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 system 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. And it’s not our fault that things appear like that. Our minds make them appear like that basically because, if we can use computer terminology, we have limited hardware. If you think about it, we can only see through these 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 of what we can perceive with our hardware. Eagles can see different things, 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 way that they appear to us. For instance, that we are the only ones that exist in the universe. You close your eyes and nobody else seems to exist anymore, so it appears to us that we are the center of the universe and we are the most important. And because we believe that, then all sorts of disturbing emotions arise: we get angry when we don’t get our way, we get greedy and selfish, and so on. And 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 – so that we know what is the best way to help everybody else to gain liberation as well. And so in order to gain liberation or enlightenment, we have to not only stop believing in these deceptive appearances – you stop believing in them, then the disturbing emotions don’t arise, you gain liberation – but also we go beyond, and we need to get our minds to stop making these deceptive appearances. When we do that, then 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 so that they are in their present situation. And we would know if we were to teach this person this and that, it would have this effect not only on them, but on everybody else that they interacted with in the future, going all the way into 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. So a Buddha is not a limited being. A Buddha is not a sentient being. As a Buddha, then, we are able to perceive the interconnectedness of everything, basically. So the whole purpose of this description of all the various phenomena that there are, ways of knowing, etc., all of this is not just some intellectual construct, but is all aimed at helping us to understand reality, get rid of our confusion, and eventually be able to gain liberation and enlightenment. That’s its purpose.

Existent Phenomena and Nonexistent Phenomena

How do we divide “things?” And first we need to divide existent phenomena (yod-pa) from nonexistent phenomena (med-pa). And let’s not get into a whole discussion of: can you call nonexistent things “phenomena?” An existent phenomenon is defined as something that can be validly known. Nonexistent phenomenon is something that cannot be validly known.

For instance, human lips are existent phenomena, they can be validly known. Chicken lips are nonexistent phenomena. You cannot validly know chicken lips: you could imagine human lips on a chicken, but not chicken lips on a chicken. So it’s very important to know this distinction because although our mind makes appearances of things existing in impossible ways, those actual impossible ways do not exist. They are nonexistent. They can’t be known validly. It appears to me that I am the center of the universe and I am the most important one. But that doesn’t refer to anything real. So a “me” or a “you” who is the center of the universe, and the most important one, is a nonexistent phenomenon. That can’t be validly known.

There are many consequences from that. I 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 that’s a nonexistent phenomenon. So this distinction, if I think that, it is not a valid way of knowing anything. Or that my problems will go away just by themselves if I sit and do nothing. This is impossible. As I say, you have to understand that all of this is intended to help us to deal with difficult situations and to overcome them.

Valid Phenomena and Invalid Phenomena

Now, we also have valid phenomena (srid-pa) and invalid phenomena (mi-srid-pa). Now it starts to get a little bit complicated. Valid phenomena are presently happening now, somewhere, and so can be validly known now. And invalid phenomena are not presently happening anywhere, and so they cannot be validly known now.

Now we have to get into the 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? As if the past is existing somewhere, or the future is existing somewhere, and you can actually go to the future. That is a totally false way of understanding, according to the Buddhist analysis. So instead we talk about the “not-yet-happening” (ma-‘ong-ba) of something, the “presently-happening” (da-lta-ba) of something, and the “no-longer-happening” (‘das-pa) of something. So the sequence is not-yet-happening, presently-happening, no-longer-happening. Now if you think about that, it’s the reverse of the West. We think past comes first, then present, then future. But here it’s not yet, present, and no longer.

So let’s give an example. Now it’s the year 2010, so there is the presently-happening 2010. That can be validly known now, so that’s a valid phenomenon. The no-longer-happening 2009, that’s valid, we can know it – I can remember 2009, the no-longer-happening 2009. So that’s valid, a valid phenomenon. And the not-yet-happening 2011, that also, I can know that, I can think about it, I can plan for it, etc. So it is a validly knowable phenomenon. All of these are existent phenomena.

But a presently-happening 2009 is an invalid phenomenon because I can’t know a presently-happening 2009 now, in 2010, because it is no longer happening. You follow? So a presently-happening 2009 is an existent phenomenon, but it can’t be validly known now. But a presently-happening 2009 is not happening somewhere else. It’s not happening anywhere. It’s not happening, period. But it is an existent phenomenon because it can be validly known. So similarly a presently-happening 2011 cannot be validly known now. It is an invalid phenomenon. But it is an existent phenomenon: it could be validly known – when it happens.

So this is helpful to know in terms of dealing with what we in the West would call the past and the future and what can you actually remember, what can you actually plan for, etc.

There are also invalid existent phenomena and we have invalid nonexistent phenomena (a never valid phenomenon, in a sense). So a presently-happening “Alex who is the center of the universe” is not happening now. Or a no-longer-happening “Alex who is twenty years old, who is the center of the universe” that is also not happening now. You could never know it. It was never valid. So the no-longer-happening “center of the universe Alex” is an invalid nonexistent phenomenon.

So 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 this was complete garbage. But it’s not that there was a “no longer happening” before, when I was unliberated and unenlightened, when that “Alex who is the center of the universe” that is no longer happening now – when that actually was an existent phenomenon. It was never an existent phenomenon. You follow that? It was never validly knowable. So the fact that it is “not happening now” is no longer happening – it never happened. It is not that it was something existent that now is no longer happening. It is something that never happened. It was never existent.

Somebody has paranoia, they think everybody is against them. And now I have been cured from that. But it wasn’t that those visions of paranoia were ever real. You could think, well, it was real, but now I have seen the light and I know that I am no longer seeing them. It’s not like that. So is it like the no-longer-happening year 2009? I can know a no-longer-happening 2009, but there was a presently-happening 2009. But a no-longer-happening “these monsters who are attacking me,” it wasn’t that there was a presently-happening “monsters that were attacking me” and now it’s no longer happening. You follow? There is a big difference here.

These monsters are no longer attacking me, it wasn’t that they were ever attacking me, is it? Now I know there are no longer any monsters attacking me. Like I know that now there is no longer a 2009 happening. And so 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. But a presently-happening 2009 was something that happened. It was referring to something actual, an existent phenomenon. But a presently-happening “monsters attacking me,” that never actually existed. That is a nonexistent phenomenon. So the fact that I no longer know that, it’s not that there are no-longer-happening monsters that did, at some time, exist.

Why don’t we take a few moments and digest that? These are difficult topics, and normally you would spend weeks debating it back and forth to eventually really understand this. So let us truncate that into one minute or two minutes to just try to understand this concept. Not yet happening, presently happening, no longer happening.

A valid phenomenon: it’s presently happening now; I can validly know it. An invalid phenomenon is not presently happening anywhere. It can’t be validly known now. So both 2009 and the monsters attacking me are both examples. One of them actually is an existent phenomenon, 2009. One of them is a nonexistent phenomenon, like the monsters attacking me. Both of them are not happening now. Are they?

Okay? Digest that, please. Think about that.


A no-longer-happening “baby Alex” or no-longer-happening “baby Corinna,” I can know that now. That’s an existent phenomenon. Isn’t it? So that’s valid, a valid phenomenon. But a presently-happening “baby Alex” or a presently-happening “baby Corinna” is not happening now, is it? And 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.

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

Nonstatic Phenomena

Now we have these terribly misleading terms that most translators use, and I do not use them in this technical discussion here, which are “permanent” (rtag-pa) and “impermanent” (mi-rtag-pa). 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. But then there is another pair which is “temporary” and “eternal.” So unfortunately the terms, at least in English, perhaps in German also, of “permanent” and “impermanent” can have both types of meaning, and then it becomes very confusing. Which meaning are we referring to? Because in some context it’s one, and in other contexts it’s the other. So it’s much better to translate them differently in each of these contexts.

Because, as it turns out, there are some nonstatic phenomena that are temporary, some are eternal. And similarly, some static phenomena that are temporary and some that are eternal. I’m laughing because then, in debate, what you also worry about is, well, from each of these four, which ones are valid phenomena and which are invalid phenomena? So the intersection of all these sets becomes very, very complex.

Okay, so let’s look at nonstatic phenomena first. That division into static and nonstatic is usually what’s meant when you hear the discussion of permanent and impermanent phenomena. They are not talking usually about whether it’s temporary or forever. So nonstatic phenomena are those things that either arise from causes and conditions, or are supported and affected by causes and conditions. And they change from moment to moment and they produce effects. So we have four possibilities. Some of these things that change have a beginning and an end. Some have no beginning and no end, they are eternal. Some have no beginning, but have an end. And 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 which don’t naturally degenerate.

That’s not easy. So we have to give examples so that perhaps you 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: I can pick up things, I can move, etc. – the body can. It has a beginning, it has an end. And it is gradually falling apart, getting older and degenerating.

Now we have to get into karma a little bit, a discussion of karma. 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, negative thing that is built up by that. And 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.) And eventually that potential will ripen into our being killed by somebody else. For example, if we killed somebody, our being killed by somebody else. Or yelling at somebody, experiencing somebody yelling at us. So we cause pain to somebody else and there is a potential then for us to experience pain happening back to us, to describe it in a very simplistic way.

That potential has a beginning, when we hurt somebody, and that potential will have an end when actually – the terminology is it “ripens” – we are hurt by somebody else. But so long as that potential, during that interval of the existence of that potential, doesn’t degenerate by itself, it is 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 you yell more and hurt people more and more, that potential gets stronger. If you regret it and help others instead, then that potential will get weaker. So it can 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 potential so that it doesn’t ripen at all. So it will never ripen. But 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 negative things that we’ve done. It’s not going to go away by itself. If we have hurt somebody, or hurt the environment, or something like that, you can’t just wait for it to go away by itself. These are things that are not going to go away. So you have to deal with it. You can make it better, you can make it worse. But just by itself it’s not going to go away. This is the application here.

If you think about it, this really is quite profound. That whatever we do is going to have consequences. So it begins when we do something and it ends when the consequence happens. But the fact that there’s going to be consequences is not something which is going to, well, if we wait long enough there won’t be any consequences. Do you follow? This is actually very profound, in terms of dealing with the consequences of our behavior. You can’t just pretend that they’re going to go away by themselves.

Now there are certain things that are going to change from moment to moment that have no beginning and no end, eternal. And for this, the example that is given is the mental continuum. It gets complicated. But from the Buddhist point of view, there is a very large but finite number of mental continuums – individuals. And when you 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 you have become enlightened, it goes on forever.

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

So 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. You might think that that’s cute, but that has consequences. For example, in the example 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 you think that a nothing becomes a something. And when does it become a something? And how does it become a something? Very, very interesting questions. So these aren’t just trivial games that we are playing here.

So, anyway, there are things with no beginning, which have an end. Like for instance, our confusion, confusion or anger. With these things, there is no beginning, but it can have an end. Or a not-yet-happening 2010. That not-yet-happening 2010 had no beginning. Did it have a beginning? When did a not-yet-happening 2010 begin? When did it start “not yet happening?” But it does have an end – when there is a presently-happening 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. But does that have an end? He is dead forever. Does he stop being dead? He could be reborn, but it’s not my father.

So, and again we don’t have time to deal with all the implications of this way of analyzing things. But if we realized that, then okay, I have these problems, but it is possible for it to end. Even if it has no beginning, I shouldn’t get discouraged. It’s not that it was created by somebody, that somebody created anger in me or something like that. It had no beginning. And that anger is also one of these things that changes from moment to moment, but it is not going to go away by itself. You have to apply some opponents for it to end, and it can end. Like the not-yet-happening 2010. And being rid of anger is something that could last forever. It could have a beginning, when we really truly are rid of it, and there will be no end to being rid of it.

Static Phenomena

We’ve spoken about nonstatic phenomena. Now we have static phenomena. So they are phenomena that do not change. These are not easy examples here. One thing would be, for instance, facts. A fact is a fact. It doesn’t change. Okay, so the fact of “being free from confusion” has a beginning. (I mean these static phenomena also have these different categories of some are forever, some are temporary, and so on.) But here, being free from confusion so that it never arises again – that fact had a beginning, when I became free forever of confusion, and that fact is never going to change. It is static. It’s always the case.

And another example would be – we talk about voidness, emptiness, a lot in Buddhism. Voidness is an absence of impossible ways of existing. So that’s a fact about something. It doesn’t exist in some impossible way. That’s absent, not there, not the case. And it 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. But 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. And I would get very upset if you used it and got your germs on it. This is not referring 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. But, you know, “Arrgh, MY glass!” So 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 fact of this glass not truly being mine is only true when there is a presently-happening glass. It starts when the glass is made and it is finished when the glass is broken. Before there was a presently-happening glass, at the time of the not-yet-happening glass, you can speak of a not-yet-happening glass that is not truly mine, but you don’t have a presently-happening glass that is not truly mine. The same is true after the glass is broken. At that time, you can only speak validly of a no-long-happening glass that was not truly mine, but not of a presently-happening glass that is not truly mine.

There are facts about things, they are static, they never change, so long as the thing that they are true about exists and is presently happening.

It can get much more complicated, but this is probably complicated enough. Why don’t you take a moment to think about that?


So in very simple language, all we are saying is that there are certain facts about things that never change so long as that thing is presently happening. And 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 the thing that it’s a fact about, dependent on that.

We can also speak about the absence of all knowable things existing in impossible ways. That has no beginning and no end, because there is no beginning and no end to all knowable things. That absence of impossible ways of existing of everything – this is a fact about everything, everything that can be validly known. Well, since there is a very large group of things that can be validly known that have no beginning and no end, they’re always validly knowable things. So 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. What the fact is about… If the fact is about something that has a beginning and an end, that fact about it has a beginning and an end. If there is something that a fact is about that has no beginning and no end, the fact about it has no beginning and no end.

A fact about me: I am not a monster. I don’t exist as a monster. This body does not exist as a monstrous horrible thing. That is a fact about it which 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 it that is valid so long as the body exists. So long as it exists, you say it doesn’t exist as a monster. That never changed.

In the West, we speak about matter and energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. Right? So no beginning and no end. Matter and energy never existed in impossible ways. So that impossible way, that fact about it, 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? 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, never changes, has no beginning and no end, because matter and energy have no beginning and no end.

You don’t have the actual terminology “fact.” I’m trying to put this whole concept into something a little bit easier to understand. But in our Western way of thinking, we can call these “facts,” and these facts never change. Certain things which are facts, certain things which 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. So we are only talking about certain facts. That is why we don’t use really 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, many things fit into the category “computer.” As a category, it doesn’t change. When we think about it, we could have something that represents a computer – that can change. But what a computer is, as a category, that doesn’t change. It had a beginning – when computers were invented. For people who lived 2000 years ago, there wasn’t category ““computer,” was there?

Affirmation Phenomena and Negation Phenomena

Now we also have affirmation phenomena (sgrub-pa) and negation phenomena (dgag-pa).

Affirmation phenomena are things that are known by the establishment or affirmation of something. An item, or truth about an item, defined in terms of the establishment of something, without an object to be negated being negated, being excluded. An apple: an affirmation phenomenon. It is affirmingly known. You just establish “this is an apple”; there’s nothing to be negated here. We can validly know these things. There are many, many examples.

Then negatingly known phenomena are an item, or truth about an item, defined in terms of the exclusion of something else. Like, for example, “not an apple.” This is not an apple. I know that this is not an apple. That is a negatingly known phenomenon. Can you see “not an apple”? “Not an apple” exists, doesn’t it? It can be validly known. But to know that “this is not an apple,” you have to have known what an apple was. So to know that “this is not an apple,” you have to have known something before and excluded it. Whereas to just know that “this is a watch,” it’s not that you are excluding anything.

So there are things that are affirmingly known and things that are negatingly known. And these can be existent phenomena. We don’t really have time to go into this in too much detail, it really gets complicated. Some of them are static, some of them are nonstatic. When we talk about these negatingly known phenomena, some are temporary, some are eternal. There are different types of negatingly known phenomena. There is one which is known as implicative (ma-yin dgag). “Implicative” means that when we have negated something, it leaves behind it something else that’s implied. Like, for instance, “this is not a glass" leaves behind "this is something else." But the negating phenomenon of “there is no glass” doesn’t leave anything behind. So there is a difference here. And when we talk about “there is no…,” this is a nonimplicative (med-dgag). “There is no X,” or whatever it could be. There could be “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.

But there is also “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 elephant in the room.” So the absence of the elephant, the absence of the monster, are these 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. There never was such a thing. And it doesn’t imply anything else. It doesn’t leave anything else behind when you mediate on it, it doesn’t leave anything else behind, just “no such thing.”

Three Kinds of Nonstatic Phenomena

Nonstatic phenomena, we have three kinds. We have forms of physical phenomena (gzugs), forms or types of physical phenomena. So we have sights, sounds, smells, tastes, physical sensations like hot and cold, or motion, or soft or rough. And these are types of physical phenomena; forms of physical phenomena, we call them. Then we have the photosensitive cells, audio-sensitive cells and so on. You have photosensitive cells, don’t you? and  audio-sensitive cells, smell-sensitive, taste-sensitive, and physical sensation-sensitive in your body. Sometimes they are translated as “sense powers” (dbang-po). That’s an incorrect translation. We are not talking about powers. We are talking about the sensors, the cells themselves. So they are physical.

And 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, and sounds, and smells, etc. within dreams. They are only known by the mind. You don’t actually see them or hear them. And there are many other things, like atoms, and so on. You can’t actually see them. It’s a form of physical phenomenon. Or huge astronomical distances. You can only really conceive of them, you can’t actually see it.

Then there are ways of being aware of something (shes-pa). When they are translated as “mental phenomena,” that is misleading. We are talking about an activity, a way of being aware of something. Either seeing or hearing, or being angry with it or liking it, being happy. It’s a way of being aware of something. Being angry with something. Anger, greed, love – these are ways of being aware of something.

Then we have nonstatic phenomena that are neither forms of physical phenomena nor ways of being aware of something (ldan-min ‘du-byed). For instance, time. Time 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 this. There is a whole long list of them, and how they exist, how they are known, and so on.

Applying the Scheme of Division of Phenomena

The topic of divisions of phenomena, as we have seen, is quite complicated. But it is very important and helpful to learn not only about these various types, but also 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 the suffering, the unsatisfactory aspects of what we’re experiencing. I wanted to illustrate an application of this scheme (most of the elements of this scheme) so that perhaps it becomes a little bit clear, or clearer, how it is actually applied and what the benefit of such a scheme is.

We can talk about my suffering from the fear of monsters attacking me. That fear is an existent phenomenon (yod-pa) and it’s presently happening (da-lta-ba). What is nonexistent (med-pa), however, are the monsters. So the valid phenomenon (srid-pa) here is the presently-happening fear, and that’s an affirmation phenomenon (sgrub-pa), the fear. Also a valid phenomenon is the not-yet-happening (ma-’ong-pa) of my liberation or being parted from this fear. So I can aim for that. That’s a negation phenomenon (dgag-pa): being separated, no longer having fear. It’s a negation phenomenon. What is an invalid phenomenon (mi-srid-pa) is a presently-happening parting or separation (bral-ba) from that fear, right? It’s not presently happening. I might think that I am, but I’m not. So it’s an invalid phenomenon. And a nonexistent invalid phenomenon would be presently-happening monsters. Now, the no-longer-happening (’das-pa) of fear, it’s a nonstatic phenomenon (mi-rtag-pa). It’s valid. It’s happening now.

I’m sorry, I didn’t add one thing that I have to specify here. Now we have to talk about an incident of fear. I 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 in the future that hasn’t happened yet. So now I am in the interval in-between, between one and two. So what is valid is the no-longer-happening of fear number one and the not-yet-happening of fear number two (another occasion). I had it before; I could have it again.

The non-fear during that interval, it’s 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, that’s a negation phenomenon. It has a beginning and it has an end. It’s nonstatic because it changes from moment to moment as that period goes. In other words, the no-longer-happening of fear number one, that’s a nonstatic phenomenon. It no longer happened one minute ago; that changes to no longer happened two minutes ago; 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 I’m liberated from the fear, that 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. Doesn’t imply anything else. During that interval between time one and time two, what do I experience? I’m experiencing not-fear. That not-fear, this happiness that I’m feeling, is not fear, so it’s implicative (ma-yin dgag, implicative negation phenomenon): I’m feeling something else.

The never-happening-again of monsters attacking me, that fact “never happen again,” that’s a nonimplicative negation, but its object is a nonexistent phenomenon. So there’s a difference between the never-happening-again of the fear and the never-happening-again of the monsters. You can have a parting forever from fear; but you can’t have a parting forever from monsters, because the monsters never existed.

You see, if you analyze your 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 actually you can get parted from. It is very, very helpful for understanding a course of treatment, in a sense, of how you would overcome this fear; because although the monsters don’t exist, the fear does exist. So you have to see what course of action you’re going to take. You’re going to get a ghostbuster to come in and get rid of the monsters, or are you going to try to get rid of the fear?

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

Original Audio from the Seminar