DKR, Nagajuna 60 verses Madhyamika talk 2

Warning: what is to follow are just the babblings of someone discussing these talks with others. They are posted here mostly to keep Google happy and that someone may stumble upon the talk by Dzongsar Rinpoche and benefit from it.

As someone else commented, it seemed like it might be old hat. I guess I was glad that it was old hat and that the Dharma has not actually changed.

After that I was again confounded, challenged, impressed or frustrated by the subtlety of Madhyamika. This elusive thing of form and emptiness not being separate and things being actually unreal yet apparent. But again in his wily way Mr. Dzongsar began to cast his spell.

After getting people to define “existence” and “truly” and commending many people on their definitions, he points out they were all good, because they were vague. When we actually try to nail down what it means to exist, it is not that easy, and it turns out it is always somewhat subjective.

As he weaves his web and starts to undermine our sense of certainty and sureness, he kind of starts with ghosts, god, and Rolexs. While many people won’t get in too big of an argument as to if ghosts exist or not (some will), MANY people might get hot and bothered as to if god exists or not. 

Then he springs the real clanger, do we exist? Do I exist, does “me” exist? While it may all seem simple, cute, or clever or pointless, in my own experience “something starts to happen”.  These questions alone begin to undermine the sense of certainty or smugness that may reside in us. While he may not be giving answers, the grasp of fixed-mind is beginning to be loosened. Maybe, probably subtlety whether we admit it or not.

We start to get the inkling that even things we can feel, hear, touch, see are still only perceived by “something”, something we can’t quite put our finger on. And intuitively we also know that feeling, hearing, touching and seeing are all dependent on this body, that we also intuitively know will simply be dust or smoke someday, maybe someday very soon.

So “exists” is also not defined by consensus.

So the question is; why have the right view? The simple answer is not having the right view leads to suffering.

Seemingly according to Nagajuna existence is something that has an origin, it abides or dwells and it has an end or cessation.

So we get back to this “dependent arising” thing, which seems to be important. That everything arises due to causes and conditions, if the right causes and conditions exist without obstacles then things apparently come into existence, but also anything that arises from dependent arising does not truly  exist, only apparently exists.

Why is this?

It seems because of the view. Or the correct view of so-called reality. That reality itself does not truly exist, but as long as we don’t actually hold the view, then from one point of view we should treat reality as if it was real, but then on the other hand this is what leads to suffering. A tricky situation.  

While it seems moot or just some psychological game, it actually is the foundation of truly seeing things as they are.  Somehow through the accumulation of merit as well as examination of these kinds of thoughts the solidity seems to soften. Things like exchanging self for other, making offerings, doing sadhana practice whittle away at our primitive beliefs about reality and the emptiness of form, feeling, perception and so on becomes more apparent.  But maybe not in the ways we expect.

statue of Buddha

He mentions the child with a toy gun, the child BELIEVES the gun (or doll or airplane) is real. Not in the way we think about it, like if you asked him/her/it if was real, they may admit it is not, but while they are playing with it, it is as real as any other “reality”, but eventually the child “sees through” it, that the toy gun (doll, airplane) is not real, and it is simply naturally renounced or abandon. 

It seems similarly we hold many things to be “real” or to “exist” when it fact we may outgrow them, or change our view of some strongly held belief, It kind of simply evaporates at that point.  We no longer see it as real and in some way we see that it was never real. Even at the level of fake kunsup or real kunsup, we may see a rope and think it is a snake, and even be fearful, but once we see that it is actually just a rope, the “illusion” simply vanishes, along with any fear there may have been. Things are somewhat slippery.

So the dream analogy, the usual analogy is that the dream seems real when it’s happening, but more than that if we dreamed an ocean in the dream, at the end of the dream, the ocean does not go away or ceases to exist, but the ocean never existed in the first place. Which brings us sort of to the conclusion that there is actually no  truly  existing samsara and also not truly  existing nirvana. The old not samsara, but not not-samsara, and not even not not not-samsara (or nirvana) but truly non arising, nothing whatever but everything arises from it, without beginning or end.

So obviously none of this is actually understandable with conceptual mind, but has to do with something pre-basic split or co-joined in form is emptiness, emptiness is form. But again, beyond concept and therefore beyond conceptual mind to reconcile. But somehow the process of trying to reconcile it brings insight or genuine prajna “sees” reality, things as they are shunyata or whatever.  I must say it is all very confusing but illuminating at the same time.

So he more or less finishes with: Those who think things exist go to heaven and those who think things don’t exist go to hell.  The crux of this seems to be the profound danger of nihilism which we have been ward about in the past, the old pretending to see absolute truth when one is actually completely stuck in the relative world.

In any case, hence why Shantideva says it is okay to believe in enlightenment (as well as karma, and merit and path) for now.  As until we are actually seeing things as they are, we are still living in a dualistic mode and hence there is good and bad, happy and sad, suffering, pain karma, etc.

  hmmm  the great switch a roo echoes somewhere,  but unless it is actually taking place then path, karma, merit and “reality” are still very real and relevant. Just on reflection is seems so absurd that someone who is actually seeing the empty nature of reality would feel the need to tell someone that.


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