Emptiness nutshells

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
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Wayfarer
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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Jul 26, 2017 5:59 am

Rachmeil wrote:Things are not what they seem.

Or, more accurate (but klunkier, needs streamlining):

Things are neither what they seem nor not what they seem.
The quote you're referring to is from the Laṅkāvatāra Sutra, 'things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise.' It's a baffling saying, as it appears to defy logic. 'Things are not X, but neither are they not not X'. It's an example of what Shigenori Nagamoto calls 'the logic of not' in his essay on Prajñāpāramitā in the Diamond Sutra here.

My brief interpretation is that it is a refutation of the customary distinction between reality and appearance. Most other teachings will say: 'things are not what they seem'. And why? They will say: because reality and appearance are different; we are taken in by appearances, and believe phenomena are real. However, in reality, phenomena are simply appearance [instantiations of the Ideal Form/atoms and the void/play of mara] and are therefore unreal. What is real is what is behind or above phenomena. In philosophical terminology, it is the distinction of noumena and phenomena, where the 'noumenal' is the real, and the 'phenomenal' is the unreal.

But the Laṅkāvatāra is saying: appearances are empty, but there's nothing apart from appearances, no higher or real world behind appearance. Hence the saying 'mere appearance'. And that's ultimately because of the non-difference of Nirvāṇa and samsara. The traditionalist believed that Nirvāṇa is radically other than samsara. But Prajñāpāramitā asserts that there's no difference - 'samsara is Nirvāṇa grasped, Nirvāṇa is samsara released' is an aphorism I read once. Two aspects of non-dual reality.

I think it's a very risky teaching, though. It was considered highly radical when it was first introduced and has never been accepted by the Theravada to this day. Worth reflecting on that.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Lukeinaz » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:14 am

Wayfarer wrote:things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise.' It's a baffling saying, as it appears to defy logic.
It completely dissolves logic. I think this is the point. It is to be experienced and not figured out.
You are truly astonishing--going to look for yourself when you already are yourself! --Longchen Rabjam

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Lukeinaz » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:20 am

Bakmoon wrote: In Gelug Madhyamaka, to say things exist conventionally means that they exist only as a mere designation from the perspective of a particular observer.

Guru Padmasambhava:

"All that appears and exists, the phenomena of samsara and nirvana, arise from the solidified habitual tendencies of labeling."
You are truly astonishing--going to look for yourself when you already are yourself! --Longchen Rabjam

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Rick » Wed Jul 26, 2017 1:12 pm

I like Karl Brünnholzl's take (bolding mine):

Madhyamaka ground: the unity of the two realities. The two realities are seeming
reality and ultimate reality. On the level of seeming reality, conventionally
speaking, all phenomena are nothing but mere collections of causes and conditions.
Our labels that emerge based on these phenomena are just superimposed,
conventional designations that are coined in an interdependent way.
Ultimately, however, phenomena are not to be found as any of the extremes
of our mental reference points, such as existing, not existing, arising, or ceasing.
They are also free from abiding in a so-called middle. Thus, it is the nature
of all these fleeting phenomena to appear while not having any identifiable
nature of their own, very much like rainbows or reflections in a mirror. This
is the unity of the two realities.


Now if I could only boil that down to a short catchy practice phrase ... ::

Fleeting appearance, no identifiable nature, like a rainbow.

?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by gelatinous_cube » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:01 pm

Things aren't even what they ARE, much less what they seem.

Not sure if someone said this one already, but it's basically true. Things aren't any particular way, so they certainly aren't what anyone says they "are".

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Rick » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:49 pm

Emptiness is like "the game" ... the moment you mention or even become conscious of it ... you're out. Let it go ... you're in.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Lukeinaz » Wed Jul 26, 2017 2:58 pm

rachmiel wrote:I like Karl Brünnholzl's take (bolding mine):

Madhyamaka ground: the unity of the two realities. The two realities are seeming
reality and ultimate reality. On the level of seeming reality, conventionally
speaking, all phenomena are nothing but mere collections of causes and conditions.
Our labels that emerge based on these phenomena are just superimposed,
conventional designations that are coined in an interdependent way.
Ultimately, however, phenomena are not to be found as any of the extremes
of our mental reference points, such as existing, not existing, arising, or ceasing.
They are also free from abiding in a so-called middle. Thus, it is the nature
of all these fleeting phenomena to appear while not having any identifiable
nature of their own, very much like rainbows or reflections in a mirror. This
is the unity of the two realities.


Now if I could only boil that down to a short catchy practice phrase ... ::

Fleeting appearance, no identifiable nature, like a rainbow.

?
A star, a mirage, the flame of a lamp,
An illusion, a drop of dew, or a bubble,
A dream, a flash of lightning, a cloud—
See conditioned things as such!
You are truly astonishing--going to look for yourself when you already are yourself! --Longchen Rabjam

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Rick » Thu Jul 27, 2017 1:54 pm

Good old ’phags pa shes rab kyi pha rol tu phyin pa rdo rje gcod pa zhes bya ba theg pa chen po’i mdo! :twothumbsup:
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Rick » Thu Jul 27, 2017 4:28 pm

Form is like a glob of foam;
feeling, a bubble;
perception, a mirage;
fabrications, a banana tree;
... they're empty, void
to whoever sees them
appropriately.

— from the Phena Sutta, translated by Thanissaro Bhikkhu
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by undefineable » Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:29 pm

gelatinous_cube wrote:Things aren't even what they ARE, much less what they seem.

Not sure if someone said this one already, but it's basically true. Things aren't any particular way, so they certainly aren't what anyone says they "are".
I suspect that's pushing things too far

Up to a point, I can be defined ;) :P . If I couldn't, then there would already be freedom from craving because anyone could "fit in with" whatever they might want {And who, among those who tend to get what they want, genuinely stop wanting more things that they still have to work to get?}

Furthermore, there would be no need to be free of self-grasping ignorance because there wouldn't be any ignorance of not-self to base it on.

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by undefineable » Thu Jul 27, 2017 7:36 pm

Lukeinaz wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:things are not what they seem, nor are they otherwise.' It's a baffling saying, as it appears to defy logic.
It completely dissolves logic. I think this is the point. It is to be experienced and not figured out.
It can be figured out, given a gist of the relevant information and some nous as to its weighting. Whether this is healthy or not I wouldn't be able to to say...

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by gelatinous_cube » Thu Jul 27, 2017 11:38 pm

undefineable wrote:
gelatinous_cube wrote:Things aren't even what they ARE, much less what they seem.

Not sure if someone said this one already, but it's basically true. Things aren't any particular way, so they certainly aren't what anyone says they "are".
I suspect that's pushing things too far

Up to a point, I can be defined ;) :P . If I couldn't, then there would already be freedom from craving because anyone could "fit in with" whatever they might want {And who, among those who tend to get what they want, genuinely stop wanting more things that they still have to work to get?}

Furthermore, there would be no need to be free of self-grasping ignorance because there wouldn't be any ignorance of not-self to base it on.
What I was getting at is a little different - I'm saying that the moment you say something is a certain way, you're already talking about your internal concept of whatever symbolic picture you have in your head that represents the thing, not the thing itself. The thing itself is a pure "black box", permanently inaccessible to any of your six senses. You are a brain in a vat, and you'll never get to see the vat.

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Sherab » Fri Jul 28, 2017 12:31 am

I have followed arguments about emptiness for quite a while. What struck me was that no one as far as I know talked about appearances as something that emerges.

Samsara is something that emerges. Nirvana is something that emerges. Therefore there is no difference between samsara and nirvana as to their nature.

Emptiness is something that emerges as well. Therefore emptiness is itself empty.

The question then is: from what does everything emerge? This is where I think a proper understanding of the Tibetan term 'ye she' is very helpful.

I once stated to the yangsi of my guru's guru that I don't think 'wisdom' is a good translation of the term 'ye she' and asked him how 'ye she' should be translated. He replied after a long thoughtful pause that 'ye she' is that which can know dzogpachenpo. That in my mind makes a lot of difference.

I also noticed that he did not make any reference to 'mind' of any sort in the definition of 'ye she'.

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Anonymous X » Fri Jul 28, 2017 5:27 am

Sherab wrote:I have followed arguments about emptiness for quite a while. What struck me was that no one as far as I know talked about appearances as something that emerges.

Samsara is something that emerges. Nirvana is something that emerges. Therefore there is no difference between samsara and nirvana as to their nature.

Emptiness is something that emerges as well. Therefore emptiness is itself empty.

The question then is: from what does everything emerge? This is where I think a proper understanding of the Tibetan term 'ye she' is very helpful.

I once stated to the yangsi of my guru's guru that I don't think 'wisdom' is a good translation of the term 'ye she' and asked him how 'ye she' should be translated. He replied after a long thoughtful pause that 'ye she' is that which can know dzogpachenpo. That in my mind makes a lot of difference.

I also noticed that he did not make any reference to 'mind' of any sort in the definition of 'ye she'.
There is no essential reality to these things you mention. Once you posit that something exists, all sorts of erroneous notions go along with it. Can there be a source of all that emerges? That would be something akin to a god or ultimate reality, a creator that all phenomena flow from. This is not Madhymaka. When you posit that you exist, the world will also exist with it. There is no separating anything. There is a kind of unity which is a non duality, not a oneness. Very difficult to talk about.

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Wayfarer » Fri Jul 28, 2017 7:08 am

Undefineable wrote:It can be figured out, given a gist of the relevant information and some nous as to its weighting. Whether this is healthy or not I wouldn't be able to to say...
There's what's beyond logic, but 'beyond' is not beneath logic - it surpasses it.

I was also going to say - emptiness is meaningless without mahakaruna.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Sherab » Fri Jul 28, 2017 9:06 am

Anonymous X wrote:
Sherab wrote:I have followed arguments about emptiness for quite a while. What struck me was that no one as far as I know talked about appearances as something that emerges.

Samsara is something that emerges. Nirvana is something that emerges. Therefore there is no difference between samsara and nirvana as to their nature.

Emptiness is something that emerges as well. Therefore emptiness is itself empty.

The question then is: from what does everything emerge? This is where I think a proper understanding of the Tibetan term 'ye she' is very helpful.

I once stated to the yangsi of my guru's guru that I don't think 'wisdom' is a good translation of the term 'ye she' and asked him how 'ye she' should be translated. He replied after a long thoughtful pause that 'ye she' is that which can know dzogpachenpo. That in my mind makes a lot of difference.

I also noticed that he did not make any reference to 'mind' of any sort in the definition of 'ye she'.
There is no essential reality to these things you mention. Once you posit that something exists, all sorts of erroneous notions go along with it. Can there be a source of all that emerges? That would be something akin to a god or ultimate reality, a creator that all phenomena flow from. This is not Madhymaka. When you posit that you exist, the world will also exist with it. There is no separating anything. There is a kind of unity which is a non duality, not a oneness. Very difficult to talk about.
Madhyamaka only points out that all phenomena cannot be truly existent things. That is so because all phenomena are something that emerges. Madhyamaka cannot say anything about from what phenomena emerges because Madhayamaka, like everything else in the realm of phenomena, has to rely on terms based within the realm of phenomena. From what everything emerges therefore can never be spoken of no matter how much any unenlightened beings may try. It is for the same reason that enlightened is not something that can be attained in the causal sense. If you cannot understand this post, you could not have possibly understood my previous posts.

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by Anonymous X » Fri Jul 28, 2017 10:03 am

Sherab wrote:
Anonymous X wrote:
Sherab wrote:I have followed arguments about emptiness for quite a while. What struck me was that no one as far as I know talked about appearances as something that emerges.

Samsara is something that emerges. Nirvana is something that emerges. Therefore there is no difference between samsara and nirvana as to their nature.

Emptiness is something that emerges as well. Therefore emptiness is itself empty.

The question then is: from what does everything emerge? This is where I think a proper understanding of the Tibetan term 'ye she' is very helpful.

I once stated to the yangsi of my guru's guru that I don't think 'wisdom' is a good translation of the term 'ye she' and asked him how 'ye she' should be translated. He replied after a long thoughtful pause that 'ye she' is that which can know dzogpachenpo. That in my mind makes a lot of difference.

I also noticed that he did not make any reference to 'mind' of any sort in the definition of 'ye she'.
There is no essential reality to these things you mention. Once you posit that something exists, all sorts of erroneous notions go along with it. Can there be a source of all that emerges? That would be something akin to a god or ultimate reality, a creator that all phenomena flow from. This is not Madhymaka. When you posit that you exist, the world will also exist with it. There is no separating anything. There is a kind of unity which is a non duality, not a oneness. Very difficult to talk about.
Madhyamaka only points out that all phenomena cannot be truly existent things. That is so because all phenomena are something that emerges. Madhyamaka cannot say anything about from what phenomena emerges because Madhayamaka, like everything else in the realm of phenomena, has to rely on terms based within the realm of phenomena. From what everything emerges therefore can never be spoken of no matter how much any unenlightened beings may try. It is for the same reason that enlightened is not something that can be attained in the causal sense. If you cannot understand this post, you could not have possibly understood my previous posts.
What you just wrote seems clear. Not sure about your previous post, though. :shrug:

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by undefineable » Sat Jul 29, 2017 12:13 am

gelatinous_cube wrote:
undefineable wrote:
gelatinous_cube wrote:Things aren't even what they ARE, much less what they seem.

Not sure if someone said this one already, but it's basically true. Things aren't any particular way, so they certainly aren't what anyone says they "are".
I suspect that's pushing things too far

Up to a point, I can be defined ;) :P . If I couldn't, then there would already be freedom from craving because anyone could "fit in with" whatever they might want {And who, among those who tend to get what they want, genuinely stop wanting more things that they still have to work to get?}

Furthermore, there would be no need to be free of self-grasping ignorance because there wouldn't be any ignorance of not-self to base it on.
What I was getting at is a little different - I'm saying that the moment you say something is a certain way, you're already talking about your internal concept of whatever symbolic picture you have in your head that represents the thing, not the thing itself. The thing itself is a pure "black box", permanently inaccessible to any of your six senses.
So when you say things aren't even what they ARE, are you really saying that things aren't even what they seem to be beneath superficial {seeming} appearances?

Sounds Kantian - The 'thing in itself' is beyond perception or comprehension, but really exists out there somewhere. How does this relate to emptiness?
gelatinous_cube wrote:You are a brain in a vat, and you'll never get to see the vat.
But there is potentially a seeing of the vat, right?

Come to that, is there anything apart from brains and vats according to your view?

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by gelatinous_cube » Sat Jul 29, 2017 9:58 am

undefineable wrote: How does this relate to emptiness?
It relates to emptiness in that everything is dependently originated, including your idea of dependent origination, including the specific application of the notion of dependent origination to a particular object or mental phenomenon - that idea and application is just another dependently originated idea in your mind's eye. The "thing itself" (actual dependently originated phenomena) are not accessible to the human mind.
undefineable wrote: But there is potentially a seeing of the vat, right?
No, I don't think there is. However, you can draw some very pretty mind-pictures of it if you're into that. :)
undefineable wrote: Come to that, is there anything apart from brains and vats according to your view?
No, there aren't even any brains or vats, those are also just dependently originated ideas. The causal source of them is some philosophy texts I read at some point that I can't even remember, and the corresponding memory traces.

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Re: Emptiness nutshells

Post by undefineable » Sat Jul 29, 2017 7:41 pm

gelatinous_cube wrote:The "thing itself" (actual dependently originated phenomena) are not accessible to the human mind.
I like what I interpret as your dualism (dual dependent origination), but have been in enough of these discussions to anticipate the unexpected - Are you referring to physical phenomena, or do you feel there are mental phenomena that are permanently inaccessible to mind?

I'm not fussed as to whether mind really did give birth to the universe (as in some Tibetan Buddhist interpretations), although it might go some way towards explaining the appearance of all this random 'stuff'.
gelatinous_cube wrote:
undefineable wrote: But there is potentially a seeing of the vat, right?
No, I don't think there is. However, you can draw some very pretty mind-pictures of it if you're into that. :)
Is the value of a picture determined by the qualities of the paint or by the viewer's mind?

In any case, what exactly is your vat? Is there anything on the other side of it?

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