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May 02, 2011

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Thank you for the link. I had read the Zennist previous post, Seeing the gold.

Clyde,

I think my observation about the preciousness (value) of the gold has been interpreted by you as something separable from the metaphor of its reality. It almost seems like paring it down to value as distinct from questions of reality/substance means for you that you could accept that Mind is of relatively more value than phenomena, but not that it is a real substance while phenomena are mere empty formations. For you then, Mind is just another formation empty in the same way that phenomena are and your acceptance of a relative valuation of it is of the nature of a marketplace choice, all things being equal you choose Mind for certain qualities that please you like someone in a candy store might have a favorite candy though all the varieties available share the same basic nature as sugar concoctions.

One of the problems with this is that the designation "empty" for the Buddha with regard to phenomena is a negative evaluative term, which is clear from the negative epithets that often accompany it (eg "inconstant, stressful, a disease, a cancer, an arrow, painful, an affliction, alien, a disintegration, an emptiness, not-self. He turns his mind away from those phenomena"). For the Buddha to say phenomena are empty is for him to say they are worthless or worthy only of abandonment for the sake of the one who abandons them like a disease one hopes to be free of.

Because the value really is about the wise discrimination between what is fragile and what is unfragile so it proceeds from the metaphor's distinction of reality, not aside from it.

In the metaphor, the form is the fragile and the gold is the unfragile. For the Buddha, impermanent phenomena are devalued as mere formations and Mind-only is the ultimate value. This evaluation is not separate from knowledge of the distinctions about existence (the fundamental substance vs the unreal formation).

Clyde, maybe it could work for you also if you bothered to read Fa-Tsang's Essay on the Gold Lion. Check out this, http://bit.ly/jFeoDQ

It seems the metaphor works for you. If the metaphor had been about value (“the preciousness of the gold itself”) and not about existence (“the fundamental substance”), perhaps it would have worked for me.

clyde


p.s: Ribbit.

Clyde,
All metaphors are ultimately inadequate;
So to criticize the metaphor on the grounds that you have is absurd, and your prefatory comment shows that you should know better; as I like to say, it's like criticizing the Buddha for likening Arhats to swans, mere animals who behave guided by base instinct alone. Of course to do so is to misunderstand the application of the metaphor and the quality being used as an example and we all know it's not the nature of the comparison between arhats and swans. This implicit understanding applies to ANY OTHER OF THE HUNDREDS OF SIMILES THE BUDDHA HABITUALLY USED; or any simile whatsoever anywhere. So don't be absurd.

But if you require to discuss how gold works in this metaphor, we can try it.

OF COURSE even elemental gold is merely a form or phenomena and so does not fundamentally exist, but the important thing is what is the gold relative to the shape of the gold lion.

Just one example of the reasons the gold is "more real" in the relative context of the metaphor itself is that you can heat that gold lion up and melt away or even hammer out the form of the lion, destroying it, but you are not harming the gold in any way; it remains as raw substance. You can form that gold into myriad shapes but there is neither ontological identity between the gold and the various shapes nor is the gold subject to the deformations of those shapes. If you melt the statue down and form it into a statue of a Buddha, it is clearly no longer a lion, but what has not changed is the identity of the gold as gold. Someone caught up in forms, for example, might not see the preciousness of the gold itself and when the lion-shape is destroyed they might lament and beat their breast thinking that something has been lost. Does that make any more sense to you?

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