Sunday, October 24, 2021

Thinking the Unthinkable - Unthinking the Thinkable - 133

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Analysis of selected passages from:

Thinking the Unthinkable / Unthinking the Thinkable:
Conceptual thought, non-conceptuality,
and Gorampa Sonam Senge's Synopsis of Madhyamaka
By Constance E. Kassor
- 2014 -
https://etd.library.emory.edu/concern/etds/5712m675f?locale=de 


Thinking the Unthinkable - Unthinking the Thinkable - 133

  • -- This dissertation is a résumé of some important points found in Gorampa’s book “Synopsis of Madhyamaka”

  • Synopsis of Madhyamaka, an encyclopedic text outlining Gorampa’s views on the major points of Madhyamaka, as well as the views of a number of earlier and contemporary Indian and Tibetan scholars with whom he both agrees and disagrees. 

  • -- Synopsis is divided into the three usual sections: Ground / View / Basis, Path, and Fruition / Result / Buddhahood.

  • Gorampa's unique flavor of Madhyamaka is distinguished based on his understanding of 

    • the two truths (and their relationship / Union), 

    • his methods for employing analysis within the tetralemma, and 

    • his conception of a buddha's enlightened awareness (how he perceives appearances and acts).

  • Gorampa advocates for a philosophical practice by which one utilizes conceptual thought [T1] in order to eradicate (transcend) conceptual thought in its entirety.

  • The present study is concerned with Gorampa’s understanding of the relationship [Union] between conceptual thought [T1 - indirectly perceiving the way things appear] and spros bral [T2 - directly perceiving the way thing really are] as explained in his Synopsis of Madhyamaka (p. 5) (i.e. the relationship / Union of the Two Truths)

  • the primary aim of this project is to arrive at a deeper understanding of Gorampa’s Madhyamaka as it relates to the connections between conceptual thought [T1] and spros bral [T2] [U2T]

  • The structure of the Synopsis informs the structure of my dissertation.
    Specifically, I will analyze the issues that Gorampa has deemed important, namely: 

    • the relationship [Union] between the two truths [U2T] and an analysis of the four extremes [tetralemma]

    • After these aspects of Madhyamaka in terms of its basis are understood, I will then turn to an investigation of the nature of the nature of Buddhahood (as articulated in the path and result chapters). 

    • In this way, I will show that Gorampa’s understanding of the relationship [Union] between conceptual thought [T1] and non-conceptuality [T2] informs his entire Madhyamaka project. 


CHAPTER 1: GORAMPA, THE SYNOPSIS, AND THE WAY THINGS REALLY ARE 1 

  • BASIS / GROUND / VIEW: there is the conventional duality of the two truths [2T], and there is the direct realisation of the Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Union of the Two Truths [U2T]: 

    • [T1] the way that things appear [T1: conventionally dependently co-arisen / interdependent relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its conditioning / karma, not complete non-existence] and

    • [T2] the way that things really are [T2: emptiness of inherent existence, like illusions, not real existence -- never fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing];

    • [U2T] the [Union /] relationship between these two truths -- appearances and reality -- [U2T: Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Non-duality / Union of the Two Truths: one truth implies the other (<==>).] 

    • [U2T-2T] (Note: Ultimately those two truths -- dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances and emptiness of inherent existence -- and their Union are also all conventional truths <==> thus all empty of inherent existence. So there is nothing to grasp as ‘absolute’; not even the Ground / Basis / Suchness / Dharmata / Dharmadhatu / Genuine-emptiness / Buddha-nature / U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way.)

  • METHOD / PATH : the techniques that one must practice in order to come to perceive things as they truly are

    • reality is something that must be experienced [directly] without being mediated by [dualistic] concepts

    • in order to access this reality, one must first go through a rigorous process of conceptual analysis

    • one must investigate appearances so thoroughly that at the end of one's investigation, one comes to the realization that rational analysis alone is insufficient to fully engage with reality (i.e. it is about analysing the conventional, the true nature & dynamic of our  conditioning (body, speech & mind) x (individual, collective, cosmic), samsara, in order to be able to go beyond them, to transcend them (not accepting, not rejecting), to clear the way for a possible spontaneous non-conceptual non-dualistic direct perception / experience  of Reality as it is here & now.)

    • rational analysis can approximate a realization of the way things really are, but it cannot take someone to an actual realization of reality. 

    • One must engage in subsequent practices (meditation) that transcend conceptual thought in order to fully access reality.

    • the role of philosophy is to undo (transcend) philosophy; one must cultivate certain kinds of conceptual thoughts [T1] in order to eventually undermine (transcend dualistic) conceptuality (all conditioning / karma) in its entirety [T2] (the Middle Way: not accepting, not rejecting)

  • FRUITION / RESULT: The term spros bral means "freedom from [or transcendence of dualistic] conceptual proliferations (freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all conditioning / karma)," and it represents the state of an enlightened mind (Buddha), free from all forms of ignorance. It is, in other words, the culmination [result] of the Buddhist path; it is the end goal toward which all Buddhists should strive.

  • -- [Comments:]

  • -- The Two Truths [2T]: Everything is characterised by the two truths -- appearance & emptiness, or ‘the way things appear - false seeing’ and ‘the way things really are  - correct seeing, or the conventional and the ultimate truth / perspective. And one aspect / truth implies the other (<==>) [U2T].

  • -- The relationship between the two truths [U2T - Union of the Two Truths]: The two truths are inseparable, interdependent, co-defined, co-relative, co-dependent [T1], co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing, in harmony, non-dual, in Union (in the non-dual sense of those terms: ex. not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither; not existent, not non-existent, not both together, not neither; etc.) <==> thus both truths are themselves empty of inherent existence [T2]. [U2T-2T]

  • -- “Freedom from conceptual proliferations” (i.e. Freedom from all dualistic conceptual proliferations / constructs; free from all extremes & middle; free from but not necessarily without; free from all conditioning / karma -- conditioned physical fabrications / body, conceptual fabrications / speech, mental fabrications / mind; individual, collective, cosmic --; free from all craving / attachment to them; free from being fooled by them; free from being slaves to them; being able to use our tools -- body, speech & mind -- while directly perceiving / realising / experiencing / abiding in their true nature & dynamic as pointed by concepts like: the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths [U2T], Union of the three spheres [U3S], Union of opposites [Uopp], Middle Way)

  • -- Transcendence (i.e. Transcendence through wisdom -- not accepting / affirming / seeking / adding / doing, not rejecting / negating / abandoning / subtracting / not-doing in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively; being able to use them with awareness of their true nature & dynamic [U2T] [U3S] [Uopp] [Middle Way], without being fooled by them, without grasping them, without becoming slaves to them, without thinking they are inherently existing or completely non-existent, or both together, or neither)

  • -- RESULT: (i.e. Nothing is perceived as independently / universally / absolutely / inherently existing, or completely non-existent, or both together, or neither -- and there is no fifth; just non-conceptually non-dualistically directly perceived as the Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances <==> empty of inherent existence: U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma.)

  • -- Perceiving / knowing without perceiving / knowing: Nothing is perceived as fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing, or completely non-existent ..., or both together, or neither -- and there is no fifth; just non-conceptually non-dualistically directly perceived as the Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its conditioning / karma, not completely non-existent <==> and thus empty of inherent existence, like illusions, not really existent:  = U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma.)

1.1 Appearances and Reality 3 

  • the Madhyamaka tradition does not argue that reality is nothingness [nihilism][more like] lack a stable, unchanging, independent, permanent essence [U2T - emptiness inseparable from the mere conventional]

  • The two truths:

    • [T1] “The way that things appear” is called the conventional truth [T1] and

    • [T2] “the way things really are” is called the ultimate truth [T2]

  • [U2T] The present study is concerned with Gorampa’s understanding of the relationship [Union] between conceptual thought [T1 - indirectly perceiving the way things appear] and spros bral [T2 - directly perceiving the way thing really are] as explained in his Synopsis of Madhyamaka (p. 5) (i.e. the relationship / Union of the Two Truths - U2T)

  • [U2T] the primary aim of this project is to arrive at a deeper understanding of Gorampa’s Madhyamaka as it relates to the connections (relation / Union) between conceptual thought [T1 - conventional truth] and spros bral [T2 - ultimate truth] [U2T]

1.2 A Brief Biography of Gorampa 7 

...

1.3 The Suppression and Resurgence of Gorampa’s Texts 10 

  • Today, Gorampa’s texts are widely studied in a variety of Tibetan monastic communities. His texts constitute a core component of the curriculum in Sakya monastic colleges, and non-Sakya sects – most notably the Nyingma and Kagyu – have relied on the structure of Gorampa’s arguments to further develop their own analytic traditions. Although Gorampa’s texts were banned from circulation in Tibet for nearly two hundred years, his philosophy was – and continues to be – taken seriously by Tibetan Buddhists both inside and outside of the Sakya tradition. 

  • His three complete Madhyamaka texts are: 

    • Distinguishing the Views, a polemical text contrasting Gorampa’s views with those of Tsongkhapa and Dolpopa

    • Removal of Wrong Views, a commentary on Candrakīrti’s Madhyamakāvatāra which responds to fifty-eight distinct points of difference with Tsongkhapa

    • Synopsis of Madhyamaka, an encyclopedic text outlining Gorampa’s views on the major points of Madhyamaka, as well as the views of a number of earlier and contemporary Indian and Tibetan scholars with whom he both agrees and disagrees. The views presented in this text are the focus of the present dissertation. 

1.4 Gorampa’s Philosophical Identity and Interlocutors 15 

  • While Gorampa clearly and skillfully explains his own position in his three Madhyamaka texts, he also devotes considerable effort to carefully delineating what his position is not. By presenting his own view as well as those of his interlocutors, Gorampa manages to clearly delineate the boundaries of his philosophical position …

  • The Synopsis, although not as overtly polemical as Distinguishing the Views, similarly constructs Gorampa’s view presenting both what his position is as well as what it is not.

  • Freedom from conceptual proliferations [U2T] involves the absence (transcendence) of conceptual [dualistic] thought [T2], and is only brought about after a thorough analysis of [dualistic] appearances [T1].

  • -- “Freedom from conceptual proliferations” (i.e. Freedom from all dualistic conceptual proliferations / constructs; free from all extremes & middle; free from but not necessarily without; free from all conditioning / karma -- conditioned physical fabrications / body, conceptual fabrications / speech, mental fabrications / mind; individual, collective, cosmic --; free from all craving / attachment to them; free from being fooled by them; free from being slaves to them; being able to use our tools -- body, speech & mind -- while directly perceiving / realising / experiencing / abiding in their true nature & dynamic as pointed by concepts like: the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths [U2T], Union of the three spheres [U3S], Union of opposites [Uopp], Middle Way)

  • -- Transcendence (i.e. Transcendence through wisdom -- not accepting / affirming / seeking / adding / doing, not rejecting / negating / abandoning / subtracting / not-doing in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively; being able to use them with awareness of their true nature & dynamic [U2T] [U3S] [Uopp] [Middle Way], without being fooled by them, without grasping them, without becoming slaves to them, without thinking they are inherently existing or completely non-existent, or both together, or neither)

1.5 Situating the Synopsis in Buddhist Scholarship 19 

  • The Synopsis is Gorampa’s most significant contribution to Madhyamaka thought.

  • all four of Gorampa’s Madhyamaka texts present the same general view of emptiness. The main differences between these texts involve the ways in which this general view is presented.

    • Distinguishing the Views, for example, presents the Madhyamaka VIEW as free from the four extremes of conceptual elaboration, while

    • Removal of Wrong Views presents the Mādhyamika practitioner (PATH) as one who has wisdom that lacks dualistic appearances

    • Both texts, however, outline similar views concerning the relationship [Union] between the two truths, the nature of ultimate reality and buddhahood, and the ways in which a practitioner is to proceed along the path... 

    • (Synopsis of Madhyamaka present the Madhyamaka RESULT as “freedom from conceptual proliferations”)

  • Gorampa’s main position is that enlightenment is the result of a gradual process,
    but that this process involves both rational analysis and non-conceptual meditative experiences.

1.6 Situating Gorampa in University Scholarship 21 

...

1.7 Approaches to Madhyamaka in Western Philosophy 22 

  • According to Gorampa, propositional knowledge is necessarily dualistic, and as such, cannot be the end result of Madhyamaka. Gorampa’s entire project articulates a process that results in a non-propositional mental state that is free from concepts and does not structure reality in terms of [inherently existing) subject-object duality. In fact, he argues that from the standpoint of the ultimate truth, concepts and dualistic distinctions are entirely erroneous (all transcended), and that if one continues to see the world in these ways (as inherently existing subject, relation/action, object), one cannot come to realize the way things really are [U2T]. [Grasping at] Concepts, language, and the dualistic distinctions that result from these are inextricably tied to the ignorance that keeps sentient beings in samsara, the cycle of rebirth and suffering. 

  • In other words, Gorampa argues that ultimately, there is no [fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing] truth that we must strive to understand, and there is no [fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing] "view" that must be held (no absolute to grasp). 

  • He writes in the Synopsis that we ought to use the term, "'realizing the Madhyamaka view' as a term for merely not finding, at the end [of analysis], any conceptual proliferations, such as [all dualities like] existence and non-existence. (i.e. freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all conceptual dualistic proliferations, freedom from all conditioning / karma (liberated / free from, not necessarily without).”

  • That is, Gorampa's end goal is to completely eliminate (transcend) any beliefs about some sort of objective [fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing] truth about the world that exists as a thing that can be known. And if there is no truth that exists as a thing that can be known, then it cannot be transposed into an analytic project.

  • This contrasts with the view of Tsongkhapa, who contends that a realization of the ultimate truth is based on carefully identifying a concept of emptiness (as an absolute truth). This concept, for Tsongkhapa, is understood as a rationally determined object (yul) that must be apprehended if one is to arrive at the ultimate truth. 

1.8 Situating Gorampa’s Views of Conceptual Thought in Academic Contexts 28 

...

1.9 The Structure of the Synopsis, and a Note on What Follows 29 

  • the main aspect of Madhyamaka that must be understood [and then directly realised] is
    -- the Two Truths (and their relationship = the Union of the Two Truths [U2T-all];
    -- the Union of the three spheres [U3S / U2T-3S];
    -- the Union of opposites in general [Uopp / U2T-opp];
    -- the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle (nothing to accept nothing to reject in absolute terms)
    free from all conceptual dualistic proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma;
    -- the Union of the Two Truths about the two truths themselves [U2T-2T]).

  • [2T] From the perspective of the conventional truth, that is, from the perspective of ordinary, unenlightened beings, there is [the duality of] a conventional truth (the way that things appear / false seeing) [T1] and an ultimate truth (the way things really are / correct seeing) [T2].

  • [U2T] From the perspective of a more spiritually advanced person, however, [one transcends the duality of the two truths and all dualities / opposites,] there is only freedom from conceptual elaborations (spros bral) (, freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all conditioning / karma) [awareness of the Ground / Basis / inconceivable Union of the Two Truths - U2T].

  • If the two truths are analyzed further, they can each be broken down again into two:

    • [T1] The conventional can be explained in terms of 

  • the conventional truth, (as perceived by ordinary beings without wisdom)

  • the merely conventional (as inseparable from the ultimate truth - U2T), and

  • [T2] The ultimate, similarly, can be explained in terms of 

  • the ultimate that is taught (conceptual dualistic) and 

  • the ultimate that is [directly] realized (indescribable non-conceptual non-dualistic; we can just point to it).

  • When cultivating a correct understanding of Madhyamaka,
    it is essential that one develop a correct conceptual understanding of the two truths
    (and their relationship / Union of the Two Truths - U2T) 

  • (and then to meditate on this repeatedly until getting a personal spontaneous non-conceptual non-dualistic direct perception / realisation / experience of this Union of the Two Truths (U2T] -- not just of emptiness [T2].)

  • The structure of the Synopsis informs the structure of my dissertation.
    Specifically, I will analyze the issues that Gorampa has deemed important, namely: 

    • the relationship between [Union of] the two truths [U2T]
      and an analysis of the four extremes [tetralemma about the opposites of any duality / triad / quad / etc.]

    • After these aspects of Madhyamaka in terms of its basis are understood, I will then turn to
      an investigation of the nature of the nature of Buddhahood (how he perceives Reality and acts in accord with it) (as articulated in the path and result chapters). 

    • In this way, I will show that Gorampa’s understanding of
      the relationship between conceptual thought [T1] and non-conceptuality [T2] [U2T] informs his entire Madhyamaka project. 


CHAPTER 2: THE TWO TRUTHS: THE SCAFFOLDING OF MADHYAMAKA 33 

  • Chapter 2 outlines Gorampa’s general presentation of the two truths. Specifically,
    the conventional truth is conceptual and is based on object-subject duality [T1],
    and the ultimate truth is free from [grasping at any] conceptual proliferations and dualistic distinctions [T2]. liberated / free from, not necessarily without) (from 1.9)

  • [BASIS: Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Union of the Two Truths :] According to the Madhyamaka:

    • there is ... the way that things appear [T1]

    • and the way that things really are [T2];

    • [T1] the former is explained as conventional truth [dependent appearances & functionalities, 2T, 3S, opp / dualities],

    • [T2] and the latter is described as ultimate truth [Reality as it is, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way].

    • [T1] The conventional truth corresponds to a perspective in which external objects appear to apprehending subjects (3S: opposition / difference / separation / duality subject vs. relation / action vs. object); [dependent appearances & functionalities, 2T, 3S, opp / dualities]

    • [T2] the ultimate truth corresponds to a perspective in which this object-subject duality dissolves completely (Inseparability / Interdependence / co-emergence / co-evolution / co-cessation / Non-duality / Union of the three spheres -- subject & relation/action & object --). [Reality, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way]

    • [U2T] (Union of the Two Truths: Like the opposites in any duality / triad / quad / etc., the Two Truths are themselves inseparable / interdependent / co-defined / co-relative / co-dependent / co-emergent / co-evolving / co-ceasing / in harmony / non-dual / in Union <==> thus both empty of inherent existence; they are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither; not existent, not completely non-existent, not both together, not neither. One aspect / truth implies the other (<==>).)

  • [Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Union of Ground <==> Path <==> Result:] a coherent picture of the Two Truths is essential for understanding the methods of rational analysis described in the Basis chapter, as well as for making sense of the meditative practices and enlightened states that Gorampa describes in the Path and Result chapters.

  • Specifically... The Two Truths correspond to different types of perspectives with respect to appearances, and that these different types of perspectives allow practitioners both to engage in conceptual, rational analysis [T1], and to eventually abandon (transcend) those concepts in favor of non-conceptual meditative realization [T2].

  • The present chapter details Gorampa’s definitions of the conventional and ultimate truths, and sets out the ways in which they are distinguished from [related to] each other based on these definitions. (i.e. The conventional / relative and the ultimate are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither.)

  • -- Transcendence (i.e. Transcendence through wisdom -- not accepting / affirming / seeking / adding / doing, not rejecting / negating / abandoning / subtracting / not-doing in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively; being able to use them with awareness of their true nature & dynamic [U2T] [U3S] [Uopp] [Middle Way], without being fooled by them, without grasping them, without becoming slaves to them, without thinking they are inherently existing or completely non-existent, or both together, or neither)

  • -- The relationship between the two truths [U2T - Union of the Two Truths]: The two truths are inseparable, interdependent, co-defined, co-relative, co-dependent [T1], co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing, in harmony, non-dual, in Union (in the non-dual sense of those terms: ex. not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither; not existent, not non-existent, not both together, not neither; etc.) <==> thus both truths are themselves empty of inherent existence [T2]. [U2T-2T]

2.1 The Two Truths are Two Realities [perspectives] 34 

  • They are not, in other words, two truth statements, whose opposites are false.

  • The Two Truths [2T] correspond to two different perspectives from which certain statements can be said to be “true” (one based on ignorance, the other based on direct wisdom).

  • debates regarding the Two Truths concern not whether the conventional and ultimate truths exist, but rather the ways in which they can be said to exist, and the bases upon which they are divided (related: Inseparable / Interdependent / in Harmony / in Union). (i.e. The two truths -- the conventional / relative and the ultimate -- are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither.)

    • [T1] from the perspective of the conventional (i.e. the way things appear (false seeing) in the context of the conventions of ordinary persons), things can be said to exist in certain ways, 

    • [T2] while from the perspective of the ultimate (i.e. the way things really are (correct seeing), independent of our conventions), everything is empty [T2] and free from conceptual proliferations [U2T] (spros bral) (but still appearing [T1]) [U2T].

2.2 Gorampa’s General Presentation of the Two Truths 37 

  • The Two Truths [in Union] are the ultimate Basis [Ground / U2T] for the following reasons:

  • Since they are the phenomenal quality of things [T1] and reality itself [T2] [U2T] which pervade all frameworks of knowable things, they are the very framework of reality.

  • Since they exhaustively abandon the extremes of reification and deprecation through realization, they are the actual abode of objects of knowledge.

  • And since affliction and purification occur by virtue of being distorted and non-distorted about those [Two Truths], they are the reference point (dmigs pa) for definitive goodness.

  • The Two Truths organize our world, and determine the ways to behave within it.

  • By referencing these two passages together, Gorampa suggests that

    • [T1] ordinary appearances (the domain of the rational mind) comprise the entirety of the conventional truth [T1].

    • [T2] The ultimate, on the other hand, is beyond the realm of conventional appearances and [dualistic] conceptual thought [T2]. (Note: ‘beyond’ doesn’t mean without)

  • Gorampa’s main point here is that terms such as correct seeing” and “false seeing correspond to the ultimate and conventional, respectively.

    • [T1] All objects and subjects which appear dualistically as appearances of objects and subjects are conventional truth [dependent appearances & functionalities, 2T, 3S, opp / dualities]; 

    • [T2] freedom from conceptual proliferations which is experienced by the subsiding of dualistic appearances through the meditative equipoise of āryas (or after) is the ultimate truth. [Reality as it is, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way] 

    • [T1] any appearances that rely on a dualistic structure, existing in terms of an apprehending subject (yul can) that grasps an apprehended object (yul), correspond to the conventional truth (3S: opposition / difference / separation / duality subject vs. relation / action vs. object); [dependent appearances & functionalities, 2T, 3S, opp / dualities]. 

    • [T2] Appearances that are devoid of this dualistic object-subject structuring (that have been transcended by directly realising their true nature & dynamic) are free from conceptual proliferations (spros bral) (liberated / free from, not necessarily without), and correspond to the ultimate. [Reality, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way] 

    • [U2T-2T] This twofold division is not, however, just this simple. The division into “conventional” and “ultimate” is itself a dualistic distinction [2T], and therefore only really occurs from the perspective of an ordinary person (conventional truth).

    • [U2T-2T] Although explaining the Two Truths in terms of object-subject duality and freedom from conceptual proliferations is correct from the perspective of ordinary conventional thought, from the perspective of a mind that is free from conceptual proliferations, making distinctions [2T] between “conventional” and “ultimate” makes no sense [U2T]. Drawing distinctions is a characteristic of conceptual thought, and since all conceptual thought has been pacified (transcended) in the mind of an ārya in meditation, such distinctions are impossible (in absolute terms).

  • It is worth noting here that for Gorampa, dualistic appearances and conceptual thought are directly related

    • According to his system, any conceptual thought is dualistic, and any dualistic appearance is conceptual.

    • all appearances that occur in terms of object-subject duality are necessarily conceptual.

    • Gorampa contends that all perception is dualistic (except direct perception), and therefore conceptual. Moreover, because it is conceptual, it is relegated to the realm of the conventional.

    • Everything that is conventional, Gorampa argues, appears with this type of dualistic object-subject structure. That is, anything that appears to the mind of an ordinary person appears as an object that is separate from the subject who apprehends it.

2.3 Gorampa on the Conventional Truth: What It Isn’t 43 

  • Gorampa then presents – and subsequently refutes -- the views of: 

    • the Buddhist realist schools, the Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika, who assert the existence of external objects, and

    • the two subdivisions of the Yogācāra tradition – Satyākāravāda and Alīkākāravādawhich assert the existence of a subject / mind.

  • A correct understanding of the conventional truth of [dualistic / relative] appearances [T1] will eventually lead to [or clear the way for] a [spontaneous personal non-conceptual non-dualistic direct perception / experience /] realization of the [non-conceptual, non-dualistic] ultimate truth, of the way things really are [T2] (, of correct seeing).
    [of Reality as it is / Suchness / Dharmata / Dharmadhatu / Genuine-emptiness / Buddha-nature / U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma].

2.4 Gorampa on the Conventional Truth: What It is 64 

  • After refuting the views of … Gorampa goes on to present his own view of the conventional truth

  • He asserts that there are multiple acceptable ways of understanding conventional appearances, but there are two perspectives that are the best:

    • the system of the Yogācāra-Mādhyamika - (which I will refer to as Yogācāra-Svātantrika-Mādhyamika)- the Yogācāra-Svātantrika view which understands appearances as mere mind;

    • the system of the Mādhyamika who acts according to what is established in the world - (which I will refer to as Prāsaṅgika-Mādhyamika)- the Prāsaṅgika view which understands appearances as that which is in conformity with the world;

    • Prāsaṅgika and Svātantrika are divided based on their methods of producing the ultimate view, but with respect to the way that they accept the ultimate, there is no distinction. So both are acceptable for the Mādhyamika, because different practitioners are disposed to understanding appearances in different ways.

  • Either one of these positions is acceptable when one is attempting to make sense of the conventional truth [T1]. One will eventually, through further analysis and meditation, come to realize the ultimate truth that is freedom from conceptual proliferations [U2T], based on either one of these initial conceptual understandings of conventional appearances.

  • In spite of this apparent tolerance of separate views, however, Gorampa argues that there are important differences between understanding appearances in terms of mind, and in terms of external objects as they are commonly understood in the world.

  • Gorampa stresses that in order to directly and non-conceptually realize the ultimate [T2], one must first have a correct conceptual [dualistic] understanding of the conventional truth [T1], and that this is not just blindly accepted; 

  • (and at the end, one truth [T1] is not discarded / rejected while the other truth [T2] is accepted as Reality; they are inseparable in the three times: before, during & after. Reality / Ground / Basis is the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths [U2T] that is directly seen.)

  • The conventional truth that is the basis for the realization of the ultimate only arises after a thorough analysis of the world (of conventional truths) (and remains after because the relative & ultimate are inseparable) (the difference is that after we are fully aware of their relation / Union of the Two Truths about everything).

  • (One directly perceives / realises / experiences the true nature of all appearances / fabrications -- physical, conceptual, mental; body, speech, mind; subject, relation/action, object --: [Tetralemma:] that they are not inherently existing, not completely non-existent, not both existent & non-existent together, not neither existent nor non-existent; not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together,  not neither; not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither; meaning beyond all extremes & middle, beyond all conceptual dualistic proliferations, beyond all conditioning / karma; [Union of the Two Truths:] that they are all empty of inherent existence [T2], like illusions <==> exactly because conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances / fabrications [T1], merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its conditioning / karma [U3S]. And that one aspect / truth implies the other (<==>) [U2T]. This is the inconceivable liberating truth.)

2.4.1 Three Ways of Understanding the Conventional: the Svātantrika Perspective 71 

  • The system of the Yogācāra-Mādhyamika - (which I will refer to as Yogācāra-Svātantrika-Mādhyamika)- the Yogācāra-Svātantrika view which understands appearances as mere mind;

  • The three ways: perceiving object-only, mind-only, their Union / U3S / U2T-3S.

2.4.2 One Way of Understanding the Conventional: the Prāsaṅgika Perspective 74 

  • The system of the Mādhyamika who acts according to what is established in the world - (which I will refer to as Prāsaṅgika-Mādhyamika) - the Prāsaṅgika view which understands appearances as that which is in conformity with the world;

  • from this perspective, there is no differentiation between the conventional truth that is in conformity with the world and the conventional truth which is the basis for the realization of the ultimate.

  • whatever is accepted as true by ordinary persons in the world as true can serve as a basis for realizing the ultimate

  • an ordinary, worldly, pre-analytical understanding of appearances is sufficient ground for later realizations 

  • It is also conventional truth which supports the actual realization of the ultimate, since when one analyzes the four extremes of the ways of arising, the arising itself is not even found.

  • this ordinary appearance can also serve as the basis for a later realization of the ultimate, because it can serve as an object of analysis and further investigation.

  • And once this analysis is applied to such an ordinary, worldly experience, it can serve as a support for meditation which eventually leads to a realization of the ultimate [Reality as it is / Suchness / Dharmata / Dharmadhatu / Genuine-emptiness / Buddha-nature / U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma].

  • In other words, some features of the conventional—such as reasoning and language—can be used to approach an understanding of the ultimate, even though the ultimate itself (as we will see below) transcends those features.

2.4.3 Gorampa’s Way(s) of Understanding the Conventional 78 

  • Once one can understand appearances in one of these two ways – either as mind or as that which is familiar to the world – one can use this understanding to later come to a realization of the ultimate. He contends that either one of these conceptualizations of the conventional is capable of eventually leading a Mādhyamika to a realization of emptiness, because once one realizes the ultimate truth and is in a state of spros bral, one no longer engages (in absolute terms) with conceptual thought or the conventional truth. (One realises that those two truths -- conventional / relative / appearance & ultimate / emptiness -- are inseparable / interdependent / co-dependent / in harmony / in Union - U2T - and that Reality is beyond the duality of the Two Truths, or the duality conceptualisation vs. non-conceptualisation, discrimination vs. non-discrimination, thinking vs. non-thinking, acting vs. non-acting, good vs. bad, acceptation vs. rejection, etc.)

  • While an enlightened being is experiencing the ultimate, she is incapable of engaging with the conventional (in absolute terms; only as inseparable part of the Union of the Two Truths - U2T)

  • -- Perceiving / knowing without perceiving / knowing: Nothing is perceived as fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing, or completely non-existent ..., or both together, or neither -- and there is no fifth; just non-conceptually non-dualistically directly perceived as the Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its conditioning / karma, not completely non-existent <==> and thus empty of inherent existence, like illusions, not really existent:  = U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma.)

  • Recall that at the outset of his discussion of the Two Truths, Gorampa describes the conventional truth in terms of object-subject duality (3S: opposition / difference / separation / duality subject vs. relation / action vs. object) [dependent appearances & functionalities, 2T, 3S, opp / dualities], and describes the ultimate truth in terms of freedom from dualistic distinctions [ Reality as it is, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way].

  • A correct understanding of the conventional truth, therefore,
    depends on accurately understanding dualistic appearances [opposites].
    These appearances can be understood in terms of mind or in terms of external objects,
    but when they are investigated through rational analysis [using the tetralemma],
    they will eventually lead the practitioner to ==>
    a conceptual understanding of what the ultimate truth is like
    [Reality, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way].

  • Although an actual realization of the ultimate truth involves the subsiding (transcendence) of dualistic, conceptual thought, these types of thought are nevertheless necessary at the outset of the Buddhist path. Without cultivating certain kinds of concepts – namely, concepts about the right ways of interpreting dualistic appearances – one cannot come to a later realization of the ultimate truth. 

  • The conventional truth is a useful fiction; it is a context that is useful in the sense that it orients one toward the ultimate truth, it is fictitious in that it is eventually abandoned (transcended) upon a realization of the ultimate truth.

  • In short, Gorampa’s main point is that we need the dualistic, conceptual constructs of the conventional to get us to the non-dual, non-conceptual ultimate, but these conceptual constructs are not actually present (as inherently existent because they have been transcended) in the ultimate itself.

  • -

  • -- “Freedom from conceptual proliferations” (i.e. Freedom from all dualistic conceptual proliferations / constructs; free from all extremes & middle; free from but not necessarily without; free from all conditioning / karma -- conditioned physical fabrications / body, conceptual fabrications / speech, mental fabrications / mind; individual, collective, cosmic --; free from all craving / attachment to them; free from being fooled by them; free from being slaves to them; being able to use our tools -- body, speech & mind -- while directly perceiving / realising / experiencing / abiding in their true nature & dynamic as pointed by concepts like: the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths [U2T], Union of the three spheres [U3S], Union of opposites [Uopp], Middle Way)

  • -- Transcendence (i.e. Transcendence through wisdom -- not accepting / affirming / seeking / adding / doing, not rejecting / negating / abandoning / subtracting / not-doing in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively; being able to use them with awareness of their true nature & dynamic [U2T] [U3S] [Uopp] [Middle Way], without being fooled by them, without grasping them, without becoming slaves to them, without thinking they are inherently existing or completely non-existent, or both together, or neither)

  • -- RESULT: (i.e. Nothing is perceived as independently / universally / absolutely / inherently existing, or completely non-existent, or both together, or neither -- and there is no fifth; just non-conceptually non-dualistically directly perceived as the Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances <==> empty of inherent existence: U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma.)

  • -- Perceiving / knowing without perceiving / knowing: Nothing is perceived as fixed / delimited / independent / objective / universal / absolute / inherently existing, or completely non-existent ..., or both together, or neither -- and there is no fifth; just non-conceptually non-dualistically directly perceived as the Union of conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its conditioning / karma, not completely non-existent <==> and thus empty of inherent existence, like illusions, not really existent:  = U2T / U3S / Uopp / Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all conceptual proliferations, free from all conditioning / karma.)

2.5 The Ultimate Truth is Beyond Concepts and Language 83 

  • i.e. The actual ultimate is indescribable, inconceivable for our flawed conditioned dualistic conceptual mind based on two erroneous assumptions -- inherent existence and opposition / duality. It is beyond conceptualisation / description, causality / production, form / matter-energy, space & time, beyond all extremes & middle, beyond all conceptual proliferations / constructs, beyond all conditioning / karma (individual, collective, cosmic). It has to be directly perceived / realised / experienced. And ‘beyond’ and ‘free from’ and ‘transcending’ doesn’t mean that we have to reject / negate / abandon / destroy / eliminate ... our body, speech & mind; our physical, conceptual & mental fabrications; our subjects, relations / actions, objects; our conditioning / karma, our world / samsara. It is not about becoming a rock, or about going somewhere else. It only means to be free from them, not slaves to them, not grasping at them, not fooled by them, not thinking they are inherently existing with inherently existing characteristics / properties / qualities. We still can perceive them, and use them as simple tools when necessary, instead of being controlled by them. So ‘freedom from conceptual proliferations’ doesn’t mean to be without dualistic conceptual proliferations, just free from them, beyond them, having transcended them by realising their true nature & dynamic as pointed by concepts like the Union fo the Two Truths [U2T], Union of the three spheres [U3S] -- subject, relation / action, object --, Union of opposites [Uopp] in any duality / triad / quad / etc., the Middle Way: nothing to accept / affirm / seek / add / do in absolute terms, nothing to reject / negate / abandon / subtract / not-do in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively if it helps someone to get closer to the inconceivable liberating Truth.

  • [The finger pointing at the moon is not the moon itself:] although the actual ultimate truth cannot be explained, we can nevertheless gesture in its general direction. (Everything we say about the ultimate is just a finger pointing at the moon; it is never ‘it’; but still it is useful. And everything ultimately points at the ultimate because everything, all appearances, all conventional truths, are inseparable from the ultimate. [U2T])

  • Freedom from conceptual proliferations transcends the distinctions between permanence and nihilism, affirmation and negation, or existence and non-existence, (conceptualisation & non-conceptualisation, discrimination & non-discrimination, duality & non-duality, action & non-action, thinking & non-thinking, perception & non-perception, feeling & non-feeling, acceptation & rejection, good & bad, pure & impure, meditation & non-meditation, ordinary being & buddha, existence & non-existence, identity & difference, permanence & impermanence, continuity & discontinuity, subject & object & ralation/action, body & speech & mind, dependence & independence, causality & acausality, emptiness & non-emptiness, samsara & nirvana, the two truths, the three kayas, the four cardinal directions, the five poisons /  wisdoms / Buddhas, the six realms, the 12 links of dependent origination …)

  • nothing at all can be found (as inherently existing) [T2]. That is, nothing can be said to exist apart from our own conceptual proliferations [T1] [U2T]

  • The ultimate is that which has the quality of being the Basis [Ground] upon which all things depend, and this is the Dharmatā (Ground / Suchness / Dharmadhatu / Reality as it is) which is of one taste (not many, not one, not both together, not neither).

  • “Since divisions are not tenable in non-existent things, there is non-duality, and in this,
    there is nothing to abandon and nothing to accept (the Middle Way).”

  • It (the Ground / ultimate) is something out of which conceptual proliferations arise, and although it is said to be free from conceptual proliferations, it is not actually different from them, either.

  • (i.e. The two truths -- the ultimate / Ground and the conventional / relative / dualistic / conceptual / appearing -- are inseparable, interdependent, co-defined, co-relative, co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing, in harmony, non-dua, in Unionl; not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither.) [U2T]

  • [U2T-2T] In other words, freedom from conceptual proliferations is the ultimate nature of all things, pervading everything. … However, if we search for this ultimate nature through analytical reasoning, we cannot find it.

  • [Ground] Enlightened awareness, on the other hand, is non-dual. It is not awareness of; it is simply awareness, free from dualistic divisions into subjects and objects.

2.6 Conclusion 91 

  • Gorampa begins the Basis chapter of his Synopsis by explaining the conventional and ultimate truths in terms of the presence [grasping / false seeing] and absence [transcendence / correct seeing] of dualistic conceptual thought, respectively [of our body, speech and mind, of our conditioning / karma].

  • It is in this way that we can think of the Two Truths doctrine as a type of scaffolding (i.e. tool, temporary imperfect adapted skillful means); just as a scaffolding is necessary in the construction of a building but is not actually a part of the building itself, the Two Truths are necessary in the development of the final Madhyamaka view of [Genuine-]emptiness, but are not actually a part of that [Genuine-]emptiness. (liberated / free from, not necessarily without)

  • From the perspective of one who has realized the actual ultimate truth that is free from conceptual proliferations (liberated / free from, not necessarily without), there is no [inherently existing / absolute] Two Truths schema [2T] (because there is no division between conventional [T1] and ultimate [T2] [U2T]), but in order to cultivate that perspective [U2T], one must initially rely on the division between the Two Truths [2T].

  • The Two Truths [2T] (dependent origination & emptiness) allow us to engage with the conventional in ways that lead to a realization of the ultimate [U2T].

  • Gorampa argues that one must rely on the Two Truths in order to make sense of the Buddha’s teachings, but that this dualistic structure must eventually be abandoned (transcended).  (liberated / free from, not necessarily without)


CHAPTER 3: THE EXPERIENTIAL DIVISION BETWEEN THE TWO TRUTHS 95 

  • Chapter 3 examines Gorampa’s interpretation of Candrakīrti with respect to the two truths, and contrasts this interpretation with that of Tsongkhapa ... (from 1.9)

  • All things have two natures, apprehended by correct or false seeing

    • Candrakīrti argues that the conventional nature is the object of false seeing, which is defined as a mind that is “covered by the film of ignorance.” --  in the context of the two truths, the conventional is something that conceals or obscures the way things really are.

    • With respect to the ultimate nature, Candrakīrti asserts that it is the object of “a particular kind of wisdom” of “those who have correct seeing. -- it is something which is always present, and needs to be uncovered through the practice of the Buddhist Path.

  • each of the two truths can be understood in different ways, depending upon the mind of the person who is being considered in relation to those two truths

3.1 Interpreting Candrakīrti 97 

  • Correct seeing apprehends reality – which is the ultimate truth while false seeing apprehends the conventional.

  • In the Madhyamaka system, the two truths are not divided on the basis of objects. Rather, they are divided into conventional truth and ultimate truth on the basis of the way that a single appearing entity is seen by a subject who is either seeing falsely or seeing correctly; or is distorted or undistorted; or is confused or not confused; or is erroneous or non-erroneous; or is a valid cognition or an invalid cognition.

  • the distinction between the two truths depends on the way in which one’s mind engages with appearances. A single appearance can be apprehended in one of two ways: if it is apprehended erroneously, it is labeled as conventionally true; and if it is apprehended correctly, then it is called ultimately true

  • Realizing the ultimate truth, therefore, involves changing one’s perception so that one can see correctly.

  • but the classifications of correct and false seeing differ depending on the perspectives of the beings who are doing the seeing

  • The distinction between correct seeing and false seeing, therefore, is relational [T1] (there is no absolute definition [T2]). Ex. a rational understanding of the absence of true existence is considered "correct seeing" in relation to the mind of an ordinary person, but "false seeing" in relation to that of an ārya.

3.2 The Twofold Divisions of the Two Truths 106 

  • subdivisions of each of the two truths:

    • the conventional can be divided into two: 

  • [1] the conventional truth -- the grasping at truth of ordinary beings - experienced as correct seeing by an ordinary person;

  • [2] the merely conventional -- the post-meditative state of the lower kinds of āryas - experienced as false seeing by an ārya in the post-meditative state

  • --

  • This twofold distinction excludes false conventions, apprehended by impaired sense-faculties.

  • [1] Ordinary persons who correctly perceive appearances with unimpaired sense-perception (but who are not yet engaging in Madhyamaka analysis and are therefore “grasping at truth”) are said to grasp the conventional truth. 

  • [2] Āryas, on the other hand, who have directly apprehended the ultimate truth while in meditative equipoise, experience the conventional as merely conventional (as inseparable from the ultimate [U2T]).

  • the ultimate, Gorampa also divides this into two: 

  • [1] the ultimate that is realized -- which is realized in an inexpressible way by āryas in meditative equipoise

  • [2] the ultimate that is taught -- which is realized in an expressible way by the rational minds of ordinary persons

  • the actual ultimate that is realized cannot be expressed in words – even in words such as “empty”, or “non-empty”, or both together, or neither. Nevertheless, in order for ordinary persons to cultivate an understanding of what the ultimate is like, it must be taught using expressions such as “empty,” “non-empty,” and so on.

  • --

  • [2] An ordinary person engages with the ultimate truth conceptually, mediated by words and thoughts. 

  • [1] An ārya engages with the ultimate truth non-conceptually, experiencing it directly and without dualistic structures. 

  • This does not mean, however, that there are two ultimates – one conceptual and one non-conceptual. There is simply one ultimate truth that is accessed differently depending on one's perspective.

  • The way in which one engages with the ultimate is relational [T1], depending on the mind of the subject.  (there is no absolute definition [T2])

  • Because the distinction between correct seeing and false seeing – and, by extension, conventional and ultimate truths – is relational and depends on the minds of subjects rather than on some sort of objective reality, there is much more flexibility in terms of the ways in which one may make sense of appearances. The definitions of the two truths, therefore, are not fixed (is also relational [T1] (there is no absolute definition [T2]); the ways in which they are perceived depend on the minds of the persons who perceive them. 

    • Ordinary persons with unimpaired sense perception perceive the conventional truth,
      and when they engage in rational analysis of the ultimate, they perceive the ultimate that is taught

    • Āryas in meditative equipoise directly experience the ultimate that is realized

    • while in the post-meditative state they understand that the conventional is only merely conventional, and not conventional truth.

    • Furthermore, when the two truths are divided in these ways, we can see that for both ordinary persons and āryas, engagement with the conventional (whether it is the conventional truth or the merely conventional) is tantamount to false seeing, while engagement with the ultimate (whether it is the ultimate that is taught or the ultimate that is realized) is tantamount to correct seeing

  • When one understands the relationships [Union] between ordinary and enlightened minds [Uopp] and the [Union of] conventional and ultimate truths [U2T], one will have an understanding of the nature of the path that one must follow in order to become enlightened.

3.3 The Two Truths Structure the Path 112 

  • The Buddhist path, therefore, involves a progression of

    • perceiving the conventional truth and rationally understanding the nominal ultimate,

    • and then directly experiencing the ultimate truth while understanding that what was once conventionally “true” is actually merely conventional.

  • Based on this model, as one proceeds along the Path and learns to engage with appearances in different ways, there is a shift in the definition of correct seeing and its relationship to false seeing (and therefore also a shift (evolution) in the definition of the ultimate [T21] and its relationship [Union] to the conventional [T1] [U2T].

  • Gorampa is arguing that the distinction between the two truths must be understood differently depending on how far along the Buddhist path one has progressed [from 2T to U2T].

  • The best kind of “correct seeing” is the spros bral (freedom from conceptual dualistic proliferations, the Middle Way, Union of the Two Truths) that is experienced by the meditative equipoise of an ārya. Anything else, from that final perspective, is conceptual, dualistic, and necessarily false seeing.

  • This means that from the final perspective on the Path, anything that presents itself dualistically, in terms of an object which is apprehended by a subject, is necessarily conventional, and therefore falls under the category of “false seeing.Nevertheless, in order to arrive at that final state, one must first engage in dualistic, conceptual thought. 

  • For Gorampa, this final distinction between the conventional and ultimate truths, based on whether they are or are not structured by the presence or absence of object-subject duality, respectively [2T or U2T, 3S or U3S, opp or Uopp, Union or not-Union], is a crucial element of the Buddhist path.

  • The actual ultimate truth is freedom from conceptual proliferations [U2T],
    but one must nevertheless rely on concepts in order to begin to progress toward a realization of this truth.

  • The result of these practices is a non-dual realization of the ultimate that is free from conceptual proliferations [U2T].

3.4 Tsongkhapa’s Ontological Distinction Between the Two Truths 119 

  • For Tsongkhapa, not only is it possible to continue to apprehend the conventional at the level of the realization of the ultimate truth, it is necessary. This is because, as we will see below, Tsongkhapa has strong ontological commitments.

  • For Gorampa, on the other hand, a cognition in which one simultaneously apprehends each of the two truths (as two distinct truths) [2T] is impossible. (Meaning the opposition / duality of the Two Truths is false seeing. The true nature of Reality has to be directly perceived as the Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Union of the Two Truths [U2T])

3.5 What’s at Stake, Here? Gorampa and Ontological Deflationism 124 

  • By emphasizing the distinctions between correct and false seeing (see section 3.2), rather than identifying two natures in things (as Tsongkhapa) [2T], Gorampa presents a system in which ontological commitments are not fundamentally important (ie. no absolute, not even emptiness). 

    • (From section 3.2: the conventional can be divided into two: 

  • [1] the conventional truth -- the grasping at truth of ordinary beings - experienced as correct seeing by an ordinary person;

  • [2] the merely conventional -- the post-meditative state of the lower kinds of āryas - experienced as false seeing by an ārya in the post-meditative state

  • the ultimate, Gorampa also divides this into two: 

  • [1] the ultimate that is taught -- which is realized in an expressible way by the rational minds of ordinary persons)

  • [2] the ultimate that is realized -- which is realized in an inexpressible way by āryas in meditative equipoise

  • [U2T] According to Gorampa,  knowledge of the conventional (as though by ordinary beings without wisdom) is a tool that enables one to advance toward enlightenment, but it is not a component of enlightenment itself (not absolute). That is, the conventional is conceptually constructed [T1], and is not real [T2].

  • Once one has realized the ultimate truth, the conventional level of reality is no longer conventional truth, (the conventional as perceived by ordinary beings without wisdom; as inherently existing appearances & functionalities & dualities, 2T, 3S, opp / dualities) but rather merely conventional. (the conventional as perceived with wisdom: as part of the inconceivable Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Union of the Two Truths; Reality as it is, U2T, U3S, Uopp, Middle Way)

  • --

  • As one moves toward buddhahood on Gorampa’s sliding scale of analysis, one’s understanding of the conventional is continually revised and refined until eventually, at the level of the realization of the actual ultimate that is free from conceptual proliferations, the conventional is no longer perceived at all (as inherently existing) (i.e. just as merely conventional - U2T]. 

  • This conceptual analysis must be carried out, however, in a very specific way, according to a specific process of reasoning known as the tetralemma (catuṣkoṭi, mtha’ bzhi). 

    • One must first understand the conventional truth and its relationship [Union] to the ultimate as we have seen Gorampa describe above. [One must understand the Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Union of the Two Truths - U2T]

    • Then, one must analyze the conventional truth through the tetralemma. As we will see in the following chapter, Gorampa argues that when the tetralemma is conceptualized correctly, it serves as a basis for the non-conceptual realization of the ultimate.

  • In short, Gorampa argues that the Buddhist Path involves a process of transforming one's perspective. 

    • One begins by correctly identifying and understanding the conventional truth. [ordinary T1]

    • Then, through logical reasoning and meditative practices (which, again, will be elaborated in the following chapter), one gradually begins to realize that this so-called truth is merely conventional and that it is not grounded in anything other than our own conceptual constructs.  [T1 as in U2T]

    • This leads to a conceptual understanding of the ultimate that is taught. [conceptual understanding of U2T] 

    • Through more analysis and practice still, one eventually leaves behind the merely conventional
      and directly experiences the ultimate truth that is realized [direct realisation of the inconceivable U2T], which does not depend on language and concepts. 

  • [Seeing without seeing:] For Gorampa, seeing the ultimate is not about seeing something new (seeking an absolute something) (or simply forgetting / rejecting what we conventionally see); it is about seeing differently.

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CHAPTER 4: THE TETRALEMMA: A LOGICAL PROCESS WITH A SOTERIOLOGICAL GOAL 134 

  • Chapter 4 builds on the previous discussions of the two truths in order to explain Gorampa’s approach to rational analysis. This chapter focuses specifically on the role of logic in the context of the tetralemma ... (from 1.9)


  • ...

4.1 The Tetralemma 136 

  • ...

4.2 Interpretations of the Tetralemma 143 

  • ...

4.2.1 Analytic Approaches to the Tetralemma 144 

  • ...

4.2.2 Dialetheism and the Tetralemma 150 

  • ...

4.2.3 Implications of These Views 154 

  • ...

4.3 Gorampa on the Tetralemma: Refutation of the Four Extremes Results in Spros Bral 155 

  • ...

4.3.1 Refutation of the First Extreme 156 

  • ...

4.3.2 Refutation of the Second Extreme 168 

  • ...

4.3.3 Refutation of the Third Extreme 169

  • ...

4.3.4 Refutation of the Fourth Extreme 171 

  • ...

4.4 Tsongkhapa on the Tetralemma: Refutation of the Four Extremes Preserves Conceptual Thought 176 

  • ...

4.5 Gorampa’s Response to Tsongkhapa 181 

  • ...

4.6 The Implications of Tetralemmic Analysis 184 

  • ...


CHAPTER 5: BUDDHAHOOD AS KNOWLEDGE-HOW 187 

  • Chapter 5 shows the ways in which Gorampa articulates the relationship between rational analysis and meditative practices in the Path chapter of the Synopsis, as well as the ways in which he explains the nature of the resultant state of buddhahood. Specifically, this chapter examines some of the difficulties involved in reconciling rational, conceptual thought and a resultant state of mind that is free from all conceptual proliferations. (from 1.9)

  • ...

5.1 Buddhahood as Knowledge-How 189 

  • ...

5.6 Madhyamaka as the Path That is to Be Practiced 195 

  • ...

5.3 Madhyamaka as the Result That is to Be Realized 209 

  • ...

5.3.1 Inquiry into whether the Two Truths Exist or Do Not Exist on the Buddha Ground 209 

  • ...

5.3.2 Inquiry into whether Appearances Exist or Do Not Exist 211 

  • ...

5.3.3 Inquiry into whether Awareness Exists or Does Not Exist 214 

  • ...

5.3.4 Inquiry into whether Mind and Mental Factors Exist or Do Not Exist 216 

  • ...

5.3.5 Inquiry into whether Arising and Ceasing Exist or Do Not Exist 217 

  • ...

5.4 Competing Views: Candrakīrti on Buddhahood 221 

  • ...

5.5 Implications and Further Questions 226 

  • ...


CHAPTER 6: CONCLUSION 231 

  • Finally, the conclusion considers some of the implications of Gorampa's approach to the Buddhist path, and addresses some miscellaneous points that were not able to be explored fully in the course of the current project. (from 1.9)

  • ...

6.1 The View of No-View 232 

  • ...

6.2 A Note on the Conventional 235 

  • ...

6.3 Gorampa the Mādhyamika(?) 237 

  • ...


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