Philosophy 312: Oriental Philosophy
Abstract: Insight into the characteristics of an enlightened person is given with the character development of Vasudeva.I. (The ferryman was right—Siddhartha comes back.) Learning from the river involves process-learning, not product-learning.
1. Siddhartha's cleverness could prove Achilles can never pass the
tortoise if time and space are infinitely divisible. Practically,
of course, there is no question that Achilles can pass the
b. Heraclitus: "You cannot step twice into the same river for fresh waters are ever flowing upon you."
b. How does language work? How do we name things rightly? Suppose a new engine goes in a car and, over the years the hood, front fenders, tires, drive shaft, and so forth and each are in turn replaced. At what point is the car a different car? (Suppose another car is made out of the discarded parts. When is the "new" car the "old" car?).
c. The problem of personal identity is a similar problem. Are you the same person you were yesterday? Are you the same person you were as a baby? Somehow you were that person, but are not now, yet there seems to be a persistent "you" that changes over time.
d. How do we know the river is the same river? How does "knowledge" work here? Consider the conditional statement:
"If I strike this match, the match lights."
However, I can never strike the same match twice, so how could I possibly know it will light? Can the match being referred to in the antecedent be the same match being referred to in the consequent of the conditional? (The first referent is unstruck and unlit—unlike the referent in the consequent).
3. The answer to the question of permanence is that the general form of the thing is abstracted by active intellect.
b. I.e., there are laws of change—the abstracted features of things. Consider the essence of what it is to be a "dog." (Do all dogs bark, have four legs, a tail, etc.?)
Consider, as well, what it is to be your personal essence (your logos, your character; your Buddha nature; how you are disposed to behave in circumstances x, y, and z).
This is your essence, your soul. Your "stamp" is revealed more by how you do things than what things you do.
II. Some general characteristics of Vasudeva suggest why he is a holy man.
2. Vasudeva looks not at what is said but why a person says what is said. Vasudeva is non-judgmental.
2. Vasudeva recognizes the wisdom of nature—literally, without our interference, things are just fine and are as they should be. (Consider the psychological conception of being an "enabler" for someone else's addiction. An "enabler" in this sense is someone who unintentionally helps support a bad habit by protecting or making excuses for the other person.)
3. When we wish to be different, oftentimes, we are at odds with what we are—by rejecting self, we choose our unhappiness. Hence, there is an opportunity cost when we try to become or to be somebody. (When we seek to improve ourselves, are we affirming that what we are is inadequate?)
4. Again, this is the idea echoed by many writers: Be careful who you pretend to be for that you will surely become. (I.e., something different from what you are, your Buddha-nature.)
5. Remember in fairy stories involving three wishes—the third wish is often used to reject the other two so that the one can go back to where one was before the wishes appeared..
C. The consequential characteristic of the foregoing is that
Vasudeva could listen—he
did not praise or blame or judge.
2. So in talking to Vasudeva, one is, in effect, talking to oneself.
3. For Vasudeva, nothing is, in itself, either good or bad, except thinking which makes it so.
2. We often become so concerned about our own world that we no longer live in the intersubjective world.
2. Without hindrances, we should not act—life would be passive. (Without hindrances, as soon as a thing is thought, it would be done.)
3. In one sense, hindrances are to be welcomed since they are our opportunity to be.
4. Or, to put it another way, there is no such thing as a hindrance or an obstacle except thinking which makes it that way. Hindrances are optional.
b. Most of us expect the world to be right for us—the world is impersonal just as we should be impersonal (i.e., we need not take events personally, anthropologically, or egotistically).
c. Each unexpected hindrance thwarts our purpose, but our purpose itself can be seen as a hindrance if it were not chosen. In this sense, ordinary hindrances can themselves be seen as subpurposes or phases to the goal.
d. No job is big or little, important or unimportant. Consider what is meant by the phrase, "It comes with the territory" when we do a job and encounter hindrance.
D. There is no such thing as time—the river is everywhere at
the same time. (The basis of the Buddhist doctrine
2. Discovering the properties of what kinds of things exist in the universe takes time—but the things we learn about already exist—all at the same time.
3. Whether we are examining an object or whether we are examining our life, there is no past, present, or future. Time is relative to the individual's ego. Consider the analogy:
part is to whole as now is to your life process
b. My complete life is in no time; distance in time is considered to be verification. (Consider time as you would space.)
(2) The nature of a statement is that future truths are in a sense true now. (E.g., "It will rain tomorrow" is true now even though we do not know it is true now and we need wait for verification.) Put more clearly, "Truth is timeless."
(3) You can "read" someone's whole life as you would a collage of that person. If you know the logos, you know the nature of that person. To understand what a person is, we have to understand all periods of that person's life. In other worlds, thinking back to an earlier time, we don't think of that person as being different from what that person is now; we think of that person at that age.
(4) Hence the meaning of thoughts of Unity [94B]—we can see past, present, and future at the same time.
(5) Without time, there is no sorrow, hope, fear, aspiration.
IV. Kamala and her willful son.
B. Seeing Siddhartha was just as good as Gotama—because Siddhartha is the Buddha.
2. If you see the Buddha on the road, kill him!" What you see on the road is not what you are. Everything has a Buddha-nature. She saw Siddhartha as he was, even though Siddhartha did not yet.
Space is like time. Picture yourself on your way home. The street corner you pass is gone when you pass it, but it's still there from the standpoint of the unity of the whole. Consider it this way: it's there forever as one part of the whole.
Karma Triyana Dharmachak-— H. E. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, " Wisdom of Meditation."