In order to be sure that a certain person is not present, you must
know the absent person. Likewise, in order to be certain of the
meaning of “selflessness” or “the lack of intrinsic existence,” you
must carefully identify the self, or intrinsic nature, that does not
exist. For, if you do not have a clear concept of the object to be ne
gated, you will also not have accurate knowledge of its negation.
For Santideva’s Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds says:
Without contacting the entity that is imputed
You will not apprehend the absence of that entity.
There is limitless diversity among objects of negation, but they
come together at the root; when you refute this, you refute all ob
jects of negation. Moreover, if you leave some remainder, fail
ing to refute the deepest and most subtle core of the object of nega
tion, then you will fall to an extreme of true existence. You will cling
to the idea of real things, whereby you will not be able to escape
cyclic existence. If you fail to limit the object of negation and over
extend your refutation, then you will lose confidence in the causal
progressions of dependent-arising, thereby falling to a nihilistic
extreme. This nihilistic view will lead you to rebirth in a miserable
realm. Therefore, it is crucial to identify the object of negation care
fully, for if it is not identified, you will certainly develop either a
nihilistic view or an eternalistic view.
from the book The Great Treatise On The Stages Of The Path To Enlightenment Vol 3
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