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Buddhadharma : Spring 2018
DZOGCHEN PONLOP RINPOCHE 33 For instance, conventional logic tells me that if I put my finger into a fire, the fire will burn it. This is called the “relative truth.” However, if I ask, “What is fire? What is a finger?” I may become aware of a gap between the terms “fire” or “finger” (the labels) and the phenomena referred to by those terms (the bases of the labels). The label does not exist beyond our conceptual minds; it is irrel evant to the phenomenon in its own state. The name “fire” and the thing that is hot and burning are not the same. The term “finger” is simply the word I use (in English) to describe the long, bendable digit attached to my hand. Yet because of our samsaric condition ing, we perceive the two things—the basis of the label and the label itself—as one. Therefore, the first step in Madhyamaka analysis is to become aware of the difference between the two and to observe the labeling processes of the mind. Through contemplating in this way, we see that the basis is free from both the label and the labeling pro cess. Our actual experience of the world of phenomena transcends concepts, thoughts, and labels. This is our first analysis. Next, we can analyze the basis of the label itself. Consider a table. What exactly is the thing we call a table? What is the basis of the label “table”? Contrary to conventional understanding, the basis is not a single entity. It has many parts: a top, sides, legs, and so forth. And if we look closely at each part, we can see that each of them, in turn, is made up of different parts. Each leg also has a top, sides, and so forth. If we continue to examine each of those parts, we will discover that each of them is composed of atomic particles. And if we further observe each atomic particle, we’ll find even smaller, subatomic particles. Eventually, we’ll arrive at a tiny unit, the irre ducible “partless” particle. But if we continue and break down the “partless” particle through analysis, nothing solid or real is found.