Effective access to Buddhist analysis


Michael: Standing erect and chatting at Sam’s Life Party.

CSH: So Michael was saying that the best way to succinctly explain Buddhist metaphysics to novices is to use the mereological nihilism account. With this difference:

  • You need to stress hard that the End Phenomenon or goal of all this rigorous picturing is not just an intellectual (intra-pictorial) understanding of mereological nihilism, but an existential catastrophe that includes the mapper.

[This, by the way, is always what is meant by an intellectual understanding—it is to understand something well enough to explain its parts (and their component parts) and show how they fit together. But a properly performed Buddhist analysis will yield annihilation.]

All that is solid melts into air and the static lattice that holds 3-space into a stable home base is no exception.

Mereological nihilism is hard to get. Take the unreality of a car, for example. Even after we perform the analysis, we are still sitting in something. We are still driving something. So there are a lot of reasons to deny the claim, “The car is not real.”

We assert the unreality of something in picture thinking but then deny it in our feeling. There is only an intellectual impact when we say, “Yes, the self—like the car—is a fabrication of language.” [99% of the people who agree that “the car is not real” are only have an intellectual (intra-pictorial) understanding. They are seeing the effects of a destructive analysis from above, but not in situ. To be in a car and fully perceive that “the car is not real” is not easy. The goal of the Buddhist analysis of the self is to render the whole matrix, in that moment, transparent.]

Michael: Hmmm. Fabrication of language. Yes.

CSH: The method: credit reality only to parts that you can empirically posit. In the case of the car: steering wheel, bumper, windshield, etc. In the case of the self, the Buddhist analysis goes:

  1. Rūpa: sense content (passing pixels)
  2. Vedanā: feeling (sympathetic nervous response)
  3. Samjñā: conceptual recognition (language application)
  4. Samskāra: fabricating volitions (automatic reaction)
  5. Vijñāna: consciousness (presence-for)

Michael: Yeah.

CSH: Really, that’s all there is.

So when those things come together in a certain way, you have a “really” localized consciousness that insists that it’s not the totality. Consciousness thinks that it is somehow outside of the totality.

Michael: Hmmm.

CSH: Actually, you’re marinating in the totality. You’re marinating in it all the time. It’s the shit that makes you up. But the “I” thinks that it is over and above and outside the flow of time. Don’t you have that sense?

Michael: Yeah.

CSH: It’s because you can think of time. If you were in the stream you couldn’t catch the stream running. You have to be outside the stream to see it moving. Because we really do think of ourselves as having a hard ontological kernel at our centers that is ultimately outside the totality.

That is what the self is. You’re an outward-facing point that is not made of the same space-stuff that it is seeing. Where are you really? How much space does self occupy? If I chop off your arm are you still you? You will say Yes, that your real self is the one that listens, thinks, speaks, and wills your doing. [You will finally say that the only essential components of a self are perception and volition.] If I chop off your whole body until you’re just a head, you’ll still insist that you’re “still you.” Where is the “you” that keeps persisting? If I attack your head with a cheese grater or a hand plane, as long as you can still listen, think, and reply to my question (“Tell me when!”), you are still you.

Where is the last piece that, when it goes, you go?

We do not believe that we’re really spatial. People who lose their legs still say they are themselves. That means they never thought they were spatial.

Michael: Yeah. It’s their mind.