Existence

General discussion, particularly exploring the Dharma in the modern world.
[N.B. This is the forum that was called ‘Exploring Buddhism’. The new name simply describes it better.]
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stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Fri Jan 25, 2019 6:27 pm

Rick wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:33 pm
smcj wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:24 pm
For something “to truly exist” it would have to have a findable unchanging essence
Interestingly, a <non-Buddhist> argument for the opposite can be (has been) made: Only that which is changing is real, exists.
A reply to these <non-Buddhist>:
Well then, what is the agent of changing? Such an agent must be permanent otherwise to say 'that is changing' is merely an illusion because a 'that' that is changing cannot be found.

'unchanging essence' stands for 'that', i.e. an illusory carrier of properties which change while the carrier itself, the essence, is unchanging.

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:56 am

stevie wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 6:27 pm
Rick wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 4:33 pm
smcj wrote:
Fri Jan 25, 2019 3:24 pm
For something “to truly exist” it would have to have a findable unchanging essence
Interestingly, a <non-Buddhist> argument for the opposite can be (has been) made: Only that which is changing is real, exists.
A reply to these <non-Buddhist>:
Well then, what is the agent of changing? Such an agent must be permanent otherwise to say 'that is changing' is merely an illusion because a 'that' that is changing cannot be found.
A qualified answer to this lies somewhere in the writings of the process philosophers.
'unchanging essence' stands for 'that', i.e. an illusory carrier of properties which change while the carrier itself, the essence, is unchanging.
Buddhists say existents have an unchanging essence.
Processists say existents do NOT have an unchanging essence.

They're pointing to the same thing: Stuff doesn't have an unchanging essence. One just calls it non-existence and the other existence: semantics!

Note that this is my <idiosyncratic/flawed> understanding of Buddhism and process philosophy, so take it with a big grain of Salz.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Sat Jan 26, 2019 8:08 am

Rick wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:56 am
...
They're pointing to the same thing: Stuff doesn't have an unchanging essence. One just calls it non-existence and the other existence: semantics!
...
Language and semantics are inseparable. The signs and sounds of written and spoken language do not possess inherent meanings. Inherent meanings in words would amount to an unchanging essence in words. So meanings are most likely synthesized by the mind and imputed to the signs and sounds of language.

From my perspective conceptuality and language are inseparable, too. However in my experience there is an additional aspect of conceptuality: ignorance. It is not that conceptuality is necessarily always ignorant but my ignorance always arises together with my conceptuality and ignorance lies in ambush to hijack conceptuality.
I am deeply indepted to Madhyamaka reasonings for having revealed my ignorance in the context of my conceptuality. Without Madhyamaka I would not be able realize that ignorance has once again won when a sentiment of truth arises in the context of my conceptuality.

smcj
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Re: Existence

Post by smcj » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:32 pm

Buddhists say existents have an unchanging essence.
Just FYI, 1,000 years ago at Nalanda University that’s not what was taught. Since then some traditions have gone that route, but Nargarjuna would be outraged by that idea.
1. No traditional Buddhist sect, Tibetan or otherwise, considers deities to be fictional. (DW post/Seeker242)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against Lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post/by ?)
4. Shentong] is the completely pure system that,
Through mainly teaching the luminous aspect of the mind, holds that the fruitions--kayas and wisdoms--exist on their own accord. (Karmapa XIII)

White Lotus
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Re: Existence

Post by White Lotus » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:34 pm

You can't get away from this basic awareness as the root of everything else
I think Muni that I begin to understand your argument, you believe in Mind only? is that it? if there is only mind or basic awareness we can say that all this we see is a mirage, a delusion. it is only the fabrication of mind and so 'this' and 'that' are simply delusions also. dreams also. only the play of mind.
do I begin to understand you yet Muni?

it can be said that this is Mind, or this is awareness when we consider what the word 'this' points towards. this person is typing at this computer, in this room, in this country in this universe. 'this' is just another pointer towards direct experience of things. if I say 'this' 'here' 'now' and become aware of what these words point towards then I become aware of the original face.

'This' may not satisfy you. I find 'here' more satisfying than 'this', but the two are basically one, with a slight difference on what they guide us to see.

in my opinion 'this' is an adequate experience of awareness. the word awareness is more abstract than 'this', but the two words point towards the same basic thing which is original or ordinary mind.

please be simple Muni in your answers, if possible. why are you not satisfied with the word ''this''. is It because you think it does not reach the perfection of the word ''awareness''?

For something “to truly exist” it would have to have a findable unchanging essence
''emptiness''? though since emptiness is nameless and wordless and conceptless you may disagree. even though emptiness is not, it can still be seen and heard. it is still a nature/essence. Buddha ''nature''. please correct me in my ignorance. I also agree that a process of rigorous deconstruction is a great way to see emptiness, but as Muni says: ''emptiness is not empty'', it is warm and compassionate and emits a keening sound like the silence after snow fall.
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.

White Lotus
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Re: Existence

Post by White Lotus » Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:45 pm

I will try not to get scattered, and am in dialogue here with Muni so I cant get involved in the wider debate about nature or essence.

Muni, its perhaps beyond human ability to know, but it seems to me that awareness is not everything. I know that contradicts the mind only stance. when things are seen to be real it is probable that all things have mind but not all things are mind (though they may once have been). the nature of reality may depend upon how we perceive things. if I perceive reality then I have re-entered it. if I only perceive emptiness then I am in the empty realm, likewise the neither emptiness nor form realm.

if there is reality for the one who sees it, then would the word ''this'' be relevant?

best wishes, Tom x
in any matters of importance. dont rely on me. i may not know what i am talking about. take what i say as mere speculation. i am not ordained. nor do i have a formal training. i do believe though that if i am wrong on any point. there are those on this site who i hope will quickly point out my mistakes.

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:17 pm

smcj wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:32 pm
Buddhists say existents have an unchanging essence.
Just FYI, 1,000 years ago at Nalanda University that’s not what was taught. Since then some traditions have gone that route, but Nargarjuna would be outraged by that idea.
My understanding is that Nagarjuna said it cannot be established that things either exist or that they do not exist.

In the first part, that things exist, 'exist' means exists inherently = svabhava, right?

In the second part, that things do not exist, 'exist' means ... ?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

boundless
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Re: Existence

Post by boundless » Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:00 pm

Rick wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 4:17 pm
smcj wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 12:32 pm
Buddhists say existents have an unchanging essence.
Just FYI, 1,000 years ago at Nalanda University that’s not what was taught. Since then some traditions have gone that route, but Nargarjuna would be outraged by that idea.
My understanding is that Nagarjuna said it cannot be established that things either exist or that they do not exist.

In the first part, that things exist, 'exist' means exists inherently = svabhava, right?

In the second part, that things do not exist, 'exist' means ... ?

Hi Rick, all,

I guess that maybe the argument is more or less this:
  • if something 'exists inherently' (i.e. is 'established') it would have an unchanging essence (I)
  • nothing is found to have an unchanging essence (II)
Hence, nothing 'exists inherently'.

Process philosophers, instead, say: "what exists does not have an unchanging essence".

Hence, I would say that there is an agreement that "nothing is found to have an unchanging essence".

Yet IMHO, in Madhyamaka "what exists does not have an unchanging essence" would be problematic, because it suggests that 'what exists' has a persistent identity, i.e. it is, in fact, established (i.e. it 'truly exists') which contradicts the first proposition above (I).

In other words, the position of process philosophers might be inconsistent: they say that 'what exists' changes but at the same time they say that it has a persistent identity (as a 'process' rather than a thing) and, therefore, they still, in fact, seem to imply that 'what exists' has an unchanging essence (after all, they say that there is a persistent identity), despite the fact that they say otherwise.

Thoughts?

:namaste:

P.S. Edited for clarification.

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Sat Jan 26, 2019 7:06 pm

boundless wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:00 pm
...
In other words, the position of process philosophers might be inconsistent: they say that 'what exists' changes but at the same time they say that it has a persistent identity (as a 'process' rather than a thing) and, therefore, they still, in fact, seem to imply that 'what exists' has an unchanging essence (after all, they say that there is a persistent identity), despite the fact that they say otherwise.

Thoughts?
From withing a Madhyamaka conceptual framework it makes no difference whether a whole is imputed depending on parts in space (physical entity) or depending on parts in time/moments (continuum or process). Ignorance will take that imputation to be truly existing in both cases.

boundless
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Re: Existence

Post by boundless » Sat Jan 26, 2019 7:33 pm

stevie wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 7:06 pm
boundless wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:00 pm
...
In other words, the position of process philosophers might be inconsistent: they say that 'what exists' changes but at the same time they say that it has a persistent identity (as a 'process' rather than a thing) and, therefore, they still, in fact, seem to imply that 'what exists' has an unchanging essence (after all, they say that there is a persistent identity), despite the fact that they say otherwise.

Thoughts?
From withing a Madhyamaka conceptual framework it makes no difference whether a whole is imputed depending on parts in space (physical entity) or depending on parts in time/moments (continuum or process). Ignorance will take that imputation to be truly existing in both cases.
Ok, thank you!

All the best!

:namaste:

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:32 am

boundless wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:00 pm
In other words, the position of process philosophers might be inconsistent: they say that 'what exists' changes but at the same time they say that it has a persistent identity (as a 'process' rather than a thing) and, therefore, they still, in fact, seem to imply that 'what exists' has an unchanging essence (after all, they say that there is a persistent identity), despite the fact that they say otherwise.
Hi, boundless. :-)

Disclaimer: My knowledge of Whitehead is pretty much limited to the top-level headlines. I haven't dared (yet!) to actually work through Process and Reality or even a good commentary on it. With that in mind ...

I can understand why you'd feel that Whitehead's process metaphysics implies an unchanging essence. PM is, after all, grounded in experience, and experience reveals <what appears to be> persistence, so it stands to reason that PM needs to have some way of explaining this. But the mechanism of persistence, eternal objects working on actual occasions, is in my (puny) understanding nuanced and subtle and complicated, anything but simple and clear-cut. Which might mean that what it seems to imply is not, in fact, what Whitehead intended it to imply.

Whatcha think?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Sun Jan 27, 2019 2:15 pm

Rick wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:32 am
I can understand why you'd feel that Whitehead's process metaphysics implies an unchanging essence. PM is, after all, grounded in experience, and experience reveals <what appears to be> persistence, so it stands to reason that PM needs to have some way of explaining this.
But the mechanism of persistence, eternal objects working on actual occasions, is in my (puny) understanding nuanced and subtle and complicated, anything but simple and clear-cut.
So far I have not had a look into the Wiki link provided above ... Now I will dare a glance.
Whitehead according to Wiki wrote:Actual entities are entities that really exist in the natural world
So this is a view of 'real' or (above named) 'true' existence, an essentialist view.
Whitehead according to Wiki wrote:actual entities are spatiotemporally extended events or processes
Interestingly for Whitehead spaciotemporal extension is a characteristic of true existents.
This is quite contrary to the conceptual framework of Madhyamaka where spaciotemporal extension is analytically shown to be incompatible with true existence.
Whitehead according to Wiki wrote:An actual entity is how something is happening ...
This is interesting since equating 'entity' and the 'how' of happening (and not the 'what' of happening as usually) may cause the impression that Whitehead actually isn't asserting an essence qua carrier of properties. The 'something' in 'how something is happening' is completely indeterminate. However his essentialist views quoted above in the context of 'entities' now cause the impression that Whitehead is asserting an essence qua properties/characteristics that have no basis.
Whitehead according to Wiki wrote: ... and how its happening is related to other actual entities
Here 'happening' simultaneously or sequentially and causality may come in. However since these relative aspects are said to be aspects of a truly existing entity this seems to defy their true existence based on an unchanging essence.
But if I recall what I have already posted above: that there are even budddist traditions that assert true existence of entities AND acccept their causally dependent coming into existence that seems to be still in the range of ordinary human fabrications. This then appears to be a matter of conceived true existence popping up and true existence vanishing again. From a Madhyamaka perspective this is no issue since 'unchanging essence' means 'permanent essence' but 'permanent essence' doesn't necessarily mean an essence that has neither beginning nor end but can also mean an essence that is non-momentary, i.e. does not change from moment to moment while it is present. And thus the analytical negation of existence for Madhyamaka is the same because as the entity is said to have spaciotemporal extension the entity qua whole cannot truly exist.

So from a Madhyamaka perspective Whitehead's view is merely another essentialist speculation.

Finally ...
Whitehead according to Wiki wrote:The ultimate abstract principle of actual existence is creativity. Creativity is a power in the world that allows the presence of an actual entity, a new actual entity, and multiple actual entities
... that rings a bell ... Whitehead's view is not only essentialist. It also seems to be a kind of 'abstract theism' or even a theism in disguise.

So far commenting on 'Whitehead according to Wiki' has been pleasurable. Now commenting further would be mere effort, so I stop here.
And honestly ... whether pleasurable or effortful if I engage with such non-buddhist views then this engagement is worth the time if it makes me appreciating buddhist view even more at the end of that engagement and that definitely is the case now (please understand this as an apology for this engagement in the category 'Dharma in Everyday Life').

boundless
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Re: Existence

Post by boundless » Sun Jan 27, 2019 4:00 pm

Rick wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:32 am
boundless wrote:
Sat Jan 26, 2019 6:00 pm
In other words, the position of process philosophers might be inconsistent: they say that 'what exists' changes but at the same time they say that it has a persistent identity (as a 'process' rather than a thing) and, therefore, they still, in fact, seem to imply that 'what exists' has an unchanging essence (after all, they say that there is a persistent identity), despite the fact that they say otherwise.
Hi, boundless. :-)

Disclaimer: My knowledge of Whitehead is pretty much limited to the top-level headlines. I haven't dared (yet!) to actually work through Process and Reality or even a good commentary on it. With that in mind ...
Hi Rick,

well I should have done a similar 'Disclaimer' both for Whitehaed's philosophy and Madhyamaka, actually! Anyway, I think that there are similarities between them. So, a comparison might be interesting.
Rick wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 12:32 am
I can understand why you'd feel that Whitehead's process metaphysics implies an unchanging essence. PM is, after all, grounded in experience, and experience reveals <what appears to be> persistence, so it stands to reason that PM needs to have some way of explaining this. But the mechanism of persistence, eternal objects working on actual occasions, is in my (puny) understanding nuanced and subtle and complicated, anything but simple and clear-cut. Which might mean that what it seems to imply is not, in fact, what Whitehead intended it to imply.

Whatcha think?
Yeah, I agree it is quite complicated. IMHO, Whitehead explains 'persistence' in terms of regularities, i.e. by saying that we observe regularities, 'dynamic patterns' and so on. So, according to Whitehead, 'entities' are those 'dynamic patterns'. And, identity is not 'defined' in terms of unchanging substances but, rather, in terms of unchanging 'modes of becoming', so to speak. I find it a very fascinating philosophy, by the way.

Yet, if these dynamic patterns are taken to 'truly exist' we have the following dilemma. If a pattern ceases, do we have an annihilation of an existent? If the same pattern persists forever, do we have eternal existence of an existent? In particular, we can make a similar analysis for the 'I'. If we say that the 'I' is a 'dynamic pattern', do we really escape from eternalism and annihilationism?

So, I think that we can have eternalist and annihilationist views based on PM. This more or less was the point I was making yesterday. On the other hand, I think that Buddhism also accepts 'regularities' (see for instance this post where I quoted some 'Sravaka sutras'...). I do not know how Buddhism 'deals' with regularities, or Madhyamaka in particular. Yet, I can see the problem in taking regularities as 'existents'.

Anyway, please take what I say with a grain of salt. Personally, as I said, I think that one can find similarities.

stevie wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 2:15 pm
...
Hi stevie,

thanks for your clear analysis.

Best wishes,

boundless

:namaste:

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:11 pm

I copied/pasted this from The Metaphysics of Experience by Elizabeth Kraus, a philo prof who wrote a bunch about Whitehead and process philosophy. First, a quote from Whitehead's Process and Reality:
“In the inescapable flux, there is something that abides; in the overwhelming permanence, there is an element that escapes into flux. Permanence can be snatched only out of flux; and the passing moment can find its adequate intensity only by its submission to permanence. Those who would disjoin the two elements can find no interpretation of patent facts.”
To me this sounds similar to the Madhyamaka notion of a middle way between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. But instead of saying No! to both eternalism and nihilism, it says a qualified Yes to both in a kind of yin-yang'y way where they interpenetrate each other.
This is not to say that the permanence affirmed by Whitehead can be identified with substance in any of its classic forms (Aristotle, Aquinas, Descartes, Spinoza, etc.). These conceptualizations of the unchanging element in experience fall, in one way or another, into the Fallacy of Misplaced Concreteness: the error of reifying what in fact is a high-order abstraction.
So, accd. to Kraus, Whitehead's take on permanence should not be confused with the classical take on substance. For me this says don't blithely jump to thinking of Whitehead's process metaphysics as an updated spin on eternalism ... it's more nuanced.
Nor can Whitehead be interpreted as rejecting the classical notions of substance in an unqualified manner. On the contrary, he acknowledges his debt to Aristotle, Descartes, Locke, et al., for various cogent aspects of their theories. His rejection of substance focuses on an error which was introduced into European philosophy by the medievals and found its most eloquent spokesman in Descartes: namely, that a substance is “an existent thing which requires nothing other than itself to exist.” It is this notion of substance as independent, as “just its individual self with no necessary relevance to any other particular” (PR 50), which Whitehead sees as fatal to a metaphysics which would purport to remain faithful to the modern experience of the world as an eco-system.
And this sounds to me like a kissin' cousin of Buddhism's refutation of inherent existence = anatman.

Na?
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Sun Jan 27, 2019 11:14 pm

Rick wrote:
Sun Jan 27, 2019 7:11 pm
...
To me this sounds similar to the Madhyamaka notion of a middle way between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. But instead of saying No! to both eternalism and nihilism, it says a qualified Yes to both in a kind of yin-yang'y way where they interpenetrate each other.

....
And this sounds to me like a kissin' cousin of Buddhism's refutation of inherent existence = anatman.

Na?
From my perspective Madhyamaka is primarily a kind of reasoning 'tool box' to gain liberative insight into reality and therefore I have been wondering and still are wondering what you are trying to get at.
you are comparing Madhyamaka with a descriptive philosophy. So do you consider Madhyamaka to be a descriptive philosophy? Does Whitehead also provide practice methods, reasonings, to gain insight into the reality he is describing?

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Re: Existence

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Jan 28, 2019 12:34 am

there's a nice essay on Whitehead and Buddhist Philosophy here by Thomas McFarlane, whose writings on such topics I respect. It also includes a section on the differences. But Stevie is right in pointing out that Whitehead's was not a 'philosophy of vimukti', spiritual liberation, as his cultural setting was very different. But for those interested in comparative philosophy, there are still convergences. (There was a book I stumbled on years ago about Buddhism as process philosophy, but I can't find it again.)
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

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Rick
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Re: Existence

Post by Rick » Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:24 am

stevie and Wayfarer,

Madhyamaka and process metaphysics both resonate strongly for me and at around the same frequency. It's their essential similarities I'm interested in, the overlapping regions of their Venn diagram. I guess I'm a bit of a perennialist, always on the lookout for the same light in different guises.
Merrily, merrily, merrily, merrily ...

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Re: Existence

Post by haha » Mon Jan 28, 2019 4:36 am

10. Reply: When one sees with correct knowledge that which arises conditioned by ignorance, no origination or destruction whatsoever is perceived.

22. By knowing origination destruction is known; by knowing destruction impermanence is known; by knowing impermanence the Holy Dharma is understood.

30. To begin with, [a teacher] should say to his truth-seeking [student] that everything exists. Later, to [the student] who understands the meaning and is free from attachment, [he should say] "All things are void."

37. Since the Buddhas have stated that the world is conditioned by ignorance, does it not stand to reason that this world is a [result of] discrimination/conceptualization?

38. When ignorance ceases, how can it not be clear that what ceases was imagined by ignorance?

45. But those who are convinced that conditioned things are like the moon in the water, neither true nor false, are not carried away by dogmas.

48. But how is it thoroughly known? By seeing dependent origination! The [Buddha], best among knowers of reality, also said that what is dependently born is unborn.

55. The simple-minded are attached to material form, those of middling level attain absence of the klesas, but those of supreme understanding are liberated by knowing the nature of form.
This is from Sixty verses of Arguments (Yuktisastika) by Nagarjuna. It has provided the basic argument of Nagarjuna.

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Re: Existence

Post by Wayfarer » Mon Jan 28, 2019 7:04 am

[30] is of particular importance, especially on Internet forums.
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi

stevie
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Re: Existence

Post by stevie » Mon Jan 28, 2019 8:08 am

Rick wrote:
Mon Jan 28, 2019 1:24 am
stevie and Wayfarer,

Madhyamaka and process metaphysics both resonate strongly for me and at around the same frequency. It's their essential similarities I'm interested in, the overlapping regions of their Venn diagram. I guess I'm a bit of a perennialist, always on the lookout for the same light in different guises.
From my perspective 'resonanace' may be conducive when it come to words and concepts because 'resonance' and attraction that caused interest in philosophical views always for me has been the prerequite to investigate deeper, to analyze critically. However in my experience I would lose all the help Madhyamaka provided to me if I understood Madhyamaka to be a descriptive philosophy. Because the question then should arise: well, what does it describe? And the answer to this question from my perspective and for me could only be: a given (!!) reality. And thus I would again have been deceived by my ignorance since what was originally taught to liberate from all views and concomitant truth habits would have been turned into just another view and its concomitant truth habits again.

Please note that I am talking from within my sphere of experience expressing my experience only.

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