A Physicalist Theory of Mind

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Wayfarer
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Jun 24, 2014 10:57 pm

Jayarava wrote:You might as well be a Jehovah's Witness.
Well, that says it all. As it happens, the thesis I wrote on the basis of the Hamilton Blythe book was given a Distinction by the Department of Buddhist Studies at the University that awarded it. The salient comment by the thesis supervisor was:
This is a clearly written and thought out study of the extremes of
eternalism and nihilism in relation to the question of self in Buddhism
with particular reference to early Buddhism. Although this subject has
been extensively treated in scholarly literature, [Wayfarer] gives a
particularly clear analysis and marshals the quotes in support of his
argument very skilfully. Indeed, in my opinion, this work, with a bit of
tidying up, would make good reading for students in the undergraduate
unit “Buddhist Philosophy” as it brings together relevant material in a
coherent framework. In passing, [Wayfarer] provides some telling insights into
modernity and its perspectives on these issues and on Buddhism more
generally, eg, comments on ‘is’ and ‘ought’ (p.34) and on nihilism (p.28)
So, no further point in discussion between us, I find your blog otiose and your writings tendentious. I think you're wasting your time on Buddhism when you've obviously swallowed the materialist mindset hook, line and sinker.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Wayfarer
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:27 pm

To answer the point about Ian Stevenson: I do stand by my opinion of Stevenson's research. The 'rebuttals' that are often mentioned are simply denials, based on the firm conviction that his findings must be false, or he must have been wrong, because we know that there can be no basis to apparent past-life memories. But to quote just one of his documented cases:
In Sri Lanka, a toddler one day overheard her mother mentioning the name of an obscure town (“Kataragama”) that the girl had never been to. The girl informed the mother that she drowned there when her “dumb” (mentally challenged) brother pushed her in the river, that she had a bald father named “Herath” who sold flowers in a market near the Buddhist stupa, that she lived in a house that had a glass window in the roof (a skylight), dogs in the backyard that were tied up and fed meat, that the house was next door to a big Hindu temple, outside of which people smashed coconuts on the ground. Stevenson was able to confirm that there was, indeed, a flower vendor in Kataragama who ran a stall near the Buddhist stupa whose two-year-old daughter had drowned in the river while the girl played with her mentally challenged brother. The man lived in a house where the neighbors threw meat to dogs tied up in their backyard, and it was adjacent to the main temple where devotees practiced a religious ritual of smashing coconuts on the ground. The little girl did get a few items wrong, however. For instance, the dead girl’s dad wasn’t bald (but her grandfather and uncle were) and his name wasn’t “Herath”—that was the name, rather, of the dead girl’s cousin. Otherwise, 27 of the 30 idiosyncratic, verifiable statements she made panned out. The two families never met, nor did they have any friends, coworkers, or other acquaintances in common, so if you take it all at face value, the details couldn’t have been acquired in any obvious way.1
Stevenson documented many such cases, comparing each detail in the child's story with witness testimony, newspaper reports, interviews, and the like. During this, we observed methods that even his many doubters agreed constituted proper scientific protocol, and gathered, over 30 years or so, some thousands of such cases.

One of the intriguing aspects of his many stories was that children would often display birthmarks in proximity to the site of injuries which had resulted in the death of the previous 'incarnation'.

I don't think one ought to be overly fascinated by these accounts, but if asked 'what possible evidence for mind existing apart from the body', then obviously such accounts are one of the few sources of empirical data that you can point to.

As to the contention that this is more like the Hindu belief in 're-incarnation' - well, here you enter difficult territory. But consider that in Tibet, for instance, the succession of incarnate lamas is determined by (among other things) the ability of the child to recognize the possessions of the former incarnation. In Buddhist terminology, the use of the word 'soul' is generally frowned upon, for doctrinal reasons; but 'mindstream' is regarded as quite acceptable. And I think it serves the purposes of this point perfectly well.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Malcolm
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Malcolm » Tue Jun 24, 2014 11:58 pm

Jayarava wrote: The question then is, "What is a dharma?" For early Buddhist texts and through the early and middle Abhidharma period dharmas are events, not entities or substances.
"Event", "entity", and "substance" are not mutually exclusive terms; i.e. substantial entities are involved in events. This is most certainly the Vaibhāṣika perspective.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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Wayfarer
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Jun 25, 2014 12:55 am

I think that the Buddhist conception of 'substance' is different to the modern one, on the grounds that their idea of momentary dharmas, is that they are moments of experience. They are neither, therefore, 'self-existent', nor really objective, in the way that materialist atomism conceives of them.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:04 am

Generally speaking, with materialist attitudes, people buy the package. 'The package' consists of a set of interlocking and self-reinforcing beliefs - in that sense, it is like a religious belief. It isn't a religious belief, of course, because it is anti-religious. But the reason why it is anti-religious, is because materialism is actually the crumbling remnants of Christian idealism. Materialism is 'monistic' - that is, there is only one substance, the 'mother-substance' which is matter~energy, and we're all descended from it, in a way that mimics, but inverts, the theological ideas of 'descent from the father'.

Hence the extreme hostility and impatience towards any religious ideas on the part of materialists: it is an echo of 'the jealous God' of Christian monotheism.
Richard Dawkins's message is basically that we are social animals on an evolutionary trajectory to ever more rational and therefore higher moral standards, but that the process has been derailed somewhere along the line by the appearance of religion. It had looked until recently as though we were shaking off religion and entering an Age of Reason. But now, with the rise of religious fundamentalism, there is a relapse which accounts for the world's present troubles. Nevertheless, thanks to the enlightenment Science brings, we can root out religion and get back on track.1
[Materialists] want us to recognize that we are animals governed by impersonal laws of nature for a reason. That reason is that we will be happier if we set aside culture and its illusions about the meaning of life.2
Part of this is manifesting as the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

shel
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by shel » Wed Jun 25, 2014 5:56 am

Wayfarer wrote:... the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
They don't revere the Buddha or the 4NTs?

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Monlam Tharchin » Wed Jun 25, 2014 6:44 am

shel wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:... the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
They don't revere the Buddha or the 4NTs?
In my opinion, the scope and therefore full purpose of the 4NT is often subverted.

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Andrew108 » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:26 am

Wayfarer wrote:Part of this is manifesting as the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
Sacred? What do you mean by sacred? I understand it to mean very important or very special. What is this dimension of the sacred that secular Buddhism wants to strip? I don't get it. The only way I can understand it is if you have put yourself in a 'sacred dimension' and that you want to be in a 'sacred dimension'. Can you explain further?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Mkoll » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:33 am

Andrew108 wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:Part of this is manifesting as the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
Sacred? What do you mean by sacred? I understand it to mean very important or very special. What is this dimension of the sacred that secular Buddhism wants to strip? I don't get it. The only way I can understand it is if you have put yourself in a 'sacred dimension' and that you want to be in a 'sacred dimension'. Can you explain further?
I would say it's the transcendental and soteriological aspect of the Buddhist Path. Namely, the goal, the cessation of suffering, the Third Noble Truth, Nibbana.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Andrew108 » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:40 am

Mkoll wrote:
Andrew108 wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:Part of this is manifesting as the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
Sacred? What do you mean by sacred? I understand it to mean very important or very special. What is this dimension of the sacred that secular Buddhism wants to strip? I don't get it. The only way I can understand it is if you have put yourself in a 'sacred dimension' and that you want to be in a 'sacred dimension'. Can you explain further?
I would say it's the transcendental and soteriological aspect of the Buddhist Path. Namely, the goal, the cessation of suffering, the Third Noble Truth, Nibbana.
Transcendant? Of going beyond? I get the definition 'beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience.' Is that what Buddhists want?
The Blessed One said:

"What is the All? Simply the eye & forms, ear & sounds, nose & aromas, tongue & flavors, body & tactile sensations, intellect & ideas. This, monks, is called the All. Anyone who would say, 'Repudiating this All, I will describe another,' if questioned on what exactly might be the grounds for his statement, would be unable to explain, and furthermore, would be put to grief. Why? Because it lies beyond range." Sabba Sutta.

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:11 am

Andrew108 wrote: What is this dimension of the sacred that secular Buddhism wants to strip? I don't get it. The only way I can understand it is if you have put yourself in a 'sacred dimension' and that you want to be in a 'sacred dimension'. Can you explain further?

.....

I get the definition 'beyond or above the range of normal or physical human experience.' Is that what Buddhists want?
It isn't question of 'what Buddhists want' but their understanding of 'how things are'.

One traditional designation for the Buddha is 'lokuttara'. That is generally translated as 'trans-mundane' , that is, 'above the world' (or even 'supernatural' however without the baggage that this word now carries. Web definition here.)

Suffering is not just feeling bad, or not having enough to eat (even though they are indeed suffering). But it has a deeper meaning than that, which is that we are bound to suffering by virtue of having been born. The Buddhist path consists of disentangling oneself from that state.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Wayfarer » Wed Jun 25, 2014 9:56 am

shel wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:
... the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
They don't revere the Buddha or the 4NTs?
I think there's a certain tension between 'secular' and 'sacred', isn't there? I mean, in Western culture, we're encouraged to 'revere' nature in a kind of David Attenborough way; and there's nothing the matter with that, but it is quite a different thing from 'revering the Buddha'.

'Reverence' in the naturalistic sense of 'awe at the wonder of the Universe' is not, as I say, a bad thing, but it misses the dimension of the sacred, which is something that Western culture is increasingly trying to divest itself of. That may not apply to anyone reading, but it is a powerful force. The attempt, as I said earlier, to 'naturalise' Buddhism, is the attempt to locate it within the world, in the same sense, and on the same level, as other natural phenomena.

Which changes the meaning of it completely.
Only practice with no gaining idea ~ Suzuki-roshi

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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Mkoll » Wed Jun 25, 2014 10:29 am

Wayfarer wrote:
shel wrote:
Wayfarer wrote:
... the 'secular Buddhist' movement, which seeks to completely strip Buddhism of the dimension of the sacred.
They don't revere the Buddha or the 4NTs?
I think there's a certain tension between 'secular' and 'sacred', isn't there? I mean, in Western culture, we're encouraged to 'revere' nature in a kind of David Attenborough way; and there's nothing the matter with that, but it is quite a different thing from 'revering the Buddha'.

'Reverence' in the naturalistic sense of 'awe at the wonder of the Universe' is not, as I say, a bad thing, but it misses the dimension of the sacred, which is something that Western culture is increasingly trying to divest itself of. That may not apply to anyone reading, but it is a powerful force. The attempt, as I said earlier, to 'naturalise' Buddhism, is the attempt to locate it within the world, in the same sense, and on the same level, as other natural phenomena.

Which changes the meaning of it completely.
Well put.
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa
Namo tassa bhagavato arahato samma sambuddhassa

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Malcolm
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Malcolm » Wed Jun 25, 2014 2:11 pm

Wayfarer wrote:I think that the Buddhist conception of 'substance' is different to the modern one, on the grounds that their idea of momentary dharmas, is that they are moments of experience. They are neither, therefore, 'self-existent', nor really objective, in the way that materialist atomism conceives of them.
Which Buddhist conception of substance are you talking about? I was referring the Vaibhaṣika concept of dravya.

In any event, Jayarava is clearly wrong when he claims that Buddhism in general does not propose a kind substance dualism. It is implicit in the term nāmarūpa. For example, in the Vibhanga, it is clearly stated that the four mental skandhas are considered nāma, and the material aggregate, rūpa, is considered made up of the substances of the four great elements.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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daverupa
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by daverupa » Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:00 pm

Malcolm wrote:For example, in the Vibhanga, it is clearly stated that the four mental skandhas are considered nāma, and the material aggregate, rūpa, is considered made up of the substances of the four great elements.
Something along different lines can be found:
SN 12.2 wrote:And what, bhikkhus, is name-and-form? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention: this is called name. The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-and-form.
There's no reason to consider that namarupa needs to encompass the aggregates, especially since sankhara already happened in the dependent origination chain & vinnana isn't part of namarupa, while in addition 'contact' is based on the sense spheres which follow namarupa in the chain.

Indeed, {vinnana <--> namarupa --> mano sense sphere} points out nonphysical rupa as possible. Jhana also includes nonphysical rupa, and so forth.

Namarupa is not mental(ity)-material(ity), and there is no implicit substance dualism in the term.
Last edited by daverupa on Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Malcolm
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Malcolm » Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:06 pm

daverupa wrote:
Malcolm wrote:For example, in the Vibhanga, it is clearly stated that the four mental skandhas are considered nāma, and the material aggregate, rūpa, is considered made up of the substances of the four great elements.
Something along different lines can be found:
SN 12.2 wrote:And what, bhikkhus, is name-and-form? Feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention: this is called name. The four great elements and the form derived from the four great elements: this is called form. Thus this name and this form are together called name-and-form.
There's no reason to consider that namarupa needs to encompass the aggregates, especially since sankhara already happened in the dependent origination chain & vinnana isn't part of namarupa, while in addition 'contact' is based on the sense spheres which follow namarupa in the chain.

Namarupa is not mental(ity)-material(ity), and there is no implicit substance dualism in the term.
Yes, there is an implicit substance dualism in the term.

"Feeling, perception, volition, contact, attention: this is called name. The four great elements and the matter derived from the four great elements: this is called matter."

Nāma covers mental events; rūpa, matter.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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daverupa
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by daverupa » Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:09 pm

Form derived from the four great elements can be nonphysical, as I edited, so translating 'rupa' as 'matter' begs the question.
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Malcolm
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Malcolm » Wed Jun 25, 2014 3:27 pm

daverupa wrote:Form derived from the four great elements can be nonphysical, as I edited, so translating 'rupa' as 'matter' begs the question.
No, there is nothing non-physical that is derived from the four great elements, hence in this context, "matter" is the correct rendering. Where rūpa means the object of the eye, there "form" is just fine.

Further, the Abhidharmakośaṭīkālakṣaṇānusāriṇī clarifies:
  • If it is asked what nāma is in the sutras that analyze nāmarūpa, [nāma] is the four aggregates that are non-material, i.e., vedanaskandha up to vijñānaskandha. If it is asked what rūpa is, anything which is rūpa is all of that which is the four great elements or uses the four elements as a cause.
Further, when we come to Mahāyāna sources, the Āryānandagarbhāvakrāntinirdeśa states:
  • Whatever is consciousness, that is called "nāma".
Or the Āryānantamukhapariśodhananirdeśaparivarta-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra:
  • All phenomena are described by the conventions name [nāma] and sign [nimitta]. Therein, whatever is a sign, this is the four great elements termed as rūpa. Whatever is nāma, that is the four aggregates designated as ārupa..."
In general, we can understand that nāmarūpa also refers to the moment after conception during gestation, prior to the development of the six sense organs — the period roughly up to the 19th week of gestation. For example, the Vyaktapadāsuhṛllekhaṭīkā states:
  • If it asked what is name and form, after the time of conception in the mother's womb, it the non-material aggregates such as sensation and so on, and the material aggregate of the elements and their products.
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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daverupa
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by daverupa » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:47 pm

Will you please describe how you understand the presence of rupa in jhana alongside seclusion from kamaguna, and then describe how this differs from other states which are explicitly stated to be arupa?
  • "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others? By the pursuit, development, and cultivation of the four establishments of mindfulness. It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

    "And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself? By patience, harmlessness, goodwill, and sympathy. It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself.

- Sedaka Sutta [SN 47.19]

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Malcolm
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Re: A Physicalist Theory of Mind

Post by Malcolm » Wed Jun 25, 2014 8:54 pm

daverupa wrote:Will you please describe how you understand the presence of rupa in jhana alongside seclusion from kamaguna, and then describe how this differs from other states which are explicitly stated to be arupa?
You are referring to the four rūpadhātu dhyanas as oppposed to the arūpyadhātu dhyanas?
M
Buddhahood in This Life
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔


[A]nything at all that is well spoken is the word of the Buddha.

-- Ārya-adhyāśaya-sañcodana-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra

The different sūtras in accord with the emptiness
taught by the Sugata are definitive in meaning;
One can understand that all of those Dharmas in
which a sentient being, individual, or person are taught are provisional in meaning.

-- Samadhirāja Sūtra

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