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The Nirvanic Realm, Here and Now (Kenneth K. Inada)
Spinoza's System (Jonathan Israel abt. Spinoza)
Nirvana truly realized is Samsara properly understood (Raghavan Iyer)
Why are the Five Aggregates of Grasping Dukkha? (Y. Karunadasa)
Order for Free (Stuart Kauffman)
Existential Thinking is Subjective (James Collins abt. Kierkegaard)
The Doctrine of Karman in Candrakirti (Ulrich T. Kragh)
Outward and Inward (Kathy Kundalini)
The term "dukkha" in Buddhism (Bimala Churn Law)
Nagarjuna and the Madhyamika school (Trevor Ling)
The Idea of Emptiness in the Prajñaparamita-sutras (Ming-Wood Liu)
Madhyamaka is advayavada (David R. Loy)

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The Nirvanic Realm, Here and Now (from Nagarjuna, A Translation of his Mulamadhyamakakarika, by Prof. Kenneth K. Inada, 1970, Delhi 1993) It is sometimes said that Nagarjuna appeared at the right moment and at the right place in Buddhist history to provide the necessary corrective measures to Buddhist philosophical analysis of man's nature and thereby initiated a 'new' movement within the Mahayana tradition. First of all, however, it must be remembered that he did not appear out of a vacuum but rather that he came after a long period of Buddhist activity in India proper. At least six or seven centuries had transpired between the historical Buddha (6th century B.C.) and Nagarjuna (circa 2nd-3rd centuries A.D.), a time in which Buddhists actively explored, criticized, and propagated the Buddhist truth. This is the period which produced the eighteen contending schools of the Abhidharmika system discussed earlier and also the time which saw the germs of the break in the interpretation of the nature of the summum bonum (Nirvana) between the Hinayana (inclusive of modern Theravada) and Mahayana traditions.

At the same time, secondly, it should be noted that the Mahayana tradition in its earliest phase, i.e. pre-Christian period, had already produced some of the most attractive and arresting thoughts in Buddhist history, thoughts which are considered most fundamental to all subsequent developments in the tradition. Sutras relative to this period concentrate on the universal and extensive sameness (samata, tathata) in the nature of man, his supreme wisdom (prajña) and compassion (karuna), all of which describe the concept of a bodhisattva or enlightened being. They expound ad infinitum the purity, beauty and ultimate rewards of the realization of this supreme realm of being in language which is at once esthetic, poetic and dramatic but which at times are painfully frustrating to the searching rational mind.

For example, the empirically oriented mind would not be able to accept and adapt simple identities of the order (or realm) of wordly (mundane) and unworldly (supermundane), empirical and nonempirical, common everyday life (Samsara) and uncommon enlightened life (Nirvana), pure (sukha) and impure (asukha), and finally, form (rupa) and emptiness (shunyata). In the final identity of form and emptiness, a climax in the ideological development is reached where the sutras, in particular the whole Prajñaparamita Sutras, elaborate on the point that all forms are in the nature of void (shunya). Thus, such forms in the nature of a sentient creature or being (sattva), a soul or vital force (jiva), a self (atman), a personal identity (pudgala) and separate 'elements' (dharmas) are all essentially devoid of any characterization (animitta, alaksana). The quest for voidness or emptiness is thoroughgoing with the aim being the nongrasping (agrahya) and at once the emptiness of the personal experiential components (pudgala-shunyata) and of the personal ideational components (dharma-shunyata). This is the final goal of the Nirvanic realm, here and now, without residues (anupadhishesa-nirvana-dhatu) and achievable to all.

Needless to say, the understanding of the above identities is the constant challenge and the most profound feature of the Mahayana, if not the whole Buddhist philosophy. Unquestionably, Nagarjuna was faithful to this lineage of ideas and he tried his hand in cristalizing the prevailing ideas. He came to bundle up the loosely spread ideas, so to speak, and gave a definite direction in the quest of man.

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Nirvana truly realized is Samsara properly understood (from Buddha and the Path to Enlightenment, by Raghavan Iyer, Theosophy Library Online, Internet 1986) The Madhyamika school traces its origin to Nagarjuna, the brilliant philosopher and formidable dialectician who flourished in the late second century A.D. Taking Buddha's advocacy of the Middle Way between harmful extremes, between avid indulgence and austere asceticism, and between sterile intellectualization and suffocating mental torpor, Nagarjuna developed a rigorous dialectical logic by which he reduced every philosophical standpoint to an explosive set of contradictions. This did not lead to the closure of scepticism, as the less vigorously pursued pre-Socratic philosophies did, but rather to the elusive standpoint that neither existence nor non-existence can be asserted of the world and of everything in it. The Madhyamikas, therefore, refused to affirm or deny any philosophical proposition. Nagarjuna sought to liberate the mind from its tendencies to cling to tidy or clever formulations of truth, because any truth short of shunyata, the voidness of reality, is inherently misleading. Relative truths are not like pieces of a puzzle, each of which incrementally adds to the complete design. They are plausible distortions of the truth and can seriously mislead the aspirant. They cannot be lightly or wholly repudiated, however, for they are all the seeker has, and so he must learn to use them as aids whilst remembering that they are neither accurate nor complete in themselves.

By the fifth century two views of Nagarjuna's work had emerged. The followers of Bhavaviveka thought that Madhyamika philosophy had a positive content, whilst those who subscribed to Buddhapalita's more severe interpretation said that every standpoint, including their own, could be reduced to absurdity, which fact alone, far more than any positively asserted doctrine, could lead to intuitive insight (Prajńa) and Enlightenment. Chandrakirti's remarkable defence of this latter standpoint deeply influenced Tibetan Buddhist traditions as well as those schools of thought that eventually culminated in Japan in Zen. Nagarjuna's dialectic revealed the shunya or emptiness of all discursive, worldly thought and its proliferating categories.

For the Madhyamikas, whatever can be conceptualized is therefore relative, and whatever is relative is shunya, empty. Since absolute inconceivable truth is also shunya, shunyata or the void is shared by both Samsara and Nirvana. Ultimately, Nirvana truly realized is Samsara properly understood. The fully realized Bodhisattva, the enlightened Buddha who renounces the Dharmakaya vesture to remain at the service of suffering beings, recognizes this radical transcendental equivalence. The Arhant and the Pratyeka Buddha, who look to their own redemption and realization, are elevated beyond any conventional description, but nonetheless do not fully realize or freely embody this highest truth. Thus for the Madhyamikas, the Bodhisattva ideal is the supreme wisdom, showing the unqualified unity of unfettered metaphysics and transcendent ethics, theoria and praxis, at the highest conceivable level.

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Why are the Five Aggregates of Grasping Dukkha? (from Early Buddhist Teachings, The Middle Position in Theory and Practice, by Y. Karunadasa, Hong Kong 2013) Why are the five aggregates of grasping suffering? What we need to remember here is that it is not the five aggregates (pańca-khanda), but the five aggregates of grasping (pańca-upadanakkhandha) that are described as suffering. This distinction should show that although the five aggregates in themselves are not a source of suffering, they constitute suffering when they become objects of grasping (upadana). Strictly speaking, therefore, what Buddhism calls the individual in its samsaric dimension is not the five aggregates, but the five aggregates when they are grasped, appropriated, and clung to. That which is called individual existence can thus be reduced to a causally conditioned process of grasping. It is this process of grasping that Buddhism describes as suffering.

A yet another question that arises here is by whom are the five aggregates grasped? The answer to this question is that besides the process of grasping, there is no agent who performs the act of grasping. This answer may appear rather enigmatic; nevertheless it is understandable in the context of the Buddhist doctrine of not self and the Buddhist doctrine of dependent arising. What both doctrines seek to show is that the individual is a conditioning and conditioned process, without an agent either inside or outside of the process. The grasping-process manifests in three ways. This is mine (etam mama), this I am (eso'ham asmi), and this is my self (eso me atta). The first is due to craving (tanha), the second to conceit (mana), and the third is due to the mistaken belief in a self-entity (ditthi). It is through this process of the three-fold self-appropriation that the idea of "mine", "I am" and "my self" arises. If there is a phenomenon called individuality in its samsaric dimension, it is entirely due to the superimposition of these three ideas on the five aggregates.

A this juncture, another question arises: why and how does the process of grasping lead to suffering? In answering this question, it is important to note here that the five aggregates that become the object of self-appropriation and grasping are in a state of constant change, in a state of continuous flux with no persisting substance. Their nature is such that they do not remain in the way we want them to remain. As such, the aggregates are not under our full control. Thus by identifying ourselves with what is impermanent (anicca), with what does not come under our full control (anatta), we come to suffering [dukkha]. This should explain why Buddhism traces the fact of suffering to the fact of impermanence (yad aniccam tam dukkham). When the process of self-appropriation and self-identification is terminated [by following the Noble Eightfold Path], suffering too comes to an end. As long as this process persists, there is suffering. The moment it stops, the samsaric process also ceases to be, and together with it all suffering comes to an end.

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Order for Free (from At Home in the Universe, by Stuart Kauffman, New York 1995) The living world is graced with a bounty of order. Each bacterium orchestrates the synthesis and distribution of thousands of proteins and other molecules. Each cell in your body coordinates the activities of about 100,000 genes and the enzymes and other proteins they produce. Each fertilized egg unfolds through a sequence of steps into a well-formed whole called, appropiately enough, an organism. If the sole source of this order is what Jacques Monod called "chance caught on the wing", the fruit of one fortuitous accident after another and selection sifting, then we are indeed improbable. Our lapse from paradise - Copernicus to Newton in celestial mechanics, to Darwin in biology, and to Carnot and the second law of thermodynamics - leaves us spinning around an average star at the edge of a humdrum galaxy, lucky beyond reckoning to have emerged as living forms.

How different is humanity's stance, if it proves true that life crystallizes almost inevitably in sufficiently complex mixtures of molecules, that life may be an expected emergent property of matter and energy. We start to find hints of a natural home for ourselves in the cosmos.

But we have only begun to tell the story of emergent order. For spontaneous order, I hope to show you, has been as potent as natural selection in the creation of the living world. We are the children of twin sources of order, not a singular source. So far we have showed how autocatalytic sets might spring up naturally in a variegated chemical soup. We have seen that the origin of collective autocatalysis, the origin of life itself, comes because of what I call 'order for free' - self-organization that arises naturally. But I believe that this order for free, which has undergirded the origin of life itself, has also undergirded the order in organisms as they have evolved and has even undergirded the very capacity to evolve itself.

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Existential Thinking is Subjective (from The Mind of Kierkegaard, by Prof. James Collins, 1953, 1965, Princeton 1983) Men cannot help asking questions about the meaning of existence, the nature of the human person, and the uses of freedom. These questions fall within the region of what Kierkegaard terms 'subjective reflection' or 'existential thinking'. The most important human issues lie in this latter field, rather than in that of objective reflection. Kierkegaard's thesis that existential thinking is subjective, is open to misconception, unless it be interpreted in the light of his preoccupation with idealism and naturalism. His opposition to idealism is sufficient indication that by 'subjetive' is not meant a priority of thought over being, in any absolutist sense, let alone a glorification of personal whim or private fancy.

In attempting to go beyond the epistemological dilemma between idealism and empiricism, he gave a moral and religious meaning to subjectivity. His thought should rather be assigned to the Augustinian tradition, for he would approve the custom of addressing God as magister interior and of declaring that, in all that matters most to men: in interiore homine habitat veritas, truth dwells in the inner man. For Kierkegaard, subjectivity means inwardness or the existential attitude of the individual soul. His youthful resolve to dedicate himself to a discovery and propagation of 'edifying truths' is in comformity with this defense of a kind of truth which does indeed build up homo interior. Since he also believed, with Augustine, that man is most truly man when considered in relation to God, Kierkegaard concluded that humanly significant truth is primarily ethico-religious truth. A man's subjectivity is his personal, inward condition in respect to the moral law and religious life, a phase of human reality which is not open to scientific inspection. In this sense, existential knowledge must be both subjective and edifying.

It is well to observe that Kierkegaard's solution of the truth-problem cannot be a complete one. He recognized the inadequacy of the report of the particular sciences, without being able to provide a full supplementary explanation. While it is true that there are aspects of reality not accessible to the scientific method, it does not follow that all of these aspects lie in a subjective and human direction. There are truths about the realm of nature and quantity which can be reached philosophically, without calling upon idealism, but Kierkegaard does not discuss philosophical truth of the cosmological and mathematical orders. Moreover, there is a way of regarding man and nature together, metaphysically, without falling into either idealistic monism or naturalism. What is missing from Kierkegaard, is a treatment of existential truth along speculative and metaphysical lines. He has not supplied a metaphysical analysis of truth and existence, and this failure has forced later thinkers in the existentialistic line to choose between an idealistic and a naturalistic metaphysics. For this same reason, his insistence upon practical considerations of a religious and moral sort appears to be as narrow, in its own way, as the pragmatic concentration upon practical results of scientific research. It would be misleading to accept his teaching as a rounded, theoretical study of truth.

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The Doctrine of Karman in Candrakirti (by Ulrich T. Kragh, in an email presentation, 2001) In Buddhist texts, one finds detailed debates on the problem of continuity and change. As the Buddhists generally rejected the concept of a self, there arose certain difficulties in explaining the link between stages in a causal process. If A is the cause of B, and there is no continuous entity, such as a self, that binds them together, what is then the link between them?

The Abhidharma schools came up with a number of different explanations for this question, which were strongly opposed by Nagarjuna, the founder of the Madhyamaka tradition. His critique is found in its most concentrated form in chapter seventeen of the Madhyamakakarika and verses 33-44 of the Shunyatasaptati. Among the various Madhyamaka commentaries to these passages, those of Candrakirti are the most interesting in relation to the above-mentioned problematic, since Candrakirti presents the most radical interpretation of the matter. I have therefore selected the seventeenth chapter of Candrakirti's commentary (entitled Prasannapada), which comments on the seventeenth chapter of Madhyamakakarika, as one of the main sources for this study. A study and French translation of this chapter was published by Lamotte in MCB 1935-36.

In this chapter, Candrakirti, along with Nagarjuna, first briefly presents the Abhidharma theories of karman along with a critique of these models. Thereafter, their own Madhyamaka presentation of karman is given. It is, of course, important to notice at this point that the Madhyamikas indeed accept the theory of karman. In the view of Candrakirti, causality is possible in the manner of [inter]dependent arising, which is understood as a causal process involving no independently existing elements and which is therefore empty of self-existence. In other words, unlike the Abhidharma models, Candrakirti presents an understanding of causality that involves no concrete basis linking cause and effect. This is done based on the argument that cause and effect do not exist as separate entities in need of being linked. It is a profound process-oriented way of thinking that allows causality to function without introducing any existential ground for it.

At the end of the chapter, Candrakirti refers the reader for further details to the Madhyamakavatara, another of his Madhyamaka-related works. Although Candrakirti does not directly cite a particular passage, this general reference must be taken as indicating verse 14-97 (and its auto-commentary) of the sixth chapter of this text. In this section, Candrakirti criticises the concept that an effect arises from a cause which is different from itself. This in turn has strong bearing on the general Buddhist understanding of causality or karman-theories.

Candrakirti here focuses his polemic against the Yogacarin's understanding of the karman-theory, in which alayavijnana is posited as the necessary base for causality; i.e. it is consciousness that binds cause and effect together and ensures the individual continuity of the process. Candrakirti's critique further underlines his understanding of causality as being [inter]dependent arising, involving no individually existing elements and requiring no existential basis for it to function. The Madhyamakavatara thus adds this critique of the Yogacara position on the debate.

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Outward and Inward (by Kathy Kundalini, 2014; the poetic excerpt is from Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm, by Stephen Harrod Buhner) These terms "outward" and "inward" [as in 'looking outward at the Universe' and 'looking inward into this body and mind'] have a way of revolving into one another, twisting and turning around like a möbius strip - on one side is written "mind" and the other side is written "world". The world I see is contained in my mind, yet my body/mind are also contained in the world. The world appears "outside" of me as a fantastic and infinite field of events, yet all I perceive is the result of impacts upon my body, all I perceive is happening on me and in me, like I am a shining glow of perceptions, moving in and through the world. My body feels like a container within which is "me", yet my body also feels exterior, like it is already in that world beyond my mind, and thus I see it "out there" like any other perception. I feel myself to be singular, a single being, yet I know I am made up of multitudes. I feel I am "this body" -- because I can move, feel, see myself wrapped in this container of flesh, yet all that I am is immediately connected with energies, flows, and structures well beyond my physical container. I am this air, this earth, this electromagnetic energy, this gravity, this atmosphere, this sun, this galaxy... my body literally extends throughout all creation, as I am its expression, its mode of embodiment, a moment of its evolution. I live, breathe, walk, think, perceive, engage, and feel in an interplay of energies, life-forms, consciousnesses that are alive, communicating, intelligent, with rich vibrancy beyond my imagination. It all appears separate from me, yet is also who I am - the field and flow are my energy and form, my existence is dependent on the field, and it flows through me as my life-energy and my experience. I am my experience, yet also more than I can ever experience. I am a nexus of interdependent origination, which paradoxically makes me a kind of "nothing", or rather a mere appearance, a momentary "something" that seems to singularly exist, yet this "nothing", or appearing "something", is also an overflowing "everything" - a cosmos expressing itself in time and space, in and through this body, and through this mind, this spirit. I am singular, multiple, dual, non-dual, finite, and infinite, all seemingly at the same time. What are my boundaries are only borderlines, or really, gateways, pathways, conduits of energies and waves which conspire to create this living, moving form. The Universe and I are one, yet also interpenetrating opposites, in a dialectical dance. The world is my body, my mind, everywhere I look, there I am. Yet like my body, it overflows with energies and events which I just cannot contain within this mind that knows itself as "I". They are beyond me yet within me at the same time. This is a gift, a mystery, a puzzle, a source of suffering, as well as amazement, perplexity, and wonder. It invites both acceptance and transcendence...

"There is a memory of ocean,
the swelling of waves.
the movement of great things,
just beneath the surface.
My conscious mind staggers,
a part sleeping begins to waken.
What is this great thing
That has caught us up?"

Upon attaining Enlightenment, the Buddha was not only looking within, but he was also looking outward, into the world, into the universe. Looking out into the sky he saw the Morning Star. Here the seeing and the seen are not two, they are one. “I together with all beings and the Great Earth attain the Way.”

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The term "dukkha" in Buddhism (from Concepts of Buddhism, by Bimala Churn Law, Amsterdam 1937) The term dukkha is taken in Buddhism in a most comprehensive sense so as to include in it danger, disease, waste and all that constitutes the basis or cause of suffering. In the terminology of one of the earliest thinkers of Buddha's time, sukha (pleasure) and dukkha (pain) were conceived as two distinct principles, one of attraction, integration or concord and the other of repulsion, disintegration or discord. Considered in this light, sukha was taken to be the principle of harmony and dukkha, that of discord. In the medical texts roga or disease which is just an instance of dukkha is defined as that condition of the self, the physical self, when the different organs do not function together in harmony and which are attended with a sense of uneasiness. And arogya or health, the opposite of disease, is defined as that condition of the self when all the organs function together in harmony and are attended with a sense of ease. Thus the problem of dukkha is essentially rooted in the feeling of discord or disparity. Birth, decay, or death is not in itself dukkha or suffering. These are only a few contingencies in human experience which upset the expectations of men. From the point of view of mind, dukkha is just a vedana or feeling which is felt by the mind either in respect of the body or in respect of itself, and as a feeling, it is conditioned by certain circumstances. In the absence of these circumstances there is no possibility of its occurrence. Whether a person is affected by dukkha or not depends on the view he takes of things. If the course of common reality be that being once in life, one can not escape either decay or death, and if the process of decay sets in or death actually takes place, there is no reason why that person should be subject to dukkha by trying to undo what cannot be undone. Thus dukkha is based upon misconstruction of the dhammata or law of things or the way of happening in life. If the order of things cannot be changed, two courses are open to individuals to escape from dukkha: (1) to view and accept the order as it is, and (2) to enquire if there is any state of citta or consciousness, on attaining to which an individual is no longer affected by the [common] vicissitudes of life. The Buddhist answer to this enquiry is that there is such a state of consciousness.

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Nagarjuna and the Madhyamika school (from A History of Religion East and West, by Prof. Trevor Ling, 1968, Basingstoke 1988) We have seen that one of the earliest developments in Buddhist thought in the Mahayana direction was the idea that even dhammas (regarded by the Theravadins as the indivisible ultimate events of which all existence is composed) are in fact substanceless; all things, even dhammas, are void of substance, or shunya. This idea is first found in a Mahayana text which was translated into Chinese at the end of the second century C.E. and which may therefore be regarded as having had its origin somewhere in north-west India in the first century C.E.

Those who assert (vadin) this doctrine of the voidness of substance (shunya) even in dhammas, are called shunyavadins. Another name for this school of thought is the Madhyamika school, or school of the 'middle position' (madhya is cognate with Latin media). The middle position referred to was not that of the earlier period of Buddhism, when the Buddha's teaching was known as 'the Middle Way', that is, between self-mortification and sensuality, but between the complete realism of the Sarvastivadins who asserted that all dhammas, past, present and future, were real; and the absolute idealism of the Yogacharin school.

The Madhyamika school is generally regarded as having been founded by Nagarjuna in the second century C.E. It is significant that Nagarjuna was a brahman from south central India (Andhra) who had thrown in his lot with Buddhism. The school of thought which he developed certainly has affinities with brahman philosophical thought; although it was developed in opposition to certain of the orthodox brahman philosophies (Sankhya and Vaishesika), it was generally more akin to these schools than to the early Abhidhamma of Pali Buddhism. An excellent account of the Madhyamika school has been provided by T.R.V. Murti (1955). His view of the development of this school is that it may be described in terms of a dialectic. The original thesis was the atma-affirming doctrine of the Upanishads; the antithesis to this was the denial of any enduring atta (atma) in early Buddhism, formalised in the Abhidhamma; the synthesis is found in the Madhyamika.

According to Murti is was the inadequacy and inconsistency of the Abhidhamma system, especially the Sarvastivadin Abhidhamma, which led to the development of the Madhyamika. The essential concern of the Madhyamika is with the relation between the empirical world of the senses, which in Buddhist thought generally is known as Samsara (the continued round of existence), and the transcendental reality Nirvana. According to the Madhyamika, Nirvana is present in Samsara, but men are prevented from recognising this and entering into it because of the false constructions they put upon the world. The removal of these false constructions (the negation of the negation) and the attainment of Nirvana is the religious goal, in the Madhyamika Buddhist view. The way to do this is by cultivating a view of the substanceless nature of things. To accomplish this, they hold, needs a long course of meditational training.

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The Idea of Emptiness in the Prajñaparamita-sutras (from Madhyamaka Thought in China, by Ming-Wood Liu, Leiden 1994) Besides the idea of 'non-attachment' and 'non-discrimination', and their associate notions of 'non-duality' and the 'sameness of all dharmas', the idea of 'emptiness' is also an important component of the accounts of the perfection of wisdom found in the Prajñaparamita-sutras. So the Large Sutra observes that "a bodhisattva, who courses in perfect wisdom, should investigate all dharmas as empty in their essential original nature". It further observes that it is through standing in emptiness that a bodhisattva stands in the perfection of wisdom. The Sanskrit original of the term 'emptiness' is shunyata. Derived from the root shvi which means 'to swell', shunya literally means 'being related to the swollen'. Now, a swollen object usually does not last long and is hollow inside. Thus, to say that something is shunya is to judge it to be, among other things, impermanent and without real substance. To bring out the sense of 'without real substance' which underlies the concept of 'emptiness', the Large Sutra brings in the idea of causality dear to the Buddhists: "It has no own-being acting in causal connection. And that which has no own-being acting in causal connection, that is nonexistence. It is by this method that all dharmas have nonexistence for own-being." According to this passage, things are without self-being (svabhava) because they are produced by causes, and the state of absence of self-being is what the term 'emptiness' ('nonexistence') indicates.

The teaching of emptiness has a long history in Buddhism. Already in early Buddhist sources, emptiness was mentioned, together with suffering, non-self, impermanence, etc., as a characteristic trait of Samsaric existence. The idea of emptiness also appeared in Abhidharma texts.. However, the Prajñaparamita-sutras are the earliest extant body of Buddhist literature in which the idea of emptiness appears as a central theme. The Prajñaparamita-sutras pronounce emphatically the emptiness of all dharmas, whether conditioned or non-conditioned: "What is the emptiness of all dharmas? All dharmas means the five skandhas, the twelve sense fields, the six kinds of consciousness, the six kinds of contact, the six kinds of feeling conditioned by contact. Conditioned and unconditioned dharmas, these are called 'all-dharmas'. Therein all dharmas are empty of all-dharmas, on account of their being neither unmoved nor destroyed. For such is their essential nature." According to the Prajñaparamita-sutras, no object and no mode of existence falls outside the governance of the law of emptiness, not even the bodhisattva, the Buddha and enlightenment..

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Madhyamaka is advayavada (from Nonduality, A Study in Comparative Philosophy, by Prof. David R. Loy, 1988, Amherst 1998) Advaita Vedanta clearly asserts nonduality in our third sense [the nondifference of subject and object], to the extent of making it the central tenet. The case of Buddhism is more complicated. Ontologically, Pali Buddhism, which bases itself on what are understood to be the original teachings of the Buddha, seems pluralistic. Reality is understood to consist of a multitude of discrete particulars (dharmas). The self is analyzed away into five 'heaps' (skandhas) which the Abhidharma (the 'higher dharma', a philosophical abstract of the Buddha's teachings) classifies and systematizes. So early Buddhism, while critical of dualistic thinking, is not nondual in the second, monistic [the nonplurality of the world], sense. Regarding the nondifference of subject and object, the issue is less clear. While the second sense of nonduality [the nonplurality of the world] logically implies some version of the third [the nondifference of subject and object], it is not true that a denial of the second sense implies a denial of the third. The world might be a composite of discrete experiences which are nondual in the third sense.

I am not acquainted with any passage in the Pali Canon that clearly asserts the nonduality of subject and object, as one finds in so many Mahayana texts. But I have also found no denial of such nonduality. One may view the no-self (anatman) doctrine of early Buddhism as another way of making the same point; instead of asserting that subject and object are one, the Buddha simply denies that there is a subject. These two formulations may well amount to the same thing, although the latter may be criticized as ontologically lopsided: since subject and object are interdependent, the subject cannot be eliminated without transforming the nature of the object (and vice-versa, as Advaita Vedanta was aware)..

Mahayana Buddhism abounds in assertions of subject-object nonduality, despite the fact that the most important Mahayana philosophy, Madhyamaka, cannot be said to assert nonduality at all, since it makes few (if any) positive claims but confines itself to refuting all philosophical positions. Madhyamaka is advayavada (the theory of not-two, here meaning neither of two alternative views, our first sense of nonduality [the negation of dualistic thinking] ), rather than advaitavada (the theory of nondifference between subject and object, our third sense). Prajña is understood to be nondual knowledge, but this again is advaya, knowledge devoid of views. Nagarjuna neither asserts nor denies the experience of nonduality in the third sense, despite the fact that Madhyamika dialectic criticizes the self-existence of both subject and object, since relative to each other they must both be unreal: "Nagarjuna holds that dependent origination is nothing else but the coming to rest of the manifold of named things (prapañcopashama). When the everyday mind and its contents are no longer active, the subject and object of everyday transactions having faded out because the turmoil of origination, decay, and death has been left behind completely, that is final beatitude." (Chandrakirti, Prasannapada)

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From abroad: Please instruct your bank to transfer your donation to the Advayavada Stichting, account NL83ABNA0814472079 at the ABN-AMRO Bank, Singel 548, 1017 AZ Amsterdam (BIC: ABNANL2A). All amounts welcome. Thank you very much!

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(last modified 19 January 2021)

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