B. Alan Wallace, 12 Oct 2012

Teaching pt1: Alan gives his and the Dalai Lama’s commentary on the section on mindfulness of phenomena in verses 105-112 of Ch. 9 of Shantideva’s Bodhicaryavatara. Just as the mind does not come into existence, in the same way, we come to certainty that no phenomenon comes into existence. That which we perceive cannot be more real than our perception of it. Two objections are discussed. 1) If conventional truth doesn’t exist, then does nothing exist at all? If phenomena are just apparitions to a confused mind, then wouldn’t whatever anyone says be true? According to the Madhyamaka, entities and non-entities (e.g., a rabbit’s horn) are both conceptual designations—i.e., neither exists from its own side—but entities i) have causal efficacy and ii) can be established by verifiable cognition (incl. both perception and understanding). The mind which conceives and the object conceived are simultaneously interdependent, so neither is inherently real. An action depends on an agent, and an agent depends on an action. 2) Wouldn’t the analysis of that which is analyzed lead to infinite regression? Awareness that apprehends the emptiness of an entity is focused on emptiness, not the entity. Inverting the analysis upon awareness, one establishes that awareness is empty and emptiness is empty. There is nothing more to analyze.
Meditation: Mindfulness of phenomena preceded by mindfulness of the mind. 

1) mindfulness of the mind. Let your eyes be open, gaze rested evenly. Simply be present without distraction, without grasping. Withdraw attention from all appearances and rest in the knowing of being aware. Probe into the nature of awareness. What is the thing that performs functions such as being still or following after an object and has these attributes of luminosity and cognizance? Can you find this awareness separated from all appearances? Know that absence and sustain that flow of knowing.

2) mindfulness of phenomena. Return your attention to objects of the 6 sense domains. Focus on one object, and probe its nature. What is really there from its own side? Rest in emptiness and sustain that flow of knowing
Teaching pt2: Alan speaks about William James who understood that introspection was the first and foremost method for the scientific inquiry of the mind. Although his vision has been ignored by much of the modern mind sciences, the contemplative observatory in Bangalore will offer a setting for contemplative knowing to engage with modern scientific knowledge.

Meditation starts at 57:03

Download (MP3 / 45 MB)


Teaching pt1:


So we finished for the time being with the close application of mindfulness to the mind, and we go to Shantideva’s presentations on the Bodhisattva way of Life and The Compendium of practices. And we will return to Shantideva’s text, the Bodhicaryavatara, and we will get to the other one a little bit later. So this is, because it’s real philosophy here, this is hard ball philosophy, hope you enjoy it, it is really quite extraordinary and extremely concise. Shantideva’s root verses are again almost quoanic, that is, so concise they are almost like koans. But what I’m including this time is His Holiness’ commentary, which I am going to read, and these were actually teachings he gave to a group of about one thousand Tibetans or so, and just a small handful of Westerners, given in Switzerland in 1979 during his first visit to Europe, or to the West to teach. So he visited Switzerland and Greece and then off to a much more extensive tour in the United States. So Jeffrey Hopkins, who was one of my mentors, one of my Tibetan teachers, a very dear friend, senior scholar, elder scholar, he translated for His Holiness throughout the entire American tour and I had the privilege of interpreting for him in Switzerland and in Greece. These teachings that he gave on the Bodhicaryavatara in Northern Switzerland that was with no interpretation, no translation, just straight Tibetan. I attended those teachings, it was my great privilege, and then some years later when I was doing my undergrad at Amherst, part of the my thesis was translating from the Sanskrit and Tibetan, this Wisdom chapter, and then I decided also I had recordings of His Holiness’ oral teachings, that I would translate those. It was quite challenging and very, very rewarding. Jeffrey Hopkins, again a very dear and revered teacher of mine, he made a comment years ago, probably about 40 years ago to me, when he was teaching me Tibetan grammar, I could not find anyone better on the planet, literally than Jeffrey Hopkins at Tibetan grammar, he is absolutely outstanding, he said if you really want to understand a text well, translate it. It turns out to be true. That’s one of the reasons I translated so many texts. So the segue of course is verse 105 which I read earlier, but you might have been a little bit surprised if you were looking, you have your version whether on line or whether you have it written, where’s the close application of mindfulness to phenomena? And verse 105, to reiterate, because I have read it before, he’s referring to mind, this is the close application of mindfulness to the mind.

If it, the mind, arises after the object of cognition, so in dependence upon it and after it, then from what would cognition arise? So, I’ve already commented on that, so that is the question, from what would it arise, and of course you don’t find anything from which it really arises. So that’s the first half of verse 105, 105a. And then here is 105b, the second line in this verse. In this way it is ascertained that no phenomenon comes into existence. He was focusing everything on the mind and then suddenly then and oh by the way, everything else! And it’s quite interesting, and then again this if one is sloppy, or gets tired, you know you are venturing into this very challenging mind of reasoning, mode of inquiry, which is a combination as you know now, from rational and experiential, to breathing and reasoning, that you’d better be probing into your own experience otherwise it’s just a head game, and I just frankly do not just believe that it really strikes the target of mental afflictions if you keep it purely at a conceptual level and don’t bring it into your own experience, maybe it will hit someone else’s mental afflictions but it won’t hit yours because you know you’re not the same.

And so in this way to ascertain that no phenomenon comes into existence, so I was about to say, if one just gets tired, or maybe even lazy, and just says oh well His Holiness must know what he is talking about, or Shantideva’s so wise, he is quoted so often, he must be true, and if you just kind of slide in, then you don’t get it. If you say, “oh I believe all phenomena are, umm what do they say, inherently, yeah that, - whatever he said, that’s what I believe in.” Good luck with that, that’ not going to work. This has to challenge every one of your intelligence, you can’t hold any in reserve, think well I don’t want to investigate too hard otherwise I might come to the conclusion that Shantideva’s wrong, then I’ll be very unhappy. He calls on your best, your best shot. So as a hypothesis, a working hypothesis, if it turns out to be true, that our very perception of reality, of whatever it is, other people, our mind, galaxies, elementary particles, if it turns out that our very perception of reality, our very awareness itself has no inherent nature, is devoid of any intrinsic nature of its own, then it immediately follows that whatever you perceive cannot be any more real than your perception of it. If your perception has only nominal existence, conventional existence, but doesn’t exist by its own intrinsic nature then nothing that you apprehend will exist by its own intrinsic nature. So, I’ll leave it there, just leaving it there is not saying, okay just leave it there, now believe. It’s there, now reflect on it. I was reflecting on it myself this afternoon, I was thinking, because I do love skirting around disciplines, this really quite extraordinary cosmologist, astrophysicist, a Russian, Andrei Linde, and he made a comment, and he is questioning, maybe scientists should take consciousness more seriously, and consider that maybe it’s not just a function of, a derivative of matter, maybe it’s one of the fundamental issues of the entire universe and it should be taken seriously, in its own right. He said, after all, what we know primarily is our own perceptions, and out of our perceptions comes our perception of, matter, space, time, energy, anything else. But it’s our perceptions that are primary, and everything else is something that – oh you perceived it. If that which is primary is empty of inherent nature, then how could it possibly be that what you’re apprehending is somehow more real than your apprehension of it? To my mind it doesn’t make any sense and that’s exactly what Shantideva is suggesting here. That by ascertaining the emptiness of your own awareness in this way, it is ascertained that he should come to a certainty that no phenomenon comes into existence if your own cognition, your own awareness of red, of people, of planets, of particles, space, time, matter, society, justice, beauty, anything, if your own awareness of what it may be, doesn’t really come into existence by its own inherent nature, truly come into existence, then no object that you truly apprehend will truly come into existence either. That’s the end of the discussion, he just says it in one line – that’s that, I’ve finished, tea time.

What? What? A little bit more? No, that’s it. So it reminds me again the statement from the Mahamudra traditions where, remember the analogy – the tree from which you want to get dry fire wood, if you cut the one tap root, if you realize the emptiness of your own mind, then the ripple effect will go out and you will quite rapidly see that if that’s the case, then no phenomena that you apprehend can possibly be inherently existent. So by cutting the tap root, the whole tree of delusion dries up. So I was going to stop there because that’s the end of the formal discussion before applications of mindfulness, but then I looked again and said no, there’s a little bit of addendum here and it is what is called, refutation of objections, and I thought, this is really sharp, and this is where I want to bring in His Holiness explicitly, and simply read his commentary because the first verses here are really like koans.

So these were objections that Shantideva, one can imagine they are objections that are arising in his own mind, and then, if someone is thinking that, then - how would I respond to that? So what we have here is there is a middle way here and it’s really slim because metaphysical realism, the notion that hey there’s a real world out there – that’s just common sense. And it’s common sense that almost all scientists barring a few people like Stephen Hawking, John Wheeler and some others, but almost all of science, and I think all of the cognitive sciences – psychology and neuroscience, virtually all with no exceptions, they are assuming – there’s a real brain, there’s a real body, there’s a real world out there made of mass, energy, space, time, and that’s what we are mapping, that’s what we’re representing with scientific theories, that’s what we’re really investigating, and it’s common sense, right? And that’s exactly the common sense that’s being refuted, refuting the very existence of some inherently existent, objective world, or some inherently, subjective awareness of it. And saying that no phenomenon thinks this by its own nature, phenomenon come into existence in dependence on and by the power of, verbal or conceptual designation, imputation, saying it’s so, thinking it’s so. So if one is coming from metaphysical realism, and I think this objection is coming directly from that, I would say it’s coming from the Sautrantika view, which is like classical physics, (11.09) it is, and I have said before, Sautrantika is to Buddhist philosophy what classical physics is to physics, I would say it’s a very strong parallel.

Then from the Sautrantika you could say – what you say, you Madhyamikas, Shantideva what you said just doesn’t make sense! And that is you’re saying that phenomenon exist only because we can conceptually designate them, they’re not already there, this is so problematic I hardly even know where to start. That’s what the Theravadans would say they call the Madhyamika – advocates of nihilism. You are saying with respect to emptiness the reality of suffering doesn’t exist, the source doesn’t exist, cessation doesn’t exist, well thanks a million, you’ve just demolished all of the Buddha’s teachings, you are nihilists, you’ve gone too far, you’ve gone way too far, hello come back to reality. So, what’s his objection? If conventional truth does not exist, and that’s what he’s been saying if you read it literally – body doesn’t exist, feelings don’t exist, mind doesn’t exist, and then phenomena are apprehended not to come into existence. Because if it exists literally no phenomena comes into existence, wow. So if conventional truth does not exist, then how can there be two truths? You’ve just knocked out one of them you’ve just said it doesn’t exist, so the other one is just hanging out here by itself? This is the objection. If it does exist, due to another conventional truth then how could there be a liberated sentient being? Let’s now read what His Holiness says, and he’s really quick. So here is His Holiness’ commentary -



You Centrists ( you Madhyamikas) claim that no imputed object is found under analysis, and that emptiness itself does not exist (is not really there). Upon seeking imputed objects, (body, feelings, mind, phenomena) you conclude that there is no form, sound, smell, taste, tactile object nor mental object, and that there is no truth of suffering, truth of the source of suffering, truth of cessation or truth of the path. You say that everything does not exist.

You seem to maintain (he continues the objection) that all conventional realities that are involved in causal relationships are mere apparitions appearing to deluded minds, since they have no intrinsic existence. But if they are not intrinsically existent, they do not exist at all. (and that’s the position of metaphysical realism. It’s either really there or it’s not. But if you are saying that it’s really not there, then frankly it’s not there at all, to be there is to be really there, if it’s not really there, bam you are out, as in using the baseball mudra, and it makes sense, if they are not intrinsically existent, they do not exist at all ) In that case, how can there be the two truths? Ultimate truth would be out of the question, for it must be established on the basis of something that exists ( and we have seen this, I mentioned this in respect to the mind, if you want to realize the ultimate nature of the mind, empty nature of the mind, first you must ascertain the mind, otherwise what’s the point? You toss up something fuzzy that you don’t know whether it exists or not but say oh now what’s its ultimate nature? It’s a ridiculous strategy. So for there to be an ultimate truth there must be a conventional truth, in that case how can there be two truths, ultimate truth would be out of the question for it must be established on the basis of something that exists). But if that basis does not exist ( if that basis of imputation doesn’t exist by way of its own nature) it has no ultimate nature ( it’s not there, why? Because it’s not really there, that’s what it means to not be there, not really there! I get it, I understand ). Thus, relative and ultimate truth could not be posited ( because you just obliterated relative truth and you can’t just have ultimate truth hanging out there all by itself. The opposition continues)

If, according to you, everything that exists, that is posited consists purely of apparitions appearing to confused minds, ( like we’re all psychopaths, we are all schizophrenics, we are all completely delusional, and that’s the only nature of conventional reality, things appearing to crazy people, if that’s what you’re saying and it really seems like you are, ) then Nirvana would be impossible. Indeed, worldly judgements of " good " and “bad” would not hold up. ( I mean everybody’s crazy, so good or bad, whatever you say it is) Moreover, a cosmic primal substance, ( a creator god, the three jewels, they would all have the same status) if one of them exists, they all exist ( and that is, if this is just a free for all, whatever you think that’s what exists, then anything, creator God, no creator God, anything because it’s just you’ve designated – it’s a free for all, who needs science? .Who needs reason? You have a delusional mind, whatever you cough up, whatever you vomit up, that’s your reality) For a confused mind such a primal substance may God, the Three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha would all have the same status may exist, God may exist, the horns of a rabbit may also exist. To a mind that conceives of rabbit horns, they exist. (Like me walking around thinking - I am Napoleon, that is your reality dude, bonsuar, so we are all just smoking dope and everyone’s reality is as real as anyone else’s reality, they are really whacking Madhyamika here, just demolishing everything) In short, if you say that something exists simply because it seems to be real to a deluded mind, nothing could be denied existence.

( in other words there’s no such thing as mental diseases, there’s no such thing as psychology, schizophrenia, psychosis, there’s no such thing. This is all by the way, direct translation by His Holiness.)

In that case ( he continues the opposition) “true” and “untrue,” “good” and “evil,” conventionally “existent” and “non-existent” all lose their meaning. One could no longer speak of false views, such as denying something which does exist and asserting something that does not exist. Thus, by undermining the distinction between “good” and “evil,” there would be no liberation by means of correctly avoiding evil and adopting virtue. Moreover, liberation itself would be nothing more than an apparition of a deluded mind. ( it’s a strong opposition from Sautrantika, it doesn’t say explicitly Sautrantika but this is clearly within the Buddhist framework. And if someone said – this Madhyamika, this is dangerous stuff, this is demolishing the whole path and the very notion, the very meaning of liberation altogether, so Madhyamikas how are you going to respond to that, that was a pretty tough critique? Here comes the root verses-and it’s again like a Koan, so be patient, when we get to His Holiness everything will become clear.)

One is an ideation, a concept of someone else’s mind, one does not exist by one’s own conventional truth. ( so simply put, it’s not make it up as you go, it’s not whatever you say is true.) After something has been ascertained, it exists. If not, it does not exist as a conventional reality either.

(okay, hard to pick that one apart but His Holiness now does it , he says now)

The objection is that if something is said to exist merely because it is conceived by a deluded mind that grasps onto true existence, it would not be able to render help nor inflict harm. It would simply be an illusion. ( okay the summary, now the response, here’s Shantideva’s Madhyamika response-)

Response: One cannot claim that something exists simply because it is conceived by a deluded mind. ( that’s a kind of a relief, okay so there is such a thing as psychosis, there is such a thing as false beliefs, like believing that one race is intrinsically better than another ,and so), So according to our Centrist system ( Madhyamika system) that is not the criterion of conventional existence. ( in other words, you have misunderstood us) When speaking of a “conventional truth,” its truth is determined not by objective reality ( and that is what the metaphysical realists believe, it’s out there really and so how well your theory corresponds to what’s out there absolutely, that’s what determines how good your theory is. It’s a brief presentation, he said well we’re not going there, you do, we’re not but we are also not a bunch of smoke doping hippies who just say well whatever’s your reality, so something in between so ) but by the mind. Objective reality cannot be the criterion for truth, for truth is of the mind.

Alan Wallace comments – 21:14 What springs to mind here – Anton Zeillinger, he said – what we have are measurements, what we have is information derived from our measurements – that is what we scientists have. And frankly he is speaking for all scientists. He is speaking as a brilliant mind in his field, he may as well be speaking for neuroscience, geology or anything else. What we know, what we have are our measurements, appearances and the information we derived by making measurements and experiments, that’s it. Now with these measurements the information we have, how does this correspond to some reality that exists independently of our systems of measurement? Independently of all the information we know, independently of all appearances? He said – there’s no way to answer that question. It’s not a meaningful question. Therefore to think that there is some objective reality out there independent of all system of measurement, all appearances and all information, and we’re going to judge the validity of our theories in terms to how well it corresponds to that objective reality, this is a fool’s errand. It’s not meaningful, you will never be able to refute anything, so give it a rest! Metaphysical realism is delusional. It’s an inside job. You are always making measurements , getting appearances, information and maybe measurements but you never get a leap out of that and say oh ya, from a Gods perspective, no can do. So that is really quite interesting, that’s exactly what His Holiness was saying here in 1979. So objective reality cannot be objective as it exists independently of our system of measurement , appearances information cannot be the criteria of truth, determining whether your theory is true or not because truth is of the mind so don’t look there, look back here, and that is why Anton Zeillinger says this is why you must bring back together ontology and epistemology, ontology is the knowledge of what is, epistemology is the knowledge of how do we know. You can’t separate the two. And that was done artificially, to think that you sometimes speak of what’s really there, but that has nothing to do with our way of knowing if it’s really, really there, totally phony, fool’s errand, red herring, false lead, don’t go, doesn’t work, never has. So find some other criteria to find truth, His Holiness said okay, it’s back to the mind, he continues -

The conventional truths of the mind can be established only by the confusion of grasping onto true existence. So when one speaks of “conventional truth,” that is true for the mind that grasps onto true existence. ( so briefly coming back to the non- lucid dream, let’s imagine this is a non- lucid dream, I look around and ask – is Betty Rose here? And within the dream, Martin says – ya, she is over there. And so, we are all deluded, within the non-lucid dream because we don’t know we are dreaming, but within that context well that’s a true statement. Taking place within the context of misapprehending the nature of reality of the experience, namely you don’t know it’s a dream. ) However, the mind that establishes conventional reality must not be deluded. ( in other words you can’t be psychotic, it can’t be mistaken) It must be verifying. It may be deluded with regard to its apparent object, but it must not be mistaken with regard to its chief object.

So, it’s not that difficult, that’s to say now let’s take for example a lucid dream, in the midst of a lucid dream you’re looking around and all the appearances, I see Mike over there in my lucid dream, and if Martin asks me, Alan is Mike here, yes he is right over there, within the context of this dream which I recognize to be a dream, I am looking for the appearance of Mike and Mike absolutely appears to be over there, that’s how he appears, he is over there, and I walk over and touch him on his shoulder and by god I was right, that’s how he appears, he appears like he is really over there. That’s really awesome, then I walk over and I touch him on the shoulder and tactile sensations arise – it seems that way, and so in that way then, I’m deluded in respect to appearances. That appearance is misleading. And I can’t help it, I keep seeing him whenever I look at him, that’s how things appear, and I’m getting it wrong, it’s misleading, it’s like lying to me, but within the context of this lucid dream – if Martin asks is Mike here or not, I say yes he is right over there – Mike is the person he is referring to, the referent of the word Mike, that person over there, and so within this context – Is Mike there? Yes, I am not mistaking him for Paul. So then I am not mistaken. So Paul is the chief object, the referent of the word, how he appears is misleading. So you may be mistaken with respect as to how things appear, but if you are mistaken with respect to the chief object , like mistaking Paul for Mike, then you are wrong. Subtle.

When establishing our own Prasangika conventional reality, a cosmic primal substance and God do not exist even conventionally.( this is our view, they don’t exist at all), Likewise, in terms of other Buddhist views, we Prasangika Madhyamika Centrists do not grant even conventional existence ( 27:49) to the “foundation consciousness” ( that’s the alaya-vjnanaas advocated by the Chittamatra , which Prasagika’s refute, they don’t refute Dzogchen, we refute totally self-cognition, again an element of the Chittamatra view posited by the Idealist or Chittamatra system. We say they are completely wrong, they have got it wrong, there is no truth to what they say with regard to those two entities, they are like things believed by some scientist and then realized that they have no truth whatsoever, or a better example, I am quoting Lord Kelvin, saying here is one thing we are absolutely certain of if there is anything we are certain of it is the true existence of the aether* , and then just a matter of seventy years later aether doesn’t exist at all. So now I don’t think the physicists are lying who believes in the kind of aether that Lord Kelvin thought was absolutely certain because the whole population of light didn’t make any sense without it if you didn’t know relativity theory, so there it is). We regard things like jugs as conventionally existent. Both entities and non-entities are mere conceptual designations ( things that do exist and don’t exit, rabbits horns, unicorns, aether , etc and flowers and dirt and so forth, they are both mere conceptual designation), and neither exists from its own side. In that sense they are alike; but there is a distinction as to whether or not they are conventionally able to render help or inflict harm and whether or not they are established by a verifying cognition ( a very dense philosophy), now he brings in a pragmatic element- not only are you perceiving correctly or not, but that which you are holding to be true, to be existent, does it do anything? He says specifically, since all this is couched within the Four Noble Truths, are they able to help or inflict harm? It’s a pragmatic criteria, if you think something exists and it’s one of these conditioned phenomena that arises in dependence on cause and conditions, then does it have any causal efficacy, does it do anything, does it influence anything, does it have the potential to be helpful or harmful? If it doesn’t at all, then you might want to look at that again. It may be purely a figment of your imagination, having no existence apart from just fanciful thought. So there’s a pragmatic criteria, does it do anything? Is it pragmatic? So that’s one point, there is a distinction between are they able to render help or inflict harm is one point, pragmatic, and whether they are established by a verifying cognition, there’s where the heat comes in, the heavy, pramana, verifying cognition. (31.24)And that is if you ascertain something as being existent, then you must then be self- reflective, and that is – how did I apprehend it? Now this really calls for introspection. How did I apprehend it? If you’re a scientist and you just measured something traveling faster than the speed of light, oh that’s going to be revolutionary , you could win a Noble prize if that’s true, but how did you come to that conclusion, what was your mode of knowledge? And a scientist will look at two things, the experiment apparatus, the measurement system but also, since mathematics is heavily involved, what’s your data analysis, what’s your data collection, depending on those two you are drawing conclusions. If either of those two are faulty, if it’s not a valid mode of apprehension, if you just got bad data because you’re picking up artifacts of your system, or your data analysis was just off, either one of those, then whatever you conclude isn’t accurate. That’s science, really good science, and it’s exactly how the subsequent scientific enquiry scrutinizing their claim, came to their conclusion – you’re wrong. You did not have verifying cognition, I think it was in the data analysis if I remember correctly, the measurement hardware, if that is true, then nothing after that matters. So their analysis is good but what they are analyzing was an artifact , so there it is. Either your perception or your way of making sense of it, if either one of those is off that’s not valid cognition. As then is true of particle physics, is true everywhere else. Everywhere else, studying the hippocampus, your girlfriend, studying plants, anything, are you picking up clear data and are you understanding in a valid way? And that means you must check your system. This is where, pardon me for saying it, but Shamatha is so important. It’s not sufficient. It doesn’t mean oh I’ve achieved Shamatha now whatever I see will be infallible. Uh Oh. But if you don’t have Shamatha, Uh Oh. Because you are just going to have so much junk, so many artifacts of the system you’re just like an ongoing vomit machine. So much rumination, how can you clear out all the junk when it’s just spewing vomit all over reality? So your data collection is going to really suck, if you don’t have a relaxed, stable and clear mind. But then you must have more than that, and boy the Gelugpas are really strong on this and rightly so, Shamatha is not enough, you should really study, you should learn what is valid cognition, pramana, pramana by way of perception, pramana by way of inference, that’s why they spend so many hours clapping their hands in debate. Data analysis, then it doesn’t matter what your Shamatha is, the way you’re making sense of it. To my mind this is simply spectacular and the fact that it’s all just put right into practice, then count me in. (34.58) That cognition is indeed deluded insofar as it is deluded with respect to the appearance of true existence. ( so that’s looking over there at Mike as in the dream and he certainly appears to be there from his own side, but I am deluded on that. To overcome that delusion, you have to overcome cognitive obscurations which you start purifying only on the 8th bhumi , until then you may know reality but still the appearances will lie to you, that’s why Shamatha is not enough. Because if you say no, I saw it, I saw it – yeah, fine, but what you saw was misleading, therefore not sufficient, we must bring in wisdom, and then that’s the fusion of Shamatha Vipashyana. So yep,it appears to be true existence, but it’s not. ) But apart from that, there is a distinction between being mistaken nor unmistaken with respect to its chief object; ( Mike, is he there or not? ) and that is what determines whether it is a verifying cognition. ( so the verifying cognition may still be deluded with respect to appearances, but get it right – is that Mike over there? Yes it is – so you are wrong about how he appears but nevertheless is he there or not? Yes he is. And that’s sufficient, enough to be a verifying cognition)

*(Reviser’s note: The concept of aether was used in several theories to explain several natural phenomena, such as the traveling of light and gravity. In the late 19th century, physicists postulated that aether permeated all throughout space, providing a medium through which light could travel in a vacuum, but evidence for the presence of such a medium was not found.)

The criterion for conventional existence is the presence of a mind that is unmistaken with respect to its chief object. (what is actually apprehended) While ascertaining emptiness, one does not establish the existence of other entities. ( he’s talking about no-conceptual direct realization of emptiness, when you’re there, your conceptual designation apparatus is completely shut down. From your perspective no other phenomena arise, you are experiencing Nirvana alone, that’s all. Because from your perspective, from the center of the mandala, there is no conceptual designation therefore no phenomena appear at all you’re just ascertaining emptiness) But upon rising from such meditative equipoise, ( from out of meditation, so you’ve just realized emptiness, as an arya, direct realization, then you come out of meditation) if something appears clearly to the mind; ( first point, appears clearly to the mind, oh, there’s Mike) if its conventional existence is not repudiated by any other conventional knowledge; ( and that is- does anybody disagree that that’s Mike? Anybody at all? Almost like at a wedding ceremony, speak now or forever hold your peace, nobody’s saying that’s not Mike, okay, so far so good. First of all it appears, secondly it’s conventional existence is not refuted by any other conventional knowledge, two ) - if it is able to yield benefit or harm; ( I think so), and if it is established by verifying cognition-( visually perceiving, that’s him. If I hear his voice then it’s the spitting image of Mike, so then yes, correct perception, if those are filled) -then it exists. If not, it does not exist even conventionally.

Alan continues - So that’s the Madhyamika response to repudiation of the Madhyamika view from within Buddhism ,such as the Sautrantrika view. Let’s continue. (38:56)

108. The two, the conception and the conceived ( the conceptually designating mind and that which is conceptually designated , we have been there before haven’t we, the mind that is informed and that about which you are informed and the process of informing, taking subject and object here, conceiving mind and that which is conceived, this is Madhyamika, this is still Shantideva, ) are mutually dependent. Just as every analysis is expressed by referring to what is commonly known. ( that is within the conceptual framework, cognitive framework, that is where there is consensus, straight from Holiness, you ready?)

Subjective conceptual cognition ( the mind that conceives) and conceived objects are mutually interdependent. ( isn’t it now a little bit comfortable now that you’ve heard it so many times?) it makes sense doesn’t it? They are mutually interdependent, take away one the other one vanishes, either one, which already indicates that neither one is inherently real because if Mike were inherently real and I was inherently real, take me away and what’s left? Mike. What’s the big deal, right, but if two things are mutually interdependent, take away one and the other vanishes immediately, therefore they can’t possibly be truly existent. That’s what he is getting at, if the mind doesn’t truly exist then no object of the mind can truly exist.so-) Action depends on an agent of action, ( so this is true not only for cognition), action depends on an agent of action and the agent depends on action. For example, a tailor is identified on the basis of his [of her] activity of tailoring; and since there are tailors, the activity of tailoring occurs. ( if there were not tailoring, there would be no tailors) This is not to say that the agent and the action are causally related, ( that one precedes the other, because they don’t, you don’t have first the tailoring and then the tailor comes afterwards, or visa-versa, simultaneous, mutual) but they are mutually dependent. ( take away one the other one vanishes instantly.)

109. Investigating the analysis of a subject of inquiry leads to infinite regress, for that analysis would also be subject to investigation.

In order to establish the ultimate mode of existence of some entity, one must first determine that the entity in question exists. ( that was the point earlier, you want to understand the ultimate nature of mind, ascertain the mind.) On that basis one enquires into its mode of existence.

(so that’s a total refutation of that earlier objection from the Sautrantika. So if your mind is not completely exhausted , we go to a second objection -, if one analyses by means of analysis that which is analyzed, in other words you are inverting, inverting, inverting, then there is an infinite regress because that analysis can also be analyzed, there would be no end to it, an endless loop, maybe we should just avoid that all together, that’s the objection. So His Holiness paraphrases this, again from the metaphysical realism . )

Objection: You Centrists first analyze some subject like a jug; then you investigate the ultimate nature of the jug. In this way you enter into an infinite regress of analysis. ( because then you can investigate the ultimate nature of that, and that, and that, and that, you never end. So what’s the answer? The Madhyamika response – Shantideva -)

The object of analysis is analyzed , no basis for analysis is left. (You’re finished.) Since there is no basis, it does not arise, ( that is your koan, and here comes His Holiness -)

Upon analyzing a subject such as a jug, one ascertains the intrinsic emptiness of the jug. ( That is when you are applying ontological analysis, you’ve just realized the emptiness of inherent nature ) That awareness apprehends the simple negation that is the mere absence of the true existence of that subject. ( so you’re realizing emptiness of the jug, you are realizing the sheer absence of its intrinsic identity. ) It cognizes only that emptiness. It apprehends no other entity; it does not identify “this” as opposed to “that.” ( it’s just realizing emptiness ) As long as that mode of cognition lasts, ( that is, this awareness of the emptiness of the jug, as long as that mode of cognition lasts) the subject, or basis, whose lack of true existence was investigated, is not ascertained by the mind.

(44:30)( If you’ve really penetrated emptiness you’re not still holding in mind – jug. When you penetrate to the empty nature of your own mind, you’re no longer apprehending your mind, it’s an emptiness, which means you’re apprehending Nirvana.)

Upon establishing the lack of intrinsic existence of entities of form and so on, if one further proceeds to analyze that ultimate reality of the lack of intrinsic existence, ( that is the emptiness of inherent nature of emptiness,) one ascertains the lack of true existence of ultimate reality. ( the emptiness of emptiness, standard Nagarjuna) In this case the subject of analysis is emptiness, ( that is that which you are analyzing is emptiness) and one ascertains the ultimate reality of the ultimate reality of forms and so on. Thus, one speaks of the emptiness of emptiness.

Alan continues - And that’s it. There is no infinite regress. The problem’s a non- problem. (45:39) So there you are apprehending the emptiness of Daniel, the mind, elementary particle, so there is an awareness there, a knowing of the emptiness of that phenomenon at which point you are no longer aware of the phenomenon, you are aware only of its empty nature. Now you may invert that awareness, that investigation into your awareness of emptiness and you see that it is itself empty, your awareness is empty, emptiness is empty, there’s no point to go further. There is just no reason to slip into infinite regress because that’s the end of the story. The jug is empty, your awareness is empty, emptiness is empty. Finito. So in case you were rooting over the past couple of days, raising these objections in your mind, Shantideva and His Holiness Dalai Lama just punched your lights out. Okay, food for thought. I will say it once again, for that really to strike home you need Shamatha. That’s where the arrow strikes the target. You may soften up, because I don’t want to denigrate people who investigate and study Madhyamika, my own lamas have, Geshe Rabten, Geshe Dhargyey, and so forth and so on, years of study about Madhyamika, where they wasting their time? Of course they weren’t , I never suggested that. In the Nyingma tradition they will study Madhyamikavatara and so forth, not for four years, probably for 2 years they take Madhyamika very seriously. So does that do nothing to attenuate, to diminish your mental afflictions? No I think it would soften them up. If you’re really sincere. Geshe Rabten was such a paradigm, really this is how a Geshe should turn out in so many ways, he was an outstanding meditator, very accomplished, a brilliant commentator , but when he was telling me his life story many years later in the early 70’s, he said, when you come off the debating ground, and this was just about a year or two before I started heading out on the debating ground, he inspired me and that’s why I did it for years and a lot of it under his guidance, he said – when out debating, number one it’s highly competitive, there is just no doubt, people win and lose debates. You are there to crush the views of your opponent, demolish them, make them a laughing stock, and if you have an audience you’ll really get a kick out of it, people really laugh, just TSA! So there is definitely a little ego in the process, and when I was in the monastery, I got so inspired by Geshe Rabten’s story because nobody had ever written any one, as far as I know, on that whole training, that whole education, what it means to become a Geshe. First one, so he told me his life story, at my request. So I got inspired by His Holiness, so I asked shall I go down to Sera Monastery where Geshe Rabten is , shall I go down there? And His Holiness knowing full well I was what 22, 23 at the time, I went down there and entered the first class to study basic Buddhist logic, debate and so forth, Sautrantika view, I’d be debating 12 year olds. That might not work out at all well. And so happily His Holiness himself created a school, right at that time that was primarily aimed at young Tibetans who did have a high school education and who were monks and really wanted to devote their lives to dharma under his supervision. So that’s where I went. So I spent 14 months there before I took 10 days, 11 hours to look at my mind and went up the mountain. But for those 14 months it was really an extraordinary education and I am ever so glad that I had that. And especially you get into a flow, you learn the ropes ( 50:35) in six months, eight months, whatever, and then once a month you have the damcha, and this is where instead of debating for hours every night, once a month we would start about six in the evening and we would be reciting verbatim the Abhisankara , all of us together, that’s the The Great Treatise on the ten bhumis by Maitreya. We would recite that for a while, I think we went one third of the text a night, and then instead of pairing off which is what we normally do, one on one, or two sitting and one attacking the position of the other two, then as the sun was going down, then two monks would have been chosen for the month, once a month, and they would be answering questions, they would be defending themselves, defending their position for the whole night. They sit there and then one by one, all the other monks of the monastery, about 30 monks, a small monastery, all the other monks would then come one by one and all the other monks would have been thinking for the past couple of weeks – what’s the hardest question I could possibly put to these guys. So when I present it I would so humiliate them that everyone would laugh and I would completely demolish them in debate. So they are going to come with their best shot, and of course we don’t know what it’s going to be. You don’t have a clue, all you know is okay we are studying Sautantrika, or we are studying Buddhist psychology, or we are studying this , you know the general domain but you have not a clue what any one of those 28 would say. Monks are going to nail you, as it goes on and on, you start at 7pm and it goes till 3am in the morning, there might have been a pee break, I don’t remember, I did sit through that, and so there it is and one after another they come and they are bringing out their best artilliary, and you’ve got two guys there and they do their best to respond and take a position and then defend it. But then if the defenders are going quite well, just handling it well, knocking them away like fleas, then the instructor, the Abott of the monastery, he would come in and help give them more of a challenge here. He was the one with Geshe Dhargyey, two of my lamas would take part in this. His Holiness would chose two of the top debaters from anywhere around to debate in front of His Holiness and a whole congregation of about three or four thousand people. So he would be hosting up the attackers side, and the defenders were really good, but the point that I’m getting at is that at the end of the day you would probably have done better in some of the skirmishes than others, sometimes you might have got demolished, sometimes you might have done really well, but Geshe Rabten’s point is what I am really getting at and that is that if, now that you have been in a debate and maybe you have done very well, very proud of yourself, very happy and all of that, maybe you are humiliated, either way, if your motivation is that you go back to your room and then study those books again, so that you can perform better in the next one, you’ve missed the whole point. You may be very sharp, turn out to be a famous debater because you’ve prepared so well, the next time you demolish more and defend better and you may wind up being #1 Geshe, who just knows how to debate everybody into the dirt, but if that’s all you did after the debate, is just learn how to be a better debater, missed the whole point. He said the point of the debate was to sharpen your own intelligence, it’s like two blades, and the blade of the others is their intelligence and they’re coming in to help you find your intelligence and as you respond you’re there to help them to find their intelligence, their understanding, their insight. This is all for mutual benefit, it is not one side wins and the other side loses, everybody wins through sharpening your intelligence, very high energy, interchange, energy, communication, Geshe Rabten said if you want to know the whole point of that, is when you come off of the debating court, you’ll go back to the quiet of your own room, and you take it right into meditation. And that’s when the arrow starts going in. So, this is the true teaching of Tsongkhapa, and that is you study, you learn, you investigate, all for the sake of practice. Everything you debate, everything you study, everything you memorize, all for practice. So, with that, we’ve really had a dive into the deep end of the pool, Shantideva and His Holiness Dalai Lama are our guides, let’s return to meditation.

Meditation: (56:34)

Such investigation, such activation of conceptual mind, intelligence, discernment, they all stir up the mind. Not intrinsically bad to energize the mind, the mind should be serviceable, when we wish to rest, that should be also our prerogative. So rest your mind now, as usual let your awareness descend back into the non-conceptual space of the mind, settle your body speech and mind in their natural states. Whether you are sitting or lying down in the supine position, rest in the infirmary in this phase of mindfulness of breathing, full body awareness, emphasis on every out breath on relaxing more and more deeply without losing clarity.

Now let your eyes be open, and evenly rest your awareness in the space in front of you, without focusing on any object, not even space itself, do not meditate on anything, simply be present in the present with unwavering mindfulness, free of distraction and free of grasping.

Now, while withdrawing your awareness, your attention, your interest from all appearances and objects of awareness, the reality of your own subjective awareness may dawn more and more clearly. Immediate awareness and knowing, of being conscious, rest there in that knowing, of being aware.

This is what is involved in tasting awareness, knowing awareness, experiencing awareness. Knowing its conventional and relative nature, luminous, cognizant, knowing those you know the nature of awareness itself.

And now enter into Vipashyana. Probe into the very nature of that which you have identified, and really now, what is the referent of this word awareness? That which has the attributes of luminosity, that which is cognizant, which becomes restless, still, agitated, dull, which follows after this object and that object, does all of these things. What is the referent? Of awareness, has these attributes, performs those functions, many functions, many attributes, what is that one thing – awareness – that performs the functions, that has the attributes?

Identify awareness and then penetrate right into its nucleus, its intrinsic nature that we grasp onto and that we reify; is it to be found or not? This awareness that is separate from all appearances, demarcated, separate from all appearances and objects of awareness, standing on its own, can you find it? Awareness in and of itself. You can perceive its qualities, you can perceive its functions, if upon the most careful scrutiny, you cannot find awareness existing in and of itself, then know that absence, that emptiness of an inherent nature of awareness. Separate, intrinsic, existing on its own, from its own side. Rest in that emptiness and sustain the flow of knowing.

Then return your attention to the objects of the mind, appearing within any of the six domains of experience, objects in the surrounding world, people, places, mental objects. Let your attention alight where it will, come to rest where it will, focus on an object of your choice. And then investigate. Bring to mind the object,

(73:43) it has a certain set of attributes, probe right into the nature of that object, whatever it may be. That object that appears to exist really from its own side, really be there, see if you find that which is really there, intrinsically by its own characteristics, existing from its own side. Investigate until you come to certainty. Is it there or not? Like a bee, moving from one flower to the next in the garden, at your leisure let your attention rove from one object to another, investigating each one sufficiently, until realizes and ascertains a certain knowing – is it really there from its own side, or not? And if not, sustain that flow of knowing, of the sheer absence of that phenomena existing from its own side.

( 81:50)

Teaching pt 2.

So in the mental gymnasium of Buddhism, you will find there are different exercise forms, one type of mental gymnastics of achieving shamatha and then developing the Jhanas, mastering, heavy lifting, Samadhi lifting, then we see also on the vipassana side, heavy lifting. I remember Gyaltsen Rinpoche making this comment, quite striking, flew in the face, this was in 1974, that by engaging in this type of exercise, and he was talking to monks in the monastery, memorizing scores and scores of pages of material, verbatim 5 hours per day debating, one and a half hours a day sitting instruction, he said, engaging in this training will make you smarter, it’s true. Use it or lose it. People who are naturally very intelligent and then watch soap operas, hang out watching television, do a really low demand job, they may actually lose the intelligence they were born with. And other ones who use it to the hilt, just pushing the envelope, exercising, refining, challenging, challenging, intelligence gets better. So the notion that intelligence is set is an unintelligent conclusion based on inadequate data.

So over the past few decades I ‘ve met quite a few people, who believe, report that they’ve achieved shamatha, they’ve achieved jhana, realized emptiness, realized non self, realized rigpa. One person I heard about he said he felt he’d realized Sambhogakaya, people believe a lot of things. On the whole I don’t think they were deceptions, on the occasion that can happen if you are just trying to deceive that can happen, in the cases I know, I don’t think that was the case. I think they are being sincere, they’ve read something of Buddhism, they have some experience, here’s my experience, there’s a description, oh I’ve achieved the first Jhana. Oh, I’ve realized emptiness, I’ve realized rigpa and so forth. How are any of us, not just them, how are any of us to determine, have you achieved this or that? Because you find something similar in a text? Descriptions of substrate consciousness are frankly very similar to descriptions in many respects to rigpa. Luminous, blissful, spacious. Descriptions of the substrate sound in some respects a lot like emptiness, Shunyata. So might we conflate the two? there’s a very, very helpful, pragmatic question, and that is, if you realize shamatha, then go back to the text, go back to not just the text as a text, as a text; the text reports of people experiencing authentically achieving shamatha and what were the pragmatic benefits? What afflictions, what disturbances of mind, were attenuated? What positive qualities came forth? What came, when they were reporting from their own experience, what was it like in meditation, what was it like post meditation? Go to Tsongkhapa, go to so many of them you will see oh boy, it doesn’t get any more definitive than that, and then see – okay you think you’ve achieved shamatha? Great, then see, can you sit for four hours in Samadhi effortlessly? Are your mental afflictions strongly attenuated? And so forth and so on, pragmatic criteria. People thinking they’ve realized emptiness, that would be wonderful, good, if you think you have realized emptiness look at the effects that realization has on your mental afflictions. The arrows are just striking the bulls eye, one after another, your mental afflictions are taking a beating here, and more over the passage for compassion, loving kindness goes through the roof. Let alone, realization of rigpa. All the popularization of rigpa, all over the place, people spouting out, oh my guru, I’m resting in rigpa, oh I am going to take a half an hour break and do some rigpa. Very cool, you are resting in something an Arhat can’t realize in this life time, congratulations. You must really have accomplished something. Or are you sitting there like a marmot? Check, what’s the effect, if you think you’ve realized rigpa that’s fantastic, I applaud you, what was the demolition of your mental afflictions? So there it is, pragmatic criteria. And then there’s the understanding, William James, introducing something so revolutionary that it died. And that is that he said, when it comes to scientifically understanding the mind we should rely on introspection, first, foremost and always. And let brain science and behavioral science come in as back up because neither of them has any access to mental phenomena of any kind whatsoever. Behavioral expressions yes, what you call effects, neural-correlates, yes, those are called causes. What is it that is being caused and what is it that is producing the effects? Namely the mind, mental events. They are getting at it only indirectly, but introspection is looking right at phenomena itself, this is science. This is the whole spirit of science at that time 300 years. Introspection, and then people do, quite rightly, they do what scientists do well, they criticized him, they said but introspection is strongly subjective, prone to subjective bias, to projection, to distortion, to suppression, to all kinds of stuff, it’s really problematic, that’s one of the favorite words – it’s really problematic. He said you are right, introspection is not infallible, and oh by the way, it is no more infallible than any other mode of observation. Cognitive psychologists study perception all the time, lots and lots of studies of visual perception. (88:25) number one, colors really seem to be out there, they’re not, just for starters. It’s already illusory, so auditory illusions, optical illusions, tactile illusions, illusions that come through hypnosis and so forth, wait a minute, which part of this is not problematic? Data collection, incredibly sophisticated scientists, really sophisticated, getting the wrong data, giving the wrong treatments, they perceived wrong, measured wrong. So William James’ point here is yes, introspection is fallible but then how do you improve it? And that is you let later introspections monitor, test your earlier introspections with later ones and see if they withstand scrutiny. And what he didn’t have, but now what Buddhism, Hinduism and other contemplative traditions do have in spades, and Western psychology still doesn’t have, frankly at all, any more than at the full psychology level, is a refined measurement system of introspection, its data collection, it’s getting better and better and better. Less and less rumination, greater and greater stability, greater and greater vividness, temporal equality, this is measurement, this is data collection, that’s what they didn’t have at all and still don’t. Shamatha is still not part of modern psychology, or let alone neuro science. And he said, and if he’d known that, then he could have charged ahead, but he didn’t have a clue how to train attention. He knew it should be trained, he knew the education system that taught it would be the education system par excellence. Didn’t know how to do it, and then he died and then they buried him under a ton of dogma. They said we will no longer talk about subjective experience, mind refers to something that doesn’t exist, we will just study things that are objective, quantifiable and objective. But William James was right, if you have the means of refining introspection and refining more, then you take your earlier observations and you subject it to scrutiny. And then you are not working on your own, just like mathematicians, it’s an inside job. If I am thinking mathematically and Miles is a mathematician, how on earth is he possibly able to judge how well I ‘m mathematizing? How can he tell? He can’t, until I start writing on the blackboard. And then he writes on the blackboard and now you are expressing, and he says – Alan right there, you got that one wrong that’s why this is false, right there, and we call in other mathematicians. And then next year, some mathematician comes along and says – no look, there was a fault there as well, and so mathematics grows. By the subsequent sometimes validating, sometimes invalidating. So there is outside as there is for inside, and that is that , remember that criteria, when something appears , the effects of black holes, nobody ever sees a black hole by definition, but you see their influences on the environment and by inference you say that is a very sophisticated theory. And then we have things that are even more mysterious, like dark matter and dark energy about which they know nothing, except that there must be something like that otherwise phenomena can’t be explained, well maybe that will be the right answer, or maybe it will be like aether, that nobody ever measured but thought had to be there or otherwise you couldn’t explain something. Maybe dark matter and energy will turn out to be something that’s real. And maybe not, maybe they will say you thought that but that’s because you never thought of this?

As for outside, so for inside. People who are meditating going back and forth and doing the theory and investigation (93:22) you get to Sautrantika ( and think this is it ) until you come and blast it apart with Madhymaka reasoning and penetrating analysis and then suddenly all your assumptions that were universally accepted by your peers are totally false. But you still maintain those elements that were true as modern physics does with many elements of classical physics. So the point here is that it is an ongoing adventure and as it is for science so for contemplative science, science isn’t just about knowledge acquisition, that’s how they get grants, but sooner or later it would be really cool if they could do something, and they do, very, very often, it’s technology, we have cellphones we have digital clocks because of quantum mechanics, no quantum mechanics no digital watches, that’s very handy, they are cheap and they are accurate, and so many things. Insight comes in and then you have something practical, hedonically beneficial, knowledge that gives some pragmatic benefit, protecting us from harm or giving us some benefit. That’s why people are still so keen on science, why it gets so much funding, because it helps and there is this growing body of conceptual knowledge. And they keep on refuting each other, but not just out of whimsy, out of a true growth of knowledge. So this I think is, ah the greatest adventure of all, that there is a whole other avenue of enquiry, that is almost invisible to modernity, and that’s contemplative, with all these scientists study the brain effects of this kind of study, the neural correlates of that, the behavioural expressions of this type of meditation, and it’s hardly dawned on any of them – oh gosh, maybe meditation could lead to a discovery that you may not be able to get by neuroscience or psychology. That hasn’t come up yet, but it will. Give His Holiness a chance. That contemplative, scientific observatory in Bangalore, get it going, and then we will not allow the Eurocentric, ideological silence, gag of contemplatives voice when they say – we have discovered something. And we can discover it, you can’t because you’re just looking at the brain and we are looking at phenomena itself. So that will be, I think one of the greatest celebrations in the history of science, seeing these two great ways coming together. One is so powerful for getting to the root of suffering and giving true freedom, so spectacularly successful itself for 2500 years, that’s a pretty good track record. Then the other one for 400 years, spectacularly successful for understanding physically quantitatively objective and providing us this tremendous wealth, a technological dynasty, advances of medicine, transportation, communication and so on. And seeing that in fact there can be a union of these two, that’s never happened, not in recorded history. Just waiting. Want to join the party?

Transcribed by Rafael Carlos Giusti and Cheri Langston

Revised by Cheri Langston

Final edition by Rafael Carlos Giusti

Posted by Alma Ayon


Ask questions about this lecture on the Buddhism Stack Exchange or the Students of Alan Wallace Facebook Group. Please include this lecture’s URL when you post.