Advanced Methods of Reasoning Explained

On Tuesday 8 April 2014, Geshe Sonam continued his commentary on the insight chapters of Lama Tsongkhapa's middle-length lam-rim. The ' wisdom of hearing' has to be backed up by the 'wisdom of reflection and analysis'. But we need to ensure that our analysis is valid. There are various methods of reasoning that the great yogi-scholars have used, and Geshe-la explained some of these. They are really quite advanced!


8 April 2014

Developing Bodhicitta


From the ground-like equanimity

The moisture of loving-kindness issues forth…


Equanimity is likened to the ground: it encompasses all sentient beings equally. This is the same type of equanimity as in the Six Causes and One Effect method for generating bodhicitta. 


Asanga’s Seven Quintessential Steps in Generating Bodhicitta

Preliminary Step:     Generate equanimity

Instruction No.     1. Recognize all sentient beings as your mother

            2. Reflect on their kindness

            3. Develop an intention to repay their kindness

            4. Develop (great) love

            5. Develop (great) compassion

            6. Generate the special altruistic attitude

            7. Generate Bodhicitta


In Asanga’s method, we consider that friend, stranger and enemy have all benefitted us and harmed us equally over beginningless time. In Shantideva’s method, we reflect on the basic sameness of all beings, only wanting happiness and avoiding suffering, and their kindness to us. This is the more powerful method.


A farmer first clears and levels the ground to make it free of debris. Then he moistens the soil. This is possible because of the first step. Now when a seed is planted it will grow. When the prepared ground is moistened with loving-kindness then great compassion will grow. The youthful tree of bodhicitta develops. Uncontrived loving-kindness (‘affectionate love’), equanimity and compassion are the causes of the mind of enlightenment.


In the Mahayana vehicle, the mind of enlightenment is indispensable. In Hinayana, the mind of enlightenment is not necessary. Both traditions require the wisdom realizing emptiness. Bodhicitta antidotes our primary source of difficulties: our self-cherishing mind. Realizing emptiness cannot do this. Sravakas and Pratyekabuddhas still have the self-cherishing thought. 


The two main obstacles to enlightenment are self-grasping and self-cherishing. Antidotes are ultimate and relative bodhicitta respectively. Gompopa the forefather of the Kagyu tradition said that the innate cause of buddhahood is within us. But we need to meet a spiritual teacher who can help us ripen the inner quality of buddhanature. The outer cause is the spiritual master who gives the method to attain the goal. The Six Perfections are taught to ripen our inner potential. There is also the four means of attracting disciples. But it is up to us to practise. This gives potency to our innate buddhanature. Then it will manifest. If you lock a potent seed in a dry box, it will remain there for years. It needs moisture, sunlight, warmth and minerals to germinate. Similarly the Six Perfections are the conditions for our buddhanature to grow into bodhicitta. 


How to Abandon the False Concept of the Self

As Taught in the Buddha’s Sutras

We need to generate a valid mind that is directly opposed to the mistaken mind. We need to harm the false apprehension of a self. This is the meaning of meditating on the (erroneous) object to be refuted. The mind needs to enter suchness, selflessness and emptiness or the apprehension of a self cannot be stopped. Conversely, if you do not correctly uproot the erroneous way we engage with objects, you can’t realise selflessness. 


‘Method and Wisdom’ are the two paths required to antidote the mistaken consciousness. We engage in the preliminaries, the practice and the dedication. We live within a conviction of the validity of the law of cause and effect. We remove clinging to this life and future lives. The seven-limb practice purifies and accumulates merit. We practise the Dharma through the three trainings of ethics, concentration and wisdom. The ethical restraint of the bodhisattva vows protects us from self-cherishing. On the basis of this ethical conduct, you ‘give work to mindfulness and introspection’. Remembering our vows, we decide on appropriate actions. Spy-like introspection checks that the mind is going towards virtuous states. Mindfulness and introspection need to be grounded in conscientiousness. The upright person goes to sleep and wakes thinking of his Buddhist vows.


Mindfulness and introspection are the tools you need for calm abiding, then wisdom can come into play. There are three ‘wisdoms’:


The Three Wisdoms

  1. The wisdom of hearing
  2. The wisdom of reflecting
  3. The wisdom of meditating


Hearing the teachings on emptiness, one has doubt tending towards an understanding. The wisdom of hearing is unstable as it is not backed up by conviction that is based in valid cognition. That is why one needs the wisdom of reflection and analysis. To help, one can use the ‘four reasonings’:


The Four Reasonings

  1. Pervasion
  2. Function
  3. Dependence
  4. Reality


Buddha saw that all beings suffer because they adhere to to the true existence of phenomena. All worldly phenomena are compound things and therefore can’t be inherently existent. Buddha saw the ‘non-production of causes, entities and results’. Our perception is mistaken on a causal level, on the level of characteristics of the entity, and on a resultant level. These ‘three doors of liberation’ an be analysed using specific reasonings.


The Three Doors of Liberation (from Nagarjuna)

  1. Causal level: Use reasoning of vajra strands to refute.
  2. Level of the Entity: Use reasoning of not truly one or many
  3. Resultant level: Use reasoning of not truly existent or truly non-existent at the time of the cause.


The King of Reasonings (from Nagarjuna) covers all three levels: this is the reasoning of dependent arising, that cuts both extremes of eternalism and nihilism. The three doors refute the extreme of eternalism in order to establish emptiness. 


These four reasonings of Nagarjuna come under the class of ‘reasonings of pervasion’. If a thing is a dependent arising, it is necessarily not truly existent. This logic has a pervasive quality. The sprout doesn’t truly exist because it is a dependent arising. Another example: Take a vase. It is impermanent because it is a compound thing.


Pervasion has a correlation with the reasoning of function. ‘Outer phenomena’ are those sensed by the five physical sense faculties. ‘Inner phenomena’ are those sensed by the non-physical mental faculty of consciousness. Fire has the function to heat and burn. Water has the function of moistening and quenching thirst. What about consciousness and the fifty-one mental factors? Mental factors have the nature of consciousness, but are designated separately from the viewpoint of their various functions. Some give rise to happiness, others to suffering. On an external level, we can discriminate, “This harms me. That benefits me.” The six disturbing emotions (attachment, anger, pride, ignorance, afflictive doubt, afflictive views) cause harm for example. Anger or aversion has the function of robbing the mind of its peace. It has this unfortunate characteristic or demerit. Therefore, one should strive to get rid of the causes of that function. ‘Mental unrest’ precedes anger and is a cause of anger. This unhappy mind leads to anger. One needs to understand how mental unrest and anger function, then what their causes are, then one can apply antidotes.


The reasoning of dependence is basically ‘dependent arising’ or the law of cause and effect. From understanding the function that causes suffering one deduces the causes. In general, the causes are ‘mental constructs’ not based on valid logic – ‘hallucinations of the mind’. One decides not to produce these causes in the future.


The reasoning of reality is to do with the ‘nature of things’. For example, it is the nature of things that whatever is a result has a cause. It is the nature of things that fire blazes upwards and that water falls downwards. Eventually, the wisdom of reflection using the four reasonings becomes the mind of inference that allows us to realise the nature of reality.

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