It is good to see the discussion developing into deep considerations of the
history (histories?) of the metaphysical understanding of the nature of the
self, the soul, and the world(s) of experience, including the material
universe in which it finds itself.

I do not claim to have any great expertise in understanding Nagarjuna's
approach, but we have to realise that both he and the great exponent of
Vedanta, Adishankara, also known as Shankaracharya (meaning teacher of
liberation), are said to have used almost identical formulations, albeit
with a different emphasis. While Nagarjuna used the concept of emptiness as
the foundation, Adishankara stayed within the traditional Vedic scheme
where 'fullness' or completeness / wholeness is regarded as fundamental.

While it is certainly true that to experience the 'self' clearly, all
mental content has to allowed to settle down and fade away (one aspect of
'Chitta Vritti Nirodha', a definition of Yoga) the condition for
maintaining that stably is that the subtle energy, prana (life-breath),
should be enlivened fully, which is why the enlivenment (ayama) of prana
i.e. pranaayama (normal spelling pranayama, in which the long 'a' is not
explicitly emphasised) is a fundamental Yoga exercise, usually practised
before meditation (Dhyana) practices in which the mind moves to its empty
state (samadhi). As can be seen, increasing the prana (life-energy) to a
state of fullness is thus an integral part of attaining a stable state of
pure consciousness (samadhi).

It is the fullness of the state of prana that stabilizes the mind from
influences that might bring it out of samadhi. In particular, various
emotions can block the flows of subtle energies (several websites explain
this in detail e.g. Google on acupuncture meridians - emotions). Fullness
of prana is thus considered equivalent to emotional stability, which
requires balanced positive emotions and feelings.

Both Nagarjuna and Adishankara are then concerned with how it is that
all-that-exists emerges from the original absolute. Nagarjuna evidently
shows that all things including all sentient beings have a 'dependent'
existence - they do not exist in and of themselves. Adishankara on the
other hand uses Vedic physics and metaphysics to trace how they emerge at
various levels of perception. The essence of his argument is to show how
the mental sensory apparatus came from the original source / Absolute, and
thus how all objects of sensation can be traced back there.

In modern terms, all things we have ever experientially encountered are
quantum fields, and all quantum fields seem to have emerged from the Big
Bang via the process of symmetry breaking at its source - the inflationary
process. But symmetry breaking is an instability, and when one inspects the
information states that that instability supports, they turn out to have a
similar structure to O=======>, the one proposed in the material that was

I feel that the role and significance of instabilities in the physical
world, particularly life processes, has not been adequately expounded and
that we may only be beginning to understand them.

I hope this helps.


On 30 April 2016 at 08:18, steven bindeman <> wrote:

> I hope the following passage I’ve written on Nagarjuna will be of use for
> this discussion on the nature of self. The passage is from a manuscript
> I’ve just completed on silence and postmodernism.
> Nagarjuna’s thinking is deeply conversant with silence and with the use of
> paradox as well. For him, contradictory things are never “either/or,” but
> are always “both/and.” Refusing to choose between opposing metaphysical
> problems, he would recommend responding through silence instead. For an
> example of his reductive reasoning process, consider the following:
> Whatever is dependently co-arisen
> That is explained to be emptiness.
> That, being a dependent designation,
> Is itself the middle way.
> Something that is not dependently arisen
> Such a thing does not exist.
> Therefore a nonempty thing
> Does not exist.
> Nagarjuna is criticizing the common paradoxical occurrence that when we
> attribute abstract concepts (“something that does not dependently exist”)
> like emptiness to the status of “reality” (like we do with the Platonic
> forms), then they seem to be applicable to everything, while on the other
> hand when we emphasize instead the individual uniqueness and particularity
> of any one thing (“whatever is dependently co-arisen”), this emphasis makes
> it impossible to  categorize its likeness with other things. Nagarjuna’s
> point is that the abstract concept of emptiness and the concrete nature of
> any particular empty thing are in fact codependent. He calls this
> codependency “Conditioned Arising.” His “middle way” resolves the paradox
> by viewing neither the abstract idea nor the concrete thing as having a
> separate reality — both instead are characterized as “‘thought
> constructions’ founded on experience.’ As such, they are not absolutely
> real or absolutely unreal. …This middle path could thus be adopted in
> understanding all forms of experience, whether they be linguistic, social,
> political, moral, or religious.”
> Another way of approaching an understanding of the middle way has to do
> with recognizing it as constituting a resolution of the identity/difference
> problem.  According to standard Buddhist doctrine the most dangerous false
> view possible is the belief in a permanent, independent self (also commonly
> referred to as the concept of identity). This notion of self is symptomatic
> of our deepest fears, concerning things like death and the possibility of
> our personal nonexistence. The concept of difference, which is the other
> side of the problem, is the belief that nothing is real; it also asserts
> the absence of all identities. This position would lead to the most mundane
> things becoming unintelligible. Nagarjuna’s solution to this problem is his
> assertion that neither identity nor difference is real. Both notions, when
> seen properly, are “empty” of self-essence. They can exist only together
> and not separately. Nagarjuna’s way of resolving this problem, by
> pointing to the interdependency of identity and difference, is remarkably
> similar to the one proposed by Merleau-Ponty many years later.
> Steve Bindeman
> _______________________________________________
> Fis mailing list

Alex Hankey M.A. (Cantab.) PhD (M.I.T.)
Distinguished Professor of Yoga and Physical Science,
SVYASA, Eknath Bhavan, 19 Gavipuram Circle
Bangalore 560019, Karnataka, India
Mobile (Intn'l): +44 7710 534195
Mobile (India) +91 900 800 8789

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