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January 20, 2015

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As layman M. rightly discerns, it is indeed true the pitfalls of the atomist in regard to Zen is peculiar indeed. Most of the atomists I know are relatively good people, so it's hard to tell the ultimate direction of someone's path. That is why the Buddha -- well he didn't exactly scold the atomists, but he admonished his disciples neither to cling to fixed views, nor to appearances, and always said to practice right contemplation. Perhaps with reflection upon dependent co-existence of all dharmas they will begin to evolve toward right understanding.

(I mean Āgama)

Madhyamaka is a remedial teaching that was appropriate for negating a certain Abdhidharmic atomism which posited discrete thought-moments as self-existing entities (like N.Yeti mentioned). As an antidote it only makes sense in the context of the poison.

Yogācāra on the contrary is a much fuller system, a synthesis, which contains the ideas of dependent-origination qua emptiness, but at the same time returns to the original teachings of the Nikayas.

Previously I thought that we had to wait for Chinese Buddhists to get a full, systematic presentation of the Dharma (Huayan, Tiantai)

But actually, the synthesis has been already done by Indian Yogācārins (Uttaratantra).

It seems the teachings on emptiness were directed primarily toward atomists -- i.e., people who unable to explain their apparent existence as a worldly being, subject to conditionality and death, which by some means people yearn to have explained, either through self inquiry or didactic means, so they can understand where they fit in to the reality they see before them.

At some point Buddha turned away from the material nature of reality and looked to these deeper inward questions, knowing intuitively he would only find the answers to existence by delving deep into the (illusory, he discovered) sense of self which arises in the mind.

So emptiness is the medicine, which in a proper dose, frees the mind from attachment to the notion of existence as dependent upon physical form, the senses, and thought formation (the aggregates) and all such things which lead to the perception that something arises from nothing.

Materialists, schooled in our world's most advanced sciences, which have barely even penetrated the most basic of ontological questions, are unable to look beyond appearances. They are like children who think light turns on in a room magically by flicking a switch, without understanding the means by which electricity functions. They see only the most simple and rudimentary causes. They are like chimps poking at an anthill with a stick.

Since there is no better explanation through science, they convince themselves consciousness must arise spontaneously due to excitement of inert matter which supposedly through continuous exposure to physical energy (light) and biochemical processes no one has been able to reproduce in a laboratory, develops consciousness mechanisms such as sense forms, and eventually starts to acquire intelligence. The culmination of this evolution of intelligence is a species which has been unable to resolve the most basic of conditions for survival of our species, and continually subjects itself to all forms violence, exploitation, and degradation and harm.

In fact, the world of science is indistinguishable from the world of primitive man smashing each others brains out over food, shelter and mates -- the brutality of our condition has in no way been reduced through better understanding of our physical world. So I would hope even materialists can see there are questions unanswered by science as to how these conditions come into being.

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