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History of Mahayana, Metaphysics

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.magick.tantra,alt.religion.buddhism.tibetan,alt.religion.tantra,alt.religion.buddhism,talk.religion.buddhism
From: (nagasiva yronwode)
Subject: History of Mahayana, Metaphysics (was Sunyata and Maya ...)
Date: Mon, 15 May 2000 09:36:10 GMT

50000515 IVom

nagasiva regarding 'real as permanence':
>>following the traditional understanding of the Middle Way School 
>>as I have understood it... there is nothing which is 'real' in 
>>this sense. the principle which should be discussed with respect 
>>to this is what is translated as 'emptiness' or 'void' --
>>sunyata/shunyata/sunnata. (jeroen hoogeweij):
>...'Yogacara' or 'mind only' school, ...considers to have the 
>mind to have a basis in itself, to actually exist in some way. 

I would partially agree. the Yogacarins, by my understanding,
posit that "suchness" is the nature of reality, that 'mind' is
at best a passing phenomenon that obscures perception of this
reality. their metaphysics (if it can be called this) include
not just mental phenomena but more:

	parikalpa: the 'mentally constructed' or 'imagined'
	paratantra: the 'other-dependent'
	parinispanna: the 'absolutely accomplished'; this last
		is considered to be the absolutely real, that
		which is devoid of subject/object duality.

of which you make mention in your lovely, long post.

>Nagarjuna and Asanga are considered to be founders of both 
>the Yogacara and the Prasangika school. The prasangika part 
>of Mahayana can be considered a later elaboration of the 
>Yogacara school.

that's odd. my sources indicate that the Madhyamika and
Yogacara schools were rivals, and critiqued one another's
reflections on reality. I'd understood that the originators
of the Yogacara were Asanga, possibly Maitreyanatha, and
Asanga's half-brother Vasubandhu. I gather that Nagarjuna
is not attributed with either the Yogacara or Prasangika,
but originated the Madhyamika school, of which the
Prasangika is a later development out of a *student* of
Nagarjuna named Buddhapalita. you wisely added the name
of Chandrakirti to this list of Madhyamikas.

if you could explain where you got your information, I
would be greatly interested to learn. perhaps you can
explain why my sources (largely Western academics) have
this variant history? perhaps I misunderstand?

>You seem to polarise between Theravada and Mahayana, 

actually I don't, but I have noticed that the Great Vehicle
(Mahayana) distances itself from Theravada rather consistently
(as its title indicates); often the Theravada is condescendingly
referred to as (at least part of or the remaining part of the) 
'Little Vehicle' or 'Hinayana' amongst Mahayana Buddhists.

>...part of the Bodhisattva vows is not to judge the different 
>modes of teaching Buddhism... 

thank you, I am very glad to hear this interpretation.
upaya be praised.

>though the teachings of the different schools are all genuine 
>understanding of one of the many teachings of the Buddha, 
>meant for different modes of understanding extant amongst 
>sentient beings (let no difference be made).

this would seem to be dependent upon a supernatural Buddha,
since many of the philosophical developments and
delineations occurred *after* Gautama died, so they can
hardly be held to have been his teachings. there are
fantastic stories, of course, about nagas and the advanced
instructions, but these are probably as unreliable as are
the stories about Gautama Buddha's life and death.

>And a Theravada Arhat can attain to Buddhahood as well, 
>according to Mahayanists. 

sure, if seen as necessary. the Arhat dwells in nirvana, 
after all, and some view the Bodhisattvayana as a kind 
of 'add-on' ladder-climbing enterprise.

>It looks all hierarchical at first sight, but isn't 
>so really, when all the scholastic intricacies unfold. 

that seems to depend upon what you mean by "it" here.
the Buddhist schools certainly are not, but most of
the schools themselves seem to lay out an hierarchical
progress-scheme to guide the faithful.

>The roots for Mahayanist Yogacara thinking, 

this is strange. is there Yogacara which is NOT of the

>can clearly be found in early Theravada philosophy.... 

this is very clear, yes.

>So how does Yogacara differ from both Theravada and Prasangika? 
>The Yogacara as well as the prasangika reject the Theravada's 
>thesis of an actually existing object of sense perception (this 
>object is identified as "svalaksana"), on basis of the sunyata 
>doctrine which should be applied without exception....

is this object (svalaksana) actually a part of Theravada
metaphysics? the reason that I ask is that I have not 
found it explained in the documentation I have available
and you say that it is "identified" as such. I'm wondering
who makes this identification, whether it is a part of
Theravadan or Yogacaran doctrines.

>Yogacara claims also to reresent the Mahayanist "Middle Way", 
>it negates the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism, 
>connecting this very principle with the earlier mentioned 
>"Three natures". The root-text on this topic is the 
>"Madhyanta-vibhanga", written  by Vasubhandu.

isn't this the claim of many Buddhist schools -- that theirs
represents the centerpoint between Nihilism and Permanence?

>...Dzogchen meditation (Yogacara) and Annutara-tantra (prasangika) 
>meditation lead to exactly the same realisation of voidness.

why do you associate Dzogchen with Yogacara? I'd got the
impression that Dzogchen was a Nyingma practice. am I wrong?
the descriptions that come to hand of Yogacara do not
mention Dzogchen.

nagasiva quoted:
>> The differences among the individual Madhyamika schools
>> lie in their differing views concerning the nature of the
>> two truths and how experience of emptiness is to be
>> attained.

>Not true, Yogacara is part of the Madhyamika school 

that is a VERY unusual claim in my experience, since these
two are almost consistently described as rival schools.

>and they definately don't agree with that twofold division. 

yes, Yogacarins focus on the three-nature construct as
mentioned above.

>Though their realisations are completely identical, in the end.

I suppose that is a matter of faith.

nagasiva said:
>>The realization of emptiness, which is seen as
>> the goal of religious practice (enlightenment), does not
>>come about through philosophical argumentation; however,
>>it becomes directly experiencable in the symbology of
>>the Tantras.

>In the Tibetan tantras, the mode of philosophising is 
>definately reflected...  in the practice.

are you saying that debate and discussion are presumed to
have the capacity to lead to awakening in Tibetan Buddhism?

>Tibetans don't tend to really recognise the distinction 
>between spiritual theory and practice, because the very 
>aim of Mahayana scholasticism is soteriological, the 
>central question is spiritual development, approached in
>a formal logical manner. Wisdom and method have been 
>mixed in both Annutara-Tantra and Dzogchen (bot Mahamudra 
>traditions), as clear water mixing with clear water.

is there a discernment made between ('mere') "intellectual
comprehension" and "realization"? or are these considered
to be coincident?

>>The way to this experience is described
>>especially in the teachings of *Mahamudra* and
>>*dzogchen*. While emptiness is indicated in traditional
>>Madhyamaka by saying what it is not, in Mahamudra and
>>Dzogchen it is viewed in positive terms. *Shunyata* as
>>supreme reality here becomes "openness" that is
>>inseparable from clarity (luminosity).

>Yup... but Dzogchen is the meditative application of Yogacara 

where are you getting this? do you think that most Tibetan
Buddhists would agree with this identification of Dzogchen
as a Yogacarin discipline?

namaste in metta,

-- ; ; 
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