The First Mode

Now to analyze the modes in more detail; Jang-gya points out that the proof of the sign being a property of the subject has two parts, the proof of the lack of being a truly existent unity and the proof of the lack of being a truly existent plurality (10). As for the first, we may begin with our baseball. Can the baseball be considered a truly existent unity? Well, to begin with it has smaller parts that we can see. Let's then consider the smallest particle within the ball. Can this particle be said to be a truly existent unity, a single thing? Again, no. The argument is that if a particle is to occupy space, it must have sides. Just as the baseball itself has a north side and a south side, so must each of the particles that it consists of. Without this aspect, the particles would have no "extension". By occupying no space, all the particles surrounding it would be in contact with the central particle at the same place. It follows that the whole universe, if it were made of these hypothetical particles, would occupy zero volume. If it is admitted that the central particle has sides that face the surrounding particles, then it must be accepted that they have parts and are not truly existent unities. The north side depends on the south side for its existence.

In addition to having extension in space, the particle also endures for some length of time. If there were no distinction between the particle now and the particle ten minutes from now, it would be absurdly held to occur over a period of zero time. The temporal series of this "one" particle is another aspect of its lack of inherent existence as a unity.

By implication of these arguments it is clear that the baseball also is not a truly existent unity, being a composite of particles as well as having sides, duration, etc. The fact that there is no such thing as a truly existent unity directly proves that there can be no truly existent plurality; if there is no truly existent unity, of what could the plurality be composed that would endow it with true existence? If there are no trees, there can be no forest.

This situation gives rise to the doctrine of the Two Truths, Conventional Truth and Ultimate Truth. It should be stressed that denying a truly existent baseball does not deny that a baseball can exist as a conventionally existent plurality. Tsongkapa's Essence of the Good Explanation says: When phenomena are established as having many parts, it is not contradictory for one phenomenon to exist as an entity of many parts, within conventionalities. However, damage is done to ultimate establishment [that is, true existence is called into question] because if parts and whole are different entities, they would be unrelated, and if they are the same entity, the parts would become one or the whole would become many. (11)

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End Notes and Works Cited

Copyright © 2005 Dan Haig