Death, Sleep, and Orgasm: Gateways to the Mind of Clear Light

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Death, Sleep, and Orgasm: Gateways to the Mind of Clear Light
Citation: Hopkins, Jeffrey. "Death, Sleep, and Orgasm: Gateways to the Mind of Clear Light." Journal of Chinese Philosophy 25, no. 2 (1998): 245–60.

Article Summary

Buddhism began gradually to be introduced to Tibet in the seventh century C. E., more than a thousand years after Shākyamuni Buddha's passing away (circa 483 B. C.).[1] The form Buddhism took in Tibet was greatly influenced by the highly developed systemization of the religion that was present in India through the twelfth century (and even later). The geographic proximity and relatively undeveloped culture of Tibet provided conditions for extensive transfer of scholastic commentaries and systems of practice, which came to have great influence throughout a vast region stretching from Kalmuck Mongolian areas in Europe where the Volga River empties into the Caspian Sea, Outer and Inner Mongolia, and the Buriat Republic of Siberia as well as Bhutan, Sikkim, Nepal, and Ladakh. The sources for my discussion are drawn primarily from two of the four major orders of Tibetan Buddhism:
  • the old order called Nying-ma-ba,[2] which reached its full development in the fourteenth century with the scholar-yogi Long-chen-rap-jam[3]
  • a highly scholastic order called Ge-luk-ba,[4] founded by the fourteenth century scholar-yogi Dzongka-ba.[5]
Long-chen-rap-jam was born in 1308 Do-drong[6] in south central Tibet, received ordination at Samyay[7] Monastery, and studied the doctrines of both the old and new schools. A great scholar, he became abbot of Sam-yay Monastery early in his life but retired from that position to live in the mountains. Receiving the full corpus of the teachings of the Old Translation School of Nying-ma, he wrote prolifically, and even when he was exiled for a decade to Bhutan for his closeness with the opponents of the ruling power, he established and restored monasteries.[8]
      Dzong-ka-ba was born in 1357 in the northeastern province of Tibet called Am-do,[9] now included by the occupying Chinese Communists not in the Tibetan Autonomous Region but in Ch'ing-hai Province. He studied the new and old schools extensively, and developed his own tradition called Ge-luk-ba. Dzongka- ba and his followers established a system of education centered especially in large universities, eventually in three areas of Tibet but primarily in Hla-sa, the capital, which in some ways was for the Tibet cultural region what Rome is for the Catholic Church. For five centuries, young men came from all over the Tibetan cultural region to these large Tibetan universities to study (I say "men" because women were, for the most part, excluded from the scholastic culture). Until the Communist takeovers, these students usually returned to their own countries after completing their degrees.
      My presentation on the mind of clear light is largely from standard Nying-ma-ba and Ge-luk-ba perspectives on the two basic forms of what Tibetan tradition accepts as Shākyamuni Buddha's teaching—the Sūtra Vehicle and the Tantra Vehicle, also called the Vajra Vehicle.[10] (Hopkins, background, 245–46)
  1. This paper is drawn from my book, Sex, Orgasm, and the Mind of Clear Light (Berkeley: North Atlantic Press, 1998).
  2. rnying ma pa
  3. klong chen rab 'byams; 1308-63.
  4. dge lugs pa.
  5. tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa; 1357–1419.
  6. stod grong.
  7. bsam yas
  8. For a short biography of Long-chen-ba, see Tarthang Tulku, "A History of the Buddhist Dharma", ed. Judith Robertson and Deborah Black, Crystal Mirror, vol. V (Emeryville, Calif: Dharma Publishing), 254–260
  9. a mdo.
  10. rdo rje theg pa, vajray na