S. Almost every Buddhist school recognizes Madhyamika as important teaching, but it is almost always subordinate to the direct teaching of the Buddha or the teacher you study with. Every Buddhist school is also in debate with other Buddhist schools. Theravada/Mahayana, Vajrayana/Dzogchen, Dzogchen/Mahamudra, Nichiren/Zen, etc. It is mostly academics that engage in these debates which never solve a thing. A real teacher will never involve you in comparative mind. They always show you the recognition of your nature which is never seen as a ‘thing’ and never separate from any ‘thing’. They leave philosophy behind. This is not to say that philosophy cannot inspire.
The tendency in all of us to want to believe in something lasting, all-knowing, and final, must be regarded in the same light as our learned beliefs that we acquire from our conditioning and cultures. The idea of racism, that one color, nationality, or faith is superior to another, for example, is embedded in all cultures. Through our ordinary minds, we can work this out to the point of disbelief, or even disappearance from our thoughts and feelings that will allow us to treat each other with respect and dignity.
In the same fashion, we can look at ideas and concepts of philosophical and religious meaning and believe that these hold truths and even ‘take refuge’ in them. These conditioned ideas get reinforced through group belief, authoritative declarations, and our grasping desire to find some lasting truth in something that we can experience or know. We never really grasp what these teachings are talking about except in our conditioned mind, our ability to retain and repeat, and believe.
The reason I use Buddhist terminology is because I feel it most succinctly describes what the human condition is all about. I am also familiar with Advaita principles but choose not to use most of them because of this idea of ‘belief’ and ‘authority’ with which most of it gets communicated. For example, the words consciousness and Brahman. Because I questioned the existence of consciousness, you pulled out Sankara to beat me with, not to discuss. I use beat in both the sense of reprimand and in winning a discussion. It’s fine that you do that, but it would be different if you also were aware of this.
OTOH, Buddhism talks about the ’emptiness’ of all phenomena and experiences. This is put forth not to give someone an idea to hold onto, but to show that no idea can be held onto. There is a big difference. No matter what experience or understanding comes up in one’s life, all of it is subject to this ’emptiness’ factor, which doesn’t allow your mind to ‘fixate’ on any quality or facet that is thought to be absolute or permanent (eternal). This is not so easy to understand because our minds insist that they are capable of attaching and apprehending anything. The simple truth is, it cannot. This emptiness then becomes the ground with which we live our ordinary lives doing ordinary things without any problem. This letting go of all ideas because they have no reality is basic to every kind of belief and experience
Having said this, I want you to know that I am not a Buddhist and am not trying to convert you to this at all. When I look at the Buddhist organizations and how they’ve divided up everything into cultural sects, etc., it is very unappealing. But, I get the same sense from you when you and many others put forth Advaita ideas, that you have ‘fixated’ yourself to more concepts and beliefs rather than freeing yourself from all of this. None of these ideas, both Buddhist & Advaitic, have any reality to them. They are like a dream that you had last night that has vanished upon arising because you knew they weren’t real and needed to have no further thought about them. I hope you can understand where I’m coming from. If not, that’s fine, too.
M. Isn’t ‘emptiness’ an idea, to begin with? Can one not be fixated in that particular idea, as idea? It seems that you find confirmation of your ‘beliefs’ in Buddhism (or Madhyamika), and maybe elsewhere. And I, in Shankara and others.
Quote. ‘There are true beliefs and there are false beliefs–or rather, there is a continuum or scale of relative truth, given that ultimate truth cannot be fully grasped by language. The Buddha taught that certain things were the case and that certain things were not. It is not that one must not hold any beliefs at all, but that they must be held in a way that is always open to new insight, to the emergence of deeper levels of truth, not grasped dogmatically or fanatically’ (Jeffery Long).
Re. ‘the existence of consciousness’, and also Buddha’s position on it. That consciousness is a reality doesn’t need external or independent or objective proof (such as by experimental psychology, Shankara, etc.). It is an intimate, irrefutable experience – and it is so for everyone.
Quote: ‘… there are a few pages in the Pali Cannon that contradict the usual Theravada interpretation. In the Brahmanimantanika Sutra (Majjhima-Nikaya), the Buddha says: “Do not think that this (nirvana) is an empty or void state. There is this consciousness, without a distinguishing mark, infinite and shining everywhere (…..); it is untouched by the material elements and not subject by any power”… within the Pali Cannon “there is no expressed contradiction or even recognition of the Vedanta theory of anatman or Brahman as the one ultimate reality’. (From ‘Nonduality’, by David Loy).
You: ‘This letting go of all ideas, because they have no reality, is basic to every kind of belief and experience’
Me: 1) Belief is not the same as experience/knowledge. 2) Concepts and ideas are not reality itself – they are pointers to reality (a ‘finger pointing at the moon’); they are things of the mind, to begin with, but it is un-logical to think or say that any one of them has, or can have, no contact with reality – directly or indirectly. See 2nd paragraph above.
You: ‘We never really grasp what these teachings are talking about except in our conditioned mind’.
Reply 1) If you believe that, your mind IS conditioned and cannot know things (the content of the teachings) as they are; 2) But that is also a) an unsupported dogma; b) a fallacy – the fallacy of equivocation: mistaking one thing (e.g. knowledge) for another (belief or conditioned mind), or vice versa.
Re. ‘authority’. One sense of that term is ‘source’ (nothing else attached). See also 2nd para. above.
Earlier on you wrote: ‘They [teachers] always show you the recognition of your nature which is never seen as a ‘thing’ and never separate from any ‘thing’.
Never separate from anything? Where did you get that from? My two guides (SSS and Shankara) say otherwise: consciousness is independent, uncaused, unattached and free of concepts and of any kind of objects. If you studied AV more deeply, you would come to that understanding, which is not just conceptual or ‘intellectual’ and, rather than being merely conditioning, is the result of sustained study and reflection.