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The truth of reality

KeromeKerome Love, love is mysteryThe Continent Veteran
edited January 16 in Buddhism Basics

Musings in the Happiness thread made me wonder about the nature of truth and reality. So I did a little searching, to see if I could find what other people thought of it.

This article implied that Buddhist truths about suffering were part of the ultimate truth about life and reality, which I’m inclined to believe in.

https://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/56.htm

The truth of inter-being, that Thich Nhat Hanh likes to talk about, is also an aspect of ultimate truth, that we are all inter-related. Perhaps that we are all one is also a related truth.

Further I found this article from a more Christian perspective,

https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/2573546

Which argues that god is the ultimate reality, and that it can be pursued from moral and philosophical standpoints, with certain consensus viewpoints as starting points. Not sure how I feel about that, it seems a somewhat muddled area of thinking.

What is your thinking on ultimate truth? Is truth more important than happiness?

lobster
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Comments

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 16

    @Kerome said:> What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I'm not convinced there is such a thing, though IMO a search for personal truth is worthwhile. I find the word "ultimate" rather puzzling, for example when people talk about "ultimate reality", or even worse, "Ultimate Reality" with capitals. Is "ultimate reality" supposed to be more real than plain old "reality"? ( whatever that is supposed to be ). Is ultimate truth more true than truth? :p

    BunksSnakeskin
  • SnakeskinSnakeskin Texas, USA Veteran
    edited January 16

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    My first thought is "doesn't this belong in the philosophy section?" :p

    Kidding aside, anicca, dukkha, anatta. When one establishes the perception of impermanence, the perception of unsatisfactoriness and the perception of not-self, one establishes right view and sees ultimate truth. But in my opinion there’s more to it. I don't think these three characteristics are antithetical to nihilistic views. Hence, I believe the Buddha also taught a “just-world hypothesis” based on conditionality, a principle underlying both the mind and the cosmos, and that from his perspective it wasn’t a hypothesis but an empirical reality. (However, I'd say it’s only empirical to the extent that others can subjectively verify it.) That to me is ultimate truth as verifiable by humans. Again for me anything beyond that is the leaves in the forest and ever evolving theories about them.

    Is truth more important than happiness?

    I would modify that to say truth is more important than happiness supported by impermanent conditions. Dwelling in the truth and feeling happy are not necessarily mutually exclusive. In the context of feelings, the commentaries characterize neutral feelings as pleasant, due to the absence of pain. Nibbana would be similar, sukkha due to the absence of dukkha.

    Edit: Added more qualifiers. ;)

    Keromeperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    Thanks for that, of course things like impermanence and annatta are important aspects of reality, and therefore ultimate truth. I’d agree that trying to fully define ultimate truth is unlikely to be within human grasp, but through Buddhist teachings you can get a sense of some of it.

    Perhaps a truer grasp is available from the cosmic mind that the enlightened are supposed to have. But it is interesting from a motivational standpoint what you search for, truth or an end to suffering or even just happiness. They are not necessarily mutually supporting... if you pursue one you might not get the others, or at least you’d have to see.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Kerome said:
    Musings in the Happiness thread made me wonder about the nature of truth and reality. So I did a little searching, to see if I could find what other people thought of it.

    This article implied that Buddhist truths about suffering were part of the ultimate truth about life and reality, which I’m inclined to believe in.

    https://www.budsas.org/ebud/whatbudbeliev/56.htm

    The truth of inter-being, that Thich Nhat Hanh likes to talk about, is also an aspect of ultimate truth, that we are all inter-related. Perhaps that we are all one is also a related truth.

    This seems likely to me except I'm hesitant to label it all as "one" because that implies a border and a "not-one". Oneness seems to imply interrelation while not positing any borders (all of which I think are convention).p

    Further I found this article from a more Christian perspective,

    https://m.huffpost.com/us/entry/2573546

    Which argues that god is the ultimate reality, and that it can be pursued from moral and philosophical standpoints, with certain consensus viewpoints as starting points. Not sure how I feel about that, it seems a somewhat muddled area of thinking.

    Entertaining that idea, I don't think ultimate reality would be self aware except through beings like us having ultimate realization. I also doubt there could be an absolute beginning or prime mover to causation.

    What is your thinking on ultimate truth? Is truth more important than happiness?

    Asking myself if I'd rather be enlightened or happy I think that being ever more aware would invite ever more happiness.

    That and every new answer brings more questions.

    Snakeskin
  • @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth? Is truth more important than happiness?

    LOL
    Happy to say there is no thunk required.
    Ultimates for a limited being are

    limited

    The most we can retain is enlightenment. That should keep you happy for as long as you or it exist ... B)

    Snakeskin
  • pegembarapegembara Veteran
    edited January 17

    What is your thinking on ultimate truth? Is truth more important than happiness?

    I agree with John Lennon.

    When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life. When I went to school, they asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down ‘happy’. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment, and I told them they didn’t understand life.

    The thing is where can happiness be found? Certainly not drugs and rock&roll.

    I, too, monks, before my Awakening, when I was an unawakened bodhisatta, being subject myself to birth, sought what was likewise subject to birth. Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, I sought [happiness in] what was likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement. The thought occurred to me, 'Why do I, being subject myself to birth, seek what is likewise subject to birth? Being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, why do I seek what is likewise subject to illness... death... sorrow... defilement? What if I, being subject myself to birth, seeing the drawbacks of birth, were to seek the unborn, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding? What if I, being subject myself to aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, seeing the drawbacks of aging... illness... death... sorrow... defilement, were to seek the aging-less, illness-less, deathless, sorrow-less,, unexcelled rest from the yoke: Unbinding?'

    The Noble Search

    The Truth can set you free.

    When Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva was practicing the profound prajna paramita, he illuminated the five skandhas and saw that they are all empty, and he crossed beyond all suffering and difficulty.

    ShoshinSnakeskin
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 17

    @Kerome said:
    Thanks for that, of course things like impermanence and annatta are important aspects of reality, and therefore ultimate truth.

    Really? IMO the closest thing we have to "objective truth" is science. The religious and spiritual stuff all seems very subjective to me, it's about how we experience stuff and the meaning we attach to it.

    Could you explain what you mean by "reality"? It's a can of worms really. Our human senses and intellect are quite limited, which means we can only ever experience a small subset of what is "out there". Perhaps we can talk in a general way about "human reality", but that would be different to "ant reality" or "space-alien reality" or whatever.

    Snakeskin
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 17

    @Snakeskin said:
    Kidding aside, anicca, dukkha, anatta. When one establishes the perception of impermanence, the perception of unsatisfactoriness and the perception of not-self, one establishes right view and sees ultimate truth.

    Sure, but that is just according to Buddhist teaching. All religions make a claim on ultimate truth, we then make a personal ( and subjective ) judgement about what rings true with us ( or not! ).

    Snakeskin
  • @Gui said: I think that ultimate reality is before mind and though attempts to "grasp" it are futile and Absurd...

    Could you explain what you mean by "before mind"? And where else are we going to experience "reality", if not in the mind? Isn't "reality" always personal?

    Snakeskin
  • federicafederica seeker of the clear blue sky Its better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to speak out and remove all doubt Moderator

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Snakeskin said:
    Kidding aside, anicca, dukkha, anatta. When one establishes the perception of impermanence, the perception of unsatisfactoriness and the perception of not-self, one establishes right view and sees ultimate truth.

    Sure, but that is just according to Buddhist teaching. All religions make a claim on ultimate truth, we then make a personal ( and subjective ) judgement about what rings true with us ( or not! ).

    I would say that Buddhism, being unique in not having a Godhead/deity, relies on logical philosophy to determine 'Ultimate Truth' and the 4 NTs are testimony to that. All other religions seem to rely on an Ultimate Truth connecting to a Deity, which would be questionable, and certainly open to argument.
    So while our judgement may be subjective, it's arguable that it is less flawed than that which relies on an outside Creator to underpin it.

    TravellerSnakeskinDavid
  • GuiGui Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Gui said: I think that ultimate reality is before mind and though attempts to "grasp" it are futile and Absurd...

    Could you explain what you mean by "before mind"? And where else are we going to experience "reality", if not in the mind? Isn't "reality" always personal?

    What I mean by before mind is that what we perceive as reality and reality itself are two different things. The process of knowing alters the nature of what is. Of course, we create reality in our minds but I wouldn't consider that reality to be true reality. I think there is a point in our practice when we just have to let go of our perceptions and concepts and understandings and relax into just this.

    Travellerseeker242Snakeskin
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited January 17

    We are most sensitive to sounds that are similar to human voice in pitch. We are only sensitive to a small range of the spectrum of light (electromagnetic radiation). And our eyes have only 3 types of cones for color vision each sensitive to one wavelength of light mainly. And from just those three we can see hundreds of colors.

    Snakeskin
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @SpinyNorman said:

    @Kerome said:
    Thanks for that, of course things like impermanence and annatta are important aspects of reality, and therefore ultimate truth.

    Really? IMO the closest thing we have to "objective truth" is science. The religious and spiritual stuff all seems very subjective to me, it's about how we experience stuff and the meaning we attach to it.

    I would say that impermanence is the same seen from an ant’s perspective or from a human’s. These particular defining Buddhist truths don’t seem subjective at all to me once grasped fully. Only the object differs - for an ant the thing that is impermanent is the grain of wheat he is dragging towards the burrow, and of course himself. For a human it is the car, the petrol, the shopping and also of course himself.

    Could you explain what you mean by "reality"? It's a can of worms really. Our human senses and intellect are quite limited, which means we can only ever experience a small subset of what is "out there". Perhaps we can talk in a general way about "human reality", but that would be different to "ant reality" or "space-alien reality" or whatever.

    I’m trying to get a handle on the properties that define our universe - to me that seems like truth. Impermanence and inter-being are a very good start I think, as universal principles that apply everywhere independent of perspective.

    Snakeskin
  • karastikarasti Breathing Minnesota Moderator

    If we separate ultimate reality from plain ol' reality, then I have to ask whether we can actually know ultimate reality. Is that only for enlightened beings? To me, that is what the difference has been. That we work to try to see reality, and we can glimpse is, but as normal humans our version of reality no matter how much work we do to clear obscurations, is still colored by emotions, experience, education upbringing etc. To me, ultimate reality has been the difference between that, and the way a Buddha would see reality which is completely clear of all those muddling constructs.

    Some things maybe we know enough about as humans to fully explain, like, a broken bone. Would Buddha see something else? But more abstract concepts are pretty hard for us to use our human senses and nature to pick apart and describe and a higher level of understanding seems necessary. A mastery, of sorts, that most of us don't possess even if we understand it on a logical level.

    Snakeskin
  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran

    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?
    -Nibbana
    Is truth more important than happiness?
    -Yes

    lobsterSnakeskin
  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran
    edited January 17

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    Travellerlobsterdhammachickperson
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    @seeker242 said:

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    If the mind cannot apprehend it, then it is beyond understanding. And it would be better to not spend any time thinking about it. Yet the Buddha did not include it among the unmentionables.

    Anyhow I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned the two truths doctrine

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine

    The two truths doctrine states that there is:

    Provisional or conventional truth which describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and
    Ultimate truth which describes the ultimate reality as sunyata, empty of concrete and inherent characteristics.

    Nagarjuna and Chandrakirthi ahoy!

    personlobsterDavidSnakeskin
  • Will_BakerWill_Baker Vermont Veteran
    edited January 18

    @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    If the mind cannot apprehend it, then it is beyond understanding. And it would be better to not spend any time thinking about it. Yet the Buddha did not include it among the unmentionables.

    Anyhow I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned the two truths doctrine

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine

    The two truths doctrine states that there is:

    Provisional or conventional truth which describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and
    Ultimate truth which describes the ultimate reality as sunyata, empty of concrete and inherent characteristics.

    Nagarjuna and Chandrakirthi ahoy!

    -That's sort of what I was getting at:
    Nibbana is an existing reality
    ...The Buddha refers to Nibbana as a 'dhamma'. For example, he says "of all dhammas, conditioned or unconditioned, the most excellent dhamma, the supreme dhamma is, Nibbana"...

    Another word used by the Buddha to refer to Nibbana is 'Sacca', which means 'truth', an existing reality. This refers to Nibbana as the truth, a reality that the Noble ones have known through direct experience...
    http://www.beyondthenet.net/dhamma/nibbanaReal.htm

    person
  • NirvanaNirvana aka BUBBA   `     `     ` `     ` Outa Range Fridays thru Sundays South Carolina, USA Veteran

    @Kerome asked:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth? Is truth more important than happiness?

    Truth, or as the Ancient Greeks called it, "Aletheia," was an Unveiling. In that sense there is likely no place where the journey ever ends, where you can find the whole, entire, all-comprehensive definition or rendition or condition... of things... On the other hand, one can attain moments of complete joy —absolute joy. And those moments can compound themselves into a happy life. Nor is it necessary to hide from or be shielded from all the ugly sides of reality to be able to reach that joyous state. (Which is more true, the ugly or the beautiful? What Keats said?)

    Which is more important I cannot say, nor am I qualified to say. But I do know that Truth cannot trump happiness.


    last couplet of Keats' Ode on a Grecian Urn
    https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/44477/ode-on-a-grecian-urn

  • seeker242seeker242 Zen Florida, USA Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    If the mind cannot apprehend it, then it is beyond understanding. And it would be better to not spend any time thinking about it. Yet the Buddha did not include it among the unmentionables.

    Bodhidharma come to mind with that! =)

    If you use your mind to study reality, you won’t understand either your mind or reality. If you study reality without using your mind, you’ll understand both. Those who don’t understand, don’t understand understanding. And those who understand, understand not understanding. People capable of true vision know that the mind is empty. They transcend both understanding and not understanding. The absence of both understanding and not understanding is true understanding.

    Seen with true vision, form isn’t simply form, because form depends on mind. And mind isn’t simply mind, because mind depends on form. Mind and form create and negate each other. That which exists exists in relation to that which doesn’t exist. And that which doesn’t exist, doesn’t exist in relation to that which exists. This is true vision. By means of such vision nothing is seen and nothing is not seen. Such vision reaches throughout the ten directions without seeing: because nothing is seen; because not seeing is seen; because seeing isn’t seeing. What mortals see are delusions. True vision is detached from seeing. The mind and the world are opposites, and vision arises where they meet. When your mind doesn’t stir inside, the world doesn’t arise outside. When the world and the mind are both transparent, this is true vision. And such understanding is true understanding. ~Bodhidharma Wake-Up Sermon

    Good stuff. =)

    lobster
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    If the mind cannot apprehend it, then it is beyond understanding. And it would be better to not spend any time thinking about it. Yet the Buddha did not include it among the unmentionables.

    Anyhow I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned the two truths doctrine

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine

    The two truths doctrine states that there is:

    Provisional or conventional truth which describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and
    Ultimate truth which describes the ultimate reality as sunyata, empty of concrete and inherent characteristics.

    Nagarjuna and Chandrakirthi ahoy!

    This where my understanding of ultimate truth came from. I didn't read the links in the OP to see if they were talking about something else.

    So I kind of agree with @SpinyNorman in the sense of ultimate reality not referring to some sort of hidden, greater reality that lies veiled behind the conventional world. My understanding is that emptiness is something that is experiential rather than some thing that has some sort of existence out in the world. So ultimate means perceiving the world without the veil of conventional, ignorant perspective.

    Shoshin
  • Good quote from Bodhidharma B)

    Need the procedure again? Calm mind, remove attraction to impediments, allow underlying wisdom, reality, truth, unborn, unfolding etc. to BE PRESENT ... just as it always is ...
    http://www.bodhi.sofiatopia.org/practices.htm#atiyoga

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 18

    @Kerome said:
    I’m trying to get a handle on the properties that define our universe - to me that seems like truth. Impermanence and inter-being are a very good start I think, as universal principles that apply everywhere independent of perspective.

    Sure, impermanence and conditionality look pretty universal, but of course that is just from our human perspective. You could say they appear to be characteristics of our "human reality", or perhaps more accurately, our human experience.

    I still think that talking about "reality" in general, or even worse, "ultimate reality", is a can of worms philosophically speaking. More trouble than it's worth!

    lobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 18

    @person said:
    My understanding is that emptiness is something that is experiential rather than some thing that has some sort of existence out in the world.

    Teachings on emptiness in Buddhism ( eg in the Heart Sutra ) are generally framed in terms of the five aggregates, and the five aggregates are a model of personal experience. So emptiness seems to be a teaching about the nature of our experience, a personal realisation, not necessarily an ontological or "scientific" statement.

    lobsterperson
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    @seeker242 said:

    @Kerome said:
    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    If the mind cannot apprehend it, then it is beyond understanding. And it would be better to not spend any time thinking about it. Yet the Buddha did not include it among the unmentionables.

    Anyhow I’m surprised no one has yet mentioned the two truths doctrine

    https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Two_truths_doctrine

    The two truths doctrine states that there is:

    Provisional or conventional truth which describes our daily experience of a concrete world, and
    Ultimate truth which describes the ultimate reality as sunyata, empty of concrete and inherent characteristics.

    Nagarjuna and Chandrakirthi ahoy!

    I was hinting at the Two Truths because that's what I naturally think of when someone says ultimate truth... subjectivity interbeing with objectivity (objective or absolute truth must by definition account for subjectivity) and the physical interbeing with the non-physical (Heart Sutra comes to mind).

  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    @Kerome said:

    What is your thinking on ultimate truth?

    Things are not quite what they seem....

    Is truth more important than happiness?

    For the so-called self no ...For non-self yes....

    lobsterFosdick
  • KeromeKerome Love, love is mystery The Continent Veteran

    TNH says: “Of course all the methods in the search for the truth should be looked on as a means rather than as ends in themselves or as absolute truth.” The Miracle of Mindfulness, p55.

    Snakeskin
  • JaySonJaySon Florida Veteran
    edited January 23

    Thich Nhat Hanh also says Interbeing, No Self, and Impermanence are not ultimate reality, but keys to open the door to ultimate reality, which is signless awareness free from all concepts. I believe God is found there and Nirvana is found there.

    person
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran

    @DairyLama said:

    @person said:
    My understanding is that emptiness is something that is experiential rather than some thing that has some sort of existence out in the world.

    Teachings on emptiness in Buddhism ( eg in the Heart Sutra ) are generally framed in terms of the five aggregates, and the five aggregates are a model of personal experience. So emptiness seems to be a teaching about the nature of our experience, a personal realisation, not necessarily an ontological or "scientific" statement.

    It seems to me it can be either depending on how we come at it.

    I sincerely don't wish to argue but Nagarjuna (Mr. Emptiness) would say it is ontological.

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @David said:

    @DairyLama said:

    @person said:
    My understanding is that emptiness is something that is experiential rather than some thing that has some sort of existence out in the world.

    Teachings on emptiness in Buddhism ( eg in the Heart Sutra ) are generally framed in terms of the five aggregates, and the five aggregates are a model of personal experience. So emptiness seems to be a teaching about the nature of our experience, a personal realisation, not necessarily an ontological or "scientific" statement.

    It seems to me it can be either depending on how we come at it.

    I sincerely don't wish to argue but Nagarjuna (Mr. Emptiness) would say it is ontological.

    I'm not sure I agree, but then I'm not really sure what you mean either.

    My understanding of Nagarjuna is that he categorically denied 4 possibilities of reality.
    -That things truly exist
    -That things do not truly exist
    -That things both truly exist and truly do not exist
    -And that things neither truly exist and truly do not exist

    So I would deny that Nagarjuna would say emptiness has an ontological status.

    On the other hand, while Theravada limits it's understanding of emptiness to the self, Mahayana schools extend that understanding to all phenomena. So one could say that the world "out there" is empty just as much as our world "in here". But even then the point isn't to effect some result in the world but to change our perception of it.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 23

    @person;

    Nagarjuna presented emptiness as the ever changing nature of phenomena and the interconnectedness of all things.

    He doesn't deny the existence of things, he says they are empty which is what allows things to exist. Existing solely in relation to each other is to exist. That is interconnectivity.

    I will see about adding a couple of links later as I'm on a crappy BlackBerry but googling "Nagarjuna emptiness ontological" or Two Truths ontological" will give quick results.

    Although the Madhyamaka is Mahayana, Nagarjuna does not contradict Theravada understanding but he does expand and expound on it and the Two Truths are indeed an ontological truth according to his emptiness teachings... Fact.

  • @seeker242 said:
    I think you can't find it via thinking. =)

    I can't help thinking. I might retain it as a hobby. ;)
    ... meanwhile in the realm of ultimate opinion truth fairy land, we can throw away:

    • impediments, trainer wheels on cycles
    • ignorance and impersonations of zzz ... behavour
    • minor dharma not to be confused by the Maya-yana, Zen-yana, Isa-yana or [insert school]

    ... in other news ... Was Buddha a previous incarnation of Jesus? The “evidence” ...
    https://www.near-death.com/reincarnation/jesus/buddha.html

  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran
    edited January 23

    @David said:
    @person;

    Nagarjuna presented emptiness as the ever changing nature of phenomena and the interconnectedness of all things.

    He doesn't deny the existence of things, he says they are empty which is what allows things to exist. Existing solely in relation to each other is to exist. That is interconnectivity.

    I will see about adding a couple of links later as I'm on a crappy BlackBerry but googling "Nagarjuna emptiness ontological" or Two Truths ontological" will give quick results.

    Although the Madhyamaka is Mahayana, Nagarjuna does not contradict Theravada understanding but he does expand and expound on it and the Two Truths are indeed an ontological truth according to his emptiness teachings... Fact.

    Emptiness and the ultimate truth are ontological in the sense that they address the status of existence. But I think what @DairyLama (aka @SpinyNorman) and I were saying is that ultimate reality isn't referring to some hidden substratum of the world that really exists, having a true ontological status. Rather ultimate and conventional refer to the way we see and understand the world.

    For Nagarjuna, the two truths are epistemological truths. The phenomenal world is accorded a provisional existence. The character of the phenomenal world is declared to be neither real nor unreal, but logically indeterminable. Ultimately, phenomena are empty (sunyata) of an inherent self or essence, but exist depending on other phenomena

    Sunyata, however, is also shown to be "empty," and Nagarjuna's assertion of "the emptiness of emptiness" prevents sunyata from constituting a higher or ultimate reality.[25][26][note 4][note 5] Nagarjuna's view is that "the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth"

    googling two truths ontological came up with an interesting paper which presented two ways of approaching sunyata, ontological and phenomological. The first talks about how the world IS, the second how we experience the world. Even in the ontological way though phenomena are understood in terms of appearance and emptiness (the way things seem and the way they really are), and nothing about oneness.

    If you say things exist interdependently, what happens when you take that all the way down? A chariot exists depending on its parts, so if you stop there you can say that things truly exist only dependently. What about the wheels though? Or the carriage? A wheel only exists depending on its spokes and hub. Spokes and hub only exist depending on the material it is made of. The material is made up of different molecules and elements. Molecules and elements are made up of atoms, quarks, quantum fuzziness. Where are the truly existing things that actually exist depending upon one another?

    IMO you want to take Nagarjuna's non-affirming negation of phenomena and reify existence into some kind of Vedanta-esque grand oneness that doesn't exist in Buddhism.

    DairyLama
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 23

    @person said:
    But I think what @DairyLama (aka @SpinyNorman) and I were saying is that ultimate reality isn't referring to some hidden substratum of the world that really exists, having a true ontological status. Rather ultimate and conventional refer to the way we see and understand the world.

    Exactly, sunyata is an epistemological teaching. This is demonstrated by the fact that the core text on sunyata, the Heart Sutra, is framed in terms of the five aggregates, and the five aggregates describe personal experience and knowledge.

    Sunyata, however, is also shown to be "empty," and Nagarjuna's assertion of "the emptiness of emptiness" prevents sunyata from constituting a higher or ultimate reality.[25][26][note 4][note 5] Nagarjuna's view is that "the ultimate truth is that there is no ultimate truth"

    Exactly. Emptiness of emptiness. This means that sunyata itself lacks inherent existence, it doesn't exist from it's own side. This means it is just a characteristic of phenomena, the nature of our experience, not an ultimate "thingy" or ground of being, or whatever. It's nothing to do with the Tao, or Atman/Brahman, or God, or anything ultimate.

    IMO you want to take Nagarjuna's non-affirming negation of phenomena and reify existence into some kind of Vedanta-esque grand oneness that doesn't exist in Buddhism.

    Unfortunately there is a tendency to reify such teachings, thereby completely missing the point of them. The point is clearly described in the opening lines of the Heart Sutra:

    "The Bodhisattva of Compassion,
    When he meditated deeply,
    Saw the emptiness of all five skandhas
    And sundered the bonds that caused him suffering."

    personlobster
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 23

    @person said:> On the other hand, while Theravada limits it's understanding of emptiness to the self, Mahayana schools extend that understanding to all phenomena. So one could say that the world "out there" is empty just as much as our world "in here". But even then the point isn't to effect some result in the world but to change our perception of it.

    Teachings on anatta and sunyata are framed in terms of phenomena, and phenomena are just what we experience. So again it is about personal experience, and not about metaphysical pronouncements. These teachings are about "my world", not "the world". They are about our personal reality, not some imagined "ultimate reality". Grasping at such beliefs is counterproductive.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 23

    I'm pretty sure you guys are trying to make Nagarjuna Theravada when he was Mahayana.

    To really get it I think Theravada Buddhists need to empty their cups just a little and realise that sunyata applies to the external world just as much as the internal and that in fact, the only difference between the two is perception or convention.

    Studying the Madhyamaka teachings themselves reveals that the "ultimate truth is absolutely objective". That line is in the introduction to the Mulamadhyamakakarika- Nagarjuna's Middle Way by Mark Siderits and Shoryu Katsura and meditating on it has shown it's merit.

    That the absolute truth is not absolute only means it is liable to change or grow to account for future views, not that truth itself is not objectively verifiable. That only implies nonsense and takes away from the solidity of the dharma.

    If the truth isn't absolute then it can only be subjective which throws objectivity out the window along with any logical discourse.

    Nagarjuna said that not only the self but everything is empty. I do not think that means what you think it means but there are a couple of camps on this so I won't push it further at the moment.

    silver
  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 23

    @David said:
    I'm pretty sure you guys are trying to make Nagarjuna Theravada when he was Mahayana.

    Absolutely not. Actually I think you are trying to make Nargajuna into a Taoist, when he was in fact a Buddhist.

    By the way, I practiced in Mahayana and Vajrayana schools for many years before getting involved in Theravada. And I don't think @person is a Theravadan.

    You might find it helpful to spend some more time with the Heart Sutra.

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 23

    @person said:

    If you say things exist interdependently, what happens when you take that all the way down? A chariot exists depending on its parts, so if you stop there you can say that things truly exist only dependently. What about the wheels though? Or the carriage? A wheel only exists depending on its spokes and hub. Spokes and hub only exist depending on the material it is made of. The material is made up of different molecules and elements. Molecules and elements are made up of atoms, quarks, quantum fuzziness. Where are the truly existing things that actually exist depending upon one another?

    Wow, how can you not see you just answered your own question? Honestly.

    You guys are making it more complicated than it needs to be but there's a fundamental error in your evaluation and I'll tell you why in very simple yet Buddhist terms.

    Emptiness. It does not imply a lack of existence but a lack of independent existence. A lack of inherent existence. If you can show me a sutta, sutra or discourse that says there is no existence period then I'll eat my hat.

    Absolute truth being empty then does not imply a lack of absolute truth, it implies the absolute truth is not true in itself and depends on taking subjectivity into account.

    Just as a proper and harmonious subjective view depends on seeing the absolute.

    The Two Truths is one truth and we make a skewed teaching and spread falsehoods when we hold one above the other as more true.

    This is why emptiness is a touchy subject. Too many get nihilism out of it through misinterpretation.

    Nagarjuna is not just Mr. Emptiness, he is also Mr. Middle Way.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited January 23

    @David yes the Mahayana does apply emptiness to all phenomena. My teacher says that if you go deep in shravaka view which is like anatta that can take you to enlightenment as a practice. But the Mahayana did have more schools historically. And not only historically which is a bit dry but also as a tool to examine awareness/experience we can look at what they subsequent schools said. Like take an essence from each school and see what it has to say about our experience. I believe the cittamatra or mind only school made the point that there aren't any phenonomena in our experience that are not complicit with mind or awareness. And then there is the view that all views are constructed and empty. And I think the shravaka (anatta) practice can benefit if you later on look into the other schools ideas. And likewise Mahayanist who identifies with a different school can benefit from hearing the original shravaka perspective and practicing that. I would say however that the ideas can be interesting but when life's adversities come usually a view of letting go of self might be more practical at that time.

    I've also found that reading about psychology of sensation/perception and the brain process is interesting both in itself and also going back to the idea that anything in our awareness not only has to do with something outside but also our mind. So we don't hear about anything or experience anything without our mind being involved.

    lobsterDavid
  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 23

    @Jeffrey

    You are right there are a few different Buddhist ways to come at this stuff and so far all Mahayana schools I've come across teach that view of emptiness. Especially Tibetan Buddhism. I think the Mind Only school of Buddhism is interesting but it seems to cross over to an extreme view for my personal taste.

    Nagarjuna said that the absolute truth (as in the ultimate of the two truths) is empty. Understanding that to mean there is no absolute truth is to misunderstand it because emptiness does not mean non-existence but it does hint at Dependent Origination and interconnectivity.

    Nagarjuna was logical and it is simply not logical to claim the absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. The statement is self defeating because it is a claim of absolute truth in itself. :p

    The sentence below this one is true.
    The sentence above this one is false.

    Jeffrey
  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited January 23

    @David I think I remember reading a few times in a book on Emptiness, my teacher uses, them mentioning absolute truth. However I cannot right now remember what the given definition of what 'absolute' means in that particular book. I know that it was defined but I cannot remember. I think that is part of the joke of Buddhism for me that at one time I thought that I would remember more things and sort of accumulate 'insights' but maybe I am more resigned just that I have confidence or faith or what have you that eventually whatever insight is relevant at whatever moment will 'appear'.

    Which is not to say that there aren't amazing beings like Nagarjuna who set it in their minds and then are able to explain in writing.

    Ok I found in the text what was set as absolute truth as the book begins to set up talking about Emptiness:

    Absolute Truth

    In Buddhism absolute truth or absolute reality means the end point of one's analysis, in other words, the most basic or fundamental element of existence or experience.

    For example, if one takes a clay pot, a potter might say that in absolute terms it was clay, but a scientist might say it was a collection of atoms. If he were being more precise he might say the atoms themselves consisted of atomic particles moving in space, but even this would be a rough approximation to reality. In absolute terms atomic particles can no longer be defined precisely these days. They cannot be said to be this or that or here or there; they have to be expressed in terms of probability. No doubt scientists will express it differently again in a few years time.

    In the same way absolute truth presents itself differently to practitioners at various levels of their practice. Just as this emerges in the experience of an individual practitioner, it occurs historically in the way that the Buddhist scriptures emerged as a progression of increasingly subtle teachings.

    So above ^^ this author is defining absolute truth for use in their text which summarizes (for use in practice, analysis, and reflection) different schools of views (I guess) on emptiness. So what I couldn't remember is the definition as 'the end point of analysis' or 'the most fundamental element'.

    Davidlobsterperson
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    @David said:
    Emptiness. It does not imply a lack of existence but a lack of independent existence. A lack of inherent existence. If you can show me a sutta, sutra or discourse that says there is no existence period then I'll eat my hat.

    Nagarjuna said that the absolute truth (as in the ultimate of the two truths) is empty. Understanding that to mean there is no absolute truth is to misunderstand it because emptiness does not mean non-existence but it does hint at Dependent Origination and interconnectivity.

    Nagarjuna was logical and it is simply not logical to claim the absolute truth is that there is no absolute truth. The statement is self defeating because it is a claim of absolute truth in itself.

    This is where I think you miss it and start interpreting things for yourself the way you want to see it. Nagarjuna absolutely did teach the emptiness of emptiness. My understanding is so that we don't then give a sort of solidity and true existence to all of reality as a whole.

    Absolute truth being empty then does not imply a lack of absolute truth, it implies the absolute truth is not true in itself and depends on taking subjectivity into account.

    Just as a proper and harmonious subjective view depends on seeing the absolute.

    I don't think I really understand what you mean when you say objectivity and subjectivity, the way you use them seems to hold some sort of metaphysical idea with them.

    The Two Truths is one truth and we make a skewed teaching and spread falsehoods when we hold one above the other as more true.

    This is what it seems to me like you are doing but on the opposite side in favor of true existence as a whole. I think you have the idea that ultimate reality is some sort of truer substratum of being separate from conventional reality rather than an explanation of the way conventional reality actually exists. Ultimate and conventional are interdependent and thus empty as well.

    This is why emptiness is a touchy subject. Too many get nihilism out of it through misinterpretation.

    Again, but I think you get true existence as an entirety out of interdependence.

    To say there is existence depends on the idea of non existence, so existence as a concept is empty too because it depends on the idea of non existence. Existence is a conventional truth it doesn't become ultimate when it is seen as an undifferentiated whole.

    Sorry for the long list of passages, maybe just read the whole link.

    From the ultimate standpoint, there are no phenomena or for that matter standpoints. Being dependently arisen, phenomena are ultimately unfindable, which includes finding that they are empty. The conventional designation of objects requires conceptual boundaries in which to single things out and ultimately there are no boundaries, no independent things to designate. Objects are a conventional construct. Only the conventional can name things, as empty, conceptual abstractions amid a sea of interdependencies, without that sea being a definable whole either.

    Ultimate truth does not point to a transcendent reality, but to the transcendence of deception.5 It is critical to emphasize that the ultimate truth of emptiness is a negational truth. In looking for inherently existent phenomena it is revealed that they cannot be found. This absence is not findable because it is not an entity, just as a room without an elephant in it does not contain an elephantless substance.6 Even conventionally, elephantlessness does not exist. Ultimate truth or emptiness does not point to an essence or nature, however subtle, that everything is made of.

    Nagarjuna’s reasoning extends into an eloquent somersault that completes the analysis. If emptiness is empty, as in an absence, then it can only conventionally exist.9 For there is nothing that can be identified about the emptiness of things, as in the example of elephantlessness. What is not conventionally designated does not exist in any positive sense, is not an object, hence its emptiness. Therefore, to be empty is to only conventionally exist and likewise, to conventionally exist is the only way to be empty. Furthermore, as there are no true objects to know, conventional truth is also the only truth there is. This is the ultimate truth of emptiness and thus, a conventional truth.10 The doctrine of the emptiness of emptiness culminates in the insight that the two truths, the ultimate and conventional are ontologically the same, like two different sides of the same coin.

    To recognize emptiness as conventional is to thoroughly refute inherent existence and to underscore the recognition that emptiness is the emptiness of conventional phenomena, nothing more substantive than that.11 This insight undermines a contradictory and dualistic reality where emptiness is totally real, while the conventional is totally unreal. Nagarjuna’s doctrine negates ultimate truth as an independent base from which to assert an objective, non-empty view. All views can only be conventionally true.

    The emptiness of emptiness refutes ultimate truth as yet another argument for essentialism under the guise of being beyond the conventional or as the foundation of it. To realize emptiness is not to find a transcendent place or truth to land in but to see the conventional as merely conventional.

    https://emptinessteachings.com/2014/09/11/the-two-truths-of-buddhism-and-the-emptiness-of-emptiness/

    DairyLama
  • ShoshinShoshin No one in particular Nowhere Special Veteran

    The truth of reality

    ...is that for us mere mortals we will continue to agree and disagree ( some will agree to disagree ) ...Such is life for us unenlightened mortals... :)

    person
  • personperson Don't believe everything you think 'Merica! Veteran

    I try to keep that in mind @Shoshin, but I also do find the back and forth immensely helpful for my own understanding.

    Shoshin
  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited January 24

    There I was not thinking of an elephant, or even thinking of nothing. Yep meditation is nothing if not an emptying ...
    When this came up ...

    https://emptinessteachings.com/2014/09/11/the-two-truths-of-buddhism-and-the-emptiness-of-emptiness/

    “Whatever is dependently co-arisen
    That is explained to be emptiness.
    That being a dependent designation,
    Is itself the middle way.

    Something that is not dependently arisen,
    Such a thing does not exist.
    Therefore a non-empty thing
    Does not exist.”

    Nagarjuna

    Hope it is of some benefit ... B)

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 24

    @David said:
    Emptiness. It does not imply a lack of existence but a lack of independent existence. A lack of inherent existence.

    Exactly. So emptiness is a characteristic of phenomena ( dharmas ), not a ground of being or ultimate reality thingy. Phenomena ( dharmas ) are what we experience, equivalent to the five aggregates. As the Heart Sutra explains.

    And as @Person noted, Nagarjuna absolutely did teach the emptiness of emptiness, a point it seems you don't want to entertain. I think this is probably because at heart you are more Taoist than Buddhist.

    If you're still not convinced, then you might find it useful to join some of the discussions over at Dharma Wheel. Or do some study on the Heart Sutra.

    “All philosophies are mental fabrications. There has never been a single doctrine by which one could enter the true essence of things.”
    ― Nāgārjuna

  • DavidDavid some guy Veteran
    edited January 24

    What you guys still aren't understanding is that emptiness does not mean a lack of being. I'm not sure how to be more clear on that point.

    You are missing the middle way.

    I am not arguing that the absolute truth is not empty I am arguing that emptiness does not imply a lack of existence but a lack of independent existence. How can the difference be missed?

  • DairyLamaDairyLama Veteran
    edited January 24

    @David said:> What you guys still aren't understanding is that emptiness does not mean a lack of being. I'm not sure how to be more clear on that point.

    I think we understand it just fine, and that the misunderstanding is really on your part, due to your Taoist leanings.
    By the way, your reference to "nihilism" is a straw-man.

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