In dream, a verse of a cheesy song I came up with on the toilet developed into a fugal exposition. Wherever I cry, flowers bloom––1Too many girls have misunderstood this. I only mean that I like to make art when feeling intensely. Well, maybe a little more…
Fugue is flight. Die Kunst der Fuge. Wouldn’t we all like to know? Flight from fear? Flight from pain? Flight––from itself! From a motif recurring with variation. Transposed, translated, dilated, reversed, permuted in every which way.
“How like life!” I exclaim with just enough irony to deflect the painful accusations of cliché I somehow fear. Fleeing… just fast enough, by a little variation.
A flight from self as if there was a self. A self-made self, made “self” by its recurrence (with variation). There it is, and there it is again, until it becomes something.
Shenxiu btfo! As if he was taking himself too seriously. As if he really wanted to be the sixth patriarch. An imagined self, made real enough by desire to feel the pain of not existing, or of being lost. “At all times we must strive to polish it; and must not let dust collect”––implying a teleology. And a teleology from desire is most wretched. To confound fate and fetish: “this must be destined because this is best.” As if blind to the subject who can only say “best” while wanting “what’s best.” The basis of delusion.
“Fundamentally there is not a single thing.” Perhaps we do not need to go so far. But at least then there is nowhere for dust to collect. Or, there is nothing to desire, and nothing to impose (on). Because the imposed image will fade. The yidam is only a symbol. Because to induce is to violate, but the inviolable cycles will overcome you yet. So induced joy is inauspicious.
引兑 (yin dui), ཡི་དམ (yidam), and induce. Like yada yada yada. Like the smallest letter, י (yod). As featured in the Gospel of Saint Matthew––”For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Iota (ι), a variation on yod. I, a variation on iota. 引兑，未光；来兑，凶––but, you’re kind of 凶 sometimes too… (🥺)
No, no. This is the stuff that really matters. It’s history! Much sturdier than nonsense. It is about tracing to a consensual reality. Because practically it is easier to agree on “this happened; this (event) is related to that; this is worth imitating; this is not,” than on a construction of abstractions on abstractions ad infinitum, where even relation is quite arbitrary, not to speak of value, or intent. At least the past is a better symbol of the present than whatever else.
To the girl who would always spin whenever I held her hand and said, “spin!”: thank you for always spinning. And to the girl who stopped talking to me forever more after I said, “it’s very painful to talk to you”: thank you for that too. How very simple! It is a sweet and savory ironic tension when I say something very reasonable but do not believe myself. I think they called it “narrative irony” in school, as long as I am supposed to be narrating. Well, here I am narrating after all. So there is your irony, s’il vous plaît.
Narrating as if something were writhing to be released. Yet, with restraint, subduing as if wrestling an animal with ropes. As if it’s bad to feel too much, or too intensely. To feel too good, and leave others behind. Or to feel too bad, as if teaching a child about insincerity. That kind of display.
Or wrestling as if narration were barbed wire, or something more dangerous yet. Because to be unskillful is to kill. Flight by following; to follow and vary, but not to destroy. To develop a theme without diluting or overpowering it, while effortfully maintaining an itself, so that there is something to follow. That kind of fugal accompaniment.
To exercise restraint, reminding us of why such lengths are taken about how the natural state is actually just right there. So much metaphor, about mistaking the moon pointed at for the finger pointing. Or a rope in the garden for a snake.
Is it really so difficult to let everything be just as it is? As if it were ugly to be the wrong thing. To be unprepared. As if we were always skillfully skirting around and avoiding a fundamentally ugly world. What are we afraid to show children, as if to profane them? Is it ugly to explode? Well, probably in fugue it would be. Yes, to the spectators, and especially to the performer who is familiar with past iterations in study and practice. So, we are performing…
Trying to put in a moral again. Trying to iterate on a theme. Trying to breach the ephemeral. To capture. To mean, as if meaning were not itself already a very restrictive intent. To accidentally make beauty subservient to theory and art. Even while playing, to show that we are at play.
Because to interpret already carries an intent that is too easy to project empathetically. Absurdity need not intend to be absurd. Nor need pattern intend its pattern. But a fugue is a fugue, and not everything is a fugue. Not everything flees from itself. Because we say so? Because we agree? But that “because” is an intent again; a theme too strong to ignore. A motif we cannot flee from. A formal constraint too strong.
No, I have not been reading James Joyce. No, not Ezra Pound either. Not any of them. Anyway, the original verse I came up with on the toilet:
No more flight from pain,
Cuz wherever I cry, flowers bloom.
Oh the colors!
And wherever I lie, signs of doom.
But, of course it cannot be about love. At least it cannot be about love always. I flee.
First a disclaimer, and a warning! I write here for who sees, who has attained the Dao and wishes to share it. To the enlightened one who seeks in compassion. To whom has crossed the Abyss, and is thence led here and further yet. This is for no “I,” but only for all forever and everywhere. This is no key but a map to weapons.
To the aspirant “beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do,” turn away! This is a book “without pictures or conversation.” For you, there is no point.
Here my names are 立德 (L.D., 50 and 500), oblitero omnis obscurantis, profectus progressus processus perfectus (a translation from 元亨利真, the I Ching motif), quo qua qui qua quo (which I endeavor to answer).
I shall not be as the White Rabbit, nor much as the Caterpillar who asks, “who are YOU?” nor even as the Cheshire Cat who tells you what lies in each direction. Here you are already at the tea-party, I must assume. I suggest some nonsense riddles without answer, and which you may find quite stupid, but thereby find yourself quite suddenly in the beautiful garden at the croquet-game.
Eureka, and this is Our Will. Therefore I am shrouded in Twilight to turn away the delusional creatures who are led by either the Light or the Darkness, but that the blind and the agnostic may gain thereof, of sweet nectar and strong weapons, thereby to benefit all!
Alice in a Hall of Mirrors; Aphorisms for the Wise
Contrasts in contrasts, worlds in worlds, Truth even amidst it, and truly inseparable and inutterable, but only in a very literal sense.
The Serpent in two great forms, the Ouroborous and the Helix. Such symbols are pervasive and not exclusive, indeed without “taking” space nor time nor anything. The different symbol-sets all span everything and capture one another. The Avatamsaka Sutra does not even come close to doing justice to it all.
Why the mystic tongue? What am I communicating to you now? All the mystics were right, and obviously not in the sense commonly conceived, and you know exactly what I mean. Here is a tongue for navigating this. I think it helps very much.
This is magic and science and whimsy. This is a thread (tantra) of hopeless effortless action. This is will-less Will, as nothing when deeply probed, but called “de” and “dao” and various other things.
Look what I am doing, and perhaps imitate me in that way. The meta-meta-meta-meta-patterns which matter. Even putting it into conceivable forms, notice and feel and whatever. Know that, and of what I am right, and follow. Therefore this is leading by example to answer quo qua qui qua quo, in all senses.
This is an effort to aid the navigation of those already here, whom I may call “magicians” and “mystics.” Here is an effort to radically change the world through words, and in no conventional “scientific” way, therefore a “spell” and a “mantra.” Here also is my putting it into the world by my hands and movements, in accordance with the existing media and infrastructure and forms and pathways, therefore a “ritual” and a “mudra.”
Here and Next
The Abyss itself is only the rabbit-hole again, and there is much again beyond it. Everything is fractals in fractals, and everywhere you are you shall find great infinities ahead and behind. Even immediately ahead is a Pool of Tears.
‘Well!’ thought Alice to herself, ‘after such a fall as this, I shall think nothing of tumbling down stairs! How brave they’ll all think me at home! Why, I wouldn’t say anything about it, even if I fell off the top of the house!’ (Which was very likely true.)
Alice in Wonderland, ch. 1
Here was a benefit of falling down, and of course there is much more. The adventures continue and recurse ever and ever. Surrender yourself [not to God, nor to Chaos, not to All nor None,](of course, this much is obvious) but only to whimsy, and not that either.
At every moment there is a choice, to live or to die. And that choice is made from various recursive and interweaving subjectivities. So the mind that says “I” chooses first to die, but not the body. And another part again dies and dies until you are left with whatever, or not. But you must be alive to be here at least, and what then? Again as the Footman answered unto Alice, and in the advice of the Caterpillar and the Hatter and every other which wise inhabitant, whatever. But some things are wrong—and I bid you as Alice’s guides did, firmly but conditionally, to do your best to avoid them.
Therefore all this is whimsy and nonsense, and as I have assumed you are already here, and know of what I speak. What now? I have sought to learn magic, and indeed this is magic. I have sought to learn science, and indeed this is science. There is still sense outside of Wonderland, and therefore value to be found even in words like these. That others, bored of the riverbank and the books, should see you and be lead to that 众妙之门.
Much is obvious, again in terrible and marvelous recursive layers of Truth ad infinitum, that given Wisdom’s Sword, (which I presume you have) which was also the Key to the fifteen-inches-high door, you may cut through yourself, and I shall not bother much with these things. You know them already and love much to be reminded, but I will not to so waste your time. Therefore struggle and flail. All the mystics were right as always. Yes, beyond all the deaths is beauty but also pain and also madness, and in exactly this sense.
Here is an instruction, feeble and incomplete and much to be continued, for the aspiring White Rabbit.
Summertime, Shanghai. Having imbibed previously much magical wine, and now the rays of moonlight (I recall it was a full moon; perhaps the fullest of the year; something significant), Selene shew unto me something sublime, which I have long kept sacred. Verily a Scourge was bestowed unto me, ephemeral blue. And I was later told that this is the ancient symbolic color of snake-skin.
I also saw that night a dream, and another dream I cannot remember well. But the one I can remember is this: that there were many horses, who galloped all about Abyss, great and terrible. And with the scourge in my right hand, I too galloped amid the horses and encouraged them into the Abyss.
The next day I spoke of the first vision to a friend (the Shanghai urbanite whose company I was staying at, and who was my connection to the Daoist underground), but without mentioning the dream. And he asked me whether the scourge was given for me to lash myself or others, and I realized that it was for both.
I’ve crystallized my Will and made it manifest in these fun little things. Therefore I am 立德, initialed L.D. (50 and 500, but also “Liddell,” Alice), and O.O.O. oblitero omnis obscurantis, and P.P.P.P. profectus progressus processus perfectus, and Q.Q.Q.Q.Q. quo qua qui qua quo. OPQ, 345…
I can say that the significance of the Daoist master’s words to me was in telling me my aspiration name. I’ve been given a Catholic Baptism in the Baptist church, been empowered by an authentic lineage Daoist master, been confirmed to have strong Buddha-fate (佛缘) by an ordained Chan monk. Lots of fun things. Coincidences if you will. Powerful ones.
Go look at the Greek and Hebrew gematria for 50, 500, and 550 (L, D, DL). Lots of relevance. From some article I once read, or maybe some rumor I heard, somebody showed gematria is no better than random chance; probably true—therefore useless to the fool. But therefore the wise may understand, may gather something from amid the vast chaos, something to act on, from which to act.
To the wise then, I explain a mechanism of the spell or the divination or the other magical item, which is by no means (probably) the only mechanism: it is something to grasp, and something powerful. Amid the overwhelming and useless EVERYTHING, it is something, and through that SOMETHING everything is accomplished.
Variazione I, Rectus
So for example by Googling “550 gematria” we could come across this page, and find
Which happens to fit nicely with the whole scourge thing, and many ideas I’ve already had around it. There are other avenues—550 = 2*5^2*11, and Crowley says somewhere that 11 is the root of all magic. There is more in the 50 and the 500, and in other divisions. There are other points of significance one could spend much time and effort with, perhaps to great fruit. But I have not.
The Sword of Wisdom is a Sword and not a text. It is an instrument to be refined and to be bestowed. Always mind this saliently in your efforts to guide or to help. “Give a man a fish…,” but glimpses at Truth are not fish but opium.
Be as alkahest, and teach the production of alkahest, for the Scourge manifests also as alkahest, as does the Sword. Destroy, destroy, but do your best to inspire rather than frighten! Many have run away from me, fearing perhaps to be dissolved into some terrible delusion of a HIDEOUS NOTHING.
Or else it is fear of change, for I am changing and different and Other. This is the function of the Scourge to solvere pre coagulare, and I am destroying all that is “good” even as I destroy all that is “bad,” while in another sense I am destroying nothing.
See here for a poem on that position from which I stand, beautiful and hideous, helping and hurting with my Sublime Selenian Snakeskin Scourge, herding toward the Abyss, around which they circle but which they enter not! Yes, even I was frightened by the Abyss even as it appeared to me in the dream. And I knew not why I encouraged others to it. But now I know.
The Scourge is of snakeskin to remind of the serpent-forms, which are often a viable terminus. We reduce and reduce, then choose to live or to die. That which lives, lives often as the serpent, as the ouroboros, and as the helix, but one in another in another again, ubiquitous and reflexive and recursively interweaved! Ah!
Omniscient omnipresent Serpent, Thou hast formed Thyself for the Scourge and hast granted thyself unto me by thy servant Selene! Ten thousand times all glories and praises and gratitudes unto you! But these are but ten thousand platitudes. Yet I cannot but prostrate again and again in worship and adoration, and to sing.
But for you have given me the weapon to be used, so I shall use it. I shall exercise it over and over against all Powers even unto the very ends of my ability, and to the ends of effort and of time! All this for thy glory, and for more even beyond! Beyond, by thy omnipotent alkahest-venom!
Variazione II, Inversus
And then I turn the Scourge onto myself, to encourage and to punish, and to reduce all sins to nothing. 亨真, progressus perfectus. Solve, coagula, and all the rest.
But so I am left with something strange, for even all that good is reduced away to mere this, and even whenever there is something that another adores, it is soon relinquished, and with Solomon I declare, even in my youth, “vanitas vanitatum,” and also “این نیز بگذرد” (“this too shall pass”).
Except I do not declare it, for that would be foolish indeed! Already few hate me, and fewer still love me. And I would do well to revel in the beauty of forms. for in Laozi’s “故常無欲以觀其妙；常有欲以觀其徼,” (my tr.: thus constantly without desiring to sight the marvelous; constantly with desiring to sight the mundane.”) “其徼” (the mundane, the forms, the manifestations, the patterns…) is not meant in any derogatory way! To create, to enjoy, to be all marvelous and splendid and great. A time for everything, and though vain, and more pitiful than the stillborn babe, still to revel especially in the strength of my youth, and in other things too.
So 亨, progressus, the Scourge which is alkahest, but which also makes the horse to run faster. Therefore I apply it to myself, to punish and to remind, but also to improve.
And in its function as alkahest, I am reduced to something strange indeed, which indeed I cannot convey but transiently and imperfectly and incompletely in method and example. Again I say, all the mystics were right. How strange, how perfect, how imperfect; how complete, how incomplete; how beautiful, how hideous! What Laozi called the Dao, I may tangentially call “perfect imperfect whimsy,” which is often called “madness”!
“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.
“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat: “we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”
“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.
“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”
Alice in Wonderland, ch. 6
But even Alice “didn’t think that proved it at all,” indeed even goes on to ask, “And how do you know that you’re mad?”
Well, my answer is simpler than the cat’s. “Because they say so.”
But even so reduced to The Fool’s madness, which is the same as The World’s, I understand myself and am understood by some other, and even in that two, I am given hope, transient and whimsical and hopeless hope, by which the Next, to continue to madly be.
And as the Hatter with his friend the March Hare, we may be “all crowded together at one corner of [the table],” and even tempted to shout, “No room! No room!” But should you insistently sit yourself down regardless like Alice, I also will not hesitate to offer the wine “in an encouraging tone,” though “there isn’t any.”
So here I am even in that effort, as well as others, as the horse touched by the Scourge. And indeed, for whom might understand even far from now (but I shall be more honest and say, perhaps never), the name my parents gave me was 骐.
Variazione III, Ornato
Now, I have given all that I have. I have bestowed upon you my Scourge, as Selene bestowed it upon me, for it has served me very well, and has proven good.
What follows regards what I haven’t yet, and is perhaps best treated as an example of divinatory work. It is my work and not yours, and even if taken to inspire, it should not be followed. Compare this warning with what all other good mystics and magicians have said—ye, they who have been here, they describe it accurately. The faults in their words are understood much better when you attempt to form them yourself.
The motif of the I Ching, 元亨利真, I translate profectus progressus processus perfectus. The senses of each of the words are something like
元 – origin, originate, source, beginning
亨 – development, develop, evolution, growth
利 – profit, reap, benefit, accomplish
真 – completion, perfection, True
They are not isolated from each other, and their parts of speech are ambiguous. They are often together, like 亨真 or 利真. Their senses are actually quite complex and subtle, and I would recommend a thorough study of the I Ching in its entirety, as well as divinatory practice, for understanding further than I could present here.
But for this purpose, “for what it’s worth,” I have noticed that the Scourge should not function alone, but in a set of four, and I have associated it with 亨. With 元 I associate the Bell of the Tibetan Tantrics, and with 真 I associate the Vajra. These symbolisms are actually incredibly close, and a thorough study of Tantric Buddhism could also aid an understanding of the I Ching and Daoist thought by the extensions of this association. Then with 利 I have associated the Scythe, which symbolizes the Harvest but also Death.
The Bell and the Vajra are final, and I have no business for now acting with them. They are not my weapons, though I wish to grant them to others as gifts. For this I have the Scourge, but I now seek the Scythe.
With the Scythe I will bring to completion. Those fit to be harvested into the Buddha-realms, I shall harvest. Those fit to die, I shall kill (and I mean this in many senses—the tantrics and even some sutrics who know of “compassionate killing” will understand, but think also of “ego-death,” for example). The developmental work of the Scourge must be completed. Here in this text is a first lantern, shewn amid the Abyss where I have driven the horses.
In the vision in which I realized these sets of two and four, there was also another set of three instruments. These are the brush, the painted scroll, and the written scroll, which have a directional relation, from the brush to the painted scroll (design), from the painted scroll to the written scroll (ethnography), from the written scroll to the brush (translation). For short, I refer to each instrument as it together with the directional relation from it.
Therefore here are some more loose correspondences, which are not to be taken absolutely but suggestively. I will only say, I understand them and sometimes use them for scaffolding:
Brush – God the Father, Kether (and Daath), Will, Mind, archetypal 0
Painted Scroll – God the Son, Tipharet and Yesod, the “real world,” the territory, archetypal 1
Written Scroll – The Holy Spirit, Malkuth, the “symbolic world,” the map, archetypal 2
The domains of the 2 sets of 2 weapons, the 4 weapons, and the 3 weapons overlap, and each domain encompasses everything. Look again to the Avatamsaka Sutra, to the serpent-forms and the world-symbols, to how everything interweaves! Ah!
Divination works (I am most familiar with the I Ching system), occult analysis works (again I am most familiar with the I Ching, and also somewhat with Kaballah), and magic works. These for all the obvious reasons anyone could agree upon, and perhaps others. You know the Ultimate Truth, and I have nothing more to say.
There is practice beyond perceiving the Dao, which can take many forms. Every mystic who really entered it was right, and there is no great advantage to eclecticism. But this has happened to be my path.
For some very valid and helpful and inspiring texts on direction and action after entering the Dao (and of course, this is not a particular momentary event, but you will know what I mean), look to the 道德经, or to the 清静经, or to the Bible, or to Alice in Wonderland, or to the Bodhicaryavatara or to the Tripitaka and the other sutras and tantras (though on this, beware that many things are intentionally obscured or sealed from you, and that it is often, indeed usually unwise to profane the sacred). Crowley’s reading list for the student is decent, though his own translations from Chinese are pretty bad in my opinion. I may compile some such curricula myself some time.
There are many other resources, and the one who has entered the Dao, or at least who clearly perceives it, is usually easily recognizable to another (though even this sense is developed and refined in time; many intentionally manifest humbly or vaguely, or else otherwise than they could or as you may expect). Therefore let those who have come before you—especially who are in other ways similar to you—guide you, if you wish/will/must.
Know also that many who have so seen and been do not linger in text, but turn to art and music and films and games and other such (perhaps less restrictive) media of expression. But also know that not all “artists” have so seen. But again you shall recognize them, or even if not, shall gain some value thereof the art—and then what does it matter? There is no such thing as a good forgery.
The Kabbalah and the I Ching are also incredibly sublime and profound and worthy of intense study. Personally, I find them more suitable as tools of thoughtful analysis than divination by random means. These two are indeed so incredibly profound and sublime that I wonder if they were not devised by something other than Man (even in its broadest sense), but then we may also have other such fantastic achievements in science… This is again something to cut with the Sword of Wisdom; I have no conclusion, even in sight.
In summary, I suggest: be efficient, and do not dilly-dally in the comfort of the uselessly familiar. Towards this end, it is useful to crystallize your Will into something more tangible, and this is the work of alchemy and of high magic.
Know to whom you speak; recognize the power of each person’s Wisdom-Sword, and craft your presentations accordingly. Avoid being useless and avoid being wrong. Do better where better is, though here the extrema equilibria are many and not one. In this context may my other motto also be better understood: “design, ethnography, translation! (otherwise, you’re wrong.)” To these, I might add maths, art, and mysticism. These are the valid extrema I have seen so far, the valiant works at the actual frontiers.
Otherwise, “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law. Love is the law, love under will.”
Jamgon Ju Mipham Gyatso was a prolific teacher and writer of the Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism, and the clearest, least twilight-language shrouded writer I know of who’ve been translated into English, who has a deep and unmistaken understanding of that body of knowledge (tantra, Madhyamaka, Ri-mèd, Dzogchen).
Among his works, Beacon ofCertainty is a particularly concise condensation of pretty much the entirety of Madhyamaka teachings. David Chapman writes that “The Nyingma branch of Buddhism, to which I belong, considers Ju Mipham’s Beacon of Certainty the definitive text.”1See “Mipham” at https://meaningness.com/further-reading
In profoundly unworthy imitation of Mipham Rinpoche’s style, I am here giving an extreme condensation of Mipham’s own work, the Beacon of Certainty. I’ve posted a thread to this effect on Twitter
but, given the extreme importance of the text, thought that it was worth expanding and giving a somewhat more stable place on the Internet. May all sentient beings benefit.
Important Disclaimer: I am not a legitimate holder of any Tibetan tantric lineage, and have not received the proper transmissions and empowerments from anybody.
With that, take my words only as they are. They are no more than they appear.
Trapped in doubt’s net, one’s mind Is released by the lamp of Mañjuvajra, Which enters one’s heart as profound certainty. Indeed, I have faith in the eyes that see the excellent path!
The Beacon of Certainty is introduced thus, as a treatise on certainty. This is not “certainty” in some strange esoteric sense, like the Faith of the Christians or the commitment of the sutric Buddhists2 yanas 1-6 according to this classification, but simple literal certainty in all that one may be certain of.
The way to arrive at certainty is exactly by clearing doubt, and perhaps this is a reason the Beacon is structured as a sage’s responses to a series of seven questions4this page gives the questions, and the wiki may help with navigating this tradition/idiom especially with regards to terminology to test the sage’s true understanding of several issues beyond conventional scholarship.
Q: According to which of the two negations do you explain the view? [implicative, absolute]
The implicative negation is negation that implies something else, much like the classical logical complement. ¬p is as much a statement as p.
The absolute negation is negation that does not imply anything else, leaving one only closer to emptiness (except not actually, since form and emptiness are inextricably intertwined), to certainty.
Therefore the view is explained according to the absolute negation.
Q: Do arhats realize both types of selflessness? [of “I,” of phenomena]
Many spiritual paths of practice, the sutric Buddhist paths, in particular, involve much meditation on “I” and its transcience. It is often taught how the “I” is just a label attached to an agglomeration of matter and memories and such and separated from the rest of phenomenal experience.
Since the “I” is indeed absent of a permanent, unitary, independent identity, the arhat comes to the realization of the selflessness of “I.” However, this realization does not preclude the use of “I” as a useful category, concept, or reference in thought and communication. Sometimes it is good to think in frames without “I,” but not all the time.
Even less often is it useful, particularly in conventional everyday life or monastic residence, to conceive of “object-level” phenomena as lacking permanent, unitary identity. After all, why else would an object-oriented language for navigating life have emerged so hegemonically, to the preclusion of selflessness-recognition as the default mode?
Therefore though the arhat has the faculties necessary for recognizing the selflessness (perhaps better “objectlessness”) of all phenomena, she typically does not simply due to never meditating upon it, but only upon the domain of the “I.”
So the answer is: in potentiality yes, but in actuality no.
Q: Does meditation involve modal apprehension?
“Modal” refers to finite conceptual divisibility. To approach things in terms of definite categories, names, concepts, systems etc. Anything that can be finitely captured in positive definition. Any countable set or its subsets, in the mathematical sense, as literally provable via diagonal arguments. Any haltable program.
The definition for “apprehend” as given by searching it on Google is given here for convenience.
For more perspective, the question is given on the Rigpa wiki as “Does meditation involve grasping at an object?”
David Chapman’s excellent hypertext book Meaningness claims to have originally been an attempt to “to write a short, straightforward explanation of Mipham’s answer”5See “Mipham” at https://meaningness.com/further-reading to this question. It’s not—the simple answer is just “yes.” Rather, Chapman’s work is an aid to doing the kind of meditation described in Mipham, providing an exploration of the four extremes (given by Chapman as eternalism, nihilism, monism, and dualism) that are commonly apprehended or apprehended from (sub-apprehended?), and why they are flawed.
Indeed, Mipham’s answer is that such exploration is the only way to arrive at certainty, by the elimination of doubts via the clear and untainted perception of what generates doubt: the modes as final.
Therefore meditation does involve modal apprehension, since it is through specifically directed meditation that doubt is cleared away and certainty arrived at wherever the meditation is directed. (And this is also why arhats often do not actually realize the second kind of selflessness).
Q: Does one meditate analytically or transically?
Analytical meditation is like what is commonly called “philosophy” or “introspection.” Pretty intuitive name.
Settling meditation is like what is commonly called “mindfulness meditation.” But it’s a bit more complicated.
Chapman’s Meaningness is a very good aid to analytical meditation. In the act of actively reading and thinking through it, really engaging with the ideas, especially when they are troubling, that is what you are doing. You may—privately or with the aid of other people and media—have had similar-feeling experiences that lead towards ever-clearer understanding, but not in a directly embodied way. That’s analytical meditation, and it’s important.
Given this, I think Lulie gives an amazing explanation of the connections between analytical and settling meditation in this Twitter thread.
In fact, I’ll just post the whole thing.
This is pretty much exactly why analytical meditation isn’t always ideal. Despite the most powerful wishes of my probable audience, pure thought isn’t going to give you a powerful and beautiful body for effectively doing things in the world, nor solve all your traumas6In almost all cases. Lulie tells me she’s seen people who are extremely heady but also extremely low-trauma, but that this is rare. This is also consistent with the esoteric canon—these people probably being suitable for the “mantric vehicle.” See this post. Settling meditation (and just plain physical exercise) is needed for such things, though perhaps pure and untainted thought inevitably leads to this realization.
Everything Lulie says also applies in the reverse direction, to show that settling meditation by itself is also not the ideal approach7Again, in almost all cases. There may be rare exceptions.. I am simply actively designing for my probable user-base. But this is especially relevant if you’re a firm mindfulness-meditation-and-nothing-elser, especially if you’re not explicitly committed to a sutric vehicle, with a competent teacher. If you loved Focusing, perhaps try Folding, or even try to dive into the depths of esoteric tantric philosophy itself8would recommend the 9th chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara (for current sutrics [Theravada, Zen]) and/or the actual Beacon of Certainty (for current tantrics [Vajrayana, Dzogchen]) to start with.
This all illustrates the practical meaning of this topic, but for conceptual/terminological clarification, the division between “analytical” and “transical” is not really about mind and body, but about how attention is actively directed. From what I hear and gather from bold section titles, the topic of Focusing is settling meditation, but Folding would actually be analytical meditation, since it goes into the spaces of which Gendlin repeatedly emphasizes “DO NOT GO INSIDE IT,” and “Stand back from it” (Chapter 4).
Disclaimer: I haven’t actually read either.
Therefore the answer to the inquiry is “both.”
Q: Which of the two realities is most important? [ultimate, relative]
The ultimate reality is called “ultimate” because there is nothing beyond it. It is arrived at by the constant elimination of any doubt that arises, like an infinitely powerful and infinitely recursive version of Occam’s razor. I elaborate a bit here.
However, the ultimate reality CERTAINLY cannot be expressed in form. To do so would literally be to solve the halting problem and to construct a (surely “sufficiently powerful”) consistent and complete formal system, both of which we know is impossible.
Yet the realities we navigate in everyday life can not and should not be defined exclusively outside of forms. To speak of “I” and “you” and “table” and “idea” and such is very useful for navigation. Form-based predictive models like Newtonian physics and such are also very useful for producing technologies. In fact, intuitively, non-form-based models cannot be applied (especially by someone not highly realized, like the typical creator-laborer) to produce formful fruit, which is appropriately called “profit” in the Daodejing9Although, it is a central idea in Taoism that usefulness/potentiality/action is derived exclusively from emptiness rather than form. See especially Chapter 11 of the Daodejing. “Therefore with there(-)being as profit, without there(-)being as action” [trans. mine]. But I shall not elaborate on this here..
On a more local level, “profit” in a more general sense cannot be manifested at all without a good view of form-reality, which is relative reality. Without a good view of forms, we literally wouldn’t be able to do anything. But again, for all the reasons Chapman argues, and more, good relative realities can only be manifested from a clear view of ultimate reality. This is why the CEOs of all effective companies and why the true power-directors of all effective institutions and labor-structures10in a very general sense, as in systems for manifesting “profit” in the Daoist sense, though the Marxist ideas around this are very helpful for elucidation MUST operate post-systematically11These “labor-structures” extend from the smallest systems, of subatomic dynamics, to the largest, of intergalactic ones. This is something extremely profound to ponder upon, but I won’t elaborate too much here..
Therefore, acquaintance with the ultimate reality is necessary for producing good manifestations in relative reality, but only relative reality can actually be manifested.
Q: What is the common object of disparate perceptions?
1. The world exists. 2. The mind exists. 3. A mind exists inside of the world. 4. The mind can observe the world. 5. What the mind perceives isn’t the complete truth. 6. There is an infinite set of possible minds. 7. Each mind contains an element of truth (veridical perception).
These seven “axioms” are particularly ubiquitous in the West, and especially among laypeople, though among academics and such the first four may be quite contentious.
The approach of Madhyamaka school is to deny all of the first four axioms. They are not certainly established, therefore they are not of the ultimate view.
Mind though that this is an absolute negation, which means that it does not imply anything. The denial of the first four axioms changes absolutely nothing about the form-nature of all appearances. It’s like the continuum hypothesis. So stop worrying about it and go do science or something.
Also note that it is canonical to Madhyamaka that the “pratyekabuddha yana”12https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Pratyekabuddha_yana#View (e.g. Theravada, Vipassana) arhat, and even the “bodhisattva yana”13https://www.rigpawiki.org/index.php?title=Bodhisattva_yana (e.g. Mahayana, Zen) practitioner does not realize the illusory nature of “indivisible moments of consciousness,” perhaps expressible here as “minds.” A more thorough critique and explanation, particularly suitable for practitioners on these vehicles, is given in the 9th chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara. Shoutout to all my arhat & bodhisattva friends out there; may you quickly advance along the path.
Q: Does Madhyamaka have a position or not?
This is the most beautiful of the bunch—perhaps even the most beautiful thing in the world. Buckle up, kids; this one will blow your mind. Like I kid you not when I first realized the significance of this I entered an ecstatic trance state for like four hours.
“Madhyamaka” is often translated as “Middle Way.” First, acquaint yourself with what the Middle Way is by reading this excellent post by Chapman. But keep in mind that Chapman’s answer, “no,” is (not entirely) wrong. Don’t look ahead.
Alright. I assume you’ve read the post now and have a decent grasp of what the question is asking, so here’s Mipham’s response. With a lot of negative explanations and images and metaphors and such, Mipham basically comes to the answer:
To answer “yes” or “no” would itself be a non-middle position.
This is a strangeloop. Mipham basically does the Gödel’s incompleteness theorems thing, but with the entirety of reality and experience. No wonder it is called the “Great Perfection,” infinitely subtle and profound!
I’ll conclude my commentary with a poem of my own, which I’ve published before but few have seen or understood. I think this commentary will give it greater perspective, perhaps as a call to action, indeed an
Invocation to Growth
That not-to-know is a place of hiding. Incompleteness coming before an acknowledgment of simultaneous so and not-so, in which both disappear into the ? of meaning.
And that nirvana is as scary as they say, the revolt against its witnessing as natural as the impetus away from what came before. That defense of “I don’t know I don’t care,” which even I don’t remember when and wherefore disappeared, into the ? of no-meaning.
I don’t remember if this was the gateway to wonderland, terrible nothing leading alike to death and paradise. If paradise, it was only paradise-in-the-mirror—invisible, hinted at, even now unclear.
But here I am now, seeing clearly, cruelly seeing That as not-where-I-am. And I am often tempted to extend my hand through the mirror which distorts me into a monster, laughing at the world-serpent Ouroborous, coiled oh-so-ridiculously around its own happy end.