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thank you very very much and thanks to the italian buddhist union for this wonderful conference i still wish i could be there in person next week but this will have to do and i also want to i'm just very
grateful and honored to be on the same panel with three such enormously esteemed scholars hal and john and alan people from whom i have learned enormously over the decades
and also it's a great pleasure to be sharing the panel with three wonderful friends with whom i've enjoyed really good times over the decades and i really mean both of those things um the talk that i'm going to give
builds very naturally and accidentally on the three talks that we've heard and i could almost stop and just say what they said but i figure it might be useful to um offer these thoughts anyway hoping that
they tie together some of the issues that we've heard about so far and you'll recognize echoes of each of the uh perspectives before so i'm going to share my screen now and um move into um
powerpoint land i apologize for that but it's sometimes useful especially for people for whom english isn't the first language to have a little bit of text um on the screen as well so we're going to now do a
screen share and hope that everything works uh let's see we need a stop screen share share screen and
we should be there is everything looking okay i hope so so my talk is called cognitive illusion and immediate experience perspectives
from buddhist philosophy and here's the plan for the talk we're first going to talk about the role the buddha's perspective on where illusion fits into our lives in a broad broad framework
and then i want to talk about what i call the allure of immediacy and a lore that we've heard a lot about in these three talks so far so this will be a little bit familiar as well then i'm going to get take us on a long
arc through the buddhist tradition from yamaka to yogachara um to a synthesis of madhyamaka and yogachara through the great buddhist scholar then shantarakshita
little bit of zen trespassing on houzz territory and finally talking about what it is to know ourselves freed from the illusion of immediacy
so i'm going to begin by talking about this role of illusion in our lives when we think about what buddhism is buddhism is first and foremost a solution to a problem the problem is the
ubiquity of suffering in samsara and buddhism is all about trying to solve that problem and famously there's a diagnosis of that problem where the immediate conditions
of suffering are attraction and aversion but where the root cause the thing that gives rise to that attraction and aversion to those pathologies is a profound confusion about the nature of reality and it's that confusion that
leads us to the attraction and aversion that takes us into samsara and since it's an illusion we should pay attention to the classical indian understanding of what illusion is and
that is something that appears in one way but exists in another that is an illusion isn't something that's completely non-existent it's something his mode of existence and his mode of appearance are discordant from one
another and we're going to be focusing on that a great deal in this talk but the idea is that because this primal confusion this illusion lies at the root of suffering the only way to end the
problem of suffering is to extinguish the illusion and what i want to talk about today is how that illusion manifests in the case of our own minds and what i'm going to argue is is this
that that confusion manifests as a conviction that we have an immediate knowledge of our own minds that we can be indubitably aware of the contents of our own minds and the second aspect of that delusion equally pernicious is that
it involves the sub the superimposition of a subject object duality on experience that is uh primordially non-dual um so that primal confusion can be
thought of this way um it's taking that which is impermanent to be permanent that which is a source of suffering to be a source of happiness that which is only conventionally real to be ultimately real that which is
interdependent to be independent and the important point for our purposes is that the thesis that our own experience is permeated with illusion applies to our experience of our own minds as well
that's what i want to emphasize here um another way to put this and we're going to go there in a moment um is that we could say that we're tempted just overwhelmingly
tempted to believe that to believe that when we have perceptual experience including introspective experience of our own minds we think that we know that content immediately the idea that to be in a
cognitive state is to know that state and the idea that our inner states present themselves to introspection even trained introspection just as they are another way to put this as did the
american philosopher wilford sellers is this way that impressions and thoughts appear to be simply given to us as the events they are as instances of the types they instantiate
and this i take to be the deepest form of what sellers identified as the myth of the given the most difficult one to extirpate we always forget that our knowledge of our own states is as mediated by
language and conceptual apparatus as any other knowledge so when we attribute beliefs or knowledge when we attribute cognitive states when we attribute even sensations
to ourselves or to others we're always i'm going to suggest uh engaged in an active interpretation a kind of self hermeneutics or a hermeneutic of the other and we use
language to model our inner life we use external properties to to uh model our inner life and we're always modeling our inner life we don't simply have it as it is when we attribute sensory experiences to
ourselves for instance like the experience of red or the experience of seeing blue the model is external properties and we think of there as being inner properties just like those external properties that somehow we are
um we are seeing immediately but there's a second kind of cognitive illusion this first cognitive illusion as i've suggested is thematized both in buddhist philosophy and in western philosophy but the second
kind of illusion i find not thematized so much in the west though in some quarters it is some but not all but very much stabilized in in buddhist philosophy and that is the superimposition of subject object
duality um and when we do that um we take the nature of our experience to be primordially structured as subject standing outside of the world viewing an
object now we always know we know that on the slightest bit of reflection that that's crazy that we are biological organisms embedded in a physical world and that
all of our experience is the result of that embodied embedded and embedded experience in the world it's still however almost irresistible to have that kind of image of ourselves as wittgenstein put it as like the eye
to the visual field that we stand outside of the world as pure subject with everything else taken as object and that reflexive taking of experience that way is a very profound kind of cognitive
illusion one that is extremely hard to shake to overcome illusion though we first have to come to know that illusion better you need to know your enemy in
order to defeat your enemy and so i'm going to spend a lot of time trying to acquaint us with the nature of these illusions that is to say if we want to avoid a pointless trek through the desert uh for
water we'd better know that what we're seeing is a mirage and not an oasis when we become aware of that fact then we're able to redirect ourselves in the right uh in the right direction
so in this essay i'm going to explore the what i take to be the very most profound illusions diagnosed in the buddhist tradition and one and the most difficult to overcome and the primary one will be the illusion
that we have immediate access and vertical access to our own experience that we have a direct first-person access to our own minds that gives us our minds just as they are that the duality between subject and object that
structures our understanding is primordial this is the illusion that we're subject standing over and against the world rather than um interdependent beings in the world that's the conviction that we might know
the external world only through the mediation of our sensory and cognitive faculties but that we know the world only in virtue of immediate access to the outputs of those faculties
so first i'm going to really focus on that allure of immediacy and then move into this kind of arc from yamaka through yogachara and into zen and my aim is going to be
um to show you that i think the buddhist tradition gets the all of these issues roughly right that is i'm not simply going to be characterizing what buddhists say about this i'm actually defending it and i think that we can
therefore learn a great deal about subjectivity through very careful attention to the multiple ways in which buddhist philosophers have considered this issue so i'm going to try to be shedding light
on contemporary debates as well by attention to buddhist resources and so let's start with the allure of immediacy it's really easy to see
both why people believe as the spontaneous way that we have immediate vertical access to our own perceptual and cognitive states um and the reason is that a perception
is kind of perceptual in structure and the buddhist world encodes this by arguing that the internal um sense the the manus venana is a sense faculty just like external faculties
and so just as our external faculties present us with a world that just seems to us even though we know it's not to be just as it is that we see it just as it is
it's tempting to think that we've got this apparent object distinct from our sensory apprehension of it but is but an object that's presented by a completely veritable process
because as i say perception just feels like it presents the world to us as it is i look at a red apple and i think damn i know exactly what that apple smells like looks like tastes like and
feels like forgetting that all i have is the apple as it's mediated by the peculiar perceptual system that i have and by all of the conceptual resources through which i filtered my perception
so in the same way a perception or introspective awareness just feels like it presents our own cognitive affective and perceptual states to us just as they are
independent of that appreceptive system and those conceptual categories so just as external perception gives us the illusion that we're just detectors of the world as it is inner perception can give us the illusion that we are just
detectors of our inner um our inner world just as it is so even when we remind ourselves as i'm reminding you right now of this
extremely complex mediation of our perceptual encounter with external objects we find ourselves in constantly experiencing our own experience as though
we've got the world just as it is and then we sometimes say okay maybe we're not getting the world just as it is but at least i'm getting my sensory experiences just as they are the apple might not be red but the redness i
experience is exactly the redness that i think i experience the sweetness that i introspect must be the sweetness just as it is and so forth so even if we give up for a moment and it's hard to give it up
for more than that the notion of immediacy with regard to external perception we often retreat to thinking that that's mediated but my awareness of my own inner episodes is the immediate
awareness that mediates my knowledge of the external world and i think that in the sense of that perception that sense of immediacy is even greater it's really hard for us to be convinced that our inner experience
could possibly be deceptive we seem to think that if i think that i believe something i must believe it if i think that i'm feeling something i must be feeling it and that feeling and that believing grab my inner
reality just as it is and so part of the problem that arises is that the mediation of our introspective awareness by our introspective faculty becomes
cognitively invisible to us just as what i'm seeing the world my visual faculty is invisible and it just delivers a visible world to me and i have to really think to to understand
what my own visual faculty visual organ and visual consciousness are contributing i think i experience my introspective faculty as just giving me inner objects and i have to think and remind myself
that actually my inner sense faculty is also a fallible instrument and that i may be misusing that instrument or that instrument might be intrinsically deceptive and that's a hard thing to get one's mind around
as a consequence we've become seduced by this idea that even if our knowledge of some things is mediated that mediation can't go all the way down we get seduced by the idea that there's got to be a
basic foundational level of experience to which we can have some kind of immediate access and to which when we know it we know it absolutely veritically in the theory of knowledge that leads us to foundationalism in the
philosophy of mind it leads us to sense datum theory um and i find that in a lot of buddhist situations a lot of buddhist practitioners take it to be this idea of an infallibility of an immediate kind of
experience if i'm sitting on the cushion just right so with all of that in play um i want to move to exercising that myth of the given that i've been characterizing
and to show that buddhist philosophy offers us powerful ways of doing that and i'm going to begin by talking about first person knowledge through the lens of the madhyamaka tradition
so we have their um nagarjuna and chandra kirti two of my heroes in the madame tradition and these are the guys who were with whom we're going to start if we think about what nagarjuna's
central insight or essential contribution to magenica philosophy is followed by chandracardi it's that all phenomena we encounter are dependently originated none exist intrinsically and
all are empty of an intrinsic nature and that that dependent origination and that emptiness of intrinsic nature amount to exactly the same thing when shadrachiri adam breaks this idea
he distinguishes three dimensions of dependent origination and this is in his commentary on the guardian of malama jamaica carica called clear words he talks about causal dependence that is every phenomenon depends upon causes and
conditions and gives rise to further causes and conditions um myriological dependence that is every phenomenon every composite phenomenon depends upon the parts that uh that it
comprises and every phenomenon is also dependent upon the holes or the systems in which it figures parts depend on holes holes depend on parts and that reciprocal meteorological dependence
characterizes all of reality and third often overlooked but most important is dependence on conceptual imputation that is things depend in order to be represented as the kinds of
things they are on our conceptual resources our affective resources and as john dunn emphasized our purposes in life this third one really means this um
everything that shows up for us in the world the way we carve the world up the way we um the way we experience the world is dependent not just on how the world is but on the conceptual resources
as well as the perceptual resources through which we understand the world and it's worth recognizing that um when we think about this there are a bunch of um contemporary majamakers majamikas we
might point to as well and so paul fireauben who's up there on on the left well really an austrian but he spent much of his life in america um willard van norman kwine um up on the right wilford sellers and paul churchland
each of these folks in different ways has emphasized that our perceptual and our conceptual apparatus function as we know the world as measuring instruments a word strikingly like the sanskrit
pramana to which john uh directed our attention earlier this morning or this evening depending on where you are in the world right now um these four philosophers in very different ways but
in ways that intersect in very intriguing ways um emphasized that with knowledge sensory knowledge perceptual knowledge isn't the direct access um to sensory properties or descent or
objects around us but rather is always the result of a complex cognitive and perceptual process mediated by our sense organs our sense faculties and our cognitive processes
and just another way to put that this is a way that paul churchill puts this but also um paul fire robin also sellers is that the objects we experience the
world that we inhabit the world in which we find ourselves embedded is not a world that we simply find it's a world that we construct and whose constituents we construct in our central nervous
systems in response to sensory stimulation transduced by neural impulses that is somehow our bodies interact with other bodies in the world um our and through various kinds of
cognitive processes i will um i will uh defer the debates with alan about how to think about the relationship between cognitive processes in the brain leave that aside but in any
case we would each agree that there's a substantial amount of mediation by the mind however we understand the mind um in our relationship to the world so our mind functions as dharma yearly
emphasized as an instrument through which we have access to the world so another aspect of the cognitive illusion that we're talking about whether we look at it through buddhist majamikas or 20th
and 21st century western mud makers um is that the um the illusion that pervades our sense perception is that what we experience is something external to us that somehow
we've got a world that exists as it is independent of us and that we simply happen to be perfect world detectors and we wander through it detecting things just as they are
um another way to put this is um that if you think about using a telescope an example that alan offered us a little while ago to examine celestial objects as indeed did
galileo you can only interpret the output of that telescope the things you see in the telescope correctly if we actually know how it works that's really obviously true about
things like radio telescopes and infrared telescopes but it's true of optical telescopes as well as paul fire opened emphasized if you don't have a theory of optics then when you aim your telescope at jupiter and look at the
moons all you see are bits of light on a piece of glass you need to believe to know how the telescope works in order to understand those as moons orbiting a planet
so to put it crudely if we don't know how the instrument that we're using uh if we don't know how the instrument that we're using to mediate our access to the world works if we don't understand it we don't know whether we're looking through
a great telescope or a kaleidoscope and we don't know whether we're using a pre a properly constructed radio telescope or just playing a fantasy video game and the same point applies to us to the
inner as well if we don't know how our senses are working pro our work if we don't know that they work properly or what kinds of distortions they um they engender or how they construct a world
we don't know what kind of information they're delivering us um and so another aspect to cognitive illusion here is the illusion um that our sense perception is something that
is transparent and simply delivering us a world as a telescope does and not as a cognitive not as a kaleidoscope does as a consequence then the sense that we
know our own cognitive states directly and accurately through inner sense as well of outer sense has got to be a cognitive illusion as well are of the the sortals or the concepts that we use
in order to introspect are just as opaque to us as our senses are and give us just as a non-transparent access to our inner world as our senses give to the outer
world um so what happens um when we're thinking about our inner states one of the things that we need to recognize is that our introspection when
we we become aware of our beliefs our desires and our hopes and our fears and so forth is all done through language and on the model of language when i decide that i believe that john dunn
gave a great talk this morning when i believe that hal roth is a great scholar of zen and when i believe that alan wallace gave us a beautifully inspirational talk about the role of practice and contemplation in the
understanding of the self and i introspect that way i'm using those sentences alan gave that great talk john gave us a great talk about pramana and so forth as models for my inner states and i'm not
doing that because i looked inside and saw little english sentences in my brain i'm looking i'm doing that by using language as a kind of introspective model that's a matter of self-interpretation
it's easy to forget that because it feels so immediate so language gives us the concepts that we use to think about the world but it is also the model for the concepts of our propositional attitudes like belief
desire knowledge and so forth and as a model we have to recognize that the model the map isn't the reality to go back to what john uh reminded us of he reminded us of earlier introspection in
terms of language gives us an interpretation it doesn't give us an independent reality that is being interpreted and when we think about the madhyamaka
of nagarjuna and chandrakiri we remember that to be empty is to be empty of any intrinsic nature and if we follow chandra charity as i suggested earlier that means that it is to exist only
dependent on conceptual imputation and what i am suggesting now is that all of our inner cognitive states that we introspect we encounter only through a conceptual imputation only through
interpretation only through language and that is they exist conventionally not intrinsically even though they might appear to us to exist just as we see
them and to do so intrinsically um now this is not to say that our inner life has some kind of a second grade um existence conventional reality is not
second level reality um because as the guardian and chandra kirti also emphasized we must remember that conventional reality dependent
origination is exactly the same as emptiness which is ultimate reality the only kind of reality anything that we ever encounter is going to have is conventional reality so when i'm talking
here about cognitive illusion i'm not arguing that the existence of our interstates um is illusory i'm arguing that the illusion is that we have immediate access to them as they are and
that their mode of existence um is um intrinsic existence so this allows us to understand the majority analysis of the most fundamental cognitive illusion
of all the illusion of the immediacy of our knowledge of our own minds and the givenness of our own interstates and processes our direct knowledge of them as the kinds of things they are independent of
any concepts that's the illusion that wittgenstein quine and sellers each in there worked so hard in the 20th century to diagnose and to cure but we can put this just as easily and maybe more
easily in the terms of second century indian madhyamaka the fundamental cognitive illusion is to take our mental states to exist intrinsically rather than conventionally and to take our knowledge of them to be
immediate independent of conventions this illusion is pervasive it is instinctive and it is profoundly self-alienating because it obscures the deeply conventional character of our own
existence and of our self-knowledge and this illusion is what according to buddhist philosophers lies at the root of our grasping of our attraction and diversion and hence at the root of the
pervasive suffering of existence so much for mud yamaka i now want to shift schools and go to yogachara and here i might be disagreeing a little bit with alan who gave us a somewhat um
majamika inflected notion of what yogichara looks like i'm going to be a little bit more sympathetic um and here we have asanga and vasubandhu the founders of the great yogachara
tradition the yogachar tradition offers us a somewhat different analysis of emptiness and of cognitive illusion not a not a contradictory analysis to that we've just seen but an analysis
from a different direction it's a bit of a commonplace um to think of yogachara and majamaca as rival positions regarding the nature of reality but that's not the only plausible approach and there's a great
line of thought in tibet that's gaining ascendancy now fortunately i think in contemporary scholarship according to which they simply represent distinct perspectives on emptiness and not a disagreement about what emptiness is as
the president dalai lama has said i'm in a wonderful public talk um madhyamaka approaches emptiness from the side of the object of knowledge while yoga chara approaches emptiness from the side of the subject i think that's a great way
to see matters and so i'm going to present uh yogachara here as supplementing um yamaka rather than as conflicting with with it and i think that this approach makes good sense of the most important differences between
majamaka and yogachara it shows us how to reconcile the difference as well and the difference is this while majamaca takes emptiness through the emptiness of intrinsic identity or intrinsic existence yogachara takes
emptiness to be the emptiness of subject object duality or the absence of externality to the mind of the object of mind so i want to continue consider these formulations and they're going to help us see how to join my jamaica and
yogachara yogachara theory and i'm thinking here about three nature theory and three naturelessness theory suggests to us that we are simply wired for certain illusions and among them is
the illusion of immediacy um and we're wired to thematize our experience through the framework of subject object duality i often compare this to the way that we're wired for certain
optical illusions for instance you don't have to learn to see the mueller liar illusion as an illusion we all see it as an illusion and it's because of the way our visual system has evolved and there are lots of other optical illusions like
that the color five phenomenon for instance and so forth yogachara really takes very seriously the idea that from beginning with time we've evolved karmic predispositions to certain kinds of
illusions and these are some of them and of course a little bit of reflection shows that that duality has to be illusory um after all um we are
not subject pure subjects standing outside of the world of our experience confronting a world of objects some of them outer and some of them inner that's the vedanta position that ain't the buddhist position instead what we are is
organisms and again i will set aside all of the debates we might have about how those organisms are constituted but we are organisms embedded in an environment and our bodies our sense faculties are
part of the world in which we find ourselves as a consequence our subjectivity our own engagement with the world is constituted not by standing outside and detecting things but rather by being
embedded in the world and the only way that we could possibly become aware of any object whether it's a tree or an apple or a thought or a feeling is to construct that as an object in our field
of consciousness even if in doing so we manage to hide from ourselves the fact that we are constructing it um this is a second dimension of pervasive cognitive illusion my genomic
analysis as we saw a little bit earlier reveals that objects we take to exist intrinsically are empty of intrinsic existence and instead exist only interdependently and conventionally
that's an illusion regarding the objects of knowledge as well as and it also shows us how to understand those objects correctly yogachara analysis as we've just seen reveals that the subjectivity
that we take to be primordially dualistic in structure is empty of that subject object duality and instead non-dual in nature so this points to an illusion regarding the nature of the subject of knowledge and how to
understand our subjectivity and again that's part of the root of suffering so if we put together the majamaka analysis of illusions regarding the objects of knowledge and yogachara analyses regarding the illusions of subjectivity
we get a much more comprehensive understanding of where cognitive illusion fits into our experience and now i really want to talk about how to put these together um in detail and
that has to do with the synthesis that the great 9th century indian philosopher shantarakshita suggested so there's shantarakshita and these are the two famous verses of the ornament of the middle way that
um that uh show us uh where he does this synthesis he says on the basis of yogachara we should understand the non-existence of the external world and on the basis of majamaka we should understand that the mind is empty and
those who ride the chariot of these two approaches holding them together and who hold the reins of reason will master the mahayana and the meanings of the texts and so let's talk a little bit about how that goes
um when we look at the auto commentary on this um we get a really nice um a nice a nice analysis as well as when we look at galaxy's commentary the idea is
not that somehow we want to understand yogachara simply as buddhism for dummies and majamaka as smart buddhism shantarakshita puts it as under using um
yogachara to understand conventional reality and majamaca to understand ultimate reality and there's a really nice way to think about that because to understand conventional truth is not only to understand what its content is
to understand what is conventionally true but also to understand where conventional truth comes from and why we take it so very seriously as truth um the majority analysis of emptiness
tells us exactly what emptiness is it also tells us what conventional reality is dependent origination but madhyamaka does not tell us how we come to experience conventional truth and it
doesn't explain why it is that we take it to be um so to to be more than conventional to exist intrinsically um shantarachita though um sees that as the
job of yogachara what yogachara does through its detailed analysis of the nature of consciousness through its detailed analysis of the three natures that all phenomena enjoy and through its
detailed analysis of the three respects in which things are natureless gives us a nice analysis of how it is that we come to represent what is in fact dependently originated as um as
independent and intrinsically real and how it is that we come to see our mediated access to the world as immediate and to do that we need a very quick tour through the three natures and the three naturelessnesses ideas that
come to us from the samdi namochana sutra or the sutra unraveling the thought and here i'll be relying primarily on the analysis we find in the seventh chapter the questions of paramater summit data
i want to begin by talking about the imagine nature which is the first of those three natures um it's really tempting when i look at a flower like a rose um a nice red rose
to think that the color the redness is right on the rose unless you are extremely accomplished when you look at a red rose you see the color right out there in the rose and
you assume that your eyes are simply detecting color that is in the rose actually that can't possibly be true color is something that emerges um as
john pointed out this morning through the interaction of our sense faculties and whatever is happening outside of them and the color emerges in our minds but we imagine things to exist outside of consciousness just as we perceive
them and that nature that we ascribe to the objects of our experience is their imagined nature it's an imagined nature because we project it out there even though on reflection we each know
that the redness can't possibly be painted out there in the rose footnote it's uh equally stupid to think that when we detect the redness we're detecting in inner red paint that
somehow um is just detected by an inner eye i assure you that when you look inside your brain you will find no such inner red paint to say that objects of experience
are causally natureless the second kind of naturelessness naturelessness with respect to production is to say they arise only through causal interactions as we've been discussing we don't encounter them in an immediate way
and the second nature the dependent nature of things is the fact that they don't exist independently of us but rather all of the phenomena we ever experience all of the objects in our
world are constructed through complex and here i want to emphasize opaque causal processes none of us really understands exactly how our minds construct the world in which we live even though we know that they construct
them and that means that the objects of our experience because we are constructing them are fundamentally non-dually related to us they are not things we detect they are constructions
in which we participate and then the third nature the third naturelessness is ultimate naturelessness because apart from the conditions of our subjectivity
we can't assign any nature to things and i just want to give you a kind of example to give you a feel for this um for this idea we started with the rose and i said you know we look at it we just see that
there's redness out there but i want you to imagine two other sentient beings seeing that rose and again this uh reflects an analogy that john gave us earlier in the day imagine that there's a bee looking at that rose
bees see um colors in the infrared and the ultraviolet spectrum they see all kinds of colors in that rose that we can't even see it probably looks speckled and striped to them in all kinds of really cool ways and they see it through
compound eyes my dog has got far less color sensitivity than we do and he probably sees the rose in a shade of gray now if we were to ask the question which of the three of us the bee
the dog or me sees the rose correctly sees it as it is does we understand immediately that that's a stupid question the only thing we can talk about is the
rose as it shows up for a human being the rose as it shows up for a bee the rose as it shows up for a dog but if you were to ask oh yeah yeah yeah but what does the rose look like in itself what does the rose itself look like
that is a really stupid question and that's what ultimate naturelessness is there is no way that things just are there are only ways that things show up for different kinds of sensory and
cognitive consciousness and that is ultimate naturelessness and that arrive we the awareness of that arises from this analysis of the conditions of our own subjectivity
the first two natures that is the imagine nature and the dependent nature really give us a beautiful analysis of what conventional reality is and how we reify it we take a
bunch of interdependent processes that are perceptual cognitive and and other and we refine them as objects that exist just as they are that we've simply um detected conventional reality then the
world that we live in the world of roses the world of violets uh the world of wars the world of sunshine is the reality that is populated by things that we imagine to exist independently of our
minds the thing by things that we imagine to have exactly the characteristics we attribute to them but it's a world that's in fact built and constituted by our minds by our
cognition and all of the characteristics of the objects of our awareness our characteristics that they have only in virtue of the fact that our deceptive cognitive processes put them there um so the first two natures give us a
beautiful analysis of conventional truth and the third ultimate naturelessness gives us a beautiful analysis of ultimate truth that is simply the fact that there is no way that things just
are apart from the ways they appear and that's another nice way of saying that yogachara gives us a very profound psychological explanation of how it is that we come to posit the conventional
world and deposit it as more than simply conventional so that's a little bit of yogachara and now i'm going to trespass on um health territory and talk a little bit about
zen to finish this uh buddhist trajectory i'm going to refer to i'm here to dogan um and one of the most and when i look at dogen i'm going to be looking at a two very particular
fascicles one is gaby painted rice cakes and the other is genji koan or actualizing the fundamental point two um two essays that i've found uh profoundly illuminating
in my understanding of buddha dharma and i take one of dogen's really wonderful insights to be this that even our own subjectivity is only present to us in illusory
fashion that it's not just that we have we are subject to illusion regarding the nature of our experiences because we only know them as they show up for us
but we are even subject to illusion regarding appearance it's not just that we know our inner experience but don't know what what outer world it corresponds to but that
even our inner experience is um is hidden from us and i'm going to talk a little bit about that i'm beginning with this essay gabriel um let's see where are we okay
so um this is gabriel i'm going to just read with you for a little bit this is kaz kanahashi's translation um which i really like dogen says the paints that we use for
painting rice cakes are the same as those used for painting mountains and waters for painting mountains and waters blue and red paints are used for painting rice cakes rice flowers used thus they're painted in the same way and
examined in the same way accordingly painted rice cakes spoken means that sesame rice cakes herb rice cakes milk rice cakes toasted rice cakes millet rice cakes and the like are all
actualized in the painting thus you should understand that painting is all inclusive rice cake is all inclusive dharma is all-inclusive in this way all rice cakes actualized right now are
nothing but a painted rice cake if you look for some other kind of painted rice cake you will never find it and you will never grasp it bilgen is using um the rice cakes as a metaphor for the
very illusion that i've been discussing something that appears to exist in reality but which is only a facsimile of that reality a painting not a real rice cake in this opening passage he rejects
the seemingly obvious idea that although we apprehend only appearances painted rice cakes that there's something real that must stand behind them real non-painted rice cakes instead he
suggests it's painted rice cakes all the way down mountains and waters the and meta nymph for the actual world of objects and processes are as painted as well nothing in our experience can be
described as something that we encounter as it is our very experiencing is just a way of painting now we go to this next passage go again says since this is so
there is no remedy for satisfying hunger other than a painted rice cake without painted hunger you never become a true person that's a beautiful line by the way there's no understanding of this
painted satisfaction in fact satisfying hunger satisfying no hunger not satisfying hunger not satisfying no hunger cannot be attained or spoken of without painted rice cakes
for some time study all of these as a painted rice cake in this passage dogen turns that metaphor which isn't so hard to accept when applied to the external world since that's pretty standard yogachara stuff
of the kind we've been talking about before but he turns the metaphor inward to come to the real point even when we consider our own cognitive states they too are painted rice cakes
to the degree to which we are aware of them we paint them if we took anything to stand behind them to the degree to which we become aware of that of that supposed reality we would paint that as
well so moral the moral of this buddhist illusionism that i see i'm seeing as tracking from yamata through yoga characters and
is not is not that we only encounter our experiences instead of encountering real objects and i've heard that said before the moral is really that we don't even encounter real
experiences we encounter illusions of experiences we encounter experiences as they present themselves to us as we construct them and if we thought that our encounter with those illusions was
even an encounter with actual illusions we're wrong we only see illusions of illusions painted painted rice cakes and that is if we take this seriously to come back
to the point that i made at the very beginning of this discussion we are not immediately immediately aware of anything that there is no foundation for perception and no
foundation for our conceptual scheme so true self-knowledge on this understanding is not immediate awareness of our minds or their contents looking in even using the most skillful
meditation techniques and just seeing our minds and contents as they are but true self-knowledge is an awareness of our own subjectivity um in a recognition that we can never have
direct awareness of who we are so true self-awareness has to be awareness of just how hidden we are from ourselves logan in genji koan
writes to study the self is to forget the self to forget the self is to be actualized by the myriad things when actualized by the myriad things excuse me your body and mind as well as
the bodies and minds of others drop away no trace of realization remains and this no trace continues endlessly when we discover when we examine our own being that is we discover that we have
none just as there's no way that the rose is only a way that it shows up there's no way that we are only only how we show up for ourselves
all we experience are painted rice cakes that doesn't deny our reality that's not to say that we're not real beings it's rather to affirm that our reality is
interdependent and groundless just like the reality of everything else it's not a second class reality compared to the reality of real rice cakes instead we enjoy the only kind of
reality there could ever be the reality is paint but lest we think that this insight itself that we only encounter ourselves as we appear that it is illusion all the way
down lest we think that that is realization dogen reminds us that even that is one more painted rice cake one more illusion
so i now want to talk very very quickly i want to draw this together and think about liberation from immediacy and we've been exploring a trajectory of thought regarding illusion in the
mahayana buddhist tradition one that begins in ancient india and lands us in medieval japan the exploration of course is hardly exhaustive we had a very short time and i don't know very much we've omitted
dozens of philosophers hundreds of texts metaphors and arguments on that textual road i do hope however that this has given you some sense of how initial buddhist reflections on the
way that primal confusion grounds pervasive suffering coupled with an analysis of reality in terms of the two truths and their paradoxical union can lead us inexorably
to a critique of the immediacy of experience and from there we get to the insight that illusion is not something from which we escape but something woven into
the very fabric of our experience the most profound aspect of this understanding i think is that the fabric of our experience is woven from threads that are themselves illusory it's not as though the illusion
is the fabric and reality is the threads even the threads are illusory and those threads are the conviction that we know ourselves and the conviction that we can even know the illusory experiences that mediate our
awareness just as those experiences are this all suggests a very deep aperia a perplexity true self-knowledge can only be the acceptance that there is
no true self-knowledge and even that fact namely the true self-knowledge can only be the acceptance that there is none is one more illusion the great death as the zen tradition
often characterizes awakening is indeed a leap from a very very high cliff fortunately for us however the abyss into which buddha dharma asks us to leap
is bottomless and for that reason we not we need not fear a painful landing thank you very very much
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