61 The Sharp Sword of Intelligence - Identifying the Object of Negation

03 May 2016

As we begin to venture into the next section of Panchen Rinpoche’s text, in this session Alan starts the inquiry into the object of negation. The object of refutation is a self that exists prior to and independent of any conceptual designation. This is connate ignorance, but with prajna, the sharp sword of intelligence, we can apprehend the absence of that self. This applies also to all phenomena. In order to expand the discussion of this topic, Alan brings in quantum physics, questions about how the sun, the moon, the earth exist - is the moon really there? Is the earth really spherical? Is Mount Meru existing from its own side? Is there only one approach to exploring reality? Alan highlights the need to bring in contemplative inquiry in the 21st century, as another avenue to understand reality. Before the meditation Alan illustrates Tsongkhapa’s assertion that we apprehend reality in three ways:

(1) We attend to appearances (of ourselves, of others, of all phenomena), and all the appearances suggest that they appear as existing from their own side, and we grasp onto them as such, we reify them, we take them as face value. It is connate, it is a root delusion. Whenever any mental affliction operates, in the madhyamaka view, it is always operating from this basis of reifying whatever is the target of our craving, hostility, pride etc. Reified first, and then compounded with mental afflictions.

(2) Then there is the way of an arya bodhisattva who knows through incisive research that no phenomena exist by its own inherent nature. When he/she comes out of meditation, the bodhisattva apprehends appearances as being empty appearances. That’s another way of viewing the same phenomena. The phenomena arise, but you see them as empty of inherent existence.

(3) Undifferentiated. The way we apprehend phenomena doesn’t crystallize itself to affirm reification nor does it have the insight into seeing the emptiness. It kind of floats without drawing that distinction.

The meditation is on vipashyana.

After meditation, Alan proposes a very interesting thought experiment and then we return to Panchen Rinpoche’s text.

Meditation starts at 36:00

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