One or other, both or neither?

Reposted from Zenpundit — Modi or Trump, special or chosen? — with thanks to The Emissary — and closing in on the shining suchness of the Tathagata

Modi of India, Trump of USA?


Trump of USA proclaims himself the Chosen One, while Modi of India’s supporters claim Modi is the Special One.

Who knew?



  • The Emissary, The Special One
  • Giphy, I am the Chosen One
  • .

    Buddhist logic from the beginning differs from its Aristotelian cousin, featuring the chatushkoti or tetralemma:

    India in the fifth century BCE, the age of the historical Buddha, and a rather peculiar principle of reasoning appears to be in general use. This principle is called the catuskoti, meaning ‘four corners’. It insists that there are four possibilities regarding any statement: it might be true (and true only), false (and false only), both true and false, or neither true nor false.

    Hence my title, One or other, both or neither?

    Oh ah:

    speaking of the Buddha, Nagarjuna states that the Buddha’s teaching is “emptiness is suchness, not suchness, both suchness and not suchness, and neither suchness nor not suchness.”


    The suchness of the Tathagata is the suchness of all phenomena.

    Rumor therefore has it that there’s a fifth possibility, a refuge from all dualities: the shining suchness of the Tathagata.


    No, really — please comment!

    Published by

    Charles Cameron

    I've mostly been blogging at, a strategy & creativity focused site where I'm managing editor, and am honored and delighted to have been invited to contribute here at BrownPundits. My degree is in Theology (Christian) from Oxford, I'm interested in religions generally and apocalyptic weirdness and religiously oriented violence in particular, but ah, music is like a breath of fresh air after that, and my love of Bach has tgranslated into an i nquiry: How can we hold contrasting concepts and worldviews in mind at the same time, the way Bach' hold contrasting melodies together in musical counterpoint? This is obviously a useful trait to develop in social setting, for diplomats, intelligence analysts and national security wonks -- and for anyone interested in a sophisticated understanding of our complex world. My own approach to the mapping of simultaneous but contrasting ideas is based in my understanding of Hermann Hesse's great game, described in his Nobel-winning novel The Glass Bead Game. I hope to begin my posting here by introducing Hesse's Game, and my own attempt to make it playable -- on a napkin in a cafe, preferably, with dappled sunshine, a cool breeze, and a curious , openmind..

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    4 years ago

    This, along with nonbinary multiplicity, complex causation, effortless effort, Sarva Dharma, infinite paths and the various levels of Samaadhi (with Tattagata being the highest level of Samaadhi), are part of the definition of eastern philosophy.

    Note that even to say levels of Samaadhi or deepening of Samaadhi is inaccurate. It is beyond levels and nonlevels and deepening and non deepening.

    Question 1:

    Can you share your thoughts on the 31 levels of Swarga (or heaven or Samaadhi or conciousness) in Buddhism?

    Question 2:
    What do you think of having a Brown Cast with Rick Archer on the meaning of eastern philosophy?:

    4 years ago

    Modi did not claim he is the special one , unlike Trump . The Emissary’s article is a record of Modi’s achievements, and that stands even if you disregard the word ‘special’ which is neither here nor there . In a country dominated by dynasties , where the norm became you can only reach the top positon if you have a surname ‘Gandhi’ , suitably Oxbridge educated and duly annointed by leftists , he came from impoverished circumstance , and winded his way up through democratic processes, both within his own party and in general elections. He has done his job fairly OK so far , even though he is not a revolutionary in culture or economics.

    Modi is far from a whiz kid , he is a plodder , team player and he is not extreme narcissist like Trump -except when he is camera conscious.

    I would have liked to give as much credit to Manmohan Singh or Narasimha Rao except that they were the choice of the dynasty and their front men..

    4 years ago

    There is an old zen axiom:

    Form is emptiness, and emptiness is form.

    To which Dogen Zenji, the 13th century zen master is said to have added:

    Therefore form is form, and emptiness is emptiness.

    By taking non-duality to it’s logical conclusion one is left once again with mundane relative distinctions, however the sense of attachment / suffering is gone.

    Nagarjuna’s emptiness/ non-duality of phenomena, is different from from Adi Shankaras non-duality of self.

    Modernism is an over reification of categories to a point beyond which they have reasonable utility.

    Post-modernism seems to be nihilistic with regards to a category denying even relativistic differences as reaction to modernism. So it is still just a reification of the opposite.

    The world would be a better place if people understood emptiness.

    4 years ago
    Reply to  Sumit

    “Nagarjuna’s emptiness/ non-duality of phenomena, is different from from Adi Shankaras non-duality of self.”

    Please elaborate. How do Nagarjuna’s and Adi Shankaracharya’s understanding of the various levels of meditation, savikalpa samaadhi, nirvikalpa samaadhi, (31 levels of heaven discussed by Buddha) differ?

    Do you believe that Buddha and Nagarjuna bifurcated Nirvikalpa Samadhi into many different stages? If so, into how many stages or levels?

    4 years ago
    Reply to  AnAn

    Briefly about the differences, as I understand them (nothing authoritative):

    Adi Shankara:

    I am awareness, awareness is I. The illuminating aspect of awareness is your true nature, and it is the true nature of all phenomenon.

    The realization is “I am that, that is me” or “tat tvam asi”.

    Sakyamuni Buddha:

    Similar to Advaita, but need sees the “I am” as unnecessary.

    The illuminating aspect of phenomenon is an aspect of phenomenon. ie. there can be no awareness without phenomenon. There can also be no phenomenon without awareness.

    The realization is “no self” or “seeing but no seer, hearing but no hearer etc”

    Nagrajuna’s teaching:

    Because neither awareness nor phenomenon can independently exist they can be said to be empty.

    He applies this sort of interdependence to all phenomenon eg. time, space etc in his treatise. This lack of independent existence for any phenomenon is emptiness.

    The realization is “Interdependence” or “total exertion”.

    “Do you believe that Buddha and Nagarjuna bifurcated Nirvikalpa Samadhi into many different stages? If so, into how many stages or levels?”

    Regarding the Samadhi stuff I don’t think Nagrajuna talks about it.

    But older Buddhist stuff like Pali cannon does talk about it, if I had to guess:

    savikalpa samaadhi => first 4 jhanas in Pali Cannon => 12-27 highest planes of existence)
    nirvikalpa samaadhi => last 4 jhanas in Pali Cannon => 28-31 highest planes of existence)

    Experentially i am not sure how much of a difference between hindu and buddhist spiritual realization. Some people argue its a lot, others say its very minimal. I lean more towards the minimal differences camp.

    Brown Pundits