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. Subjects are functional phenomena (dngos-po) that have objects (yul-can), and the objects (yul) are what they have. This is actually the topic. 

For a functional phenomenon to have an object means to continually and actively possess an object that’s appropriate to itself whenever and for as long as that functional phenomenon occurs or exists. It’s something that always has an object for as long as it exists. For this, we have some that cognitively have an object – that means to cognitively take an object, that’s dzinpa (dzin-pa) – and some that don’t cognitively take an object but always have an object. What are we talking about here? 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. For instance, communicative sounds (sems-can-du ston-pa’i sgra) always have an object, but they don’t know the object; the object that they always have is what they communicate. The definition is that they communicate that they are being made by a person. Thus, we have this division here. 


What about persons? 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? 

When we talk about a person – we’re talking about me – a person, because a person or me, a self, is always an imputation phenomenon on the basis of an individual mental continuum. Actually, the basis is a continuum of the five aggregates, but let’s just make it simple and say 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. All of these are changing all the time at very different rates. There are certain things that are imputation phenomenon on the basis of them. 

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 exists as an imputation phenomenon on this continuum, in this sense, within one lifetime. It’s changing, isn’t it? Moment to moment, getting older. Like age, there is also the imputation phenomenon me on the basis of this mental continuum. That’s important to understand. However, 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. 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? Nonetheless, age isn’t some sort of solid thing, is it? And no one has to actively impute it for there to be the age of something. 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, we know things. Do you follow that? It just makes absolutely no sense to say that we don’t see it, that only the eye consciousness sees it. What is the meaning of saying that we see it, or we hear it, or we think it? It’s that, on the basis of the mental consciousness or the ear consciousness or the eye consciousness, thinking, hearing, or seeing, there comes along with it 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 

The second division here is ways of being aware of something. 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. 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 are 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. However, consciousness is always operating, whether we’re asleep or not, because 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. 

When both consciousness and I are experiencing something, knowing something, then that’s called manifest cognition (shes-pa mngon-gyur-ba). However, what happens when we’re asleep? What is this object here? A darkness, for instance. With mental consciousness, we’re experiencing a darkness, an absence of thinking anything, for example as an object. 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 we are not – the person is not. Think about that. While we’re asleep, our ear consciousness hears the ticking of the clock. We don’t hear it. However, when the alarm clock rings, both the ear consciousness and we hear it. If the ear consciousness wasn’t operating while we were asleep, on this subliminal level, we could never hear the alarm clock. It’s interesting if we think about how do we hear the alarm clock or feel somebody tickling our feet when we’re asleep. 

Conceptual and Non-Conceptual Ways of Being Aware of Something 

We have different ways of being aware of something: 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. Non-conceptual is like seeing something on the table. What do we see? We see a colored shape on the table, but we also see a conventional object, a computer. So, both a colored shape and a computer are what we see. That’s non-conceptual. However, conceptual would be looking at it through the category of a computer, as in “This is a computer.” 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 this 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. We could also think in a dream, of course; that’s something else. In dreams, we could either have non-conceptual or conceptual cognition, but that’s with mental consciousness. OK? It’s a way of being aware of something. It has an object. Let’s take a moment. 

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

Valid and Invalid Ways of Being Aware of Something 

Ways of knowing something, ways of being aware of something, can be either valid (tshad-ma, valid cognition) or not valid (tshad-min, invalid cognition) – a valid way of knowing or a nonvalid way of knowing something. 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 non-fraudulent (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 valid bare cognition (mngon-sum tshad-ma) – that means cognition not through the medium of a category; it’s not conceptual. Now mind you, bare cognition could also be distorted. We take our glasses off and see a blur. There isn’t a blur sitting on the table, is there? We 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? 

Anyway, 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 looking at it on the table, and freaking out – very angry, very upset. I look at it, and this is bare visual cognition. It’s valid. I see a colored shape and I’m seeing a computer. That’s valid. 

Valid Inferential Cognition

Valid inferential cognition (rjes-dpag tshad-ma) is an inference. What are we knowing? “This is not my computer.” Right? That depends on a line of reasoning. Why is it not my computer? What’s the reason? It is not my computer because it is gray and an Apple computer. The line of reasoning: This computer is gray and an Apple computer; my computer is black and a Dell computer. 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 this one is not like that. 

How do I know it’s not my computer? We have to infer it – it’s called inference – based on a line of reasoning. Obviously, we don’t go step by step through this syllogism. We just instantly know it’s not my computer, don’t we? Nevertheless, it is known through a process of inference. Think about that. How do we know it’s not my computer? We know so many things through inference. We go into a store: “This is not what I want to buy.” How do we know it’s not what we 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 fruit in the market. 

It’s not the same as distinguishing (du-shes). We can distinguish one thing from another; that’s not inference. We can distinguish the piece of paper from the table; that’s also 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

What are invalid ways? The first one is called subsequent cognition (bcad-shes). These are later moments of either bare cognition or inferential cognition. 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 and new. In any case, we have this subsequent cognition. 

Presumptive Cognition

Then, we have presumption (yid-dpyod). 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 an apprehension or understanding (rtogs-pa). 

With presumption, we’re not sure. It’s a guess. It could be an educated guess or not. For example, I presume I’ll get my own computer back. I don’t really know that, but I’m presuming it. 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? 

Intuition is also a form of guessing. Intuition could be correct or incorrect. We have an intuition it’s going to rain, and it doesn’t rain. Just because it’s an 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… We 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 or 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 consciousness. 

Non-Determining Cognition

The next one is 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 just within one sensory field. 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. Afterward, 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 what’s going on with different senses. For example, 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 we’re focused on one, it’s non-determining with the other and, in addition, we don’t have attention there. There’s a distinction here between one sense field and between two sense fields. 

At 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 is seeing there are two bags on the floor, and I take the wrong one. That visual cognition 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, and 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. 

Indecisive Wavering

The next one is called doubt (the-tshoms), but literally, it 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? We’re indecisive; we don’t know. We’re wavering back and forth: Is it this one or that one? 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. 

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 cognitively take their objects. 

Communicative Sounds 

We have communicative sounds, which have objects, but they don’t cognitively take them. They communicate that they were made by a person. They may be the sound of speech or the sound of footsteps or a cough. In the case of the sound of speech, it has an additional object – the additional object that it has is the meaning it conveys. There are three different types. 


We have words (ming). 

Are these names? 

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

For instance, the word “computer” is used to refer to a category of things, a generality. There are a whole bunch of objects, and they fit into the category or generality of computer, and there’s a word that’s used for the category and the items that fit in it, “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). The actual word (dngos-ming), the actual name, would be “idiot,” and then there’s a nickname for idiot, jackass, for example. That means I’m a complete idiot; it’s a nickname that is used for “idiot.” 

Obviously, there are many, many categories within that; let’s not go into too much detail. 


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


We have what is called here letters, but actually, we have to understand that in the context of Sanskrit 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. We can’t just say a consonant by itself, can we? We’re talking about a sound that we can actually say. We’re not talking about spelling here either. Because for instance, we have various prepositions in Russian, which are just a consonant, but although we don’t write a vowel, there is a certain sound that is there like k, meaning towards; the letter k means towards

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, the 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? All of this communicates that these syllables are being made by a person and, as object-possessors, they have an object, a meaning. 

Now, I really am not sure about this – something to ask Geshe-la – because we get the impression here that it all has to be verbal, spoken language. However, I would seriously question that, because what about when we have in the jungle tom-toms, and they’re beating the drums and communicating a message? Or Morse code? These are sounds that actually communicate that they are being made by a person and they have a meaning, but they’re not verbal. 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... For instance, you were having a problem with “subliminal.” If “subliminal” had a meaning inherent in it and I said it to you and you don’t know English, you don’t know the meaning, yet you should still understand it. Although the word “subliminal” has a meaning, we 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, we could hear them, but unless we know the language, we certainly don’t understand the meaning; it doesn’t communicate a meaning to us, but it does communicate that it is being made by a person. Or what about sign language? Those aren’t communicative sounds but hand gestures. That’s very interesting, where do we fit that in here? Obviously, if we see somebody doing sign language, we have no idea of the meaning of what they’re signing, but it has a meaning to those who know it. 

All these things – language, words, 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. It’s quite interesting. 

These are things that have objects, so-called subjects. 


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, I’m angry with myself,” and so on, it is helpful to distinguish between what are our 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. However, I’m hoping, I’m guessing, that I’ll get it back. I don’t really know. Did somebody take it or is it in the lost and found? All these things are uncertain, aren’t they? How does that help us? It helps us in the sense that there’s no point in worrying about it. Because how could we possibly know, unless we call? Is it in the lost and found, or did somebody take it? 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 more unhappy. 

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. We might think that we’re being very clear in what we say, but actually, those words don’t really communicate what we had in mind. I’m sure we’ve all experienced that. What really is the meaning of the word? What does it really communicate? 

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

For example, seeing a colored shape, I’m seeing 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, we have to distinguish between this colored shape and the other colored shapes in our field of vision, don’t we? This colored shape is a computer, and that colored shape is the table. 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). What is the actual object that we’re involved with here, that the consciousness is involved with? That is the computer; that’s the main object with which this particular cognition is engaged with. The colored shapes and the computer are what our visual consciousness is involved with. 

Focal Objects

Although not listed here in our objects, there’s also a focal object (dmigs-yul). The focal object is what that consciousness is focusing on. That’s also the computer and these colored shapes. 

Appearing Objects

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), is a regular object, like a computer. The appearing object is 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 they hit a certain center in the brain and... we’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. Through it, through that mental hologram, we see the involved object, what we’re focusing on, the actual computer. Digest that for 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. We can think of our computer, can’t we? We don’t have to actually say it. Right? Not every thought is verbal, or is it? What if we picture our computer in our mind, is that verbal? When we turn on our computer and know which buttons to press, and so on, are we actually reciting the instructions in our mind? Nevertheless, we know. Well, it’s conceptual. It’s 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. Often the nonverbal, we don’t even consider that thinking. From a Buddhist point of view, we have two varieties. Or how do we figure out something? There’s a thinking process, but we don’t necessarily verbalize the whole thing. Or when we’re performing a dance, we have some concept of what our legs are supposed to do – we’re certainly not reciting it, right? – so that we do the same steps each time. We need to broaden our way of understanding of these things. 

Involved and Focal Objects

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 cognition. I’m thinking my computer, so the involved object is the computer, the colored shape of the computer – the colored shape and the computer. Whether we’re thinking computer while we’re looking at the computer, or we don’t see it and 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 our particular cognition is engaged with. It doesn’t have to be present when it’s conceptual. 

Appearing Objects

What is the appearing object? What is arising right in front of the consciousness? Here we have what’s called in this terminology a generality (spyi). I call it a category. Here it’s the category, the object category (don-spyi) of computers. That is what is actually there. It is a mental derivative (gzugs-brnyan, mental reflection) from all individual computers. They all fit in this category. The category is 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. It is what’s known as semi-transparent, 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 semi-transparent. When we talk about a sheet of wax paper or plastic, we would say, “Well, that’s semi-transparent.” We 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 semi-transparent gets mixed with what is seen through it, what is known through it. We get like a little bit of a superimposition, a projection; we would call it a projection. What is mixed with this appearing object? It’s the involved 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?

Conceptual Isolates

This is a little bit complicated; I was really wondering should I mention it or not, but I might as well mention it. In a conceptual cognition, the first thing that appears through the category computers, right on the other side, as it were, is a conceptual isolate (ldog-pa). Another way of translating it is nothing other than a computer. It is a type of negation phenomenon, a nothing other than. It isolates everything that does not fit in this category from everything that does fit in. It too, like the category, is a static phenomenon and has no form.

But since both the category and the conceptual isolate lack any form, we need to 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 of what represents a dog for us. So, when we think of a dog, through the category and conceptual isolate dog, some sort of mental hologram appears that is going to represent a dog for us. 

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. First, the conceptual isolator nothing other than a computer sets the boundaries of what can fit into the category computer. A dog can’t fit in this category. Then, through the category and conceptual isolator a mental hologram that looks like my black Dell appears that represents my computer. The mental hologram has a color and a shape is also fully transparent. 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 there’s still 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, it’s an object that the thought judges it to be. We have to deconstruct this word here in German. It means that our thought judges it to be what it is. What is conceptually implied – what’s implied by this, what is judged by this – is my computer, my actual computer. 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. What does my thought judge it to be? What is conceptually implied here is my computer. Now I’m projecting that onto this object here. There are two possibilities: I’m actually looking at 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. 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. 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. 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. Some of them could be operating correctly, and some not so well. 

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? If I validly cognize that it is not my computer, that I can then think clearly how can I get my own computer back. Right? Also, 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. 

Then, there’s inferential cognition: If I want to get it back, I will need to call the airport, I will need to ask, and I’ll have to choose words that explain it clearly. All of this is involved. 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; it’s what follows, what I infer that I’m going to have to do in order to get it back. 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. 

All these complex analyses are actually very practical to enable us to deal with challenging situations in our life. However, 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.