The self-nature of all things


Painting by Michael Newhall

  1. (Chapter II, v.10) Hearing his words the Buddha, the best knower of the world, looking over the whole assembly, spoke to the son of the Sugata thus:
  2. (Chapter II, v. 174) The Sankha and the Vaiseshika philosophers teach birth from a being or from a non-being; all that are proclaimed by them are inexplicables.

Sankha: Samkhya or Sankhya (Sanskrit: सांख्य, IAST: sāṃkhya) is one of the six āstika schools of Hindu philosophy. It is most related to the Yoga school of Hinduism, and it was influential on other schools of Indian philosophy. … Samkhya is strongly dualist. (Wiki)

Vaisheshika: or Vaiśeṣika (Sanskrit: वैशेषिक) is one of the six orthodox schools of Hindu philosophy (Vedic systems) from ancient India. In its early stages, the Vaiśeṣika was an independent philosophy with its own metaphysics, epistemology, logic, ethics, and soteriology. (Wiki)

  1. (Chapter II, v.173) The four kinds of explanation are: direct statement, questioning, discernment, and setting aside; whereby the philosophers are kept away.

direct statement: [this concerns] plain statements of facts experienced by the Indian Buddhist minds, that is, they are most direct statements based upon the intuitive knowledge these minds have gained regarding the religious life. Their statements may be logically untenable or impossible, but they have not lost sight of the facts or experiences that have flashed through their minds. All their paradoxes, contradictions, incomprehensibilities, and even all their apparently nonsensical utterances must be reduced first of all to their intuitions. (Suzuki, Studies in the Lanka, pg. 285)

questioning: Questions concerning the various aspects of phenomenal existence, which include all notions like Nirvana, the five Skandhas, dust, atoms, ect, are not considered to be one or different, in that they all are discriminatory aspects that lead “successively one to the other” and hence in the final analysis, as the Lanka states, can lead the dull-witted to problematic “fear” concerning them—due to an over-REACTIVE concern when they come to mind. Also, bewildered by the idea of a creator, those who hold such dualistic notions end up making “inexplicable” (incapable of being explained) statements; whereas, for those of “matured senses”—those who have knowledge of the self-realization of noble wisdom—there is no need to set aside any “thing” as inexplicable since everything emanates from the Unborn Mind. (annotations of Chapter XLVII of the Lanka—from Complete Lanka and Discussion [found in our library]

discernment: Positive discrimination does not bespeak the ravenous discriminatory mind that the Lanka so eloquently addresses—that is negative-discrimination. Rather, it is about developing the fine art of Right Discernment that properly distinguishes the true from the false:

In both the Yogavāsiṣṭha and Laṅkāvatāra Sutra, “things” in the conventional sense do not have an inherent or lasting reality, but rather proceed from the workings of the mind. The functioning of the mind at a mundane level creates and reinforces attachment to objects and to notions of self. Through the mind-only formula, both self and object are negated as “mind-only’”. Through the recognition that reality can be ascribed only to the grasping mind and not to things in themselves, the power of that grasping is attenuated. Once the world is seen as mind-only, the bank of past impressions or latent desires (vāsanā) is purified. The negation of the world through its dismissal as mind-only leads to the discernment of the true nature of the mind, which, in the language of the Buddhists, is identical with Buddha nature. (Chapple, Christopher Key. “Negative Theology of the Yogavasistha and the Lankavatara Sutra.” Journal of Dharma. Vol. V, No. 1 (1981), pp. 34-45.)

  1. [Cleary]: All is found in common convention, not in ultimate truth. The essencelessness of phenomena is seen in ultimate truth, in the essencelessness of non-apprehension; hence the term convention.

As clearly articulated from the above quote.

  1. If things are regarded as existing by themselves they exist because of their being so designated in words; if there were no words to designate their existence, they are not.

The perennial problem of language being insufficient, just because it says so on paper or articulated on the lips, doesn’t mean that things actually exist.

  1. That which exists only as word and not as reality – such is not to be found even in worldly knowledge; this comes from the nature of reality being erroneously understood, for no such perception is possible.

A further development of the above. It all has to do with the title of today’s blog, the self-nature of all things. According to the teachings found in the Lanka, all apparent “things” are completely void of self-nature and or, better still, of self-substance (svabhava). Remember above all else that all things are [unborn] because they are not created (read born) from themselves—this is because of their dependent origination—solely caused by some other variable. Hence, apparent self-nature is a product of conventional thought patterns. The so called personal-self is merely an illusion, a parlor-trick made-up of the five-skandhas. Thus absence of self-nature (essencelessness) is the correct nature of apparent thing-ness. All things are therefore empty (sunya) and unborn (anutpanna). Hence, regarding the apparent self-nature of all things is that they don’t have [a] self-nature. Interestingly, when things are finally seen as being empty, they are (on the other side of the coin) recognized in their suchness (tathata)—thus avoiding being squeezed by the twin mountains of realism and nihilism. The Lanka itself and Suzuki raps it all up very nicely:

LXIX: The Blessed One helps Mahamati reconcile the difference between the self-nature of false imagination and the self-nature as ascertained by the wise. For the latter, through the deeps-samadhis of solitude, one is “stamped well with the stamp of suchness” thereby giving them an insightful “intuition into the self-nature of all things by the (noble) wisdom that is acquired within themselves.”

Hence, the deathless reality of suchness subdues such discriminatory notions as realism and nihilism. “…the difference between the wise and the ignorant is that the former are free from the Viparysa while the latter are not. Viparysa literally means “inversion” or “error”; it means imagining things as they are not, taking error for truth. The wise not hampered by this imagination see that the world is like Maya and has no reality, but at the same time they know that it is there, that it is not pure nothingness. Why? Because they have gone beyond the relativism of being and non-being…the wise have a correct view of things for they are free from errors in their perception of an objective world, which exists only in relation to their own mind. An objective world is really an error in so far as it is discriminated as existing externally and individually. Or we may say that an external, particularized world is an illusion as long as the ignorant are unable to break through the fetters of wrong discrimination; whereas to the wise the phenomenal world is true in its suchness (tathata). What, therefore, is an error to one is truth to the other, because the latter is entirely free from all forms of discrimination.” (Studies in the Lanka, p.118)

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