An Automatic Submachinegun Commentary on Jang-gya's Harmony of Emptiness and Dependent-Arising in the Middle Way Consequence School

By Achmed el'Hamster

(REL 526; 12/8/87)

An Exhibition of How Not to Write a Serious Term Paper;
We Apologize for All Syntactic, Logical and Factual Problems in the Below Essay in Advance

Table of Contents

The Self of Negation
Dependent Arising
Comparison to Contemporary Western and other Views One Sided Conversation


     The purpose of this aptly named essay is to procure another viewpoint on the text of Jang-gya's presentation of emptiness.  This is hopefully going to be something beyond a mere transformation of Jang-gya's ideas into another form of words, but will be a further insight into their meaning.  Jang-gya presents his text for the purpose of generating insight into emptiness in the reader.  This is not to say that the reader will comprehend emptiness completely or cognize it directly when he has finished reading, but will have a wedge between himself and his old ideas of reified or inherent existence.  This promotion of separation from viewing objects as existing in their own right, or from their own side, is something which very few Western philosophical systems have a handle on.  A contemporary Western attempt to grasp emptiness occurs in Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminati Papers, a treatise on how to reprogram one's brain.  This attempt is the realization that all sciences are really 'neuro'-sciences, or that they do not really study an external world, but study the way the mind perceives this external world to operate.1  One of the recent trends among scientists is to use Eastern ideas to understand such topics as Quantum Physics.  It seems that the systems of religion and life philosophy engendered in the East may also be applicable to the scientific knowledge of the West.
     The most appealing aspect of Jang-gya's system for myself is the emphasis on the use of reasoned arguments to remove one's incorrect ideas.  This seems to be more accessible to the person who is used to rational thought, such as the aforementioned scientists, and might have the methodology that they would be looking for in a religious system--a methodology that commonly practiced Christianity could be said to lack.  The air-tight argument that "God is all knowing, all powerful, unchanging, and not subject to human understanding" is fine for those who do not wish to breathe, but it has no attraction for me.  Far better is the reasoning approach to insight into existence, where one's intellect can be put into use instead of lobotomized.
     Jang-gya's reputation as a physicist not withstanding, the understanding of Emptiness is seen as an aid to one in the much larger problem of liberation (compared to problem of the location of an electron, as in Quantum).  Only those who are deeply based in an understanding of the selflessness of persons and phenomena can be liberated from cyclic existence, in Jang-gya's and the 'mainstream' Consequentialist's view.  This differs from other systems of Buddhism, in that they attempt to refute permanence of self in different ways, and do not necessarily refute a self of phenomena.  For example, the mind-only school refutes the difference in entity between subject and object, while the Sutra school only refutes a self of persons designated by a false status.2  These other, 'lower' schools claim that the Consequentialists fall to the depths of nihilism that Nagarjuna warns of: "Through [the view of] no [nominal] existence there is nothing but cyclic existence".3  Of course, the Consequentialists claim that the other schools are still trapped in cyclic existence because they are still positing some sort of real existence, as Nagarjuna also warns against: "Through [the view of inherent] existence one is not released".4  For lack of space and time, I will attempt to stick to an analysis of the Prasangikas of Jang-gya's sort.
     Emptiness itself is said to be the mode of subsistence of (all) phenomena, because of the reason of dependent arising.  Objects and persons arise through causes and conditions, and as such are said not to exist from their own side in some separate way.  Also, objects are imputed (by an imputational or designating consciousness) in dependence on their collection of parts.5  This means that they are not only dependent on what they 'are', but also upon the consciousness viewing these objects (way past our ideas of physics really being neuro-physics, or neurosurgery really being neuro-neurosurgery).  Dependent arising is a positive phenomenon.  It is something occurring in your mind right now; the dots of ink on this sheet are being transformed into words and then into mental images in dependence on the shape of the dots.  There aren't really any words on the paper you are holding, because words are in your mind.  In that way, the words on the page are empty of inherent existence, although that is certainly not the only way they are empty.  They are also empty, because there is no one gist or meaning or way of grokking this paper.  A word could have a slightly or vastly different meaning to every person who reads it, especially in dependence on the words surrounding it.  If every person understands a word differently, then every sentence is understood differently, and there can be no claim about the meaning of the collection of words.  If everyone reading it gets a different meaning, how can it be inherently existent, meaning something from its own side?  With these reasonings, one can see that emptiness is somehow the flip side of dependent arising.  Emptiness proposes nothing in the place of inherent existence, and in this way it is non-affirming.  It is also a negative, or a negation.  It is simply the negative, or negating of, the idea that something is existent from its own side or inherently existent.  Emptiness is existent in the sense that it can be realized, but it does not exist as a thing.  I cannot truthfully in my meditations come to a stage where I can say, "This is emptiness".  I can realize the emptiness of something, and even all things, but not label anything emptiness without falling back into designational conception, or the normal (innate) mode of perceiving.
     One certainly does not usually think to himself, "this object is inherently existent and exists from its own side", but one does assent to this appearance without realizing he is doing so.  One goes along with the way things appear without giving it any active thought at all, usually.  Having a strong feeling that some things really exist, that they have their own existence without needing us to be involved in any way, is the gateway to believing in things as inherently existent.  Strengthening that feeling to the level of actually actively seeing oneself and objects as inherently existent is difficult, and suffers from many internal inconsistencies when given sufficient thought.  If we can at least cut through this exaggerated level of thought that reinforces this erroneous idea of the "self" of persons and objects, then we may be able to attack the subtler forms of this delusion as well.
     Prasangas (consequences) are extremely useful in cutting to the marrow of the internally inconsistent view.  Instead of standing on some unsupported ground and trying to force one's viewpoint on an opponent, as perhaps in a syllogism, one is using the opponents own vocabulary and ideas as the support for a position the opponent can absolutely not agree with, because it runs counter to his direct experience.  For example, in some non-Buddhist meditations, one may pick something as the ultimate truth to meditate on, something that one believes is inherently existent, unchanging and not subject to designation by an imputational consciousness.  God is often considered to be this, or Brahman, the Tao, or perhaps even the Buddha Nature (Tathagathagarbha) by some Chinese schools of Buddhism.
     If one does reason regarding the nature of God, and does not escape into self-fulfilling rationalizations (e.g. God is unknowable), one would find that, if one really likes the idea of a God and doesn't want him to evaporate due to not being inherently existent, it is not necessary that he be inherently existent, nor is it possible from the accepted writings about him.  God created the world, and this means he created; to create is to have an idea and to change {what exists} into {what exists plus the creation}.  Between the idea and the completion, there is mental change as the creation occurs.  There is also a change in the energies exerted before beginning to create and after beginning, which means that whatever method God used to create the world required change in him, showing that either he is teaching incorrect things about himself or he is not changeless, and therefore not inherently existent (or one can try to reclaim the idea that he made something in his own image that was too stupid to understand itself or him).  To lose the non-thinking assent with ideas of inherent existence is important to understanding emptiness fully, and even high flights of reasoning into strengthening ideas of inherent existence will eventually lead to a better understanding of emptiness.  I found this to be very true when I was writing the One Sided Conversation.  Sometimes to find the emptiness of the conversational situation, I had to first understand the wrong view as well as I could and attempt to believe it before I was able to understand why it was empty.
     Emptiness can be considered to be the central philosophical issue of Buddhism, and the direct realization of it to be the major religious goal.  The Consequentialists put a lot of stock in it, anyway.  A deeper delving into the various issues of emptiness follows in the next several sections.  These hope to explain in closer detail the concepts involved.  The sections after that are comparisons of other systems of thought, which hope to give different angles of approach to these details, and afford the reader a holographic mental image of what it is to follow the Consequence school of Buddhism.  [And then there's the One Sided Conversation to bulk out the paper a bit.]

The Self of Negation

     Selflessness, in the Consequence school, is understood as the idea that when one searches for a self-powered self for either a phenomenon or a person, one will find nothing that is this self among the basis of designation of the object or outside of the basis.  The basis of designation is what makes an object or a person distinguishable from other objects or persons; the characteristics that can be said to be conventionally part of it.  Upon seeking the self of the person or object, one will only find the conventional idea that there is a self, and will not find anything that really IS undeniably that self.  Selflessness is actually a negating of the inherently existent self, not an attempt to negate the phenomena that we perceive.  As Chandrakirti says: "Here, 'self' is an inherent nature of phenomena, that is, a non-dependence on another."6  It might seem at times, to the confused reader who is not familiar with Buddhist psycho-babble, that Jang-gya is trying to say that there is no person or phenomenon at all.  For example, Jang-gya says: This would seem to say that there is no object (or no 'form', where 'form' serves as a variable holding the name of some object) to be found.  What he really means is still consistent, however.  He is trying to find some sort of 'form' that stands by itself, but there is none.  None in the basis of designation, none outside of the basis of designation.

Seven-fold Reasoning

     The refutation of this self is accomplished through a variety of reasonings.  The major reasoning for refuting a self of persons is the Seven-fold Reasoning.  This reasoning attempts to confront every possibility of an inherently existent object, and by showing that they all are impossible, show that an inherently existent object is impossible.  For example, one could try to find his self's existence by looking for himself:
  1. as being one with his basis of designation,
  2. as being inherently different from his basis,
  3. as being inherently dependent on his basis,
  4. as being something on which his basis depends inherently,
  5. as inherently possessing his basis,
  6. as being the mere collection of his basis,
  7. or as being the mere shape of his basis.8
Each of these ideas is refuted in a different way...
     The 'I' is not one with its basis of designation (1), because when one says 'I am tired,' he does not mean that his pinkie is tired, he usually means his brain is tired of thinking or his body is tired of moving.  Just having these two different types of tired associated with the I shows that the I is not always held to be one with the full totality of the basis of designation.  Also, if the I inherently exists and is one with the basis of designation, then, because the basis of designation is mind and body, the I would be twain, or the reverse that since the I is one, the mind and body are only one, and have no parts.
     The I cannot be inherently different from its basis of designation (2), because then there could be no connection from the I to the basis of designation, or in other words, your mind would not be related to you at all.  It is surely hard to fathom how 'you' could exist inherently separate from your mind and body.
     The I is not inherently dependent upon its basis (3), because the basis changes, and therefore the I would change (and not be inherently existent), nor can the basis of designation depend inherently upon the I (4), for then it could not change due to being based on something that exists inherently (and it does change).
     The I can further be seen not to inherently possess its parts (5), because to possess means to have as property, to own or to have as an attribute.  If the inherently existent I owns the basis of designation, what happens to a chopped off finger?  Does 'I' still own it, or does the basis of designation change to reflect the lack of finger (thereby changing the property or attributes of I, which cannot change).  If it does continue to own the finger, and a squirrel runs off with it and builds it into its nest, does the I then own the squirrel's nest?  Eventually the finger will rot and deteriorate into nothing, be incorporated in the earth or other beings, and cease to resemble anything like the finger it used to.  This is just expanding the statement that the inherently existent I cannot possess the basis of designation, because the basis is subject to change.
     The I cannot be the mere collection of the basis of designation (6), because if it were, it would be merely a label for something that already exists, and would not be anything different or interesting.  Also it is clear that the mere collection changes, and an inherently existent mere collection could not.  It would also be non-sensical to claim "I have a stomach ache," because you would be the stomach ache.
     The seventh (and thankfully final) reasoning is to see that the I is not merely the shape of its basis of designation (7).  For if it were, the shape can change, and therefore the I would change.  I can bend my arm to change its shape, but I don't feel my self is changing because of this.
     These explanations of the Seven-fold Reasoning are certainly not meant to be complete, or to be any kind of finalized statement on how to use the Reasoning, but are merely meant as a clue into how one can proceed along through the Seven folds and refute inherent existence.

Negation of Inherent Production

     The main reasoning for challenging a self of phenomena is the refutation of production from the four extremes.  These also are an attempt to produce a hermetic set that covers all possibilities of inherently existent production, for it is assumed that for something to exist inherently it must have been inherently produced.  If it was not inherently produced, then it does not exist, for no conventional production could manufacture an inherently existent object.  The four extremes of production are causeless production, production from self, production from other, and production from both self and other.  For one to discover a possibility outside of this set, one has only to think up a method of production that is not contained within these.  I can't think of any, so I will go on to explain these four methods.
     Causeless production means that the inherently existent object has been produced from no causes whatsoever, and nothing that is a cause can have contributed to its production.  This seems unreasonable just hearing about it, for all things are seen to have some cause.  This is along the lines that there are some things that happen just because they do, like accidents and natural disasters.  Surely though, this is only when looked at from a limited perspective.  If you were out driving, and had an accident, you helped to cause it by being out driving in the first place.  You are not completely cause free.  Even something as immaterial as the space between the galaxies is caused by the galaxies being there to allow you to label the space.  The most difficult thing I can think up to refute is that God is produced causelessly, just from his own nature.  God is not produced from anything, God produces everything else.  Whew, what did he do before he had we little beings to play with anyway?  I see no way of refuting his causeless production, although I can easily see that he is not inherently existent if he conventionally produces.  A reasoning that might work for someone who believes that God is causeless is thus; if God is produced causelessly then there is no reason for God.  If there is no reason for God, then there can be no reason for us, because we have been produced by God.  Therefore, everything should be produced causelessly, while we can see that it is not, and we would have no cause for anything, while we do have causes.
     Refuting a production from self requires a further analysis of what the self is, and how it would produce itself.  If something produced itself, when would it not exist?  If it did not exist, then it could not produce itself from nothing, could it?  If it did exist, then when it was not manifest, where was it?  How can an object somehow go back in time to produce itself for the time that it is existent now?  The Samkhya's would say that I obviously do not understand their position, and that when the object is unmanifest, the continuum still exists and the parts that go toward constructing whatever the object is are unmanifest 'object'.  Let us choose elevator music, for example.  The music produces itself somehow, even though it is being played over a speaker, and is transmitted over a wire, and originally is being played on a compact disc player (maybe)?  All of these objects are unmanifest music?  What happens to the music if I break the speaker cone, and there is no more music?  Is the silence generated by this produced from itself, with the now non-manifest music being part of its entity, and therefore the music is also unmanifest silence?  And if I remember the silence so well, because it was a blissful change from the music, then the silence was unmanifest memory, and so on and so on.  It would seem then, that since any object has so many contributing factors that are hidden from the observer (i.e. motion of the earth, slight electromagnetic field, etc.), then basically everything is unmanifest everything else.  This is harder to understand than dependent arising!  It also seems that since the music produced itself once, then I could never have turned it off, if it was a substantial entity that had already managed to produce itself from its own side.  There is much more room in this argument for understanding the gaps between existent effect, and unmanifest effect, and between the effect and its own production from itself, but I'm already stuck trying to posit production from self at all.
     The production from other is refuted through understanding that an other must be an inherently other phenomenon.  This other is so different from the effect, that it is inherently different from it.  This means that each stands alone from its own side.  Now, if each stands alone from its own side, how can it possibly be that they are related at all?  How can the inherently other cause contribute anything to the effect at all?  If it could in some way be linked as having served to produce the effect, then it would not be inherently other.  Therefore there is no production from other.  And once we have ascertained that production from self and production from other cannot occur, it seems that suggesting that objects are produced from both is only adding the problems of both together.  If it is produced from something inherently other, there is still the problem that the other cannot contribute to the effect, even though the effect produces itself as well.
     These explanations of the self of negation represent my basic level of understanding selflessness.  I make no claim at being the master of these concepts with such ability that I could teach others; it is only through my attempts to expound them to help others that I really see my own progress, and perhaps understand my own selflessness better.

Dependent Arising

     Dependent Arising is seen as the supporting condition for selflessness and emptiness.  If one really understood dependent arising, would it be sufficient for liberation?  If this understanding is of an ultimate sort, then probably, for "the two extremes are cleared away by this reasoning [of dependent arising]".  But it is also said that one must understand that things (and persons) are empty of inherent existence to obtain liberation, and it does seem that one could still reify existence, or posit inherent existence, even if he understood dependent arising well (perhaps just by not thinking of the appearance to which he is assenting).
     Dependent Arising can be said to be the meaning of Emptiness or vice-versa, but this is only verbal play, and contributes nothing to the grasp of either.  Emptiness is 'proved' by Dependent Arising however, as the Questions of Sagaramati Sutra says: "Those which arise dependently are free of inherent existence".9  To be free of inherent existence is to be empty.
     Dependent Arising is more than just the obvious idea that objects depend on causes for their existence and continuation, but is also the 'immersion' in this idea, which is achieved through fully realizing the links of everything to every other thing.  A grain of sand dropping on Earth does have an effect on the thoughts of a being on a planet revolving around Alpha Centauri, even just from the gravitational attraction between the sand and the creatures physical thought mechanism components.  A small relation certainly, but they are not completely independent, especially if there is a stronger causal link, e.g. that grain of sand is the last in an hourglass timing when an explosion is going to take place in the Centauran's dwelling.  Things may be related in ways that are not obvious at first.
     Certainly, all things are dependently arisen from a personal perspective.  You have to notice them to include them in your cognitive continuum, and they are dependent on this noticing in the first place.  Not only that, they are dependent for their designation upon what collection of whatevers is designated.  A basis of designation for a cow is dependent on the parts of the cow, the sound of a cow, etc.  And they are also dependent upon what has caused them to occur, the factors that have allowed the objects to come into being.  A cow is dependent upon its mother, its father, its birth, all of the food it has ever eaten, all of the water that has for a while been part of it, and on and on.
     Dependent arising and emptiness are perceived simultaneously by the most evolved being, and do not conflict in the least.  They can be realized together for the best effect, because the understanding of emptiness can be seen to counteract the view of inherent existence (although dependent arising can perform this function as well), and the understanding of dependent arising can be seen to counteract the nihilistic view that nothing exists (which some people might mistake the existence of emptiness to imply).  In this way, dependent arising and emptiness are seen to be aiming towards the same focus.


     Well, to this point it seems almost like the whole paper is about emptiness anyway, and I could just stop where I am.  I unfortunately don't have the sense to do this, and would like to further explore some ideas that are relevant to emptiness itself (or lack thereof).  Emptiness is a non-affirming negative for at least one reason; inherent existence is considered a conception that ties one to cyclic existence.  If one is trying to remove this misconception, then one is basically trying to find an antidote to a problem.  In going to a healer for an antidote, one is not given another disease (for the most part).  And this I consider to reveal something about emptiness, for if we are trying to obtain liberation from cyclic existence and we are tied to cyclic existence by a misconception, why would we want another conception?  If emptiness proposed something that was Emptiness in terms of being something label-able, then would we not have just another idea that has replaced inherent existence for us?  I see this as a possible tie to something like cyclic existence, perhaps empty existence.  Instead, emptiness cuts our chains when we understand it fully, and is not laying on furred handcuffs of further mind-occupations, because emptiness itself is empty, and is not inherently existent.
     Also, the mind that cognizes emptiness is not seen as losing anything but a misconception.  Emptiness is not a cause for one's understanding of dependent arising to evaporate, only nihilism is.  Cause and effect are still posited in the conventional sense, and a goal is to be able to cognize the emptiness of an object with all senses opened to its apparent self, but with none being fooled into assenting to the appearance of the object, while still being able to posit conventional cause and effect.  This idea causes resonation, in my mind at least, with the way I would consider a Buddha to perceive.
     Emptiness also should never be seen as something depressing or disenheartening.  It is because things are empty that change is possible.  It is only when the mind is stuck on the bad view of inherent existence that heart is lost.  "Oh, I'll never change, never be better, I can't rise above my nature" are strength-sapping ideas to assert, and are very wrong as to the basic nature of a human as well.  A Buddha would not be possible, were things not empty, and there luckily was a Buddha, further showing emptiness because of his ability to change, to progress, to reach enlightenment.

Comparisons to Contemporary Western and Other Views

Edward Conze:

     In his section on The Three Doors to Deliverance, Conze immediately sets my teeth on edge by stating, "the more important a Buddhist doctrine, the less readily intelligible it generally is."10  This I feel is a somewhat insulting statement that could easily be misconstrued as saying that the things Buddhists hold dear are the most irrational ideas that they have presented.  Trying to recover from this, I read his definition of emptiness as the absence of something.  Emptiness is "that which is 'devoid of a self, or of anything belonging, or pertaining, to a self (attaniya)'."11  This seems to be a different view of emptiness than Jang-gya's, to whom emptiness is the absence of inherent existence, or absence of a self. This seems to be saying that emptiness is a particular thing devoid of a self, and not an attribute to things, which is that they are empty of inherent existence.  Conze makes another conceivably derogatory remark, "logically, the term had not been thought out very well."12  Perhaps further analysis would help Conze to understand emptiness so that it might be logically sensible to him.
     Conze then later shows his difference from Jang-gya's position by stating: "Things are 'empty' in the sense that they are unsubstantial or unsatisfactory."13  The unsubstantial Jang-gya would agree with, because things are ultimately not as they appear, but I don't think that he thought of them as unsatisfactory in the way that Conze speaks of.  Conze is almost suggesting a whining Buddhist, one who is just so unsatisfied by things that he calls them all unsatisfactory.  By their very nature, things are unsatisfactory and non-lasting, but this was not the slant I received from Conze.  He also states that "what is 'empty' should be forsaken as worthless; as a result of treating it for what it is, one is then liberated from it."14  It follows that devotional action and love should not be practiced because they are empty.  This is not what I see Jang-gya saying at all.  I believe Conze is reading in his Western ideas that what is empty is useless and devoid of value, and am pleased that this reaction is so easily showing--it resembles the reaction to me of the early Chinese Buddhists to emptiness, and isn't in the historical realm, it's almost currently occurring.  Conze's Christian slant is revealed throughout the article, as when he talks of emptiness in the connotation of salvation15 rather than of liberation.  He does have several good points, such as "meditation on 'emptiness' serves the purpose of helping us to get rid of this world by removing the ignorance which binds us to it."16  I would not say that Jang-gya is trying to get rid of the world, but if world were to be a term denoting the wrong views of the world, then this is exactly Jang-gya's point.  What I see to be happening with Conze is the mutation of Buddhism to fit the concepts of the people it comes into contact with, as it historically did to the Bonist traditions of Tibet.  Each new proto-Buddhist understands as much as he can in terms of his current religion, and begins to understand more (hopefully) as he pursues acquaintance with the Dharma.

Jacques May:

     This article I found to be extremely interesting, seeing as how it is a double language translation at times. May manages to translate some of the scriptures into French, and then transport this understanding into English as well.  May mentions many points which coincide with what I perceive as Jang-gya's views, as in his explanation of the Middle Way as not "clinging to any extreme,"17 and the attempt not to fall to either substantialism (inherent existence) or nihilism.  I found his relation of Professor Lamotte's six major Madhyamika theses to be revealing, and he here shows his wisdom in not asserting that the Madhyamikas have no theses, although he is not talking specifically of the Consequentialists.  I had trouble determining whether May was dealing mainly with the Consequentialists or Autonomists, and perhaps he is not making any difference between them.  He at times does seem to be referring to Consequentialists, but I will just use his designation of Madhyamika.  He also realizes that the Madhyamika's are often required "to deny [their] being nihilists"18 and the lack of "independent existence, of a 'self-being' or 'own-being'(svabhava)"19 is something the Madhyamikas assert.
     May does seem to differ from Jang-gya's ideas in a few ways, as when he states that "substantial existence" is the "only form of existence which can really be called existence,"20 and fails to posit conventional existence, which can be called existence.  He also says that "Emptiness...almost amounts to nothingness,"21 a phrase that I am sure would turn Jang-gya's stomach.  The word emptiness certainly is almost nothing, but the concept to be recognized is not nothing, and realization of emptiness is not cognition of nothingness (in my understanding of Jang-gya's position).  He does at least throw in a slightly apologetic sounding "Emptiness is not nothingness," but then qualifies his meaning by saying "Madhyamika is a 'quasi-nihilism'".22  Surely this is a lining of the hamster cage with hundred dollar bills in the way that it seems to miss the true import of emptiness.
     May also does seem to ignore the fact that he has presented six Madhyamika theses earlier, and he states that "it nowhere states a positive doctrine of being."23  This is actually reasonable for he really is only saying that the Madhyamikas do not assert something to replace the nature of reality that emptiness is negating.  He is not making the mistake of saying that Madhyamikas have no theses, until he does say "the Madhyamika has no thesis of his own, or more generally speaking, no philosophical position,"24 which does not allow that although one's views are empty, they can still be held as views.  I think that the idea that guides him toward thinking this is that a philosophy for him has to somehow be thought of in the mind of the philosophizer as 'more real' than anything else, so that it has the right to talk about anything.  Then May looks at this 'more real' as being an inherently existent real.  This is not a necessary quality for one's own philosophical view; I feel it is just his view on philosophy.
     May also states "the law of causality is both necessary and impossible at the same time,"25 and he misses that dependent arising is linked directly to emptiness, because he determines that causality is impossible with "ontologically unsubstantial"26 causes and effects.  But May does understand that without Emptiness, the world would be impossible due to its having an inherently existent nature and that it would get "torn apart into discrete entities helplessly isolated," or would sink "down into chaos."27
     May produces many ideas that are concordant with Jang-gya's, but many of them also seem to be in contradiction.  This could arise from many factors, such as my flawed interpretations of his translation into English or his flawed interpretations of his own translation, or his just not having analyzed exactly the same Middle Way Consequence School interpretation that I have.

Tenzin Gyatso (14th Dalai Lama):

     I read a bit of this book without too much hope of finding differences between Jang-Gya's and Gyatso's interpretations, seeing as how they are from the same school.  I did gain new understanding of emptiness realization and the problems of labelling it, and so forth.  Other than that, I'm just using it as a reference I suppose, and even though I have no contrasts per se, I did at least read through trying to find something to talk about, other than just quoting the whole text and saying that all this agrees with Jang-gya.28

Aaron K. Koseki:

     This is the interesting article that tries to settle the troubling vegetable enlightenment problem.  I tried to sidestep this issue when reading the article, and just pick out some interesting things that pertain to Jang-gya's ideas.  Koseki does a good job of explaining how Buddha-Nature is not inherently existent in the sense that the Consequentialists mean, "because inherent means 'what will come about' "29 and does not mean inherent in the sense that it stands on its own.  The idea that Buddha-Nature was inherently existent is one problem that I did not like in the treatises I have read, and I was glad to come across this particular explanation, even if it is not what the other Buddha-nature writers mean.  The rest of Koseki's article dealt with Buddha-nature in the main, and I, perhaps foolishly, proceeded to other articles for more on emptiness.

Peter N. Gregory:

     This is a good example of how I would not write an article about Buddhism.  Gregory is an artist at using exactly the word he wants, but some of his words were not in my vocabulary or dictionary.  I did struggle to pierce this veil of non-comprehension, and did get a bit out of the article.  His explanation of Prasangika ultimate truth I will quote at length because I thought it was such a clever way of hiding what one is trying to say: This I feel is stretching the bounds of the common vocabulary a bit, but I feel it is a nice gesture to translate the normal meanings into the language of the intellectuals, so that even they have their chance at Buddhahood.  In order to help add to the understanding of the Consequential viewpoint, I have translated this back into the common jargon: I don't put this forth as any sort of Gospel, but just as what Gregory's words mean to me.
     Gregory does say something I found to be quite different from Jang-gya's system, "The true understanding of emptiness, therefore, entails the recognition that the other side of the tathagatagarbha's being empty of all defiled dharmas is its being replete with infinite Buddha dharmas."32  This does not seem to be the true understanding of emptiness as Jang-gya has presented emptiness, and he would probably say that the emptiness of the Tathagatagarbha is due to its not being inherently existent.
     Gregory has picked many examples that show a contrast between Chinese Buddhism and Jang-gya's system, such as Tsung Mi's claim: "Although he regarded the True Nature and its Marvelous Functioning not to be non-existent, because he provisionally said they were non-existent, [this teaching of emptiness] is called [one of] 'hidden intent'."33  I think Jang-gya would say that this is missing the point that
conventional reality is not non-existent, it is only empty of inherent existence.  Tsung Mi also asks, "If the mind and its objects are both non-existent, then who is it that knows that they do not exist?"34  Well, the mind is only not inherently existent, and it would seem silly to claim the mind does not exist at all, which is not what the Consequentialists are doing.  It seems that the main thrust of the Chinese Buddhists is to not fall prey to the nihilism that they see expressed in the concept of emptiness, just as the Consequentialists seek not to fall to nihilism through the reasonings of dependent arising.

Minoru Kiyota:

     This is the article I presented in class, and I assume that it would be dull just to rehash my presentation, for the reader who was in class at least.  Hoping not to be a source of boredom, I will at least explain something that has cleared in my mind since the presentation.  Before, I explained my not understanding a statement of Kiyota's that true reality was "a realm of thought realized by denying supremacy (paramartha) to phenomena, but affirming their conventionality, and thus gaining insight into the essential identity of the two."35  This was due to my laboring under the misapprehension that Kiyota was saying that phenomenal supremacy (inherent existence) was the same thing as conventional existence.  What I misunderstood was the order of the words, where one denies phenomenal supremacy and affirms conventionality.  I believe the meaning Kiyota was trying to get across is that true reality was a realm of thought realized by denying inherent existence, but still retaining conventional appearances, and thus seeing their identity, in the sense that conventional appearances prove that inherent existence is not existent (because they change and are not inherently produced).  This suggests to me also the point in enlightened perception when one can cognize emptiness and still retain the appearances of objects.

William L. Ames:

     Ames is interested in thoroughly unraveling the meaning of svabhava in Chandrakirti's texts.  Although I could be suffering from lack of insight, I found no things to contrast with Jang-gya's position.  Ames' ideas of what svabhava is are aligned with Jang-gya's, in that they do not violate any qualities of dependent arising or emptiness.
     Ames' explanation is also nice because it recognizes that there are several different ways that svabhava is used, from the 'true reality' idea of conventional existence, to the idea that 'true reality' is the fact that nothing has an ultimate nature.36  I found Ames' article to be a very helpful addition to the discussion of svabhava in class, but not to be something for which I could find much to disagree with, not that that was my only purpose in reading it.

Richard H. Robinson:

     Robinson's article had me swaying between thinking that the man was an idiot to thinking he was a genius, and then back to thinking he was an idiot again.  Part of the reason behind this was his style of what I might call cocky insults, such as comparing Nagarjuna to the master of a shell game at a country fair, and saying that there is a sophistic trick behind Madhyamika reasonings.37  I found his explanation of the 'standard mechanism' of Nagarjuna's resoning also to be unsatisfactory, in that it did not seem to be an explanation of a consequence, but rather a mathematical explanation of some idea in group theory.  Robinson does seem to have a convincing grasp of the material from the sutras, and has a strong position for many of his arguments, but I believe that he has lost the heart meaning of the reason to strive toward understanding of emptiness, which is to be liberated from ignorant views and to be liberated from cyclic existence.  I don't really see that he is speaking from a position of knowing why Nagarjuna proposes to destroy ideas of inherent existence, which Robinsons calls svabhava, or from believing that anyone has any ideas of things existing inherently.  It is good that he is at a level of realization where he sees through these ideas, but perhaps not everyone is.  However, I do think that Robinson could profit from a realization of profound emptiness, and that it would not really be just a delving into "axioms that are in variance with common sense and [that are] not accepted by any known philosophy."38

Lao Tzu:

     Although the Tao Te Ching was not on the reading list, my mind had become so full of Consequences and different ways of misunderstanding emptiness, that I had to resort to an old favorite to see if Lao Tzu at least got anything straight with respect to emptiness, for it would disappoint me if he had not.  In the very first stanza, I am reassured that Lao Tzu understood emptiness or at least the nature of things well, for he says, "The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way, the name that can be named is not the constant name."39  This is certainly not necessarily proposing an idea in place of spoken names, but is negating the idea that something that can be talked about is constant, or inherently existent.  That is rather amazing, because it is basically a non-affirming negative, much as emptiness is.  Also, Lao Tzu says, "These two are the same but diverge in name as they issue forth."40  This immediately brings to my mind that cognizing emptiness is non-dual understanding, because one can posit the emptiness and the conventional appearances at the same time.  I could go on and on, and do an analysis of the Tao in Consequential terms, but that would add extra body to an already huge paper.  Therefore, I will just add here that the links between Emptiness and the Tao are amazing, although they may not be exactly identical whatever-they-are's.

One Sided Conversation

     The following is a possible mono-dialogue between myself and myself, one of me believing he is inherently existent, and one slightly learned in the teachings of the Consequentialists.  It could also be a conversation between me and you who is reading this, or between any one Consequentially minded person and any one person who holds he is inherently existent.

     Where are you?  You don't exist as you appear, because I remember you being different than you are now.  It could just be my senses, and probably is, except that you admit to moving, do you not?  Therefore, you change and do not exist as you appear.  So if there is an inherently existent you, where is it?  Or even a conventionally existent you?  Let's try to find a conventionally existent you that exists on its own.  Is it your body?  Then when you are dead, you will still be you as much as you are now.  I guess that you could be a living body only, but then you would be pretty dull if you had no mind.  If you're just your brain, then that would be all you need to exist, and you wouldn't have a sense of identity with your hands at all.  Are you your mind?  If I cut off your head, not that I would, you would still be the same?  Your mind cannot function very well with no body to be associated with, at least you admit this.  So perhaps you are your mind and body working together.  This is not quite right, because if you are the mere collection inherently, then there are inherently two yous since the mind and body are two.
     Oh, this is a conceptual difference and not a real difference, right?  The mind and body are seen as separate only by deluded beings?  Well, then inherently existent means pointably, findably existent, right?  Please point to your self.  Well, you just pointed to your stomach, which is in the mere collection, but is it you?  Oh, your head maybe is you, that's why you're pointing there now.  But if you are inherently the mere collection, point to that mere collection, stop pointing at parts within it.  You see that you have been pointing to some part of it, not the whole thing, so that does mean that the stomach or the head or the left-pinkie fingernail atom one billion atoms away from the left side touching the flesh of the finger is you!  Oh, but I don't understand an inherent collection, right?  Well, fine, so you think you're the inherently existent collection as measured from the moment of your conception to the moment of your death and all relations withing it.  But what does that say about the things that influenced you, for example the milkshake you drank awhile ago?  Does that milkshake exist as part of your continuum?  Oh, only the parts that your body absorbed?  Well, what about the waste product, that wasn't part of your body for a while, in your stomach and then intestines?
     Some people would consider the contents of the stomach to be part of your body, but maybe you do not.  The nutrients you absorbed are the only part that you kept, right?  Well, how about that atom mentioned earlier in your fingernail?  It was obtained for the now dead cell it is enclosed in from another milkshake long ago.  What happens when it gets clipped off?  It is still part of you?  You exist at the same time, it is still part of you, and lying on the ground, and then a dog comes along and eats it and absorbs some of the nutrients into its body.  Then you are a dog too?  Oh, I'm sorry, I rushed things a bit, you say it's not part of you and is cast off material.  Hair and fingernails are dead matter, right...  Well, at one point they were live cells and were part of you, much as your skin is.  Your skin dies, dries and falls off too, and I don't think you want to say that your skin is not part of you.  So you want to redefine yourself as the mere collection of parts currently living at the time of analysis in your body and all relationships between them along with your mind, as time goes from conception to death.  Parts that were you once don't have to continue to be if they don't contribute to the current being at the time of analysis, such as a cut off finger, or your father's sperm before your conception.  Well, I would think that this limits you to being a predetermined being, if your future actions can be accounted for already, because they are part of an inherently existent you, and you're just blindly living the future as it unfolds.  Try pointing at that as yourself!
     I continually get more and more confused as I try to understand where or what you are, and it seems like your definition of yourself is changing constantly; if you were inherently, pointably existent, the definition would get clearer as one probed for it.  If you were an inherently existent thing, how could your definition change?  Oh, right your mind is on this set track of unfolding understanding into the future, and the future mind understands itself differently perhaps than the past did.  Or maybe it is impossible for one to totally know oneself, and one has no hope of really understanding what he is.  What a copout, and an excuse not to try and figure out what you are!  If you really believe that, our conversation is meaningless, but we both began because you believed you were inherently existent.  If it was impossible to know yourself really, it would be pointless to believe yourself to be inherently existent, because it wouldn't really be you.
     Let's go back to the set duration idea you cooked up.  Do you really believe that you are just this duration from conception to death?  If not, I have at least convinced you that you don't inherently exist in that way, and I challenge you to find yourself.  If you still do propose this, then what will happen already has, right?  I have two questions in my mind, and will ask only one.  You don't see a possibility there of a split in the time stream, one depending on my asking the first question and one depending on the other?  Okay, maybe not.  Well, then I still have a problem with the idea that you could know yourself to be this self, because you don't know which question I will ask--yet--and so do not know your future self, and cannot do other than guess that this future self is you without knowing the full extent of you (that is what happens in the future as well as what happened in the past).  If you had a gift of total pre-cognition, which is the only way I see that you can claim to know enough about yourself to know what you are, and you knew everything that you would do, everything you would be, in the future, then you have no free will at all.  You know what you will do, so why do anything?  Also, if you had this gift, what would happen if you decided not to do something, by just lying down and not doing it?  If you can't do that, then someone else is pulling your strings and you're not really you.  If you can do that, then you have not really got pre-cognition, and are again incapable of knowing the totality of yourself to make a judgement as to who you are.
     Wait a minute, you say?  Why can't you know enough about yourself to guess that you are the whole continuum (1), or even are just the continuum so far to this point (2)?  Well, the second one's easier--if you are the continuum up to this point (2), then who am I talking to in this part of the sentence?  The you that you are is back there where/when you agreed that you were this you.  Time marches on, if it exists at all.  This is the problem; that you are changing, and cannot be inherently the way you appear.  The conception to death continuum idea was all that preserved you from this problem at the beginning of this debate, don't try and drop that now.
     Back to the idea that you can guess about what you don't know yet (1), or that you are the whole continuum and just haven't been revealed yet in your future moments, and that you know you are this whole continuum because you are making an intuitive leap--you don't need to know your future to know that you will be in the future.  This still locks you into fatalistic predetermination, by the way, but maybe you like the idea that you can't screw up your life because from some viewpoint your life has already happened.  This still leaves the major problem of WHERE ARE YOU?  If you (all of you) can point to yourself, then you are pointing at the finger pointing at itself as well, and have to point at the finger pointing at that finger, and so on until you run out of fingers (not to mention the one I cut off earlier). This is an infinitely recursive sequence, where your boundary of pointing must keep expanding to point at the pointing.  You never claimed to be an infinite being, did you?  I just wanted to leave something for you to think about.  Besides, all I wanted was your wallet anyway, hand it over!  Don't even think about the unfindability of your money.

I'm Honored, I Guess...
We Won the BigWeenie's Wurst of the Web Award!
Winner on April 16 1998.