Author Topic: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.  (Read 16288 times)

Offline White Lotus

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Re: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.
« Reply #30 on: April 28, 2011, 11:12:57 am »
Yeshe, i only presume, perhaps rather arrogantly that the different paths point towards an objective experience. i come to Madyamaka not knowing much about the basics or the subtleties. i only have my own experience to go by. i expect this experience is universal to whoever seeks it.

it seems that my previous experience reflects Madhyamakan ideals to some degree, but is this not true of all Mahayanan approaches.

i hope my post was not presumptious.

best wishes, Tom.

Offline White Lotus

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Re: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.
« Reply #31 on: April 28, 2011, 11:16:51 am »
it seems that 'emptiness' is a major feature of Madhyamaka, perhaps the only fundamental.
emptiness of any inherent existence.
emptiness of self.
emptiness of the universe, all forms.
emptiness of any teaching.
emptiness of ego.

i assume that emptiness is absolutely fundamental to Madhyamaka.

best wishes, Tom.

Yeshe

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Re: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.
« Reply #32 on: April 28, 2011, 12:00:36 pm »
.. BTW, anyone claiming that the Noble Nagarjuna did not propose zhentong (evidently, not using that Tibetan term, as he wrote in Sanskrit) has not read his In Praise of the Dharmadhatu. Arya Nagarjuna is an early patriarch of the Maha Madhyamaka school.

mangalam
Tashi Nyima 


Hi Tashi, as I was just pointing out, before I went away for Easter, that there are two schools of thought on this topic: the Rangtong and the Shentong.  Neither is exclusive, and both are valid.

I have not read the Dharmadhatustava (The Praise of the Dharmadhatu) so I looked it up.  It seems that many books have been attributed to Nagarjuna, but there is only one book that all agree was actually written by him, and that book is the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā or The Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way. 



All agree?  Rather a grand statement.  And which 'him'? LOL :)

How many people did you ask?

In truth, the verification of the provenance of scripture is not about the majority view, if such exists in this case.

We have virtually no evidence of exact provenance for the Pali canon, and a mixed bag for Shantideva and Nagarjuna (however many of them there were who shared those names).

Of course, it is not only provenance.  Large religious groups tend to dictate which scriptures are presented as authentic in 'majority' terms.  If a smaller sect thinks differently they are 'democratically' wrong, which means nothing. 

Unless you can show with certainty that the scripture Tashi referenced was not authored by Nagarjuna, then it should be accepted as a rebuttal of your earlier point. I think that's fair. :)

Offline francis

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Re: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.
« Reply #33 on: April 28, 2011, 04:20:24 pm »
All agree?  Rather a grand statement.  And which 'him'? LOL :)

How many people did you ask?

In truth, the verification of the provenance of scripture is not about the majority view, if such exists in this case.

We have virtually no evidence of exact provenance for the Pali canon, and a mixed bag for Shantideva and Nagarjuna (however many of them there were who shared those names).

Of course, it is not only provenance.  Large religious groups tend to dictate which scriptures are presented as authentic in 'majority' terms.  If a smaller sect thinks differently they are 'democratically' wrong, which means nothing.  

Unless you can show with certainty that the scripture Tashi referenced was not authored by Nagarjuna, then it should be accepted as a rebuttal of your earlier point. I think that's fair. :)

Don’t worry Yeshe, I've done my homework.  Nagarjuna, founding the Mādhyamaka school on the Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way. I’ve also read Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara - A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life a number of times, as well as commentaries on Chapter nine.  This is Mahāyāna Buddhism at its best, so I agree that it is unfortunate when some religious groups tend to dictate which scriptures are presented as authentic.  

 :)
« Last Edit: April 28, 2011, 04:35:00 pm by francis »
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Offline White Lotus

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Re: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.
« Reply #34 on: April 29, 2011, 09:05:56 am »
Madhyamaka proponents postulate that ultimate reality is a "non-affirming negation", and consider that nothing is truly established. This view is known as rangtong (self-emptiness).

Maha Madhyamaka proponents assert that compounded phenomena, adventitiously posited uncompounded phenomena, and self-emptiness are NOT truly established. This is the zhentong (other-empty) view.


in both cases of Rangtong and Zhentong it seems that nothing is truly established. to be attached to the finger that points at the moon is to cling to the words "non affirming negation.

is there any significant difference between Zhentong and Rangtong if both of them recognise that nothing is truly established. "not a thing from the very beginning." (see Hui neng)

do i understand the above quote and the intention behind it? probably not... please clarify the difference between Zhentong and Rantong. is this knowledge important in understanding the basis of Madhyamaka?

best wishes, Tom.

Offline santamonicacj

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Re: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.
« Reply #35 on: April 29, 2011, 09:22:50 am »
Caveat: the different lineages have somewhat different interpretation of what Zhentong is. This is more or less the Kagyu take on it.
In both cases of Rangtong and Zhentong it seems that nothing is truly established. to be attached to the finger that points at the moon is to cling to the words "non affirming negation.

is there any significant difference between Zhentong and Rangtong if both of them recognise that nothing is truly established. "not a thing from the very beginning." (see Hui neng)

do i understand the above quote and the intention behind it? probably not... please clarify the difference between Zhentong and Rantong. is this knowledge important in understanding the basis of Madhyamaka?
Zhentong says that manifest phenomena are self-empty, just like Rangtong. However Zhentongpas say that the Dharmakaya, or Dharmadhatu, or Buddha Nature, or "Ultimate Truth", or whatever you want to call it is Real. It is not self- empty. It is empty of anything other than it's own pristine existence, (if you can call something that is not manifest existent). That is why it is called the "Empty-of-Other" school.

When the Rantongpas say, "non-affirming negation", what they are specifically not affirming is this Ultimate Reality that the Zhentongpas postulate--big difference.
« Last Edit: April 29, 2011, 09:27:27 am by santamonicacj »
Warning: I'm enough of a fundamentalist Tibet style Buddhist to believe that for the last 1,000 years Tibet has produced a handful of enlightened masters in every generation. I do not ask that YOU believe it, but it will greatly simplify conversations if you understand that about me. Thanks.

Offline White Lotus

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thank you Santamonicaj,

it seems to me that as soon as you say anything you fall into dualistic discrimination and therefore miss the point.

however unless you say something affirmative people wont look for this/that which is non affirmed! since they wont be saying anything about anything at all!

what a fix, either way you are limited, unless you have actually apprehended/seen the great pearl, the luminescent moon within... but that can be a 'subject' annihilation event! and it too needs to be let go of. infact the mind being a non abider will not hold onto any such seeing.

i must say, i am very greatful for your clear description of zhentong and rantong differences... in a nut shell! thank you.

best wishes, Tom.

Offline santamonicacj

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thank you Santamonicaj,

it seems to me that as soon as you say anything you fall into dualistic discrimination and therefore miss the point.

however unless you say something affirmative people wont look for this/that which is non affirmed! since they wont be saying anything about anything at all!
That's exactly why I can never be a Zen practitioner! My hat is off to those brave souls that do not need a map. :jinsyx:
Warning: I'm enough of a fundamentalist Tibet style Buddhist to believe that for the last 1,000 years Tibet has produced a handful of enlightened masters in every generation. I do not ask that YOU believe it, but it will greatly simplify conversations if you understand that about me. Thanks.

Offline t

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That's exactly why I can never be a Zen practitioner! My hat is off to those brave souls that do not need a map. :jinsyx:
Blessed are those who face the bamboo stick...   :cheesy:

Offline TashiNyima

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Don’t worry Yeshe, I've done my homework.  Nagarjuna, founding the Mādhyamaka school on the Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way. I’ve also read Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara - A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life a number of times, as well as commentaries on Chapter nine.  This is Mahāyāna Buddhism at its best, so I agree that it is unfortunate when some religious groups tend to dictate which scriptures are presented as authentic.   

 :)

om svasti

By the logic of the statement that because Arya Nagarjuna wrote one thing in an earlier work, and another (apparently) in a later one, the latter must be spurious, one would be led to conclude that most teachings of the Buddha after the first sermon are also inauthentic, as He spoke at that time of phenomena as established.

I confess openly my adherence to the traditional understanding of Arya Nagarjuna's authorship of In Praise of the Dharmadhatu, which in some eyes makes me a superstitious traditionalist.

Some of us have also read ("a number of times") a few texts, and do not presume on that account to have a greater realization than the Omniscient Dolpopa and Dharma Lord Taranatha, nor do we place our trust in mere academicians whose 'scholarship' pretends to dictate which scriptures are authentic.

Ultimately, dear Friend, we live and die by our practice. Views come and go: they are words, fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the moon.

sarva mangalam

Yeshe

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Don’t worry Yeshe, I've done my homework.  Nagarjuna, founding the Mādhyamaka school on the Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way. I’ve also read Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara - A Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life a number of times, as well as commentaries on Chapter nine.  This is Mahāyāna Buddhism at its best, so I agree that it is unfortunate when some religious groups tend to dictate which scriptures are presented as authentic.   

 :)

om svasti

By the logic of the statement that because Arya Nagarjuna wrote one thing in an earlier work, and another (apparently) in a later one, the latter must be spurious, one would be led to conclude that most teachings of the Buddha after the first sermon are also inauthentic, as He spoke at that time of phenomena as established.

I confess openly my adherence to the traditional understanding of Arya Nagarjuna's authorship of In Praise of the Dharmadhatu, which in some eyes makes me a superstitious traditionalist.

Some of us have also read ("a number of times") a few texts, and do not presume on that account to have a greater realization than the Omniscient Dolpopa and Dharma Lord Taranatha, nor do we place our trust in mere academicians whose 'scholarship' pretends to dictate which scriptures are authentic.

Ultimately, dear Friend, we live and die by our practice. Views come and go: they are words, fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the moon.

sarva mangalam


In the end, how do I decide what is 'authentic' teaching ? 

Because it is consistent throughout with all other Buddhist teachings, or maybe a selection of them?

Because others deem it so, and tell me as their guru what I should think?

Or because I have meditated on it and find it to be useful and truthful?

I have had a few good teachers.  Most are very disappointed when a student accepts their every utterance.  In fact some are playful enough to be outrageous in their assertions in order to test if students are paying attention and are actually practising, testing and verifying! ;)

Offline catmoon

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In the end, how do I decide what is 'authentic' teaching ? 

Because it is consistent throughout with all other Buddhist teachings, or maybe a selection of them?

Because others deem it so, and tell me as their guru what I should think?

Or because I have meditated on it and find it to be useful and truthful?

I'd say none of the above. The last one is particularly dangerous, as it can lead to the sort of error I ran into with authority figures in the churches. They would often simply say "I/we have prayed about it and that settles it".

There really is no authenticity to be had, not even in the conventional sense. All we can do do if try to put the teachings into practice and see what works. Unfortunately, practices that work really well for me might not work at all for you, and vice versa. And what works really well for a bunch of monks in a Himalayan monastery might not work for either of us.
Sergeant Schultz was onto something.

Offline francis

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om svasti

By the logic of the statement that because Arya Nagarjuna wrote one thing in an earlier work, and another (apparently) in a later one, the latter must be spurious, one would be led to conclude that most teachings of the Buddha after the first sermon are also inauthentic, as He spoke at that time of phenomena as established.

I confess openly my adherence to the traditional understanding of Arya Nagarjuna's authorship of In Praise of the Dharmadhatu, which in some eyes makes me a superstitious traditionalist.

Some of us have also read ("a number of times") a few texts, and do not presume on that account to have a greater realization than the Omniscient Dolpopa and Dharma Lord Taranatha, nor do we place our trust in mere academicians whose 'scholarship' pretends to dictate which scriptures are authentic.

Ultimately, dear Friend, we live and die by our practice. Views come and go: they are words, fingers pointing at the moon. They are not the moon.

sarva mangalam




Hi there Tashi, I have no problem with the belief in Buddha nature, so I’m not disputing your practice.  It’s just that the Buddha nature teachings are from a different stream to the Madhyamaka teachings of Nagarjuna, as found in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikāv (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way). 

The Buddha nature teachings are more aligned with the later Yogacara teachings of Asanga (Uttara Tantra Shastra) and Vasubandhu.  So, to me it seems unlikely that Nagarjuna would change horses mid-stream, and abandon his teachings on Shunyata, as found in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.  Where he says the emptiness of all things i.e., all things, including the Buddha have no inherent existence (MMK 22:26).

The Yogacara, along with the Madhyamaka, is one of the two principal schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhism.  Current debates among Tibetan schools between the Shentong (empty of other) versus Rangtong (empty of self) views appear similar to earlier debates between Yogācāra and Mādhyamaka, but the issues and distinctions have evolved further.

Dolpopa developed a teaching known as Shentong, which is related to the Indian Yogacara school, and the Tathagatagarbha tradition. Dolpopa was a free thinker and taught that Buddha nature was atman (Self or Soul) ie. eternalism or substantialism.  As the Madhyamaka is the middle way between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism, it differs from that stream of Buddhism. It should also be remembered that the Buddha taught anatta, not atta, as described in the Anatta-lakkhana-sutta, the sutta on the Not-self Characteristic. The second of the Buddha’s Three Cardinal Discourses.

So what is the Madhyamaka?  I’d say it’s a source of methods for approaching prajnaparamita, or "perfection of wisdom", the sixth of the Six Perfections of the bodhisattva path.  In this sense, Buddha nature is the potential to become a Buddha, like milk can become butter. 

I think Stephen Batchelor nailed it, when he said “one of the most striking passages in Shantideva is the verse in which Shantideva says that the person who dies, and the person who is reborn, are other. And, therefore, the only valid motive that one can have for acting has to be compassion. There is no "you" who continues into a future life. "You" finish at death, and something else, another being is then born, like a parent giving birth to a child. That position takes the subject—me, the ego—out of the equation. The process of evolutionary change is not about me, Stephen Batchelor, but about what I can now do to improve the spiritual evolutionary advantage of those who come after my death. If you take the idea of otherness in this way, you no longer need to posit some personal consciousness that goes from one life to the next”.

There is a good summary on doctrinal disputes by Jamgon Kongtrul rinpoche, if you scroll down to Rangtong and Shentong.

Anyhow, that’s how I understand it at the moment, and as I am relatively new to Buddhism, I hope it makes sense. For sure, I have much to learn, and with more practice, one day I might discover that my current views are naïve. 


With metta

:pray:

Sources plagiarised:
Yogacara
Reincarnation: A Debate Batchelor v. Thurman.
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline santamonicacj

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It’s just that the Buddha nature teachings are from a different stream to the Madhyamaka teachings of Nagarjuna, as found in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikāv (Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way).  

The Buddha nature teachings are more aligned with the later Yogacara teachings of Asanga (Uttara Tantra Shastra) and Vasubandhu.  So, to me it seems unlikely that Nagarjuna would change horses mid-stream, and abandon his teachings on Shunyata, as found in the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā.  Where he says the emptiness of all things i.e., all things, including the Buddha have no inherent existence (MMK 22:26).
I was under that impression also, but my education on the matter is very limited. Also this seems to be the Gelug position, which I've heard many times, so that is where I get my limited impression.


Quote
The Yogacara, along with the Madhyamaka, is one of the two principal schools of Indian Mahayana Buddhism.  Current debates among Tibetan schools between the Shentong (empty of other) versus Rangtong (empty of self) views appear similar to earlier debates between Yogācāra and Mādhyamaka, but the issues and distinctions have evolved further.
Currently the discussion (as it evolved in Tibet) is now between "Prasangika/Madhyamaka"=Rangtong vs. "Yogacara/Madhyamaka"=Shentong. So be careful on usage of terms, which can lead to additional confusion.

Quote
I think Stephen Batchelor nailed it, when he said “one of the most striking passages in Shantideva is the verse in which Shantideva says that the person who dies, and the person who is reborn, are other. And, therefore, the only valid motive that one can have for acting has to be compassion. There is no "you" who continues into a future life. "You" finish at death, and something else, another being is then born, like a parent giving birth to a child. That position takes the subject—me, the ego—out of the equation. The process of evolutionary change is not about me, Stephen Batchelor, but about what I can now do to improve the spiritual evolutionary advantage of those who come after my death. If you take the idea of otherness in this way, you no longer need to posit some personal consciousness that goes from one life to the next”.
I am not a credentialed expert, but my own personal interpretation of Shantideva's line is that one incarnation is different from another in the same way a butterfly is different from the caterpillar. Once the butterfly emerges the caterpillar is gone, never to return. In reincarnation, however, the cocoon stage is not seen, and the metamorphosis can result in any state.

As for no "you" going from one life to another, well that is just as true from one day to another, or from one moment to another. The "you" is a fiction, a misinterpretation, a mistaken way of experiencing your own nature.
« Last Edit: May 06, 2011, 08:35:28 pm by santamonicacj »
Warning: I'm enough of a fundamentalist Tibet style Buddhist to believe that for the last 1,000 years Tibet has produced a handful of enlightened masters in every generation. I do not ask that YOU believe it, but it will greatly simplify conversations if you understand that about me. Thanks.

Offline White Lotus

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i agree with the yogacara view that all is mind... if this mind is considered to be emptiness. however i think to say that buddha nature as subject and object is permanent is incorrect. perceptions of subject and perceptions of the world around us can be impermanent. perception is impermanent. therefore a concept of a 'special' buddha nature is overruled. mind itself may be dissolved under certain conditions. to speak of subject mind as buddha nature or as pure mind is fine as the yogacara do i believe, however this mind is not the buddha as so many have said (it is). the buddha is nameless and formless. to use the word 'mind' to speak of buddha is lower school and in my opinion is misleading.

there is not always awareness, awareness can cease under certain conditions. to call awareness Buddha or Buddha nature is to sully the buddha. the truth is found where there is nothing whatsoever to speak of, not even nothingness. though approaching nothingness is an important step in seeing the nameless, but only a step. being nameless, it is totally beyond all speech, and yet one can for a moment glimpse it before annihilation of the subject that observes it, the shining moon within.

having said that i agree with the yogacara 'all is mind', i have to say that i dont agree with their reification of buddha nature. i know that own nature exists as an appearance within and without and that in zen this seeing of own nature is called kensho (see/own nature ken/sho) or enlightenment. however since this own nature proves impermanent i cannot call it buddha nature. to speak of buddha nature may be misleading.

regards, Tom.

 


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