Posted by: Soh
To someone who claims to accept Madhyamika as definitive yet strangely does not accept the non-arising of phenomena, I wrote:

The most vital and definitive teaching is that all phenomena never arose.

Nagarjuna's very first line in Mūlamadhyamakakārikā:

“I pay respect to the best among speakers who, having attained Enlightenment, has taught relative origination (Pratītyasamutpāda) which is no-cessation, no-origination, no- annihilation, no-abiding, no-one-thing, no-many-thing, no-coming-in, no-going-out; being the termination of linguistic description (Prapañcopashamam), it is the good (Shivam) [Ram Candra Pandey & Mañju, 1999, pp.1]

Samdhinirmochana Sutra:

"The World-honored One then with an explicit meaning for the third time turned the wheel of doctrine for those setting out in all the vehicles, [teaching] that all things have no-essence, no arising, and no passing away, are originally quiescent, and are essentially in cessation. This turning was the most marvelous and wonderful that had ever occurred in the world. It had no superior nor did it contain any implicit meaning nor occasion any controversy." -

Heart Sutra:

"Thus, Shariputra, all dharmas are emptiness. There are no characteristics. There is no birth and no cessation. There is no impurity and no purity. There is no decrease and no increase. "

Arya Nagarjuna (this is another Nagarjuna):

"38. When eye and form assume their right relation,
Appearances appear without a blur.
Since these neither arise nor cease,
They are the dharmadhatu, though they are imagined to be otherwise." -

The Ārya-guhyamaṇitilaka-nāma-sūtra states:

"All conditioned things are impermanent, and never arose from the beginning in natural luminosity."

"Everything arose from non-arising; even arising itself never arose."
- Vimalamitra [Per Malcolm]

"From that which involves no arising, everything arises; and in that very arising, there is no arising."
- Guhyagarbha Tantra

The Saṃpūṭi-nāma-mahātantra states:

Natural luminosity is free from all concepts,
free from being covered by the taints of desire and so on,
with subject and object, the supreme being
has said that is supreme nirvana…
all phenomena are naturally luminous,
because all phenomena do not arise from the start,
it is termed non-origination by the mind.

The Ocean of Intelligent Teachings Sutra states as follows, "There is not even the slightest nature in dependently-arisen phenomena. Since they have no nature, they do not arise [in any of the four ways]."

The Skillful Elephant Sutra says, "If there are not any phenomena which are produced, it is only the childish ones who claim arising for those phenomena for which there is no arising."

The Abiding and Arising of the Jewel Sutra says, "There is no inherent existence for any [entity]. Since there is no inherent existence, how can there be conditions for another's [production]? And since there is no inherent existence, how can they be produced by another? This reason was taught by the Sugata."

Gyel-tsab: "There is a reason for stating in the scriptures that all phenomena are not produced and do not cease. It is because there are no entities which are truly established."

Like a dream, an illusion, [or] seeing two moons: Thus have You seen the world, as a creation not created as real. Like a son who is born, established, and dies in a dream, the world, You h
ave said, is not really born, does not endure, and is not destroyed... According to cognition of truth, [however], You maintain that there is no annihilation or permanence. [You] assert that the entire world is empty of substance, like a mirage.
-- Acintyastavaḥ

First of all, it is not logical that the effect should arise either from a cause that has been destroyed or from one that has not [yet] been destroyed. [Therefore,] You maintain that origination is like a dream. Neither from the destroyed nor the non-destroyed seed can the sprout possibly arise. You have stated that all arising is like the arising of an illusion. Therefore You have fully understood that this world has arisen due to imagination. It is unreal, [and] not having originated it cannot be destroyed.
-- Lokātītastava

Since the Buddhas have stated that the world is conditioned by ignorance, why is it not reasonable [to assert] that the world is [a result of] conceptualization? Since it comes to an end when ignorance ceases; why does it not become clear then that it was conjured by ignorance?
-- Yuktiṣāṣṭikakārikā

Loppon Namdrol/Malcolm:

"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 concrete."

"'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."
3 Responses
  1. treningday Says:

    Hey Soh,

    I've been following your blog for a while and found it really helpful for my understanding. I was wondering if you knew of good resources on Madhyamakan philosophy besides the translated texts of the masters. I couldn't really find any online courses. Of course I could just read and try to find commentaries but I'm pretty lazy hahaha.

  2. Soh Says:

    From what I learnt, "The whole of Madhyamaka is to tell you to look at causes and conditions but strongly point out the impossibility of causes and conditions if "things" and "objects" truly exist and that is the whole essence of the teaching... to provide this koan for the inherent mind to solve so that one can intuit dependent arising and the non-arising of phenomena.

    The conceptual mind will be able to clearly see the rationale and stop proliferating and releases itself but that does not mean direct taste of the non-arising nature of suchness. One needs Anatta as the base."

    Thusness also wrote to me in the past,

    "jay garfield is about mmk, u should read commentaries from both gelug and other systems. Have one mmk from garfield, one book that is commented by non-gelug system and one that is by gelug scholars. Their understanding of freedom of extremes are quite different. Mipham comments are very good and can be used as representative for the other line of thoughts (non-gelug) without skewing to extremes and allow us to understand the wisdom of appearances.

    Mipham commentaries on madhyamakalankara (shantarikshita) is a good book as it provides background on yogacara of mind only schools and the view of svatantrika where as his commentaries on madhyamakavatara (chandrakirti) provides his view of prasangika. The book Jamgon Mipham provides a basic overall summary of his thoughts, a good book to start.

    Emptiness yoga is seriously not a good book But greg recommends it highly so when u r stuck, u can have some advices from him. This book is enough to tell u about the gelug view."

  3. treningday Says:

    I've had Garfield's MMK for a while now but haven't really dived into it though I have recently heard him lecture on Madhyamaka and Yogacara. Also I've been lucky enough to hear Madhyamaka as it's applied by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche in his talks and I'm about to start Madhyamakavatara with his commentaries. I think he's trained by the Sakyan sect primarily.

    I'm a Zen guy and I can definitely see where Zen gets its paradoxical style. Madhyamaka is really crazy stuff. I can already notice a little bit of release but I think I'll have to press onward to really nail down non-arising though I understand the concept.

    Thanks again, I'll get everything you recommended.