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Dependent origination and sunyata
Śūnyatā in Nāgārjuna's Madhyamaka school
- For Nāgārjuna, who provided the most important philosophical formulation of śūnyatā, emptiness as the mark of all phenomena is a natural consequence of dependent origination; indeed, he identifies the two. In his analysis, any enduring essential nature (i.e., fullness) would prevent the process of dependent origination, would prevent any kind of origination at all, for things would simply always have been and always continue to be.
- This enables Nāgārjuna to put forth a bold argument regarding the relation of nirvāna and samsāra. If all phenomenal events (i.e., the events that constitute samsāra) are empty, then they are empty of any compelling ability to cause suffering. For Nāgārjuna, nirvāna is neither something added to samsāra nor any process of taking away from it (i.e., removing the enlightened being from it). In other words, nirvāna is simply samsāra rightly experienced in light of a proper understanding of the emptiness of all things.
- Madhyamaka is the rejection of two extreme philosophies, and therefore represents the "middle way" between eternalism (the view that something is eternal and unchanging) and nihilism (the assertion that all things are intrinsically already destroyed or rendered nonexistent
Theory according to which all existence is nothing but consciousness, and therefore there is nothing that lies outside of the mind
- An alternative explanation to the truism that "man has no soul" lies in a simple but powerful extension and paradigm shift: "man has no soul, rather, the soul has man." In other words, we are spiritual beings having a human experience, not human beings having a spiritual experience. Assertions that "man" has a "soul" are necessarily false because man's physical existence, which "man" most predominantly identifies with, is merely an observable artifact of the true spiritual reality.
Dependency and Absolute
- Nagarjuna make the following reasoning: since any phenomenal event is dependent, then it is not real, sunyata; thus the whole world is an illusion, a void
- I answer: If a phenomenal event or object is dependent, this merely shifts the ontological problem onto its cause. Then we have either: 1. the cause is an ultimate reality, or 2. the cause is another object or phenomenal event. In the 2nd case we get to start over in another case of "is this Thing real?". To avoid reductio ad infinitum we have to accept that at some point there must be a final cycle, an ultimate reality. This proves the existence of an ultimate principle, which is substrate to the transitory objects and phenomenons. This position is held by Kashmir Shaivism which places Shiva as the ultimate substrate.