http://kusala.online-dhamma.net/%E6%96% ... dhamma.pdfBut I have omitted the most important aspect of this passage for understanding early Buddhist ontology. Normally in dependent origination, existence is simply described in terms of the existence of the factor itself, as in the famous formula: ‘This being, that is…this not being, that is not’. But our present passage speaks, not of the existence of, say, ‘name’, but of the existence of ‘the features, properties, signs, and summaries by which there is a concept of name’. If these ‘properties’ are absent, no ‘labeling contact’ regarding ‘form’ can be ‘found’. Conversely, if the ‘properties’ by which there is a ‘concept’ of ‘form’ are absent, no ‘impact contact’ regarding ‘name’ can be ‘found’. This demonstrates in a most emphatic and explicit way that the ‘properties’ by which phenomena are known are, for all Dhamma purposes, equivalent to the phenomena themselves, since they perform the identical function in dependent origination. We cannot distinguish between a thing’s properties and the thing itself, since the label we give a ‘thing’ is just a concept denoting the exercise of certain functions. To say a thing ‘exists’ is to say it is ‘found’. And the very workings of experience, the fundamental structure of information processing, is necessarily dependent on this conceptual apparatus. Without ‘labelling’, without the properties by which a thing is ‘conceptualized’, stimulus, and hence the entire perceptual process cannot work. Thus this passage thoroughly demolishes any attempt to wedge a division between ‘ultimate reality’ and ‘conventional reality’. Wisdom does not consist in going past convention to the ultimate substratum, but in understanding how conceptualizing is inherent in the cognitive process itself. Hence the Buddha said that the extent of concepts, language, and labelling is precisely the domain of wisdom; that is, birth, ageing, and death, cognition together with name & form...
Understanding the difference between ‘ultimate’ and ‘conventional’ truth was upheld by later Buddhists as a sign of profound wisdom, a key to penetrating the inner mysteries of the Dhamma. But any specialized field of endeavor – from mechanics to mathematics, from fishing to physics – will develop a technical vocabulary of terms used in narrowly defined and sometimes eccentric ways – a jargon. Dhamma is no different. We just take our jargon a tad too seriously. Tracing the arbitrary and inconsistent usage of this ontological apartheid in its checkered career through Buddhist history, I can discern only one constant factor – to exalt one’s own teachings as ‘ultimate’ and denigrate others’ as ‘conventional’. Thus the abhidhamma is ‘ultimate’ while the suttas are ‘conventional’; or the Mahayana suttas are ‘ultimate’ while the abhidhamma is ‘conventional’. It is a standard piece of abhidhamma rhetoric to claim that the entire abhidhamma is phrased in terms of ‘ultimate truth’. But this is transparent bluster...
Let’s compare analytic treatment in the suttas and abhidhamma. Consider the famous chariot simile. Just as when the parts come together the word ‘chariot’ is used, so too when the five aggregates are present the word ‘self’ is used. There’s no implication that the parts are in any way more ‘ultimate’ than the chariot as a whole. The parts are themselves just constructs that may be further analyzed. Nor is there any implication that there would be any benefit in reducing the chariot to ‘ultimate’ parts and defining every element, even if this was possible. The purpose of the analysis is simply to show that the word ‘chariot’ is a convention, not to prove that there is something else which is not a convention. By postulating an ontologically privileged ultimate strata of being, one is committing the very error the original simile was designed to dispel.
The sutta passage from the Mahanidana Sutta that Sujato is referring to is this:
I could be misreading him, but Sujato seems to be saying something similar (not identical) to the Prajñaptivādins in that dhammas are mere concepts only. However, instead of trying to guess which brand of heretical thought Sujato is subscribing to here I instead would like to use this passage as a talking point regarding the teaching of the two truths. Do the suttas support the idea that there is a conventional truth and an ultimate truth in your view? Has Sujato demolished such an idea here, or not?"'From name-&-form as a requisite condition comes contact. Thus it has been said. And this is the way to understand how, from name-&-form as a requisite condition comes contact. If the qualities, traits, themes, & indicators by which there is a description of name-group (mental activity) were all absent, would designation-contact with regard to the form-group (the physical properties) be discerned?"
"If the permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of form-group were all absent, would resistance-contact with regard to the name-group be discerned?"
"If the permutations, signs, themes, and indicators by which there is a description of name-group and form-group were all absent, would designation-contact or resistance-contact be discerned?"
"Thus this is a cause, this is a reason, this is an origination, this is a requisite condition for contact, i.e., name-and-form.