Tag Archives: Nagarjuna

The whole Truth and nothing but the Truth so help me Buddha

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 with 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 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 as well brings 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,

QP

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Niels Bohr and the Buddha “Awareness or Creation”

Bohr_real_vs_unreal

“Everything we call real is made up of things that cannot be regarded as real” Niels Bohr. What exactly did Neils Bohr mean here? In modern Quantum Physics, we begin to understand that what we have learned such as particles or atoms to be nothing more than probabilities and potentials. We don’t actually know what an atom looks like or exactly where they are and we likely never will. We guess as to their exact positions and properties with complex mathematical equations and complex experiments some costing billions of dollars. To a Quantum Physicist, the idea of a Ven Diagram showing how oxygen and carbon atoms react is like teaching the Dalai Lama about the Buddhas birth. Quantum Physics has completely changed how modern science looks at the reality in which we think we live. To a Buddhist, this is music to our ears. It sounds very much like the teachings of emptiness. To some, the concept of emptiness is troublesome and it can be hard to wrap your mind around it. It has been described by some very early Christian translations to mean nothingness. This makes us Buddhists sound like nihilists. This was likely done on purpose as to discredit, to falsely portray, or confront Buddhism and further the creation myth by the Church and her missionaries. However, Buddhism is as far from nihilism as Christians are from hell. We define emptiness by saying that all phenomena have no intrinsic or independent existence of their own. To detail this teaching classicly we need to discuss the twelve points of dependent origination. But to make things easy I will simply try to answer that age-old question “if a tree falls in the forest does anyone hear it?” For example, let us take something beautiful like a rose. Does a rose really exist? Another way to ask this is to say does the rose exist independently in and of itself? In Buddhist Philosophy for something to really exist it must be independent of all other phenomena. The answer is no, the rose does not exist independently of anything, it is as we know dependant on sunlight for example. One step further and we see that there is no sunlight without the sun. There is no sun without the sun’s ongoing nuclear reactions and no reactions without Helium and Hydrogen. We see here that rose is empty of independent existence. Or as some might say the rose is an expression of emptiness or empty in nature or essence. We agree with Niels Bohr and we understand the rose to be real but it is not.
Is there another way that we can understand the rose to not exist independently? Yes, if the rose is to be considered to be real and independent it must exist as it does now without changing. It cannot grow, bloom, and we could not even cut one from the plant as it would die and rot away. We know this independence to be false because the rose changes in every moment fully dependent on all the conditions it requires to be as it is. This is also understood as impermanence, as no thing lasts forever.

Now if I stop here I can imagine that some of you might say, “see this is Nihilism no things exist in Buddhism. And you might be right, however, I am reminded of a quote from a famous Buddhist Philosopher Nagarjuna, who said “If you think things are real you are as dumb as a cow, if you think they are not real you are even dumber” If you think trains are not real please do not stand in front of one that’s moving, as you will be suddenly surprised. We know phenomena are there because we can perceive them and be aware of them, they are however dependent on our perception and awareness. The famous double slit experiment is good evidence of this. Our observation imparts a temporary existence to them as we observe them. Just as the waveform collapses into particles that we can perceive as we observe them. They arise, exist, and dissolve back into the space or the field where all information exists as space is information. It would seem that we give phenomena their essence or that our observation is responsible for their creation. When we look around and see the sheer complexity and beauty around us it is clear that life is amazing and so full of potential and joy. We just need to slow down and simply pay attention to it; this is what we learn in meditation. So clearly Buddhists are not nihilists. Now for one to think that the traditional biblical creation myth we talked about earlier as the truth, one needs to assume that all of creation was finished after just 6 days. I firmly understand that it is preposterous and hubris to think anything other than, that creation is continuous and infinite. And when you come this far you might just see yourself as an integral part in all of it.

So the falling tree in the forest is dependent on the sun, the rain, and many other conditions around it not the least of which is us. Without someone to notice it there simply is no meaning or reason for the tree to exist in the first place.

“If quantum mechanics hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet.” Niels’ words here are truly inspiring, I would expand to say this: If Buddhism hasn’t profoundly shocked you, you haven’t understood it yet. The more I learn the more I am shocked by the Buddha Dharma. I am often moved to tears when concepts like emptiness finally begin to sink in and are understood on deeper and deeper levels. I am convinced that Niels Bohr must have understood things in a similar fashion or he would not have said what he said.

QP