JeffH wrote:I've heard Buddhists say that Descartes was establishing a permanent self with that meditation. That would probably correspond to "establishes the 'thinking being' as an indubitable reality" in your third paragraph. And that may indeed have been his intent, but I'm not sure that's true if his meaning was closer to your second paragraph.
This is a subject more of interest to academic philosophy than Buddhism but it's of interest to me. The 20th century philosopher Edmund Husserl analysed Descartes in his last (posthumously published) book, The Crisis of the European Sciences
. On the one hand, he recognised Descartes' genius; but he also faulted Descartes, for dealing with res cogitans
- the 'thinking substance' - as if it were an object, a literal 'thinking thing'. He said that Descartes approach tended to 'naturalise' the mind, as if it could be thought of as an objective reality - which it never really can be, as it is never the object of consciousness, but always 'that which thinks'. (And this is recognised in the Upanishads).
When questions come up in Western phlosoohy as to how 'the mind ' interacts with 'the body' - the modern 'mind-body problem' - this is a consequence of taking Descartes' philosophical dualism as a literal description of two separate kinds of substance. Descartes himself was guilty of that. But there is actually no 'thinking substance', nor is there any 'purely physical substance'. Both these are abstractions, which then became' reified as actual with many adverse consequences in Western philosophy. Chief amongst these consequences was the wish to completely reject the notion of 'thinking stuff' and to seek explanations for everything in terms of mechanistic materialism. It is one of the primary sources of modern materialism. (Actually I don't blame Descartes entirely, as he wasn't around to refine his philosophy. But I'm sure he never would have agreed with materialism, even if his ideas were used to support it.)
Muni wrote:It is said that [the true nature] exists empty of the duality
Of apprehender and apprehended,
And that mere clarity-awareness, empty of duality, exists.
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.
This is, of course, perfectly and profoundly true - except that the last word, 'exists', is a bit problematic. It is not a problem with the original text, but a limitation of modern English. In modern English, 'what is', and 'what exists', are understood to be the same. But this doesn't allow for the transcendent nature of non-dual reality. Non-dual reality never comes into, or goes out, of existence; it is beyond existence (which is what 'transcendent' means). So a more correct expression would be: 'mere clarity-awareness, empty of duality, is