Friday, November 7, 2008

A Response to Nick's Comments: Ordinary Consciousness in Sūtra and Tantra

Nick Vail left two interesting comments (here and here) to my posting on the two truths. Here are some thoughts in response:

Thank you for your comments, Nick. There is a lot to unpack and respond to in the issues you raised; due to time and all sorts of other limitations, I surely won't be able to address your questions fully.

In an inadequate, soundbite-style fashion, however, I would respond as follows: I think that most of the examinations in The Karmapa's Middle Way are made within the context of determining the view; the Ninth Karmapa's other writings, such as those on Mahāmudrā, often come from the context of experiencing the true nature in meditation. Although in the final analysis one of course wants one's view and meditation to be of one taste, my sense of the Tibetan pedagogical approach is that compartmentalization is regarded as necessary when one is still training one's mind in the view. At the Consequentialist stage, the stage of the present study, the main emphasis is on undermining conceptual clinging.

I think that the Vajrayana/Mahamudra traditions would indeed be accommodating of the suggestion that beings experience the ultimate nature of reality more than they think; it's just a matter of whether they recognize and appreciate these experiences or not. In the Consequence stage, however, the approach is, to my senses, more ruthless. Any conceptual clinging, or preference, for any position is dismantled.

The underlying context here is the sūtrayāna presentation of the paths and bhumis, in which only noble beings are taught to directly realize emptiness. Undeniably, the sūtrayāna presentation gives sentient beings' consciousness less benefit of the doubt than do the Mantrayāna, etc. However, the sūtrayāna emphasis on describing how ordinary beings' perceptions are confused can also be seen to underline the profundity of the higher vehicles' views. Appreciating the depth and extensiveness of mundane confusion enhances the appreciation of the power of the wisdom that the higher vehicles are capable of laying bare.

I may be able to better elaborate on this topic later on...

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