Dr. Greg Goode wrote in Emptything:

It looks your Bahiya Sutta experience helped you see awareness in a different way, more .... empty. You had a background in a view that saw awareness as more inherent or essential or substantive?


I had an experience like this too. I was reading a sloka in Nagarjuna's treatise about the "prior entity," and I had been meditating on "emptiness is form" intensely for a year. These two threads came together in a big flash. In a flash, I grokked the emptiness of awareness as per Madhyamika. This realization is quite different from the Advaitic oneness-style realization. It carries one out to the "ten-thousand things" in a wonderful, light and free and kaleidoscopic, playful insubstantial clarity and immediacy. No veils, no holding back. No substance or essence anywhere, but love and directness and intimacy everywhere...

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Stian, cool, get into that strangeness! There is a certain innocent, not-knowing quality to strangeness that counteracts the rush to certainty, the need to arrive, to land.

I still don't get your "no compromise" point. Can you rephrase it, but without the words "between" or "compromise"?

Anything can be denied. And is. There is one prominent Advaita teacher that I like who likes to say "You can't deny that you are the awareness that is hearing these words right now."

This kind of gapless continuity, so prized in Advaita, is readily denied in other approaches to experience:

you. can't. deny. that. you. are. the. awareness. hearing. these. words. right. now.

I remember feeling during one retreat, just how many ways that this could be denied. From a different model of time and experience, there are gaps and fissures all over the place, even in that sentence (hence. the. dots). Each moment is divided within itself, carrying traces of past and future (retention and protention). The first "you"-moment and the second "you"-moment are not necessarily experienced by the same entity. Each "I" is different. Entitification itself is felt as autoimmune, as divided within itself, and any "gaplessness" is nothing more than a paste-job.

Not saying one of these is right and the other wrong. Just pointing out how something so undeniable can readily be denied!

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Emptiness group:

Awareness and Emptiness.

Many people, myself at times as well, have thought that Advaitic, atman-style awareness and emptiness are the same thing. When I began to study Nagarjuna, I was reading through a lens colored by the Advaita teachings. You know how they go, Awareness is the Self and very nature of me. The psychophysical components are certainly not me. I remain the same through the coming and going and changing of the components.

At that time, I had had trouble understanding 50% of the key line in the Heart Sutra,

"Form is emptiness and emptiness is form."

I got the "form is emptiness" part. But I couldn't grok the "emptiness is form" part. Thinking that Advaitic Awareness=emptiness, I was used to thinking that Awareness IS, whether universes arise or not. How can Awareness equal its contents? And if it did, why even call it global Awareness? The contents could speak for themselves," I was thinking.

Also, many Advaitic-style teachings proceed by refuting the phenomena (thoughts, feelings and sensations) but retaining THAT to which they arise. That was the type of teaching I was used to, and it colored my approach to Madhyamika.

So it was very easy to read the Buddhist notion of "emptiness" in this same way. But it began to get a little puzzling. In my readings of Prasangika Madhyamika (which never mentions a global awareness), they never say that anywhere that emptiness=awareness. Nevertheless, I was supplying this equivalence for myself, making the mental substitution of one highest path's highest term with another's.

As I continued, there seem less and less evidence that Madhyamika was doing this, but I didn't encounter anything that knocked the idea away. It got more and more puzzling for me.

And then one day I read this from Nagarjuna's Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. Sloka IX:4, about the "prior entity," or a subject or owner or substrate for what is seen and heard. (translations from the Garfield edition).

"If it can abide Without the seen, etc., Then, without a doubt, They can abide without it."

Then it dawned on me! The independence (and hence the dependence) that Buddhism is talking about is two-way, not just one-way. If A is logically independent from B, then B is logically independent from A.

If you can have a self that doesn't depend on things seen, then you can have things seen that do not depend on a self.

So, for Nagarjuna, can you really have a self that is truly bilaterally independent from what is seen?

No, because of his next sloka, IX:10:

"Someone is disclosed by something. Something is disclosed by someone. Without something how can someone exist? Without someone how can something exist?"

With these two verses, I finally understood the two-way dependence that Buddhism was talking about. And both halves of that important line in the Heart Sutra finally made sense!!


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I'm not sure what you mean by "itch," but I can tell you that when I began to study the Mulamadhyamakakarika (MMK), I wanted to let it speak for itself. I didn't want to bring to it any presumptions that I picked up from other teachings, such as that all reality depends on an aware ground of being. This was my intention from the beginning, and it took me a while to detect those assumptions in myself as I proceeded with my study. The text of the MMK itself actually helped dissolve those assumptions from my study and practice of Madhyamika.

It's pretty clear that in the MMK there is no support for an aware ground of being.

About verses 8 and 9. they are dialectical arguments against the notion of an independent self that is the basis and unifying substance of all experience. As dialectical arguments, they examine consequences that would follow if there were really such an independent self. And they find that the consequences are absurd, or that they go against the independent-self idea. Confronting these absurd consequences frees us from assenting to the independent-self doctrine.

Verses 8 and 9 are instances of the same/different argument schema. Those who believe in existence usually assert that if A and B exist, then they must be the same as each other, or different from each other.

Verse 8 examines the absurd consequences of stating that the seer and hearer and feeler are the same.

It looks at what would happen if there were a self that is the hearer and seer and feeler (which is what the independent-self doctrine asserts). If there were such a self, it would contravene the insights from Verses 4-6, which argue that the seer depends on the seen just like the seen depends on the seer.

In our experience, seeing and hearing and feeling happen at different times, sometimes apart, sometimes together. If there WERE such a self, the very same self that hears and sees, Verse 8 is arguing that the self would have to exist PRIOR to hearing and PRIOR to seeing.

Verse 9 examines the absurd consequences of stating that the seer and hearer and feeler are different. It argues that in this case, there would be multiple independent selves, one for seeing, one for hearing, and one for feeling. This obviously contradicts the main point of the independent self doctrine, which is that there is just ONE entity which does all the seeing and hearing.

Nagarjuna's strategy here is to show that assuming an independent entity prior to experience makes no sense at all. This is because it makes no sense if the seer equals the hearer, and it makes no sense if the seer does not equal the hearer.

Therefore, it makes no sense!

And it keeps on going, getting more and more radical.

Verse 11 - here the MMK uses the conclusion about the absurdity of the independent seer to refute the inherent existence of independent modes of perception.

In Verse 12, the MMK says that having seen all this, we are freed from conceptions and assertions of existence and non-existence.


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Geovani, I’m very glad to hear that your mind is knotted up.  Emptiness insights can do that to us when we start getting into them.

Yes, this approach would acknowledge swoons, anesthesia, “zone” moments and deep sleep.  We could say that these are “longer” gaps than the gaps between momentary sounds and other sensations.  But that isn’t a metaphysical claim, just a non-theoretical comment about experience.

The main takeaway from the refutation of an independent “prior entity” is that continuity is only imputed casually as a transactional, conventional way of organizing experience.  It’s not a serious claim, and it wouldn’t hold up under analysis.  So for this kind of practical manner of speaking, continuity doesn’t require an inherent, underlying ground.  If continuity itself were examined, it would be just as insubstantial as the other things examined by the MMK. 

Many Buddhist meditations focus on discerning the DIScontinuities in what we normally assume is continuous and unbroken.

Also, for Nagarjuna in this chapter, the “prior entity,” has already been refuted in by the time he reaches verses 8-12.
 
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