Buddhism - conceptual doubts

nanda chandran vpcnk at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 11 18:08:36 UTC 1999

"To think of Self or not Self is not the truth;
they're discriminated by the confused."
                             - MahAyAna Vimsaka

Take any object - let's take a gold ring.

What's it?
It is a ring.

But ring is just a word, an appelation - if we'd named it 'zero'
instead of ring, you'd right now be saying it's zero.

So what's it then?
It's round and with a hole in it.

Even here you're only describing its features and qualities, but not
itself. Besides this there're a lot of other things which are round
with a hole in it, which may not be called ring.

It is a piece of gold.

So what's gold?

Gold is an element - yellow in colour.

So aren't there other elements which are yellow in colour? And even
here you're only describing its qualities and not itself - the thing
in itself - what's it?

Even if you say the object is round, with a hole, an element, yellow
in colour, still there's a chance that there's something which fits
all these descriptions which might be called something else.

And more important point is that whatever you say of it - round, with
a hole, element, yellow etc - are but descriptions of it and does not
explain the thing in itself.

And such is the case with all objects in the world - you can only
describe objects with qualities and attributes - but not the thing in
itself. Even if these descriptions are subjected to further scrutiny,
they themselves will lead to something else - but you can never
explain the thing in itself. It's beyond knowledge. That's why all
conceptions are empty.

But that doesn't mean that the thing in itself is empty. It's just
that it is beyond knowledge. As you cannot say that it has an
existence, neither can you say that it is non-existent. For you simply
do not know. Neither do you know whether it's both existent or
non-existent, or neither.

But in course of our normal life, we never look deep into things. When
somebody gives you a ring - you just identify the qualities - round,
with a hole, gold, yellow - with the object and identify it with the
name 'ring' - without being aware that you're do not know the thing in
itself. So that's how you give it the Self - the ring - Selfness.

It's true that bestowing Selfness upon the ring is ignorance, but
bestowing non-Selfness upon the ring is ignorance too. Why? Because in
truth you do not know what it is.

That's the reason NAgArjuna says, a thing is neither existent, nor
non-existent, nor both nor neither - neither Self, nor non-Self, nor
both, nor neither. That's the reason he further adds the Buddha before
and after his parinirvAna is beyond conception.

Conceptual knowledge is essentially of two categories - 1. of objects
and 2. of activities related to objects.

As we've seen the true nature of the object - the thing in itself is
beyond knowledge. The activities related to objects too are beyond
knowledge. Why? Because all our conceptions of activities are rooted
in the twin bases of time and space. And time and space are indivisible.
That's the reason when the fuel burns to fire, at any point in time we can
only have the fuel or fire, but the exact moment the fuel turns to fire is
beyond knowledge. Change, motion, cause and effect etc likewise are beyond

The thing in itself - which is beyond our conception - is the Reality,
though we cannot associate it with existence, nor non existence, nor
both, nor neither - why? - because existence etc are only concepts.
So when the mind wheel ceases, conceptions also cease and whatever is
left, the thing in itself - is nirvAna.

That's what is meant by NAgArjuna's statement in the Examination of
NirvAna - "We call this world phenomenal, but this same world
abstracted from causality is nirvAna."

So what's the true import of the Buddha's teaching?

The relinquishment of *all* views - concepts. Bliss is cessation of
thought, Quiescence of plurality.

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