Object of Negation

When a subject is analyzed, the object to be negated is determined to be either an appearance or something imagined. It is not logical, [however,] to negate momentary appearances, because reasonings cannot negate them. To take an example: for people with eye diseases, the appearances of floaters (bits of optical debris), double moons, and the like do not stop as long as their eyesight is impaired. Similarly, as long as beings are not free from unafflicted ignorance, illusionlike appearances [manifesting] to the six modes of consciousness do not stop.

It is not necessary to negate [appearances], because our mistakes do not come from appearances: they arise from fixating on those [appearances]. This is the case because if we do not fixate on appearances, we are not bound--we are like a magician who, having conjured up a young woman, has no attachment towards her. [On the other hand, if,] like naive beings attached to an illusory young woman, we fixate intensely [on appearances], our karma and mental afflictions will increase.

To intentionally negate appearances would be wrong because, if they were negated, emptiness would come to mean the [absolute] nonexistence of things. Another reason this would be a mistake is that yogins and yoginis meditating on emptiness would fall into the extreme of nihilism since they would be applying their minds to a negation that [equals] the [absolute] nonexistence of everything.

Thus, [Madhyamikas] set out to negate only what is imagined, because that is what can be negated. Like a rope [mistaken] for a snake, what is imagined does not conform to facts: it is simply the mind's fixations.

--from The Treasury of Knowledge, Book Six, Part Three: Frameworks of Buddhist Philosophy, by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, translated by Elizabeth M. Callahan, published by Snow Lion Publications

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