May 31, 2021 at 10:00 am #25240
Last week and this AM, times this week:
Mon @ 9:00PM London time
Fri @ 9:00PM London time
Topic: Establishing Daily Study, Contemplation, and Meditation Practice
Tonight we’ll read a bit of the study material on the Six Perfections in preparation for the upcoming class and discuss it amongst ourselves.
Meeting ID: 798 522 8369
Passcode: LamrimMay 31, 2021 at 10:03 am #25242
It’s an interesting point. Who is reborn and where?
Is an upper-level bodhisattva on the 9th Bhumi and so on reborn in samsara, or does it just appear so from our perspective?
Which world are they reborn into, when these great beings emanate and appear to teach us, having passed into non-abiding nirvana?
These are good questions for Nagarjuna! Haha.May 31, 2021 at 3:44 pm #25296Nidhi AggarwalParticipant
First, I might be wrong on levels. However, if my memory is not failing me, bodhisattvas who realize 8th ground and above do not get reborn under the power of afflictions. They have only very subtle imprints of afflictions (like burnt seeds) that do not sprout. So, they take rebirth to benefit others.
I think they realize emptiness directly, and hence, have no cause to take birth under the power of afflictions. I am not sure they realize emptiness directly when out of meditative equipoise.
NidhiJune 2, 2021 at 12:33 pm #25711Pempa SamuelsParticipant
Sorry I missed the last session, I would love to join in the next session. please let me the times. Thank youJune 2, 2021 at 8:52 pm #25892Laura CavinaParticipant
Hi Jared, will you be opening up a session this eve? 9pm?
BTW Monday’s was excellent – thank you for it!!June 2, 2021 at 10:49 pm #25896
Ah, sorry about that, Laura. I was planning on Mon and Fri this week, per the post above, both at 9:00PM.
Next week we can go Mon, Weds, Friday (or Sat) if everyone/a few people are on board. Any thoughts, everyone?
Nidhi, my knowledge of the grounds and paths is quite limited. However, my understanding is that the 8th Bhumi onwards is equivalent to Pratimokshayana Arhatship, in terms of being liberated from suffering. The Delusive Obstructions have been removed, just like they are removed from the mind of a Theravada Arhat.
The Bhumi’s then all have to do with increasingly subtle levels of direct realisation of emptiness, removing subtler and subtler obstructions. So, the Bhumi’s are concerned with the Path of Seeing onwards, in my understanding.
However, even after the 8th Bhumi, the Bodhisattva continues to emanate many bodies and forms – out of compassion and bodhicitta -continuing the process of removing the Cognitive Obstructions, the hindrances to Full Awakening.
So, is a Bodhisattva continually reborn in samsara until they attain Full Awakening? I do not see how this could be so. Samsara is not a place; it is the mind which sees phenomena as inherently existent, and then generates afflictions, karma, rebirth, and so forth. The Bodhisattva on the 8th+ Bhumi has no more gross afflictions and emanates rather than taking rebirths.
One might wonder, who is emanating? What is this action of emanation? Where is the emanation itself? Is an upper-level Bodhisattva taking rebirth in samsara or not? I think there are some good ruminations to be had surrounding all these things.June 4, 2021 at 8:36 pm #26033
Just a reminder.
Opening a room at 9:00PM tonight.
Next week I’m planning on
Do other days work better?June 9, 2021 at 9:39 pm #26983
I was thinking about the question you asked in the Nagarjuna class. It’s a very good question. Why call emptiness ultimate if it is merely conventionally existent, just like everything else? I hope you’ll take a few minutes to read my rambling personal thoughts on the matter.
I’ve also thought about this point many times. Emptiness is the mode of being of all phenomena: physical, mental, and abstract; permanent and impermanent; in the desire realm, form realm, and formless realm; in the six realms of rebirth; in nirvana and samsara; all objects of all sentient beings minds in all possible worlds. If something exists, then it is empty of inherent existence. If a phenomenon is non-existent–like the mere imputation of the absence of an elephant in the room or the absence of a candle flame after it has been blown out–this non-existence also empty of inherent existence. So, even if something is non-existent, the non-existence of that thing is established by way of dependent origination/emptiness. So, emptiness is ultimate in the sense that there is no other property like this: it underpins everything else, both existent and non-existent.
Similarly, emptiness is only established due to depending upon objects and phenomena that are empty. There is no ‘ultimately existent’ emptiness. The ultimateness is merely imputed. As you pointed out, this means the emptiness and ‘being ultimate’ are both conventionally existent things.
It also seems that emptiness is ultimate in the realm of epistemology. Things are only knowable because they are empty. If phenomena existed in and of themselves, they would be inaccessible to our perception: a chair would exist among the parts and causes of a chair; or it would be an invisible property that pervades all the parts and causes of the chair; or it would exist as the peculiar assembly of only certain parts and causes… and there could only be one chair in reality; or chairs would be entirely separate from the parts and causes of the chair. All of these have strange and absurd consequences.
If the mind existed in-and-of-itself, it would not be capable of cognising a new object. One can speculate what this mind might know, but whatever it knew, that mind could not turn away from this knowing: its knowingness of such and such would be established as part of its nature. It could not avert its knowing gaze. Alternatively, it would be knowing even without an object of knowing. It would just be ‘knowingness of…’ without an object known. Actions of knowing could arise spontaneously without relying on knowers or that which is known, as could knowers and the known spontaneously arise without the other two. It gets quite confusing indeed. Instead, knowers, actions of knowing, and the known arise simultaneously and co-dependently. Like this, everything we know can only be known due to being empty. This is a unique property of emptiness. There is no other property that applies to all knowable things. This may be why Ven. Dharmakiriti said that a ‘knowable thing’ and ‘existent thing’ are synonymous.
Finally, emptiness is ultimate in the sense of being the most important or functional type of knowledge about reality. If we stacked all knowledge, it would be the highest. How is it the highest? If we arranged knowledge in terms of what viewpoint is the most correct about reality, it would be the viewpoint of emptiness. There is no viewpoint that is more correct. Correct viewpoints are also the most functional viewpoints: when we know how something actually exists and functions, we respond to it in the manner it actually exists and functions. So, it has great utility. What could produce a better result?
Also, emptiness is the type of special insight we need about reality to accomplish all of our aims and the aims of all other beings. There is no other knowledge that can claim a greater benefit.
So, from these perspectives–pervasive ontological application, pervasive epistemological requirement, correctness, utility, and benefit–I do not see any viewpoint or knowledge with a better claim to the word ‘ultimate’. However, ultimate should not be understood to mean ‘existing ultimately’. If emptiness existed ultimately, then it would be rather like a God or a Tao: some kind of ‘ultimately existent source’ from which all things and phenomena come. As Geshe-la was explaining, emptiness is a mere absence. Mere absence, mere absence, rather than the affirmation of something else in the place of inherent existence. There is no other self-existent thing affirmed in the place of inherent existence. Like knowingness, emptiness is always an ’emptiness of…’ rather than ’emptiness’ by itself, and due to this, it is also merely conventionally existent.
I hope this helps.
~JJune 9, 2021 at 9:48 pm #26986Carol McQuireParticipant
And the name of the meditation, the reality, in Chandrakirti – ‘The Emptiness of Emptiness’. I so loved this when I first encountered it.
CarolJune 11, 2021 at 9:11 pm #27118
Anyone joining today?
JaredJune 13, 2021 at 1:20 pm #27238Sarah LeachParticipant
Just thought I’d wade in here on the sunyata is sunyata debate, as I love this stuff.I was taught that as all dharmas are empty then there are no distinctions between them but also no restrictions. That if you have emptiness there has to be an opposite, something as opposed to nothing, so the conventional emptiness is that, but the ultimate emptiness is nothing and something, both and neither so the negation is contained in the being. I am not sure that helps?June 13, 2021 at 5:43 pm #27273Robyn BrentanoParticipant
Thanks Jared for your response to Laura. Great conversation. I could follow right up to “Like knowingness, emptiness is always an ’emptiness of…’ rather than ’emptiness’ by itself, and due to this, it is also merely conventionally existent.” I don’t follow the conclusion you’ve reached about emptiness being conventionally existent. If I understood Geshe la correctly in his teaching on the Six Perfections [6/6], he pointed out that, while dependent origination provides a way of understanding emptiness, emptiness itself, as a mere absence of inherent existence in anything, is an ultimate truth. To say that something lacks inherent existence is different from making an affirmative statement (such as dependent origination) about phenomena on the level of conventional reality. I’ve never studied epistemology, so I may be mixing apples and oranges here. Your thoughts?June 14, 2021 at 8:01 pm #27434
Can anyone join for a session tonight? I’ll open the room at 9:00 per usual.
JaredJune 14, 2021 at 8:32 pm #27436
…if you have emptiness there has to be an opposite, something as opposed to nothing, so the conventional emptiness is that, but the ultimate emptiness is nothing and something, both and neither so the negation is contained in the being.
I’m a little unclear about what you mean. Does everything have to have an existent opposite if it exists? What’s the opposite of an acorn? Non-acorn is the opposite of an acorn. Non-acorn is everything that cannot co-referentially denote acorn, in my beginners understanding. The opposite of emptiness is non-emptiness. Non-emptiness is a non-existent (and impossible) phenomena: that which arises without depending upon parts-whole, cause-effect, nor nominal designation. Emptiness is a mere absence, so it cannot be the presence of something: it is the absence of a particular thing—inherent or true existence. Then again, it’s not absolutely nothing. If it were nothing at all, then it would be non-existent, as would all other phenomena. However, each thing that is empty has a nature that excludes inherently existing, not existing, both, and neither, without any of these modes being established as ‘the actual mode’ of existence from the side of the object.
If a seed is on the verge of being a sprout and we take 500 photos of the transition from seed to sprout, 100 people will give different answers when we ask: on what photo does the sprout arise? Some will say photo 1, where the sprout is invisibly partially arisen in the seed; others will say the sprout doesn’t exist at all on slide 1, but only emerges on slide 108. Others will say the sprout never arises, due to some philosophical view they hold: perhaps, only a continuum of atoms exists; sprouts are just a human fabrication, a positivist might argue. Someone might say, due to another philosophy, that the sprout is itself arisen and itself not arisen, at all times: perhaps, these are both possibilities existing in the mind of a deity, or among the Forms of Plato. For the Prasangika, it seems to me, all of these possibilities create unwanted logical consequences. The most notable being: if the sprout arose objectively, then we would all agree at the time it arose! It happened out there, after all, and we have nothing to do with it, right? No, this isn’t right. So, the nature of the arising of the sprout is one excluding existing, not existing, both, and neither from its own side. All four of these are impossible if that is the mode of being of the sprout objectively—out there, mind-independently. In reality, it only arises in relation to the valid designation of a term onto an appropriate perceptual basis.
If I understood Geshe la correctly in his teaching on the Six Perfections, he pointed out that, while dependent origination provides a way of understanding emptiness, emptiness itself, as a mere absence of inherent existence in anything, is an ultimate truth. To say that something lacks inherent existence is different from making an affirmative statement (such as dependent origination) about phenomena on the level of conventional reality. I’ve never studied epistemology, so I may be mixing apples and oranges here. Your thoughts?
Ah yes, ah yes. The question becomes, if emptiness is not dependent on anything else, then how does it exist? If it acts as the mode of being of all things, then it depends upon those things, does it not? There is only ever ‘the emptiness of… this particular sprout,’ for example. Rather than there being, some amorphous emptiness out there from which all sprouts arise. Emptiness (in terms of its objective aspect, what Nagarjuna mainly deals with in the Mula) is just the lack of self-existence, true existence, or inherent existence of that particular sprout. Looking at it from the side of dependent origination, it is the mere designation of ‘sprout’ on a valid basis of designation. That’s why the sprout is empty; it’s merely designated. It’s not a sprout without the designation, nor without parts-whole and cause-effect. Though these other two are less subtle than the designation.
When that particular sprout ceases, can the absence of the inherent existence of that sprout continue to exist? Does the mere designation of ‘sprout’ on a particular valid basis of various causal conditions and perceptual conditions persist somehow after that particular sprout ceases? It seems that the designation ‘sprout’ ceases simultaneously with the sprout going out of existence, what do you think?
Is the emptiness of that particular sprout somehow stubbornly persisting within the non-existence of that same sprout?
The challenge would be: can you point to an emptiness that is not ‘the emptiness of…’ such and such? If not, then this may indicate that emptiness is also merely conventionally existent: it is empty of self-existence, true existence, or inherent existence. It depends upon parts-whole, cause-effect, and nominal designations. It arises as the mode of being of other things, rather than being established in-and-of-itself. It’s an ultimate fact about all things, rather than an ultimately existent thing. Like all other things, emptiness exists conventionally. This is what I think…
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