Understanding MAdhyamaka - 2

Vivek Anand Ganesan v_ganesan at YAHOO.COM
Wed Jun 14 13:34:55 CDT 2000

Hello all :
  I have a few doubts about some of the statements in this
post.  I understand that ShrI Nanda Chandran is presenting
an objective survey of MAdhyamika vis-a-vis Advaita. I
like some things clarified neverthless.

--- ShrI nanda chandran wrote:
> If you say something changes, what's it that changes? If
> the thing
> itself didn't change, then what's it that changed? The
> moment the
> slightest change occures in a thing, it is no more the
> original thing,
> but a totally new thing. So how can it be said that the
> thing changed,
> when it doesn't exist anymore? And again when something
> has ceased to exist,
> is it right to say then that it is no more? For then
> there's no point of
> reference to that claim. The exact moment when a thing
> changes to something
> else is beyond knowledge. We see a thing and the next
> moment we see a
> totally new thing. Even here how could something come out
> of nowhere?
> If it is said that something which constitutes the core
> of
> the thing's being remains unchanged (*if* something like
> that can be
> identified), then that itself is the thing and not that
> which changed.

  Is this MAdhyamika dialectic?  Because, it seems to prove
the Advaita stand.  If I remember correctly a similar topic
was discussed a while ago with respect to ShrI GaudapAda's
critique of MAdhyamika.  In that the Acharya uses the
buddhist metaphor ( a flame at the end of a whirling rope
appears to emit a continuous stream of light while it is
nothing but a series of discrete positions of the flame in
space ) to prove that for change to be percieved there must
be a substratum that is changeless.  What do the buddhists
say to this?

> Plus all knowledge of change requires a prior knowledge
> of a thing before
> the change and knowledge of the thing's current status as
> a changed thing.
> Prior knowledge requires the use of memory, which makes
> it representative
> knowledge. But representative knowledge being a thing of
> the past is
> unreliable and not reliable like presentative knowledge
> as one gets in
> direct perception. This is approved even by the
> NaiyAyikas and the
> Miimaamsakas. So change is beyond knowledge and the
> conception of it empty
> and hence shUnya.

  This completely eludes me.  Could you please elaborate
on what exactly is meant by "ShUnya" in the above case and
why it is so?

> We say desire is the root cause of all misery. For desire
> to be, there
> must be a desirable thing. But for a desirable thing to
> be, it needs to
> be desired. So which came first? The desire or the
> desirable thing?
> The existance of one depends on the other. Remove one and
> the other
> cannot exist. As one depends on the other they can
> neither be simultaneous
> nor can they be totally apart. Though it seems like they
> are dependent
> originated, we still do not know the exact nature of the
> relationship
> between them.
> Desire and the desirable thing are unintelligible and our
> conception
> of them is only of practical value. Since they are not
> things in
> themselves they are empty or shUnya.

  Once again, how and why is this shUnya?  Besides, my
desire does not affect the thing which I desire.  Say, I
saw a brand new car in a show room and I desire to own it.
How is the car affected by my desire?  Obviously, the car
existed even before I desired to own it.  So, in this case
the "desirable thing" came first.  Unless there was a
"latent" desire in me to own any shiny, new car and this
desire came to the forefront and lodged itself in my mind
upon seeing this particular car, why would there be a
confusion as to which came first?
  To sum, I fail to understand why there should be a
doubt as to which came first, the "desire" or the "thing".
The only chicken-and-egg dilemma would be as to whether the
"desire was present in a latent form in my brain BEFORE I
sighted the thing" or "the desire arose WHEN I sighted the
thing".  Even in that case, the dilemma has to do with the
timing of the origin of the "desire" in my mind; it has
nothing to do with the thing. Does it?

  I have not read MMK or any other MAdhyamika work, so
I defer to ShrI Nanda's presentation of it.  But, if
Nagarjuna is a rigorous logician ( which he is reputed to
have been ) then he should present at least a preliminary
definition of ShUnya before he applies that label.  In
ShUnya cannot be defined then the label also should not be
applied.  For the purpose of logical consistency and rigor,
Nagarjuna cannot apply the label "ShUnya" and when asked
a definition reply that it is "un-definable".


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