Against Nāgārjuna

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Ceisiwr
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Against Nāgārjuna

Post by Ceisiwr »

Greetings,

As we all know, Nāgārjuna is one of the most respected and followed Buddhist philosophers since the Blessed One himself. He is quite popular even among those who claim to follow Theravāda. It is said that he argued for a return to the Middle Way and a move away from the realist extremes of the Ābhidharmikas/Abhidhammikas. As an Abhidhammika I would submit that Nāgārjuna does no such thing. I have made a post regarding this before, but I felt a new post was required as this comes from a slightly different angle.

My argument is simple. Nāgārjuna was opposing the substance metaphysics of Sarvāstivādins and their bastardised form of Abhidhamma. These were likely the principle opponents of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. In opposing substance I agree with Nāgārjuna. However, I feel that Nāgārjuna makes an error that is replicated in his followers today. The error is in moving from establishing that there is no substance to claiming that there is no existence apart from concept. Whilst its true that there can be no substance, it does not follow that there is no existence apart from what is conceptual and conventional. What is forgotten here is essence. There being essence there is existence. Essence, however, does not equate to substance or permanence. To give an example, citta has no substance. There is no enduring "cittahood" that persists. There are only moments of citta. These moments of citta however do have an essence. The essence of citta is to cognise. Apart from cognition there is no citta. Apart from its essence, apart from cognition, there is no citta. To say there is no essence to citta is to say there is no citta. This, however, cannot be true since we do cognise. There is an act of cognition right now. There being cognition there must be an essence. There being an essence to citta, citta then exists since essence is the fundamental requirement for existence apart from concept. If this essence didn't exist, citta would not exist. Therefore, we can speak of dhammas that exist since if we deny their characteristic then we deny their reality. Based on this understanding, dhammas then are not empty of existence. We can say that dhammas exist. They exist because they have essence despite having no substance. Ultimate truth is then not emptiness of existence. It is the emptiness of substance and self. It is emptiness of permanence and self. Indeed, the Awakened One said we have a perverted view not of existence but of permanence, self and beauty. Nāgārjuna's arguments and those of his followers therefore overreach and go from one extreme to another. They overreach by equating the absence of substance with the absence of existence apart from concept. This however is not true for essence entails existence, and essence exists apart from concept and substance.

Thoughts?
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


Nāmarūpapariccheda
PeterC86
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by PeterC86 »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:41 am Greetings,

As we all know, Nāgārjuna is one of the most respected and followed Buddhist philosophers since the Blessed One himself. He is quite popular even among those who claim to follow Theravāda. It is said that he argued for a return to the Middle Way and a move away from the realist extremes of the Ābhidharmikas/Abhidhammikas. As an Abhidhammika I would submit that Nāgārjuna does no such thing. I have made a post regarding this before, but I felt a new post was required as this comes from a slightly different angle.

My argument is simple. Nāgārjuna was opposing the substance metaphysics of Sarvāstivādins and their bastardised form of Abhidhamma. These were likely the principle opponents of the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. In opposing substance I agree with Nāgārjuna. However, I feel that Nāgārjuna makes an error that is replicated in his followers today. The error is in moving from establishing that there is no substance to claiming that there is no existence apart from concept. Whilst its true that there can be no substance, it does not follow that there is no existence apart from what is conceptual and conventional. What is forgotten here is essence. There being essence there is existence. Essence, however, does not equate to substance or permanence. To give an example, citta has no substance. There is no enduring "cittahood" that persists. There are only moments of citta. These moments of citta however do have an essence. The essence of citta is to cognise. Apart from cognition there is no citta. Apart from its essence, apart from cognition, there is no citta. To say there is no essence to citta is to say there is no citta. This, however, cannot be true since we do cognise. There is an act of cognition right now. There being cognition there must be an essence. There being an essence to citta, citta then exists since essence is the fundamental requirement for existence apart from concept. If this essence didn't exist, citta would not exist. Therefore, we can speak of dhammas that exist since if we deny their characteristic then we deny their reality. Based on this understanding, dhammas then are not empty of existence. We can say that dhammas exist. They exist because they have essence despite having no substance. Ultimate truth is then not emptiness of existence. It is the emptiness of substance and self. It is emptiness of permanence and self. Indeed, the Awakened One said we have a perverted view not of existence but of permanence, self and beauty. Nāgārjuna's arguments and those of his followers therefore overreach and go from one extreme to another. They overreach by equating the absence of substance with the absence of existence apart from concept. This however is not true for essence entails existence, and essence exists apart from concept and substance.

Thoughts?
If that what is being cognized is empty of self, has cognition then not become empty of essence?

Let go.
I am only here to guide others who are searching for Nibbana.
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Ceisiwr
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by Ceisiwr »

PeterC86
If that what is being cognized is empty of self, has cognition then not become empty of essence?
That being cognised would be empty of substance. That which cognised would not be empty of essence, since if it were empty of essence there would be no cognition of that which is empty of substance. Citta = cognising.

P1) Essence is necessary for existence.

P2) That which is without essence does not exist.

P3) Citta = cognition.

C1) Citta has essence.

C2) Therefore, citta exists.
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


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PeterC86
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by PeterC86 »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 6:46 am PeterC86
If that what is being cognized is empty of self, has cognition then not become empty of essence?
That being cognised would be empty of substance. That which cognised would not be empty of essence, since if it were empty of essence there would be no cognition of that which is empty of substance. Citta = cognising.
But what is being cognized if empty of self/substance?

Let go.

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Ceisiwr
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by Ceisiwr »

PeterC86
But what is being cognized if empty of self/substance?
Everything that is cognised is empty of self/substance, but not everything which is cognised is empty of existence. Some things which are cognised are empty of substance and essence and so existence (concepts). Others exist apart from concept, are empty of substance but not essence. These are the ultimate realities, those actualities that exist apart from concept and substance. These ultimate realties, which are the object of direct perception, the objects of successful satipaṭṭhāna, are that which are cognised apart from concept. They have essence and so exist apart from concept but they have no substance.
"Analysis and synthesis are praised by the wise,
liberation in the Sāsana comes from analysis and synthesis;
the purpose of the method of analysis and synthesis is the ultimate"


Nāmarūpapariccheda
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dhammacoustic
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by dhammacoustic »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 6:46 am P1) Essence is necessary for existence.

P2) That which is without essence does not exist.

P3) Citta = cognition.

C1) Citta has essence.

C2) Therefore, citta exists.
it seems to me that you're trying to “existentialize” buddhism, because cognition is a process.....i mean, if citta = cognition then one might as well say “cognition has essence, therefore cognition exists”, and it would make more sense.

also, could you provide a nikaya reference for such a description of citta? as far as i remember, the description for vinnana also goes "it cognizes, it cognizes..." (mn 43), so why two different words for the same thing?
Last edited by dhammacoustic on Thu Sep 24, 2020 8:30 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by Bundokji »

I did not study Nagarjuna, but based on your input, the blessed one taught:
"'Consciousness, consciousness': Thus is it said. To what extent, friend, is it said to be 'consciousness'?"

"'It cognizes, it cognizes': Thus, friend, it is said to be 'consciousness.' And what does it cognize? It cognizes 'pleasant.' It cognizes 'painful.' It cognizes 'neither painful nor pleasant.' 'It cognizes, it cognizes': Thus it is said to be 'consciousness.'"

"Discernment & consciousness, friend: Are these qualities conjoined or disjoined? Is it possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them?"

"Discernment & consciousness are conjoined, friend, not disjoined. It's not possible, having separated them one from the other, to delineate the difference between them. For what one discerns, that one cognizes. What one cognizes, that one discerns. Therefore these qualities are conjoined, not disjoined, and it is not possible, having separated them one from another, to delineate the difference between them."

"Discernment & consciousness, friend: What is the difference between these qualities that are conjoined, not disjoined?"

"Discernment & consciousness, friend: Of these qualities that are conjoined, not disjoined, discernment is to be developed, consciousness is to be fully comprehended.
Framing it as "to what extent" implies being precise. It is a cautious tone against overreaching in my opinion.

The term "is it said to be" refers to naming or being. The naming is linked to/reasoned by the function "it cognizes".

In your post, you chose to focus on citta while in the suttas, citta belongs to only one type of consciousness which is mind consciousness The emphasis in the sutta that discernment and consciousness are conjoined goes against the grain of separating mind consciousness from other categories of consciousness, and separating concepts from the rest of the cognition process. This act of separation is necessary for concluding that citta has essence (rather than a function) which is to cognize.

From an experiential perspective, citta is often perceived as a necessary starting or reference point which does not belong to any particular sense-media. In other words, it is the present moment that is based on ignorance and has a neutral feeling to it according to MN44:
“What is the counterpart of neutral feeling?”

“Ignorance.”
“Pleasant feeling is pleasant when it remains and painful when it perishes. Painful feeling is painful when it remains and pleasant when it perishes. Neutral feeling is pleasant when there is knowledge, and painful when there is ignorance.”
The unpleasantness of neutral feelings to the ignorant is the cause for volitional formations (more concepts are needed to ease the stress which causes more stress moving forward).

This is why, discernment and consciousness are conjoined, not disjointed. Separating concepts from cognition is an attempt to find a stable reference point which has an essence. This is how conventional reality (linearity) works, as a starting point is always needed to perceive a stable sequence of which concepts can be identified in relation to what precedes it and what comes after it.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"

This was the last word of the Tathagata.
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by PeterC86 »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 7:12 am PeterC86
But what is being cognized if empty of self/substance?
Everything that is cognised is empty of self/substance, but not everything which is cognised is empty of existence. Some things which are cognised are empty of substance and essence and so existence (concepts). Others exist apart from concept, are empty of substance but not essence. These are the ultimate realities, those actualities that exist apart from concept and substance. These ultimate realties, which are the object of direct perception, the objects of successful satipaṭṭhāna, are that which are cognised apart from concept. They have essence and so exist apart from concept but they have no substance.
Now you have arrived at what is being pointed to by the arupa jhana's; the formless. But even the formless is empty of essence, because you cannot separate that which has no substance (non-self) from your own experience.

See for more guidance chapter 14 "Nirvana" of the book that I have written, to dissolve this clinging to non-self.

Nibbana is neither self nor non-self; the fruition of realizing neither perception (self) nor non-perception (non-self).

So if this Nagarjuna person clings to this formless/non-self/without substance, and teaches it as being Nibbana; it is not Nibbana.

If however this Nagarjuna person teaches rightfully the middle way; which leads in between self and non-self, he or she is liberated at least in one way. This however does not automatically mean that he or she is liberated in two ways, and teaches the way to the twofold liberation; Pannavimutti and Cetovimutti.

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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by binocular »

Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:41 amThoughts?
Nomen est omen. I never get past the name. Who gave him that name? He himself?
Hic Rhodus, hic salta!
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by confusedlayman »

there is no essance conventionally speaking but still we cognize as if the object of cognition is real and given importance, hence for worlding the object of cognition is essence due to ignorance (in reality it is mere imagination or mere conceiving something like concept)

so on seeing a object or hearing the object, there is concept in mind process and based on the concept we take decision.

green rope is seen as snake by blurred eyes and vice versa... so its the concept in mind
dont think
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

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Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:41 am Thoughts?
Oh, not again.
“Monks, it’s not that I dispute with the world, but that the world disputes with me. A proponent of the Dhamma doesn’t dispute with anyone with regard to the world.1 Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.’ Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It exists.’
https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN22_94.html
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by Coëmgenu »

SteRo wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:13 am
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:41 am Thoughts?
Oh, not again.
“Monks, it’s not that I dispute with the world, but that the world disputes with me. A proponent of the Dhamma doesn’t dispute with anyone with regard to the world.1 Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.’ Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It exists.’
https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN22_94.html
And yet the sphere disputes with all sorts of people regarding the world at all sorts of times of day and night on this very forum.
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by SteRo »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:18 pm
SteRo wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:13 am
Ceisiwr wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:41 am Thoughts?
Oh, not again.
“Monks, it’s not that I dispute with the world, but that the world disputes with me. A proponent of the Dhamma doesn’t dispute with anyone with regard to the world.1 Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as not existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It doesn’t exist.’ Whatever is agreed upon by the wise as existing in the world, of that I too say, ‘It exists.’
https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN22_94.html
And yet the sphere disputes with all sorts of people regarding the world at all sorts of times on day and night on this very forum.
There is no dispute from the perspective of the sphere.
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by Coëmgenu »

SteRo wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:19 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:18 pm
SteRo wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:13 am

Oh, not again.


https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/SN/SN22_94.html
And yet the sphere disputes with all sorts of people regarding the world at all sorts of times on day and night on this very forum.
There is no dispute from the perspective of the sphere.
:popcorn:
SteRo wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 6:22 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 6:17 pmWhat is decisive is the motivation or intent of the individual. Whatever one follows or rejects, the decision is still that of the individual.
Here's the disagreement. Believing in autonomous decision is believing in self and 'I am'.
If you see a river, pray that beings gain entrance into the stream and into the ocean of wisdom. If you see a reservoir, pray that beings swiftly taste the one taste of the Dharma. If you see a pond, pray that beings become great in locution and skillful in preaching. If you see a well, pray that beings draw deep from the well of reason to disclose all dharmas. If you see a spring, pray that beings have inexhaustible roots of virtue. If you see a bridge, pray that beings carry all across to safety, as via a bridge. If you see a waterfall, pray that all beings cleanse the stains of delusion.
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Re: Against Nāgārjuna

Post by SteRo »

Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:37 pm
SteRo wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:19 pm
Coëmgenu wrote: Thu Sep 24, 2020 4:18 pm
And yet the sphere disputes with all sorts of people regarding the world at all sorts of times on day and night on this very forum.
There is no dispute from the perspective of the sphere.
:popcorn:
SteRo wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 6:22 pm
Nicholas Weeks wrote: Wed Sep 23, 2020 6:17 pmWhat is decisive is the motivation or intent of the individual. Whatever one follows or rejects, the decision is still that of the individual.
Here's the disagreement. Believing in autonomous decision is believing in self and 'I am'.
As said from the perspective of the sphere there is no dispute.

But it seems that this is going off topic because the theme in this section is Theravada buddhism.

:focus:
Exhaling अ and inhaling धीः amounts to བྷྲཱུཾ་བི་ཤྭ་བི་ཤུད་དྷེ
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