No External Objects

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Matt J
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No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Fri Nov 13, 2015 4:53 pm

In his commentary to Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata, Ju Mipham says:

What are being called "outer objects observed in common" are not referents existing as something extrinsic to[/i ] or other than consciousness, because they are only apparently experienced as common by a variety of beings whose mindstreams are not identical. But this is what proves that they are nothing other than differing perceptions of differing mindstreams.

-- From Distinguishing Phenomenon and Pure Being, trans. Jim Scott, page 99.

Ju Mipham also spends a whole chapter of the Beacon of Certainty going into this question. Interestingly, Mipham says the Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata text takes a Cittamatra approach to Dharma, and a Madhyamaka approach to Dharmata.

I've been considering some of Ju Mipham's arguments, and I was wondering if anyone had any more insights or resources on this topic. Mipham is awesome, but his discussion on this issue is rather terse.

Also, I'm curious about how the other schools approach it.

Thanks!
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Re: No External Objects

Post by tingdzin » Sat Nov 14, 2015 1:24 am

This looks like it could be a fascinating topic, but perhaps you should have posted it in the Mahayana thread rather than Open Dharma? I assume you're looking for educated responses.

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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Sat Nov 14, 2015 2:57 am

I don't know, I guess I never cracked the DW secret code. :spy:
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Kim O'Hara » Sat Nov 14, 2015 3:31 am

Matt J wrote:I don't know, I guess I never cracked the DW secret code. :spy:
Moved at your request via PM - always happy to oblige, especially as this looks like a better place for it. "Academic Discussion" could have been another option.
The descriptions of the various forums on the Index page are a bit cryptic ... maybe the admin team should look at expanding them. :thinking:

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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Mon Nov 16, 2015 7:12 pm

Maybe to go further, I will summarize my understanding of Mipham.

First, all we know of the external world are appearances in the mind.

Second, we infer common objects because we compare appearances with other minds. However, Mipham points out a few problems with this. First, we are using subjective impressions, which differ, to establish something that does not differ, i.e. external objects. There is a logical contradiction in using subjective impressions to prove objective objects. In addition, external objects are not appearances (they cause appearances), so they can be never known. If they can never be known, why posit it in the first place?

So instead of saying that there is a common external world, we say there are common karmic seeds.

I agree with Mipham but it doesn't seem to establish no external objects, it just makes me agnostic. Who knows what is beyond appearances? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Although, maybe this is his point--- even though he uses Chittamatra arguments, in the end he is a Madhyamika.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by tingdzin » Tue Nov 17, 2015 1:47 am

well, I was hoping to hear from people who know philosophy better than I, but here's my thought on your question.

I think you've come to the heart of the matter when you say that, practically, the upshot of the discussion is to make you agnostic. Buddhist philosophy is not, or should not be, an attempt to establish a definitive framework by which all reality can be explained in words. I have sometimes thought that the Yogacara began in an attempt to emphasize that one's own experience of reality is all that can be relied on (Guenther called it the "experience alone counts" school), while the Madhyamika's thrust is making sure that one doesn't make any universal judgments based on subjectivity. In my opinion, neither perspective can be abandoned; nor should we omit taking into account the brilliant (but perhaps not rigidly logical) metaphors and the logic of contradiction found in the Chinese Buddhist schools.

THAT should invite some comment from the philosophers.

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Re: No External Objects

Post by Malcolm » Tue Nov 17, 2015 2:55 pm

Matt J wrote:Maybe to go further, I will summarize my understanding of Mipham.

First, all we know of the external world are appearances in the mind.

Second, we infer common objects because we compare appearances with other minds. However, Mipham points out a few problems with this. First, we are using subjective impressions, which differ, to establish something that does not differ, i.e. external objects. There is a logical contradiction in using subjective impressions to prove objective objects. In addition, external objects are not appearances (they cause appearances), so they can be never known. If they can never be known, why posit it in the first place?

So instead of saying that there is a common external world, we say there are common karmic seeds.

I agree with Mipham but it doesn't seem to establish no external objects, it just makes me agnostic. Who knows what is beyond appearances? Maybe something, maybe nothing. Although, maybe this is his point--- even though he uses Chittamatra arguments, in the end he is a Madhyamika.
Your conclusion is known Tibetan tenet systems as "the half-eggest" Yogacara approach.

The general consensus is that the most profound Yogacara system, that of Ratnakarashanti, is the false aspectarian system, in which indeed, all external appearances are merely the activation of common and specfic traces in our mindstreams.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Wayfarer » Tue Nov 17, 2015 11:17 pm

tingdzin wrote:well, I was hoping to hear from people who know philosophy better than I, but here's my thought on your question.

I think you've come to the heart of the matter when you say that, practically, the upshot of the discussion is to make you agnostic. Buddhist philosophy is not, or should not be, an attempt to establish a definitive framework by which all reality can be explained in words. I have sometimes thought that the Yogacara began in an attempt to emphasize that one's own experience of reality is all that can be relied on (Guenther called it the "experience alone counts" school), while the Madhyamika's thrust is making sure that one doesn't make any universal judgments based on subjectivity. In my opinion, neither perspective can be abandoned; nor should we omit taking into account the brilliant (but perhaps not rigidly logical) metaphors and the logic of contradiction found in the Chinese Buddhist schools.

THAT should invite some comment from the philosophers.
My (current, tentative) understanding of this deep issue is that all mind-only teachings imply a perspective, which is generally not shared by most sentient beings. Why? Because part of the very process of individuation is the creation of the distinction of self and other. If you read developmental psychology, this happens in very early childhood, and is of course thereafter deeply ingrained in everything we think about the world. That is the origin of the 'self-and-other' division, which from a somatic perspective is completely necessary. But then it later forms the basis for the constant arising of 'me, mine, myself' and the consequent sense of division and otherness from everything around us.

Now, 'natural philosophy' takes this condition as its starting point; it assumes the reality of self-and-other, subject-and-object. And again, for the purposes of natural philosophy, which is concerned with analysing and mastering the forces of nature, that is a natural thing to do, there is nothing inherently the matter with doing that. But it looses sight of the crucial fact that reality is actually not something we're other to. There really is no such division, because there really is nobody standing outside of or apart from experience. Reality is actually totality, it is not actually divided between self-and-other, that division is first and foremost a reflex or a habit of thought. It is a necessary aspect of being in the world from the viewpoint of survival, but it is also an existential plight.

The most influential philosophy of mind in the West is representative realism of the kind developed by the British empirical philosophers. Long story short, this assumes the reality of the object or objective realm, of which the mind generates a facsimile, image or likeness. Then the understanding seems to be, that this image or likeness is continually enhanced by the progress of empiricism, which discloses more and more about reality and through which we gradually build up a more complete understanding. But the problem here is that the amount of scientific knowledge is already so vast that no one individual will ever know more than a narrow speciality. And there's also the 'fact-value' issue, which is that scientific analysis only deals with what is quantifiable, that it assumes that the objective realm is devoid of meaning, and so on. That is the origin of the whole materialist attitude in a nutshell; I have noticed that most people with a scientific materialist attitude (which is the predominant outlook in the secular west) assume that the phenomenal domain that is the object of scientific analysis, comprises the whole of reality; that is very much the empiricist understanding.

So - what the mind-only teaching is reminding us of, is that all we ever know of the world, even when mediated by scientific instruments, is still ultimately vikalpa. It is incorporated into our cognitive apparatus and then we make judgements about it. Obviously through scientific methodology humans have been able to realise great material power, but from the viewpoint of 'being in the word' that in itself is not necessarily beneficial (i.e. you have to put it to good use, and so on.) But the point I'm driving at, is that mind-only teachings come from those who really have seen through or beyond the 'illusion of otherness', they themselves understand the way the mind generates judgements which it then takes to be reality itself. So they have a different perspective or stand-point. And until we actually get to that stand-point - till we go 'through the looking glass' ourselves - we won't really understand what they're saying.

That is my current, tentative understanding of it. (For a very good comparison of Western idealist and Buddhist philosophy, have a look at Schopenhauer and Buddhism, Peter Abelson. It discusses many similar points.)
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Wed Nov 18, 2015 4:25 pm

I think what they're saying is fairly straightforward--- the whole universe is basically a group dream. This is somewhat different than other forms of non-duality. In fact, one can be a materialist and a non-dualist--- E=mc2 strikes me as an affirmation of material non-duality. But this type of formula isn't going to end suffering. I would say the same for Berkeley's idealism. The most common response to Berkeley is "who cares?"

But in a Buddhist context, it is used to eliminate suffering. If life is just one dream of many we've had and will have, what's the big deal? Even terrible tragedies would be muted. This happens when we become lucid during a nightmare, for example. All the fear and aversion evaporates even though the dream may continue as before.

Mipham's Chittamatra approach to dharmas resolves all those pesky questions about rebirth, siddhis, body of light, the brain.

Wayfarer wrote:But the point I'm driving at, is that mind-only teachings come from those who really have seen through or beyond the 'illusion of otherness', they themselves understand the way the mind generates judgements which it then takes to be reality itself. So they have a different perspective or stand-point. And until we actually get to that stand-point - till we go 'through the looking glass' ourselves - we won't really understand what they're saying.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Malcolm » Wed Nov 18, 2015 5:19 pm

Matt J wrote: Mipham's Chittamatra approach to dharmas resolves all those pesky questions about rebirth, siddhis, body of light, the brain.
Not really, Dzogchen is not cittamatra.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:13 pm

Are you saying that Mipham's approach is not consistent with Dzogchen, that Dzogchen does not make use of Chittamatra concepts, that there is simply a difference between Yogacara and Chittamatra, or that the Chittamatra concepts used by Mipham et.al. doesn't establish a really existing mind and is therefore not really Chittamatra?

Malcolm wrote:
Matt J wrote: Mipham's Chittamatra approach to dharmas resolves all those pesky questions about rebirth, siddhis, body of light, the brain.
Not really, Dzogchen is not cittamatra.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Wed Nov 18, 2015 6:49 pm

I basically asked the same question on a thread about the Alaya-Vijnana and collective consciousness.
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=77&t=21104
This is the reply Malcolm gave on that thread:
The distinction [edit: between Dzogchen view and Cittamatra] is basically this: in cittamatra, phenomena are mental events. The way Lonchenpa explains it is like this. Bodhicitta, awakened mind, is like space, it is the basis, but it is not established in anyway. Its potential or energy [rtsal] arises like the face of a mirror. The display of that potentiality is like the eight examples of illusion. Since the basis, its potential and display are not themselves established because they are all empty, they are nondual. These three are conventionally distinguished because of appearances. Thus, bodhicitta, potentiality and the display are neither single nor plural in terms of their essence, nevertheless, just like the reflections in the mirror cannot be said to be either the same nor different than the mirror's power to reflect, it is understood that the imputations which are the display of the potential of bodhicitta also do not exist either inside or outside of, and hence these appearances are called "nonexistent, clear appearances." Indeed, nothing at all is established in anyway.
I suggest people read his post carefully, contemplate it, and bookmark it for later reference.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Fri Nov 20, 2015 5:47 pm

SCMJ, I don't know, it sounds more like sem(s)-antics.

Mipham says the key difference is not establishing the mind as real. In the Dharma/Dharmata Commentary, he says that samsara involves three key points: subject-object duality, assuming something is real/established, and then reifying it.

For me, personally, the dream language makes more sense than the mirror language. I've never been in a mirror, but I've had lots of dreams. So to compare the world to a group dream makes a lot of sense experientially. But I don't see much difference between unestablished reflections in a mirror and an unestablished dream without a dreamer.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Fri Nov 20, 2015 7:30 pm

Matt J wrote:SCMJ, I don't know, it sounds more like sem(s)-antics.

Mipham says the key difference is not establishing the mind as real. In the Dharma/Dharmata Commentary, he says that samsara involves three key points: subject-object duality, assuming something is real/established, and then reifying it.

For me, personally, the dream language makes more sense than the mirror language. I've never been in a mirror, but I've had lots of dreams. So to compare the world to a group dream makes a lot of sense experientially. But I don't see much difference between unestablished reflections in a mirror and an unestablished dream without a dreamer.
Some Tibetans put it in terms of "Cittamatra" vs. "Ultimate Cittamatra". "Ultimate Cittamatra" says the mind is not real, thus the mirror analogy instead of the dream analogy. You fall into the Cittamatra camp. That's ok.

I don't want to re-run old arguments so that's where I will leave it.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Matt J » Fri Nov 20, 2015 10:01 pm

Actually, no, because I say the mind is not real also.
smcj wrote: Some Tibetans put it in terms of "Cittamatra" vs. "Ultimate Cittamatra". "Ultimate Cittamatra" says the mind is not real, thus the mirror analogy instead of the dream analogy. You fall into the Cittamatra camp. That's ok.
It's not just me using the dream analogy, it is a wide variety of Dzogchen teachers. I don't think they are competing analogies:
In a real sense, all the visions that we see in our lifetime are like a big dream. If we examine them well, the big dream of life and the smaller dreams of one night are not very different. If we truly see the essential nature of both, we will see that there really is no difference between them. If we can finally liberate ourselves from the chains of emotions, attachments, and ego by this realization, we have the possibility of ultimately becoming enlightened.

--- Chogyal Namkhai Norbu, Dream Yoga and the Practice of Natural Light, page 49
In this sense we are all born into some sort of group dream; we are group dreaming. At the same time, there is also individual dreaming going on. Just because one persons' dream ends doesn't mean that other person's dreams cease. Individual dreaming and group dreaming take place at the same time. Even if I wake up, the other guys are still dreaming...

There are six major types of group karma or group dreaming: hell being, hungry ghosts, animals, human beings, demigods and gods.

--- Tsyoknyi Rinpoche, Fearless Simplicity, page 108

According to Buddhist thought, however, Western science tells only half of the story. Buddhism and science both agree that although sights, sounds, and tactile sensations of the world around us seem to exist out there, they have no existence apart from our perceptual awareness of them. But Buddhism adds that mass, energy, space, and time as they are conceived by the human mind also have no existence apart from our conceptual awareness of them—no more than our dreams at night. All appearances exist only relative to the mind that experiences them, and all mental states arise relative to experienced phenomena. We are living in a participatory universe, with no absolute subjects or objects.

--- B. Allan Wallace, Awakening to the Dream, Tricycle Winter 2006
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Fri Nov 20, 2015 11:53 pm

Matt J wrote:Actually, no, because I say the mind is not real also.
From the original post:
Mipham says the Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata text takes a Cittamatra approach to Dharma, and a Madhyamaka approach to Dharmata.
Amusingly I take the contrary position of a Madhyamaka view of phenomena and an Ultimate Cittamatra view of Dharmata. That's a big no-no to some. Mipham seems to be able to have his cake and eat it too. Nice way to solve the problem!
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Wayfarer » Sat Nov 21, 2015 8:42 am

B Allan Wallace wrote:Buddhism adds that mass, energy, space, and time as they are conceived by the human mind also have no existence apart from our conceptual awareness of them—no more than our dreams at night. All appearances exist only relative to the mind that experiences them, and all mental states arise relative to experienced phenomena. We are living in a participatory universe, with no absolute subjects or objects.
I find that deeply troublesome, even though I would like to agree. I spend (or waste) a lot of time on forums arguing against materialism. 'Life is but a dream' is not a good argument, IMO. It's a retreat from the harsh facts of life.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by Vasana » Sat Nov 21, 2015 6:38 pm

Wayfarer wrote:
B Allan Wallace wrote:Buddhism adds that mass, energy, space, and time as they are conceived by the human mind also have no existence apart from our conceptual awareness of them—no more than our dreams at night. All appearances exist only relative to the mind that experiences them, and all mental states arise relative to experienced phenomena. We are living in a participatory universe, with no absolute subjects or objects.
I find that deeply troublesome, even though I would like to agree. I spend (or waste) a lot of time on forums arguing against materialism. 'Life is but a dream' is not a good argument, IMO. It's a retreat from the harsh facts of life.
'Life is but a dream' is a pretty common theme in all vehicles. This doesn't at all denounce 'the harsh facts of life' or discredit the ways in which suffering appears and is experienced by sentient-beings though. It's actually the opposite in that recognizing that there are no absolute-objects or absolute-subjects is what enables the mental-conditions which give rise to suffering to be renounced,transformed or self-liberated.
----
smcj wrote:I basically asked the same question on a thread about the Alaya-Vijnana and collective consciousness.
http://dharmawheel.net/viewtopic.php?f=77&t=21104
This is the reply Malcolm gave on that thread:
The distinction [edit: between Dzogchen view and Cittamatra] is basically this: in cittamatra, phenomena are mental events. The way Lonchenpa explains it is like this. Bodhicitta, awakened mind, is like space, it is the basis, but it is not established in anyway. Its potential or energy [rtsal] arises like the face of a mirror. The display of that potentiality is like the eight examples of illusion. Since the basis, its potential and display are not themselves established because they are all empty, they are nondual. These three are conventionally distinguished because of appearances. Thus, bodhicitta, potentiality and the display are neither single nor plural in terms of their essence, nevertheless, just like the reflections in the mirror cannot be said to be either the same nor different than the mirror's power to reflect, it is understood that the imputations which are the display of the potential of bodhicitta also do not exist either inside or outside of, and hence these appearances are called "nonexistent, clear appearances." Indeed, nothing at all is established in anyway.
I suggest people read his post carefully, contemplate it, and bookmark it for later reference.

In relation to the excellent distinction above and the rest of this thread;

Exploring how the elements give rise to, and are thus timelessly inseparable from the aggregates can help overcome the belief of there being any external or internal objects (or beings).

The aggregates arise from the elements which are just the manifest energy of the basis imputed as substantial, and then under the sway of ignorance, the aggregates impute identities of self and phenomena on to the elemental displays and subsequently categorize the elements as 'out there' and the aggregates which perceive them as 'in here', where as ultimately, neither are established independently and their total inseparability is it's self , unborn.
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As a time of suffering will surely come around to me,
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Re: No External Objects

Post by smcj » Sat Nov 21, 2015 7:00 pm

Vasana wrote: The aggregates arise from the elements which are just the manifest energy of the basis imputed as substantial, and then under the sway of ignorance, the aggregates impute identities of self and phenomena on to the elemental displays and subsequently categorize the elements as 'out there' and the aggregates which perceive them as 'in here', where as ultimately, neither are established independently and their total inseparability is it's self , unborn.
Sounds good to me. I'd like to hear Malcolm's take on it.
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Re: No External Objects

Post by alien » Sat Nov 21, 2015 11:36 pm

It's true that there is no basis to establish the ability of an appearance as having an external independence on the basis of other supposed cognizers which appear to you. Appearances do not validate other appearances.

After decades of contemplation I can still see no valid support of the idea that there are other cognizers. I infer that they could exist.
Without establishing the existence of other cognizers and the ability to communicate with them, you cannot deduce external objects or evaluate valid cognition of an external world.

Establishing the existence of external objects is less important than one might initially think. Whether or not external things exist doesn't have much relevance to the issue of suffering. A painful dream is just as hard to dismiss as a painful reality.

External objects can be established as not existing as they appear to you by their inconsistency. This statement is inclusive of the possibility that you are insane (invalid cognizer) as external objects could exist, but the manner they appear to you is inconsistent and therefore don't exist as they appear to you.

I have noticed inconsistency, some objects do not exist as ithey appear to me.

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