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  1. The Perfection of Wisdom: In Eight Thousand Lines & Its Verse Summary trans. by Edward Conze: Thereupon the Lord, in order to gladden the four assemblies, and to further lighten up this perfection of wisdom, preached at that time the following verses: The Basic Teachings [5-18] 5. No wisdom can we get hold of, no highest perfection, No Bodhisattva, no thought of enlightenment [bodhicitta] either. When told of this, if not bewildered and in no way anxious, A Bodhisattva courses in the Well-Gone’s wisdom. 6. In form, in feeling, will, perception and awareness [consciousnesses] Nowhere in them they find a place to rest on. Without a home they wander, dharmas never hold them, Nor do they grasp at them-the Jina’s Bodhi they are bound to gain. The wanderer Srenika in his gnosis of truth Could find no basis, though the skandhas had not been undone. Just so the Bodhisattva, when he comprehends the dharmas as he should Does not retire into Blessed Rest.6 In wisdom then he dwells. What is this wisdom, whose and whence, he queries, And then he finds that all these dharmas are entirely empty. Uncowed and fearless in the face of that discovery Not far from Bodhi is that Bodhi-being then To course in the skandhas, in form, in feeling, in perception, Will and so on, and fail to consider them wisely; Or to imagine these skandhas as being empty; Means to course in the sign, the track of non-production ignored. But when he does not course in form, in feeling, or perception, In will or consciousness, but wanders without home, Remaining unaware of coursing firm in wisdom, His thoughts of non-production - then the best of all the calming trances cleaves to him. Through that the Bodhisattva now dwells tranquil in himself, His future Buddhahood assured by antecedent Buddhas. Whether absorbed in trance, or whether outside it, he minds not. For of things as they are he knows the essential original nature. Coursing thus he courses in the wisdom of the Sugatas, And yet he does not apprehend the dharmas in which he courses. This coursing he wisely knows as a no-coursing, That is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection. What exists not, that non-existent the foolish imagine; Non-existence as well as existence they fashion As dharmic facts existence and non-existence are both not real. A Bodhisattva goes forth when wisely he knows this. If he knows the five skandhas as like an illusion, But makes not illusion one thing, and the skandhas another; If, freed from the notion of multiple things, he courses in peace – Then that is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection. Those with good teachers as well as deep insight, Cannot be frightened on hearing the Mother’s deep tenets. But those with bad teachers, who can be misled by others, Are ruined thereby, as an unbaked pot when in contact with moisture. Three Key Terms Defined [18-24] What is the reason why we speak of ‘Bodhisattvas’? Desirous to extinguish all attachment, and to cut it off, True non-attachment, or the Bodhi of the Jinas is their future lot. ‘Beings who strive for Bodhi’ are they therefore called. This gnosis shows him all beings as like an illusion, Resembling a great crowd of people, conjured up at the crossroads, By a magician, who then cuts off many thousands of heads; He knows this whole living world as a mock show, and yet remains without fear. Form, perception, feeling, will [volition] and awareness [consciousnesses] Are ununited, never bound, cannot be freed. Uncowed in his thought he marches on to his Bodhi, That for the highest of men is the best of all armours. The Transcendental Nature of Bodhisattvas [24-31] Thus transcending the world, he eludes our apprehensions. ‘He goes to Nirvana,’ but no one can say where he went to. A fire’s extinguished, but where, do we ask, has it gone to? Likewise, how can we find him who has found the Rest of the Blessed? The Bodhisattva’s past, his future and his present must elude us, Time’s three dimensions nowhere touch him. Quite pure he is, free from conditions, unimpeded. That is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection. Wise Bodhisattvas, coursing thus, reflect on non-production, And yet,while doing so,engender in themselves the great compassion, Which is, however, free from any notion of a being. Thereby they practise wisdom, the highest perfection. But when the notion of suffering and beings leads him to think: ‘Suffering I shall remove, the weal of the world I shall work!’ Beings are then imagined, a self is imagined, - The practice of wisdom, the highest perfection, is lacking. He wisely knows that all that lives is unproduced as he himself is; He knows that all that is no more exists than he or any beings. The unproduced and the produced are not distinguished, That is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection. Chapter II Where Bodhisattvas Stand He does not stand in form, perception or in feeling, In will [volition] or consciousness, in any skandhas whatsoever. In Dharma’s true nature alone he is standing. Then that is his practice of wisdom, the highest perfection. Change and no change, suffering and ease, the self and not-self, The lovely and repulsive 14 – just one Suchness in this Emptiness they are. And so he takes not his stand on the fruit which he won, which is threefold— That of an Arhat, a Single Buddha, a Buddha fully enlightened. The Leader himself was not stationed in the realm which is free from conditions, Nor in the things which are under conditions, but freely he wandered without a home: Just so, without a support or basis a Bodhisattva is standing. A position devoid of a basis has that position been called by the Jina. Wherein Bodhisattvas Train [38-43] Coursing thus, the wise and learned Bodhisattva, Trains not for Arhatship, nor on the level of Pratyekabuddhas. In the Buddha-dharma alone he trains for the sake of all-knowledge. No training is his training, and no one is trained in this training. The Facts of Existence [44-47] Forms are not wisdom, nor is wisdom found in form, In consciousness, perceptions, feeling, or in will [volition]. They are not wisdom, and no wisdom is in them. Like space it is, without a break or crack. Of all objective supports the essential original nature is boundless; Of beings likewise the essential original nature is boundless. As the essential original nature of space has no limits, Just so the wisdom of the World-knowers is boundless. ‘Perceptions’ – mere words, so the Leaders have told us; Perceptions forsaken and gone, and the door is open to the Beyond. Those who succeed in ridding themselves of perceptions, They, having reached the Beyond, fulfill the Teacher’s commandments. If for aeons countless as the sands of the Ganges, The Leader would himself continue to pronounce the word ‘being’: Still, pure from the very start, no being could ever result from his speaking. That is the practice of wisdom, the highest perfection.” Chapter V The Counterfeit and the True Perfection of Wisdom [112-13] When a Bodhisattva [falsely] reveals form, perception, feeling, will, Or thought as impermanent [claiming that they are destroyed], - In the counterfeit [perfection of wisdom] he courses, considering not wisely; Because the learned never effect the destruction of a dharma. Wherein of form, of feeling, or perception, Or consciousness, or will there is no apprehension: By the method of emptiness and non-production [he] cognizes all dharmas. This is the practice of wisdom, the foremost perfection. The Attitude to Dharmas and to the Self [172-75] When one who develops wisdom to the end does not seize on the least dharma, Conditioned or unconditioned, dark or bright; Then one comes to speak in the world of the perfection of wisdom, [Which is like] space, wherein nothing real whatsoever is established. Chapter VIII The Meaning of Purity [186-95] The purity of form should be known from the purity of fruit. From the purity of form and fruit is the purity of all-knowledge. The purity of all-knowledge and of the fruit,and the purity of form: As with the sameness of the space-element, they are not broken nor cut apart. This world is attached to the mud of name-and-form. The wheel of birth-and-death revolves, similar to a wind-wheel. Having cognized the revolving world as like a snare for wild beasts The wise roam about similar to the birds in space. He who, coursing in perfectly pure, does not course in form, Nor in consciousness, perception, feeling or will [volition]; Thus coursing he shuns all attachments. Freed from attachments he courses in the wisdom of the Sugatas. Chapter IX All-round Purity [200-201] Thus coursing, the wise and learned Bodhisattva, Having cut off his attachments, marches on unattached to the world. As the sun, released from the planet Rahu, blazes forth, Or, as fire, let loose, burns up grass, log and forest. The Bodhisattva sees that all dharma and the Perfection of Wisdom Are pure, perfectly pure, in their essential original nature. But he does not seize on one who sees, nor on all dharmas. This is the practice of wisdom, the foremost perfection.” Chapter X Qualifications for Perfect Wisdom [211-13] Sakra, King of Gods, asks the Jina: “Coursing in wisdom, how is the Bodhisattva ‘engaged in’ it?” “Who is ‘joined’ to not the least thing whatsoever, be it skandhas, or element, He who is ‘engaged’ thus, the Bodhisattva is ‘joined’ [to wisdom] How to Dwell in Perfect Wisdom [219-20] “When the Yogin is coursing in wisdom, the supreme perfection, He does not see the growth of form, nor its diminution. If someone does not see dharma, nor no-dharma, nor the Dharma-element And if he does not experience the Blessed Rest, then he dwells in wisdom. When he courses therein, he does not imagine the Buddhadharmas, Nor the powers, nor the roads to psychic power, nor does he imagine the peaceful calm of enlightenment. Not discriminating, free from construction, coursing on resolutely, This is the practice of wisdom, the foremost perfection.” How the Tathagata Knows the World [270-74] The Suchness of the world, the Suchness of the Arhats, The Suchness of Pratyekabuddhas, and the Suchness of the Jinas,- As just one single Suchness free from existence, unaltering. Has the perfection of wisdom been understood by the Tathagata. The Tathagata’s Vision of Dharma Wherein there is no vision of form, no vision of feelings, No vision of perception, no vision of will, No vision of consciousness, thought or mind, This has been expounded as the vision of Dharma by the Tathagata. A vision in space is a being, so they declare. A vision like that of space, so should you consider that object! Thus has the vision of Dharma been expounded by the Tathagata. But it is not possible to report on that vision by definite statements [that differ from it]. Perfect Wisdom and Its Conflict with the World [304-5] Deep is this dharma of the Leaders, hard to see, Nor is it obtained by anyone, nor do they reach it. For that reason, when he has obtained enlightenment, the Benevolent and Compassionate Becomes unconcerned, - ‘what body of beings will cognize this?’ For beings delight in a place to settle in, they are eager for sense-objects, Bent on grasping, unintelligent, and quite blinded. The Dharma should be attained as nothing to settle in and as nothing to grasp. Its conflict with the world is manifest. Chapter XVI On Suchness [306-8] The space-element in the eastern direction, and in the southern, And so in the western and northern directions is boundless; Above and below, in the ten directions, as far as it goes There is no multiplicity, and no difference is attained. Past Suchness, future Suchness, Present Suchness, the Suchness of the Arhats, The Suchness of all dharmas, the Suchness of the Jinas, - All that is the Dharma-Suchness, and no difference is attained. Chapter XVIII Deep Stations [342-43] Deep are form, feeling and will [volition], Consciousness and perception; signless in their essential original nature, and calm. Like one who tries to reach the bottom of the ocean with a stalk, So, when the skandhas have been considered with wisdom, one does not get to the bottom of them. When a Bodhisattva thus understands that these dharmas In the deep vehicle are in the ultimate sense stainless; Wherein there is neither skandha, nor sense-field, nor element, How can there be to him the attainment of his own merit anywhere? Chapter XIX The Simile of the Seed and the Fruit From a seed trees, fruits, and flowers come forth; When it is obstructed, or absent, then there is no tree from it. Just so the first thought is, of course, the foundation of enlightenment; But when it is obstructed or absent, there is no enlightenment from it. Conditioned by seeds grow barley, rice and so on; Their fruits are in these [seeds], and yet they are not in them. When this enlightenment of the Jinas arises, What takes place is an illusion, which in its own-being is without existence. The Meaning of Emptiness [356-61] He courses in dharmas as empty, signless and wishless; But he does not experience the Blessed Rest, nor does he course in a sign: As a skilful ferryman goes from his [shore] to the other shore, But does not stand at either end, nor does he stand in the great flood. Thus coursing, the Bodhisattva also does not think: ‘Predestined by those who have the ten powers, may I experience enlightenment!’ Nor is he trembling [because he sees that] enlightenment is here not anything. Thus coursing he becomes one who courses in the wisdom of the Sugatas. Chapter XX The Three Doors to Deliverance, and the Buddha-dharmas [370-71] Furthermore, the Bodhisattva who courses in the wisdom of the Jinas Cognizes these skandhas as unproduced, as empty from the beginning. Even during the time that unconcentrated he views in compassion the world of beings, He does not become destitute of the Buddha-dharmas. The Simile of the Cosmos Supported by space is air, and [by that] the mass of water; By that again is supported this great earth and the [living] world. If the foundations of the enjoyment of the deeds of beings Is thus established in space, how can one think of that object?26 Just so the Bodhisattva, who is established in emptiness Manifests manifold and various works to beings in the world, And his vows and cognitions are a force which sustains beings. But he does not experience the Blessed Rest; for emptiness is not a place to stand on. At the time when the wise and learned Bodhisattva Courses in this most excellent quietude of the concentration on emptiness, During that time no sign should be exalted, Nor should he stand in the signless; for he is one who courses calm and quiet. The Simile of the Flying Bird [374] A flying bird has no footing in the intermediate space. It does not stand on it, nor does it fall to the ground. So the Bodhisattva who courses in the doors to freedom Neither experiences the Blessed Res [Nirvana]t, nor does he course in the sign. The Simile of the Parachutes It is as with some men who have stood on a high cliff; If they held a parachute in each hand and would jump off into space, Their bodies, once they had left the high cliffs, Would go on falling until they had reached the ground. Just so the wise Bodhisattva, having stood in compassion, Having taken hold of the two parachutes of skill in means and of wisdom, Considers dharmas as empty, signless and wishless; Though he does not experience the Blessed Rest [Nirvana], he nevertheless sees the dharmas The Bodhisattva Undefinable At the time when he has communed with the world in friendliness, And courses in the concentration on emptiness, the signless and the wishless: It is impossible that he either would [have an inclination to] reach the Blessed Rest, Or that he could be defined by the conditioned. As a magically created man, or one who has made his body invisible, Cannot be defined by words: Just so the Bodhisattva who courses in the doors to freedom Can also not be defined by words. Chapter XXIII The Superior Position of Bodhisattvas [413] When the sun rises, free from clouds and one blaze of rays, Having dispelled the entire blinding and confusing darkness, It outshines all animals such as glowworms, And also all the hosts of stars, and the luster of the moon. Just so the wise Bodhisattva, who courses in wisdom, the foremost perfection: Having destroyed the jungle of views, The Bodhisattva who courses in emptiness and the signless Very much surpasses the whole world, as well as the Arhats and Pratyekabuddhas. Chapter XXVII The True Attitude to Suchness [452-54] The Bodhisattva who resolutely believes when this perfection of wisdom, The mother of the Tathagatas, is being taught, And who practices the progressive path with resolution, He should be known as having well set out towards all-knowledge. But he does not come to a standing place in the Suchness of the Dharma- element. He becomes as one who, like a cloud, stands in the sky without anywhere to stand on, As a sorcerer who, like a bird, rides on the wind which offers him no support, Or as one who, by the force of his spells, miraculously produces on a tree full-blown flowers out of season. CHAPTER 1 THE PRACTICE OF THE KNOWLEDGE OF ALL MODES 2. The Extinction of Self Sariputra: How then must a Bodhisattva course if he is to course in perfect wisdom? Subhuti: He should not course in the skandhas, nor in their sign, nor in the idea that ‘the skandhas are signs,’ nor in the production of the skandhas, in their stopping or destruction, nor in the idea that ‘the skandhas are empty,’ or ‘I course,’ or ‘I am a Bodhisattva.’ And [13] it should not occur to him, ‘he who courses thus, courses in perfect wisdom and develops it.’ He courses but he does not entertain such ideas as ‘I course,’ ‘I do not course,’ ‘I course and I do not course,’ ‘I neither course nor do I not course,’ and the same [four] with ‘I will course.’ He does not go near any dharma at all, because all dharma are unapproachable and unappropriable. The Bodhisattva then has the concentrated insight ‘Not grasping at any dharma’ by name, vast, noble, unlimited and steady, not shared by any of the Disciples or Pratyekabuddhas. When he dwells in this concentrated insight, a Bodhisattva will quickly win the full enlightenment which the Tathagatas of the past have predicted for him. But when he dwells in that concentration, he does not review it, nor think ‘I am collected,’ ‘I will enter into concentration,’ ‘I am entering into concentration,’ ‘I have entered into concentration.’ All that in each and every way does not exist for him. [14] Sariputra: Can one show forth that concentration? Subhuti: No, Sariputra. Because that son of good family neither knows or perceives it. Sariputra: You say that he neither knows nor perceives it? Subhuti: I do, for that concentration does not exist. The Lord: Well said, Subhuti. And thus should a Bodhisattva train therein, because then he trains in perfect wisdom. Sariputra: When he thus train, he trains in perfect wisdom? The Lord: When he thus trains, he trains in perfect wisdom. Sariputra: When he thus trains, which dharmas does he train in? The Lord: He does not train in any dharma at all. [15] Because the dharmas do not exist in such a way as foolish untaught, common people are accustomed to suppose. Sariputra: How then do they exist? The Lord: As they do not exist, so they exist. And so, since they do not exist [avidyamana], they are called [the result of] ignorance [avidya]. Foolish, untaught, common people have settled down in them. Although they do not exist, they have constructed all the dharmas. Having constructed them, attached to the two extremes, they do not know or see those dharmas [in their true reality]. So they construct all dharmas which yet do not exist. Having constructed them, they settle down in the two extremes.... The Lord: What do you think, Subhuti, is form, etc., [sensation, perception, volition, consciousnesses,] one thing, and illusion another? Subhuti: No Lord. Because it is not so that illusion is one thing, and form, etc., another; the very form is illusion, the very illusion is form. The Lord: What do you think, Subhuti, is that notion ‘Bodhisattva,’ that denomination, that concept, that conventional expression, - in the five grasping skandhas? Subhuti: Yes, it is. Because a Bodhisattva who trains himself in perfect wisdom should train himself like an illusory man for full enlightenment. For one should bear in mind that the five grasping aggregates are like an illusory man. Because the Lord has said that form is like an illusion. And that is true of form, is true also of the six sense organs, and of the five [grasping] aggregates. CHAPTER 2 SAKRA 2. HOW TO STAND IN EMPTINESS, OR THE PERFECTION OF WISDOM Subhuti then said to Sakra: Now, Kausika, listen and attend well. I will teach you know a Bodhisattva should stand in perfect wisdom. Through standing in emptiness, should he stand in perfect wisdom. [35] Armed with the great armour, the Bodhisattva should so develop that he does not take his stand on any of these: not on form, feeling, perception, impulses, consciousness; not on eye, ear, nose, tongue, body, mind; not on forms, sounds, smells, tastes, touchables, mind-objects; not on eye-consciousness, etc., until we come to; not on mind-consciousness, until we come to: not on the elements, i.e., earth, water, fire, wind, ether, consciousness: not on the pillars of mindfulness, right efforts, roads to psychic power, faculties, powers, limbs of enlightenment, limbs of the Path; not on the fruits of Streamwinner, Once-Returner, Never-Returner, or Arhatship; not on Pratyekabuddhahood, nor on Buddhahood. He should not take his stand on the idea that ‘this is form,’ ‘this is feeling,’ etc., to: ‘this is Buddhahood.’ He should not take his stand on the ideas that ‘form, etc., is permanent, [or] impermanent’; [36] that ‘form is ease or ill’; that ‘form is the self, or not the self,’ that ‘form is lovely or repulsive,’ that ‘form is empty, or apprehended as something.’ He should not take his stand on the notion that the fruits of the holy life drive their dignity from the Unconditioned. Thereupon the Venerable Sariputra thought to himself: If even there on one should not take one’s stand, how then should one stand, and train oneself? The Venerable Subhuti, through the Buddha’s might, read his thoughts and said: What do you think, Sariputra, where did the Tathagata stand? Sariputra: Nowhere did the Tathagata stand, because his mind sought no support. He stood neither in what is conditioned, nor in what is unconditioned, nor did he emerge from them.... 6. THE INFINITUDE OF PERFECT WISDOM Subhuti: So it is. And why? Perfect wisdom is great, unlimited, measureless and infinite because form, feelings, etc., are so. Hence one does not settle down in the conviction that this is a ‘great perfection,’ and ‘unlimited perfection,’ a ‘measureless perfection,’ and ‘infinite perfection.’ That is why perfect wisdom is a great perfection, unlimited, measureless and infinite. [46] Perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection because objects as well as [individual] beings are infinite. Perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection because one cannot get at the beginning, middle, or end of any objective fact [since as a dharma it has no own-being]. Moreover, perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection because all objective facts are endless and boundless, and their beginning, middle, or end are not apprehended. For one cannot apprehend the beginning, middle and end of form, etc. In that way perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection by reason of the infinitude of objects. And further again, a being is endless and boundless because one cannot get at its beginning, middle or end. Therefore perfect wisdom is an infinite perfection by reason of the infinitude of beings... Sakra: How then, Holy Subhuti, is perfect wisdom an infinite perfection by reason of the infinitude of beings? Subhuti: What factual entity does the word ‘being’ denote? Sakra: The word ‘being’ denotes no dharma or non-dharma. It is a term that has been added on [to what is really there] as something adventitious, groundless, as nothing in itself, unfounded in objective fact. Subhuti: Has thereby [i.e., by uttering the word ‘being’] any being been shown up [as an ultimate fact]? Sakra: No indeed, Holy Subhuti! Subhuti: When no being at all has been shown up, how can there be an infinitude of them? If a Tathagata, with his voice of infinite range, with the deep thunder of his voice, should pronounce, for aeons countless as the sands of the Ganges, the word ‘being,’ ‘being,’ – would he thereby produce, or stop, any being whatsoever, either in the past, future or present? Sakra: No indeed, Holy Subhuti! Because a being is pure from the very beginning, perfectly pure. 1. WORLDLY ADVANTAGES OF PERFECT WISDOM Just so will the quarrels, contentions and contradictions to which the follower of perfect wisdom is exposed, be stilled, be appeased, through the piercing flame of perfect wisdom, through its power, its strength, through impregnation with its power. They will vanish, and not grow, nor abide. And why? Because it is perfect wisdom which appeases all evil, - from [ordinary] greed to seizing on Nirvana – and does not increase it.
  2. Salt

    You will never see emptiness in meditation directly for emptiness is a not a thing that can be seen... When you don't find anything, that not-finding is finding emptiness. When you don't see anything, that not-seeing is seeing emptiness. - Loppon Namdrol These are a series of posts on Madhyamaka, from Loppon Namdrol aka. Malcolm, who was trained in the Sakya sect. First things first -- truths (satyas) are objects of cognitions -- which can be either correct (ultimate) or false (relative). Since you are studying Gelug influenced discourse, this may not be immediately evident to you. This means that if you see something that you identify as salt, and it functions as salt, this cognition is true in so far as it is efficient. When you analyze that appearance for some fundamental saltiness in that appearance of salt, that cognition of salt fails because no fundamental saltiness will or can be found. In other words, relative truths are true so long as they are not investigated, that is, so long as the appearance which produces the cognition which labels that appearance is not analyzed to discover whether or not there is an essence which produces the identification of the given appearance in question. A relative truth is the subject of a cognition that is not in possession of the fact that the given apparent phenomena being perceived as an object of said cognition lacks the identity imputed to it. An ultimate truth is an object of a cognition which is in possession of the fact that the given apparent phenomena being perceived as an object of said cognition lacks the identity imputed to it and does not perceive the identity which is non-existent in that object of cognition. The function of the two truths is to lead to the cessation of proliferation about identity. The lack of identity within phenomena and persons alone is emptiness and nothing else. A view is a fundamental belief one holds about reality. For example, "everything exists" (sarva asti).... One can easily observe that common people, not educated in tenets, generally believe their statements about the existence and non-existence of things. When a pot is broken, for them it is not a pot anymore. It may have become a broken pot, or shards, but for them the pot that was there is no longer there and has thus become non-existent in their mind. Likewise, they believe in simple reality of a pot that they can see. For them the pot "is". When it comes to people trained in tenet systems, this question is easier, because of course, those who subscribe to various Buddhist and non-Buddhist tenet systems subscribe to various sets of beliefs such as those who assert arising from an existent, those who assert arising from a non-existent and so on. The Buddhas and Nagarjuna's target at based was really more oriented at the sort of naive realism that people have, especially in regards to rebirth. Naively, some people believe that they exist, and that they will continue to exist after death. Other people, on the other hand, think that after death, they will not exist anymore. The root of both these mistaken positions is "is" and "is not" -- for example "I exist now, and I will continue to exist after death" or "I exist now but when I die I will cease to exist". We can assume then, based on people's statements and training whether they are naive realists or not, or are trained in some tenet system. The emptiness of salt does not prove salt does not exist, it merely removes the claim that there is an existent called "salt" When salt is analyzed, no salt is found in salt. There is no entity among the components of salt that make salt salt. It is the same for any composite entity. We experience an appearance, we impute a label upon it, this act lets us work with that appearance. When we examine the appearance to find the basis for the label, however, none can be found. That non-finding is the emptiness of the appearance in question. Whatever arises dependently, that is empty -- that is Nagarjuna's message -- there is no place where we say "Oh, we can stop our analysis here". If you stop your analysis, you are in effect making a claim of independence, at least, that is what Nagarjuna is trying to force you to admit. Only if we arbitrarily limit our analysis of dependent relations. And if we limit that analysis, the Madhyamakas will try to force us to admit that we have made a claim about essences.... The point of that description however, was that conventionally speaking, Madhyamakas are general considered to accept production from another, even if this does not withstand ultimate analysis, it is the conventional mode Madhyamakas are comfortable with because it accords with dependent origination. Thus salt a dependent collection upon which term salt is applied, the same goes for cars, persons and everything else without the need for some non-dependent entity to exist which can serve as a basis for designation. Salt molecules are not independent entities, so "salt" therefore, is just a dependent designation on a collection, like "Dave" and "Malcolm". The absolute truth of salt, Dave and Malcolm is emptiness i.e that when salt, dave and malcolm are sought as distinct entities in their respective collections, nothing can be found apart from a designation upon a collection. And at the end of the day, we will still be left with the fact that all of these so called "things" are just imputations of identity onto impermanent collections, which themselves are composed of still further impermanent collections. So whatever clinging we have to any impermanent collection whether internal or external in terms of identity is certain to lead to suffering. This is the point of Madhyamaka i.e. to demonstrate that the beleif that attributions of identity onto impermanent collections are anything more than mere conventions is a delusion. Of course these conventions work, but they are no more real than the habit of the "I" we attribute to our personal collection of aggregates. The habit of "I" certainly works, but that "I" is not real. The imputation of salt onto a given collection we have chosen to call salt "works" but the "salt" can't be found apart from the imputation we make onto that collection so we can use it effectively. The problem most laypeople have with the MMK is that people rarely are acquainted with the views that MMK is seeking to correct. Without understanding Abhidharma, most of the arguments in the MMK will seem rather pointless if not obscure in the extreme. Some people mistakenly think that MMK is a panacea -- when it fact it is rather narrow text with a rather narrow project i.e. to correct Abhidharma realism and bring errant Abhidharmikas back to a proper understanding of dependent origination and help them to abandon a kind of naive essentialism that had crept into Buddhism. Madhyamaka as a whole is an exercise in trying to introduce people to the real meaning of dependent origination i.e. the emptiness of persons and phenomena based in the Buddha's observation that statements about existence and non-existence were at odds with the real meaning of dependent origination. Since there are no permanent phenomena, claims for the existence and non-existence of phenomena are completely naive on anything other than a conventional level. So you can keep insisting that salt harms snails as much as you like. Since you are making a conventional statement you are not going to get any complaint from me, but if you assert that there is saltiness in salt, for example, you have only two courses -- mire yourself in the myriad contradictions of asserting that there is an essence of salt or simply accede the point that "salt" is a conventional identity proposition that is at best a functional imputation and nothing more than that. ...The point was clinging to identity (atman). Atman, as you know, means self, it also means "essence" in Sanskrit, and it's [a] synonym of svabhāva.... ...Conventional truth is called "conventional" (vyavahāra) because it is based on empirically observed functionality shared by common people's ordinary healthy sense perception. What Madhyamaka rejects is that there is an salt atman or svabhāva, and further observes that claims for the existence of salt, or anything else for that matter, quickly become entangled with identity propositions.... Not really, I am trying to explain to you that Madhyamaka states the self, the identity, the atman of any given phenomena, not merely personal phenomena, is merely an imputed label which derives from the functionality of that phenomena. The absence of identity in external phenomena does not obliterate them, indeed, from a Madhyamaka POV that absence of idenity is all that makes them possible since whatever conditioned phenomena there are must be dependently originated and hence, must lack an intrinsic or unique identity, a "self", an essence, an atman. We are not asserting, for example that dependent phenomenon are in the class of children of barren women or horns on rabbits or other such total non-existents -- which I suspect is your fear. Dependent phenomena are free from both existence and non-existence since dependent phenomena are empty of a self or svabhāva, in other words, when a salt molecule ceases, there is no atman of salt that continues, and there is no atman of salt that ceases. When a salt molecule perishes all that has happened is that the causes and conditions for producing salt have ceased. Cessations are absence of causes, and are not caused per se. If phenomena were to exist, they would not need causes and conditions, and since phenomena appear to be produced from causes and conditions, they are not non-existent either. They are not both existent and non-existent, since this is just a summary of the first extreme, and they are not neither, since this is just a summary of the second. Therefore, since we cannot say that phenomena fall into one of these four extremes, Nagarjuna states dependent origination is free from eight extremes: in dependent origination there is no ceasing, arising, annihilation, permanence, going, coming, difference or sameness. He praises the Buddha for giving such a teaching because it frees one from ontological doubts i.e. pacifies proliferation. All I am trying to get you to understand is that emptiness means that when you examine some conventional entity, something that we would say "exists out there in shared reality", there is no underlying reality propping it, apart from being labeled on the basis of functional appearances, such conventional entities cannot be found.
  3. Sunyata In The Pali Cannon

    So, I'm going to start with an article that explains emptiness differently, compared to how it's usually presented in Mahayana. It's very down to earth (so to speak) and practical: