Manifesting the mind of clear light by the power of meditative concentration
Kilty, Gavin, trans. "Manifesting the Mind of Clear Light by the Power of Meditative Concentration." In Ornament of Stainless Light: An Exposition of the Kālacakra Tantra, by Khedrup Norsang Gyatso (mkhas grub nor bzang rgya mtsho), 59–64. Boston: Wisdom Publications, 2004.
Withdrawal and meditative absorption are the methods by which the winds enter the central channel to purify it, while vase yoga and the vajra recitation in the branch of prāṇāyāma cause the flow of the winds in the right and left channels to be cut and so enter the central channel, where the mind of clear light is made manifest. Such a process of manifesting clear light arises from cutting the flow of the winds, or mounts of conceptuality, of the left and right channel by targeting the channels, drops, and winds of the vajra body and bringing those winds into the central channel. The Great Commentary, in the Realms chapter, in the first summary says:
Although fire dwells constantly within wood,
by cutting and separation it is not seen.
Yet, when the fire-stick is worked with the hands,
it is seen to dwell within.
Similarly, by habitual conceptuality,
the mind of clear light is not seen.
>But when the right and left channel
are united as one, it will be manifest.
As long as the mind to which objects of a transient nature appear is not halted, it is not possible to manifest the mind of clear light. To halt such a mind, the winds must enter the dhūtī, and as long as the winds flow within the left and right channel, it is not possible to halt such a mind.
Some (such as Kumāramati and Kumāraśrī) have said that the primordial mind of clear light that is the subject of the previous quotes from the tantras and commentaries is identical to the buddha essence, or impure suchness, as taught in the Uttaratantra, one of the five treatises of the protector Maitreya. They also claim that this buddha essence taught in the Uttaratantra and in the In Praise of Dharmadhātu is the causal tantra taught by the Later Guhyasamāja Tantra when it says:
Tantra it is known means continuum,
and that continuum is of three kinds.
The basis, the nature of suchness,
and the invincible: is it thus divided.
Their assertion cannot be seen to be correct because that would mean the path of practice as taught in the Uttaratantra also would have to be the method tantra taught in the line "the basis, that of the nature of suchness” because the reasoning is the same. Furthermore it would also mean that to manifest buddha essence as taught in the Uttaratantra it would be necessary to halt the flow of winds in the right and left channel and bring them to the central channel. This is because in order to make manifest the primordial inborn mind of clear light as it is taught in the tantras and commentaries, it is necessary to halt the flow of winds in the left and right channels and to have them enter the central channel. As the Great Commentary says in the Realms chapter, in the first summary:
Similarly, by habitual conceptuality,
the mind of clear light is not seen.
But when the right and left channel
are united as one, it will be manifest.
Some (such as the Jonang tradition) assert the existence of a buddha essence adorned with the features and signs of enlightenment, endowed with the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, and every other excellent quality of abandonment. They assert this essence to be unchanging and permanent, of ultimate existence, and dwelling inside every sentient being since beginningless time but hidden within the temporary impurities. This they maintain is what is meant by the quotes from the tantra, such as the verses beginning "Pervading space, the vajra of space," "Sentient beings are buddhas," and so forth, as well as by the quotes from the commentaries quoted previously. They also maintain that this is the meaning of quotes such as that beginning "A statue of buddha wrapped in rags" from the Uttaratantra and similar quotes from In Praise of Dharmadhātu. Furthermore they claim that the Prajñāpāramitā and other sutras in which the Buddha spoke of all phenomena being empty of any true existence are actually teaching an "emptiness of other," in which the above-mentioned buddha essence is empty of "other" transient impurities. Because this buddha essence is empty of the impurities or objects of negation and because it is truly existing, it is not an "emptiness of self." They also claim that this is the thinking of the Kālacakra and its commentaries.
To this, firstly I say the following. Of the ten powers, there is the power of the wisdom that knows what is and what is not the basis. Does this power know what is and what is not the basis of a hairy old dog? If it does not know, it could not be a wisdom that knows what is and what is not the basis. If it does know, it could not be a wisdom covered by the obscuring impurities. Furthermore, if the meaning of statements that all phenomena are empty as found in the Prajñāpāramitā and other sutras was that the buddha essence was empty of “other” impurities, empty of the impurities to be negated, and was itself truly existing, then you would have to agree that the emptiness spoken of in these sutras as being empty of the objects to be negated would also be truly existing. Even if you do actually assert this, it could not be correct, because in Fundamental Treatise on the Middle Way it says:
The conquerors have said
that emptiness uproots all views,
and that those who have a view of emptiness
will have no accomplishment.
And from its commentary, Clear Words:
Were someone to say, "I will not give you anything at all," and if I were to reply, "Then give me that which does not exist!" how would it be possible to hold that as not existing? Likewise, for those who even cling to emptiness as a reality, how will they negate their clinging to reality
Similarly the Heap of Jewels Sutra quoted at this point in Clear Words, says:
Kāśyapa, those who focus upon emptiness and have thoughts of emptiness fall far from my words. Kāśyapa, to have views on self the size of Mount Meru is tolerable, but with strong pride to have views on emptiness is not. Why is that? Kāśyapa, if emptiness is that which uproots every view, then Kāśyapa, I say that those who have a view on emptiness alone are beyond all cure.
These quotes state that it is wrong to have a view on any phenomenon as truly existing, and to view emptiness as truly existing is said to be an especially incurable view. Such statements do great damage to the previous assertions.
Furthermore to assert that the buddha essence is adorned by the features and signs of enlightenment, is endowed with the ten powers, the four kinds of fearlessness, and every other excellent quality of the buddha, that it is unchanging and permanent, of ultimate existence, and dwells inside every sentient being since beginningless time is completely wrong because the words of the Buddha in sutras that teach this way are not to be taken literally, and such teachings are intended for interpretation. This is explained in Candrakīrti’s commentary to his own Madhyamakāvatāra, where he quotes from the Laṅkāvatārasūtra:
"In the teachings on the buddha essence, the Conqueror spoke of that whose nature was pure and of clear light, pure since beginningless time, endowed with the thirty-two features of enlightenment, and existing within the bodies of every sentient being. The Conqueror taught that like a very precious jewel wrapped in dirty cloth, it lies permanent and unchanging, wrapped in the cloths of the aggregates, sensory spheres, and sense sources, eclipsed by anger, desire, and ignorance, tainted by the impurities of conceptuality.
This passage describing a buddha essence accords with your assertions as taught by a sutra requiring interpretation. The sutra continues:
"Conqueror, Tathāgata, if that is so, how is one who teaches on tathāgata essence unlike the outsiders who teach on self? Conqueror, the outsiders are also teachers of a self that is permanent, a nondoer, devoid of qualities, pervasive, and imperishable."
This passage states that a buddha essence described in this way is similar to the permanent self propounded by non-Buddhists and asks how it could be any diflferent. The sutra continues with the reply:
The Conqueror replied, "Mahāmati, my teaching of the buddha essence is not similar to the Tirthankara teachings on self. Mahāmati, the tathāgatas, conquerors of the enemy, perfectly complete buddhas, have taught the meanings of terms such as emptiness, perfect reality, nirvana, the unborn, the signless, the wishless, and so forth as buddha essence. Children are frightened by no-self, and as a means to remove that fear, the door of buddha essence is shown. By doing so the nonconceptual state, the nonappearing object, is taught. Mahāmati, those great beings, those bodhisattvas of the future and of the present, should not hold fast to a self."
The sentence beginning "Mahāmati, my teaching of" expresses the assertion that the teaching of the buddha essence as held by you is not similar to non-Buddhists’ teachings of a permanent self. The list of terms beginning with “emptiness” reveals the thinking behind the teachings on buddha essence. The words "Mahāmati, the tathāgatas, conquerors of the enemy, perfectly complete buddhas, have taught the meanings of terms," and including the phrase “as buddha essence,” reveal the ways in which the essence was taught. The purpose of the sentence beginning “Children” up to “remove that fear” is to reveal what is to be excluded, and the purpose of the sentence beginning “By doing so” reveals what is to be included. The last sentence, beginning “Mahāmati, those great beings,” teaches that if the words of sutras that speak of this kind of buddha essence are held as literal, this leads to a clinging to a permanent self. Therefore the quote ends “should not hold fast to a self,” which illustrates the actual damage done to the previous assertion. The text immediately following the above passage beginning “Mahāmati, for example” up to “Mahāmati, in this way the tathāgatas taught and are teaching the tathāgata essence in order to guide those who hold to the outsiders’ assertion of self ” explain that texts propounding a buddha essence within every sentient being, adorned with features of an enlightened being, endowed with qualities such as the ten powers and the four kinds of fearlessness, permanent and unchanging, are not to be adhered to literally but are for a particular purpose and are to be interpreted. Therefore, it can be understood that it is incorrect to explain the tantra and the Great Commentary by way of such a buddha essence. This has been just a brief explanation.
- Toh 845 Kangyur, rgyud, śrī, 4b7.
- The central channel.
- Sanskritized form of Gö Lotsāwa Shönu Pal.
- Toh 443 Kangyur, rgyud, ca, chap. 18, 150a1.
- Jado Rinpoché pointed out that the three kinds of tantra are method tantra, referring to the two stages of generation and completion; causal tantra, referring to emptiness (Abhayākaragupta) or the jewellike disciple (Nāropa); and resultant tantra referring to enlightenment. These three are indicated in the quote by “basis,” “suchness,” and “the invincible,” respectively.
- Toh 845 Kangyur, rgyud, śrī, 5a1.
- Toh 4024 Tengyur, dbu ma, tsa, chap. 1, v. 99, 58b7.
- Notes in the critical edition point out that this assertion refers to Dölpopa.
- The first of the ten powers of a buddha. It is a wisdom that knows, for example, that from giving comes wealth and not poverty, and that from morality comes happiness and not suffering. According to the tenets quoted above, this wisdom would be an endowment of the buddha essence dwelling within every living being. “Basis” (gnas) is the Sanskrit sthā which has the meaning of "correct and proper” as well as its usual connotation of “location.” See The Great Lexicon, p. 1119.
- Toh 3824 Tengyur, dbu ma, tsa, chap. 13, v. 8, 8a6.
- Toh 3860 Tengyur, dbu ma, ah, chap. 13, 83b6.
- Toh 3860 Tengyur, dbu ma, ah, chap. 13, 84a2.
- Toh 3862 Tengyur, dbu ma, ah, 281a6. Or Toh 107 Kangyur, mdo sde, ca, Laṅkāvatārasūtra, chap. 2, 85b7.
- Toh 107 Kangyur, mdo sde, ca, Laṅkāvatārasūtra, chap. 2, 86a4.