The Dumbing Down of Our True Nature (part two)

Since we need to address some of the concerns regarding the subject of the innate view most often reserved for scholars I have asked some of my students to comment. Below are some of their answers. Perhaps you agree, disagree, or have not given it much thought, which is probably where they are in their reasoning. Following that are some very short passages regarding the correct Buddhist intellectually held view that is the reason the students are complaining. After that, I will present another model for understanding the view, although I am personally quite fond of the classic view presentation.

Student: “ What I hear Rinpoche saying is that the argument is valid, but the analogy or language, the description that is used here, does not really resonate with us. I am saying that we do not think about things as wood and fire and water. We think about things as bones and blood or atoms and quarks.

Student: “We do believe that we are here as entities. We do believe it all the time. When you want to drink something, you think 'I want to drink something,' so, you believe in I, and so you take the glass and drink. If you did not believe in the existence of an I, then you would not have all those desires and all the negative emotions that come on the basis of this belief and ego, so it is present in all your actions and all your thoughts, and that is why we are in samsara.”

Student: “Somewhere back in there, they said that they make this great point that a human is not conventionally real based on, and then you named five or six things, but in the West, we do not believe that anyway. That does not address our innate view of the modern person. It addresses the innate view of Indians 2,500 years ago. I could listen to it all day, and say, so what?”

Student: “Well, it is not the existence of the I and the negation of the I that I have difficulty with. It is using an argument that is so old, it is not pertinent to us.”

Rinpoche: Okay, these are some interesting observations but let me go on with the classic Buddhist view worded so carefully and studied in this manner for scholars. "Ultimately, even names themselves do not exist, and at the conventional level, there is nothing aside from that which is posited on the strength of these strictly conventional labels. That is to say, all things exist only insofar as they are imputed through names. If one thoroughly understands this, then one should also clearly understand that all things necessarily exist in dependence on one another." This is the main thing that is going to make you look good if you can memorize and tell it to others. You try to remember this part of the argument, OK?

"Because they are dependently imputed and dependently produced, none of them exists through their own intrinsic being. There is no independent entity not merely posited on the strength of some particular conventional label. The Svatantrika maintains that it is not possible for any epistemological object to be established in reality as ultimately true or in actuality, yet he does assert existence at the conventional level through its own essence, its own unique distinguishing characteristic, and by virtue of its intrinsic being." Does that make it more palatable?

"The absence in a living being of any base for qualification of this self is called the Selflessness of the Person, while the same with respect to the eye, ear, and all things is titled The Selflessness of Things. Apprehension of the existence of an intrinsic being within the person and within insentient things is spontaneously regarded as the apprehension of the two selves." All right, so at least you know what subject is being talked about. "On account of the apprehension of the psychophysical constituents as I, one goes on to imagine the existence of a self which does not in fact exist, and then he becomes strongly attached to this self as if it was ultimately real." Okay? This is the end of this quote. Now, we go back to regular language here.

So, what is the meaning of the innate view in our little bit different discussion I promised earlier? The interest in knowing the nature of reality is actually not because we are interested in reality or truth or anything related to those subjects. We want to be happy and we want to know more about us- our favorite subject. For that reason, after we feel reasonably comfortable we would like to enhance the quality of our life by knowing how and why we are alive. For those who are satisfied, the vast unknown lies beyond satisfaction. People who live in manifest suffering want liberation but the intelligent happy person wants to know what lies beyond. There are two distinct methods for understanding how you are alive in the world. Is there a self, or a state that is called selflessness … and how are you alive here?

Two methods: The outer-based view is the classic Buddhist explanation of the unreality of human existence that chases the seeker of enlightenment with the stick of fear of the world as is described in the Pali Canon and the Abhidharma psychology. It is a bad place! You should get out of it. You should transcend as quickly as you can! It is just suffering. Do not hang around here! Do not even look back! This is the outer-based view of the beginning stages of development and preparation for transformation to freedom from suffering.

The simpler method, in my opinion, is the inner-based point of view. All of vast life is happening interior to the gross manifestation of the human realm. The Tantras and scriptures describe in detail the existence of other realms or ways of being beyond the reach of ordinary beings. The Buddha described his awakening from a dream and the state of release and relief that he experienced to be free from the suffering view of the dream like state. We also have a large body of valid experiences described by other trusted sources such as those who have also awakened from the dream and oppression of the suffering view that takes the transitory stream of change to be solid and real.

Science is now maturing enough to be able to describe what inner valid experiences by authentic sources have been described for thousands of years. The way the world appears is not how it actually exists. It is highly improbable that it exists at all, other than in a state of potentiality. In Buddhism, we call this potentiality, perception and call this realm and other realms, discrete perceptual realms. What science is not yet sure enough about, is the interface between consciousness and the physical potentiality at this point. As Buddhists, we are “holding space” and good wishes for those measurements to be done to their satisfaction. To be continued…


  1. I look forward to your blogs. They create an energetic happening in my meditations! Thank you for continuing to teach, as we need that spiritual nourishment.


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