamaka (and the Heart Sutra, if I'm reading it correctly) it seems like just a half-truth.

It is a half-truth — ordinary beings do not perceive absence of identity in persons and phenomena. This is called the relative. But when persons and things are perceived as they truly exist, no identity of persons and things can be perceived at all. Thus "self" is relative, and "no self" is ultimate. In other words, it is perfectly fine to denote composite things with names; but those names do not correspond to anything intrinsically real within that composite entity.
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by PuerAzaelis » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:07 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:13 pm
I'm asking this because "having no self" is a cornerstone of Buddhist teaching. But, again, per the Madhyamaka (and the Heart Sutra, if I'm reading it correctly) it seems like just a half-truth.
Kāśyapa, “self” is one extreme. “No self” is another extreme. The middle that lies between these two extremes cannot be taught.
One of the Heap of Jewels sutras, quoted in Ornament of Reason, Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü
B*llshit flows downward. Power flows upward. This is religion.

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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by jkarlins » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:26 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 6:27 pm
I just got a response from Alex Trisoglio (student of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche who taught the online Madhyamaka course over the summer).

He said, yes, the OP is right, the Madhyamaka doesn't stop with no self, it goes all the way:

Things (including objects in Buddhist teachings like self, karma, rebirth) neither exist, nor don't exist, nor both, nor neither.

Bearing this in mind really changes my way of looking at ... stuff. I was hammering in "No self, no self, no self" but now it's more "No self no non-self, no self no non-self, no self no non-self). With the latter all you're really "left with" is ... things as they are, i.e. the unfathomable mystery.
good, it sounds like you're making some headway on this question!

Jake

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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Vasana » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:34 pm

rachmiel wrote:rather than asserting

The phenomena we perceive have no self.

doesn't the Madhyamaka assert:

The phenomena we perceive have no self and no non-self.
Madhyamaka logic goes beyond both of those assertions since they're equally without solid basis.

Mipham Rinpoche said,

'Entities themselves arise dependently,
Whereas ‘non-entities’ are dependently imputed.

So, whether an entity or non-entity,
Whatever is conceived of uncritically,
Once it is analyzed and investigated,
Is found to be without basis or origin —
Appearing yet unreal, like an illusion, dream,
Reflected moon, echo, city in the clouds,
Hallucination, mirage, and the like.
Appearing yet empty, empty yet appearing—
Meditate on the way empty appearances resemble illusions.'


Saraha said:
'To believe in reality is to be like cattle. But to believe in unreality is even more stupid!'

Taking it in to meditation and contemplating how even the analysing or discriminating mind and it's gross and subtle conceptualizing activity can neither be said to be existent nor non-existent can bring about non-conceptual insight since all conceptual possibilities and phenomena including self/not-self in that moment are exhausted for as long as that insight remains.

Shantideva said:
108: 'When neither existence nor nonexistence is present in the mind, then, because there is no other possibility, the mind without support becomes tranquil.' (IX.35)
"The changing cycle of joy and sorrow, like the changing seasons –
As a time of suffering will surely come around to me,
May I truly practice the sublime teachings."
- Dudjom Rinpoche

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rachmiel
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Wed Oct 11, 2017 9:59 pm

Vasana wrote:
rachmiel wrote:The phenomena we perceive have no self and no non-self.
Madhyamaka logic goes beyond both of those assertions since they're equally without solid basis.
I would have thought that Madhyamaka would wheel out the tetralemma for this one:

Phenomena have neither self, nor non-self, nor both, nor either.

Are you saying Madhyamaka logic goes beyond the tetralemma?
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rachmiel
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Wed Oct 11, 2017 10:02 pm

PuerAzaelis wrote: Kāśyapa, “self” is one extreme. “No self” is another extreme. The middle that lies between these two extremes cannot be taught.
One of the Heap of Jewels sutras, quoted in Ornament of Reason, Mabja Jangchub Tsöndrü
And yet teachers and students spend an extraordinary amount of time teaching and learning it!
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:48 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:09 pm
rachmiel wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:13 pm
I'm asking this because "having no self" is a cornerstone of Buddhist teaching. But, again, per the Madhyamaka (and the Heart Sutra, if I'm reading it correctly) it seems like just a half-truth.
It is a half-truth — ordinary beings do not perceive absence of identity in persons and phenomena. This is called the relative. But when persons and things are perceived as they truly exist, no identity of persons and things can be perceived at all. Thus "self" is relative, and "no self" is ultimate. In other words, it is perfectly fine to denote composite things with names; but those names do not correspond to anything intrinsically real within that composite entity.
Gotcha. But, unless I missed it, your response doesn't get at my main question, whether this is right:

The Madhyamaka asserts that phenomena have neither self, nor non-self, nor both, nor neither. This goes much further than the non-Madhyamaka assertion that phenomena have no self, period. The Madhyamaka assertion seems to burn the entire concept of self -- in all of its guises -- to ashes. The non-Madhyamaka assertion leaves open the possibility that phenomena have non-self.
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Dan74 » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:09 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:48 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 7:09 pm
rachmiel wrote:
Wed Oct 11, 2017 4:13 pm
I'm asking this because "having no self" is a cornerstone of Buddhist teaching. But, again, per the Madhyamaka (and the Heart Sutra, if I'm reading it correctly) it seems like just a half-truth.
It is a half-truth — ordinary beings do not perceive absence of identity in persons and phenomena. This is called the relative. But when persons and things are perceived as they truly exist, no identity of persons and things can be perceived at all. Thus "self" is relative, and "no self" is ultimate. In other words, it is perfectly fine to denote composite things with names; but those names do not correspond to anything intrinsically real within that composite entity.
Gotcha. But, unless I missed it, your response doesn't get at my main question, whether this is right:

The Madhyamaka asserts that phenomena have neither self, nor non-self, nor both, nor neither. This goes much further than the non-Madhyamaka assertion that phenomena have no self, period. The Madhyamaka assertion seems to burn the entire concept of self -- in all of its guises -- to ashes. The non-Madhyamaka assertion leaves open the possibility that phenomena have non-self.
Maybe it's worth noting that the Buddha in the Pali suttas avoided getting into the thicket of views on this and related subjects http://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka ... .than.html.

Nagarjuna make this bypass more explicit, but the essence remains the same, IMO.

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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Malcolm » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:19 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:48 pm
The Madhyamaka asserts that phenomena have neither self, nor non-self, nor both, nor neither.
This not a usage of the negation of self found in Madhyamaka texts.

This goes much further than the non-Madhyamaka assertion that phenomena have no self, period.
Which non-Madhyamakas do you have in mind?
The Madhyamaka assertion seems to burn the entire concept of self -- in all of its guises -- to ashes. The non-Madhyamaka assertion leaves open the possibility that phenomena have non-self.
I am afraid you are not properly understanding the use and limits of the tetralemma.

A self is something designated on an composite existent; when such existents are examined, one cannot find that they exist, do not exist, both or neither. Therefore, there is no where to hang a self.
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Human life spent in
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:21 pm

Related to Dan's point, Nagarjuna shows lack of own-being in any composite thing, over and over, with an aim to release beings from many subtle sticking points. I read that, in that way, his purpose is religious/salvific and not philosophical.
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:19 pm
rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:48 pm
The Madhyamaka asserts that phenomena have neither self, nor non-self, nor both, nor neither.
This not a usage of the negation of self found in Madhyamaka texts.
According to Garfield (Madhyamaka is not Nihilism) Nagarjuna does just that (without using the term 'self' explicitly) in Verse 11 from Chapter 12 of the MMK (Examination of the Tathagata):

11. We do not assert “empty.”
We do not assert “nonempty.”
We neither assert both nor neither.
They are asserted only for the purpose of designation. [Ocean 447]
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Malcolm
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Malcolm » Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:42 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:19 pm
rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 1:48 pm
The Madhyamaka asserts that phenomena have neither self, nor non-self, nor both, nor neither.
This not a usage of the negation of self found in Madhyamaka texts.
According to Garfield (Madhyamaka is not Nihilism) Nagarjuna does just that (without using the term 'self' explicitly) in Verse 11 from Chapter 12 of the MMK (Examination of the Tathagata):

11. We do not assert “empty.”
We do not assert “nonempty.”
We neither assert both nor neither.
They are asserted only for the purpose of designation. [Ocean 447]

Correct. But a self is always posited on the basis of a composite entity, whereas existence, emptiness, and so forth are not necessarily posited on the basis of a composite entity. But don't you think it is better to look at chapter 18, the examination of self?
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 4:27 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:42 pm
rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 3:13 pm
Malcolm wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 2:19 pm

This not a usage of the negation of self found in Madhyamaka texts.
According to Garfield (Madhyamaka is not Nihilism) Nagarjuna does just that (without using the term 'self' explicitly) in Verse 11 from Chapter 12 of the MMK (Examination of the Tathagata):

11. We do not assert “empty.”
We do not assert “nonempty.”
We neither assert both nor neither.
They are asserted only for the purpose of designation. [Ocean 447]

Correct. But a self is always posited on the basis of a composite entity, whereas existence, emptiness, and so forth are not necessarily posited on the basis of a composite entity. But don't you think it is better to look at chapter 18, the examination of self?
Will do, thanks Malcolm. :namaste:
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Grigoris » Thu Oct 12, 2017 6:58 pm

Madhyamaka points out what is a wrong view, it actually does not expound a view, since the view is beyond dualistic reasoning. and thus cannot be expounded.
"My religion is not deceiving myself."
Jetsun Milarepa 1052-1135 CE

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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:03 pm

Just worked through Chapter 18 (in Garfield's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way). This verse seems to get at what I'm exploring here:

8. Everything is real and is not real,
Both real and not real.
Neither real nor not real.
This is Lord Buddha’s teaching.

Here is (part of) Garfield's commentary on the verse. I included it because, without understanding the two senses (Two Truths) that underlie the verse, it's easy to misunderstand what Nagarjuna meant.

This is the positive tetralemma regarding existence.
  • Everything is conventionally real. Everything is ultimately unreal.
  • Everything has both characteristics — that is, everything is both conventionally real and ultimately unreal.
  • Nothing is ultimately real or completely nonexistent. That is, everything is neither real in one sense nor not-real in another sense.
Applying this to self yields:
  • Self is conventionally real. Self is ultimately unreal.
  • Self is both conventionally real and ultimately unreal.
  • Self is neither ultimately real, nor conventionally unreal.
The same logic can be applied to all objects: aggregates, teachings (karma, dependent arising, rebirth), things (trees, rocks, ideas).
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Malcolm
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by Malcolm » Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:23 pm

rachmiel wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:03 pm
Just worked through Chapter 18 (in Garfield's Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way). This verse seems to get at what I'm exploring here:

8. Everything is real and is not real,
Both real and not real.
Neither real nor not real.
This is Lord Buddha’s teaching.

Here is (part of) Garfield's commentary on the verse. I included it because, without understanding the two senses (Two Truths) that underlie the verse, it's easy to misunderstand what Nagarjuna meant.

This is the positive tetralemma regarding existence.
  • Everything is conventionally real. Everything is ultimately unreal.
  • Everything has both characteristics — that is, everything is both conventionally real and ultimately unreal.
  • Nothing is ultimately real or completely nonexistent. That is, everything is neither real in one sense nor not-real in another sense.
Applying this to self yields:
  • Self is conventionally real. Self is ultimately unreal.
  • Self is both conventionally real and ultimately unreal.
  • Self is neither ultimately real, nor conventionally unreal.
The same logic can be applied to all objects: aggregates, teachings (karma, dependent arising, rebirth), things (trees, rocks, ideas).
But this is quite a different use than what you originally advanced: self, no self, both, and neither.

Anyway, it really should be:

8. Everything is true, false,
both true and false,
and neither true nor false.
This is Lord Buddha’s teaching.

However, the traditional understanding is that the first term, "everything is true and false," means that the Buddha follows mundane convention and proclaims it to be true. If something is not true according to worldly convention, the Buddha proclaims it to be false. If the world says that something is both true and false, also the Buddha agrees. And if the world says something is neither true nor false, again Buddha agrees.

Buddhapalita then uses the example of pictures on a wall. Let's use the Buddha. There is a picture on the wall of Buddha, so we agree it is Buddha. But it is false if one says this is the real Buddha. It is both true and false in that it is true it is picture and it is false in that it is not the real Buddha. It is not a real buddha, hence not true, but it is also not not a representation of someone other than Buddha, hence not false. This is the sense in which that statement should be understood.
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Free of hope and fear, relax.
Human life spent in
a state of great spaciousness is enjoyable.


— Kunzang Dechen Lingpa

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rachmiel
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Re: No self (and no non-self)

Post by rachmiel » Thu Oct 12, 2017 8:05 pm

Malcolm wrote:
Thu Oct 12, 2017 7:23 pm
But this is quite a different use than what you originally advanced: self, no self, both, and neither.
Yes. I'm learning.
Anyway, it really should be:

8. Everything is true, false,
both true and false,
and neither true nor false.
This is Lord Buddha’s teaching.
When you say "it really should be" do you mean you have access to Nagarjuna's original text (in Pali? Sanskrit?) and you have the expertise to say, with certainty, that the "true and false" translation is more accurate than Garfield's?
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