Wednesday, November 18, 2020

The Heart Sutra (Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra) - 031



Prajnaparamita - Perfection of Wisdom - Mother of all Buddhas

THE HEART SUTRA (The Prajna Paramita Hrdaya Sutra)


Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva
When practicing deeply the Prajna Paramita
perceives that all five Skandhas are empty (i.e. emptiness of the 5 aggregates)
and is saved from all suffering and distress.


O Shariputra,
form does not differ from emptiness;
emptiness does not differ from form.
(i.e. Union of the Two Truths: Union appearances / 5 aggregates <==> emptiness.)


That which is form is emptiness;
that which is emptiness, form.
(i.e. the same for the 5 aggregates: Union of the Two truths)


O Shariputra,
all Dharmas are marked with emptiness; (i.e. emptiness of all dharmas)
They do not appear nor disappear,
(i.e. emptiness of origination / birth, duration / abiding / life, cessation / death)
are not tainted (impure) nor pure,
Do not increase nor decrease.
(i.e. beyond all dualities: not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither)


Therefore, in emptiness, no form.
No feelings, no perceptions, no impulses, no consciousness; (i.e. emptiness of the 5 aggregates)
No eyes, no ears, no nose, no tongue, no body, no mind; (i.e. emptiness of the 6 sense organs)
No color, no sound, no smell, no taste, no touch, no object of mind;  (i.e. emptiness of the 6 sense objects)
No realm of eyes and so forth until no realm of mind-consciousness. (i.e. emptiness of the 6 sense consciousnesses)


No ignorance and also no extinction of it,
and so forth until no old age and death and also no extinction of them;
(i.e. emptiness of the 12 links of dependent origination)


No suffering, no origination, no stopping, no path;
(i.e. emptiness of the Four Noble Truths)


No cognition, also no attainment.
(i.e. emptiness of wisdom and fruition / enlightenment)


With nothing to attain
The Bodhisattva depends on Prajna Paramita
and the mind is no hindrance.
Without any hindrance no fears exist;
Far apart from every perverted view (extremes) the Bodhisattva dwells in Nirvana.


In the three worlds all Buddhas depend on Prajna Paramita
and attain unsurpassed, complete, perfect enlightenment.


Therefore know that Prajna Paramita
is the great transcendent mantra,
is the great bright mantra,
is the utmost mantra,
is the supreme mantra,
which is able to relieve all suffering
and is true, not false.


So proclaim the Prajna Paramita mantra,
proclaim the mantra which says:


Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate! Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate! Bodhi Svaha!
Gate, Gate, Paragate, Parasamgate! Bodhi Svaha!

(i.e. Gone, Gone, Gone further, Completely gone! Enlightenment!)
(i.e. Go beyond the four extremes, one by one then all together! Reach Buddhahood!)



RÉSUMÉ of the message of the Heart Sutra:

  • 1) To reach enlightenment / Buddhahood, one absolutely needs to realise the emptiness of all dharmas of both samsara and nirvana, without any exception at all -- not just the no-self. That includes all elements composing the body, speech and mind; all physical, conceptual and mental fabrications / composites and non-composites; all subjects, relations / actions and objects; all causes, causality / production and effects; even samsara and the possibility of nirvana. That includes all the elements and theories included in the traditional Buddhist Abhidhamma: ex. the Four Noble Truths, the 12 links of dependent origination, the theories of perception and acquisition of karma, the theories of rebirth. And that includes emptiness itself. All of this is explained in much more detail in the longer texts of the Prajnaparamita Sutra.

  • 2) But that emptiness is not complete non-existence / nothingness. The realisation of emptiness doesn’t mean to completely reject / negate / abandon the body speech and mind, and all the Buddhist theories / views, methods / adapted skillful means and goals. It just means to not grasp at them as if existing inherently / independently / separately / universally / absolutely; to be able to use them without becoming slave to them, without reifying them and creating dogma. Emptiness doesn’t deny conventional truths / appearances; it is in perfect harmony with them.

  • 3) The Heart Sutra is part of the Mahayana, the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle: where there is nothing to accept / affirm / seek / do / perceive in absolute terms, nothing to reject / negate / abandon / not-do / not-perceive in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively / intersubjectively, if it helps someone to get closer and closer to a direct realisation of the true nature of Reality.

  • 4) So emptiness has to be understood in a larger context where conventional relative appearances and emptiness are in harmony, non-dual in the non-dual sense of this term: They are not different / two, but still not identical / one, not both together, not neither. It is the Union of those two aspects or truths that gives meaning and energy to everything. That is expressed by the concept-pointer of the Union of the Two Truths.

  • 5) The Heart Sutra is further resumed by its compact mantra which expresses the ideal of the Mahayana or Middle Way: freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from the four extremes of existence / realism, non-existence / nihilism, both existence and non-existence together / dualism, and neither existence not non-existence / monism.

  • 6) So, to reach enlightenment / Buddhahood, one absolutely needs to go beyond the four extremes :

  1. go beyond causal existence / dependent origination (1st truth),

  2. go beyond mere emptiness (2nd truth),

  3. go beyond the two of them together (the two truths as two separate things), and

  4. go beyond rejecting both for a transcendent reality (the two truths as identical / one).

This clears the way for a spontaneous direct realisation of the true nature of Reality / Awareness, of the inseparable three worlds -- subject, relation / action, object --, of the inseparable three kaya / Trikaya.




Note: in this Sutra "𝙣𝙤" means "𝗻𝗼 𝗶𝗻𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴";

it does not mean "completely no", or "complete absence of".


In the sense that forms ... (all appearances / dharmas) are

  1. not inherently existing / real,

  2. not completely non-existing / non-real,

  3. not both existing and non-existing together,

  4. not neither existing nor non-existing.


That is 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝗪𝗮𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝘀 & 𝗺𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲: extremes like

  1. existence / realism,

  2. non-existence / nihilism,

  3. both together / dualism,

  4. neither / monism / radical oneness.


And the mantra "𝙂𝙖𝙩𝙚, 𝙜𝙖𝙩𝙚, 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙜𝙖𝙩𝙚, 𝙥𝙖𝙧𝙖𝙨𝙖𝙢𝙜𝙖𝙩𝙚, 𝙗𝙤𝙙𝙝𝙞 𝙨𝙤𝙝𝙖" means exactly that: 

To reach Buddhahood, one needs to "𝗴𝗼 𝗯𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝘁𝗵𝗼𝘀𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝘀 one by one, then all together".


Also, "𝙁𝙤𝙧𝙢 𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙙𝙞𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨, 𝙚𝙢𝙥𝙩𝙞𝙣𝙚𝙨𝙨 𝙙𝙤𝙚𝙨 𝙣𝙤𝙩 𝙙𝙞𝙛𝙛𝙚𝙧 𝙛𝙧𝙤𝙢 𝙛𝙤𝙧𝙢 ..." 

means that the two truths --


  1. 1st truth: conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances; and

  2. 2nd truth:  emptiness of inherent existence;




  1. the relative / conventional; and

  2. the absolute; --




  • not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither;

  • not tainted (impure), not pure, not both together, not neither;

  • not existent, not non-existent, not both together, not neither;

  • not permanent, not impermanent, not both together, not neither;

  • not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither ...


So, "not different" does not mean "identical". 

It means form appears but is empty; empty it still appears and is relatively functional. 

One aspect implies the other (<==>).


So it is about the inseparability / interdependence / co-definition / co-relativity / co-dependence / co-emergence / co-evolution / co-cessation / co-transcendence / harmony / equality / non-duality / oneness / 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝗧𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵𝘀 -- in the non-dual sense of those terms: ex. not two / different, not one / identical, not both together, not neither.


So: There is no dharmas, no 5 aggregates, no 18 dhatus, no body speech & mind, no subject object & action, no 12 links of dependent origination, no origination duration & cessation, no Four Noble Truths, no samsara & nirvana, no ground, no path, no fruition / enlightenment, no 1st truth / dependent origination, no 2nd truth / emptiness, no two truths together, no neither, no Union of the Two truths ... And that is not "nothingness", but total freedom & bliss.


Appearances / dharmas & emptiness, or the relative & absolute, or the two truths, are themselves like a Union of being conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances / tools <==> and thus being both empty of inherent existence, and vice versa. Appearing but empty, empty but appearing. One aspect implies the other (<==>).


The two truths are on equal footing. One truth is not more important than the other truth. 

Emptiness is not more fundamental than form ... / appearances / relative functionality. 

One cannot be reduced to the other. 

One is not the basis / ground for the other(s). 

The ultimate "ground" is the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths, the Trikaya

the infinite free energy of the Clear Light of the Void.


So it is not about

  1. accepting one side / truth (ex. absolute / emptiness) and rejecting the other side / truth (ex. relative / appearances / dharmas / karma -- nihilism),

  2. not vice versa (naïve realism),

  3. not about accepting both sides together (ex. the two truths together -- dualism),

  4. not about rejecting both (ex. neither of the two truths -- monism).


It is about 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗠𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲 𝗪𝗮𝘆 𝗳𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝗼𝗳 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝘀 & 𝗺𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲: nothing to accept / affirm / seek / do / perceive in absolute terms, nothing to reject / negate / abandon / not-do / not-perceive in absolute terms; just conventionally / relatively / inter-subjectively if it helps someone to get closer to the truth.


The true meaning of this "Union" is indescriptible, inconceivable for our flawed conditioned conceptual dualistic mental(s); it has to be spontaneously directly perceived / realised. It is beyond all description / conceptualisation, causality / production, form / matter-energy, space & time.






"Dharma is the truth that surpasses relative truth and ultimate truth;
yet enjoys the abundance of relative truth and ultimate truth."


(i.e. This TRUTH / REALITY is:

  • not relative truth / dependent origination only,

  • not absolute truth / mere emptiness only,

  • not both together,

  • not neither.

It is called the inconceivable 𝗨𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗧𝘄𝗼 𝗧𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵𝘀: their inseparability, interdependence, co-dependence, harmony …
That is the Ground, the infinite energy source of everything in both samsara & nirvana.
That is the only thing that is self-arising, unborn, permanent, unchanging, uncontrived ... the true nature of anything and everything.)


Emptiness and non-existence ~ 14th Dalai Lama

The doctrines of emptiness and selflessness (no-self) do not imply the non-existence of things (nothingness). Things do exist. When we say that all phenomena are void of self-existence, it does not mean that we are advocating non-existence, that we are repudiating that things exist. Then what is it we are negating? We are negating, or denying, that anything exists from its own side without depending on other things. Hence, it is because things depend for their existence upon other causes and conditions that they are said to lack independent self-existence (emptiness of inherent existence).

-- 14th Dalai Lama
from the book Answers: Discussions With Western Buddhists 


Functionality and emptiness ~ 14th Dalai Lama

  1. Nagarjuna said that for a system where emptiness is possible, it is also possible to have functionality

  2. and since functionality is possible, emptiness is also possible

So when we talk about nature, the ultimate nature is emptiness. What is meant by emptiness, or shunyata? It is not the emptiness of existence (complete non-existence / nihilism) but rather the emptiness of true or independent existence (emptiness of inherent existence -- 2nd truth), which means that things exist by dependence upon other factors (conventional relative existence & functionality -- 1st truth).

-- 14th Dalai Lama 


”Form is emptiness; emptiness also is form. 

Emptiness is no other than form, 

Form is no other than emptiness.” 

--The Buddha, Heart Sutra

These two assertions are safeguards against falling into either of the two extremes of samsara or nirvana.

Since sentient beings desire the enjoyments of form, they have fallen into samsara. To prevent them from falling into samsara, they have to be freed from their attachment to the enjoyments of form. However, someone who desires emptiness instead of form would fall into the other extreme of nirvana.

An analogy is a blind person walking along a narrow path with a forbidden place on one side and a precipice on the other. If someone were to shout a warning, “Watch out to the left!” they would veer to the right and fall over the edge on the left side, and the same would be true for the other side. The only safe path is to keep to the middle.

-- HH The Gyalwang Karmapa
From the teachings on the Heart Sutra, August 2016 – Gurgaon, Haryana, India


Free from the extreme of existence and that of non-existence ~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche 

This EMPTY nature, the lack of intrinsic existence in phenomena, does not imply a blank naught in which there is nothing at all, as we find in the view of the nihilists. According to relative truth, all phenomena arise as a result of the INTERDEPENDENT conjunction of causes and conditions. This enables us to explain not only how samsara is formed but also it is possible to progress toward nirvana. There is no contradiction (harmony) between the absolute nature (2nd truth -- emptiness of inherent existence) and its INFINITE DISPLAY (1st truth -- conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances) and, because of this, one is free from [the four extremes of] the extreme of existence, and that of non-existence(, and that of both existence and non-existence together, and that of neither existence nor non-existence (tetralemma)).

-- Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche 


The profound absence of objectification ~ Nagarjuna

Those whose mind has transcended

Existence and non-existence (and the other two extremes) and abides no more [in them],

They’ve realized the meaning of conditioned existence,

The profound absence of objectification [reification].
(tetralemma: The Middle Way beyond all conceptual proliferations, beyond all extremes & middle)

-- Nagarjuna
Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning, Verse 1 


Everything is dependently arising ~ 17th Karmapa

When we talk about emptiness, it has to be based on an understanding of the relativity of all things. Looking at ‘the reflection of the moon on water’, we can see that there is nothing there. Even that is dependently arisen, dependent on the existence of the moon and the water, on the ability of water to reflect. All of these things must come together to enable us to see the reflection of the moon on the water. That is emptiness. Emptiness and interdependence are inseparable. (Union of the Two Truths: Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances <==> and emptiness of inherent existence. One aspect implies the other (<==>).) 

  1. Everything is dependently arising; nothing exists on its own. ==> Therefore, the nature of everything is emptiness. 

  2. And because everything is emptiness ==> and everything is interdependent, then everything is possible.

-- 17th Karmapa 


The union of appearances and emptiness ~ Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche

Ultimate reality cannot be apprehended by concepts (tetralemma; beyond all conceptual elaborations; beyond all extremes & middle). We can, however, in an experiential way that transcends the ordinary conceptual mind, achieve a genuine [direct] understanding of reality as being the Union of appearances and emptiness. (Union of the Two Truths: Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances <==> and emptiness of inherent existence. One aspect implies the other (<==>).)

-- Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche 


Emptiness and dependent origination ~ 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche

Mind is by its very nature empty, yet appearances arise from it without obstruction. Out of the unobstructed emptiness of mind the whole range of appearances can manifest without limit. On a relative level, phenomena manifest through dependent origination; this is inseparable from the emptiness of mind, which is the ultimate level. (Union of the Two Truths: Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances <==> and emptiness of inherent existence. One aspect implies the other (<==>).)

Freedom from [all] extremes [and middle] is realizing that emptiness and dependent origination are one (in Union; not two, not one, not both together, not neither) and do not contradict each other (in harmony). Confusion lies neither in the appearance of things, nor in the fact that they are manifested by mind, but in one’s own misunderstanding of the emptiness and luminosity of mind. (Union of the Two Truths about Mind: Union luminosity / clear light / clarity / cognizance / functionality / capacity of knowing <==> emptiness of inherent existence of Mind.)

-- 3rd Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche
from the book Cloudless Sky 


Sutta Pitaka SN 12.48: Lokayatika Sutta — The Cosmologist

Staying at Savatthi. Then a brahman cosmologist went to the Blessed One and, on arrival, exchanged courteous greetings with him. After an exchange of friendly greetings & courtesies, he sat to one side. As he was sitting there, he said to the Blessed One (Buddha),

[QUESTION:] "Now, then, Master Gotama (the Buddha), does everything exist?"

[ANSWER: THERE ARE FOUR EXTREMES about this duality, using the tetralemma: existence, non-existence, both together, neither:]

  1. "'Everything EXISTS' is the senior form of cosmology, brahman." 

  2. 'Everything DOES NOT EXIST' is the second form of cosmology, Brahmin. 

  3. 'Everything is a MANYNESS (BOTH TOGETHER)' is the fourth form of cosmology, Brahmin. 

  4. 'Everything is a ONENESS (NEITHER)' is the third form of cosmology, Brahmin. 

[THE MIDDLE WAY:] Avoiding these two extremes, (existence vs. non-existence) the Tathagata (Buddha) teaches the Dharma (to the Sangha) via the Middle [Way]: ...


"Magnificent, Master Gotama! Magnificent! Just as if he were to place upright what was overturned, to reveal what was hidden, to show the way to one who was lost, or to carry a lamp into the dark so that those with eyes could see forms, in the same way has Master Gotama — through many lines of reasoning — made the Dhamma clear.

I go to Master Gotama (the Buddha) for refuge, to the Dhamma, and to the Sangha of monks.

May Master Gotama remember me as a lay follower who has gone to him for refuge, from this day forward, for life."


Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 25.1-16. [nirvana]

  1. NIRVANA is not an existing thing (1)

  2. not a non-existing thing (2)

  3. not both an existent and a non-existent thing (3)

  4. not neither an existent thing nor a non-existent thing (4) ...


Mūlamadhyamakakārikā 22.11. (emptiness)

  1. One may not say that there is "EMPTINESS" (sunya) (non-existence - 2)

  2. nor that there is non-emptiness . (existence - 1)"

  3. Nor that both [3 - exist simultaneously],

  4. nor that neither (4) exists;

the purpose for saying ["emptiness"] is for the purpose of conveying knowledge (just another conventional truth, antidote, adapted skillful means).


Non-dual Wisdom ~ Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche

The essence of all of the Buddha’s teachings is emptiness, or interdependent arising (the Union of those two aspects). Nothing arises, dwells, or ceases independently. Therefore, there’s nothing permanent. There is no truly existing self. Everything that we think exists, or does not exist, or both or neither — all these things are fabrications of our mind. We fabricate them and then we become attached to our fabrications. But we don’t realize they are our own fabrications. We think they are real, but basically, every single conception or clinging that we have is some kind of fanatical process. The Mahayana sutras teach emptiness, or shunyata, to lead us beyond all these extremes and fabrications.

When we talk about emptiness, something beyond fabrication, we immediately think of a state of being that has no function, like a couch potato or piece of stone, but that is absolutely not correct. It is not merely a negation, elimination, or denial (nihilism). It is not like the exhaustion of a fire or the evaporation of water. It is full of function, and we call this function buddha activity, which is one aspect of buddha-nature. This buddha-nature has an aspect of uninterrupted wisdom. This is the difficulty, because as soon as we talk about wisdom, we think in terms of cognition and the senses and their sense objects. We are curious about how a buddha perceives things. But although buddha-nature is seemingly a cognizer (1st truth), it has no object, and therefore it cannot be a subject (2nd truth). Furthermore, it’s not inanimate, nor is it animate, in the sense of mind. This is why the Uttaratantra Shastra is really complementary to the Mahasandhi (Dzogchen) teachings, which always say that mind and wisdom are separate — the dualistic mind of subject and object is separate from the non-dual wisdom, which is not other than buddha-nature. 

(i.e. Union of the Two Truths. Union Buddha-nature <==> Emptiness. Union luminosity / clear light / clarity / cognizance / functionality / capacity of knowing <==> emptiness of inherent existence of Mind.)

-- Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche 


The indivisibility of the two truths ~ Patrul Rinpoche

Ultimately we need to realize the indivisibility (Union) of the Two Truths, but claiming that the relative refers to existence, while on the absolute level things do not exist, will never qualify as the view of the middle way. When we realize the one genuine nature of the correct relative, the two truths will merge inseparably, beyond the conceptual extremes of existing, not existing(, both, neither), permanence and nothingness(, both, neither) (beyond all conceptual proliferations; beyond all extremes & middle about any dualistic concept; tetralemma). As it says in the Mother Prajnaparamita:

‘The real nature of the relative is the real nature of the absolute.’

-- Patrul Rinpoche 


Immune to any extreme view ~ Lama Tsongkhapa

When you know that appearances dispel the extreme of existence,

While the extreme of nothingness (non-existence) is eliminated by emptiness,

And you also come to know how emptiness arises as cause and effect,

(Union of the Two Truths: Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances <==> and emptiness of inherent existence. One aspect implies the other (<==>).)

Then you will be immune to any view entailing clinging to extremes.

(ex. Tetralemma. Freedom from all conceptual proliferations, freedom from all extremes & middle. 

Extremes like: existence / realism, non-existence / nihilism, both together / dualism, neither / monism.)

-- Lama Tsongkhapa
Three Principal Aspects of the Path 


Four extremes -- RigpaWiki

Four extremes

  1. existence

  2. non-existence

  3. both existence and non-existence

  4. neither existence nor non-existence

Example of this logic is for example in Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika, verse 55:

Everything is real and is not real,

Both real and not real,

Neither real nor not real.

This is Lord Buddha’s teaching. 


From Jamgon Mipam - His Life His Teaching, by Douglas Duckworth

[Gradually realising the true meaning of Genuine Emptiness / Buddha-nature / Suchness,
free from all extremes & middle, using the tetralemma:] 

“This selection shows Mipam’s explanation of “THE FOUR STAGES OF THE DAWNING OF THE MIDDLE WAY.” It is taken from his overview of Longchenpa’s commentary on the Secret Essence Tantra, and nearly the same words can also be found in his commentary on the Ornament of the Middle Way. This illustrates the importance of this Middle Way view in the contexts of both sutra and tantra. Through a fourfold scheme, he outlines a process for those who progressively engage in the meaning of non-conceptuality through the stages of empty, unity, freedom from constructs, and equality. Beginning with the object of negation, true existence, each of the stages probes deeper into the meaning of emptiness and the Middle Way. The process culminates with equality [Union ...], free from all concepts and dualities, which is beyond all distinctions between sentient beings and buddhas, nirvana and samsara (or any other dichotomy or group of opposites [Uopp]). … Through becoming familiar with such a freedom of constructs again and again, all aspects of dualistic phenomena, in which one sets apart particular objects and their distinctive suchness, are purified. Through bringing forth an exceptional certainty in the nature of all phenomena as equality [Union ...], one reaches completion.”

These four stages -- empty, UNITY/UNION, freedom from constructs, and equality -- counteract respectively the four extremes (the “tetralemma”) of existence, non-existence, both, and neither.

  1. 1) The first stage, empty, negates [refutes] the first extreme of “existence”.
    This is the most dominant extreme, because we are habituated to conceive things (our self, our things, the world) as truly real. By seeing these as empty, we come to recognise that they do not really exist the way we conceive them to be.

  2. 2) The second stage, UNITY/UNION, counteracts [refutes] the second extreme of “non-existence”.
    After negating [transcending] the extreme of existence, if we hold on to that absence -- a mere lack of true existence -- we are still in the grips of conceptual constructs, because this absence is wholly dependent on its binary counterpart of true existence. If existence were truly something to be negated, its negation as non-existent would be real too. However, since nothing has ever been truly existent, non-existence cannot be real either. This is the reason why even the negation of existence cannot be affirmed. As is the case with the death of a man who was never born, without existence, non-existence cannot be real either.

  3. 3) The third stage, freedom from constructs, counteracts [refutes] the third and supposedly more subtle extreme of “both existence and non-existence”.
    We might think that since reality is not truly “existent” and not truly “non-existent”, then perhaps it is ”both existent and non-existent together”. However, to both truly exist and truly not exist is a contradiction. Being and non-being, real and unreal, are mutually exclusive; we can only speak meaningfully of one or the other. Of course, we could say that things ultimately do not exist, while conventionally they do, but this is introducing a dichotomy of TWO TRUTHS. Here, we are talking about one truth, how things really are, as the ultimate or true nature of things. In “the way things are in reality, which are ultimate, the way that reality appears to a sublime being’s perception", nothing is both existent and non-existent. …

  4. 4) The fourth and last stage, equality, counteracts [refutes] what is said to be the most subtle of the four extremes, that of “neither existence nor non-existence”.
    Since things do not really “both exist and not exist”, we might think they ”neither exist nor not exist”. However, this is still bound up within the premises of our conceptual categories. This stage takes us a step further, in a similar way as the move from the first stage to the second (because things do not really exist does not mean they must really be non-existent either): just because things do not ”both exist and not exist” does not mean that they must necessarily “neither exist nor not exist”. This may sound like a contradiction, but it need not be so. The dichotomy of existence and non-existence, the law of non-contradiction, and the excluded middle are products of thought. (the same for any group of opposites: dualities, triads, quads, etc.) They form the framework of our conceptual constructions. Yet even if consistent thought and language must follow these laws, our experience doesn’t need to because it is not necessarily confined to our conceptual structures. By first recognising this experience beyond concepts and becoming accustomed to it, we come to directly experience equality [U2T, U3W, Uopp, Middle Way, Tetralemma]. To know equality [Union ...] is to experience the one taste of all things, where there is no separate self [U3W] or other in samsara or nirvana. [Uopp] 


With dualistic thinking, we either accept ‘non-existence’ as correct or, due to habitual thought patterns, believe ‘existence’ to be right. Actually both ‘emptiness’ and ‘non-emptiness’, both ‘existence’ and ‘non-existence’; although they appear to exist, are ultimately devoid of any intrinsic nature. Those who disagree may claim, “No, that’s not true. ‘The real’ exists; ‘the fake’ doesn’t exist.” However, this is like two people in a dream, in which one is ‘real’, and the other ‘fake’; in reality, neither of them truly exists.

-- Khenpo Sodargye 

(i.e. It is never about accepting 'this' while rejecting 'that'. That is dualistic thinking. It is about the Middle Way free of all extremes & middle about any duality. There is no exception, nothing to grasp as the inherent / universal / absolute truth or basis or ground. Even dependent origination and emptiness are dependently co-arisen and empty of inherent existence. Even the Ground, the True Mind, Buddha-nature, or whatever we might want to call it. It is not something, not nothingness.)


Unlimited potential ~ Mingyur Rinpoche

When Buddhist talk about emptiness, we don’t mean nothingness, but rather an unlimited potential for anything to appear, change, or disappear.

– Mingyur Rinpoche

from the book "The Joy of Living: Unlocking the Secret and Science of Happiness" 


Following the view ~ Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

We know that smoke indicates the presence of fire but is not the fire itself; nevertheless, by following the smoke we can find the fire. Likewise, it is important to understand that the view of voidness is not the same as the actual experience of voidness; but by following the view and becoming familiar with it, we will arrive at the actual realization of voidness itself, free from any concepts or theories.

– Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

from the book "The Heart Treasure of the Enlightened Ones" 








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