On another subject, I got a letter from R containing a copy of a teaching transcript. They’re studying Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the Middle Way, and this was from a lecture on the Svatantrika view. This in turn led me to review because I wasn’t as clear as I should be on some of the Svatantrika/Prasangika differences, and that led me back to Lam Rim Chenmo. It’s been a busy day, but useful. I think I need to put more effort into a very careful process of identifying afflictions as they arise and then opposing them then and there. For reference:

  • Hopkins, Jeffrey. Tsong-kha-pa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom. pp. 189-213, and also just starting to re-read the book, pp. 37-58.
  • Tsongkhapa. Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, vol. 1, pp. 297-313.
  • Sopa, Geshe Lhundub, Steps on the Path to Enlightenment, vol. 2. pp. 265-321.
  • Pabongka Rinpoche. Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. (Yellow edition) pp. 508-523.

Geshe Sopa in particular has some good, practical advice and insights that match what I have found in experience (for better or worse!). I suppose I have never been entirely convinced that the afflictions all derive from the ignorance conceiving inherent existence, which is a pretty fundamental thing to not be entirely convinced about, so it’s been good to revisit and dig deeper into that line of investigation.

So does it? The line of reasoning/observation seems to go:

  • Perception of the aggregates
  • Imputation of the conventional self (Prasangika view)
  • Karmic overlay of erroneous inherent existence
  • Apprehension of inherently existent self just fabricated

Leading to…

  • Based on identification of the inherently existent self, identification of the mine (with messy grammar even in Tibetan)
  • Attachment to the self/mine, and, based on them, an apparent division between what is self/mine and what is other/non-mine.
  • Attachment to what is pleasant for the self/mine, hostility toward what is unpleasant for the self/mine, disinterest in what is neutral for the self/mine.
  • Aiming that attachment, hostility, or disinterest at what is other or non-mine.
  • And the whole circus begins. Or rather, continues.

Reasonable? Probably, but I need to see it, know it, feel it, not just think it.

Meanwhile the key difference between Svatantrika and Prasangika, for Tsongkhapa, seems to be the types of minds that apprehend the appearance of inherent existence. Svatantrika seem to allow any mind to do this, even non-conceptual ones like sense consciousnesses (cf. Hopkins, pg. 200, footnote b). For Prasangika it is always a conceptual mind, so you get that process above: perception of the object, conventional identification, then a projection of inherent existence back onto the base, overlaying it, so to speak, and all of that happening so fast that it is difficult to observe. You can see it happen, though, or something quite like it, when you’re surprised by something… when there is a delay between the perception and the projection, or when the first identification is wrong and you have to start over.

What falls out from that is that the Svatantrika have to posit that the appearance of inherent existence arises simultaneously with the sense perception of the object (because they don’t require a conceptual intermediary), and so I wonder if, because of that, there is an indirect implication of some sort of inherent nature in the object out there even though they are clear that objects can only be established through the force of an awareness. Must delve into this more, too.

And so, they day ends with more questions than answers, but at least they’re interesting questions.

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