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Asian Philosophy

Asian Philosophy

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Asian Philosophy

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  1. Asian Philosophy Lecture 7

  2. Three Buddhist Insights • Everything is dependently co-originated. Nothing exists independently of everything else. • Reality is a constant flux of change. What we perceive as being our external reality is in fact an illusion. The real nature of things is not disclosed to us in our experience. • There is no self. What appears to us as a permanent substantial self that persists over time is actually an illusion.

  3. Two Schools of Thought on the Three Insights Madhyamaka: The middle school way. Core Figure: Nagarjuna. Yogacara: The practice of discipline. Core Figure: Vasubandu

  4. Nagarjuna 150-250CE Born in South India to a Hindu Brahmin family. Became a Buddhist Famous for his work: Fundamental versus of the middle way. Madhyamaka

  5. Madhyamaka: Between Two Extremes Substantialism: existence is permanent. Nihilism: nothing really exists. Madhyamaka (Middle Way): things exist as processes, continually arising and ceasing in dependence on each other. Madhyamaka takes the Buddhist teaching of dependent origination and teaches it as the idea of EMPTINESS = Shunyata

  6. The Goals of Argumentation Nagarjuna aims to show that • Dependent arising • No-Self • Flux Do not depend on absolutes in anyway. That is there is no good argument for holding that (i)-(iii) require absolutes at the fundamental level. We can make sense of the these notions through the idea of emptiness.

  7. The Method Nagarjuna • Aims to show the methods and arguments used by other Buddhists to interpret the central doctrines as requiring absolutes can be used against the very claims for absolutes. That is he aims to show that arguments for absolutes, actually undermine the claim that there are absolutes. • His method sometimes involves using the method of argument by reduction to absurdity. • His method sometimes involves using the Buddhist logic of four corners.

  8. Argument by Reduction to Absurdity Assume that P is true. Argue that P by standard reasoning leads to a conclusion that no one would accept. Conclude that not-P is true. Assumptions: Argument by reductio is an acceptable means for proving something. In certain contexts when P is false, not-P is true.

  9. Buddhist Catuskoti The four corners: A. not-A. Both A and not-A. Neither A nor not-A. Assumptions: Each option is distinct from the other options. Each option can be realized in certain cases.

  10. Nagarjuna Against Causality Either • an effect produces itself. A (b) an effect is produced by something other than itself. not-A (c) an effect both produces itself and is produced by something other than itself. BothA and not-A (d) an effect is neither produced by itself nor is it produced by something other than itself. Neither A nor not-A.

  11. Nagarjuna Against Causality If an effect produces itself, then it is identical to the cause, and thus there is only one thing. Since causation requires two things this is not a possible option. If an effect is produced by something other than itself, then the two things are essentially different things. Two things that are essentially different cannot bear a causal relation to one another. Examples: A seed can cause a sprout because they are not essentially different. A stone cannot cause a sprout because they are essentially different.

  12. Nagarjuna Against Causality Could an effect both produce itself and be produced by something other than itself? N argues that it cannot, since an effect cannot be produced by itself and an effect cannot be produced by something other than itself. So, we are left with: An effect is neither produced by itself nor is it produced by something other than itself. But this just abandons causation. Since we need causation to understand the order in the world, we must reject this option.

  13. Nagarjuna on Causal Conditions Things arise, exist, and cease in dependence on conditions, but none of these conditions are self-existent causes. Four conditions of arising, existing, and ceasing: (i) Efficient conditions. (ii) percept-object conditions. (iii) Immediate conditions. (iv) Dominant conditions.

  14. Efficient Conditions Efficient conditions account for change by identifying the appropriate prior changes. For example: why are there letters on this screen? • Because Anand wanted to write a lecture. • Because Anand moved his fingers on the keyboard. The efficient condition is (2) not (1). Even though (1) is also necessary.

  15. Precept-Object Conditions Precept-object conditions account for the arising of perceptions. The physical computer in front of me is the percept-object condition for me seeing a computer. The idea of conditions in my mind is the precept-object condition for my thinking about conditions.

  16. Immediate Conditions Immediate conditions account for changein activities triggered by the efficient conditions. The immediate conditions for moving my fingers on the key board are changes in: Neuron firings in my brain. Signals to my muscular system to move my fingers thus and so.

  17. Dominant conditions Dominant conditions account for change in terms of ends or goals. The dominant condition can be understood as the purpose for which certain actions take place. For example, the dominant condition for typing these notes is simply to produce an explanatory lecture. The dominant condition pertains to why a thing is done or comes about.

  18. Nagarjuna’s View Only if causes are seen as empty of self-existence and causal power can they produce effects. But this very emptiness means that they are not causes in the usual sense, but simply conditions of change. Things arise and cease interdependently due to conditions without independent, self-existing entities. We do not need independent absolutes with essences to explain the central doctrines of the Buddha. We need to understand the emptiness of everything.

  19. Nagarjuna on Motion N argues against the intelligibility of motion: • If motion is an entity, then either it is identical to the mover or different from the mover. • If motion is identical to the mover, then each time the mover moved, she would be different from that which she was. • If the motion is different from the mover, then it would be possible for there to be motion without a mover. • So, motion is not an entity. Rather it is a continuous process over time!

  20. Nagarjuna on the Self • Either the self is identical with its components or it is different from them. • If the self is identical with its components, then because they change at every moment, the self changes at every moment – so there would be no enduring self. • If the self is distinct from its components, then any changes in the components could not effect the self, since it is distinct. • So, the self is neither identical nor different from its components. • So, there is no self.

  21. Nagarjuna on the two truths Nagarjuna, following the Buddha, holds that there are two truths: Conventional truths help us understand conventional reality. The reality that we stay in throughout most of our lives, and which forms our social fabric. Ultimate truths reveal the way reality fundamentally is. Ultimate truths are to be realized by transcending conventional reality and seeing the emptiness of everything.

  22. Nagarjuna on the emptiness of emptiness Nagarjuna maintains that Everything is empty Emptiness is empty That the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth. An important question in Buddhist scholarship is how can we understand these seemingly paradoxical claims.

  23. Vasubandhu Lived in 4th and 5th century Co-founder of Yogacara school of Buddhism with his half brother Asanga. Author of the Abhidharmakosha (treasury of Abhidarma), a pre-Yogacara work. And Author of the Yogacara works Vimshatika (20 Verses)and Trimshatika (30 Verses)

  24. Yogacara Basics Important questions: What is ignorance? What is enlightenment? What is the nature of consciousness? What is knowledge? What are the processes that produce ignorance and knowledge?

  25. Yogacara on Knowledge Something can be known • As something conceptually constructed. To know it in this way is not to know it for what it really is. • As something conditioned by other things. To know it in this way is to know it relative to the conditions that bring it about. • As something free of conceptual constructions. To know it in this way is to know it in mindfulness and free of conceptual constructions. There is no subject – object distinction. Direct insight free of conceptual constructions gives real knowledge.

  26. Yogacara on Consciousness Discursive knowledge involves a subject and an object. In discursive knowledge something is known by way of it being represented to consciousness. Non-Dualistic Knowledge occurs when an individual knows something immediately, directly, and not by way of conceptual representations.

  27. Yogacara on Store Consciousness Ordinary Consciousness is intentional. There is a subject and an object. Consciousness is always for someone and of something. The intentionality of consciousness pertains to the fact that being conscious is always of something. Store Consciousness is non-intentional. It has no subject - object connection, and it is not for someoneor of something. Store consciousness is used to explain the continuity between moments of ordinary consciousness. It is like the unconscious, but it is not a permanent self.

  28. The Eight Kind of Consciousness Sight produced by eye consciousness. Sound, produced by ear consciousness. Smell, produced by nose consciousness. Taste, produced by tongue consciousness. Feel, produced by touch consciousness. Knowledge of store consciousness as a permanent self. Knowledge of store consciousness as it is itself through direct awareness.

  29. Continuity: past-present-future What does store consciousness do? Past ----------> Present ------------> Future Seeds of Seeds of Store Store Consciousness Consciousness Store consciousness explains the continuity of the person that is ignorant with the person that becomes enlightened.

  30. Is Yogacara a form of Idealism? Realism is the view that external reality is fundamental, and everything else is real relative to external reality. Idealism is the view that consciousness is fundamental and everything is real relative to consciousness. Yogacara is neither idealistic nor realistic. Realists make the mistake of thinking there are real permanent self-existent things in reality. Idealists make the mistake of thinking that everything must exist in the end as an idea in some mind.

  31. Yogacara on Knowledge of Reality Asanga on four kinds of knowledge: • What is universally accepted by ordinary beings. • What is universally accepted by reason. • Cognition completely purified of obscurations of defilements. • Cognition completely purified of obscurations to the knowable. Knowledge is not for its own sake, nor for the sake of changing the environment. Rather it is for changing oneself.

  32. Ordinary Knowledge The keys to ordinary knowledge are: • That they are shared views about reality common to a group of people. • That the knowledge is linguistic. It comes about because we know a name for a thing, or a way to describe it. However, since knowing a name for a thing and knowing how to describe it are different, we must say that ordinary knowledge is incomplete.

  33. Scientific Knowledge The keys to scientific knowledge • That the thing being investigated is established and proven by demonstration. • It involves rationality, reasoning, logic, deduction and induction, as well as observation. However, scientific knowledge is inferior to other forms of knowledge. Because it rests on consciousness at the ordinary level where concepts are involved. To know by way of concepts is not to know things as they area.

  34. Knowledge Free of Personal Defilements The keys to knowledge free of personal defilements • This kind of knowledge does not involve ignorance, grasping, and hatred. These kinds of states give rise to suffering (duhkha) • It provides knowledge of how and why we are not separate selves existing independently of everything else. This kind of knowledge is superior to ordinary and scientific knowledge because it does not rest on that which gives rise to suffering. It is free of ignorance.

  35. Knowledge Free of Discursive Thought The keys to knowledge free of discursive thought • Knowledge free of discursive thought cannot be explained completely through discursive thought. However, • Those that have this kind of knowledge arrive through discursive thought at the truth that things which appear independent and permanent are in fact not independent and permanent. • Those that have this kind of knowledge arrive through direct insight at the true nature of things and the value of enlightenment.