Talk 5 Nagajuna DKR
How to solve the problem of sentient beings. The underlying problem that sentient beings have is, that suffering comes from thinking that things truly exist. Believing that things truly exist.
WARNING – these are just notes on the talk, written by a confused being; best to watch the talk itself.
Again, we can come back to it’s easy to accept that the dream elephant does not exist. And in olden times there was something called the Seven Reasoning of the Chariot, or the Seven Chariot of Reasoning, which was basically some idea of disassembling and deconstructing a chariot. What makes a chariot? Is it the wheels? Is it the steering?
Is it the axles? When is a chariot not a chariot? When is it just made up of parts? And that we have a concept for chariot. He points out we could talk about a car today.
What makes a car? The engine, the wheels, the steering? And there’s a slight sense there, that you get it, it’s not just an academic exercise, but that the concept of car is a powerful thing. And just deconstructing what it means to be a car kind of provides some insight into how we solidify the world. So again, it’s easy to see that the dream elephant doesn’t exist, at least when we’re not dreaming it.
But it’s harder to see that the car doesn’t exist. It’s harder to see that self does not truly exist. If self does not truly exist, then God does not truly exist. Nations do not truly exist. Political parties and systems do not truly exist.
Morality does not truly exist. And other constructs don’t exist, even our so called, higher values, integrity or honesty or morality or kindness or something, they don’t truly exist either. It’s all constructs based on dependent arising. So we get into the idea of two truths, the relative and the ultimate or the absolute truth. And that the path to Nirvana. The path and Nirvana cessation and so on does not truly exist.
So this is happening in the ultimate view or the absolute view that these things do not truly exist at the same time they appear to exist relatively.
The Tibetan word for meditation is something like namchak. namchak, where nam means equanimity. Chak is leave it alone. So, there’s equanimity that simply let be. Nothing is deleted, nothing is added, nothing to accept, nothing to add.
Just let it be.
Then there’s some discussion about language and how language is completely inadequate really to discuss ultimate truth and to some degree even relative truth. Language is so narrow and it’s inadequate to talk about truth. But at the same time, truth is not something exotic. As has been said, truth is closer than the tip of our nose. We do suffer, and we suffer from uncertainty is one of the big underlying sufferings.
He doesn’t talk about it here, but it’s a reflection on the pain of pain, all pervasive pain, pain of alteration. And so this uncertainty is one of the qualities, it seems, of all pervasive pain, that there’s always something not quite right. You could die. And as he says, also while you’re at the seminar, your teenage girl could be getting pregnant or you could discover that your son has determined that he’s gay and we just never know what’s going to happen. There’s a lot of uncertainty and somehow this is some kind of background noise that we’re never quite settled or we’re mostly not quite settled, however fundamentally we are.
So we have path. Path is not true path. It’s the finger, not the moon. So he keeps kind of coming back around to that, even though there’s all these Buddhists teachings on karma, path, impermanence, so forth. Still it’s the finger pointing at the moon, not the moon, which of course is the analogy of the child mistaking the grandmother pointing at the moon and thinking the moon was her finger.
And then he talks a little bit about being in I don’t know where they are. Somewhere in Nepal or Kathmandu or I don’t know, but somewhere over there where there’s yogis rolling around. A lot of people who are supposedly not doing, supposedly letting it be doing the not doing, but really not doing is one of the hardest things, while at the same time it’s as close as the tip of your nose.
So he sort of makes fun of apparently a lot of people. Then he talks about if you’re in prison and you need to get out, you have to go through the prison door, even though the prison door is yucky and you don’t want to relate to the prison door. But to get out of prison, once you’re inside, you do have to go through the door. And then he talks about how we need to use language. So somehow I’m not sure, but I think he’s equating language to the prison door and it’s not really totally workable.
But at the same time, it’s all we have. And that truth is inexpressible. Path is a technique we have and we don’t want to confuse relative truth and absolute truth. We can’t use one to justify the other. And then he says, in absolute truth, there is no relative truth.
We can only talk from relative truth. We can only talk in relative truth. But again, ultimately there is no nirvana, there is no path. Relative truth is very subjective. Consensus does not confirm reality, which we know very well.
Relative truth is also, you may say, well, if everything is empty, why am I suffering? Because you can’t use analysis of ultimate truth to contradict relative truth.
You can use relative truth to deconstruct relative truth or perception of relative truth, but you can’t just say nothing exists, and so forth. And then again, warnings about nihilism or ignoring karma, because as long as there’s relative reality, well, then karma applies. So it’s a kind of tricky Catch 22 situation.
And he goes on to talk about you can’t say how did the elephant get into the small room? He gave an analogy of dreaming an elephant when you’re in a tiny room which barely holds you, it couldn’t possibly hold an elephant. But in the dream, the elephant is in the small room. So you have to distinguish between relative truth and absolute truth.
Then he throws a zinger in there.
Even more confusing, actually, there is no absolute truth beyond relative truth. He doesn’t elaborate, and I have no idea if I have any idea what he’s talking about.
So we get back to – the buddha never said there is a truly existing Samsara to be abandoned, but that knowing there is no truly existing Samsara is Nirvana.
Truly arising, truly ending don’t exist. And so the question comes up, and apparently there’s some debate in the text about different schools addressing this, and maybe it was the Shravakas who kind of reached, according to Nagarjuna, the erroneous conclusion that enlightenment is a true end to Samsara. Nagarjuna says that that’s not the case because there is no truly existing Samsara.
And he goes on to say that if you say the elephant is gone at the end of your dream, , if you say that the elephant is gone when the dream ends. then that means the elephant existed in the dream. But we know that the elephant never actually existed, that it was just a dream elephant. So you can’t say that Samsara is ended, because that would imply that there is a truly existing Samsara.
Then he talks about shrugging off baggage, crossing the ocean of Samsara. And there’s a lot of sutras and teachings that use this kind of language, and it could make you think that there is a truly existing cessation. And you are saying that there is a truly existing end, which implies there was a truly existing Samsara, which of course is like the elephant in the dream, that the whole Samsaric experience is nonexistent. Also, Buddha, one of the names of the Buddha is beyond view, beyond extreme views.
And one of the Lions Roar teachings is that there is no such thing as truly existing beginning or end because of dependent arising. when ordinary beings. When they hear that things exist because of cause and condition, it confirms the reality or the truly existing nature of existence, because there’s some kind of logic, because of causes and causes and conditions, there’s a truly existing reality. But when a Madhyamika person hears that something arises due to cause and condition, that’s proof of non-arising. Again, I suppose, because the causes and conditions are not truly existing.
Then he talks about it’s like looking in a mirror. You look in the mirror and you accept that the image in the mirror does not truly exist.
It’s not you. It’s not what you’re seeing in the mirror. You readily accept that. But whatever’s in the mirror has not arisen. It is like a dream, it’s like a mirage, it’s like a reflection.
So we keep coming back to that’s, the view that we should be recognizing that there is no beginning, there is no end, there is no nonexistence, and there is no non nonexistence.
And then he talks about, well, if you close your eyes, is he still there? And that you think he’s still there because of your mind, through projection to the past, you just see that he’s there. And then you could also project forward that he’ll become an old man and walk with a cane and so forth. But for many people, he did not exist a month ago, even though he exists. And now you close your eyes, while you’re looking at him speaking, you have confidence that there’s still a truly existing Dzongsar Rinpoche.
But then for many people there at the seminar, a month ago, he didn’t exist. There was no Dzongsar Rinpoche, or ten years ago. They had no idea that he even existed. And then some people are looking at him now, and they may think that he’s Brahma or Krishna, but it’s just a projection of mind that he’s whatever you perceive him as, and you’re perceiving him at that time, but it’s never going to be What is him. so dependent arising means, from a yogi’s point of view, not truly arising.
So then, an interesting kind of explanation of a magician creating a woman. He uses the term woman on stage, and the woman comes into existence, and then the woman dies in the magic act, and there’s some sadness and so forth.
So for the audience, there’s all this emotion of the woman being born and being beautiful, and then she dies. And it’s very sad. But from the magician’s point of view, (we’re just talking about showmanship magician).
of course, the woman never truly arose from nowhere and never truly died. And the magician and the magician’s assistant knows this, and the woman who’s in the act knows this. But from the point of view of the audience, there’s Samsara, the woman’s arising and dying, suffering, attachement. From the magician’s point of view, that’s like the yogi or the path dweller point of view, where you know, it’s just an act, it’s just an illusion. There’s really no birth and no suffering. You are seeing it happen but you know it’s not real
But for the audience, it’s like Samsara, it seems real. You believe it.
And then there’s the ice cream vendor who’s not even watching the show. So for the ice cream vendor, there is no birth, there’s no death, there’s no suffering. And that’s like the Buddha.
So again, anything dependently arising is not truly arising. And just the idea that it’s dependent arising is kind of the proof that it never arose. Nirvana is not truly existing. Cessation is not truly existing. Nothing truly arises or ceases.
So why talk about it all? why is there suffering? And he simply points out, because you are suffering. Because there is. He doesn’t go into the specifics, but there is the pain of pain, there is pain of alteration, there is all pervasive pain. We feel it, but it is not truly existing.
So something needs to be said.
If you hear a little bit about birth and arising, you also know a lot about death and cessation. So impermanence is a big headliner, but impermanence, contemplating impermanence is not the final answer, because even that “impermanence” is not impermanent , because even impermanence does not truly exist (another rattling toy) nothing is impermanent, because nothing truly exists.
And then he talks about this idea of a rattling toy. We need something to capture our attention and lead us on. He says, if a child is about to fall off a cliff, where you can’t explain to the child, if you fall off the cliff, you’re going to fall down and hit the rocks and it’s going to be painful and you’re going to die, and blah, blah, blah, you can’t say that, the child is about to walk off the cliff.
You can take a rattling toy and try to attract the attention of the child. So again, impermanence is not true. Impermanence is just a rattling toy to teach you there is Samsara.
I have to tell you, that Samsara is suffering, which is just another rattling toy. Even the Buddha and the whole story of the Buddha being born and going through his path, it’s just a sophisticated rattling toy because you are the baby who is about to fall off the cliff.