Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Glimpse of Non-conceptual Awareness

Jim recently left this comment at an old post on Inherent Existence .  Rather than leave it in the obscurity of the archives, I thought it was sufficiently interesting to repost here...

"Inherent Existence" as a concept does not inherently exist. So when you try to pin down the definition of the *concept* of inherent existence, you can't come up with a "clean, clear" definition.

Garfield's translation of Nagarjuna's Mulamadyhamakakarika (Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way) posits the equivalence of "empty of inherent existence", "dependently originated" and "conceptually designated".

I like the shorthand of "no essence" for "empty of inherent existence". That helps me understand, when I perceive at any phenomenon that there is in no way any particle, energy, quality or category exists as an essence, a standalone existent in that phenomenon. That then leads to "dependently originated", meaning that the phenomenon appears before my perceptions due to an endlessly divisible network of elements and causes. Then "conceptually designated" tells me that principle among those elements and causes is my being here to cast a (perhaps sub or unconscious) conceptual designation onto that "thing", delineating it in space and time as "separate and distinct" in the network.

This puts me on the doorstep of "what is producing the conceptual designation", which points to the concept of a self. That becomes the next target of analysis, as in "no essence to this self", "this self is dependently originated", "this self is conceptually designated". These taken together point to to the "conceptual designator" in the self, the "model of self" in the self and the "observing awareness" in the self. These become the next targets of the three-part "emptiness analysis" described above.

This can be repeated again, and again, and again, until the neuro-pschological nexus of model of self, conceptualizing engine, and observing awareness is sufficiently weakened that there's a break in the conceptualizing, and a glimpse of non-conceptual awareness. I find that this gets more effective the more it is practiced.


Regarding the opening statement "Inherent Existence" as a concept does not inherently exist",  and the reference to Garfield, see Nagarjuna and the Limits of Thought by Jay L. Garfield and Graham Priest.

Related Posts

Generic Images in Buddhism

Reification in Buddhism - Ultimate and Conventional Truths.

Buddhism versus Materialism

Essentialism in Physics, Chemistry and Biology

Existence, Impermanence and Emptiness in Buddhism



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