Buddhist Analysis: Subjects and Objects

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The next topic is subjects and objects. When we talk about subject here, that word of course could be understood in many different ways, but literally it’s something that has an object. So they’re functional phenomena (dngos-po) that have objects (yul-can), and the objects (yul) that they have. That’s actually the topic.

To have an object means that something has it continually… it means to continually and actively possess an object that’s appropriate to itself whenever and for as long as the functional phenomenon occurs or exists. So something that always has an object for as long as it exists. And for this we have some that cognitively have an object – that means to take an object, cognitively take an object, that’s dzinpa (’dzin-pa) – and some that don’t cognitively take an object but always have an object. So what are we talking about here? We’re talking about... Among things that always have an object, persons (gang-zag) and ways of being aware of something (shes-pa) always cognitively take the object; they know the object. And communicative (or communicating) sounds (rjog-byed-kyi sgra) always have an object, but they don’t know the object; the object that they always have is their meaning. So we have this division here.


Now what about persons? Like for instance in our example, thinking that I’m a total idiot or seeing the computer. On the one hand, we can say that the mental consciousness is thinking “I’m an idiot,” but also we would have to say I think I’m an idiot – I’m thinking that – wouldn’t we? It’s not that I’m not thinking that and only my mental consciousness is thinking that. That doesn’t make any sense, does it? Or that my eye consciousness sees the computer but I don’t see it. That’s silly. Right?

So when we talk about a person – we’re talking about me – a person, because a person or me, a self, is always imputed on a mental continuum, a person or me is something that is imputed or labeled onto a mental continuum – actually it’s a continuum of the five aggregates, but let’s just make it simple – onto the mental continuum. There’s a continuum, moment to moment to moment, of experiencing. From one moment to the next, we even experience death; we experience rebirth. It goes on with no beginning, no end. And that mental continuum is made up of many, many different things – we’ve seen all these types of consciousness and mental factors, and things that we see and hear, and so on – and all these are changing all the time, at very different rates. And there are certain things that we can impute on it – label on it – in a sense, to integrate it, to sort of put it together.

These are things we’re talking about here that also change from moment to moment. For instance, age: Now I’m one year old, now I am two years old, now I’m three years old, and so on. It’s something that can be imputed onto this continuum, in this sense, within one lifetime. And it’s changing, isn’t it? Moment to moment, getting older. Like age, we can also impute on this mental continuum me. That’s important to understand. It’s not so easy to understand, but it’s absolutely crucial in Buddhist study to understand what we mean by me.

Age isn’t a form of physical phenomenon (gzugs). It’s not like a computer. It’s not a way of being aware of anything. It’s more abstract, isn’t it? We can’t say there’s no such thing as age, can we? But age isn’t some sort of solid thing, is it? The same thing with me. We can’t say that there’s no me, but it’s not something solid, not a form of physical phenomenon, not a way of being aware of anything. However, even though it itself is not a way of being aware of something, like consciousness – or anger, or some emotion, something like that – it nevertheless knows things, because in a sense the mind knows things, consciousness knows things, I know things. Do you follow that? It just makes absolutely no sense to say that I don’t see it, that only the eye consciousness sees it. What is the meaning of saying that I see it, or I hear it, or I think it? It’s that, on the basis of the mental consciousness or the ear consciousness or the eye consciousness thinking, hearing, or seeing, we can label onto that the me – I’m thinking, hearing, or seeing.

So that’s the first type of thing that cognitively takes an object. Persons: me, you, the worm, everybody.

Ways of Being Aware of Something

Then the second division here is ways of being aware of something. And that can be either the primary consciousness (rnam-shes) (like eye consciousness, ear consciousness, nose consciousness, etc.) or the mental factors (sems-byung) that go with that. So we have attention, distinguishing, anger, feeling happy, feeling unhappy – all these mental factors. They always have an object; they always cognitively take that object: they know the object.

By the way, when we say that to have an object means to have the object all the time as long as it exists, there’s some things that don’t actively have an object – they have an object but they don’t actively have it all the time. Like a snow shovel, my favorite example. What is the object associated with a snow shovel? Snow. When in the summer, the snow shovel is sitting in the garage, is it actively taking this object of snow? No. But consciousness, that’s always operating, whether we’re asleep or not, because we have… I’m experiencing sleep. The mind is experiencing deep sleep or the mind is experiencing dreams, and so I am experiencing deep sleep and I’m experiencing dreams.

Now when both consciousness and I are experiencing something, knowing something, then that’s called manifest cognition (shes-pa mngon-gyur-ba). But what happens when we’re asleep? Mental consciousness of… What is this object here? A darkness, for instance. So I’m also experiencing a darkness, an absence of thinking anything, for example. But what about the ear consciousness when we’re asleep? We’d have to say that we have subliminal cognition with the ear consciousness; it’s still operating. Subliminal (bag-la nyal) means that the ear consciousness at that moment is cognitively taking an object but I am not – the person is not. Think about that. While I’m asleep, my ear consciousness hears the ticking of the clock. I don’t hear it. However, when the alarm clock rings, both the ear consciousness and I hear it. If the ear consciousness wasn’t operating while we were asleep, on this subliminal level, you could never hear the alarm clock. Interesting if you think how do you hear the alarm clock or how you feel somebody tickling your feet when you’re asleep.

Conceptual and Non-Conceptual Ways of Being Aware of Something

Now we have different ways of being aware of something: we have non-conceptual (rtog-med) and conceptual (rtog-bcas). Non-conceptual is not mixed with some sort of category (spyi), and conceptual is with a category. So non-conceptual, like I see on the floor... What do I see? I see a colored shape on the table. So a colored shape, but also I see a conventional object, a computer. So both a colored shape and a computer are what I see. That’s non-conceptual. But conceptual would be looking at it through the category of a computer, as in “This is a computer.” So we have some sort of… we would say we have a concept of it; it’s a category – a generality, in a sense – computers. We’ll discuss that in much more detail in another lecture.

When we talk about sense cognition – sense consciousness – that’s non-conceptual. Mental consciousness can be either conceptual or non-conceptual. Conceptual would be thinking. Non-conceptual would be in dreams when we are merely, what we would say, seeing something in our dream; that would be non-conceptual. You could also think in a dream, of course; that’s something else. So in dreams we could either have non-conceptual or conceptual, but that’s mental consciousness. OK? It’s a way of being aware of something. It has an object. OK? Take a moment.

So non-conceptual was just seeing a colored shape on the table. And actually what are we seeing? We’re seeing a computer; I’m not thinking “computer” but I am seeing a computer. And conceptual would be perceiving this with my mental consciousness and thinking in terms of computers. I don’t have to be thinking that verbally, but I am seeing it through this category, through this filter, of computers. Obviously I have some idea of what a computer is, we would say in our Western languages. Or looking at this object and through the filter, through the category, of my possessions. OK? That’s conceptual.

Valid and Invalid Ways of Being Aware of Something

Now ways of knowing something – ways of being aware of something – can be either valid (tshad-ma, valid cognition) or not valid (mtshad-min, invalid cognition). A valid way of knowing or a nonvalid way of knowing something. And depending on which tenet system we follow, but the usual one with which it is explained defines valid as fresh (gsar-tu) and non-fraudulent (mi-bslu-ba). In other words, it’s fresh each moment and it is non-fraudent (in other words, it is neither inaccurate nor indecisive).

What are the valid ways of knowing something? We have a usual list of seven ways of knowing things: two are valid and five are invalid.

Valid Bare Cognition

We have bare perception (mngon-sum tshad-ma) – this is valid – that means not through the medium of a category; it’s not conceptual; there is nothing in between, literally. So this is like seeing. I see the computer on the table. We’re not talking about the glasses; we’re talking about something mental. We’re not talking about seeing something through the medium of your glasses, your eyeglasses, or without your eyeglasses. Now mind you, it could be distorted: You take your glasses off and you see a blur. There isn’t a blur sitting on the table, is there? I accurately see what is appearing, which is a blur, but there isn’t actually a blur sitting on the table, is there? Or is there?

So anyway, now I’m talking about our incident here. I get home. I have the wrong computer. It’s not my computer, and I’m sitting and I’m looking at it on the table, and freaking out – very angry, very upset. So now I look at it – and this is bare perception, it’s valid – see a colored shape. I’m seeing a computer. That’s valid.

Valid Inferential Cognition

Then valid inferential cognition (rjes-dpag tshad-ma), an inference here. And so what are we knowing? “This is not my computer.” Right? And that depends on a line of reasoning. So why is it not my computer? What’s the reason? It is not my computer, because it is gray and an Apple computer. Now the line of reasoning: This computer is gray and… No, let’s do it the other way around. Well, we can do it like this: This computer is gray and an Apple computer; my computer is black and a Dell computer; so because this is not black and a Dell, therefore I can conclude that it is not my computer. If it were my computer, it would have to be black and a Dell, and it’s not.

How do I know it’s not my computer? We have to infer it – it’s called inference – based on a line of reasoning. Now obviously we don’t go step by step through this syllogism. We just pretty much instantly know it’s not my computer, don’t we? But it is known through a process of inference. Think about that. How do you know it’s not my computer? We know so many things through inference. I know it’s a flower. You go into a store: “This is not what I want to buy.” How do you know it’s not what you want to buy? “What I want to buy is like this and this. This is not like that; therefore, it’s something that I don’t want to buy.” Like a fruit in the market. Whatever.

It’s not the same as distinguishing (’du-shes). I can distinguish one thing from another; that’s not inference. I can distinguish the piece of paper from the table; that’s not inference. That distinguishing occurs in just seeing – non-conceptual cognition – it’s basically distinguishing one item in a sense field from the rest of the sense field: this colored shape from the colored shapes around it.

Subsequent Cognition

So now what are invalid ways? The first one is called subsequent cognition (bcad-shes), and these are later moments of either bare perception or inferential cognition. And they’re not valid, because (by this definition) they’re not fresh – they’re getting a little bit stale. In other systems of dealing with this material they don’t have this category of subsequent cognition, because every moment, from a certain point of view, is fresh – it’s new. In any case, we have this subsequent cognition.

Presumptive Cognition

Then we have presumption (yid-dpyod). Well, presumption is like a guess. The factor that we don’t have here is decisive awareness (nges-shes). Right? This is another variable. If a cognition is both accurate and certain, really determined – it’s this and not that – then that’s called… I translate it as an apprehension or understanding (rtogs-pa).

Well, with presumption I’m not sure. It’s a guess. It could be an educated guess or not. But here I presume I’ll get my own computer back. So I don’t really know that, but I’m presuming. And this can also be through an inferential process, but I’m presuming “Well, I’m in Austria. People are honest,” and so on. I presume that I will get it back, but I can’t be really sure about that.

What is intuition?

What is intuition? Intuition is also a form of guessing. Intuition could be correct or incorrect. I have an intuition it’s going to rain, and it doesn’t rain. Just because it’s intuition, doesn’t mean it’s correct. I have an intuition that the stock market will go up. Well, it might not. For most of us, what we would call intuition… you don’t really have a Tibetan term for that. It would be a guess about which we feel quite certain, and it tends to come up spontaneously, without a thinking process and without an analytical process.

Presumption could be based on an analysis, like I was saying. “Well, I’m in Austria. People are honest.” I presume that I will get it back, but I’m not really so certain. I really hope that I will get it back.

These are different ways in which we take an object, both me and, in a sense, mental consciousness.

Nondetermining Cognition

The next one, it’s translated here and most people translate it as inattentive cognition, but the literal translation is non-determining cognition (snang-la ma-nges-pa). Something appears but we’re not certain. Literally, that’s what it means. So it’s non-determining.

Here we’re not talking about within one sensory field; this is why inattentive has a broader meaning. While I am looking at the group of people in front of me, I’m paying attention to one person, and I’m not really paying attention to the others although actually I see them. That, we would say, is inattentive, but this is not what we’re talking about here. Or I’m looking at you – I mean, it’s very interesting – I’m looking at you, I’m looking at everybody in the class, but I’m really not paying attention to what you’re wearing. Afterwards, I really don’t remember what color sweater or shirt you were wearing. We’re not talking about that. Even though obviously I see what you’re wearing.

What we’re talking about here is in different senses – what’s going on with different senses. Like I am preparing my coffee – so I’m looking at the machine and being very involved with that – and I hear your conversation, the two people next to me. I hear it, but it is a non-determining cognition: I’m really not ascertaining that you’re saying this and not that. We’re talking about two different sense consciousnesses – that while you’re focused on one, it’s non-determining with the other; I don’t have attention there. So there’s a distinction here between within one sense field and between two sense fields.

So in the airport I’m listening to, let’s say, an announcement on the loudspeaker or I’m listening to this person that I’m talking with, and my visual cognition seeing there’s two bags on the floor, and I take the wrong one. That was a non-determining cognition. I wasn’t determining accurately that this one is mine and not yours, because my attention was all on listening to what the other person was saying. I didn’t determine, didn’t ascertain, this is mine and not somebody else’s – you know, between mine and not mine. Right?

This is only with sense consciousness; this is not within the sphere of mental consciousness, this particular way of knowing. There’s a whole other process when we are, for instance, reciting some sort of verse and not really thinking of what it means; it’s just sort of “Blah blah blah.” That’s not inattentive cognition; that’s something else. That has to do with conceptual cognition. That’s something else.

Indecisive Wavering

The next one is called doubt (the-tshoms), but literally what it is is indecisive wavering, wavering back and forth between two possibilities. Did somebody take my computer, or did the airport workers find it and put it in the lost luggage? Indecisive. I don’t know. I’m wavering back and forth: Is it this one or that one? So we have to understand what doubt means here.

Distorted Cognition

Then there’s distorted cognition (log-shes), which is I saw someone else’s bag and I saw it as my bag. That was distorted; that was just wrong.

So we have all these different ways of cognitively taking objects. We have persons, we have ways of being aware of things; these have objects and they cognitively take their objects.

Communicative Sounds

Then we have communicative sounds, which have objects but they don’t cognitively take them. The objects that they have are their meanings – they’re referring to something. So we have three different types.


We have words (ming).

Is this names?

Yes. Names or words. We’re not just referring to nouns, to objects, but also verbs, adjectives. So words I think is a broader thing than just a name.

Like for instance, the word “computer.” It’s used to refer to a category of things, a generality. There’s a whole bunch of objects and they fit into the category or generality of computer, and there’s a word that’s used for that, “computer.” The word isn’t the same as the category. Or we have the word “idiot.” “I’m an idiot.”

Sometimes there are nicknames (btags-ming). So the actual word (dngos-ming), the actual name, the actual word would be “idiot,” and then there’s a nickname for idiot. Jackass, for example. So that means I’m a complete idiot; it’s a nickname that is used for idiot.

So obviously there are many, many categories within that, and let’s not go into too much detail.


Then we have phrases (tshig). Phrases can be a group of words or it can be a whole sentence. Like “I am an idiot.” Not just the word “idiot,” but “I am an idiot.” And just as the word “idiot” has a meaning, or “computer” has a meaning, “I am an idiot” also has a meaning; so there’s an object. How we understand the meaning of it is a very complex process that has to do with conceptual cognition, because after all we only hear one word at a time. But we’ll get to that. I mean, when we hear the second word, we’re not hearing the first word anymore – it’s not valid; it’s no longer happening. That has to do with our old friend mental holograms. But we’ll get to that.


Then we have what is called here letters, but actually we have to understand that in the context of Sanskrit – that’s what all this is referring to – and it’s referring to syllables (yi-ge). A syllable is made up of a consonant and a vowel or just a vowel by itself. You can’t just say a consonant by itself, can you? We’re talking about a sound that you can actually say. We’re not talking about spelling here either. Because for instance, you have various prepositions in Russian which are just a consonant, but although you don’t write a vowel, there is a certain sound that is there. Like k, meaning from; the letter k means from.

So anyway, what are we talking about here? We’re talking about the syllables ih-di-ut of “idiot.” That also is quite interesting. Because when we hear ih, we’re not hearing… di and ut are not yet happening. When we hear di, the ih is no longer happening and the ut is not yet happening, and yet somehow we put it all together. That’s really quite remarkable, isn’t it?

So all of this communicates. They’re communicating sounds; they have an object, a meaning.

Now I really am not sure about this – something to ask Geshe-la – because you get the impression here that it all has to be verbal, spoken language. But I would seriously question that, because what about when you have, in the jungle, tom-toms and they’re beating the drums and this is communicating a message? Or Morse code? These are sounds that actually communicate something, but they’re not verbal – in a word. I think they have to be included here, but I’m not quite sure if there’s a fourth category that they would fall into.

Actually it’s all quite interesting if one delves further and further and further. The sound does not have, inherent in it, a meaning, does it? If it did, then a word such as... You were having a problem with “subliminal.” If “subliminal” had a meaning inherent in it, then if I said this to you in your language, you should understand it… I mean if I said it to you and you don’t know English, you don’t know the meaning, yet you should still understand it. So although the word “subliminal” has a meaning, you have to have learned it; it’s not that it’s sitting there by itself and is going to pop out obviously, is it?

The tom-tom drums in the jungle – I could hear it, but unless I know the language, I certainly don’t understand the meaning; it doesn’t communicate to me. Or what about sign language? Those aren’t communicative sounds but hand gestures. That’s very interesting, where do we fit that in here. And obviously if I see somebody doing sign language, I have no idea of the meaning of what they’re signing. But it communicates to those who know it.

So all these things – language, words and names and sentences, and the parts that make up all these things, these syllables – all of these have to be agreed upon by convention. A group of people make this up – assign meaningless sounds to have a meaning, to be a word – and then it’s a convention that everybody adopts, everybody agrees upon and learns. Quite interesting.

So these are things that have objects; so-called subjects.


Now what about objects? These are referring to cognitive objects (yul), objects that are involved when we know something. Maybe we need a moment to just pause before we go into this, because this is equally complex.

Our important point here was when we are experiencing this situation of “I took the wrong computer and I’m angry with myself,” and so on, it is helpful to distinguish between what are my valid ways of thinking and knowing and what are the ones that are not valid.

It’s a fact. I’m seeing a computer and I know it’s not mine. That’s valid. But I’m hoping, I’m guessing, that I’ll get it back. I don’t know – did somebody take it or is it in the lost and found? All these things are uncertain, aren’t they? So how does that help us? It helps us in the sense that there’s no point in worrying about it. Because how could I possibly know, unless I call, is it in the lost and found or did somebody take it? So why worry about it. It’s beyond what we could know now. Worrying about it is not going to help; it’s just going to make us be more unhappy.

And when I call the airport, if I want to communicate properly, I’m going to have to choose my words very carefully so that the person on the other side knows what I’m talking about. This becomes very interesting – I mean, it’s not really here in the topic – but when we have various words, people can understand them quite differently. I might think that I’m being very clear in what I say, but actually those words don’t really communicate what I had in mind. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that. So what really is the meaning of the word and what does it really communicate?

So objects. Then we have to differentiate here in our discussion between what are the objects, the cognitive objects, involved in non-conceptual cognition and which ones are involved in conceptual cognition. It’s a slightly different analysis. Let’s first do non-conceptual.

Objects Involved in Non-Conceptual Cognition

Seeing a colored shape. I’m seeing actually the computer there on the table, a computer, and I am distinguishing it. I’m distinguishing it from the table, for example. Right? I am not necessarily distinguishing it between my computer and not my computer, but I am distinguishing it from the table. This, by way, distinguishing (’du-shes) is the word that’s usually translated as recognize, but recognize – in English, at least – has more to do with remembering something. In order to be able to see anything, this colored shape, you have to distinguish between this colored shape and the other colored shapes in my field of vision, don’t we? This colored shape is a computer, and that colored shape is the table. But without distinguishing and without necessarily making the boundaries, we don’t know anything of what we’re seeing, do we? We can put the colored shapes together in rather strange ways.

Involved Objects

First of all, we have an involved object (’jug-yul). So what is the actual object that we’re involved with here – the consciousness is involved with? And that is the computer; that’s the main object with which this particular cognition is engaged with. The colored shapes and the computer is what our visual consciousness is involved with.

Focal Objects

And although not listed here in your objects, there’s also a focal object (dmigs-yul). The focal object is: What is that consciousness focusing on? So that also is the computer and these colored shapes.

Appearing Objects

Now we have an appearing object (snang-yul). This is the actual object that arises in the cognition, as if it were directly in front of the consciousness, and this would be a mental hologram. The technical word is a mental aspect, nampa (rnam-pa). It is a fully transparent mental derivative of an external commonsense object. Commonsense object (’jig-rten-la grags-pa) – you know, a regular object, like a computer. So it’s a mental representation derived from that object. And it’s fully transparent – through it, we see this external object – and that’s why I call it a mental hologram.

From a Western scientific point of view, this does make sense. Because from the external object, light rays and stuff come, and then within the eyes and the nervous system there’s a transmission – those light rays are then translated into electric impulses and chemical reactions that are going on between the neurons – and it hits a certain center in the brain and... you’d have to say it’s a mental hologram. Somehow that’s transposed into something that we see, isn’t it? It’s derived from the object, from the computer, a mental derivative. It represents that computer; it’s what actually appears, like directly in front of the consciousness. And through it, through that mental hologram, we see the involved object, what we’re focusing on – the actual computer. Digest that a moment. That is how it works, isn’t it? Even from our Western point of view, that does make sense. It’s the same with all the senses.

Objects Involved in Conceptual Cognition

Now conceptual cognition. I’m thinking computer, my computer. Let’s not get into whether we’re actually in our minds hearing the word “computer” or not; we’ll do that in a separate lecture. We can think computer without having to verbalize in our minds “computer,” obviously. You can think of your computer, can’t you? You don’t have to actually say it. Right? Not every thought is verbal. Or is it? What if you picture your computer in your mind – is that verbal? When you turn on your computer and you know which buttons to press, and so on, are you actually reciting the instructions – no – in your mind? But you know. Well, it’s conceptual. Through the general categories of now you press this button, now you press that button.

Our Western word thinking is not so precise, actually. Thinking. What does thinking mean? There’s verbal thinking; there’s nonverbal thinking. And often the nonverbal we don’t even consider that thinking. But from a Buddhist point of view, we have two varieties. Or how do you figure out something? There’s a thinking process, but you don’t necessarily verbalize the whole thing. Or when you’re performing a dance: You have some concept of what your legs are supposed to do – you’re certainly not reciting it, right? – so that you do the same steps each time. So we need to broaden our way of understanding these things.

Involved and Focal Objects

Oh, we have only five minutes and this is complicated. So, conceptual. What is the involved object and the focal object? Here it’s the same as when we had non-conceptual. I’m thinking my computer. And so the involved object is the computer, the colored shape of the computer – the colored shape and the computer. Whether I’m thinking computer while I’m looking at the computer, or I don’t see it and I’m thinking computer, my computer, it doesn’t matter; the involved object, the focal object, is the same – it doesn’t have to actually be present. But that’s what’s involved here. This is what we are involved with, the main object with which your particular cognition is engaged with. It doesn’t have to be present when it’s conceptual.

Appearing Objects

Now what is the appearing object? What is arising right in front of the consciousness? And here we have what’s called in this terminology a generality (spyi). I would call it a category. Here it’s the category, the general category of computer. OK? So that is what is actually there. It is a mental derivative (gzugs-brnyan, mental reflection) of individual objective computers, from all the individual computers. We put it all in a category. It’s derived from all these individual items and based on certain defining characteristics – we don’t include the vase of flowers in this category of computer. And it is what’s known as semitransparent, not fully transparent. And that doesn’t have to do with things being out of focus.

It’s hard to really understand what we mean by transparent and only semitransparent. When we talk about a sheet of wax paper or plastic, we would say “Well, that’s semitransparent.” You can see things through it, but it’s not so clear. We don’t mean that here. What it means is that somehow what is semitransparent gets mixed with what is seen through it, what is known through it. So you get like a little bit of a superimposition – a projection; we would call it a projection. So what is it mixed with, this appearing object? That’s the appearing object. The appearing object is the category, and this category is a static phenomenon – it doesn’t have any shape or form. It’s not a form of physical phenomenon. It doesn’t look like anything. Right? It doesn’t look like anything.

Conceptually Isolated Items (Specifiers)

Then we have, through this… And this is a little bit complicated; I was really wondering should I mention it or not, but I might as well mention it. The first thing that appears through it, right on the other side, as it were, of the category, is a conceptually isolated item (ldog-pa), or a specifier. This is a specifier, another way of translating it. And this is nothing other than computer. So this is a type of phenomenon, nothing other than.

So what we’re talking is: How do we represent, in our thought, a computer? The easier example that I often use is a dog. Think of a dog. Everybody is going to have a different mental picture of a dog, what represents a dog for you. So we have to somehow go from this generality, this computer, and specify it down, eliminate all sorts of other things: nothing other than a dog (which also doesn’t have any form; that’s also a static thing). And then, through that, some sort of mental hologram of what is going to represent a dog for us. So it’s sort of… You know, this intermediate thing is going to specify… Each of us is going to specify, in some sort of way, what for us is a dog that we want to think about.

I’m thinking computer. This is the category computer, but really what I want to think about is my computer, my black Dell, not this gray Apple. So if I’m going to think about my computer, I need to specify, within the big category of computers, something. So nothing other than – it’s going to be nothing other than my computer. So this nothing other than eliminates all other things in the category to get it down to what I want to have to represent computer, a black Dell. So I want to specify my black Dell. So this is sort of like a – almost like a tool, in a sense. A nothing other than. It’s a specifier. I’m thinking of these big telescopes that have a big dish, and then you have sort of these things that narrow it down and close down so you have just one tiny little point. It’s a little bit like that. Nothing other than what I want to represent a computer. And through that – that’s fully transparent – we now have some sort of mental hologram, a mental aspect, that represents my computer. That has a colored form; that has a shape. That also is fully transparent. So through that, I could either be looking at this object on the table and seeing it as my computer, or my computer isn’t there and I’m just thinking it, but still there’s something appearing, this mental hologram. That’s all conceptual – it’s through this category of computer – and it could be associated with the word or not (that’s another variable). OK? It’s a little bit complicated.

If we do it sort of graphically, there’s the consciousness, then there’s the category in front of it (that’s semitransparent), and then in front of that is a nothing other than my computer (fully transparent), and then through that is a mental hologram that looks like my computer (that’s transparent), and then through that I can be looking at this thing on the table and that would be the computer.

Conceptually Implied (Conceptualized) Objects

Now we have a conceptually implied object (zhen-yul); here, in your terminology, an object that the thought judges it to be. We have to deconstruct this word here in German. It means that your thought judges it to be as what it is. So what is conceptually implied – what’s implied by this, what is judged by this – is my computer, my actual computer. Now that could be either accurate or inaccurate, couldn’t it?

I’m looking at this computer in front of me, and I’m thinking it’s my computer. Well, the conceptually implied object would be actually my computer; that’s what my thought judges it to be. So what does my thought judge it to be? What is conceptually implied here is my computer. So now I’m projecting that onto this object here. So if that really is my computer, then this is what’s conceptually implied, it’s what I’m focusing on. I’m focusing on this object. I’m focusing on this object. Here it is. I think it’s my computer. Now it could be my computer; it might not be my computer. Still, that object sitting there is what I’m focusing on. So what is implied by my thinking my computer could actually be this object in front of me, if it really is my computer. Or I could be wrong: It’s not my computer; I’m focusing on somebody else’s computer and thinking it’s mine. There are two possibilities.

That didn’t come out straight. There are two possibilities: I’m looking at actually my computer and thinking it’s my computer, or I’m looking at somebody else’s computer and I’m thinking it’s my computer. So what my thought judges it to be could actually be correct or incorrect. It could either correspond to what I’m seeing in front of me or not. So that’s what we have to distinguish here, in terms of objects. OK?


This covers the topic of subjects and objects. It’s not very simple, obviously. Tibetans study this for one or two years, and we’ve just done it in an hour and a half. But perhaps you get a little bit of a taste here that this could be very useful in terms of analyzing: What am I actually thinking? What am I actually seeing? Is it correct? Is it incorrect? What’s actually going on? Especially when we add to that what we’ve discussed already, especially the analysis of all the different mental factors. And some of them could be operating correctly and some not so well.

And you get to the point where… Well, I could be looking at it and thinking it’s my computer or it’s not my computer; and I could be happy, I could be unhappy; I could be angry, I could be attached – but so what? That’s the point – so what? Is it correctly my computer or not? The important point is not what I’m feeling; the important point is: Is it my computer or not? Am I seeing it correctly? So that we can then think clearly how can I get my computer back. Right? And am I certain? Well, I don’t know. Did somebody take it? Is it in the lost and found? I hope that I’ll get it back.

And then inferential cognition: If I want to get it back, then I will need to call the airport and I will need to ask, and I’ll have to choose words that explain it clearly. All of this is involved. And if it’s there, I’m going to have to drive to the airport, then I’m going to have to take it, and probably waste a whole day. But so what? Whether I like it or not is irrelevant. This is inferential cognition – what follows, what I’m going to have to do. Remember, subsequent results. They say that it’s there. What’s the subsequent result? I have to get in the car, I have to drive down there, I have to.... It all follows; whether we like it or not is irrelevant.

So all these complex analyses actually are very practical to enable us to deal with challenging situations in our life. But it takes quite a while to familiarize ourselves with these schemes, so one needs to be patient. But it works. People have been doing this for thousands of years. It works.