what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

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krodha
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by krodha » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:09 am

smcj wrote:
As for Nagarjuna, I find that his arguments can end up leading people (e.g. Garfield) to argue that Nagarjuna was basically saying that the ultimate of everything is dependent origination. In other words, there is nothing that is unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated. This directly contradicts Udana 8.3 and fatally impacts the soteriology of Buddhism. I doubt that this was the conclusion intended by Nagarjuna.
Actually my current understanding Is that is exactly what Nagarjuna meant. When Gelugpas talk about their "non-affirming negation" they are specifically not affirming that there is anything more to it. You have to leave Madhyamaka and enter Yogacara or Shentong to get any kind of "nothing-yet-more-than-nothing".
Nāgārjuna never says "the ultimate of everything is dependent origination", Madhyamaka simply says that so-called conditioned dharmas originate dependently and therefore do not actually originate at all, hence they are unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated etc. This is the heart of the soteriology of Buddhism.

So no, what you are asserting is not what Nāgārjuna meant. And one can actually argue that Yogācāra is an inferior view to Madhyamaka since it ends up a realist view. Gzhan stong is nothing more than a post-meditative interpretation and does not contradict Madhyamaka if properly understood.

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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:41 am

asunthatneversets wrote: Nāgārjuna never says "the ultimate of everything is dependent origination", Madhyamaka simply says that so-called conditioned dharmas originate dependently and therefore do not actually originate at all, hence they are unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated etc.
This gets into the different interpretations of Nagarjuna between Chandrakirti and Tsongkhapa. I was raised on Tsongkhapa, so my version of dependent arising has a provisional existence. But it's true that this is a Gelug specific interpretation.

Speaking about Gelugpas, here's a quote from Tsongkhapa equating emptiness and dependent arising:
Appearances are infallible dependent arisings;
Emptiness is free of assertions.
As long as these two understating are seen as separate,
One has not yet realized the intent of the Buddha.
Here's a quote lifted from a post by Malcolm on p.3 of this thread:
Āryāṣṭadaśasahasrika-prajñāpāramitā-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra:

Dependent origination should be known as emptiness.
And one can actually argue that Yogācāra is an inferior view to Madhyamaka since it ends up a realist view.
You won't hear that from the sects that accept the 3rd Turning of the Wheel as being definitive over the 2nd Turning.
Gzhan stong is nothing more than a post-meditative interpretation and does not contradict Madhyamaka if properly understood.
Madhyamaka has jurisdiction over the phenomenal universe. Shentong jurisdiction is that which cannot be taken as a subject by consciousness; the unborn, etc.
Last edited by smcj on Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:02 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by krodha » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:58 am

smcj wrote:This gets into the different interpretations of Nagarjuna between Chandrakirti and Tsongkhapa. I was raised on Tsongkhapa, so my version of dependent arising has a provisional existence. And if I could find my book on "The 3 Principle Aspects of the Path" by Tsongkhapa I could give a quote about emptiness and interdependent arising being the same thing. But then again that's Tsongkhapa, who isn't universally well regarded here, and I can't find the book anyway. So here's a quote lifted from a post by Malcolm on p.3 of this thread:
Āryāṣṭadaśasahasrika-prajñāpāramitā-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra:

Dependent origination should be known as emptiness.
I never said dependent origination and emptiness were antonymous, and Nāgārjuna pointed out that dependent origination and emptiness are clearly one and the same far before Tsongkhapa's reiteration.
smcj wrote:Who ever said that?
It is the natural consequence of the three natures and has been pointed out numerous times here.
smcj wrote:Madhyamaka has jurisdiction over the phenomenal universe. Shentong jurisdiction is that which cannot be taken as a subject by consciousness, the unborn, etc.
That is a patent fallacy. Gzhan stong simply says the three kāyas are innate, however this is the implication of traditional Madhyamaka as well. When it comes down to it, gzhan stong really does not offer anything that cannot be found in traditional Madhyamaka.

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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:35 am

asunthatneversets wrote:It is the natural consequence of the three natures and has been pointed out numerous times here.
Some traditions hold the 2nd Turning to be definitive, some traditions the 3rd. There is no consensus on that point. Personally I choose the 3rd. So does Dudjom R. He devotes a short chapter to the subject of 3rd Turning being the definitive Turning in the Big Red Book p.187-190.

Big Red Book p.188:
Definitive meaning, on the other hand, is allocated to the third promulgation because [therin] things of relative appearance are empty of their own essence and the ultimate reality is empty of extraneous entities, so that the nature of the [attributes] is qualitatively well distinguished and then revealed.
:
smcj wrote:Madhyamaka has jurisdiction over the phenomenal universe. Shentong jurisdiction is that which cannot be taken as a subject by consciousness, the unborn, etc.
That is a patent fallacy. Gzhan stong simply says the three kāyas are innate..
There are multiple versions of Shentong, depending on time, place, sect, and author. That is one of them.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Sherab » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:04 am

smcj wrote:
As for Nagarjuna, I find that his arguments can end up leading people (e.g. Garfield) to argue that Nagarjuna was basically saying that the ultimate of everything is dependent origination. In other words, there is nothing that is unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated. This directly contradicts Udana 8.3 and fatally impacts the soteriology of Buddhism. I doubt that this was the conclusion intended by Nagarjuna.
Actually my current understanding Is that is exactly what Nagarjuna meant. When Gelugpas talk about their "non-affirming negation" they are specifically not affirming that there is anything more to it. You have to leave Madhyamaka and enter Yogacara or Shentong to get any kind of "nothing-yet-more-than-nothing".
I take it that you are happy with the position that dependent origination is all there is even though that directly contradicts what the Buddha said in Udana 8.3.

I have no problem with Gelugpas "non-affirming negation" as long as the negation applies only to dependently originated phenomena and keeping quiet about everything that is not dependently originated. This is consistent with the position that the ultimate can only be pointed to, since words are confined to the realm of the relative and as such cannot be used to reference anything that is of the realm of the ultimate.

As regards the terms "Madhyamaka", "Yogacara" and "Shentong", I would rather dispense with them as people seem to have their on take on what the terms actually refer to, and as a result, serves to increase confusion rather than bring clarity as to what is the right view.

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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Sherab » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:25 am

asunthatneversets wrote:Nāgārjuna never says "the ultimate of everything is dependent origination",
Of course, as I mentioned previously, I did not think that Nagarjuna intended that sort of conclusion, but that did not stop people like Garfield from arguing for that very conclusion.
asunthatneversets wrote: Madhyamaka simply says that so-called conditioned dharmas originate dependently and therefore do not actually originate at all, hence they are unborn, unbecome, unmade, unfabricated etc. This is the heart of the soteriology of Buddhism.
There are different ways of reading into this line of reasoning. One way of reading it is what academics like Garfield did, that is, that it implies the dependent origination is all there is. If you have read my post more carefully, you would have noticed that I did not think that this is the conclusion that Nagarjuna intended.
asunthatneversets wrote:So no, what you are asserting is not what Nāgārjuna meant. And one can actually argue that Yogācāra is an inferior view to Madhyamaka since it ends up a realist view. Gzhan stong is nothing more than a post-meditative interpretation and does not contradict Madhyamaka if properly understood.
This portion of your reply represents your misunderstanding of what I actually said.

As an aside, I no longer bother with the terms "Madhyamaka", "Yogacara", "Gzhan stong", as I feel that they tend to become like anchors, making people unwittingly unable to let go of their clinging to various views.

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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:33 am

Sherab wrote: I take it that you are happy with the position that dependent origination is all there is even though that directly contradicts what the Buddha said in Udana 8.3.
No, that's why I'm a Shentongpa.
I have no problem with Gelugpas "non-affirming negation" as long as the negation applies only to dependently originated phenomena and keeping quiet about everything that is not dependently originated. This is consistent with the position that the ultimate can only be pointed to, since words are confined to the realm of the relative and as such cannot be used to reference anything that is of the realm of the ultimate.
This idea is also the Karma Kagyu prerequisite for Shentong. Kontrul R. said that you have to have an understanding of Madhyamka before you can approach Shentong. Presumably because otherwise you actually would end up with an eternalistic view.
As regards the terms "Madhyamaka", "Yogacara" and "Shentong", I would rather dispense with them as people seem to have their on take on what the terms actually refer to, and as a result, serves to increase confusion rather than bring clarity as to what is the right view.
You're going to find that it is hard to discuss emptiness without them. You'll be reinventing the wheel with each discussion.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Sherab » Mon Dec 01, 2014 10:52 am

smcj wrote:You're going to find that it is hard to discuss emptiness without them. You'll be reinventing the wheel with each discussion.
Actually, I was happily posting on this thread without those terms until those terms were brought in. So yes, I think you can discuss emptiness, suchness, dependent origination without those distracting labels.

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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 5:51 pm

smcj wrote:Madhyamaka has jurisdiction over the phenomenal universe. Shentong jurisdiction is that which cannot be taken as a subject by consciousness, the unborn, etc.
That is a patent fallacy. Gzhan stong simply says the three kāyas are innate, however this is the implication of traditional Madhyamaka as well. When it comes down to it, gzhan stong really does not offer anything that cannot be found in traditional Madhyamaka.
Khenpo Tsultrim, the go-to guy for Shentong in modern day Karma Kagyu, has this to say:

Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness, p.66:
This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the object of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.

It is important to understand that this true existence does not mean that it can be conceptualized. If it were even the most subtle object of the conceptual process, it could be refuted by Prasangika reasoning. The non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not something that even supreme wisdom (Skt. prajna) can take as its object. Anything that can be an object of consciousness, however pure and refined, is dependently arising and has no true existence.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Malcolm » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:18 pm

smcj wrote: You won't hear that from the sects that accept the 3rd Turning of the Wheel as being definitive over the 2nd Turning.
.
There is basically a single mention of three turnings of the wheel in the sūtras, found in the Samdhinirmocana sutra. All it says there is that the wheel turned for Mahāyānis is the meaning to be understood by all yānas, nothing more and nothing less. Why does it say this? Because Mahāyāna was disputed by the Śravakas, so the Buddha turned the Mahāyāna wheel a second time so there would be no mistakes or ambiguity. It really is just an Ekayāna teaching.

I really don't know where some Tibetans got the idea that it referred to Yogacara literature, but there is absolutely no justification for that interpretation that can be derived from Indian commentaries in the bstan 'gyur. I know this because I have looked for this doctrine there extensively. There is virtually nothing about the three turnings of the wheel to be found in the bstan 'gyur.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Sönam » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:49 pm

Malcolm wrote: ... the Buddha turned the Mahāyāna wheel a second time so there would be no mistakes or ambiguity. It really is just an Ekayāna teaching.
...
Sogpo Tentar (cited by Tulku Thondup) seems to agree in Yon-Tan Rin-Po-Che'i mDzod-Kyi dKa'-gNad rDo-rJe'i rGya-mDud 'Grol-Byed Legs-bShad gSer-Gyi Thur-Ma :

"The Buddha-essence is discoursed on (in the Third Turning of the Wheel) but the Second Turning of the Wheel is more appropriate, in conventionals terms, as the antidote to the elaborated theories ... The Last (Third) Turning of the Wheel is extensively vast in discoursing upon the inconceivable primordial wisdom, the source of ten strengths, etc., ... But it is not the case that the Second Turning of the Wheel doesn't discourse on it."
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 6:54 pm

I really don't know where some Tibetans got the idea that it referred to Yogacara literature, but there is absolutely no justification for that interpretation that can be derived from Indian commentaries in the bstan 'gyur. I know this because I have looked for this doctrine there extensively. There is virtually nothing about the three turnings of the wheel to be found in the bstan 'gyur.
I believe you. However obviously at some later date the idea that there were 3 Turnings found traction in Tibet and is now a widely accepted convention. When it happened and what the justification was for it I have no idea.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Malcolm » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:19 pm

smcj wrote:
smcj wrote:Madhyamaka has jurisdiction over the phenomenal universe. Shentong jurisdiction is that which cannot be taken as a subject by consciousness, the unborn, etc.
That is a patent fallacy. Gzhan stong simply says the three kāyas are innate, however this is the implication of traditional Madhyamaka as well. When it comes down to it, gzhan stong really does not offer anything that cannot be found in traditional Madhyamaka.
Khenpo Tsultrim, the go-to guy for Shentong in modern day Karma Kagyu, has this to say:

Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness, p.66:
This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the object of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.

It is important to understand that this true existence does not mean that it can be conceptualized. If it were even the most subtle object of the conceptual process, it could be refuted by Prasangika reasoning. The non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not something that even supreme wisdom (Skt. prajna) can take as its object. Anything that can be an object of consciousness, however pure and refined, is dependently arising and has no true existence.
True existence itself is an object of conceptuality, so this reasoning is very unsound.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:42 pm

Malcolm wrote:True existence itself is an object of conceptuality, so this reasoning is very unsound.
Could be a little awkward. I like this take on it better:
Malcolm wrote:Our nature, suchness, does not arise; therefore, it does not cease. This is what it means to be deathless, that which is beyond arising and ceasing, suchness is indestructible.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Malcolm » Mon Dec 01, 2014 7:51 pm

smcj wrote:
Malcolm wrote:True existence itself is an object of conceptuality, so this reasoning is very unsound.
Could be a little awkward. I like this take on it better:
Malcolm wrote:Our nature, suchness, does not arise; therefore, it does not cease. This is what it means to be deathless, that which is beyond arising and ceasing, suchness is indestructible.
The problem really is what does not mean to be omniscient? To have realized the dharmakāya? If the dharmakāya is some truly existent wisdom mind that cannot be cognized by anyone, then it should always arise at all times in everyone without error.

If not, then it suggests that omniscience, like everything, else, arises from causes. The difficult question is this: If omniscience arises from causes, why does it not cease? Various answers to this problem have been tendered.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:06 pm

Malcolm wrote: The problem really is what does not (sic) mean to be omniscient? To have realized the dharmakāya? If the dharmakāya is some truly existent wisdom mind that cannot be cognized by anyone…
I think the idea is that it cannot be cognized in a dualistic way, meaning taken as an object by a subject.
...then it should always arise at all times in everyone without error.
I've heard that idea put forward before. In fact, isn't it standard Dzogchen perspective?

My personal spin is that enlightenment, when achieved, is retroactive. Once you become enlightened you can see that it was there all along. The story of Asanga and Maitreya comes to mind, where after 12 years of meditation Maitreya finally appears to Asanga. Asanga asked him where he'd been all that time, to which Maitreya replies, "I've been here the whole time. You just couldn't see me." Nice parable.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Malcolm » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:20 pm

smcj wrote:
Malcolm wrote: The problem really is what does not (sic) mean to be omniscient? To have realized the dharmakāya? If the dharmakāya is some truly existent wisdom mind that cannot be cognized by anyone…
I think the idea is that it cannot be cognized in a dualistic way, meaning taken as an object by a subject.
There is no such thing as a cognition in absence of a subject and an object.
...then it should always arise at all times in everyone without error.
I've heard that idea put forward before. In fact, isn't it standard Dzogchen perspective?

My personal spin is that enlightenment, when achieved, is retroactive. Once you become enlightened you can see that it was there all along. The story of Asanga and Maitreya comes to mind, where after 12 years of meditation Maitreya finally appears to Asanga. Asanga asked him where he'd been all that time, to which Maitreya replies, "I've been here the whole time. You just couldn't see me." Nice parable.
[/quote]

Dzogchen teaching make a clear distinction between the basis (the time of non-realization) and the result.

The real issue which causes argument is whether tathagatāgabha, a.k.a., the dharmakāya at the time of the basis, is something that is naturally perfected or something which requires development. In general, the Sakyapas for example argue that the natural perfection of the qualities of awakening in the person does not conflict with transformation in the same way the natural presence of the quality in milk which produces butter does not mitigate or render unnecessary the process of transformation which produces butter (churning). Longchenpa for example argues that while the two accumulations have always been perfected, they need to be reaccumulated in the same sense that a gem that has been lost in a swamp needs to be polished in order to restore its former luster.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:32 pm

Malcolm wrote: There is no such thing as a cognition in absence of a subject and an object.
So you're saying non-dual awareness is a fiction?
Dzogchen teaching make a clear distinction between the basis (the time of non-realization) and the result.

The real issue which causes argument is whether tathagatāgabha, a.k.a., the dharmakāya at the time of the basis, is something that is naturally perfected or something which requires development. In general, the Sakyapas for example argue that the natural perfection of the qualities of awakening in the person does not conflict with transformation in the same way the natural presence of the quality in milk which produces butter does not mitigate or render unnecessary the process of transformation which produces butter (churning). Longchenpa for example argues that while the two accumulations have always been perfected, they need to be reaccumulated in the same sense that a gem that has been lost in a swamp needs to be polished in order to restore its former luster.
The causal, resultant and self-perfected vehicles see things differently in this regard. My own take, that once achieved enlightenment is retroactive, is compatible with what you just wrote.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by Malcolm » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:39 pm

smcj wrote:
Malcolm wrote: There is no such thing as a cognition in absence of a subject and an object.
So you're saying non-dual awareness is a fiction?
Depends on what one means by nondual.
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Re: what makes Buddhist deathlessness not eternalism?

Post by smcj » Mon Dec 01, 2014 8:48 pm

Malcolm wrote: Depends on what one means by nondual.
The result, the Dharmakaya at the time of realization.
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