Non-duality: Madhyamika, Yogacara, and Zen Essays

Non-duality: Madhyamika, Yogacara, and Zen Essays

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Buddhism first developed in India by Siddhartha Gautama as a means to end suffering. Nirvana could ultimately be achieved with adherence to the Four Noble Truths and the middle way. The Mahayana tradition arose within Buddhist with different interpretations of Buddha’s teachings and new ideals. It emphasized the role of the bodhisattva and the bodhisattva path as the means to attain enlightenment, or Buddhahood. The nature of the Buddha is no longer equivalent to that of the arhant, rather, he is beyond the level of the arhant; he is a transcended being. Within Mahayana, Madhyamika and Yogacara philosophical schools developed in India and the Zen tradition arose once Buddhism spread to East Asia. While Madhyamika, Yogacara, and Zen emphasize several different concepts in an effort to attain enlightenment, all three adhere to the Mahayana doctrine of emptiness and non-duality.
At the core of the Mahayana doctrine of emptiness lays in the early Buddhist belief in anatman, or no self. There is both a spiritual and material part to human nature, but it is the “moral identity that survives death and is reborn” (Prebish and Keown 56). The concept of anatman eliminates attachment to the material by claiming that an individual has no real core, or soul, and the five skandhas, or aggregates of attachment, namely the material form, feelings, perceptions, mental formations and consciousness, provides evidence. “It is held that none of the five skandhas are able to exist in the absence of the other four” (Hershock). Desire is one of the main causes of suffering, and the five aggregates are the objects of desire. Dependent origination holds that everything is conditioned and “lack intrinsic being of their own” (Prebish and Keown 49)...


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...anslation can be seen in translating emptiness. If emptiness is translated as upaya, or skillful means, then emptiness is a way of eliminating attachment to all views by criticizing them much like Nagarjuna does. “Emptiness potentially can liberate or trap one further into greater conceptual illusions” (Low 133). The trap occurs when the view is not is not ultimately true.
Enlightenment is central to Buddhism; it is a form of freedom. Madhyamika, Yogacara, and Zen have different ways of interpreting the different stages of enlightenment, but they all hold that the realization of enlightenment means having the wisdom to view reality in its natural form. All sentient beings and dharmas are empty and free from the subject-object dualism. Once the individual understands the impermanence of reality, the individual has attained wisdom and therefore enlightenment.

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