Howdy, Stranger!

It looks like you're new here. If you want to get involved, click one of these buttons!

Examples: Monday, today, last week, Mar 26, 3/26/04
Welcome home! Please contact if you have any difficulty logging in or using the site. New registrations must be manually approved which may take up to 48 hours. Can't log in? Try clearing your browser's cookies.

Buddhist context: Ontology versus Epistemology

JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
edited February 2021 in Philosophy

I came across these terms reading about 'the three natures' which is a yogacara teaching that is similar to the two truths in my understanding. I would say that it has dependent origination as a 'nature' that bridges fabrication to the unconditioned Buddha nature.

I had heard of ontology and epistemology before in western philosophy and my understanding is that ontology is about what reality is versus epistemology is how we 'know' reality.

So the example I found in my pan Buddhist dictionary in the T section was Tris-svabhava nirdesa is a work by Vasubandhu talking about the Three Natures Doctrine and he argues that it should not be considered so much as philosophical idealism because it deals with epistemological matters.

And also yay I created a topic which I rarely do!



  • Que?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    It’s good to know your epistemology from your ontology... you never know when you may be called upon to converse intelligently on the subject.

  • lobsterlobster Veteran
    edited March 2021

    I am intrigued by yogacara BUT it is not something I find useful. However some forms of intense study are used beneficially, so I welcome useful insights.
    How does it help you @Jeffrey?

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited March 2021

    @lobster I'm getting this term "yogacara" from my own study of a Buddhist dictionary. I suppose my teacher teaches in the yogacara tradition but I haven't heard her use that word. She has connections through her teacher to the tradition of Milarepa and through her husband and other teachers to the Longchenpa tradition. I think those are influenced by yogacara but they also talk quite a bit about Nagarjuna and Madymaka tradition. My teacher after coming back to the west from being a nun and meeting many teachers went to university in Buddhism and wrote up her thesis as a book and it is about Shentong traditional view on emptiness. I think that is influenced by both yogacara and madyamaka. The Shentong view is called extrinsic view of emptiness in my Buddhist dictionary.

    So these three natures I haven't heard my teacher talk about them but I have heard them talk about the 12 links from avidya (not knowing the true nature), to samskaras/karma/volition, to name and form, to consciousness, to 6 sense bases and sense objects, to contact, to feeling, to thirst, to craving, to becoming, to birth, to death.

    So I was reading the Buddhist dictionary talk about the 3 natures and I wondered if dependent origination in this teaching of the 12 links is talking about how fabrication in the 3 natures is connected to suffering. Could it be same process and avidya and samskaras are related to fabrication? And then how suffering is connected to enlightenment/unconditioned would be the Buddhist path as talked about in the sutras?

  • JeroenJeroen Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter Netherlands Veteran

    It’s all very interesting @Jeffrey but to me it is just so much Greek. I can gain an intellectual understanding of the words and a few of the links kind-of make sense, but the majority of it has no real concepts attached to it in my mind, and even more to the point, from what I do understand it remains totally unclear to me what I should do with this concept of 12 links once I have it clear in my mind.

    A concept like the Three Poisons, I can understand and that seems reasonably clear. I also know what to do with it. Letting go, is another one of those lessons that immediately made sense. But other parts of Buddhism remain opaque to me, and I refuse to just go and memorise things for the sake of it.

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited March 2021

    @Kerome the connection between the 12 links and the 3 poisons is suffering. Suffering leads to pursuit of freedom from suffering. In the 12 links suffering is included with death. Not getting what you want or sundering from what you want etc. I think this is stated and explained in those sutra about the 12 links? But I could be wrong.

    So the 12 links are quite practical because they are connected to the origin of suffering. So on one end they link to suffering. And on the other avidya and thirst are linked to the cause of suffering I am thinking. Again I could be wrong.

    And then from suffering we pursue liberation from suffering. And from there we have refuge in the dharma and sradda which is a working skeptical faith in the dharma. The 3 poisons we work at from the 8 fold path. From sradda in part we form calm abiding. And from calm abiding insight. I think there are sutras that (similar to 12 links) there are lists that are hard to remember. Eg from what I recall with suffering as a cause have faith with faith as a cause have something else...

    I can't find the one I'm looking for but something like this:

    (I'm thinking the 3 poisons and 5 hindrances are worked with in our practice. The hindrances obstruct the mediative concentrations and the 3 poisons are synonyms to me of suffering? Could there be liberation from suffering in the presence of greed, ill will, and confusion?)

    So the 12 links relate avidya and the process of consciousness to suffering. And then suffering is related to the Buddhist path (which the link is an example) to overcome suffering....

  • JeffreyJeffrey Veteran
    edited March 2021

    Also I think that the 12 links can be contemplated and maybe somehow go along with the 4 foundations of mindfulness: form, feeling, mind, and other phenomena? I'm unsure on this part.

  • Thanks @Jeffrey

    There is value in study as a template, discipline or confirmation of method. In one sense I see it as a closing fist.

    Here it is as a mudra ...

  • DavidDavid A human residing in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. Ancestral territory of the Erie, Haudenosaunee, Huron-Wendat, Mississauga and Neutral First Nations Veteran
    edited March 2021

    @Jeffrey said:
    Also I think that the 12 links can be contemplated and maybe somehow go along with the 4 foundations of mindfulness: form, feeling, mind, and other phenomena? I'm unsure on this part.

    I'm thinking you are right. It seems that most teachings contain all others when contemplated deeply enough. Just as all 8 spokes of the wheel turn in unison and all twelve links are present in any one link.

    In the Satipatthana Sutta the Buddha says that by practicing the 4 Foundations of Mindfulness, one can realise the 7 Factors of awakening. The 2nd Factor of Awakening is investigation of phenomena and in my mind that relates to the 12 Links of Dependent Origination. Also in Thays book The Heart of the Buddhas Teachings, the chapter on the 12 Links of Interdependent Co-Arising immediately proceeds the chapter on the 7 Factors and there is likely a reason for that. Oops. Just looked and he was putting the "lists" in order is all, haha. But anyways...

    Thay also says that if we touch one thing deeply, we touch all things.

    Edited again to add: I was also just reading this article about the subject (thanks for the inspiration @Jeffrey) and found it very insightful.

Sign In or Register to comment.