Saturday, August 9, 2014

Realizing Non-Arising from Dependent Origination

May 23 · South Brisbane

Loppon Namdrol/Malcolm in a dharma talk last week:

"If you look at the Mulamadhyamakakarikas, if you look at all of the treatises of

the great Madhyamika masters, you'll discover that the key thing they're all talking

about, the view, is not emptiness! This is the big mistake that people have. They

think, Buddhist view is emptiness. That's not true. The Buddhist view is non-

arising, and that is the consequence of Dependent Origination.

For example, in the sutta nipata, there is an arahat who achieved final Nirvana. He

passed away. And, someone goes to the Buddha and says, you know, where's that guy

now? And the Buddha said, it is not appropriate to talk about the non-existence of

something which has achieved cessation. There's nothing by which we can describe its

non-existence. This is a really interesting thing, because you see, Nagarjuna said

in the 15th chapter of the Mulamadhyamakakarika, he says, those that talk about

existence, non-existence, inherent existence and dependent existence have not

understood the truth of the Buddha's teachings.

If you can't find the existence or the non-existence of phenomenon, you have no

other conclusions but to conclude that they don't arise. When you can be in that

state of non-arising, you actually discover for yourself concretely, not left as an

intellectual posture, then you have some freedom. Then you should start to become a

little bit free from your emotional afflictions at that time. But if you think

everything is just empty, then you're going to be a little frustrated. Because

thinking that things are empty, and then (knocks the table) hitting something solid,

these things are totally contradictory.

But if you understand, first through analysis, then through meditative stability,

and you have some confidence that everything is non-arising, doesn't mean that

things don't appear... I'll give you an example of something which never arose yet

appears. Now, a lot of people they hear about illusionists in ancient India.

Actually what these illusionists were... because then they say a mantra over some

sticks and some clumps of mud and cloth, and then from that you see elephants and

princes and warriors, and these kinds of things. For those people who live in

Indonesia and nearby, who have been to Bali and seen like those Bali puppet shows,

where you know the person sits behind the screen and they have those sticks, and

they do the Ramayana and stuff like that... those illusionists are really properly

speaking should be translated as puppeteers.

The point is, there is an appearance of a tiger for example, or the appearance of an

elephant in a puppet show. And when you're there in a puppet show of course you'll

believe it, why do you believe it? Well it's just like watching a movie, you're

spontaneously suspending a disbelief. But for you, that tiger appears to arise, that

elephant appears to arise. It appears to be there. But in reality, it never arose.

There was never a tiger in that place, there was never an elephant in that place, or

a castle. You have to understand that this metaphor is how we can understand

dependent origination.

Through the dependent origination of all these causes and conditions, we have these

appearances which seem to arise. But when we examine them, we go to find them, we

are like thirsty animals chasing a mirage of water. No matter how close we get to

that mirage, still, there is nothing to drink. Ok, but there is an appearance. We

couldn't say there wasn't an appearance, but did water arise there? No. Water never

arose there. Ever. Not at any time.

So therefore we can understand, everything is just like that illusion. Everything

else is just like that mirage, that is what it means when we say, things never

arose. We can't find them. They appear, true, I'm not saying that things don't

appear, of course they appear. But what's their nature? Their nature is, they never

arose. That's why in the tantras it say, Emaho, the secret of all perfect Buddhas

is, Perfect Buddhas never arose. Everything never arose from the beginning, even

arising never arose. I mean, this is a beautiful statement, honestly. So, if you

understand this, if you have this understanding, then you have come to the limit of

the view. You have nothing more to investigate. But you have to do the work

yourself, you can't just listen to me waffle on about it, you have to do something


"'If emptiness by nature is realized, understand that there is no birth in samsara.'

So here he's saying that if you realize emptiness, this is freedom, this is

liberation. 'Similar to a reflection in the mirror, understand that the nature of

appearances is emptiness. Similar to a display seen in a dream, understand the

nature of emptiness is appearance.' So maybe we explain this a little bit. ' Similar

to a reflection in the mirror, understand that the nature of appearances is

emptiness.' that means that the appearances in a mirror have no substances, they're

unreal, just reflections. 'Similar to a display seen in a dream, understand the

nature of emptiness is appearance.' A dream is empty, there's nothing there, but

nonetheless things appear in a dream. So this is how we understand it. They're the

same metaphor but Jetsun Gyaltsen cleverly reverses them."

"Non-arising is the fundamental principle that Mahayana and Vajrayana teachings are

trying to get us to understand. And so if you understand that everything is non-

arising then you understand that birth, sickness, ageing and death never happened."
LikeLike ·

    Tan Jui Horng, Piotr Ludwinski, Russell Monsurate and 10 others like this.
    Soh Another good quote from the same talk:

    "Manjusri said, 'Whatever has arisen in dependence, has in truth, not arisen at

all.' So basically speaking, what we should understand is, and this by the way

incidentally is why Buddha's teaching on dependent origination is the key factor,

that differentiates it from other teachings. And emptiness for example that is not

derived from understanding dependent origination will not be correctly understood

emptiness. This is Really what Nagarjuna is trying to get across to people. If you

don't understand emptiness based on dependent origination, you can have the word

emptiness in your mouth, but it's going to be a conceptual emptiness. That

conceptual emptiness if you meditate on it, that's going to result in rebirth in one

of the formless ayatanas of 'everything is empty' because that is conceptual.

    See a lot of people think that emptiness is the big teaching of the Buddha, but

it's not. There were people before the Buddha that recognised there was emptiness,

that is why we have the formless ayatana of 'everything is empty'. What is unique to

the Buddha is understanding how to get to the view of emptiness without creating a

throwing karma in meditation that will impel you into one of these formless

ayatanas, one of these formless states where you stay hanging out for gazillions and

millions of aeons until you exhaust the merits and then immediately fall into avici

hell, where you stay for many more millions of aeons until you finally, slowly, work

your way out."
    May 23 at 6:32pm · Edited · Like · 4
    David Vardy Thinking about the next stop we forget the train will never arrive

    May 23 at 6:37pm · Like · 1
    John Ahn My criticism of this is:

    that somethings are, that they are existing, is not due to our believing

necessarily in their independence behind the appearance. But rather we believe in

the truth of existent things due to their consistency. That we cannot "find" things

is almost irrelevant to pointing out the illusoriness of appearances.

    Whether they are illusory or not is solely determined by the rigidity of their

functioning. That rigidity is why we come to believe in the truth of existing

appearances: that we consistently wake up to the same laws of physics, have a body

consistent with certain set of properties, and have continuous relationships with

same people is why we give this life the idea of realness.

    So see, the puppet show, the movie theater, etc. are all illusory not because

there is nothing behind the visual representations. They are illusory because we can

immediately change the consistency in those presentations. Like we can just walk out

of the theater on a whim, and whatever consistency within the movie is immediately

lost, just as waking up from a dream. Or in the puppet show the puppet master can

make the elephant fly on whim.
    May 23 at 7:03pm · Edited · Like · 1
    David Vardy That rigidity is a conceived background, something being compared to

what's ever appearing.
    May 23 at 7:10pm · Like
    John Ahn We can just merely have a foreground that has a very rigid

    May 23 at 7:12pm · Like
    David Vardy Sensing is the functioning while what appears to be happening as

content can look rigid at times I guess. Like the same mountain outside of my

window, hell, the window for that matter. But a double take can change that idea in

a second.
    May 23 at 7:15pm · Like
    David Vardy The program in many ways is very lazy, on autopilot. The theme after

all is about
    May 23 at 7:16pm · Like
    John Ahn Also the reasoning that appearance is illusory because they cannot be

"found" is a terribly weak point, since our immediate experience of finding can also

be considered an appearance manifesting. So it is like a man swimming under the

ocean trying to "feel" the shore. Since the method or tools of apparatus makes it

impossible for a particular discovery, it doesn't provide grounds for any

conclusion, besides that it is unable to be known.
    May 23 at 7:18pm · Edited · Like
    John Ahn ¥es, but I am saying the reality of the program is not due to the fact

there is or there isn't anything really behind it. It's due to its seemingly

unshakable principles.
    May 23 at 7:19pm · Edited · Like · 1
    David Vardy Now I see what you're saying.
    May 23 at 7:19pm · Like
    David Vardy Seemingly unshakable principles that are suspect because the theme

remains to be seeking.
    May 23 at 7:21pm · Like
    John Ahn i dont understand what you mean by theme remains to be seeking?
    May 23 at 7:23pm · Like
    David Vardy The dream theme. How we're featured in this. Constantly looking for

something beyond our means whether it be a better house or enlightenment. Reaching,

constantly reaching. Who cares about what's real. It's about getting satisfied.
    May 23 at 7:25pm · Like
    John Ahn Lol, sure, but then that's a different topic altogether. I just have

problem with the often repeated phrase like "it's dependently originated so it is

unarisen, illusory. And it is unarisen and illusory because it is dependently

originated. etc"
    May 23 at 7:27pm · Like
    David Vardy Yeah, me too. lol
    May 23 at 7:28pm · Like
    David Vardy It's not really a different topic though.
    May 23 at 7:28pm · Like
    David Vardy Look. Everything is in a glob of endless jello, distinguished by

someone who doesn't exist pointing out discrepancies while trying to find their

footing in the jello.
    May 23 at 7:32pm · Like
    David Vardy Meanwhile it's not melting.
    May 23 at 7:33pm · Like
    David Vardy Off to bed. Nght
    May 23 at 7:34pm · Like
    Mason Spransy I'm not entirely sure how teachings on emptiness/non-arising etc.

are not just fancy ways of talking about impermanence.
    May 23 at 11:23pm · Like · 1
    Soh The point really isn't about not finding whereabouts of things but

realizing what dependently originates is non arising, literally like reflections on

mirror is not something that arose or being created as something, or a dream vision,

or a movie, etc. No matter what shapes and colours appear on a movie screen, or a

dream castle, no castles are being created. None of the appearances amount to

anything. Nothing arose, nothing ceases, despite appearance.

    Heart sutra:

    "O Shariputra, all dharmas are marked with emptiness: they do not appear nor

disappear, are not tainted nor pure, do not increase nor decrease. "

    Gems From The Traditons
    O Shariputra, form does not differ from emptiness, emptiness does not differ

fro... See More
    May 24 at 12:04am · Edited · Like · 2 · Remove Preview
    Soh No, non-arising has nothing to do with seeing impermanence... you can

see impermanence and also conceive of arising/abiding/subsiding. Also it is not that

arising and subsiding are so quick as to be simultaneous... though some may think of

non-arising that way, that is not the sort of non-arising that is being spoken here.

Here it is talking about seeing that dependently originated appearances never arise

or amount to anything

    "No body, no mind, no dependent origination, no nothing, no something, no birth,

no death. Profoundly deconstructed and emptied! Just vivid shimmering appearances as

Primordial Suchness in one whole seamless unobstructed-interpenetration."
    May 24 at 12:07am · Edited · Like · 4
    Greg Goode Soh , thanks. This is a very good way to look at it. Nagarjuna and

the other Indian Madhyamakas hardly ever mention emptiness or anatta by name. This

helps us avoid fetishizing it and grasping onto it. Helps us not create a view or

position and become "incurable"!
    May 24 at 12:20am · Unlike · 3
    Mason Spransy Nagarjuna deconstructs a number of different possible

understandings of svabhava, but it is a non-implicative negation... i.e. he does not

propose a view of emptiness, but simply deconstructs various views of svabhava.

    So basically, the teachings on emptiness help us to end conceptual

proliferation, particularly related to the projection of self-nature, causality, or


    What I am meaning to say is that the Buddha of the Pali discourses already did

this through the teaching of impermanence. Through the observation of impermanence,

no practitioner can ultimately hold to any conceptual imputation of self-nature.

    You say that one could still conceive of something arising or something passing

away, but that would be a shallow level of practice with regards to observing

impermanence. As we go deeper, all objectivity is abandoned.

    For example: if you are watching the impermanence of a stream of water, you will

first notice that the water in the stream is moving. This is a shallow observation,

and would be, as you say, conceiving of something arising and something passing

away. But as we continue in our observation, we will start to notice a subtler and

more thorough impermanence: there is a splash of water here, a changing shade of

blue over there, a fish swimming here, a bubbling sound over there. In other words,

the objectivity of "stream" begins to break down.

    When we get to the point of seeing that every single component of the stream is

impermanent, there is no longer a "stream", just an insubstantial flow of

sensations. And Nagarjuna will not lead you to a deeper understanding or liberation

than this. That is what I'm saying.
    May 24 at 1:13am · Edited · Like
    Greg Goode There is a lot that Nagarjuna's treatise can add to the understanding

of impermanence.

    It can conceivably correct one's understanding of impermanence itself. One may

think that impermanence has self-nature. One may think impermanence exists

inherently. One may think that impermanent things are inherently impermanent in a

self-natured way. One may think that impermanence is independent from phenomena. One

may think that impermanence is inherently impermanent or inherently permanent.

    One may think that impermanence applies to compounded phenomena but perhaps not

to consciousness or causality or abstract objects and relations (I.e., one might be

a Platonist about those kinds of non-physical phenomena).

    These are all extreme views, and Madhyamika can help.

    The various insights from Madhyamika can add a great deal of depth and

thoroughness to our wisdom and Buddhist practice, depending on where we're coming

from when we engage it.
    May 24 at 3:12am · Edited · Unlike · 6
    Mason Spransy Yes, I am not critiquing the profundity or usefulness of

Madhyamaka. I'm simply pointing out that thorough insight into impermanence amounts

to the same thing.
    May 24 at 3:26am · Like
    Greg Goode Same? Different? In what respect? I'm not sure what a claim like that

amounts to in practical terms. There are monastic colleges that see impermanence and

Madhyamika as sufficiently different that Madhyamika must be taught as its own topic

- the teachers don't expect teachings on impermanence to do all the soteriological

work that teaching on Madhyamika will provide. And their definitions of impermanence

and emptiness do not overlap or map to each other 100%.

    But I wouldn't say that they are inherently different either.....
    May 24 at 4:10am · Edited · Like · 2
    Mason Spransy It is true that the teaching on impermanence will not cover all

the territory that a teaching on emptiness will cover, or vice versa.

    What I said was that a "thorough insight" into impermanence amounts to the same

- this is not about a teaching or a concept, but the fruition of practice.
    May 24 at 4:29am · Like · 1
    Greg Goode I think I'm getting a better idea of what you mean, thanks.

    Would you say the same thing about other distinctions among Buddhist practice-

types in terms of fruition? Such as Vipassana vs Jnana vs Dzogchen vs Vajrayana vs

Pure Land?
    May 24 at 4:38am · Edited · Like · 1
    Tommy McNally "Thorough insight" into anicca is not the same as through insight

into non-arising, it was through impermanence that I came to the Dharma and only

later realized anatta which was a very, very different type of experience and far

more thorough in its cutting through. Impermanence is only one of the seals, if it's

realization were the same as anatta or dukkha then it would make no sense to

differentiate. Sure, ultimately there's no differentiation, but in practice and

experience each of the three seals has a different 'feel' to it. My two mongolian

    May 24 at 5:01am · Unlike · 3
    Mason Spransy Greg, I really have no idea whether all the different schools and

practices have a similar result. I'm just interested in talking about impermanence

and emptiness at the moment.

    Tommy, what is your take on the relation of the three seals to emptiness/non-

    May 24 at 5:11am · Like
    Kyle Dixon There is coarse and subtle impermanence. Coarse impermanence being

the flow of arising and ceasing in coarse relative, conditioned objects which are

enduring in time. And subtle impermanence being made apparent through recognizing

the non-arising of the conditioned.
    May 24 at 7:50am · Like
    Greg Goode And there are some things like emptiness in general and unobstructed

space, that are empty and NOT impermanent..... (according to the Gelugs...)
    May 24 at 8:48am · Like · 1
    Gonçalo Moreira Greg, the category of permanent but empty things is an

interesting topic
    May 24 at 9:06am · Like
    Greg Goode Yes, even though it's not exactly things. In that system, emptiness

is an absence - an absence of inherent nature. It is able to be known through

inference and also directly, non-conceptually, through yogic direct cognition.

    The emptiness of any phenomenon can be realized. These emptinesses are objects

of cognition.

    As long as there are objects, or lacks of objects, there are emptinesses. In a

universe there will never be an absolute, utter lack of stuff to be empty. For even

an empirical absence is empty (not self established). So a universe will never be

devoid of emptinesses even if it lacks other stuff.

    So in that way, it's not one big amorphous emptiness that is permanent, but

emptiness "in general," which amounts to an empirical generalization across various

emptinesses of different kinds of phenomena.

    That is a very scholastic approach, and it goes along with the Gelugpas' idea of

conventional, kaleidoscopic, illusion-like existents which lack inherent, true

existence. And of course "emptiness" is one of those conventional existents, nominal

only, simply a term used for non-arising, non-findability.
    May 24 at 12:54pm · Unlike · 3
    Matt James We can experience emptiness-- any experience is an experience of

emptiness. Emptiness reveals itself in experience. But does non-arising, or is non-

arising simply a thought?
    May 25 at 1:18am · Like

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