I love reading and often have 4 or 5 books on the go at once. So I thought it was interesting that when I picked up my copy of “My View of the World” by Erwin Schrödinger and started turning the pages I found a quote that he cited that stems from the writings of the great Indian Philosopher Nagarjuna in roughly year 200 CE. that I had just read in another book about Nagarjuna. Here it is “A thing is neither A nor not -A, but yet it is not a ” neither A nor not -A”, nor can one say that it is “both A and not -A. ” So what is it? Logically we come to a mathematical answer of zero or philosophically we could say the truth. But what did Schrödinger mean when he quoted Nagarjuna, what could he have been getting at?
Erwin Schrödinger was one of the most renown scientists of the 19th and 20th Century was only interested in one thing, Truth and not just any old truth. He was not interested in finding or reiterating the same old same old that was in his words “perusing a line of thinking that is so obviously going to lead us to bankruptcy, just as it did 2000 years ago” He was dedicated to finding the ultimate truth with all the scientific furore he had. So when he came across this symbolic expression of contradictions he must have known that he is onto something. His words are more poignant today than ever in our age of big debt, fake news, and lying politicians.
Pictures speak a thousand words, don’t they?
Nagarjuna is arguably the most pre-eminent philosopher of his time and maybe even our time as well. Born into a Brahmin family in India he lived from circa 150 to 250 CE. Nagarjuna was the head of the Buddhist university of Nalanda and has at least 8 major philosophical texts attributed to him and maybe more. Another quote from his madhyamakakarika is:
“The Buddha’s teaching rests on two truths: Conventional Truth and ultimate truth. Those who do not understand the distinction between them do not understand Buddha’s profound truth. Ultimate truth cannot be taught without basis on relative truth; without realisation of the meaning of ultimate truth enlightenment cannot be attained.” Nagarjuna, madhyamakakarika, Ch. 24, Vs 8-10
Let’s return to our series of contradictions that Nagarjuna proposed 1800 years ago. These statements are simply a dualistic expression like neither good and bad or not up or down. He says we cannot understand the ultimate without understanding the relative, so our ground level basis must be the world we live in now, be it black and white or left or right wing we must understand the polarization and the dualistic contradictions we see all around us. Relativity in a philosophical sense tells us that shortness exists only to an idea of length. We need an opposite to see the relation and therefore the relative truth behind what is to be understood. For example, we could never truly understand light without ever having experienced darkness. We need to know the truth so we can know when we are being lied to. Without some super quantum computer, how should we ever hope to understand all the duality in our universe? Enter the Buddhadharma a logical system for the discovery of Ultimate Truth, or dharmakaya. Dharmakaya or the truth state in Vajrayana Buddhism is one of the three kayas states or bodies that lead to enlightenment, and cannot be explained very easily but let’s try. Dharmakaya is synonymous or leads to an understanding with emptiness or Sunyata. This simply is that no thing made or constructed, thought of or conceived of, or conditioned or habituated has any existence in itself, of itself, or by itself. All the “things” we know of, are dependent on a plethora of other external factors, a quantum network, required for our perception or knowledge of them. They are empty of an independent existence. When there is no thing that is independent then everything is therefore interdependent. This interdependence is crucial to the Buddhadharma because when I realize how connected I am to you I could never do anything to hurt you without hurting my self. Moreover, when I love you I love myself and all other beings all at the same time. That is emptiness, not so easy eh?
Are you ready to embark on a journey of truth for yourself? There is no better way than the Buddhadharma to reach this goal and all along the way to benefit all sentient beings in their search to bring new meaning, joy, and freedom to this existence that is constantly challenged by the elite of this world who are purveyors of lies and dissatisfaction.
Let me know what you think,
2 thoughts on “The whole Truth and nothing but the Truth so help me Buddha”
Great post QP!
Emptiness is one of the subjects I write about the most, since we can approach it from so many different angles and there’s an ocean of metaphors.
I admit, the Two Truths have always left a sour taste in my mouth. Not because of them, really, but because they’re so easy to cling to. I can’t count how many times I’ve had to say, “They’re an upaya, a skillful means. They’re not actually separate.”
When people hear about the absolute, we tend to get a little spiritually turned on, don’t we? “Oooh, Absolute Truth, I bet that’ll be a fantastic trip!” Then I’ve gotta crush their dreams, not because they’re wrong, but because they’re grasping, and life’s a nonstick surface.
Do you think that Nagarjuna’s focus was more ontological or epistemological? Or both?
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I love the “ocean of metaphors” this really leads us to the point of the emptiness. No mater what or how we say it, it’s always relative, if only because our language based on the relative. We can only try to talk about things like ultimate truth or emptiness and the discussion is limited to our understanding at a given time, and our understanding is going to change as our practice deepens. Ideas need to be let go of as new ones come into focus. And to top it all off, as I am sure you know, when you write about topics like this you never really know who will read and or what they will understand. It is impossible to know your audience in the internet. The important thing here is as practitioners of the Buddhadharma we need to control and direct the conversation especially on these matters, if we do not we will continue to be misrepresented by other religions who frankly do not understand or want anyone else to really understand the beauty of the Buddha’s teachings.
Ontological or epistemological good question. I am still in the beginning of my journey with him, but I would say more towards the ontological and that would go for his teacher Saraha as well. When I read Saraha I am continually reminded of Tilopa and Lama Shang, two biggies who came along almost 1000 years later. Are you familiar with them?
Thanks so much for stopping be please do again.