John Tan:

The logic that since there is no agency, hence no choice to be made is no different from "no sufferer, therefore no suffering".

This is not anatta insight.

What is seen through in anatta is the mistaken view that the conventional structure of "subject action object" represents reality when it is not. Action does not require an agent to initiate it. It is language that creates the confusion that nouns are required to set verbs into motion.

Therefore the action of choosing continues albeit no chooser.

"Mere suffering exists, no sufferer is found;

The deeds are, but no doer of the deeds is there;

Nibbāna is, but not the man that enters it;

The path is, but no traveler on it is seen."



Related:


Alan Watts: Agent and Action

Investigation into Movement


Also, an enlightening conversation recently (thankfully with permission from Arcaya Malcolm to share this) in Arcaya Malcolm's facebook group:


"[Participant 1]
June 14 at 2:40 PM

I came across a passage in a book I'm reading which brings up how Nagarjuna often bases arguments on unstated and unproven premises and manipulates ambiguities in language to justify his arguments leading to criticisms of sophistry. How do later authors address this if they do at all?

One example from chap 3 of the MMK with the following 3 arguments:

"Vision cannot in anyway see itself. Now if it cannot see itself, how can it see other things?

"The example of fire is not adequate to establish vision. These have been refuted with the analysis of movement, past, future, and present" - refers to the refutation from chap 2

"When no vision occurs there is nothing to be called visions. How then can it be said: vision sees?"

The book brings up the following critcism respectively:

This is based on the assumption for objects to have certain functions it needs to apply the function to itself but this is not justified. A counter example being lamps illuminate themselves and others.

The argument from chap 2 depends on natural functions (movement, burning of fire, seeing of the eye, etc.) being predicated on the moment of time which it takes place, and when the non obtaining of time is established it leads to the non happening of the function. This is not justified.

Here Nagarjuna jumps from how seeing only occurs with a sense object to the occlusion the eye faculty can't see. The author distinguishes between "seeing independent of condition" and "seeing dependent of condition" so Nagarjuna really only negates the first one. And that negating the first is close to pointless since no one asserts seeing occurs irrespective of condition. The second is left alone.
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    [Participant 2] What book is this from?
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    [Participant 1] Madhyamaka in China, the author was giving some background on Nagarjuna.
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Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith Lamps do not illuminate themselves. Candrakirti shows this.
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Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith Nāgārjuna is addressing the realist proposition, "the six senses perceive their objects because those sense and their objects intrinsically exist ." It is not his unstated premise, that is the purvapakṣa, the premise of the opponent. The opponent, in verse 1 of this chapter asserts the essential existence of the six āyatanas. The opponent is arguing that perception occurs because the objects of perception actually exist.
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Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith [Participant 1] "The argument from chap 2 depends on natural functions (movement, burning of fire, seeing of the eye, etc.) being predicated on the moment of time which it takes place, and when the non obtaining of time is established it leads to the non happening of the function. This is not justified."

Why?

Nāgārjuna shows two things in chapter two, one, he says that if there is a moving mover, this separates the agent from the action, and either the mover is not necessary or the moving is not necessary. It is redundant.

In common language we oftren saying things like "There is a burning fire." But since that is what a fire is (burning) there is no separate agent which is doing the burning, fire is burning.

On the other hand, when an action is not performed, no agent of that action can be said to exist. This is why he says "apart from something which has moved and has not moved, there is no moving mover." There is no mover with moving, etc.

This can be applied to all present tense gerundial agentive constructions, such as I am walking to town, the fire is burning, etc.
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 [Participant 3] Malcolm Smith these are not agentive constructions, they are unaccusative (cf. "byed med") verbs, so of course no separate agent can be established. So what?

The example of the fire and the eye are likewise not convincing, because they just happen to describe natural functions, but this is not all that unaccusative verbs do. When you say "the cat falls down", you cannot say that "falling down" is what a cat "is", the same way you can with fire burning.

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Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith [Participant 3] the point is aimed at the notion that there has to be a falling faller, a seeing seer, etc. it is fine to say there is a falling cat, but stupid to say the cat is a falling faller. The argument is aimed at that sort of naive premise.

For example, if eyes could see forms by nature, they should be able to forms in absence of an object of form, and so on.

But if the sight of forms cannot be found in the eyes, and not in the object, nor the eye consciousness, then none of them are sufficient to explain the act of seeing. Because of this, statements like the eyes are seers is just a convention, but isn’t really factual.

And it still applies in this way, apart from what has been seen and not been seen, there is no present seeing.
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Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith Any people make the mistake of thinking that nag has an obligation to do more than just deconstruct the purpaksa.
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[Participant 1] Malcolm Smith thank you, definitely clears it up

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Soh Wei Yu
Soh Wei Yu Malcolm Smith What is purpaksa?

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Malcolm Smith
Malcolm Smith purva means "prior", pakṣa" means postion
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Malcolm SmithActive Now
Malcolm Smith meaning, "the opponent's position."
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Malcolm Smith Purvapaksa
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- From his facebook group Ask the Ācārya https://www.facebook.com/groups/387338435166650/

Who this group is for: people who wish to ask Ācārya Malcolm Smith questions about Dharma etc., and to converse with like-minded people. Being admitted to this group carries a commitment not to share content outside of the group.

Who this group is not for: People with pseudonyms; people who think one can practice Dzogchen, Mahāmudra, etc. without a guru; people who think psychedelics are useful on the Buddhist path; people who think they can mix Buddhadharma with nonbuddhist paths, etc.

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Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh:

"When we say it's raining, we mean that raining is taking place. You don't need someone up above to perform the raining. It's not that there is the rain, and there is the one who causes the rain to fall. In fact, when you say the rain is falling, it's very funny, because if it weren't falling, it wouldn't be rain. In our way of speaking, we're used to having a subject and a verb. That's why we need the word "it" when we say, "it rains." "It" is the subject, the one who makes the rain possible. But, looking deeply, we don't need a "rainer," we just need the rain. Raining and the rain are the same. The formations of birds and the birds are the same -- there's no "self," no boss involved.

There's a mental formation called vitarka, "initial thought." When we use the verb "to think" in English, we need a subject of the verb: I think, you think, he thinks. But, really, you don't need a subject for a thought to be produced. Thinking without a thinker -- it's absolutely possible. To think is to think about something. To perceive is to perceive something. The perceiver and the perceived object that is perceived are one.

When Descartes said, "I think, therefore I am," his point was that if I think, there must be an "I" for thinking to be possible. When he made the declaration "I think," he believed that he could demonstrate that the "I" exists. We have the strong habit or believing in a self. But, observing very deeply, we can see that a thought does not need a thinker to be possible. There is no thinker behind the thinking -- there is just the thinking; that's enough.

Now, if Mr. Descartes were here, we might ask him, "Monsieur Descartes, you say, 'You think, therefore you are.' But what are you? You are your thinking. Thinking -- that's enough. Thinking manifests without the need of a self behind it."

Thinking without a thinker. Feeling without a feeler. What is our anger without our 'self'? This is the object of our meditation. All the fifty-one mental formations take place and manifest without a self behind them arranging for this to appear, and then for that to appear. Our mind consciousness is in the habit of basing itself on the idea of self, on manas. But we can meditate to be more aware of our store consciousness, where we keep the seeds of all those mental formations that are not currently manifesting in our mind.

When we meditate, we practice looking deeply in order to bring light and clarity into our way of seeing things. When the vision of no-self is obtained, our delusion is removed. This is what we call transformation. In the Buddhist tradition, transformation is possible with deep understanding. The moment the vision of no-self is there, manas, the elusive notion of 'I am,' disintegrates, and we find ourselves enjoying, in this very moment, freedom and happiness."


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