About Madhyamaka

I wrote this page just because a contact of mine, had the madness of replying (on FB) to a post of mine referering to the present site, by the following comments My reply: His further replies This is all so ridiculous. One thing is that, it is completely insane to put on me the duty to study every work in the world (as, why Nagarjuna more than anyone else ???) just to find out if any similarity exists with my work. If he thinks there may be, and that it matters, then it is up to him to care studying my work to compare with what he knows.

Then, looking there ... I just don't see the difference with Buddhism (and I see no similarity at all with my own work, so that I wonder where the heck he claims to have found any such similarity). So much all the same crap. Of course any religion has its sects with small differences, and people there can be so much indoctrinated into giving extreme, intolerant importance to the microscopic details of their specific doctrines, so that anyone with a very specific belief can proclaim that it has absolutely nothing to do with any other religion or spirituality, just because... there is no other religion or spirituality which is exactly the same as his.
So, really, WTF is this madness of pushing forward this very specific name of doctrine which I never heard of before, priding it for being altogether the best friend and the best enemy of Buddhism (regardless the contradiction) ? What the heck is this way of blindly assuming that it must surely the best way of disagreeing with Buddhism, so that whenever someone comes up with a good reason to disagree with Buddhism then to be worth anything it must surely be a less good version of the same ?

About nothing

I dismiss it all as worthless, because, just like Buddhism, it is all about spending one's life talking about nothing. Being obsessed about nothing, believing that all is nothing, that nothing is all what exists, that we should be obsessed about nothing, dedicate our life to doing nothing, thinking nothing, thinking about nothing, wondering what is nothing, and therefore also incidentally, entering vain dispute about nothing and how to exactly understand nothing, against anyone who happens to understand nothing a bit differently. Now why the heck should I care how much different schools have their slightly different understanding of nothing ? So then I did take a couple of hours to look through these articles and their lists of topics, and found there... nothing interesting. By this I don't mean that I found any interest in their nothing, but rather that I found nothing there, and no interest there either. The only "interest" I found is that I found there the tetralemma so laughable. What a ridiculous way of messing with basic logic. As if any random way of putting together words to form a sentence that looks well-formed by the rules of our miserable usual grammar would suffice to form a meaningful proposition. As commented elsewhere about "arguments by absurdity", to playfully break the rules of basic logic is not a valid way of transcending them. Since I studied mathematical logic at a high level, how could I still look up to a philosophy putting forward such a kindergarten-level game of pseudo-logic as if it was a great reference work ? Haha. He proudly puts it forward : "If I had any position, I thereby would be at fault. Since I have no position, I am not at fault at all. If there were anything to be observed through direct perception and the other instances [of valid cognition], it would be something to be established or rejected. However, since no such thing exists, I cannot be criticized". So, yes, he is talking about nothing, and telling nothing about it. That is, he is just wasting everybody's time speaking for nothing. There is a more modern phrase to qualify this : it is not even wrong. And that precisely means that such a doctrine is just worth putting to the flames and forgetting it altogether.
It is like, imagine you are a caricaturist, so you draw some comics, then someone comes to notice that you make some pictures and comes up to say "hey, did you ever check that you may be reinventing the wheel as there is a super great old arts school founded by a great painting Master with his great ideas how to paint. Check this." So then you see some details, that he had the super originality of offering a middle way with respect to the following tetralemma

and yet in all the main teaching you find no mention of either the concept that some other colors may exist beyond white and black (not even grey), nor of the concept of contrast, namely that different things, and even different parts of the same things, may have different colors. If you ask some follower of that school about these omissions, you will get the answers that the focus is on clarity and absoluteness, and only white and black are clear and absolute enough to deserve consideration ; while the concept of contrast is a discriminatory one, and such discrimination is the general source of disputes and therefore the ultimate root of all evils ; rejecting these, we are focusing on universal colors, that is, candidate colors for the ability of uniformly depicting all things in a unified view. Then you notice a conclusion from the Master of that school : "Since nothing can be seen, there is no risk to paint anything wrongly either". Now would you be enthusiastic to spend many months studying the teachings of that school in more details ?

Now, I remember that some of the "greatest" of these Spiritual Masters (and I don't care from which exact school they are) are consistent enough with their own teachings, to go as far as to also eat nothing - at least according to some sayings. Actually I do think both deserve to go together, because, how could one decently let one's life keep depending on something which on the other hand one dismissed from topics of interest ? Now assuming this to have been actually achieved (and I do not care whether this is actually the case or not), I am still not impressed. Because, if the goal of eating nothing was to nullify one's impact on the environment (and I cannot see what better goal there could be from a moral viewpoint), then the same goal could be reached much more simply and easily by eating from public trashes. I would already be quite more impressed if they went as far as getting a woman to make a healthy child while eating nothing. Here by "more impressed", what I precisely mean is that I would find it quite more impressive than a typical Guinness record (which I am not usually interested in), though still essentially of the same nature. Because, again, it only brings that kind of impressiveness beyond the basic moral value of eating from public trashes. By the way, for my very poor erudition (sorry) I did not happen to hear of any mention of eating from public trashes from any spiritual doctrine, and I am quite curious to hear any mention of such. I am aware of the obstacle of the fact that spiritual teachings are usually addressed to whole groups of people for them to all practice the same things together at one place, while technical constrainsts only let the possibility of eating from trash for a small minority of the people staying at any single location. Yet I would expect spiritual lifestyles to also develop in other configurations without this obstacle. But I guess that such undertakings could also be blocked by other drawbacks, such as

So, my position against all this is that as long as there is nothing to talk about, there is no point to argue about it either.

Meditation vs moral purposes

Well... I have nothing against those inclined to spend their life in meditation. Maybe it is the right path for them as they just happen to have nothing better to do than this on this planet. Maybe they even find their own great stuff there, whatever it may be. It is just not my business.
Moreover I do have a moral reason to see it not my business : it is that I did not see it effectively changing the world. What did meditative people achieve for others ? Well, the "greatest" of them appeared to pride themselves driving millions of more people into meditation, and that seems to be their main achievement. A circularity so similar to that of Christianity for which the highest mission and divine will would be to preach the Gospel, so that its greatness does not look so clear to me...
Well, I still admit the possibility of other great achievements by such means - why not. Yet I deny this any claim of exclusivity, as I consider that other great achievements exist on this planet which did not need any such stuff. Therefore I cannot take seriously any doctrine which while claiming to be the alpha and omega of life purposes, would try to drive everybody towards this obsession, ignoring the possibility for many other people to genuinely achieve their respective life purposes in many different ways other than meditation.

About NDE and sources of knowledge

I am very interested in NDEs and so I have read hundreds of them. I did wish to experience one myself, so there has been a time when I tried to apply a method for getting out of my body, by pure means of concentration (no substance, no hypnotist nor other special external tool). I ended up kind of succeeding for a fraction of a second, that is, "vibrations", i.e. sudden disconnection from bodily senses, something feeling stong like being struck by lightning... I got afraid (especially of the risk of incorrectly re-entering my body - I then once read about one such case, of someone who ended up with some offset between his material and spiritual bodies and thus needed the help of an energetic healer to be properly pushed back in). Then I gave up for good.
So what ? Why should I try again, after all ? As I read much more testimonies related to the beyond, such as Seth and also Christian Sundberg, it turned out that the "advantage" of having such an experience is not clear. Namely, while "spiritual realities" can feel much greater than human ones, we are basically spiritual beings coming here to live a human experience, not human beings trying to live a spiritual experience. We chose to come and experience a material life, forgetting our full wonderful spiritual nature for the good reason that this forgetting can be needed in order for us to better focus on these material things we came here for. I would not go as far as to make a general claim here : it can all depend on individuals. Maybe some are indeed here to try to re-connect to their spiritual nature by meditation, but not all are. Namely, I personally do not feel attracted to meditation practices, especially because I think I have other priorities what to do of my life. Spiritual practices are not my business.
Now, this very claim is already something to say, an effective information from beyond. What does Madhyamaka say about it ? Does it consider the possibility that its practice may genuinely not fit everybody ? As I looked through (not exhaustively, sorry), I could not find a word about it. Rather, its seems all written with the implicit assumption that everyone of its readers is or should be aspiring to dedicate one's life to its meditation practices, and just has no word to say about anyone else, or any possible reason to hesitate on this choice. Thus, like many other religions, it has a kind of superiority complex, presenting itself as the absolutely best way of all.

Now letting aside the concern of experience, let us come to the concern of truth and knowledge, whatever the topic of this knowledge may be. Where may any knowledge come from to us, and with which reliability ? It may be roughly split into

  1. Human sources (logic, science, human experience)
  2. One's own spiritual experiences
  3. Reading lots of info from the spiritual experiences or other channelling of others
I am aware that 1. fits some purposes but not all, and that there is a kind of possible loss of quality when someone's experience is translated into words, as many aspects of spiritual experiences are not translatable into words. Yet I maintain that 3. also has some possible advantages over 2. Namely, already if stuff was unidimensional, a problem is that not everybody can be the world champion of something ; but stuff is actually multidimensional, namely there is much more diverse spiritual realities than material ones, so that not single person with spiritual experiences can claim to have seen it all, like to be simultaneously the world champion of all possible sports. Therefore there can be an advantage in reading about multiple experiences and information sources of different kinds.

Moreover, among information sources, I pointed out both cases of Seth and Christian Sundberg. And as not anyone may know them I must point out that they are specially noteworthy cases of information sources, as they are not just any mediators or even NDErs.

While Christian Sundberg does practice meditation and OBEs, he is much more than this, as he is a Pre-Birth Experiencer : he remembers some aspects of his life on the other side before being born. Now it is much easier, more powerful and reliable as an information source on the other side to just not have forgotten it (well he only remembers a little bit of it, but...) than starting from scratch (birth amnesia) to painfully try to "discover" stuff by meditation, isn't it ? Probably, no matter how much work someone invests in the best meditation practices, without having that starting advantage, the range of possible discoveries such practice can bring from the other side won't be able to compete.
As for Seth, his unfair advantage is even greater : he is not even a human, but a former human who finished his series of human incarnations quite a while ago, then went on to explore some much deeper realities before coming back to tell his testimonies by regularly taking over a woman in trance.
On their side, "discoveries" of meditators are usually roughly summed up to the description of the experience of being a miserable human desperately stuck in the obsessive attempt of trying to catch miserable hints from these spiritual realms which we precisely came to Earth to not see, while not understanding why not everybody else shouldn't be stuck in the same desperate obsession.
See, in terms of sources of information from the other side and putting everything into proper perspective, dedicated meditators just can't compete against those 2.
Why try to compete, by the way ? Actually, the quest for truth isn't a competition (even if there are possibilities to take it so as a possible experience among others). Among the reasons for this, 2 big ones are that

Now from these deeper information sources, appears one more reason to question the masters of any specific meditation school as a reliable source of knowledge : the tendency of the "other side" to adapt its shape to the expectations and ideologies of each specific individual, not coming to contradict him up front if his deeply held beliefs were incorrect. Hence the risk that the experience (either one's own or that of others) of meditators from a specific school of thought can be biased, astray from the broader, more balanced perspective.

And for what I could quickly saw about Madhyamaka, it appears to be pretty much the same as Buddhism and opposed by the views of Seth, Christian Sundberg and generally the bulk of other NDErs. And no, the possibilities for these to not have considered the specific case of Madhyamaka is of no relevance here, so that them starting to study it would be a waste of time and change absolutely nothing of their conclusions, because they got their knowledge in legitimate and independent ways, which did NOT consist in looking at Buddhism, finding something a little bit incorrect there then deciding to adopt diametrically opposite positions by lack of imagination of how these little defects could be corrected.

And no, in reply to "Addressing NDE phenomena without precise knowledge of the aforementioned subjects is a seriously limited attempt at best", there is no use of any old teaching for addressing NDE phenomena, because NDE are not phenomena in need to be interpreted. Rather, NDE clearly and directly speak for themselves (at least most of them), while human life (and life on Earth in general) is a phenomenon which NDE and related sources of insight can address; and, while many NDE are not very deep, some are much deeper due to circumstances unrelated with any voluntary practice, thus becoming self-sufficient with no special need of complementary insights from the latter (except for those personally interested with such practice of course).

About ontology

Precisely, ontology appears to be a central obsession of the Madhyamaka teachings. They are proud to try investigating it and teaching about it. While they seem to imagine it as a valuable topic, I have a kind of opposite view. As I explained, I am non-essentialist, in a sense I detailed in that other page, that is an opposition to essentialism NOT on any given answers, but in terms of choices/interest of questions. Let me comment and explain it here again in other terms, namely by expanding on the context of the above explanations about life and sources of knowledge.

While the idea of investigating ontology would basically in itself look like a good one, it turns out to be not so just by putting it in its proper background. Namely, I would say (in coherence with the more reliable information sources mentioned above), that the idea of incarnating as a human to investigate ontology could be about as ridiculous as the idea of incarnating as a fish to try to climb a tree. (Unless of course, the real goal was to make an experience of miserable failure... which, I must admit, may be more or less a good description of a major dimension of the purposes for so many of us to incarnate here, that is, to experience miserable failure through many kinds of experiences, not only the investigation of ontology).
Indeed, seriously, why come into a world of shadows and undertake a search for the real stuff there ? If only you made the effort of analyzing these shadows very precisely, namely by the study of theoretical physics, then it may give you chances to discern some hints about how these shadows could be formed and which kind of real stuff they may reflect. But if you're just going like "these shadows are shadowy" then you're not likely to reach anywhere that way. To just focus and endlessly comment on the impermanence of what you chose to focus on, is a waste of time. But being ignorant about eternal things does not imply that such things do not exist.

Precisely, a fundamental error here, I guess, is to focus on the example of physical objects as candidate real things, then argue that these things are inessential (a point to which I'd agree) and then extrapolate from there to argue in the emptiness of all things. The error then, is to have focused the analysis on a wrong example. The assumption that physical objects would be the best candidate essential things from which other things would be made, is just an illusion of perspective due to the inappropriate choice of a human incarnation to investigate the issue.

Already, if only instead of incarnating as an average human you chose to incarnate as a mathematician, then you would have an easier time considering the other case of mathematical objects and understanding these as clear and eternal ones. For example, you cannot destroy the number π (even if you forget its name and the decimal convention to represent numbers, it will no more be written in the same way, but its core concept and value remains). Once I pointed out this example (mathematical objects) to a supporter of some Buddhist doctrine or similar (now I could not find this old piece of debate in my mailbox to check details...), he first did not reply, then later explained that the argument made him lose his nerves, a feeling which did not fit his teachings, and that is why he did not reply as he needed to calm down... so they have their favorite lines of reasoning and are unprepared for other approaches...
One might try to reply that the number π is not a good example, because it is not in itself an object of attachment. And that is true. Actually, no single mathematical object is worth anything individually, even for pure math, but their point is the role they take in a given context, that is, a branch of mathematics. Then, one can argue that some branch of mathematics, or even mathematics in general, as a complex open-ended system, can be a genuine object of attachment. But then what the heck could it bring to say that all this stuff would be "empty", of... of what, by the way ?
By the way, maybe it is only that I saw too briefly, the doctrine does not seem to mention any specific example of object, either generally, or more specifically objects of attachment, just to check if we can effectively apply to something their abstract generalities about the non-essentiality of objects, and the supposed erroneous belief in their essentiality by common people (??? who, how, and who cares ???) and that such supposedly widespread (?) belief of essentiality in those objects, supposedly also objects of attachment, would lead these people to suffering in... any possible future time when these objects would vanish. So, as an example of object I was personally attached to outside math, which hopefully more people can understand and relate to, let me pick Mozart's Requiem... so, how proceeds the mistaken belief of its essentiality, and how can the attachement to it lead to suffering ? The experience in my case is that I was once so fond of that piece of music that I repeatedly listen to it a large number of times, until... I was kind of bored. Yet this exhaustion of taste for it, did not seem to translate into any kind of mourning. And this piece of music itself cannot die, as, thanks to modern technology (and even before), our ability to get it repeated lasts forever. But if it didn't, that is, this Requiem could happen to die or get destroyed, then we'd clearly have to sing another Requiem in its honor.

Now, among the fundamental differences between Buddhism and the Seth teachings (I would even say oppositions ; I generally see more oppositions than agreement there), are that, for Seth,

For some details on Seth's ontological views, see his story of creation.

Leaving aside the divergence of answers on ontology, let us come back to the divergence of attitude towards investigation in this field : how wasteful it is to try investigating it as humans. That is how modern science is born : by the principles of logical positivism and its rejection of metaphysics. Most philosophers failed to understand it, since they usually fail to understand almost anyting, namely by mistaking it as a candidate ontological dogma, by their craziness of interpreting anything in such ridiculous terms. Rather, I see it as a pragmatic, socio-empirical move : we observe that all philosophers of previous centuries who tried to investigate ontology got stuck in a proliferation of candidate view with no objective means to decide which is better ; therefore let us forget it all and reorient our efforts to other, hopefullly more productive topics and methods of investigation. What the heck would it mean to say that objects or phenomena have or don't have an essence anyway ? Now if you argue that objects and phenomena depend on each other, then very well, we can make something from this claim, namely, undertake to focus our study on observing and analyzing the structure of their connections ! And an advantage of this study that needs to be used is that connections are empirically verifiable; and the understanding of the found structures can then give hints on the nature of phenomena.
For example, if the causalities are found to be deterministic then each new event can be said to be a mere puppet of the previous events, while non-deterministic laws let us qualify the new events as having their own originality.
For example, if it is claimed that following some philosophy or practice leads to happiness, no matter if this happiness is named "end of suffering" or whatever, then before believing it we need to verify it by some sociological study, with a kind of poll following some people along time, asking them how they feel and which philosophy and practice they are trying to follow, then years later asking them again how they feel, and see which philosophy or practice was more likely to lead to bester results. However we need to be very careful to avoid a number of loopholes such as

while purely theoretical arguments why it should work based on some ontological doctrine, would be too unreliable to be trusted.

Now an important point making logical positivism and its non-essentialism differ from being a philosophy or doctrine in the usual sense, and especially from the other kind of non-essentialism of Madhyamaka or Buddhism, is that it only takes a few minutes to explain it all and move on to where it invites us to move on. There is no point to invest more time in the obsession to deny the existence of something one does not believe in. As famously expressed by Neil deGrasse Tyson on a slighly different topic:

About motivation

One aspect I find particularly unhealthy in Buddhism, and that includes Madhyamaka, is the insistent call to adopt a kind of belief, not as a matter of finding it true after neutral and objective investigation, but for an advantage (here : the end of suffering), and pressed by some kind of assumption that this belief would be the expression of a quality of the soul, like in the tale of the Emperor's New Clothes. That is very similar to the Christian call to have faith for being "saved". It can be very hard to have a sane investigation and debate in such conditions.

About my work

I wonder what he imagined my "work" to be like. First of all, none of my writings (except my PhD on Vassiliev invariants) are "works" strictly speaking, in the sense that I do everything for free, not for money nor any academic carreer. Then, among all these things I do for free, those somehow most feeling like a work are the pages on the foundations of maths (settheory.net), as I spent the most time and care on these to bring them close to perfection. Then the more philosophical topics are usually those I rather write for fun, and I include there some humor, just because in the face of the awful nonsense of philosophies usually taught around, it is still better to laugh than to cry. If Madhyamaka was anyhow similar then how much humor does it contain ?

Then ontology, which seems to be the main focus of Madhyamaka, is the least of my works, for the reason I explained above, that is, it is mostly vain to try digging into it as humans. Not that I didn't write anything there. I did, and, apart from some notes in texts with different main topics, my main text focusing on this topic is there, and I do not know of any other work by others so clear and correct on the same aspects to the topic (so much for how vain I think most works by others are). Yet I still won't call it a work, because it is only a few pages which took a short time to write. It is just the few aspects of the topic which I see humanly possible to see clear and fully understand. Yet it has no claim to be exhaustive since, as I said, I consider Seth's creation story as deeper. Yet the latter, dealing with other aspects of the topic than those I wrote, will not have any consequence on my work. There is no sense trying to "compete" with him trying to build over it to do anything better on the same topic. He is self-sufficient and it was enough for me to quote him.

Rather, the present page is actually typical of the usual style of my "work" in philosohical matters. And I usually don't care whether anyone generally, and even les "philosophers" specifically, like or not, or find anyhow valuable or not, what I write.

His reactions to this

Well if you think I can't read, well sorry I can. I never mistook that stuff as if it consciously, explicitly claimed to be about nothing. I did notice the tetralemma since I re-wrote it by a clear metaphor explaining the non-trivial process by which it ultimately turns out to be about nothing even when it claims to be about everything. It looks like you're the one who couldn't read, since if you could, you would have noticed that explanation.
So I consider that like so many other doctrine it misrepresents itself completely, and lost itself into vain senseless teaching for nothing. So what I meant is that I consider nothing as what its topics really amount to.
As for the diversity of meditation practices, I never denied it but it is simply out of topic. I mentioned one which I might have been interested in, but not enough, but that still doesn't mean that among other possible meditation practices there must be some other I should be interested in more.
If "existence and nonexistence are both considered to be category errors by this philosophy" then it is still somehow about ontology, since it is claims about the concept of existence. Any true abstention from ontology would abstain from any denial of meaning of these concepts, and thus would not call them category errors either. But let us admit that it is about epistemology. Then well, sorry I cannot escape from considering this attitude of trying to teach to a mathematician about the conditions of existence of pi, while not being a mathematician oneself and even more after reading my warning of the need to incarnate as a mathematician to discuss this topic, as the level -1 of epistemology. Namely : for the specific case of π, while it is true that any mathematical theory which can define π can also define circles, it remains a mistake to think you can refer to the case "If there was no such thing as a circle". Indeed even if scrapping the physical universe was possible it would still fail to make circles to not exist for the good reason that mathematical circles are not located there - as they are mathematical objects, independent of physical space, and the latter does even obey Euclidean geometry. Moreover we could refer to the sum of n-2 for all nonzero natural numbers n, which is π2/6 thus defining π with no need of circles. But more simply I could have picked the square root of 2 as another example of object, which strictly speaking provides the exact same argument, with only less risks for idiots to think that the existence of circles, or of a physical universe, has something to do with it.
"Seth, well his experiences are common among bardo yoga meditators " well that's absolutely impossible, you must have failed to read the very basics about him.

Expanding on comparing the multiplicity of meditation practices to that of sports. Then I could say that my interest in spiritual issues are roughly to meditation practices what watching documentaries about space exploration would be to practicing sports (except that watching documentaries sounds like total passivity, while I'm somehow active but on a completely different level, the intellectual one). So, I just don't think that the practice of high jumps could help me compete with Neil Armstrong in reaching the moon, even though I admit he must have got his own hard physical training. And I won't try to compete in Solar System travel with any space probe either.

Let us finish with a question specifially about the Madhyamaka philosophy : how to explain that it could lead a philosophy student who studied and loves it, to write me messages as completely ridiculous as those I quoted above ?