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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
DZOGCHEN PONLOP RINPOCHE 35 Modern physics and Madhyamaka reasoning come to almost the same conclusion regarding the existence of external phenomena. Madhyamaka calls that state in which nothing existent is found at the subatomic level “emptiness” or “shunyata,” whereas the scientific community posits hypothetical entities (zerodimensional or mathematical representations) and uses labels for them such as “quarks,” “strings,” or “energy fields.” Even though there is nothing there, these scientific terms create the illusion that there is something to hold on to. Instead of experiencing the rug being com pletely pulled out from under our feet, such labels provide a sense of ground, of something to stand on. Madhyamaka analysis offers no such reassurance; instead, it leads us to total groundlessness. Thus in Madhyamaka reasoning we completely refute any notion of existence. We analyze, we destroy, and we transcend any kind of clinging to existence whatsoever. That is the function of the nonaffirming negation. From the perspective of the ultimate truth, there is a complete sense of negation without any compensating affirmation. the actuaL absoLute tRuth The Madhyamaka point of view does not leave us stuck there, though. It goes beyond negation to find the real nature of phenom ena, which transcends both existence and nonexistence, eternalism and nihilism. Shantideva, the eighthcentury Indian scholar and Madhyamaka master, said that when, after deep contemplation, we are thoroughly intimate with the notion that nothing exists, that notion too should be abandoned. After all, the Buddha taught that even emptiness itself is empty, nonexistent. Once we’ve transcended the delusion of existence, the next step on the Madhyamaka path is to return to the middle. In fact, Madhyamaka means “Middle Way.” From the perspective of the PHOTOKEIZOKIOKU|COURTESY21STCENTURYMUSEUMOFCONTEMPORARYART,KANAZAWA