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Buddhist Reasoning

The Five Methods of Analysis
from "Contemplating Reality"

The analysis of the nature shows that phenomena are neither one thing or many things.

A desk has parts, so it can't be one thing. But it can't be many things, because it is only one
desk, not many desks. If the desk truly exists, it has to exist as one thing or many things
since these two are mutually exclusive. Therefore "desk" is just a concept imputed on mere
appearance. It has no nature or essence of its own. If you break down the parts, you can't
find any single solid units like a building block that a thing is made up of, so it's not many
things either, because you can't find any "thing" there as a basis for many "things". It is
devoid of real unity and plurality. It is only an appearance, like a reflection in a mirror. The
same goes for time (Aryadeva):

See how an instant has an end,

And likewise a beginning and a middle.
Because an instant is in turn three instants,
Momentariness is not the nature of the world.

The analysis of causes or the vajra sliver reasoning

If an object exists, it must have a beginning. It is produced and dependent on a cause.

Appearances are not refuted. What is refuted is any basis for the appearances. If there is
production, then it has to be from one of the following:

from itself,
from something else,
from both itself and something else
from neither, without a cause

There is no other fifth possibility. You might feel that arising does not have to be logically
justified at all since it is an observable fact, but that is not the case. Arising is a concept that
we superimpose on direct experience. It's not directly perceived. Although phenomena are
successive, one condition arising out of another, nevertheless the actual arising can never be
discovered. We are not refuting that appearances arise in a predictable, consistent way. We
are investigating whether there is any basis or nature to these appearances.

To say that something arises from itself is meaningless, because it already exists. If
something arises from itself, it would arise endlessly, because its causes would always be
present. If something arises from itself, then causes would produce results that are the same
as themselves, but this is not what we observe. Causes and results are not the same thing.

"Other" means that the two things are truly different. They are distinct entities. If something
arises from causes that are different from itself, it would have the same relationship to its
causes and non-causes alike. If things truly exist as distinct entities, and they arise from
something other than themselves, then anything could arise as anything, because all are
equally other. If a cause truly exists, it would be distinct from, independent from, unconnected
to the result. So then how could it bring about the result? A cause cannot produce a result if
the two exist at the same time. Without being simultaneously present, how can causes and
results be said to be either the same or different from each other? Since the cause ceases as
the result appears, any potential in the cause would cease with it. It cannot be said that the
cause's potential transfers to the result, because for that to happen, they would have to exist
simultaneously. You might think that the cause has the power to produce the result because
they are in the same continuum, but continua are just imputed by thought and have no true
existence. They are like the water in a river that looks the same but constantly changes.

When you contemplate the arising from both self and other, all the logical flaws of both are
still present when you combine them, so arising from both is impossible.

If things arise causelessly, then everything would always be present, or else nothing would
ever be present. This is because causes and non-causes would be equally capable or
incapable of producing results. That thing arise sometimes, and at other times do not shows
that things arise when their causes and conditions gather. They do not arise causelessly. If
things arise causelessly, there would be no reason to expect any results from our actions.

When we analyze is these four ways, we can see that anything definite about arising can't be
found. The appearance of arising is not in question, but its true existence is. Milarepa said:

What defines appearance is that they've never been born.

If birth seems to happen it's just clinging, nothing more.
What defines samsara is its lack of a base or root.
If there is a base or root, that only a thought.

The analysis of the result

If things truly exist, then they must either exist at the time of their causes or not exist at the
time of their causes, or both, or neither. Make a sound. If the sound truly exists, then before
you produced it, it must have been existing, not existing, both, or neither. If it is none of
these, the sound is merely an appearance with no base or root.

When two things exist at the same time, one cannot produce the other, because the other
already exists: it need no further production. When two things do not exist at the same time,
one cannot produce the other, because it cannot act upon something that is non-existent.
Another reason is that phenomena are momentary, therefore the first one will cease before
the second one arises.

Perhaps the cause exists first and continues to exist as the result is produced. However,
there is no transition period in between where the result is only in the process of coming into
existence and the cause is in the process of going out of existence, where the cause and
result could interact. Things either exist or they do not. They can't "sort of" exist.

How can something that is non-existent become something that is existent? You can have
the idea of the sound before it is produced, but that is only a thought, not the sound itself.
Likewise, you can have the idea that the sound went from non-existence to existence, but that
is also just a thought. We won't find anything that corresponds to it. The only thing we can
say is that while the sound appears, it is appearing, and while it is not appearing, it is not.
Therefore sound is merely an appearance.

It is impossible for results to be both existing and not existing, because these two are
mutually exclusive, and the same is true when it comes to something being neither existing
nor not existing.

The analysis of both causes and results says that if causes and results truly exist, then
one of the following must apply:

One cause produces one result

One cause produces many results
Many causes produces one result
Many causes produces many results.

One cause cannot produce one result, because there are a lot of intervening results before a
sprout appears. One cause cannot produce many results, because it takes more than one
cause to produce something. Besides the seed, there must be water, sun, dirt, etc for a
sprout to come about. Many causes can't produce one result because of the many
intervening results. Many causes cannot produce many results, because, since causes and
results can be infinitely subdivided, no definite connections can be established between any
one cause and any one result.

This analysis shows that the appearance of causality is merely imputed. Genuine reality is
free from these concepts. Therefore, causes, results, and phenomena do not truly exist. This
reasoning shows that karma is more subtle and complex than we imagine. it is only confused
conceptuality that divides up the expanse of reality into single causes producing single

The analysis of interdependence

The first four reasonings eliminate the extreme of existence. This fifth reason eliminates both
the extremes of existence and non-existence. This reasoning says that if things truly exist,
they would have to exist independently, from their own side, but since they are
interdependent, they do not truly exist. Because they are interdependent, they are not non-
existent. They appear depending on their causes and conditions.

Arising always depends on a perceiver. One can suppose that there is something that isn't
being perceived, but such a thing can never be found. The sound of a tree falling in a forest
with no one to hear it is just a thought. From the perspective of genuine reality, trees do not
fall in forests, because threes and forests are just conceptual imputations and do not exist
from their own side. Whatever phenomena we may conceive of is just that, a concept, and
they simply do not exist independently of our concepts about them.

Phenomena are dependent on causes and conditions to arise. Nothing arises from truly
existent causes, yet phenomena do appear when appropriate causes and conditions gather.
These causes and conditions depend on other causes and conditions, and cannot be traced
back to anything independent. This network of dependence is limitless. Since no truly
existent cause for them can be found, they do not truly exist. Nagarjuna:

If something exists in dependence upon something else,

But that thing upon which it depends
Must also depend upon it,
Then which one of these exists in dependence upon which?

The analysis of interdependence shows that empty causes produce empty results. But they
do appearin a dream-like way. Nagarjuna explained that if things were not empty and truly
existed from their own side with their own nature, they would be permanent and could never
change. Therefore arising would be impossible. From The Fundamental Wisdom of the
Middle Way:

If emptiness is possible,
Then everything is possible.
But if emptiness is impossible,
Then nothing else is possible either.

Another way to look at the interdependence of phenomena is in terms of their characteristics.

Something is only small if there is something large. A certain size is imputed in dependence
on its opposite. Characteristics do not exist independently, without comparison.

"Other" is dependent on "self". I am "me", but for you, I am "other".


Whatever is dependently arisen

Is explained to be emptiness.
Its existence is imputed in dependence upon something else,
And this is the path of the Middle Way.


Here on Kunsal Rinchen Drak, the precious peak where all is clear,
I remember appearances are examples of impermanence.
I see sense pleasure as a mirage, this life like a dream and an illusion.
And I cultivate compassion for all who do not know this.
I eat the food of empty space, I meditate without distraction.
I have different experiences, just about anything can happen!
E ma, the phenomena of the three realms of samsara,
While not existing, they appear, how incredibly amaing!

The Sevenfold Reasoning of Chandrakirti

There is no self other than the skandhas. If the self is the same as the skandhas, there would
be many selves. If the self was only the mind, there would still be many selves, since there
are many divisions within the mind (eye consciousness etc.) One could think that the self is
the collection of the skandhas, but as discussed, this would be only an imputation. The self
as a continuum doesn't work, since there is no truly existing continuum.

Just as mind is not understood to be inexpressible in relation to the body,

Things which exist are not inexpressible.
Therefore, if the self existed as a thing,
It, like mind, would not be inexpressible.

There are four ways we take the skandas to be the self:

1. Thinking that we are the phenomena, "This ___ is me."

2. Thinking that we possess the phenomena, "This is my ___."
3. Thinking that we are supported by the phenomena, "I exist based on ___."
4. Thinking that the phenomena is supported by us, "___ exists based on me."

Because the ego is imputed in very flexible ways, it is very durable. It is constantly recasting
itself, and yet it covers all the gaps. One moment "I" is the thinker; the next moment "I" has a
headache; the next moment "I" is an ear consciousness; and next "my" confusion
overwhelms me. It is a very flexible system of constantly changing views with a continuous
underlying feeling of its own existence. To the list of four, we can add three more to make
seven (Chandrakirti):

"In order to clarify what has been explained for the sake of establishing that the self is merely
an imputation, I sill show and explain an example external to the person. A chariot is neither
asserted to be other than its parts (1), nor not other (2), it is not asserted to possess them (3).
It is not in the parts (4) nor are the parts in it (5). It is not the mere collection (6) for is it their
shape (7)."

1.The phenomenon imputed is not inherently the same as its bases of imputation. If the
person and the aggregates are one entity, the person would merely be synonyms of
aggregates or of one of the aggregates. Or, there would be as many selves as there are
aggregates. Or, since the aggregates have the attributes of production and disintegration, the
person would have the same attributes, and the person would die when the aggregates

2. The phenomenon imputed is not inherently different from its bases of imputation. If the
person and the aggregates which are the bases of imputation are inherently different, then,
since they are also simultaneous, they must be unrelatedly different. If this is so, then:

a. The person would not have the characteristecs of the aggregates in question. Here,
characteristics refers to production, cessation and abiding--attributes shared by all
impermanent phenomena. In the gross sense of production and cessation this would lead to
the absurdity that the person would not be born and would not die.

b. In the subtle sense of production and cessation this would mean that the person would
have to be a permanent phenomenon, a non-product. It would then follow that it would not be
suitable to impute the person to the aggregates. The person would be changeless, whereas
its bases of imputation would be in constant disintegration and change.
c. Furthermore, if the person were inherently different from the aggregates which are his
bases of imputation, he would have to be apprehendable separate from them. A self which
had a different character from the aggregates would have to be apprehendable without the
apprehension of the aggregates just as the aggregates, which all have different characters,
can all be apprehended separately. Such as self would not be able to know, experience and
so on as the aggregates do, or, if it did, its knowledge and the knowledge of the mental
aggregates which are its bases of imputation would be unrelated.

3. The phenomenon imputed is not dependent on its bases of imputation. A simile is like a
lion in a forest (the self in the aggregates). The reasoning of the second point is applicable

4. The phenomena imputed is not the support upon which its bases of imputation are
dependent. The simile is the forest in the snow. The reasoning of the second point is again
applicable here.

5. The phenomenon imputed does not possess its bases of imputation. If one possesses the
aggregates in the manner of someone possessing his own head, just what is it that is
performing the action of possessing? The reasoning for this is along the lines of the first
reasoning. If one possesses one's head as if possessing a cow, then this person is a different
entity from one's head. The reasoning is along the lines of the second point.

6. The phenomena imputed is not the mere collection of its bases of imputation. A pile of
parts doesn't necessarily make a chariot. This follows the reasoning of the first point.

7. The phenomena imputed is not the shape of its bases of imputation. If the person were
both the shape of his body and his consciousness, there would be two persons. If all the
parts are assembled, but something essential is missing, the mere shape of a car doesn't
make it a car if it won't start.

Since the self is not a thing, it is neither changing nor unchanging,

It is not born and it does not die,
It is neither permanent, impermanent, both, nor neither,
And it is neither the same nor different from the aggregates.

Wandering beings constantly cling to some basis as being "me",

And then conceive of other things as being "mine."
The self that they have imagined and that is renowned in the world
Exists only when there is no analysis; the thought of it arises from bewilderment.

If there is no actor, there is no object of action.

Therefore, if there is no self, there is nothing that could be said to belong to the self.
Seeing the emptiness of "me" and "mine"
The yogis are completely liberated.

Zhentong Madhyamika

The purpose of the path is to reveal buddhahood, not to create it. From this perspective, it
does not make sense to say that buddhahood is produced by journeying along the path. If
buddhahood was a product, it would be something compounded and subject to decay.

Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso: "The purpose of teaching the Tathagatagarbha is the give the
meditator confidence that he already has buddha nature. Without such confidence, it is very
difficult to fully rest the mind free from all conceptual contrivance, because there is always a
subtle tendency to try to remove or achieve something."

Uttaratantra: A precious treasure is contained in each being's mind. This is its true state,
which is free from defilement. Nothing is to be added and nothing to be removed.

The three reasons beings have buddha nature according to Uttaratantra are:
1. The expanse of reality is completely pervaded by buddha wisdom, so there can be no other
basis for sentient beings.
2. This wisdom is primordially free from duality, so nothing is outside it.
3. All beings wish to escape suffering and attain peace, so all have a disposition toward

Being subtle, it is not an object for study.

Being absolute, it cannot be reflected upon.
Dharmata is deep, hence it is not an object
For any worldly meditation, and so on.

All of these involve conceptuality. The only way to experience wisdom mind is to let the mind
rest in its own nature.

The nature of mind is not mere emptiness, but luminosity and emptiness inseparable.
Luminosity-emptiness is sometimes referred to as emptiness endowed with the supreme of all
characteristics. This presentation on zhentong is based on Jamgon Kongtrul's Treasure of

"It is explained clearly that sutras teaching that all phenomena have no inherent nature
(nihsvabhava, ngo bo nyid med pa) are not to be taken literally. Anyone who accepts such
statements as literal is a propounder of nihilism."

Genuine reality is not empty of non-dual wisdom. Conceptual elaborations are the other that
"empty of other" refers to. Mipham points out that it is necessary to assert self-aware
wisdom, otherwise it is impossible to explain the basis for realization, the kayas, or buddha

Chittamatrins say that the perfectly existent nature is the dependent nature free from the
imaginary nature, that this pure dependent nature is consciousness. Zhentongpas say that
the perfectly existent nature is not consciousness but wisdom, and that it is free from both the
dependent nature and the imaginary nature. "The imaginary and dependent aspects are
apparent reality."

Conventionally, the imaginary nature does not exist, but the dependent nature does.
Conventionally, the perfectly existent nature does not exist, as it cannot be experienced by a
conventional mind. Ultimately, the perfectly existent nature does exist - it knows itself by

The imaginary nature exists nominally as a name or a sign. The dependent nature exists
substantially as mere appearance. The perfectly existent nature exists as the basic ground
from which the dependent nature arises. The imaginary nature is empty as a non-existent.
The dependent nature is empty as an existent, appears but is empty of self-nature. The
perfectly existent nature is ultimate emptiness, and can never be established as anything.
The imaginary nature lacks any inherent characteristics. The dependent nature is the
inherent absence of arising. The perfectly existent nature is the ultimate absence of essence
- it cannot be grasped by any concept.

From Tony Duff's "Theory and Practice of Other Emptiness Taught Through Milarepa's Songs"

From The Unravelling the Intent Sutra: But then the Bhagavat...turned with its precise
distinctions the extremely amazing and wondrous third dharma wheel. This turning of the
dharma wheel by the Bhagavat was not surpassed, was not temporary, was definitive
meaning so could not be a ground for debate.

The Buddha said that the third turning sutras are definitive. Jamgon Kongtrul said in his
Treasury that it is hard to understand how Tsongkhapa could simply ignore what the Buddha
had said.

The presence of wisdom can also be understood as emptiness, though it is the emptiness
within wisdom of everything other than wisdom. It is empty of everything which is other than
its own entity. From Highest Continuum by Maitreya:

"The element, sugatagarbha, is empty of that which has the characteristic of being separable,
the adventitious stains; it is not that it is empty of that which has the characteristic of being
inseparable, the unsurpassable dharma."

The Hevajra Tantra:

Sentient beings are buddha itself

But are obscured by adventitious stains.

In order for wisdom to see itself, the path of meditation to be followed is one in which nothing
is to be eliminated and nothing is to be newly added; the wisdom is allowed simply to realize
itself. That sort of path will work precisely because the things which are normally regarded as
something to be removed - all the superficial slime and muck of samsara - is not really part of
wisdom, and hence can be allowed to subside of itself, and because the things which are
normally regarded as something to be developed through practicing the spiritual path - all the
unsurpassable good qualities of enlightened being - are contained within wisdom already, so
can simply be allowed to manifest.

Zhentong does not reject the emptiness of self that is taught in the second turning of the
wheel in favor of the emptiness of other which it finds in the third turning. Instead, it regards
the emptiness of self taught in the second turning as an indispensable step towards the
emptiness of other taught in the third turning.
(Sean - Wisdom may be negated in the Heart Sutra, but abiding in prajnaparamita is not! So
the wisdom that is negated is ordinary, conceptual, not transcendent. If prajnaparamita were
negated, then what's the use of studying it? If buddha nature is empty of itself, and doesn't
truly exist - then what's the use in talking about it? It would mean the materialists are right,
that there is no non-duality, no enlightenment. Buddhism would be a waste of time.)

The self-empty approach to enlightenment is indirect. It stays in samsaric mind while trying to
end samsaric mind. The other-empty approach is direct. It points out sugatagarbha without
the need of logic.

Our buddha nature has always been, is, and always will be empty of stains.

Sugatagarbha and luminosity are only designations, and the actuality of mind itself has no
conventions of "sugatagarbha" or "luminosity" in it.

The Other Emptiness system does not proclaim that self emptiness is one type of Middle Way
understanding, other emptiness another, and the two are separate things unrelated to each
other. The Other Emptiness Middle Way starts with the self-empty approach in which it is
understood that all things, including sugatagarbha, are empty of a self, then continues to the
more profound other-empty approach in which it is understood that there is an awareness
which - conventionally speaking - does exist.

Because mind's actuality sugatagarbha is empty of entities that are other than it, it leaves
room to understand that it is also full of whatever its own entity happens to be. Its own entity
is the enlightened type of mind, so it contains all enlightened types of qualities. Thus the
Other Emptiness system neatly points at the wisdom of a buddha, which does not possess
anything of or seen by samsaric mind, but does possess everything of enlightened mind.
Note that entity here does not mean "essence"; it means what something actually is.

Other Emptiness does not use logic. Wisdom mind simply knows what is, as it is, and without
any thought involved. This process of knowing through direct perception is never mistaken,
never confused, and never has any of the deluded and confused knowing of the samsaric
type of mind. Inference relies on reasonings based on mere conventions belonging to
fictional truth. Nevertheless, the second turning approach says that it is capable of arriving at
a determination of the actuality of mind. The third turning approach says that this method
cannot be used to arrive at a determination of the ultimate actuality of mind because the
ultimate actuality of mind is beyond every convention, and cannot be engaged using
elaborations of conventions on which inference depends.

Hearing, contemplating, and meditating are aroused in a process involving thought. So, it is
contradictory to no-thought wisdom, and so cannot give birth to realization.
The Buddha said:

The buddhahood that is the realm of all-seeing wisdom

Is not the object of the three awarenesses
(of hearing, contemplation, and meditation).
Therefore, bodied beings must understand that wisdom
Is beyond the range of concept.
The Other Emptiness system uses the second turning reasoning as a first step to develop the
samsaric mind to empty it out of the mistake of ignorance. The second step is to empty out
everything other than no-thought wisdom so only wisdom is left. It requires no logical
analysis. It requires stepping into the ultimate situation of mind directly.

Generally, consciousness is an outwardly-directed awareness; it belongs to mind, which is

confused. Wisdom is an inwardly-directed awareness, and is non-confused.

When the Other Emptiness system says that wisdom is empty, in what way does it mean it to
be empty? The system means that the entity of wisdom is empty of stains in that it has, from
the very beginning, nothing that is other than itself, nothing which is foreign to it, in its entity.
In the manner of something which has neither something to be emptied nor something doing
the emptying, it sees its own entity in direct perception. That, in other emptiness, is the only
way in which it is described as being empty; there is no description of it having to be
dualistically emptied at all.

In Praise of Dharmadhatu, Nagarjuna:

Just as there is a cloth cleanable by fire.

Having stains of various types
And just as when put into fire
The stains are consumed, not the cloth,

Likewise for luminosity's mind

Having stains of passion, and so on
Wisdom's fire consumes the afflictions-
Just that and not the luminosity.

To make this easy to understand, two things have to be distinguished - the fictional mind with
its dharmins and the luminosity mind with its dharmata. When the confusion of the dharmins
of fictional mind has been dispelled, the dharmata of luminosity mind is left over. If the latter
did not exist or was eliminated at the same time, then, once the fictional mind was dispelled,
there were would not be anything left at all; everything would be non-existence and the
practitioner also would cease to exist - there would be no one and nothing left.

The unsurpassable dharmas come into being in a process called spontaneous existence. If
they did not, they would arise from causes and that would mean that they were compounded.
I f they were compounded, they would be worldly compounded phenomena and would
disintegrate. If that were so, the superfactual dharmakaya possessing them, or you could say
nirvana, would become a place that was not trustworthy, and these presentations of the
Middle Way would not be trustworthy as a means to emancipation.

There are fictional good qualities and superfactual good qualities. Buddha is not empty of the
unsurpassable dharmas which are the good qualities of the superfactual dharmakaya
because these good qualities are spontaneously present. They are not there as a cleanliness
that would come from cleaning off adventitious stains but are there spontaneously in its entity.

Milarepa, The Three Nails of Meditation:

To explain fruition's Three Nails:
Nirvana has nothing to be produced from another,
Samsara has nothing to be abandoned to another
I am decided that my own mind is buddha.

The second line shows that mind's actuality is natural nirvana. Natural nirvana does not need
to be produced from anything else because there is nothing to produce - anything that has to
be produced from some other thing is not a final attainment. The third line says that samsara
is dream-like confused appearances, not the actuality of mind, and since those confused
appearances have no entity to them, there is nothing whatsoever to be abandoned. The
fourth line is saying that one's own mind's actuality, inseparable luminosityemptiness, is the
superfactual buddha, the superfactual dharmakaya. I am decided" on that means that
Milarepa has arrived at this without any doubt of it.

Mind's actuality sugatagarbha has the nature of indestructibility, permanence, and non-
change. The supporting scripture for this is found in Great Vehicle Highest Continuum.
Explanations of it point out that permanence here means the great permanence "beyond
permanence and impermanence", not permanence in the normal sense, and therefore that
this positing of permanence does not impose true existence on mind's actuality. Mind's
actuality sugatagarbha is beyond both permanent and impermanent, but it needs a
convention to describe it, which is why it is called "permanent".

Milarepa, The Three Nails of Meditation:

To explain the three nails of meditation:

There is discursive thought liberated into dharmakaya;
There is the state of rigpa-luminosity bliss;
There is equipoise without contrivance.

"There is discursive thought liberated as dharmakaya" is the first nail. If discursive thought's
actuality, which is the same as saying mind's actuality, is said to be luminosity and emptiness
inseparable then, when discursive thought's actuality is realized, discursive thought self-
liberates into dharmakaya, where dharmakaya is the word used to indicate fruition level
luminosity-emptiness. When that happens, what is this actuality of discursive thought, this
dharmakaya, like? There is rigpa-luminosity which is bliss. There is a state of rigpa knowing
its own face without something doing the knowing and something known; there is the nature
luminosity without something being luminous and something being illuminated by it. When
there is that kind of naturally-occurring realization, there is also natural cheer, natural bliss, so
the second nail of meditation is that "there is the state of rigpa-luminosity bliss" meaning there
is the state of rigpa-luminosity and bliss inseparable. How should one stay in that state?
"There is equipoise without contrivance", he says, meaning that to stay in meditation is to do
so while not making any contrivance of the state - no alteration or adjustment of it. In that
way, he clearly states the way of realizing the actuality of mind. In terms of realizing the
actuality of mind, the Mahamudra system also uses the term "ordinary mind" and speaks of
"ordinary mind introducing itself to itself" and speaks of "wisdom, the dharmata of mind,
beyond conventions, introducing itself to itself". "Ordinary mind introducing itself", "wisdom
introducing itself", and "rigpa introducing itself" all have the same meaning; they are terms of
the same meaning used in different contexts.
Mahaprajnaparamitashastra by Nagarjuna:

"The true nature (tathat), the nature of phenomena (dharmat), the summit of existence
(bhtakoti), do not exist from the mundane point of view, but they do exist from the absolute
point of view. In the same way, individuals exist from the mundane point of view, but do not
exist from the absolute point of view."

"People who understand the meaning (artha) of the Buddhist doctrine and know the
designation (prajapti) say that the tman exists. People who do not understand the meaning
of the Buddhist doctrine and do not know the designation say that the tman does not exist."

The following is from a dialogue about zhentong on a blog:

"That is really svabhva which is not brought about by anything else, unproduced (akritrimah),
that which is not dependent on, not relative to any thing other than itself, non-contingent,
unconditioned (nirapekshah paratra ca)" (Madhyamika Karikas XV: 2).

It might be true that Nagarjuna paved the way for mind only, suggesting that all dependently
originated things are based (prattya) on something else, not themselves, i.e. the substance
of pure and absolute mind.


Those who assert dependent entities

To be neither real nor false,
Like the moon in the water,
Are not carried away by views.
(YS 45)

The key term is "dependent entities" which are composed like a clay pot or a rope made from
munja grass. By analogy, the clay and munja grass are real; what is constructed or made
from them is not real or nishsvabhva. Likewise our mundane world is unreal lacking
svabhva. But this is not to say there is no svabhva or that there is no true unconditioned
reality. Nagarjuna:

That which is of the nature of coming and going, arising and perishing, in its conditioned
nature is itself Nirvana in its unconditioned nature. ~ MK, XXV: 9

There is a limit to conditionality. It is the Buddha's awakening which is unconditioned and

ineffable; which is beyond the pale of existence (bhava) and non-existence (abhava). The
problem with rangtong is that it goes too far. It makes a black hole positing universal negation

There are the five pure khandhas viz., sla-kkhandha (virtue), samdhi-kkhandha
(concentration), paa-kkhandha (wisdom), vimutti-kkhandha (liberation), nadassana-
kkhandha (knowledge). However, these are not to be confused with the five khandhas of
form, feeling, perception, habitual tendencies, and consciousness.
In one discourse a Brahmin asserted to the Buddha that there is no animator who is self or
another. To this the Buddha replied: I have never heard or seen anything of the sort. When
you move forward or backward, stand or sit or lie down, are you not self-animating (attakara)?
Well, isnt that self-animation? (A. iii. 337).


"The Buddhist tantric scripture entitled Chanting the Names of Majur (Majur-nma-
sagti), repeatedly exalts, as portrayed by Dolpopa, not the non-self but the self, and applies
the following terms to this ultimate reality : 'The buddha-self, the beginningless self, the solid
self, the diamond self'. These terms are applied in a manner which reflects the cataphatic
approach to Buddhism, typical of much of Dolpopa's writings."

"What is relative is empty of other-nature as well as empty of self-nature. What is ultimate is

empty only of other nature. This way of teaching is called the Great Middle Way."

Angulimala Sutra says:

"Manjushri, an empty home in a built-up city is called empty due to the absence of humans. A
pot is empty due to the absence of water. A river is empty due to water not flowing. Is a village
that is without householders called "empty, empty?" Or are the households empty in all
respects? They are not empty in all respects; they are called empty due to the absence of
humans. Is a pot empty in all respects? It is not empty in all respects; it is called "empty" due
to the absence of water. Is a river empty in all respects? It is not empty in all respects; it is
called "empty" because water is not flowing. Similarly, liberation is not empty in all respects; it
is called "empty" because of being devoid of all defects. A Buddha, a supermundane victor, is
not empty but is called "empty" because of being devoid of defects, and due to the absence
of humanness and godhood that have ten of millions of afflictive emotions."

The Nirvana Sutra:

V224. "How can the Tathagata be one, eternal, and unchanging?" O Kasyapa! One who
reproaches me thus commits slander, which is wrong. O Kasyapa! You must not entertain
such a notion and say that the nature of the Tathagata perishes. O Kasyapa! We do not place
the annihilation of illusion in the category of matter (rupa). Why not? Because of the fact of
the ultimacy of eternity. Hence, we say eternal. (Nirvanic) quietude has nothing to supercede
it. All phenomenal existences are done away with, with nothing remaining. This indicates what
is fresh, clear, eternal, and unretrogressive. That is why we say that Nirvana is eternal. It is
the same with the Tathagata. He is eternal, with no change.

V226. The Buddha said: "O Kasyapa! Do not say that the Tathagata is non-eternal. Why
not? Because the Tathagata is one, eternal. O good man! When wood is burnt, extinction
comes about, and there remain behind the ashes. When illusion is done away with, there
remains Nirvana. All such parables as of the torn garment, beheading, and broken
earthenware enunciate the same truth. All such things have such names as torn garment,
beheading, and broken earthenware. O Kasyapa! The iron that has become cold can be
made hot again. But this is not the case with the Tathagata. Illusion once done away with,
what there is is utmost purity and coolness. The blazing flame never comes back again. O
Kasyapa! Know that the situation of innumerable beings is like that of the iron. With the
blazing fire of Wisdom free from the ashravas (defilements), I now burn off the bonds of
illusion of all beings."
V251. Kasyapa said further: "O Tathagata! Why do we say eternal? You, the Buddha, say
that when the light of a lamp has gone out, there is no direction or place to be named (as to
where it has gone). The same is the case with the Tathagata. Once dead, there can be no
direction or place that can be named." The Buddha said: "O Kasyapa! You should not say:
"When the light of a lamp has gone out, there is not direction or place to be named. The same
is the case with the Tathagata. When there is extinction, there can be no direction or place to
be named." O good man! When a lamp is lit by a man or woman, any lamp, big or small, (has
to be) filled with oil. When there is oil (there), the lamp keeps alight. When the oil is spent, the
light also disappears, along with it. That light going out can be compared to the extinction of
illusion. Although the light has gone out, the utensil (vessel, lamp-holder) remains behind. The
same is the case with the Tathagata. Although illusion has gone, the dharmakaya remains
forever. O good man! What does this mean? Does it mean that both the light and and the
lamp disappear?

V307. "Moreover, emancipation is termed that which severs all conditioned phenomena
(samskrta-dharmas), gives rise to all untainted (anashrava), wholesome qualities/phenomena
and eliminates the various paths/approaches, that is to say, self, non-self, not-self and not
non-self. It merely severs attachment and does not sever the view of the self, the seeing of
the self, or the vision of the self (atma-drsti). The view of the self is termed the
'buddhadhatu' (buddha nature). The buddhadhatu is true emancipation, and true
emancipation is the Tathagata.

(Sean - You have to have something for it to be empty. If there is no water AND no pot, it is
meaningless to say the pot is empty. Buddha nature is like this. It is empty of stains, but is
not empty of itself. If enlightenment has no inherent existence, that means it is dependent on
factors to create it. It is impermanent, so gives rise to suffering, and has the nature of
ignorance. This gets into what Vedanta negates, i.e. that a limited means (yoga, meditation)
can achieve an unlimited result. Buddhists get tripped up a lot when they use the term "mind"
for both the relative mind which is impermanent, and the ultimate. So then they think that
even enlightened mind can't be inherently existent. This confusion is just not there in
Vedanta, which has the good sense to never use the word mind when discussing the ultimate.
Someone on the blog I'm quoting from made a good point: "If there were inherently existent
things we would not be able to interact with them as interaction is dependent related." True
reality is not dualistic. There can be no interaction in non-duality)

Nagarjuna, "Investigation of Nirvana," verses 1-9, Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way
(trans. Stephen A. Batchelor):

"If everything were empty, there would be no arising and perishing. From the
letting go of and ceasing of what could one assert nirvana?

If everything were not empty, there would be no arising and perishing. From the
letting go of and ceasing of what could one assert nirvana?

No letting go, no attainment, no annihilation, no permanence, no cessation, no

birth: that is spoken of as nirvana.

Nirvana is not a thing. Then it would follow that it would have the characteristics
of aging and death. There does not exist any thing that is without aging and death.

If nirvana were a thing, nirvana would be a conditioned phenomenon. There does

not exist any thing anywhere that is not a conditioned phenomenon.

If nirvana were a thing, how would nirvana not be dependent? There does not
exists any thing at all that is not dependent.

If nirvana were not a thing, how could it possibly be nothing? The one for whom
nirvana is not a thing, for him it is not nothing.

If nirvana were nothing, how could nirvana possibly be not dependent? There
does not exist any nothing which is not dependent.

Whatever things come and go are dependent or caused. Not being dependent and
not being caused is taught to be Nirvana. "