Overview of Divisions of Phenomena

Other languages

The Buddhist Context for the Analysis of Phenomena 

This evening we are going to talk about the various ways in which Buddhism analyzes phenomena. 

The reason for understanding phenomena and having a conceptual framework for understanding phenomena is for being able to understand how things exist, both what exists and how it exists. And the reason for wanting to understand that is because things appear to exist in confusing, deceptive ways. It’s not our fault that things appear like that. Our minds make them appear like that because, if we can use computer terminology, we have limited hardware. If we think about it, we can only see through these two holes in the front of our skull. We can’t see things behind us. We can only observe things that are happening now. We can’t observe things that have already happened or not yet happened, and so on. The hardware is limited, and as humans, even the range within the visual spectrum is limited to what we can perceive with our hardware. Eagles can see different things, and dogs can hear different things. So, it is a hardware problem. 

Because of that deceptive appearance that our limited minds make of things, we tend to believe that things exist in the deceptive way that they appear to us. For instance, it might appear to us that we are the only ones that exist in the universe. We close our eyes and nobody else seems to exist anymore, so it appears to us that we are the center of the universe and therefore that we are the most important one. Because we believe that to be true, all sorts of disturbing emotions arise – we get angry when we don’t get our way, we get greedy and selfish, and so on. This causes uncontrollably recurring problems and rebirth. 

The whole aim in Buddhism is to gain liberation from this, and then to go beyond and gain the enlightenment state of a Buddha so that we can help everybody else also to gain liberation and enlightenment. This is because, as an omniscient Buddha, we will know what the best way is to help each being attain these goals. In order to gain liberation or enlightenment, we have to not only stop believing in these deceptive appearances – if we stop believing in them, then the disturbing emotions don’t arise, and we gain liberation – but we also need to go beyond that. We have to get our minds to stop projecting these deceptive appearances. When we do that, we become an omniscient Buddha, because then we are able to understand and know all the causes that from beginningless time have affected each individual person and have led to their present situations. We would know if we were to teach this person this and that, it would have this and that effect not only on them, but on everybody else that they will interact with in the future. 

In order to be able to really know how to help others, we have to get our minds to stop being limited in this way. A Buddha is not a limited being, a sentient being. As a Buddha, we are able to perceive the interconnectedness of everything, basically. The whole purpose of this description of all the various phenomena that there are, ways of knowing, etc., is not just to present some intellectual construct, but is aimed at helping us to understand reality, get rid of our confusion, and eventually be able to gain liberation and enlightenment and help others attain them as well. That’s its purpose. 

Existent Phenomena and Nonexistent Phenomena 

How do we conceptually divide “things?” First, we need to divide existent phenomena (yod-pa) from nonexistent phenomena (med-pa), but let’s not get into a whole discussion of can we call nonexistent things “phenomena”? An existent phenomenon is defined as something that can be validly known. A valid cognition is one that is both accurate and decisive. A nonexistent phenomenon is something that cannot be validly known. 

For instance, human lips are existent phenomena; they can be accurately and decisively seen. Chicken lips are nonexistent phenomena. We cannot accurately and decisively see or imagine chicken lips; we could imagine human lips on a chicken, but not chicken lips on a chicken. It’s very important to know this distinction because although our minds make appearances of things existing in impossible ways, those actual impossible ways do not correspond to reality. What they correspond to is nonexistent. It can’t be known accurately and decisively. It appears to us that we are the center of the universe and that we are the most important one, but that is just imaginary; it doesn’t correspond to anything real. A “me” or a “you” who is the center of the universe and the most important one in it is a nonexistent phenomenon. It can’t be validly known.

There are many consequences from that. We think that “I should always get my way. I should always be right. I should always go first,” and so on. Nobody exists that way, so such a person, “me,” is a nonexistent phenomenon. If we think that we do exist in that way, this is not a valid way of knowing. Or if we think that our problems will go away just by themselves if we sit and do nothing, this is impossible. As I say, we have to understand that all of this is intended to help us to deal with difficult situations and overcome them. 

Valid Phenomena, Invalid Phenomena and the Buddhist Presentation of the Three Times

There is also the distinction between valid phenomena (srid-pa) and invalid phenomena (mi-srid-pa), and now it starts to get a little bit complicated. Valid phenomena are presently happening somewhere now, and so they can be correctly and accurately known now. Invalid phenomena are not presently happening anywhere – for instance, last year. But last year is something that exists in the sense that we can correctly and accurately remember it; it’s just no longer happening. 

To understand this, we need to get into the Buddhist understanding of the three times: past, present and future. First of all, past, present and future are Western ways of looking at time. It is not the way that Buddhists look at time. Surprise, right? The Western way of looking at these three suggests that the past is existing and happening somewhere and the future is existing and happening somewhere and that we can actually time-travel to either of them. 

That is a totally false way of understanding according to the Buddhist analysis. Instead, we talk about “not-yet-happening” (ma-’ong-ba), “presently-happening” (da-lta-ba) and “no-longer-happening” (’das-pa). That’s the sequence: not-yet-happening, presently-happening and no-longer-happening. It’s the reverse of the West. We think past comes first, then present, then future, but here it’s not-yet the present, presently the present, and then no longer the present. 

Let’s give an example. Now it’s the year 2010, so there is the presently-happening 2010. That can be accurately and decisively known now, so that’s a valid existent phenomenon. The no-longer-happening 2009 is now invalid. It has expired, but it still is an existent phenomenon – it was not just in our imagination. We can correctly and accurately remember 2009 and what we remember is the no-longer-happening 2009. But now in 2010, a presently-happening 2009 is a nonexistent phenomenon; there is no such thing and so it cannot be accurately and decisively known. 

Perhaps an easier example to understand is a flashlight battery. We can accurately and decisively know that an expired flashlight battery is no longer working. It is no longer valid, yet it still exists. It’s just that the presently working battery now no longer exists. Let’s leave aside the philosophical issue of whether the unexpired battery and the expired battery are the same battery just at different times. There is a lot of debate about that.

Similarly, we can also accurately and decisively know the not-yet-happening 2011 in the sense that we can think about it, we can plan for it, etc. It is an invalid existent phenomenon, but a presently-happening 2011 does not exist now in 2010.  

We need to make another distinction. Now in 2010, although the presently-happening 2009 no longer exists, there was a presently-happening 2009. This is different from the case of a monster. A no-longer-happening monster can never exist because there could never have been a presently-happening monster. So, there is a big difference between something no longer happening and something that never could have happened. In even more detail, there is a big difference between something that never has happened yet but could happen, like colonizing Mars, and something that never could happen, like colonizing the Sun.

What is the application of this? The application is that I thought I was the center of the universe and now I am liberated from that. I realize that what I imagined was complete garbage. However, it’s not that there is now a no-longer-happening center-of-the universe Alex. This is because there never was a presently-happening center-of-the-universe Alex. There never was such an Alex before, when I was unliberated and unenlightened, because there is no such thing as anyone being the center of the universe. There never was and never could be such a person, because there is no such thing as a person existing that way. It is not that it was something existent that now is no longer happening. It is something that was never existent and so was never happening. The variable of being a valid phenomenon or an invalid one does not apply to it because something nonexistent could never be happening.

For instance, somebody has paranoia, and they think everybody is against them. Now they have been cured from that, but it wasn’t that those visions of paranoia ever corresponded to something real. We could have thought it was real, but now we have seen reality and we’re no longer seeing them. So, is it like the no-longer-happening year 2009? We can know a no-longer-happening 2009, but there was a presently-happening 2009. But a no-longer-happening “monster who is attacking me” – it wasn’t that there was a presently-happening “monster that was attacking me,” and now it’s no longer happening. Do you follow? There is a big difference here. 

This monster is no longer attacking me; but it wasn’t that it was ever attacking me, is it? Now I know there is no longer any monster attacking me. Like I know that now there is no longer a 2009 happening, and similarly, I know now that there’s a no-longer-happening of monsters attacking me. No longer happening. “Happening” is the most important word here. It is talking about experience, not just “exist” in general. However, a presently-happening 2009 was something that happened. It was something actual, an existent phenomenon, but a presently-happening “monster attacking me” never actually existed. That is a nonexistent phenomenon. It’s not that there is a no-longer-happening monster that was preceded by a presently happening one that existed and attacked me.

Why don’t we take a few moments and digest that? These are difficult topics, and normally we would spend weeks debating them back and forth so as to gain a firm understanding of them. Let’s abbreviate that into one or two minutes to just try to gain a rough understanding of this concept – not yet happening, presently happening and no longer happening. 

To review: A valid phenomenon is one that is presently happening now. It is existent and so can be accurately and decisively known. An invalid phenomenon is one that is not presently happening now, anywhere. It is not yet happening or no longer happening. It can accurately and decisively be planned for or remembered and so it’s existent. A monster or a person who is the center of the universe is nonexistent. It is also an invalid phenomenon, but could never presently happen, not yet happen or no longer happen.  

Okay? Try to digest that, please. Think about it. 


A no-longer-happening “baby Alex” is something that we can know now. That’s an existent phenomenon, isn’t it? We can see a photo of him. That’s a valid phenomenon. But a presently-happening “baby Alex” is not happening now, is it? Also, it’s not happening somewhere else. So, it’s not valid, but it exists – it existed. My mother saw the presently-happening “baby Alex,” but it is not happening now. 

Not only is the no-longer-happening “baby Alex” an existent phenomenon, the “no-longer-happening” of “baby Alex” is also an existent phenomenon. I can know validly that it is no longer happening, can’t I? I know that “no longer am I a baby.” That actually is very interesting because many of us who are older will not accept that there is a no-longer-happening “young man Alex.” I still think that a “young man Alex” is presently happening, but it is not. 

Do you see the application of all of this? We have to make this distinction here between “existing” and “happening now.” Those are different categories. So, this is the distinction that we are drawing here. Among the things that are not happening now, some of them did exist, and some of them didn’t; they never existed. 

Nonstatic Phenomena 

All right, now let’s look at how existent phenomena are divided. There are these terribly confusing terms that most translators use for a major division, “permanent” (rtag-pa) and “impermanent” (mi-rtag-pa). I avoid using them in this technical discussion. The problem is that these words have two different meanings. One meaning is “static” and “nonstatic.” Static means it doesn’t change; nonstatic means that it changes. Then, there is another pair, which is “temporary” and “eternal.” Unfortunately, the terms “permanent” and “impermanent,” at least in English, perhaps also in German, can have both meanings, and because of that, it becomes very confusing when translators use them. 

Which meaning are they referring to? In some contexts, it’s one and, in other contexts, it’s the other. It’s much better to translate them differently in each of these contexts. This is because, as it turns out, there are some nonstatic phenomena that are temporary, and some are eternal. Similarly, some static phenomena are temporary, and some are eternal. I’m laughing because then, in debate, what we also worry about is, from each of these four, which ones are valid phenomena and which are invalid phenomena? The intersection of all these sets becomes very, very complex. 

Let’s look at nonstatic phenomena first. That division into static and nonstatic is usually what’s meant when we hear the discussion of permanent and impermanent phenomena. They are not usually talking about whether something is temporary or eternal. Nonstatic phenomena are those things that either arise from causes and conditions or are supported and affected by causes and conditions. They change from moment to moment, and they produce effects. 

There are four possibilities. Some of these things that change from moment to moment have a beginning and an end. Some have no beginning and no end; they are eternal. Some have no beginning but have an end. Some have a beginning but no end. And of those things that have a beginning and an end, there are some things that are naturally degenerating (nyams), going downhill, and there are other things that don’t naturally degenerate. 

That’s not easy. We have to give examples so that perhaps we can understand these distinctions here. This present body that we have arises from causes and conditions. It is affected by causes and conditions. It changes from moment to moment. It produces effects: We can pick up things, we can move, etc. – the body can. It has a beginning, and it has an end. It is gradually falling apart, getting older and degenerating. 

We have to get a little bit into a discussion of karma for the next example. For instance, we performed a certain action – let’s say we hurt somebody, or yelled at somebody, or killed somebody. There is a certain karmic potential, a negative potential, that is built up by that. This is carried along with the mental continuum. (I’m sorry that this is a more complicated example, but I can’t think of any other example.) Eventually, that potential will ripen into our being unknowingly attracted to a situation in which we are killed by somebody else, or yelled at by someone, or hurt by someone. 

That negative karmic potential has a beginning, for instance when we hurt somebody, and that potential will have an end when actually – the terminology is it “ripens” – we are hurt by somebody else. During that interval of the existence of that potential, it doesn’t degenerate by itself; it’s going to continue. It’s not as though if we wait long enough, it is going to wear out like the body. We can affect that potential. If we yell more and hurt people more and more, that potential gets stronger. If we regret it and help others instead, then that potential will get weaker. It will change from moment to moment, but by itself, it’s not going to go away; it’s not going to fall apart like the body will. 

According to Buddhism, there are methods to purify oneself of this negative potential so that it doesn’t ripen at all, so that it will never ripen. What’s important to understand is that the application of this is that we have to deal with the negative potentials, the consequences of the destructive things that we’ve done. They’re not going to go away by themselves. If we have hurt somebody or hurt the environment, or something like that, we can’t just wait for the karmic potential from that to go away by itself. These are things that are not going to go away. We have to deal with them. We can make them better, or we can make them worse. Just by themselves, they’re not going to go away. This is the application here. 

If we think about it, this really is quite profound. Whatever we do is going to have consequences. The potential for the consequence to happen begins when we do something, and it ends when the consequence happens. The fact that there are going to be consequences is not something that, if we wait long enough, will expire and there won’t be any consequences. Do you follow? This is actually very profound in terms of dealing with the consequences of our behavior. We can’t just pretend that they’re going to go away by themselves. 

Let’s go on. There are certain things that are going to change from moment to moment that have no beginning and no end; they’re eternal. For this, the example that is given is an individual mental continuum. It gets complicated. From the Buddhist point of view, there is a very large but finite number of individual mental continuums. When we become enlightened, it isn’t the Hindu image that all the streams become one in the ocean, that we will all become one. That’s Hinduism; that’s not Buddhism. Mental continuums are individual: They have no beginning and no end. Even after we have become enlightened, our mental continuum retains its individuality and goes on forever. 

That’s quite an important point from a Buddhist point of view. You see, if we are all one – sort of an undifferentiated big “soup” – then we don’t have to take any responsibility, individual responsibility, for what we have done and their consequences. But, we are individuals. We interact with everybody else. It’s not as though we exist with solid walls around us or encapsulated in plastic, existing independently of everyone else and everything else. Despite the fact of being individuals, we interact with each other; however, that doesn’t make us all one soup. 

A mental continuum has no beginning and no end. It is affected by circumstances, but it is not created from nothing. There is a big discussion of, “Can a nothing become a something?” Or, “Can a something become a nothing?” That’s a deep philosophical question. We might think that that’s cute, but it has consequences. For example, in the case of abortion, up to a certain point is the embryo a nothing and then, all of sudden, it becomes a something? There are ethical questions that are involved if we think that a nothing becomes a something. When does it become a something? How does it become a something? Very, very interesting questions, so these aren’t just trivial philosophical games that we are playing here. 

Anyway, there are also things with no beginning, but which have an end – like, for instance, our confusion or anger. These disturbing states of mind have no beginning, but they can have an end when we attain liberation. Or the not-yet-happening of 2010. That not-yet-happening of 2010 had no beginning. Did it have a beginning? When did this not-yet-happening begin? But it does have an end, when there is a presently-happening of 2010.  

There are also things that have a beginning but no end. Like the death of my father. It had a beginning when he died; my father died many years ago. However, does that have an end? He is dead forever. Does he stop being dead? He could be reborn, but it’s not my father. 

Again, we don’t have time to deal with all the implications of this scheme for analyzing things. However, if we realize that although we have a certain problem like anger, yet even if it has no beginning it is possible for it to end, we won’t get discouraged. It’s not that somebody created anger in us or something like that. It had no beginning. That anger is also one of these things that changes from moment to moment, but it is not going to go away by itself. We have to apply some opponents for it to end, and it can end, like the not-yet-happening of 2010. Being rid of anger is something that could last forever. It could have a beginning, when we really truly are rid of it, and then there will be no end to being rid of it. 

Static Phenomena 

We’ve spoken about nonstatic phenomena. Now, we come to static phenomena; they are phenomena that do not change. Static phenomena also have these different types – some are forever, some are temporary, and so on There are no easy examples. One example would be, for instance, facts. A fact is a fact. It doesn’t change, like one plus one equals two. It has no beginning and no end. But the fact of “being free from confusion so that it never arises again” has a beginning. That fact had a beginning when we became free forever of confusion, and that fact is never going to change after that. It is static. It will always be the case. 

Another example would be voidness, emptiness. Voidness is the absence of impossible ways of existing of something, so that’s a fact about something. That something doesn’t exist in some impossible way. That’s absent, not there, not the case, and the fact of its absence doesn’t change. It is a fact, always the same, but it can have a beginning, and it can have an end. The absence of this glass existing in an impossible way had a beginning when the glass was made. It didn’t exist before the glass was made, and it will end when the glass breaks. As long as the glass exists, it is a fact that is true about it. 

Let me explain further. This glass appears to me as though: “This is my glass, don’t use it. You’d better not use it. You are going to get germs on it.” “This is mine,” as if it was inherently mine. I would get very upset if you used it and got your germs on it. This does not correspond to anything real. This glass doesn’t exist from its own side as being “mine,” does it? It happens to be here on the table during this talk. You know, “MY glass!” That’s an impossible way of existing. Although conventionally, now, I’m using it, but it isn’t as though solidly it’s mine.

The static fact of this glass not truly being mine is only true when there is a presently-happening glass. It starts when the presently-happening glass is made, and it ends when the presently-happening glass is broken. The static fact that the not-yet-happening glass is not truly mine has no beginning, but it has an end when the presently-happening glass is made. The static fact that the no-longer-happening glass is also not truly mine has a beginning when the presently-happening glass breaks, but it has no end. 

It can get even more complicated, but this is probably complicated enough. Why don’t we take a moment to think about all this? 


In very simple language, all we are saying is that there are certain facts about things that never change so long as that thing exists. That fact about it starts to be the case when that thing is created, and it stops being the case when that thing is no longer there. The fact about it can only exist relative to and dependent on the thing that it’s a fact about. 

We can also speak about the voidness, the absence, of all validly knowable phenomena existing in impossible ways. That has no beginning and no end because there is no beginning and no end to all validly knowable phenomena. That absence of impossible ways of existing of everything is a fact about everything – everything that can be accurately and decisively known. Well, since there is a very large number of things that can be validly known that have no beginning and no end – for instance, individual mental continuums – there are always validly knowable things. None of them could ever exist in impossible ways, and that absence of them existing in impossible ways has no beginning and no end because what it is a fact about has no beginning and no end. If the fact is about something that has a beginning and an end, then that fact about it also has a beginning and an end. If there is something that a fact is about that has no beginning and no end, then the fact about it also has no beginning and no end. 

Consider a fact about my body: “This body does not exist as a monstrous horrible thing.” That is a fact about it that never changes. It started to be true at my conception, and it will stop being true at my death, when the body no longer exists. It is only a fact about my body that is true and exists so long as the body exists and is presently happening. So long as it exists, we say it doesn’t exist as a monster. That never changes. 

In the West, we speak about matter and energy as things that can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. Right? So, no beginning and no end. Matter and energy never existed in impossible ways. That fact about matter and energy as a whole has no beginning and no end because matter and energy have no beginning and no end. What’s an impossible way in which matter and energy could exist? That matter and energy can be created or destroyed. But they cannot be. That’s a fact about them that they cannot be created or destroyed. That fact is always the case, it never changes, it has no beginning and no end because matter and energy have no beginning and no end. 

We don’t have the actual term “fact” in the Buddhist texts. I’m trying to put this in a way that is hopefully a little bit easier to understand. In our Western way of thinking, we can call these “facts,” and these facts never change. Certain things are facts, and certain things are not facts. We have to be careful because not all facts are static. The weight of something or the boiling point of water is not a fact. It is dependent on the elevation and so on. We are only talking about certain facts. That is why we don’t really use this word “fact,” but I am trying to make it a little bit easier to understand. 

By the way, another example of static phenomena are categories. A category is static; it doesn’t change. Like the category “computer.” Many individual items fit into the category “computer.” As a category, the category “computer” doesn’t change. When we think about it, we could have something that represents a computer, and that can change. However, what a computer is, as a category, doesn’t change. It had a beginning, when computers were invented. For people who lived 2000 years ago, there wasn’t a category “computer,” was there? It will have an end when future archeologists dig up some object that we called a “computer” and have no idea what is was or what it did.

Affirmation Phenomena and Negation Phenomena 

Existent phenomena, both nonstatic and static ones, can also be divided into affirmation phenomena (sgrub-pa) and negation phenomena (dgag-pa). 

Affirmation phenomena are things that are known by the establishment or affirmation of something and without excluding anything else. An apple, for instance, is an affirmation phenomenon, it is affirmingly known. We can see an apple and affirm that this is an apple without excluding it being anything else. There’s nothing to be negated here. We can validly know these things. There are many, many examples.

Negation phenomena, or negatingly known phenomena, are things that can only be known by means of the exclusion of something else. Like, for example, “not an apple.” “This is not an apple.” That is a negatingly known phenomenon. Can we see “not an apple”? Yes, when we see a pear, for instance. “Not an apple” exists, doesn’t it? It can be accurately and decisively known. To know that “this is not an apple,” however, we have to have known beforehand what an apple was and excluded it. Whereas to just know that “this is an apple,” it’s not that we are excluding anything.

So, there are things that are affirmingly known and things that are negatingly known, and these are all existent phenomena. We don’t really have time to go into this in too much detail, as it really gets complicated. Some of them are static, and some of them are nonstatic. When we talk about these negatingly known phenomena, some are temporary, and some are eternal. 

There are different types of negatingly known phenomena. There are implicative negation phenomena (ma-yin dgag). “Implicative” means that when we have negated something, it leaves behind, like a footprint, something else that’s implied. For instance, “This is not a glass” leaves behind “this is something else,” but the negation phenomenon “there is no glass” doesn’t leave anything behind. It is a nonimplicative negation phenomenon (med-dgag). 

There are two varieties of these nonimplicative negation phenomena. One is “there is no glass now,” but there are such things as glasses; there could be a glass, right? “There is no dog in this room,” but there could be a dog in this room. The other variety is “there is no such thing as…” So, the thing that there is none of could be something that doesn’t exist. “There is no monster in the room.” That’s quite different from “there is no dog in the room.” The absence of the dog and the absence of the monster are nonimplicative negations, but one is the absence of something that could exist, and the other is the absence of something that could never exist. 

These distinctions are extremely important when it comes to meditation on voidness. There is no such thing as impossible ways of existing. “Impossible” means there never was such a thing, and it doesn’t imply anything else. It doesn’t leave anything else behind when we meditate on it; there is just “no such thing.” 

Three Kinds of Nonstatic Phenomena 

Finally, let’s look at the divisions of nonstatic phenomena. There are three kinds. First, there are forms of physical phenomena (gzugs), forms or types of physical phenomena. These include sights, sounds, smells, tastes, physical sensations like hot and cold, motion, soft and rough, etc. These are types of physical phenomena – “forms of physical phenomena” we call them. There are also the physical elements, which in Buddhism are earth, water, fire and wind. Then, there are the physical cognitive sensors. These are the photosensitive cells of the eyes, the sound-sensitive cells of the ears, the smell-sensitive cells of the nose, the taste-sensitive cells of the tongue, and the sensation-sensitive cells of the body. Sometimes they are translated as “sense powers” (dbang-po). That’s a misleading translation. We are not talking about powers. We are talking about the sensors, the cells themselves. So, they are material. 

Also, there are forms of physical phenomena that can only be known by the mind, not by the senses. There’s a whole list of these, but the easiest example to understand would be sights, sounds, smells, etc. that occur in dreams. They are only known by the mind. We don’t actually see them or hear them. There are also many other things in this category, like atoms and so on. We can’t actually see them. They’re forms of physical phenomenon. Or huge astronomical distances; we can’t actually see them. 

The second division of nonstatic phenomena is ways of being aware of something (shes-pa). When they are translated as “mental phenomena,” that is misleading, since we could label sight that appear in dreams as mental phenomena. We are talking here about an activity, a way of being aware of something. Either seeing or hearing, or being angry with it or liking it, being happy about it, and so on. It’s a way of being aware of something, being angry with something. Anger, greed, love, these are ways of being aware of something. 

The third division is nonstatic phenomena that are neither forms of physical phenomena nor ways of being aware of something (ldan-min ’du-byed), for instance, age. Age is always the age of something and it changes from moment to moment. It’s not something physical. It’s not a way of being aware of anything. There are many examples, and again, there is no time to go through them. There is a whole long list of them, and how they exist, how they are known, and so on. 

Applying the Scheme of the Division of Phenomena 

The topic of divisions of phenomena, as we have seen, is quite complicated; however, it is very important and helpful to learn about not only these various divisions but also about the various ways in which we can cognize or know them. When we have a scheme such as this, it helps us to analyze what we’re actually experiencing. The purpose of analyzing what we’re experiencing is to eliminate suffering and the unsatisfactory aspects of what we’re experiencing. Let me illustrate an application of most of the elements of this scheme so that perhaps it becomes a little bit clearer how it is actually applied and what the benefit of such a scheme is.

We can talk about our suffering from the fear of monsters attacking us. That fear is an existent phenomenon and it’s presently happening. What is nonexistent, however, are the monsters. The valid phenomenon here is the presently-happening fear, and that’s an affirmation phenomenon, the fear. Also a valid phenomenon is the not-yet-happening of our liberation, our being parted from this fear. So, we can aim for that. That’s a negation phenomenon: being parted from fear, no longer having fear. It’s a negation phenomenon. 

What is an invalid phenomenon here is a presently-happening parting or separation from that fear, right? It’s not presently happening. We might think that we are parted from it, but we’re not. So, right now, a presently-happening parting is an invalid existent phenomenon; a presently-happening monsters are nonexistent phenomena. They could never be valid or invalid.

I’m sorry, I didn’t add one thing that I have to specify here. We have to talk about an incident of fear. We don’t have this fear all the time. We have incident number one of fear (let’s call that fear number one), and then fear number two, another incident that hasn’t happened yet. Now, we are in the interval inbetween, between one and two. The no-longer-happening of fear number one and the not-yet-happening of fear number two (another occasion) are both existent phenomena during that interval. But a presently-happening of fear could be existent again. 

The non-fear during that interval is a negation phenomenon. There’s a huge difference between “negative” and “negation,” so please be very, very careful not to confuse the two. That non-fear, during this interval, is a negation phenomenon. It has a beginning and has an end. It’s nonstatic because it changes from moment to moment as that period occurs. The no-longer-happening of fear number one is also a nonstatic phenomenon. It no longer happened one minute ago, and that changes to no longer happened two minutes ago, and then no longer happened three minutes ago. It’s changing. That interval also has a beginning and an end. 

The never-happening-again of fear, when we’re liberated from the fear will have a beginning but no end. It’s static. At that time, there is no fear. That’s a nonimplicative negation (med-dgag). There’s no fear, finished. It doesn’t imply anything else. During that interval between time one and time two, what do we experience? We’re experiencing non-fear. That non-fear, that we’re feeling is an implicative negation phenomenon. It implies that what we’re feeling is something else.

The never-happening-again of monsters attacking us is a nonimplicative negation. It doesn’t imply anything else, but its object, monsters, is a nonexistent phenomenon. There’s a difference between the never-happening-again of the fear and the never-happening-again of the monsters. We can have a parting forever from fear, but we can’t have a parting forever from monsters because the monsters never existed.

You see, if we analyze our situation of having fear from monsters with these categories, it becomes quite clear what we are working with: what is static, what’s nonstatic, what we can actually get parted from. It is very, very helpful for understanding a course of treatment, in a sense, of how we would overcome this fear; because although the monsters don’t exist, the fear does exist. So, we have to see what course of action we’re going to take. Are we going to get a ghostbuster to come in and get rid of the monsters, or are we going to try to get rid of the fear?

I hope this example helps to make how we can apply this scheme a little bit clearer. Obviously, we have to work a lot with such a scheme in order to be able to apply it easily.

Original Audio from the Seminar