Author Topic: Please can the method behing Madhyamaka be explained in simple terms.  (Read 14631 times)

Offline santamonicacj

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If I may I'd like to speak about things I am confused about. Hopefully that will prompt others that know more to correct me:

...however i think to say that buddha nature as subject and object is permanent is incorrect.
The teachings on Buddha Nature do not say that it has subject/object. However it is said to be permanent.

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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.
You are not alone in that assessment. It depends on which school you ascribe to.

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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.
You seem an adherent of the Prasangika Madhyamaka. That's how you see things. That is the correct position for you!

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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.
I'm very unsure of Zen teachings, but that does not seem right to me.

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however since this own nature proves impermanent i cannot call it buddha nature. to speak of buddha nature may be misleading.
Like I said, you seem an adherent of the Prasangika Madhyamaka.
« Last Edit: May 07, 2011, 10:33:28 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 francis

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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.


Hi there White Lotus,

To help understand the Madhyamaka teachings I’d suggest going back to the source, the Prajñāpāramitā or the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom sutras.  There is much wisdom in the Heart and Diamond Sutras. 

Or even go back further to the Kaccayanagotta Sutta on Right View (SN 12.15).

 with metta
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline White Lotus

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Sanatamonicaj and Francis...
i love the diamond sutra and the Heart of Perfection Wisdom Sutra, both are great. really great.

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.

I'm very unsure of Zen teachings, but that does not seem right to me.


it was the teaching of the 6th Zen Patriarch Huineng that seeing own nature is enlightenment. own nature is seen within subject and object, both seen as the same essence. call it emptiness. however i argue that according to Master Keizan. there is a great Ichantika in whom buddha nature has ceased to be. there is no longer a subjective, no longer a within and this comes after directly perceiving the great pearl/moon within. i know it is said in the teaching that the buddha nature is permanent, but not always and not all agree with this position. Buddha nature or own nature is said to be in Soto Zen... The true self, and yet within this seeing is no i nor mine and so it is not the same as the apparent ego of normal people. however i still argue that subjective buddha nature is impermanent. by subjective i mean the ability to see within, having a within. an inner dimension. this inner dimension is exactly correspondent with the outer or objective world... seeing buddha nature it can be said that the within is no different from the without and it becomes possible to say that all is mind.  initially on seeing buddha nature there is a perception that oneself and all things are an emptiness.

interesting that you say my approach is similar to madhyamika especially since i have had no awareness of this being so. it goes to prove that experience is universal. to me, if there is a buddha nature it is suchness/tathata... the world as it is. but, even this is impermanent. seeing the middle way may not be seeing buddha natue. is there a permanent buddha nature? i am no longer convinced.

best wishes, Tom.

Offline santamonicacj

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I'm very unsure of Zen teachings, but that does not seem right to me.
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it was the teaching of the 6th Zen Patriarch Huineng that seeing own nature is enlightenment. own nature is seen within subject and object, both seen as the same essence. call it emptiness.
Thanks for the reference. That wording sounds more reasonable, if you can call Zen reasonable!

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however i argue that according to Master Keizan. there is a great Ichantika in whom buddha nature has ceased to be. there is no longer a subjective, no longer a within and this comes after directly perceiving the great pearl/moon within. i know it is said in the teaching that the buddha nature is permanent, but not always and not all agree with this position.(formatting mine)

Boy you can say that again!


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interesting that you say my approach is similar to madhyamika...
Just so you have clarity of terms, "madhyamaka" is a philosophy. "Madhyamika" is a person who adheres to that philosophy.

« Last Edit: May 09, 2011, 09:33:15 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 francis

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Sanatamonicaj and Francis...
i love the diamond sutra and the Heart of Perfection Wisdom Sutra, both are great. really great.

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.

I'm very unsure of Zen teachings, but that does not seem right to me.


it was the teaching of the 6th Zen Patriarch Huineng that seeing own nature is enlightenment. own nature is seen within subject and object, both seen as the same essence. call it emptiness. however i argue that according to Master Keizan. there is a great Ichantika in whom buddha nature has ceased to be. there is no longer a subjective, no longer a within and this comes after directly perceiving the great pearl/moon within. i know it is said in the teaching that the buddha nature is permanent, but not always and not all agree with this position. Buddha nature or own nature is said to be in Soto Zen... The true self, and yet within this seeing is no i nor mine and so it is not the same as the apparent ego of normal people. however i still argue that subjective buddha nature is impermanent. by subjective i mean the ability to see within, having a within. an inner dimension. this inner dimension is exactly correspondent with the outer or objective world... seeing buddha nature it can be said that the within is no different from the without and it becomes possible to say that all is mind.  initially on seeing buddha nature there is a perception that oneself and all things are an emptiness.

interesting that you say my approach is similar to madhyamika especially since i have had no awareness of this being so. it goes to prove that experience is universal. to me, if there is a buddha nature it is suchness/tathata... the world as it is. but, even this is impermanent. seeing the middle way may not be seeing buddha natue. is there a permanent buddha nature? i am no longer convinced.

best wishes, Tom.


Hi White Lotus,

I read where Huineng said "In the midst of all good and evil, not a thought is aroused in the mind - this is called Sitting. Seeing into one's original nature, not being moved at all - this is called Ch'an."        Is there a permanent Buddha nature? I don't know.  You could look at earlier teachings.  There is a very good article that examines this question, called Freedom From Buddha Nature, by Thanissaro Bhikkhu.


with metta

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline White Lotus

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thank you Santamonicaj and Francis. it is interesting to see that there is disagreement over buddha nature. i tend to go by experience in what i say.

Hui neng (Wei Lang), the sixth patriarch said... "neither thinking good, nor thinking evil, what is your original face?"
when we clear the mind of all thoughs then we see the buddha nature just as it is. its like looking in a mirror on a dark night. what do you see?... your original face. or likewise practicing Chan/zazen meditation one directly sees the original face. theres nothing in it. anyone can see this 'original face'. buddha nature. when one becomes clearly aware of his 'own nature' it can be said that the world within is continuous with the world around him/her. some have said that this 'Mind' is 'emptiness'.

Thanks for the clarification Santamonicaj. Madhyamaka/Madhyamika.

Francis, i will read the article by Thanissara Bhikku. Appreciated.


best wishes, Tom.

Offline White Lotus

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Francis, i read the Thanissaro Bhikku essay. it seems to me that there is a buddha nature, but that it is impermanent... and if its impermanent can we call it a buddha nature? I believe in the Mahayana teachings that Siddharta Buddha was pointing towards Buddha nature. this seems clear for example in the Nirvana Sutra where he says that even a tenth stage boddhisatva has no clear apprehension of Buddha nature. in Madyamaka I guess that to reify a buddha nature would be unhelpful because whatever we can say misses the ultimate point.

it seems that Thanissaro Bhikku does not believe in a Buddha nature, i guess that is because it could be seen as some sort of 'self' fabrication. even though there is no identity of 'I' or 'mine' in buddha nature. my hands are not my hands, my feet are not my feet. no experience of 'I' ness whatsoever. only subject identity. experience of a body.

best wishes, Tom.

Offline francis

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Francis, i read the Thanissaro Bhikku essay. it seems to me that there is a buddha nature, but that it is impermanent... and if its impermanent can we call it a buddha nature? I believe in the Mahayana teachings that Siddharta Buddha was pointing towards Buddha nature. this seems clear for example in the Nirvana Sutra where he says that even a tenth stage boddhisatva has no clear apprehension of Buddha nature. in Madyamaka I guess that to reify a buddha nature would be unhelpful because whatever we can say misses the ultimate point.

it seems that Thanissaro Bhikku does not believe in a Buddha nature, i guess that is because it could be seen as some sort of 'self' fabrication. even though there is no identity of 'I' or 'mine' in buddha nature. my hands are not my hands, my feet are not my feet. no experience of 'I' ness whatsoever. only subject identity. experience of a body.

best wishes, Tom.

Hi White Lotus,

I think Thanissaro Bhikku is saying all of that in the essay. But he is also says that it’s about choice, and freedom, and freedom from kamma:

“Past kamma is not entirely deterministic. Even though past kamma shapes the range of options open to the mind in the present, it doesn't have to determine present kamma — the intentions by which the mind chooses to fabricate actual experiences from among those options. 

The Buddha was simply saying that the mind, once stained, is not permanently stained. When the conditions for the stains are gone, the mind becomes luminous again. But this luminosity is not an awakened nature. As the Buddha states, this luminous mind can be developed.  After this luminosity has been developed in the advanced stages of concentration, it's abandoned once it has completed its work in helping to pierce through ignorance.

Thus, in encouraging people to awaken, the Buddha never assumed that their Awakening would come from the innate goodness of their nature. He simply assumed something very blatant and ordinary: that people like pleasure and hate pain, and that they care about whether they can gain that pleasure and avoid that pain. It was a mark of his genius that he could see the potential for Awakening in this very common desire.

This is why the Buddha never advocated attributing an innate nature of any kind to the mind — good, bad, or Buddha. The idea of innate natures slipped into the Buddhist tradition in later centuries, when the principle of freedom was forgotten. That past kamma doesn't totally shape the present, and that present kamma can always be free to choose the skillful alternative — you realize that the idea of innate natures is unnecessary: excess baggage on the path.”


With metta
"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline White Lotus

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Francis, freedom from karma, freedom from causality. the goal of buddhism... thus one is free from suffering. one is unconditioned by any experience within or outside themselves. but, yes i agree that past karma is not something that cannot be dealt with using skillful means.

in Thanissaro Bhiku's talk he says that when asked who he is, the buddha replies ''I am awakened''. i think this is the crux of the matter. when he focuses on his awareness of objects and things or when he focuses within he has the energizing experience of being fully awake. i find that when i examine my awareness, it is normal. there is still the sensation that all is illusory... however to an awakened one it all seems very real, sharply in focus and present right here and right now.

the Patriarch of Soto Zen, Master Keizan in the last paragraph of his monumental book, the Denkoroku says (paraphrased): it is like waking from a dream, vivid alertness, it is only that one feels very awake [all the time in the waking state].

Perhaps after all this talk of normative awareness, one ought to be aware that the experience that Siddharta spoke of was not normative, not normal at all, rather a direct dazzling perception of all reality. he was quite literally ''Awakened''! not only that, but the illusory reality spoken of in the Lankavatara sutra, can be perceived as entirely real. or at least certainly not ''unreal''.

interesting hey?!

best wishes, Tom.

« Last Edit: May 16, 2011, 12:04:33 pm by White Lotus »

Offline francis

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Francis, freedom from karma, freedom from causality. the goal of buddhism... thus one is free from suffering. one is unconditioned by any experience within or outside themselves. but, yes i agree that past karma is not something that cannot be dealt with using skillful means.

Hi White Lotus,

The bit I got from the essay was– “past kamma is not entirely deterministic”.  That kamma doesn't have to shape the range of options open to the mind. Often the mind chooses to fabricate options from actual experiences.  However, we can use skilful means, as described in the eightfold path, to understand how the mind fabricates stuff and free ourselves from kamma.     
 
Quote from: White Lotus
in Thanissaro Bhiku's talk he says that when asked who he is, the buddha replies ''I am awakened''. i think this is the crux of the matter. when he focuses on his awareness of objects and things or when he focuses within he has the energizing experience of being fully awake. i find that when i examine my awareness, it is normal. there is still the sensation that all is illusory... however to an awakened one it all seems very real, sharply in focus and present right here and right now.

I think you are right about awareness being the crux of the matter.  Though, for most people it takes a lot of work to become awake.  Mental development in the eightfold path includes meditation.  Vipassana (insight) and Dhyāna (stopping and seeing) meditations are common practices for improving awareness.  In particular, the 10 day Vipassana meditation course is recommended by many. 

the Patriarch of Soto Zen, Master Keizan in the last paragraph of his monumental book, the Denkoroku says (paraphrased): it is like waking from a dream, vivid alertness, it is only that one feels very awake [all the time in the waking state].
Perhaps after all this talk of normative awareness, one ought to be aware that the experience that Siddharta spoke of was not normative, not normal at all, rather a direct dazzling perception of all reality. he was quite literally ''Awakened''! not only that, but the illusory reality spoken of in the Lankavatara sutra, can be perceived as entirely real. or at least certainly not ''unreal''.

interesting hey?!

best wishes, Tom.


The Patriarch of Soto Zen, Master Keizan said it well – “living all the time in the waking state”.  That’s true and something to aim for, but for most of us it takes a lot of work.  At the moment I’m reading Ken McLeod’s book Wake Up to Your Life. He has a very pragmatic approach to the eightfold path and meditation. It’s well worth reading, if you are interested in that approach. 

I’m not sure about the Lankavatara sutra, some parts of it are contradictory and difficult to understand.  Red Pine has a new translation coming out soon, sans the Sagathakam.  It will be interesting to see how it reads.   


with metta

"Enlightenment, for a wave in the ocean, is the moment the wave realises it is water." - Thich Nhat Hanh

Offline zerwe

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If I may I'd like to speak about things I am confused about. Hopefully that will prompt others that know more to correct me:

...however i think to say that buddha nature as subject and object is permanent is incorrect.
The teachings on Buddha Nature do not say that it has subject/object. However it is said to be permanent.

I am only just learning about this, but I believe that this notion of permanence is considered mistaken and is refuted in that Buddha nature would fall into the category of non-compositional factors (non-compositional existence).

Shaun :namaste:

Offline White Lotus

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Francis, thank you for the book reccommendation. it seems to me that awakening would involve a turning over of the mind as mentioned in the lankavatara sutra. the culmination of many mental turnings over.

Shaun, to speak of the Buddha nature is not easy, however it is seen clearly by one who sees it. i would say that Buddha nature is the same within one as it is without one. subject and object both being the same. however in my experience, awareness is not permanent. either of the nature within or the nature without. it is an awareness of raw awareness and all things are manifestations of awareness, therefore they all have the same taste... some call it emptiness, others call it mind. but really, both of these are the same sameness. when Emptiness/ or mind is tasted there is a sameness to all things. for example: when i look at the computer screen for a while and then at the keyboard, both are experienced as fundamentally the same mental sensation. the fabric of Mind or Emptiness as it may be called. however falling into descriptive names is not always very helpful.

i dont know shaun whether this answers your point, probably not. but this is a very interesting discussion.

best wishes, Tom.

Offline santamonicacj

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If I may I'd like to speak about things I am confused about. Hopefully that will prompt others that know more to correct me:

Quote
...however i think to say that buddha nature as subject and object is permanent is incorrect.

The teachings on Buddha Nature do not say that it has subject/object. However it is said to be permanent.


I am only just learning about this, but I believe that this notion of permanence is considered mistaken and is refuted in that Buddha nature would fall into the category of non-compositional factors (non-compositional existence).
The Prasangika Madyamikas do not accept the idea of a permanent, real Buddha Nature. When they speak of their position as being a "non-affirming negation" what they are specifically NOT affirming is this permanent Buddha Nature. However the Yogacara Madyamikas say that since it is never manifest that it cannot be negated by that reasoning.

So there is no consensus on the subject, even among the scholars that study and debate the subject for the better part of their lives. There are two different opinions, so you'll get two different answers depending on who you talk to. The debate has been going on for centuries, and it will continue long after we are gone. There is no right answer.

So for those of us that have a limited time to devote to Dharma it is simply a matter of taste and personal preference. Which position makes sense to you? Which one allows you to proceed with your meditation practice with least frustration and most confidence? It is an entirely personal matter.*


*Unless you are practicing Sutrayana Mahamudra, in which case you've pretty much got to take the Prasangika position as a support for your practice.
« Last Edit: May 18, 2011, 08:50:36 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 zerwe

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Francis, thank you for the book reccommendation. it seems to me that awakening would involve a turning over of the mind as mentioned in the lankavatara sutra. the culmination of many mental turnings over.

Shaun, to speak of the Buddha nature is not easy, however it is seen clearly by one who sees it. i would say that Buddha nature is the same within one as it is without one. subject and object both being the same. however in my experience, awareness is not permanent. either of the nature within or the nature without. it is an awareness of raw awareness and all things are manifestations of awareness, therefore they all have the same taste... some call it emptiness, others call it mind. but really, both of these are the same sameness. when Emptiness/ or mind is tasted there is a sameness to all things. for example: when i look at the computer screen for a while and then at the keyboard, both are experienced as fundamentally the same mental sensation. the fabric of Mind or Emptiness as it may be called. however falling into descriptive names is not always very helpful.

i dont know shaun whether this answers your point, probably not. but this is a very interesting discussion.

best wishes, Tom.

Hi, White Lotus.. I do have such an understanding, but thanks for your explanation. What I am curious about is the idea of three types of existence and I believe Buddha Nature falls into the category of being considered non-compositional.

Shaun

Offline White Lotus

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Thank you for your helpful post Santamonicaj.
Shaun, i am new to the teaching of Madhyamaka and am unaware of teachings of three types of existence. albeit, from contact with other people i am inclined to think that there is a perception of illusory existence, and to the awakened one, experience of things becoming truly real. though philosophically i would say that existence is neither real nor false. it just is.

buddha nature is non compositional, but there is an awareness of this 'nature' within one, that nature can cease to be, leaving one completely without subject. this is know when the awareness ceases, but is also known before its cessation.
it is non compositional, because it is empty even of emptiness. still it will cease if one sees the moon within which can only be seen when you realise that which is not anything, nor nothing.

best wishes, Tom.

 


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