Mental Labeling and Imputation

Other languages

To understand the Gelug Prasangika presentation of dependent arising (rten-‘byung ‘brel-ba) and the voidness of self-established existence (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa; inherent existence), we need to understand the distinctions this school draws between imputation, mental labeling and designation. All three are referred to by the same verb in Tibetan (‘dogs-pa, past tense: btags-pa), which in the colloquial language means: “to tie,” “to ascribe,” or “to be tied,” “to be ascribed.”

This threefold division is suggested by the Gelug Prasangika assertion of three types of definitional imputedly knowable phenomena:

  • Imputedly knowable as something imputed on a basis (rten-nas btags-pa’i btags-yod) – such types of phenomena are involved with “imputation,”
  • Imputedly knowable as something imputed by conceptual cognition (rtog-pas btags-pa’i btags-yod) – such types of phenomena are involved with “mental labeling,”
  • Imputedly knowable as something posited by names and labels (ming-dang brda’i bzhag-pa’i btags-yod) – such types of phenomena are involved with “designation.”

An imputedly knowable phenomenon (btags-yod, Skt. prajnaptisat) is a validly knowable phenomenon that, when cognized, relies on actual cognition of something else (namely a basis for imputation, gdags-gzhi):

  • Either both immediately preceding and simultaneously with it
  • Or only immediately before it in the case of voidness (emptiness), lack of an impossible soul (bdag-med, selflessness) and true stoppings (‘gog-bden, true cessations).

According to Gelug Prasangika, this is the coarse level of being imputedly knowable. The subtle, definitional level refers to all three types of phenomena arising dependently on a basis for imputation, not existing independently of their basis for imputation and totally lacking anything on the side of its basis for imputation, such as its individual defining characteristic mark (mtshan-nyid, Skt. lakshana), that has the power to establish its existence. In this more subtle sense, the Tibetan term “btags-yod” is better translated as “imputedly existent,” rather than as “imputedly knowable” as used for the more coarse sense of the technical term. From the point of view of this subtler level, all three divisions are equivalent; but from the point of view of the coarser level, there are differences, and this is what we shall explore.

Imputation

Nonstatic Noncongruent Affecting Variables and Static Phenomena

Nonstatic, noncongruent, affecting variables (ldan-min ‘du-byed), such as persons, periods of time, and impermanence (nonstaticness) and certain static phenomena, such as voidnesses and space, are phenomena that are imputations on a basis. Such types of imputed phenomena cannot exist independently of their bases for imputation; and, likewise, their bases for imputation cannot exist independently of what are imputations on them, otherwise they wouldn't be bases for their imputation. And although the non-Prasangika tenet systems assert that the defining characteristic marks of such phenomena are findable in their bases for imputation, Prasangika refutes this soundly. Thus, noncongruent affecting variables and certain static phenomena are “imputedly existent”

  • A noncongruent affecting variable is a nonstatic phenomenon that is neither a form of physical phenomenon nor a way of being aware of something, and which does not share five things in common, such as cognitive object, with the primary consciousness and mental factors that it accompanies.

For example, a person (gang-zag) cannot exist independently of five aggregate factors of experience (phung-po lnga; five aggregates) and the five aggregate factors of experience cannot exist independently of a person that is an imputation on them. For the sake of simplicity, let us refer to the five aggregates as just a body and a mind, since in any cognition in which only one of the five aggregates is cognized, the person is also simultaneously cognized.

A body and mind cannot exist as a body and mind independently of there being a person as an imputation on them, and a person cannot exist independently of a body and mind. In other words, something that is an imputation on a basis and the basis on which it is an imputation arise dependently on each other. One does not create the other. A body and mind do not first exist by themselves and then create a person, and a person does not first exist by itself and then creates a body and mind. Moreover, conceptual thought does not create a person either. Whether or not a foetus is aware of itself as a person or thinks "I am a person," it is still a person. 

Among noncongruent affecting variables and static phenomena, however, we must differentiate: 

(1) Those that last as long as their bases of imputation, for instance a person as an imputation on an individual continuum of five aggregates or the impermanence, voidness or space of an apple. 

  • A person lasts as long as the individual continuum of five aggregates on which it is an imputation lasts: namely, forever, with no beginning and no end. 
  • The nonstaticness, voidness and space of an apple lasts as long as the apple on which they are imputations last: they have a beginning and an end  simultaneously with the arising and ceasing of the apple. 

(2) Those that are adventitious, arising and ceasing at different times from the basis on which they become imputations, for instance tendencies, constant habits, and object and audio categories. 

  • The tendencies of the disturbing emotions, including those of unawareness, and the constant habits of grasping for truly established existence are imputations, roughly speaking, on a mental continuum. Like the mental continuum on which they are imputations, they have no beginning, but unlike their bases for imputation, they can have an end with a true stopping of them. 
  • Karmic tendencies and object and audio categories are also imputations, roughly speaking, on a mental continuum. Unlike the mental continuum on which they are imputations, however, karmic tendencies have a beginning immediately after a karmic action and can have an end with their total purification and thus a true stopping of them. Object categories, such as the category of "computer," have a beginning when we first learn of computers; and audio categories, such as the category of the sound of the word "computer," have a beginning when we learn the word. All categories can have an end with the attainment of enlightenment.
  • The mental continuum on which tendencies, constant habits and object and audio categories are imputations serve as bases for imputation only so long as these imputations last. Before the arising of these imputations and after their ceasing, the mental continuums still exist as mental continuums, with no beginning and no end, but they do not exist as bases for imputation of these tendencies, constant habits and categories.   

Nonstatic, noncongruent affecting variables and static phenomena, as imputed phenomena, are imputedly knowable in the coarse sense of the term. When we see the body of a person, for example, the focal object (dmigs-yul), equivalent to the appearing object (snang-yul), of the cognition includes both the body and the person; they exist inseparably from each other. In other words, we see the combination of a body and a person as an imputation on it and that combination appears in our cognition. Nevertheless, we first explicitly apprehend (dngos-su rtogs-pa) the body and then explicitly apprehend both the body and the person.

  • Apprehension of an object means cognition of it that is both accurate and decisive.
  • With explicit apprehension, a cognitive appearance (rnam-pa, a mental hologram) of the involved object (’jug-yul) appears in the cognition.
  • The involved object of a cognition is the main object that the cognition engages itself with.

Thus, the explicit apprehension first ascertains (nges-pa) the body that appears to it: in other words, it decisively cuts the body off from everything else that is simultaneously seen around it. Thus the explicit apprehension is accompanied by implicit apprehension of “not something else.” Thus nothing else is apprehended with it.

  • “Not something else” is called an “individually characterized object exclusions of something else” (don rang-mtshan-gyi gzhan-sel, object exclusion).

Then the explicit apprehension ascertains both the body and a person. In doing so, it decisively excludes apprehending something else that is an imputation on the body, such as its impermanence. In the first moment, then, the involved object of the cognition is the body and in the second moment the involved objects are both the body and the person. This is the case despite the fact that the combination of the body and person as an imputation on it is the focal object and appearing object of both moments of the explicit apprehension.

The same analysis applies to seeing a nonstatic object and its nonstaticness (impermanence) or its motion. For instance, in the first moment of seeing a car pass by, our explicit apprehension ascertains the car; and in the second moment, when it has moved, it ascertains both the car and its motion. Nevertheless, while the car is passing by, the car and its motion do not exist independently of each other.

In the case of non-conceptual cognition of voidness, an object and its voidness also do not exist independently of each other. When seeing the object, in the first moment we ascertain the object. In the second moment we ascertain both the object and the impossible way of existing that is projected on it. In the third moment, with the correct and decisive understanding that this impossible way of existing does not correspond to anything real, we cut off all appearances of both the object and this impossible way of existing. We apprehend only its voidness – the total absence of this impossible way of existing. In this case, cognition of voidness relies on an immediately preceding cognition of its basis for imputation, namely the object, but does not occur with simultaneous cognition of its basis. 

  • Note that the above explanation pertains only to when we apprehend voidness. This does not mean that every time we apprehend the basis for imputation of  a voidness, we will also apprehend its voidness. Every time we see our body, for instance, if we lack the discriminating awareness of voidness, we do not cognize accurately and decisively its voidness. 

[See: Objects of Cognition: Gelug Presentation]

Whole Objects

Also included among imputed phenomena are whole objects (cha-can) as imputations on physical and/or temporal parts (cha). Parts of a whole cannot exist as parts of that whole independently of the whole that they are parts of, and a whole cannot exist independently of its parts. There may be just a piece of a pie left when the rest of the pie has been eaten; however, a piece of a pie can only exist as a piece dependently on there having been a whole pie that it was a piece of.

As another example, when we look at a room, although we can see only part of it at a time; nevertheless, conventionally we say we are looking at the room. The part that we see is not a part of nothing; it is a part of the room. The room as a whole does not exist as identical to only the part that we see in our field of vision, nor does the room exist as something totally separate from the part that we see. The room as a whole is an imputation on the parts and pervades all the parts. Although one part of the room may have been built before the rest; nevertheless the whole room and its parts exist dependently on each other. The technical term is that they are dependent arisings (rten-cing ‘brel-bar ‘byung-ba); in other words they arise or exist dependently on each other.

The same analysis applies to a whole as an imputation on temporal parts, for instance watching a ball game. We see only one moment of the game at a time; we cannot see the entire game all in one moment. But each moment of watching, we conventionally call “watching the game,” despite the fact that we are seeing just a temporal part of the game. The whole game is not identical with any moment of it, nor does the game as a whole exist separately from any moment of it. Rather, the whole event is an imputation on each moment of what we are watching and pervades or extends over all the moments.

Unlike imputedly knowable objects, such as motion, however, we do not first cognize a part of something and then in the next moment cognize both that part and the whole that is an imputation on it. We cognize a part and the whole as an imputation on it simultaneously. When we see part of a room, we are simultaneously seeing a room; and when we watch a few moments of a ballgame, we are watching a ballgame. We might not even have seen every part of a room when we just looked in, and we might not have seen an entire ballgame; nevertheless, conventionally we saw the room and we watched the ballgame.

The same analysis applies to seeing a person. Although we may see someone for only a moment or for only a short time, the person as a whole, validly knowable object extends not only over this entire lifetime, but also over all lifetimes, with no beginning and no end. When I am having a meeting with Mary, for instance, I am not just seeing one moment of Mary; in each moment I am seeing the Mary who has a whole life, as well as countless past and future lives, despite the fact that she is saying or doing something different in each moment of the encounter.

Further, when I see Mary, I am only seeing Mary as an imputation on the form aggregate of her body. Although I do not cognize the other four aggregates on which Mary is an imputation – her consciousness, feelings, distinguishings and emotions – nevertheless, I am seeing Mary as a person that is an imputation on all five aggregates.

Conventional, Commonsense Objects

Likewise included among imputed objects are conventional objects (tha-snyad-pa, Skt. vyavahara). These include forms of physical phenomena that extend over the information gathered from all the senses and over time, and which are imputations on the data from any one sense in any one moment. Such types of conventional objects are also known as “commonsense physical objects” (‘jig-rten-la grags-pa).

For example, when we see an orange, we not only see a colored shape, but we see a commonsense orange that has other characteristic sensory qualities as well, such as a smell, a taste and a tactile sensation. Moreover, although we see an orange only one moment at a time, a common-sense orange does not exist for just one moment. Its conventional existence extends over time.

As is the case with seeing a room and watching a ballgame, seeing the colored shape of an orange and seeing the orange occur simultaneously. We might never smell or taste that orange or hold it in our hand; nevertheless, when we see an orange colored sphere, we are seeing a commonsense orange that can be smelled, tasted and held.

Such phenomena as wholes and commonsense conventional objects are known as “collection syntheses (tshogs-spyi).”

There are also kind syntheses (rigs-spyi) of what kind of object something is, although we might not know what kind of object it is when we cognize the object. An animal, for instance, cannot exist as an animal without being some kind of animal – a dog, a cat, and so on. A word cannot be simply a word without being a word of some specific language. Or more generally, a validly knowable object cannot exist as a validly knowable object without being some kind of validly knowable object, for instance a person or a door. Kind syntheses are imputations on collection syntheses.

The question, however, is how can we account for some validly knowable object being a person and not something else, for instance a door? According to the Gelug Prasangika assertions, when we analyze from the point of view of either superficial truth or deepest truth, we cannot find anything left on the side of the object.

  • The superficial truth (kun-rdzob bden-pa, concealer truth, obscurational truth, apparent truth) of any phenomenon is its appearance as having its own essential nature (rang-gi ngo-bo) – its nature of being what it is – established by a findable self-establishing nature (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa) that is taken as true by unawareness (ignorance). This appearance of a self-establishing nature is a concealer (kun-rdzob-pa); it conceals a deeper truth about the object.
  • The deepest truth (don-dam bden-pa) of any phenomenon is its actual nature (chos-nyid), namely its self-nature (rang-bzhin) voidness (emptiness) – the total absence of such a self-establishing nature, since there is no such thing.

We cannot find anything on the side of the person or on the side of its basis for imputation (a body and a mind) that establishes it as a person, either by its own power or by its own power in conjunction with being mentally labeled as a person. Nor can we find its voidness. Nevertheless, this does not invalidate that there are persons as conventional objects and we can validly cognize them. The only thing that can account for there being persons as conventional objects is mental labeling alone.

In more detail, conventional objects, or commonsense objects, are also called “dharmas” (chos), phenomena. A phenomenon is defined as something that holds its own essential nature (rang-gi ngo-bo ‘dzin-pa). The only thing that can account for phenomena holding their own essential natures of what they conventionally are is mental labeling alone. Therefore, we need to understand correctly what exactly mental labeling is.

Mental Labeling

Categories as Imputations on the Status of Being a Specific Member of a Category

Mental labeling involves a category as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of a category. Both categories and the status of being a specific member of a category are static phenomena – phenomena that do not arise from causes and conditions, do not change from moment to moment, and do not produce any effect – and both can only be cognized conceptually. 

There are two types of categories or, in terms of set theory, two kinds of sets: audio categories (sgra-spyi) and meaning/object categories (don-spyi).

  • An audio category would be, for example, the category of the sound of the word “dog.”
  • A meaning/object category would be, for example, the category of all objects that can be classified as dogs and as the meaning of the audio category “dog.”

Each of these two types of categories is an imputation on the status of being a specific member of the category. This means that a category and the status of being a specific member of a category arise dependently on each other. A category cannot exist independently of the status of being a specific member of a category, and the status of being a specific member of a category cannot exist independently of a category.

  • Note that the object category “dog” is the category of all dogs as commonsense, conventional objects.
  • The specific members of the category “dog” are also all dogs as commonsense, conventional objects, and not just the information from one sense cognized in one moment.

Further, a category does not create the status of being a specific member of the category, and the status of being a specific member of a category does not create a category. In fact, neither categories nor the status of being a specific member of a category can create anything, because they are static phenomena. They are not affected by anything and do not affect anything else.

A new object category and the status of being a specific member of that new category, such as with the object category “dark matter,” may have a start to their existence as validly knowable objects with the initial proposal of the theory of dark matter. But, being static phenomena, categories and being a specific member of that category do not grow organically from causes and conditions like a flower does from a seed, water, soil and sunshine. Moreover, they do not change from moment to moment like a flower does as it grows and then withers.

The Meaning of “Mental Labeling”

Mental labeling involves a category, the status of being a specific member of a category, and an item that can be fit into a category as a specific member of it. With mental labeling, a category as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of a category is mentally labeled on an individual item. This is the meaning of “mental labeling.” It is somewhat like pasting something on something else.

Items that can be fit into a category as a specific member of it include both static and nonstatic phenomena, although they do not necessarily have to be fit into a category in order to be validly cognized. Except for categories themselves, other static phenomena and all nonstatic phenomena can also be cognized non-conceptually.

  • Items that can be mentally labeled with the package of an audio category as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category include all vocalizations of the sound of a word in all voices, all volumes and all accents. Whenever we hear someone say “dog,” it is through mental labeling with the audio category “dog” as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category that no matter how the person utters the sound, we are able to understand it as being the sound “dog.”
  • The structure is the same with object/meaning categories such as the object category “dog,” which is also the meaning category of the audio category “dog.” Items that can be mentally labeled with the package of this object/meaning category as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category include a large assortment of animals that look quite different from each other. Yet, through mental labeling with an object/meaning category as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category, we are able to understand all of them as being “dogs.”
  • This is the case even if the category is a null set: a category in which the number of items that can be assigned with the status of being a specific member of that category is zero. For instance there is the category “dark matter,” even though no items have yet been found that can be labeled with this category and the status of being a specific member of this category. In the case of the category “self-establishing nature,” specific members of this category can never be found because none have ever existed, none presently exist and none can ever exist.

Conceptual Cognition

Conceptual cognition (rtog-bcas) of something is always through the medium of a category as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of a category and it entails mentally labeling the package of the two onto some individual item. Non-conceptual cognition (rtog-med), in contrast, is cognition of something without any such intermediaries.

Consider the case of collection syntheses and kind syntheses, for instance the conventional object “a dog.” We can see the combination of a colored shape plus, imputedly existent on it, the collection synthesis and kind synthesis “dog.” This is non-conceptual sensory cognition of the conventional object “a dog.” We may then think, either verbally or nonverbally, “This is a dog.” That is now conceptual cognition of the conventional object “a dog.” The dog we see is conceptually cognized through the package of the object category “dog” as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category. In a sense, when we mentally label the conventional object “a dog” with the object category “dog” as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category, we fit what we see into a category, like fitting it into a fixed box.

Often there are many associations that go along with a category, which in this case would be the various meaning categories of what dogs mean to us, for instance “cute” or “danger.” But when we just see the animal, although that animal is in fact a dog, not a cat, we do not yet think, “This is a dog” and we do not yet make any associations.

The Difference between Imputation and Mental Labeling

The difference between imputation and mental labeling can best be illustrated by comparing non-conceptual and conceptual cognition of a person.

Noncongruent affecting variables such as persons are imputations on an individual body and mind. For the sake of simplicity, let us just speak of an individual person as an imputation on an individual body. The imputation (a person) and its basis for imputation (a body) are inseparable from each other. We cannot cognize one without also cognizing the other. As such, the “package” of a person and the body on which it is an imputation can be cognized either conceptually or non-conceptually. In this way, as an imputedly knowable object, we can think of a person or see a person.

A category such as “person” and the status of being a member of the category “person” on which it is an imputation are also inseparable, but the package of the two can only be imputedly known conceptually, never non-conceptually. This package is mentally labeled by conceptual cognition on the package of a person and the individual body on which it is an imputation. As a mental labeling, it is also imputedly knowable only in conceptual cognition, never non-conceptually. 

  • We cannot cognize the package of the category “person” as an imputation on the status being a specific member of this category without that package mentally labeled, conceptually, on some specific item. In this case the item that this package is labeled on is the package of a specific, individual person as an imputation on a specific, individual body.
  • However, we can cognize non-conceptually the package of a specific, individual person as an imputation on a specific, individual body, as in the case of seeing someone, without mentally labeling the person with the package of the object/meaning category “person” as an imputation on the status of being a specific member of this category.

This is one of the main differences between imputation and mental labeling:

  • The two items in an imputation relationship with each other cannot be cognized separately.
  • Of the two items in a mental labeling relationship with each other, although the package containing the category cannot be cognized separately from what it is mentally labeled on, what it can be labeled on can be cognized separately from the package of a category.

Detailed Analysis of the Three Main Components of Mental Labeling

The Mental Label

What we have so far been calling “the status of being a specific member of a category” is actually a static conceptual isolate (ldog-pa, conceptually isolated item, specifier), namely a “nothing other than” (ma-yin-pa-las log-pa) or more literally, “what is the reverse of being not something.” The “nothing other than” specifies and isolates an item as being a specific, individual member of a category: for example, “nothing other than a specific, individual member of the category ‘person.’” This conceptual isolate is called a “conceptual isolate for a specific member of a category” (rang-ldog) or the “conceptual isolate of a category” (spyi-ldog). The two terms are equivalent.

The mental label (btags) in this case is the object category “person.” The conceptual isolate, however, although dependently arising with the category that is an imputation on it, is not the mental label.

The Basis for Labeling

Both the object category and the conceptual isolate are static phenomena and, as such, have no form. Nevertheless, some mental form appears in a conceptual cognition, whether that conceptual cognition occurs while seeing someone or simply thinking about him or her. The mental form that appears in the conceptual cognition is a representation (snang-ba) of the actual person. Since a person also has no form and is imputedly existent on a body, the representation of the actual person takes the form of the body on which the person is an imputation or it might take the form of the sound of his or her voice on the phone, for instance. In fact, the person cannot appear or be cognized separately from the body or voice on which he or she is an imputation. Let us consider again just the case of the person as an imputation on the body.

The representation is like a mental hologram (rnam-pa, aspect) and is fully transparent. Through it appears the package of the actual person as an imputation on a body. Whether or not the actual person is present at the time of the conceptual cognition, the actual person and the body are the involved objects of the conceptual cognition. Thus, not only the mental hologram representing a person as an imputation on a body appears in the conceptual cognition, but the actual person as an imputation on the actual body also appears.

The object category and the conceptual isolate on which the category is an imputation are semi-transparent. Through them, the consciousness cognizes, in a semi-concealed manner, the mental hologram and the actual person as an imputation on a body. Because of this semi-concealment, the hologram and person are not as vivid as when seeing the person. Through the mental hologram, the package of the object category “person” and the conceptual isolate on which it is an imputation mentally labels the actual person as a specific member of the category “person.”

Since the person is imputedly existent on the basis of a body, the body, then, is both the basis for imputation of the person and the basis for labeling a person. The Tibetan term for basis for imputation and basis for labeling is the same, gdags-gzhi.

The Referent Object of the Mental Label

Conceptual isolates are negation phenomena (dgag-pa, negatingly known phenomena): phenomena that are defined in terms of the exclusion of something else (gzhan-sel). Specifically, they are implicative negation phenomena (ma-yin dgag): exclusions of something else in which, after the sounds of the words that exclude the object to be negated have negated that object, they throw in their tracks, explicitly or implicitly, something else.

To understand something thrown in the tracks of a negation (bkag-shul), consider the negation “the person I am thinking of is not a woman.” The object to be negated is “a woman.” After the words of the statement have excluded that it is a woman I am thinking of, they explicitly throw in their tracks that I am not thinking of a non-person. Implicitly, the words of the statement imply that I am thinking of a man, because I am thinking of a person.

In the conceptual cognition of a person, the validly knowable object I am thinking of is nothing other than a person. The object to be negated in this implicative negation “nothing other than a person,” which is equivalent to “not a non-person,” is “anything other than a person.” After the sounds of the words of the conceptual isolate “not a non-person” have excluded everything other than a person, what is explicitly thrown in its tracks is that I am not thinking of something that cannot be validly known. What is implicitly thrown in its tracks is the person I am thinking of. In this way, through the category and conceptual isolate, we implicitly know the actual person as represented by a mental hologram of the person.

The actual person that the conceptual isolate implicitly throws in its tracks is the referent object of the mental label (btags-chos), and also the implied object (zhen-yul; conceptualized object) of the conceptual cognition.

Summary of the Three Main Components of Mental Labeling

The three main components of mental labeling, then, are:

  • A mental label
  • A basis for labeling
  • A referent object of the mental label.

A person is imputedly existent on a body. This is a fact about persons that is the case whether we see a person with non-conceptual sensory cognition or think about a person with conceptual mental cognition.

With conceptual cognition of a person, however, a mental label (the object category “person”) is labeled (pasted) on a basis for labeling (the specific individual body on which the person imputedly exists). This occurs through the medium of a conceptual isolate (nothing other than a specific person as a member of the category “person”) and a mental hologram (a mental representation of the actual person, appearing in the form of the body on which he or she imputedly exists).

  • Note that the form of the body in the mental hologram may be a representation of the form that we see when the person is standing in front of us
  • Or it may be an arbitrary form of what the body of the person looks like that merely represents the person when we think of him or her when the person is absent.

The referent object of the mental labeling of the category “person” on a specific individual body as the basis for labeling is the actual person. In detail, the referent object (the actual person) is what the conceptual isolate has implicitly thrown in its tracks after it has excluded all other members of the category “person.”

The mental labeling interpolates (sgro-‘dogs) onto the actual person the status of being a member of the category “person.” The mental labeling, however, does not create the person. The person is imputedly existent on the basis of a body whether or not the person is mentally labeled as a member of the category “person.”

  • Interpolation means adding or projecting onto something something else that is not naturally there or not naturally the case, like adding a feather to an arrow.

Thus, the existence of the referent object of the mental label is not established in the manner of an affirmation phenomenon (sgrub-pa).

  • An affirmation phenomenon is an item defined in terms of the establishment of an item (for instance by it having a findable defining characteristic mark or it being a findable referent “thing” [btags-don]), without an object to be negated being explicitly precluded by the sounds that express it.
  • Note that “established” (grub-pa) and “affirmation phenomenon” (sgrub-pa) are two inflections of the same word in Tibetan.

Instead of being established as an affirmation phenomenon, the referent object is simply accounted for in terms of an implicative negation phenomenon. This does not mean, however, that the referent object is established as a negation phenomenon. It is simply what is implicitly thrown in the tracks of the negation phenomenon “nothing other than itself.” When you conceptually exclude everything other than the referent object, the referent object is what is left.­

Top