The Meditative Tradition of the Uttaratantra and Shentong
Brunnhölzl, Karl. "The Meditative Tradition of the Uttaratantra and Shentong." In When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sūtra and Tantra, 123-50. Boston: Snow Lion Publications, 2014.
The Two Approaches of Explaining the Uttaratantra
As mentioned above, for the transmission of the five works of Maitreya from India to Tibet, there are the four principal lineages through Ngog Lotsāwa, Dsen Kawoché (two), and Marpa Dopa, all of whom traveled to Kashmir and studied the Maitreya works with the great paṇḍitas there (primarily Sajjana and Parahita). The lineage through Ngog Lotsāwa is often called "the exegetical tradition of the dharma works of Maitreya" (byams chos bshad lugs), while Dsen Kawoché’s transmissions represent "the meditative tradition of the dharma works of Maitreya" (byams chos sgom lugs). Judging from CMW, Marpa Dopa’s lineage contains elements of both approaches since CMW’s introduction consists of Mahāmudrā-style meditation instructions based on the Uttaratantra, while its actual commentary on the words of the Uttaratantra and RGVV consists almost exclusively of scriptural exegesis of a scholarly nature.
Ngog’s approach is also referred to as "the tradition of studying and reflecting on the dharma works of Maitreya" (byams chos thos bsam gyi lugs) and, as shown above and in appendices 1 and 2, it was later adopted in most points by the Sakya and Gelug schools. The meditative tradition came to be associated with what is known as the Shentong approach.
GC speaks of the two ways of explaining the Uttaratantra through the path of inference based on the Madhyamaka texts and explaining the heart of the matter (snying po’i don) through the path of direct perception (by which GC essentially means Mahāmudrā).
Śākya Chogden compares the two positions of Ngog and Dsen by saying that Ngog identifies the tathāgata heart as the factor of the natural purity of all phenomena, which pervades all knowable objects and is a space-like nonimplicative negation. Then he describes Dsen’s meditative view and explains the complementary relationship between these two traditions:
The definitive meaning that he found from having studied the dharmas of Maitreya is explained by those in his lineage as follows. The sugata heart is the naturally pure wisdom, luminous by nature, that pervades [everyone] from buddhas to sentient beings. In earlier times these [two approaches] were known as "the difference between explaining the dharmas of Maitreya as the tradition of characteristics (mtshan nyid kyi lugs) and explaining them as the meditative tradition (sgom lugs)." However, in both cases there is no contradiction because the [explanation] according to the first [approach] is more profound at the time of eliminating the clinging to characteristics, while the [explanation] according to the latter [approach] is needed so that [the sugata heart] can function as the support of qualities.
In its chapter on how the Shentong tradition spread in India and Tibet, as mentioned above, TOK states that the intention of the sūtras of the third wheel of dharma was elucidated by the works of Maitreya except the Abhisamayālaṃkāra and by Nāgārjuna’s collection of praises. In India, the meaning of these texts was explained and spread widely by Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Candragomī, their followers, Ratnākaraśānti, and others. Dharmapāla (530-561) composed a treatise called Dawn of Brightness commenting on Nāgārjuna’s collection of reasoning as bearing the intention of the third wheel of dharma. However, while the general philosophical system of Maitreya as expressed in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, and Madhyāntavibhāga was explained through many traditions (such as those of Dignāga and Sthiramati), the uncommon view of these texts was sustained in such a way that only the supreme disciples transmitted it orally, with the texts of the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga and Uttaratantra being hidden away as treasure texts until Maitrīpa rediscovered them. Via *Ānandakīrti and Sajjana, these texts were transmitted to Ngog Lotsāwa as well as Su Gawé Dorje and Dsen Kawoché.
TOK calls Ngog’s tradition of the Maitreya texts "the oral transmission of explanation" (bshad pa’i bka’ babs) and Dsen’s lineage, "the oral transmission of practice" (sgrub pa’i bka’ babs), saying that they are asserted to hold the views of Madhyamaka and Mere Mentalism, respectively. Based on the latter tradition, masters such as Dsangnagpa Dsöndrü Sengé, the Third Karmapa, Dölpopa, Longchen Rabjampa, Minling Terchen Gyurmé Dorje (1646–1714) and his brother Lochen Dharmaśrī (1654–1717/18), the Eighth Situpa, and their followers uttered the lion’s roar of the irreversible actuality and illuminated the system of Great Madhyamaka, which is the definitive meaning beyond Mere Mentalism.
The source of this Shentong system that was widely renowned in both India and Tibet, TOK says, is the Uttaratantra. According to its verse I.1, its subject matter consists of the seven bodies of the ultimate vajra, which are taught through the seven vajra points in four chapters. Their connection in due order is taught in Uttaratantra I.3. These seven teach the complete body of the ground, path, and fruition of liberation—the Buddha as the teacher of the path, the dharma as his teachings, the saṃgha as those who train in it, those who have the disposition to be guided by these three, the awakening that is their liberation, the qualities of that awakening, and its enlightened activity. If these are summarized as the progression of making the path a living experience, since the generation of bodhicitta on the supreme path of the mahāyāna resembles a leader, it is discussed in order to teach the stages of correctly adopting this motivation of bodhicitta. What the Uttaratantra teaches explicitly is to take refuge in the three jewels (vajra points 1–3). The focal objects of bodhicitta consist of the welfare of others and awakening. Since "others" refers to sentient beings as the objects for whose sake bodhicitta is generated, this teaches suchness with stains (vajra point 4). The welfare of these others is taught by enlightened activity (vajra point 7), and its cause is awakening (vajra point 5). The qualities (vajra point 6) represent the aids for promoting the welfare of others through awakening. Furthermore, all seven vajra points are determined through the principle of the two realities.
JKC’s introduction explains the following on the two traditions of explaining the Uttaratantra and the text’s relationship with Shentong. In general, it is the abiding principle of all texts of Maitreya that what is to be known at the time of the ground, the object of the view at the time of the path, and the svābhāvikakāya at the time of the fruition are all presented on the basis of dharmadhātu wisdom. For example, in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, the dharmadhātu is explained as the basis of purification, the means of purification consist of the four trainings, what is to be purified are all factors to be relinquished through seeing and familiarization, and the result of purification is the attainment of the dharmakāya.
Here in the Uttaratantra, the basis of purification is the sugata heart. The means of purification consist of the four factors of faith in the dharma, prajñā, samādhi, and compassion, as well as the sixty factors of purification in the Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra. What is to be purified are the nine stains illustrated by the nine examples, the three obscurations (afflictive, cognitive, and those of meditative absorption), and the four factors of hostility toward the dharma, views about a self, fear of saṃsāra’s suffering, and indifference about the welfare of sentient beings. The result of purification consists of the result of freedom from all those factors to be purified, which is the manifestation of the dharmakāya with its qualities and enlightened activity. Thus, apart from mere differences in terminology, the presentations in all Maitreya texts come down to the same meaning.
Therefore, these texts do not differ with regard to the following. At the time of the ground, the ālaya is presented as the foundation into which the individual latent tendencies of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa are input. At the time of the path, the adventitious stains are explained as the factors to be relinquished, and the factor of natural purity—self-aware wisdom—is accepted as what is to be experienced. At the time of the fruition, the wisdom of the final fundamental change is established to be existent.
With regard to this basis of the Uttaratantra’s exposition, JKC follows GC in saying that there are the two systems of explaining it (1) through the path of inference that relies on the Madhyamaka texts and (2) through the path of the direct perception of the heart of the matter.
(1) The first one is the approach of Ngog Lotsāwa and his followers, who hold the tathāgata heart to be ultimate reality, which is the emptiness that is the nonimplicative negation explained in the Madhyamaka collection of reasoning. However, this ultimate reality is not even a mere referent object, let alone being an object of terms and conceptions. According to Ngog and his followers, being naturally endowed with qualities is only a label for all qualities naturally gathering, if one focuses on that emptiness. The cause of purified phenomena is taken to be twofold identitylessness—the focal object of the wisdom of purification. This identitylessness is not to be newly added. The cause of afflicted phenomena consists of the personal and phenomenal identities that are superimposed by afflictiveness. Since these focal objects of the afflictions are not established at all, there is nothing previously existent to be removed. The meaning of the dharmakāya’s being pervasive is explained as the dharmakāya of sentient beings’ being suitable to be attained.
(2) The explanation of the Uttaratantra through the path of the direct perception of the heart of the matter consists of the teachings of the followers of the meditative tradition of the Maitreya texts (as transmitted by Su Gawé Dorje and Dsen Kawoché) and Maitrīpa’s pith instructions on prajñāpāramitā that accord with mantra (such as the Tattvadaśaka), which he composed after having received the instructions of Saraha and Śavaripa. Having heard them from Maitrīpa, Marpa said:
The heart of the matter of the ultimate yāna,
Mental nonengagement free from extremes,
Shall be pointed out as the dharma that is Mahāmudrā.
Gampopa’s statement, "The text for this Mahāmudrā of ours is the Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra composed by the Bhagavān Maitreya" was elucidated in his writings and followed by Pamo Trupa, Jigden Sumgön (1143–1217), and the Third Karmapa, who all saw the heart of the matter directly. A later rebirth of Jigden Sumgön, Dölpopa, composed The Fourth Council, which is the heart of the definitive meaning. Likewise, Śākya Chogden, Tāranātha, the Eighth Situpa, and so on, apart from some minor differences in their positions, all arrive at the same essential point about the view. Furthermore the extensive instructions by Maitrīpa’s student Vajrapāṇi on the Tattvadaśaka, its commentary, and so on, in Tibet represent the tradition of Mahāmudrā that teaches exactly the meaning of this system. Also, Padampa Sangyé (another student of Maitrīpa) gave the name The Pacification of Suffering to this dharma of Mahāmudrā whose essence is prajñāpāramitā and that accords with secret mantra. In brief, JKC says, all the transmissions coming from Maitrīpa, notwithstanding some different phrasings, likewise come down to the same point.
The essence of all these explanations is the sugata heart, which is the luminous nature of the mind. At the time when it exists in the mind streams of sentient beings, it is called "disposition," and they are said to possess the buddha heart. Just as the king of the nāgas ascends from the depths of the ocean to the higher realms, this tathāgata heart rises toward the dharmas of the path and the fruition. At the time of having become a buddha, it is called "dharmakāya" and has become fully manifest. Just as Brahmā’s emanations descend to earth, it then also covers all saṃsāric phenomena. The only difference at these two times is whether the tathāgata heart is or is not free from stains, but there is no better or worse or any change in the essence of the basic element of sentient beings and the dharmakāya. From that perspective, they are the same in that both are suchness. This is taught through the example of the Buddha’s dwelling on earth and pervading the three realms with his physical appearances.
To divide these three (the disposition, the dharmakāya, and suchness) further, there are the naturally abiding disposition and the unfolding disposition. The former abides in the mind streams of sentient beings in the manner of their heart since time without beginning, like a treasure under the house of a pauper. Within the power of the disposition abiding as the ground, the unfolding disposition consists of the increase of qualities through perfectly accomplishing the virtues of studying and so forth on the paths of learning, just as a fruit-bearing tree grows after it has been newly planted. The naturally abiding disposition functions as the cause of attaining the svābhāvikakāya and the unfolding disposition, as the cause of the two rūpakāyas. That the unfolding disposition abides as the ground or the cause is asserted by Rangjung Dorje. The dharmakāya is also two-fold—the actual fully qualified dharmakāya endowed with twofold purity and the natural outflow of realizing it (the words of a buddha that teach the principles of the profound ultimate reality and the diversity of seeming reality). Suchness is divided into two in the general words of the Buddha—the true reality of the ultimate and the true reality of the seeming. Gö Lotsāwa holds that all three (the disposition, the dharmakāya, and suchness) are divided into ultimate and seeming.
The intention of the Uttaratantra is that suchness is undifferentiable, which refers to the true nature of the mind abiding without change and interruption as being similar in type from sentient beings up through buddhas. This nature of the mind is taught through many names and examples. In the sūtras, it is referred to as prajñāpāramitā, ultimate reality, the true end, the basic nature, the unchanging perfect nature, the nature of phenomena, mind as such, emptiness, and so on. In the mantrayāna, it has many synonyms such as primordial protector, connate wisdom, great bindu, natural luminosity, and Mahāmudrā. This pure luminous nature is obscured by cloud-like adventitious stains, which arise simultaneously with it, like a film on gold, and consist of the consciousnesses that manifest as the dualistic appearances of apprehender and apprehended. They are given many names, such as ālaya-consciousness, dependent nature, the mistakenness of the seeming, and the ground of the latent tendencies of ignorance. From this, the four obscurations such as hostility toward the dharma arise, and thereby one does not realize the basic nature and is fettered in saṃsāra. Through the four causes such as faith in the supreme yāna, the basic nature is realized perfectly and the adventitious stains are eradicated, which leads to the manifestation of the buddha heart. This is called "dharmakāya." Since this natural luminosity was primordially never tainted by stains, there is nothing to be removed in it—the stains are fabricated and adventitious, and therefore the basic element is empty of them. Since its qualities are its intrinsic nature, there is nothing to be newly added that did not exist before—the qualities are characterized by being inseparable from the basic element, and therefore it is not empty of them. This is like someone with jaundice seeing a yellow conch shell—the actual conch is empty of being yellow but is not empty of being white.
When this actuality is determined through study and reflection, JKC says, according to the Uttaratantra's statement that "the true end is void of conditioned phenomena in all aspects," it is first analyzed through Shentong reasoning. Then, one familiarizes with it in accordance with verses such as the following:
Without beginning, middle, and end, undifferentiable,
Nondual, freed [in] three [ways], stainless, and nonconceptual—
This is the nature of the dharmadhātu, which is seen
By yogins in the meditative equipoise of realizing it.
What is to be experienced through such familiarization is held to be the wisdom that is empty of duality. This refers to the same essential point as the venerable Sakyapa saying:
Having determined it as the freedom from extremes, make it a living experience as union (zung ’jug).
The great beings who hold this explanatory system are known as "Shentong Mādhyamikas." The mere term "empty of other" is also explicitly used in the sūtras, and in Tibet this system arose through the great siddha Yumowa Mikyö Dorje’s (born 1027) having composed his "fourfold cycle of Lucid Lamps." Those who widely spread this term Shentong' and its meaning were Dölpopa and his followers. Though there is nothing discordant in the essential points of their view and meditation, there are some special features of their philosophical position in the context of determining the view. In particular, Dölpopa explains the tathāgata heart in a literal way as the pāramitās of supreme purity, permanence, self, and bliss. All Tibetans understood this as something really established set up by the mind and then refuted it. However, what Dölpopa had in mind as the meaning of permanence and so on is the changeless expanse. He asserted that this expanse is liberated from all characteristics of reference points, is beyond terms and thoughts, and is the object of unmistaken nonconceptual wisdom. Since it withstands analysis through reasoning, one can only mistake it for something that it is not when one subjects it to such analysis. He says that it is the same as the reflections of the emptiness endowed with all supreme aspects taught in the Kālacakratantra being expressed as "Mahāmudrā."
In brief, JKC says, the root of these two ways of explaining the Uttaratantra through the paths of inference and direct perception is whether the tathāgata heart is taken to be actually existent or nonexistent. Also, the tathāgata heart’s serving as the two referents of analysis and meditation derives from understanding the following crucial verses of the Uttaratantra through looking toward the outside and the inside, respectively:
There is nothing to be removed in this
And not the slightest to be added.
Actual reality is viewed as it really is—
If actual reality is seen, one is liberated.
The basic element is empty of what is adventitious,
Which has the characteristic of being separable.
It is not empty of the unsurpassable attributes,
Which have the characteristic of being inseparable.
A contemporary work on Kagyü Shentong Madhyamaka by Sherab Püntso, which draws extensively on texts by the Third, Seventh, and Eighth Karmapas, the Fifth Shamarpa, the Eighth Situpa, and Jamgön Kongtrul, reports what Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche (born 1933), the present tutor to the seventeenth Karmapa, states about the main difference between the exegetical and the meditative traditions of the works of Maitreya. The former is said to explain the meaning of tathāgatagarbha mainly as the element that is the basic nature of phenomena in the sense of the empty dharmadhātu free from all reference points, which is the emptiness that is a nonimplicative negation and is explained in Nāgārjuna’s collection of reasoning. The latter explains the meaning of tathāgatagarbha mainly as the element of luminosity that is wisdom and is characterized by being the emptiness that is an implicative negation.
Among the texts translated or summarized in this volume, CMW’s introduction, IM, RW, HML, GISM, and the fragments from Dsen Kawoché’s work (as well as, in part, Sajjana’s SM, the Eighth Karmapa’s Lamp, and Mönlam Tsültrim’s The Essential Pith Instructions That Summarize the Quintessence of the Piṭakas) are clear examples of the meditative tradition of the works of Maitreya. Not only that but the first five and the last one combine Uttaratantra-based Shentong and Mahāmudrā in a very obvious manner.
Thus, contrary to the claims of some modern scholars, it is clear that it was not only from the time of the Eighth Situpa onward that the "incompatible" views of Shentong and Mahāmudrā were joined, but they were obviously regarded as perfectly compatible by a number of masters much earlier. In fact, an incompatibility between Shentong and Mahāmudrā was voiced by Dölpopa only in his rejection of the position found in many Kagyü Mahāmudrā texts that the difference between ultimate reality and seeming reality or between buddhahood and mistakenness is merely realizing or not realizing the nature of the mind, as epitomized by the famous statement "The essence of thoughts is the dharmakāya." Dölpopa’s critique was based on his above-mentioned sharp distinction between the spheres of ordinary consciousness and nondual wisdom (or seeming and ultimate reality) as being like two separate kingdoms. However, the way in which the Shentong view is usually formulated in the Kagyü School (primarily based on the writings of the Third Karmapa), as well as in CMW and Mönlam Tsültrim’s texts, does not entail this strict separation but speaks of the confused mind and the awakened mind in terms of the latter’s being the true nature of the former (similar to ice and water).
In that vein, Mathes (2008a, 375) reports Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche’s oral explanation of the difference between Shentong and Mahāmudrā as follows. During analysis, the adventitious stains and buddha nature are necessarily differentiated since buddha nature is empty of what does not belong to it (that is, it is shentong—"empty of other"). But when buddha nature is directly realized in Mahāmudrā, there is no longer any difference between it and the adventitious stains or seeming reality.
Thus, in this context, one needs to keep in mind that since all phenomena of seeming reality are not really existent in the first place (and Dölpopa and Mahāmudrā agree on this), there is always only one ultimately real phenomenon to begin with, which is buddha nature or mind’s natural luminosity. Consequently, in fact, there is only a single actual reality, and therefore any presentation or separation of two realities is necessarily of expedient meaning.
The Shentong Lineages and the Meditative Tradition of the Uttaratantra in the Jonang, Kagyü, and Nyingma Schools
In terms of the diversity of the Shentong tradition, as demonstrated elsewhere, the view of the Third Karmapa, who is traditionally considered the foremost authority on the view of buddha nature in the Karma Kagyü School, neither matches Shentong as understood by Dölpopa, Tāranātha, and other Jonangpas, nor Śākya Chogden’s or Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé’s presentations of it. Of course, one can find certain similarities, but there are significant differences between the Third Karmapa’s view and various brands of Shentong. This is clearly acknowledged by several Kagyü masters, such as the First Karma Trinlépa, a close student of the Seventh Karmapa and an important teacher of the Eighth, who comments on lines 4–5 in the ninth chapter of the Third Karmapa’s The Profound Inner Reality as follows:
The basic element of sentient beings is the stainless
buddha heart endowed with the two realities.
The meaning of this is that unconditioned and spontaneously present mind as such, the dharmakāya beyond the entire web of reference points, which has the nature of being all-pervading like space, exists as ultimate reality. However, this does not teach that the sugata heart is really established, permanent, enduring, and totally unchanging. Also the [Seventh Karmapa’s] statement in his Ocean of Texts on Reasoning that nondual wisdom is established as ultimate reality means that it is "established as being ultimate reality," but he does not assert that it is really established, permanent, enduring, and totally unchanging. Some think, "If something is established as ultimate reality, it must be really established," but they have not examined [this issue properly], since [their objection] comes down to nothing but being mistaken about the mere name "reality." For example, though something may be established as seeming reality, [that does not mean that] it needs to be really established. Therefore, most present-day proponents of Shentong and the position of glorious Rangjung [Dorje] differ.
Also the statement by my omniscient guru [the Seventh Karmapa] that "rangtong and shentong are not contradictory" is an excellent explanation, [which shows] that he has realized this meaning. Thus, [the autocommentary] says that what is to be expressed is the mode of being of the buddha heart that exists as the great freedom from extremes, the inseparability of appearance and emptiness, and the union of the two realities. The sugata heart is nothing but the unmistaken own essence of the eight collections [of consciousness] explained in chapter 1. Here, the distinct and unmixed eight collections are the seeming, and their unmistaken own essence is the ultimate, the two realities thus being a union. However, those who do not realize the meaning of the two realities are ignorant about the dependent origination that is only satisfying when not examined, thus circling in saṃsāra through their views of clinging to extremes, such as permanence and extinction. By stating the shortcomings of not realizing the two realities, [Rangjung Dorje] teaches that one needs to train in the mode of being of the two realities in union.
A poem by Karma Trinlépa, in which he answers questions by one of his students about rangtong and shentong, starts by pointing out that this discussion involves a lot of rigid fixation on both sides. He continues by summarizing what the Seventh Karmapa says about how rangtong and shentong are understood wrongly and correctly. Out of attachment to a nihilistic view, he says, certain present-day conceited Rangtongpas assert that emptiness in the sense of a nonimplicative negation is ultimate reality. But this is not the genuine rangtong asserted by the learned Rangtong Mādhyamikas. Said people may well meditate by being attached to such a rabbit horn–like nonexistence, but they will not experience the basic nature through this. Since nonexistence is not the sphere of valid cognition, how could it possibly be something that is realized by personally experienced wisdom? If one focuses on rangtong as a nihilistic view, forget about seeing true emptiness. The genuine rangtong explained by the previous learned ones is that all phenomena are empty of a nature of their own, but this is not a nonimplicative negation. Though it is empty of the appearances of apprehender and apprehended, the wisdom without the duality of apprehender and apprehended exists. "Empty" in the word "emptiness" does not mean "nothing whatsoever"—this is not the correct understanding of being empty, but just the extreme of being empty. Rather, one should consider that "-ness" is a suffix that indicates affirmation.
According to the Seventh Karmapa, Karma Trinlépa says, there are also some contemporary conceited Shentongpas, who claim that an ultimate that is permanent, enduring, eternal, immutable, and really established is the profound shentong, since it is empty of the adventitious stains of apprehender and apprehended. Such a claim amounts to nothing but faking one’s clinging to such an eternalistic view as being profound emptiness, but is not the pure shentong taught in the sūtras. Through being mistaken about Maitreya’s statement that "mind as such is not empty of unsurpassable qualities" (Uttaratantra I.155), they say that shentong refers to the sixty-four qualities that exist at the time of the ground in a manner of being empty of adventitious stains. However, this means nothing but deprecating the buddhas by implying that sentient beings are completely perfect buddhas in whom all obscurations are terminated and wisdom has unfolded but who nevertheless circle in saṃsāra because they experience the sufferings of the six types of beings in the hells and so forth.
Finally, Karma Trinlépa reports what the Seventh Karmapa taught him about the correct view of Shentong as explained by the Third Karmapa:
The meaning that is taught in the tantras, the bodhisattva
Many sūtras, and by those who follow the [five] dharmas of Maitreya Represents the Shentong held by Rangjung Dorje,
About which I heard the following from the mighty victor.
He said that mind as such, unconfined, unbiased,
Naturally luminous, expanse and awareness inseparable,
The great sphere, ordinary mind,
Whose essence does not change into anything,
Is known as "other-empty" from the point of view of
Having become buddhahood, once it is pure of adventitious stains.
That this primordial ground is not tainted by any obscurations
Is the purport of "being empty of other."
This very mind as such being ignorant about itself
Is called "adventitious obscuration."
Since this is something suitable to be separated from mind,
The nature of phenomena is empty of it and thus "other-empty."
The sixty-four qualities that reside within the basic nature
Are indeed never separable from mind,
So speak about "obscured buddhahood" at the time of the ground
And "stainless buddhahood" at the time of the fruition!
The thirty-two qualities of freedom from all obscurations
And the thirty-two maturational [qualities] of enlightened activity
Are the distinctive features of a perfect buddha alone—
We do not assert that these exist at [the time of] the ground.
The sixty-four qualities that exist at [the time] of the ground
Are obscured by obscurations—through eliminating these stains,
One becomes a stainless victor. Therefore, the basis of being empty
In terms of other-emptiness is the sugata heart—
The nature of the mind is primordially just this.
What it is to be emptied of are the adventitious stains to be
Which are referred to as the imaginations of apprehender and
Therefore, ultimate reality is nothing but mind as such
Free from the imaginations of apprehender and apprehended,
Natural luminosity, the connate union,
The inseparability of expanse and awareness, ordinary mind—
This is the view of profound other-emptiness.
Therefore, "rangtong" and "shentong"
Are not held to be contradictory by my guru.
In brief, if phrased by way of a correct understanding of the categories rangtong and shentong, Rangjung Dorje’s view can be said to regard these two as not being mutually exclusive and to combine them in a creative synthesis. Moreover, by using terms such as "connate union" and "ordinary mind," Karma Trinlépa explicitly equates the Karmapa’s Shentong view with Mahāmudrā. As mentioned above, the Third Karmapa himself equates buddha nature with Mahāmudrā in his commentary on the Dharmadhātustava.
This portrait of the Third Karmapa’s Shentong is confirmed by A Pronouncement of Realization by the Sixth Shamarpa, Chökyi Wangchug (1584–1630), which says:
Indeed, the learned set up mere presentations
Of "self-empty" and "other-empty,"
But the great victor, glorious Rangjung [Dorje],
Holds these two to be noncontradictory.
This is followed by establishing the Shentong view of the Kagyü lineage as the correct view by explicitly distinguishing it from the one of Dölpopa. Based on this Shentong view, the Shamarpa then presents the meditation as Mahāmudrā and also connects it with the Uttaratantra.
Similarly, a song about the view by the Thirteenth Karmapa, Düdül Dorje (1733–1797), declares the following on what is called "Shentong Madhyamaka":
When commenting on its meaning, venerable Rangjung [Dorje] says
That it is one with the system of Candrakīrti.
Others assert that the ultimate is existent and really established
And that emptiness is really established.
As for the mahāyāna’s sūtra portion, both the middle and the final
wheel [of dharma]
Have the purport of the sugata heart, the unity of emptiness and
The middle [wheel] explains this mainly by teaching emptiness,
While the final [wheel] elucidates it mainly by teaching luminosity.
I understand that, in actuality, these are not contradictory.
Though there are many more details, these passages show clearly that what is sometimes called "Kagyü Shentong" is not at all the same as the Shentong view proclaimed by Dölpopa, Tāranātha, and their followers. Still, as the works by those latter masters and the above passages from Kagyü texts show, in both cases the Uttaratantra and the presentation of buddha nature represent major cornerstones of their views.
As mentioned above, Tāranātha’s Supplication to the Profound Shentong Madhyamaka and its supplement by Ngawang Lodrö Tragpa present the lineage of the sūtra-based Shentong tradition of the Jonang School as coming from Buddha Śākyamuni to Maitreya, Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Maitrīpa, *Ānandakīrti, Ratnākaraśānti, Sajjana, Su Gawé Dorje, Dsen Kawoché, Tarma Dsöndrü, Yeshé Jungné (twelfth century), Jangchub Kyab and Jangchub Shönnu (twelfth/thirteenth century), Kyotön Mönlam Tsültrim (1219–1299), Jomden Rigpé Raltri (1227–1305), Kyitön Jampéyang Tragpa Gyaltsen (thirteenth century), Dölpopa (1292–1361), Nyaön Kunga Bal (1285–1379), Chöbal Gönpo, Lodrö Sangpo Gyatso, Tönyö Bal (all fourteenth/fifteenth century), Śākya Chogden (1428–1507), Tönyo Trubpa (fifteenth/sixteenth century), Kunga Drölcho (1507–1565/66), Kunga Gyaltsen (sixteenth century), Tragden Trubpa (sixteenth/seventeenth century), Tāranātha (1575–1634), Jetsünma Trinlé Wangmo (1585?–1668?), Kunga Balsang (1629–1686), several unnamed masters in between, Kunga Yönten Gyatso (1818–1890), Palden Namnang Dorje, Kunga Öser, Tsognyi Gyatso (1880–1940), Kunga Tugjé Palsang (1925–2000), and Ngawang Lodrö Tragpa (1920–1975). An alternative Shentong lineage from the Buddha is said to run through Vajrapāṇi, Rāhulabhadra, Nāgārjuna, Śavaripa, and Maitrīpa. After the latter, it continues as above.
Tāranātha’s text states that this represents the lineage of the instructions that combine the intention of all sūtras of the final wheel of dharma and their commentaries, while there are distinct lineages for the guiding instructions of each one of the five Maitreya texts. Nevertheless, from the texts by Mönlam Tsültrim (who is included in the above lineage), it is clear that the tradition of Su Gawé Dorje and Dsen Kawoché at least with regard to the Uttaratantra and the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga was continued through the Kadampa School and then the Jonang School. Also, the fact that the works by Mönlam Tsültrim were written down by his students, such as Séu Chökyi Gyaltsen, and still exist today shows that a textual tradition based on Dsen’s instructions survived.
In addition to this sūtra-based lineage, Tāranātha’s Necessary Sources of the Dharma Cycle of the Kālacakratantra presents a tantric Shentong lineage as running from Kālacakrapāda the Elder, Śrībhadra (Kālacakrapāda the Younger; both eleventh century), Bodhibhadra, Paṇḍita Somanātha, Dro Lotsāwa Sherab Tra (both twelfth century), Lhajé Gompa, Drotön Namdse, Yumowa Mikyö Dorje, Dharmeśvara, Namka Öser, Machig Tulku Jobum, Semochewa Namka Gyaltsen, Jamyang Sarma Sherab Öser, Künkyen Chöku Öser (1214–1292), Künpangpa Tugjé Dsöndrü (1243–1313), up through Dölpopa. From there, this lineage continues as in the above sūtra Shentong lineage.
As mentioned above, one way in which these particular lineages came to the Kagyü and Nyingma schools is outlined in Jamgön Kongtrul’s GISM. Previous connections between Kadampa and Jonang on the one hand and Nyingma and Kagyü on the other notwithstanding, GISM says that, after Tāranātha, the Shentong lineage that reached Jamgön Kongtrul went through Gyaltsab Nartangpa Lodrö Namgyal (1618–1683), Ngawang Trinlé (1657–1723), Künsang Wangpo (born late sixteenth/early seventeenth century), Gaḥto Tsewang Norbu (1698–1755), the Eighth Situpa (1699/1700– 1774), the Thirteenth Karmapa (1733/1734–1797/1798), and the Ninth Situpa (1774–1853), who was Jamgön Kongtrul’s main teacher. According to the colophon of GISM, Kongtrul also received Jonang instructions directly from Ngawang Chöpel Gyatso (c. 1788–1865) in Dzamtang. From Jamgön Kongtrul, all these teachings went to his many students in the Nyingma, Kagyü, and Sakya schools. Today, the Shentong instructions of this lineage are primarily upheld in the Karma Kagyü tradition.
Of particular relevance for the Kagyü and Nyingma lineages is that vidyādhara Tsewang Norbu, from the Nyingma monastery of Gaḥto in east Tibet, was a teacher of the Thirteenth Karmapa, the Tenth Shamarpa, Chödrub Gyatso (1742–1792), and, most importantly, the Eighth Situpa. He introduced the teachings on Shentong and the Kālacakratantra that he had received from the Jonang yogin Künsang Wangpo to these leading Karma Kagyü masters. The Eighth Situpa’s autobiography says that he had been interested in the Shentong teachings for many years but only obtained them from Tsewang Norbu, who taught them to him in great detail at the stūpa of Bauddhanāth in Kathmandu. Thereafter, Situpa says, Tsewang Norbu ordered him to uphold the profound view of Shentong, which would result in Situpa’s longevity and the vast spread of his teachings. The Eighth Situpa also mentions several forms of Shentong and states that he follows the one by the Seventh Karmapa and Śākya Chogden, which differs from Dölpopa’s. Thus, Tsewang Norbu and the Eighth Situpa were crucial in preparing the ground for the revival of the Shentong view outside of the Jonang tradition proper, which culminated in the widespread acceptance of this view within the Rimé movement in the next century. This movement was spearheaded by Nyingma, Kagyü, and Sakya masters such as Dza Patrul Rinpoche, Jamgön Kongtrul, Jamyang Kyentsé Wangpo (1820–1892), and later Mipham Rinpoche. Kyentsé Wangpo’s rebirth, Jamyang Chökyi Lodrö (1896–1958), is also said to have had great appreciation for the Shentong view.
On the situation of Shentong in the present-day Kagyü and Nyingma schools, Stearns (2010, 82–83) says correctly:
All the special teachings of the Jonang lineage and the vital transmission of the collected writings of Dölpopa and Tāranātha have been maintained by the Jonang tradition in Amdo. But even the reading transmission of any of Dölpopa’s writings seems scarce among leading shentong adherents of the Kagyü and Nyingma traditions. When the shentong is taught by these teachers, the different works of Kongtrul and Mipam, which vary a great deal from the original teachings of Dölpopa, are usually the treatises of choice. What is now taught as the shentong view in the Kagyü and Nyingma traditions represents a synthesis that has developed over time, primarily in order to enable Dölpopa’s most profound insights to be incorporated into the established doctrines of the Great Seal and the Great Perfection. Thus the shentong view and Six-branch Yoga taught by the living masters of the Jonang tradition in Amdo, based on the oral transmission and literary legacy of the ancient masters of Jonang, is certainly closer to what was transmitted centuries ago by Dölpopa and Tāranātha.
Note, however, that Mipham Rinpoche wrote only two texts on Shentong, and he also said that he himself does not follow the Shentong view. Nevertheless, some in the Nyingma tradition, mainly following the position of Mipham’s close student Shechen Gyaltsab Padma Namgyal (1871–1926), claim that Mipham was a Shentongpa, and his two texts on Shentong are still widely used in both the Nyingma and Kagyü schools. Stearns (2010, 81–82) says furthermore that Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoche (1910–1991), Kalu Rinpoche (1905–1989), and Düjom Rinpoche(1904–1987) all accepted the Shentong view and that most present-day Kagyü and Nyingma teachers follow the lineages of explanations and practices passed down by these three masters. However, with regard to the Nyingma masters Dilgo Khyentsé Rinpoche and Düjom Rinpoche, the Nyingma scholar Dorji Wangchuk (2005, 176–77) states:
I am not aware of any textual evidence that would suggest that these teachers were proponents of the gźan stong doctrine, at least not in Dol-po-pa’s sense. Both . . . speak about the oneness of appearance and emptiness or the compatibility of the Middle and Last Cycles of the Buddha’s teachings.
Generally, despite some claims to the contrary, it seems safe to say that the Shentong view is not a widely held position in the Nyingma School and is not usually considered such a big issue there. The exceptions seem to be Lochen Dharmaśrī (1654–1717), Tsewang Norbu, Gedsé Paṇḍita Gyurmé Tsewang Chogdrub (1761–1829), and of course Jamgön Kongtrul. However, as mentioned above, the Nyingma view always seeks primarily to be in line with Dzogchen as this tradition’s hallmark. In that regard, Mipham Rinpoche and others stated repeatedly that the Dzogchen view accords with *Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka.
The Shentong view was and continues to be more important in the Kagyü schools, but this seems to be primarily the case since Jamgön Kongtrul appeared to be such a strong advocate of this view. Though it is true that many contemporary Kagyü masters follow a kind of Shentong, as mentioned above, this "Kagyü Shentong" differs in several ways from the Jonang Shentong. Despite Jamgön Kongtrul’s presentation’s being followed widely at present, when it comes to an indigenous Kagyü Shentong that is not mixed with Dölpopa’s and Tāranātha’s view, the works by the Third, Seventh, and Eighth Karmapas, the Eighth Situpa, and the first and second Karma Trinlépas are more authoritative. As for the above statement by Cyrus Stearns about the late Kalu Rinpoche (the then head of the Shangpa Kagyü lineage, who was considered as the activity emanation of Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé), it is true that he embraced the Shentong view and also had a certain influence on Karma Kagyü masters in that regard. However, the most influential contemporary Shentong proponents in the Karma Kagyü School are no doubt its two senior-most masters, Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche and Khenchen Tsültrim Gyatso Rinpoche (born 1934).
Indian Forerunners of Shentong, Early Tibetan Shentongpas, and Their Connection to the Uttaratantra
As mentioned above, there are two models of the relationship between the three natures—(1) the classical Yogācāra model of the perfect nature’s being the dependent nature empty of the imaginary nature and (2) the Shentong model of the perfect nature’s being empty of both the imaginary and the dependent natures. The latter model is found in the Bṛhaṭṭīkā, the Bhagavatyāmnāyānusāriṇī, and some texts by Ratnākaraśānti, which in addition all equate the perfect nature with the tathāgata heart (thus in effect saying that the tathāgata heart is empty of what is other—the adventitious stains of both the imaginary and dependent natures). Some of these texts add that it is precisely the manner of the perfect nature’s being empty of the other two natures that is the reason for the perfect nature’s being referred to as being the true emptiness (in the sense of a truly existent remainder that is empty of something else), which corresponds well to RGVV’s explanation of what true emptiness means in the case of the tathāgata heart. Both RGVV and these texts say that this true emptiness avoids the extremes of superimposition and denial. Naturally, RGVV and some of these texts share the above-mentioned quote from the Cūlasuññatasutta. The Shentong model (2) is also implied in Sajjana’s SM and explicitly stated in a synopsis of Dsen Kawoché’s view based on his own writings by the Jonang master Kunga Drölcho (1507–1565/66). Thus, all these works can be said to be Indian and early Tibetan forerunners of crucial elements of what later became known as the Shentong view. Furthermore, without presenting model (2), Jñānaśrīmitra’s Sākārasiddhiśāstra and several of the texts by Mönlam Tsültrim (especially IM, RW, and HML) exhibit clear connections between the Uttaratantra and Shentong.
To begin with Sajjana’s SM, two of its verses and their glosses contain interesting passages in terms of a Shentong stance with regard to the tathāgata heart. Verse 9, which comments on Uttaratantra I.27–28, says:
[Beings are endowed with] the heart of a tathāgata,
Because the disposition for the [tathāgata] exists [in them].
The suchness of the dhātu is devoid
Of what is afflicted—the dependent (paratantra).
Thus, the tathāgata heart (suchness, the dharmadhātu) is explicitly said to be empty of the dependent nature (that is, mere conditioned appearances). Since it is empty even of the dependent nature, there is no question of its also being empty of the imaginary nature (the seeming duality of apprehender and apprehended within mere conditioned appearances). This is very close to the above-mentioned position of the Bṛhaṭṭikā, the Āmnāyānusāriṇī, the Śatasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā, and Dsen Kawoché (see below) that the perfect nature is empty of both the imaginary and dependent natures. In addition, an interlinear gloss (in the same hand) between lines b and c of this verse in SM refers to the tathāgata heart as "the seed that represents the disposition of the victors [being covered by] the two kinds of obscurations" (afflictive and cognitive obscurations). Thus, both these obscurations are included in the dependent nature.
Verse 28 of SM comments on Uttaratantra I.156–67 as being the justification for dispelling, through reasoning (yukti), refutation (uddhāra), and accomplishment (prasādhana) the wrong view that the teachings on the tathāgata heart are not authoritative. In terms of reasoning and refutation, an interlinear gloss on this verse 28 refers to the objection in Uttaratantra I.156 that everything without exception is to be understood as being empty because of being conditioned. In response, the tathāgata heart—luminous mind—is said to be unconditioned. Unlike ordinary minds and mental factors, which are usually described as being contingent on four conditions (object condition, dominant condition, immediate condition, and causal condition), the sole factor for the arising of luminous mind is a previous instance of that very luminous mind. Accordingly, by virtue of its being unconditioned, luminous mind is not empty, at least not in the same way as conditioned phenomena, which do not exist on their own, but are only adventitious stains that are just as unreal as clouds, dreams, and illusions. Thus, the tathāgata heart does not arise from anything nor is it produced by anything. Rather, it is merely revealed by realizing that the stains are illusory and never really existed in the first place:
"Since it is known that [the statement] ‘Everything is empty, because it is conditioned, just as clouds and so on’ is taught everywhere without difference [such as in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras], the teaching of the tathāgatagarbha sūtra that the nature of the mind is the ultimate is contradictory." This is the meaning of the objection to [this teaching’s] being authoritative.
In this regard, what is conditioned is [indeed] necessarily empty, but luminous mind is not conditioned. For, by virtue of the close connection of the arising of a following [moment of this basic] awareness’s being contingent on nothing but the occurring of a preceding [moment of this awareness] that is of the same kind, there is no activity through conditions in that [luminous mind].
The examples of clouds, dreams, and illusions are for the sake of pointing out [the nature of] the subject of the probandum—the afflictiveness of afflictions, karma, and birth—because emptiness is the probandum with regard to the afflictiveness of afflictions and so on. For, if [the examples] were just examples [and did not exactly match the nature of this threefold afflictedness], it would follow that the [syllogism] is meaningless, because [afflictiveness] would not happen in an erroneous manner. [Thus,] the examples [refer to] the afflictions’ not being established independently. [Consequently,] it is not [really] the case that "the tathāgata heart is the nonarising of the afflictions." [This was only taught] to avoid contradictions between the tathāgatagarbha sūtra and other sūtras [such as the prajñāpāramitā sūtras].
It is also noteworthy that the interlinear notes on verses 19 and 28 of SM say twice that the dharmadhātu—luminous mind—is not empty, and not just in the sense of not being empty of its inseparable qualities but obviously not being empty of its own nature. For, unlike all other phenomena, it is not conditioned but is inexhaustible, unbound, and unceasing because it has the intrinsic nature of nonconceptuality.
The Jonang master Kunga Drölcho’s collection of 108 essential teachings from different lineages appears in volume 18 of the Treasury of Instructions (gdams ngag mdzod) by Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé. In the history section of his collection, Kunga Drölcho provides some context for Dsen Kawoché’s view and for the following excerpts from the latter’s teachings, which Kunga Drölcho compiled as Guiding Instructions on the View of Other-Emptiness:
As for the Guiding Instructions on the View of Other-Emptiness, Dsen Kawoché said, "The Kashmiri paṇḍita Sajjana made the following very essential statement: ‘The victor turned the wheel of dharma three times—the first wheel [teaches] the four realities [of the noble ones], the second one [teaches] the lack of characteristics, and the final one makes excellent distinctions. Among these, the first two do not distinguish between what is actual and what is nominal. The last one was spoken at the point of certainty about the ultimate by distinguishing between the middle and extremes and by distinguishing between phenomena and the nature of phenomena. As for retaining the mere original texts of the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga and the Uttaratantra, if these two texts disappeared, it would simply indicate that Maitreya has passed away into bliss.’"
That this appears [in] an old notebook of Dsen Kawoché himself, which bears the name Lotus Hook, shows that one should reject the later claim that the conventional term shentong was completely unknown in India and [only] appeared later in Tibet with the Omniscient Dölpu[pa]. Also, please examine closely the statement in one of the Omniscient Butön’s replies to questions that it seems that a previously existent philosophical system of Danagpa Rinchen Yeshé was later maintained by Dölpu[pa] by enhancing it greatly.
Obviously, with regard to the three dharmacakras, Sajjana is said here to follow the hermeneutical principle of the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra, with the first two cycles of the Buddha’s teachings’ being of expedient meaning, while the last one is of definitive meaning. Interestingly, Kunga Drölcho goes so far as to take this as an indication that not only the teachings that were eventually referred to as Shentong, but even the term itself, were known in India.
It is noteworthy in this context that the record of received teachings of the Sakya master Shuchen Tsültrim Rinchen (1697–1774), who was one of the editors of the Derge Tengyur and was definitely not a proponent of Shentong, also reports that according to Dsen Kawoché’s notebook, the transmission of Shentong already existed in India:
According to the clear [statement] in the notebook of Dsen Kawoché, [which speaks about] the manner of even the mere texts of the two Vibhāgas and the Uttaratantra (which follow the intended meaning of the last [dharma]cakra, distinguish [the middle from] extremes, and distinguish phenomena and the nature of phenomena) being difficult to obtain, the Shentong lineage that is known to have existed in India too . . .
As for Kunga Drölcho’s saying above that Butön referred to Dölpopa, Butön’s preserved communications with other scholars do contain a letter to someone whom he addresses as "Lama Rinchen Yeshé." As the letter shows, Butön obviously had great respect for Rinchen Yeshé as a nonsectarian and accomplished scholar. Though what Kunga Drölcho reports Butön to have said about the connection between Rinchen Yeshé and Dölpopa is not found in this letter, what Butön says in it about Rinchen Yeshé’s view is very much in line with Dölpopa’s view:
In a separate letter [from Rinchen Yeshé], he declares the following . . . it is explained in the final [cycle of] the words of the Buddha that it is superior to the middle [cycle]. Therefore, what is stated in the final [cycle] is better. . . . Since the Mahāyāna]sūtrālaṃkāra, the Uttaratantra, and so on, are commentaries on the intention of the final [cycle of] the words of the Buddha, what is stated in them is better. Though there are certainly many who assert these [texts] to be Mere Mentalism, their meaning transcends all four philosophical systems.
In addition, Tāranātha’s History of the Kālacakratantra reports that Dölpopa indeed received teachings (including the five works of Maitreya) from Danagpa Rinchen Yeshé (thirteenth/fourteenth century) in 1313 while staying at Danag Monastery for about three months. There is no doubt that this Rinchen Yeshé is the author of RYC. In its comments on Uttaratantra I.156–67, RYC indeed says that the tathāgata heart is void of delusive, deceiving, and conditioned phenomena in all aspects. It also states that what the teachings in the middle wheel of dharma about all phenomena’s lacking real existence have in mind are seeming conditioned phenomena, whereas the statements in the final wheel about the sugata heart’s being real and changeless have the ultimate unconditioned dharmadhātu in mind. Ultimately, since the stains do not exist as the nature of the mind and are adventitious, the qualities of the tathāgata heart exist by nature. Through hearing about it, one develops the prajñā of realizing the stains to be adventitious and the wisdom of realizing the naturally existent qualities. Also, RYC defines "adventitious" as what is primordially nonexistent or what does not taint the nature of the mind. Obviously, passages like these can be taken as being in accord with Dölpopa’s later strong-voiced version of Shentong (though RYC does not use the term shentong or Dölpopa’s specific terminologies). Still, as SM, CMW, and the texts by Mönlam Tsültrim clearly show, Rinchen Yeshé was definitely not the first one to make such statements. In addition, there are also a number of differences between Rinchen Yeshé and Dölpopa, such as the former’s asserting (like Ngog Lotsāwa and others) that all sentient beings are pervaded by the dharmakāya (or the three kāyas) as being suitable to be attained as the manifest kāyas and have the disposition of the manifest three kāyas’ being suitable to be attained.
The Guiding Instructions on the View of Other-Emptiness that Kunga Drölcho (in his own words) "compiled from the instruction manual of Dsen Kawoché" (apparently the above-mentioned and now lost Lotus Hook) is a brief text that offers a glimpse into the earliest available Tibetan source for the Shentong view. Though the characteristic term shentong is not used, the text’s subject matter can be easily identified in later Shentong works, such as those by Dölpopa:
As for the guiding instructions on the view of other-emptiness, after [having taken] refuge [and generated bodhi]citta as the preliminaries, [understand that] the clinging to what is mistaken as being real is the imaginary. The clinging to false imagination itself as being the entities of apprehender and apprehended is like [mistaking] a mottled rope for a snake. As many [phenomena] as there are from form up through omniscience, there are also that many [corresponding] imaginary [natures that consist] of [said phenomena’s] being apprehended as such and such [phenomena].
What appear as various dependent [phenomena] in dependence on causes and conditions are nothing but false imagination, [just as] a mottled rope is the basis that is mistaken for a snake. [Likewise, all phenomena] from form up through omniscience, which represent conceptions, [arise in dependence on] karma and afflictions.
The self-arisen nature of phenomena that pervades the dependent from the very beginning, just as space exists in a mottled rope in an all-pervasive manner, is the unmistaken perfect [nature], the unchanging perfect [nature], the two rūpakāyas, the [dharmas] concordant with awakening, the reality of the path, and [everything] from dharmatā-form up through [dharmatā-]omniscience. On the conventional level, these are empty of the imaginary characteristic.
Though [the three natures] are presented as the threefold lack of nature, if analyzed, the bearer of the nature of phenomena is the dependent [nature], because, apart from the mind, apprehender and apprehended do not exist. The nature of phenomena is the perfect [nature] alone—the sole, stainless, and spontaneously present nature of phenomena.
Therefore, the imaginary is the emptiness of a nature of its own, just as the horns of a rabbit. The dependent is like an illusion, because it is empty of the imaginary. The perfect [nature] is like space, because it is empty of both the imaginary and the dependent. Though the conventions of the imaginary and the dependent exist seemingly, they do not exist ultimately. The perfect [nature]—the nature of phenomena—exists ultimately, but it is neither one in nature with nor different from the seeming bearers of the nature of phenomena. This is the Great Madhyamaka free from all extremes.
Among the two models of the relationship between the three natures, Dsen Kawoché initially seems to describe model (1), but then he clearly spells out the Shentong model (2). The latter accords with the above explanations in the Bṛhaṭṭīkā, the Āmnāyānusāriṇī, the Śatasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā, and SM, as well as with the descriptions of the relationship between the three natures by Dölpopa and other Shentongpas. Also, in relating the three natures to the example of mistaking a rope for a snake, in line with many Shentong texts, Dsen Kawoché goes a step further than what the classical Yogācāra texts say in terms of the perfect nature. Though he agrees in comparing the imaginary nature to the snake and the dependent nature, to the rope, he describes the perfect nature as being like the space that exists in the rope in an all-pervasive manner.
Furthermore, Dsen Kawoché describes the perfect nature not only as consisting of the classical twofold Yogācāra division into the unchanging and the unmistaken perfect natures, but also including the realizations on the path and the fruition of omniscient buddhahood (thus echoing, for example, Mahāyānasaṃgraha II.26, which describes the perfect nature as the four pure dharmas). He also includes the fruitions of the sambhogakāya and the nirmāṇakāya as well as "dharmatā-phenomena" (as described in detail in the "Maitreya Chapter," the Śatasāhasrikāprajñāpāramitābṛhaṭṭīkā, the Bṛhaṭṭīkā, and the Bhagavatyāmnāyānusāriṇī). Likewise in agreement with these texts, Dsen Kawoché states that both the imaginary and the dependent natures exist only seemingly, while the perfect nature exists ultimately. Still, the perfect nature as the nature of phenomena is neither the same as nor different from the dependent nature as the bearer of this nature. In conclusion, just as Dölpopa and others later, Dsen Kawoché refers to all of this as "the Great Madhyamaka free from all extremes" and not as Yogācāra, Vijñāptivāda, or Mere Mentalism.
In fact, many Shentongpas present the difference between the two models of the relationship between the three natures as one of the key distinctions between Shentong and what Tibetans call Mere Mentalism, which follows model (1). Besides Dsen Kawoché’s above explanation, among the texts on the Uttaratantra in this volume, the Eighth Karmapa’s Lamp and CMW explicitly contain model (2) and Sajjana’s SM (verse 9) does so implicitly. In addition, it is a typical Shentong explanation to equate the adventitious stains of the tathāgata heart with both the imaginary and the dependent natures, which is found explicitly in the Lamp and implicitly in Dsen’s explanation, IM, and GISM.194
In this vein, BA mentions the existence of an anonymous Tibetan commentary on the Uttaratantra that was referred to as "a ṭīkā on the Uttaratantra in the tradition of Dsen" and supplemented its explanations on the text with pith instructions on meditation practice, as well as several short texts, such as RW, that contained pith instructions of the Dsen tradition. As the above fragments of Dsen’s approach presented by Kunga Drölcho show, Dsen not only used model (2) of the relationship between the three natures but also obviously connected this model of the three natures to the contents of the Uttaratantra. All of this represents further close connections between the teachings of the Uttaratantra and Shentong.
As for Dsen Kawoché’s position on the tathāgata heart itself, we have only a few reports by later scholars. Śākya Chogden says:
The one who is known as Dsen Kawoché from Yarlung says that the definitive meaning obtained from having studied the Maitreya dharmas when he was sixty years old is that the tathāgata heart is the naturally pure wisdom—natural luminosity—that pervades [everyone] from buddhas to sentient beings.
Obviously, this is close to what the above-mentioned interlinear note on verse 28 of SM says about the tathāgata heart and also accords with the Shentong view. As mentioned before, according to BA, those who follow Dsen Kawoché’s tradition hold that the tathāgata heart is the powerful vital cause of buddhahood since it is the naturally luminous nature of the mind. TOK agrees, saying that, according to the Eighth Situpa, the texts in Dsen Kawoché’s lineage accepted a really established self-aware self-luminous cognition empty of the duality of apprehender and apprehended to be the powerful vital cause of buddhahood.
In addition, Gö Lotsāwa’s GC states that, according to the followers of Dsen, the difficult situations of sickness and so on can be made into the path through pith instructions (as stated above, Dsen originally requested teachings on the Uttaratantra from Sajjana as his instructions to be practiced at the time of death).
It seems clear from GC and elsewhere that Gö Lotsāwa did not agree with Dölpopa’s particular kind of Shentong. However, Gö Lotsāwa’s BA still remarks positively that there are people who claim that Dölpopa is wrong in asserting the tathāgata heart to be really existent and permanent, but it appears that it is due to his kindness that there are many in Tibet who take the Uttaratantra as their yidam (that is, they take this text as the most important basis for their practice).
Although none of Gö Lotsāwa’s preserved texts use the term shentong, some of GC’s explanations can definitely be read as being in accordance with a Shentong approach. The clearest example is GC’s introductory explanation of the fourth vajra point, which distinguishes two kinds of emptiness—the one that is a nonimplicative negation and the one that is basic awareness, with the latter one’s representing the supreme Madhyamaka. The emptiness explained in the second dharma wheel is the nonimplicative negation of being empty of any nature, which is to be realized through inferential valid cognition. It is also described as not having arisen from any causes or conditions. In the last dharma wheel, this kind of emptiness refers only to the outer cocoon of adventitious stains, while the emptiness that represents the tathāgata heart is as follows. The tathāgata heart’s own essence is not a nonimplicative negation but the element of basic awareness. It is not a direct object of inferential valid cognition but is the object of direct perception. Just like space, the basic element does not depend on any changes through contact with other phenomena. Also, the object of negation of which something is empty is a bit different here than in the second dharma wheel. The tathāgata heart exists from sentient beings up through buddhas as the nature of the mind by way of not being impaired or being fabricated by any other conditions, while it is said to be empty of all fabricated adventitious phenomena (this is the closest GC comes to saying that the tathāgata heart is "empty of something other"). Still, these adventitious phenomena are not something that is apart from the nature of the mind. This is similar to space’s being described as empty because it does not turn into clouds, mountains, and so on, while at the same time, it is not tenable for clouds and so on to abide anywhere else than in space. Moreover, since the outer world and the bodies of sentient beings are brought about by ignorance, they too are fabricated and thus also represent objects of negation of which the tathāgata heart is empty. Still, buddhas do not see this element of basic awareness as having any characteristic whatsoever. Maitrīpa, the lord of the Uttaratantra, and his successors assert that the emptiness taught in the Madhyamakāvatāra represents middling Madhyamaka, while the emptiness that is basic awareness is the system of supreme Madhyamaka.
In conclusion, it is obvious from a straightforward reading of the general contents of the Uttaratantra and RGVV that these texts lend themselves greatly and easily to a Shentong interpretation—the main theme’s being that the tathāgata heart is empty of what is other than it but is not empty of its own nature. This is particularly clear in the contents of Uttaratantra I.155, RGVV’s corresponding quotes from the Śrīmālādevīsūtra, and RGVV’s passage "Thus, one clearly sees that when something does not exist somewhere, the [latter] is empty of the [former]. In accordance with actual reality, one understands that what remains there exists as a real existent."
Nevertheless, it seems important to point out that (in line with Uttaratantra I.156-60 and JKC’s introduction above) the teachings on the tathāgata heart in the Uttaratantra and related texts (as in the Shentong tradition) are not a total rejection of the teachings on emptiness or Madhyamaka (in the sense of Rangtong), but they have a different thrust—how to approach the direct experience of mind’s empty yet luminous nature in practice. Thus, one could say that the teachings on buddha nature speak about what happens after having used Madhyamaka reasoning and not instead of using such reasoning. Though both Dölpopa and many later Shentongpas actually said that Shentong includes, and is based on, Rangtong as a form of analytical rigor but supersedes this level of discourse, a significant number of later Shentongpas argued for the supremacy of Shentong even on the level of philosophical analysis (which is vehemently denied by their opponents). However, all disputes about Rangtong and Shentong are rather pointless as long as these notions are regarded as belonging to the same level of discourse, experience, and realization, and to be mutually exclusive on that same level. Instead, any fruitful conversation about Rangtong and Shentong can start only from acknowledging that they pertain to different levels. As Ruegg (2000, 80–81) says:
One could assume an incompatibility, at one and the same level of reference, between two philosophical propositions, both of which cannot be true in accordance with the principle of contradiction. Alternatively, one might perhaps suppose a complementarity—perhaps even an incommensurability—between two doctrines that relate to different levels of reference or discourse, and which are accordingly not mutually exclusive or contradictory.
That is why, following Śākya Chogden, many (also contemporary) so-called "nonexclusive" Shentongpas say that Rangtong is supreme for cutting through all wrong views, reifications, and reference points, while Shentong is more amenable to, and beneficial for, describing and enhancing meditative experience and realization. They teach that the views of Rangtong and Shentong are not only not contradictory but—when understood properly—supplement each other and are one in terms of the definitive meaning.
- There is no monolithic Shentong School but a great variety of ways in which different Tibetan masters understand this term and how they formulate the associated view. A text by the twentieth-century Kagyü scholar Surmang Padma Namgyal (Zur mang pad ma rnam rgyal n.d., 60.3–61.6) lists seven different kinds of views held by various Jonang, Sakya, Kagyü, and Nyingma masters on the distinction between rangtong and shentong (I am indebted to Anne Burchardi for drawing my attention to this text and providing me with a copy of it). According to this text, (1) Dölpopa and his followers hold consciousness to be rangtong and wisdom to be shentong. (2) Śākya Chogden considers phenomena—appearances—as rangtong and the nature of phenomena—luminosity—as shentong. (3) Sabsang Mati Paṇchen maintains subject and object to be rangtong and expanse (dbyings) and wisdom to be shentong. (4) The Thirteenth Karmapa considers saṃsāra to be rangtong and nirvāṇa to be shentong. (5) The Eighth Karmapa and his followers take the pure kāyas and wisdom to be rangtong in terms of their actual mode of being and to be shentong in terms of the way they appear. (6) The Eighth Situpa considers the side of negation as rangtong and the side of affirmation as shentong. (7) The Nyingma master Gédsé Paṇchen from Gaḥto Monastery (Tib. Kaḥ thog dge rtse paṇ chen; 1761–1829) regards the phase of conclusive resolve during meditative equipoise to be rangtong and the phase of clearly distinguishing during subsequent attainment to be shentong. Among these seven views, Padma Namgyal explicitly considers views (4), (6), and (7) to be good positions. Summarizing the seven into three, Padma Namgyal says that Dölpopa asserts wisdom to be shentong, Śākya Chogden holds the expanse to be shentong, and all others take both wisdom and the expanse to be shentong. When summarized into two, the first five are said to present rangtong and shentong mainly by way of what is to be determined, while the latter two do so primarily by way of the means to determine that. Note though (and this complicates matters further) that these seven distinctions are obviously based on three very different categories of comparison in terms of what rangtong and shentong mean. The first—and most common—category takes rangtong and shentong to refer to phenomena as belonging to two different levels of reality (seeming and ultimate), which underlies views (1)–(5). The second category refers to rangtong and shentong as two approaches to conceptually determine the subject in question (6). The third category considers rangtong and shentong as distinct (nonconceptual) experiences or phases in the process of attaining realization (7).
- In this context, this expression could also mean "the actuality of the [tathāgata] heart."
- Śākya mchog ldan 1988b, 239–240.
- Tib. Smin gling gter chen ’gyur med rdo rje.
- For example, Lo chen Dharmaśrī n.d. (373.5–374.5) says: As for cutting through reference points, there are two [ways]—rangtong and shentong. Rangtong means to assert the emptiness that is a nonimplicative negation as the ultimate since [all] subjects in question—no matter how they appear—are empty of a nature of their own right from the point of their mere appearance. As for the Mādhyamikas that determine shentong, due to the difference of asserting all knowable objects as the three characteristics [the imaginary, dependent, and perfect natures] or summarizing them into two—the imaginary and the perfect [natures]—there are two dissimilar ways of identifying the subject in question. In the Yogācāra scriptures, the perfect [nature] is explained as the dependent (the basis of emptiness) being empty of the imaginary (the object of negation). In the Uttaratantra and so on, it is said that the nature of phenomena—the perfect [nature]—is empty of the imaginary (the object of negation). Therefore, in the essence of this perfect [nature]—the true nature of mind, the ultimate basic element—there are no stains to be eliminated and no previously nonexistent qualities to be newly accomplished since it is primordially pure by nature and the qualities are spontaneously present." For further details on Lo chen’s shentong view and additional excerpts from his text, see Duckworth 2011, 211–12, 307–8, and 315–16.
- GISM (180 and 202) adds the Seventh and Thirteenth Karmapas, the Ninth Situpa, Śākya Chogden, and Tāranātha (as well as several Jonang masters after the latter) as proponents of shentong. Chos grags bstan ’phel (1990, 8) also adds the Ninth Jé Khenpo of Bhutan, Śākya Rinchen (1710–1759), who is considered to be a reincarnation of Śākya Chogden. Śākya Rinchen’s views are mainly presented in a three-volume biography of Śākya Chogden, his poems, and an encyclopedic work on the philosophical systems of Buddhists and non-Buddhists (Rang dang gzhan gyi grub pa’i mtha’ rgya mtsho lta bu’i gnad bsdus pa legs par bshad pa’i sgo brgya pa in 2:587–830 of his collected works; TBRC W8684).
- These are the complete training in all aspects, the culminating training, the serial training, and the instantaneous training (for details, see Brunnhölzl 2011b and 2012a).
- See Uttaratantra I.33cd–34.
- See Uttaratantra II.45cd.
- See Uttaratantra I.32–33ab. These four are the factors to be relinquished by the four means of purification.
- Besides being attributed to Gampopa here in JKC, this statement is attributed to Gamopa in many texts of later Kagyü masters, such as BA (724), GC (5.10–11), the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Madhyamakāvatāra (Mi bskyod rdo rje 1996, 11), and TOK. However, it is not found in the presently available works of Gampopa.
- Tib. ’Bri gung ’jig rten gsum mgon.
- See GISM for the details of Jamgön Kongtrul’s approach of preliminary "Shentong reasoning" and the ensuing cultivation of meditative equipoise in accordance with both the second and third turnings of the wheel of dharma, with the latter’s being based on the essential verses of the Uttaratantra.
- This probably refers to Sakya Paṇḍita. Obviously, JKC attempts here to harmonize the shentong and Mahāmudrā approach (he explicitly equated the two in one passage) even with the essence of the correct view according to one of the most severe Tibetan critics of shentong-like approaches and Kagyü Mahāmudrā.
- Tib. Yu mo ba mi bskyod rdo rje.
- Tib. Gsal sgron skor bzhi. There is little information about Yumowa, but the Jonang School considers him as its founder. Jonang histories of the Kālacakratantra say that he was a student of a certain Candranātha and a paṇḍita from Kashmir. Yumowa was a master of the Kālacakratantra and his teachings were initially passed on through his family line and several other masters, with Dölpopa already being about the tenth lineage holder (this tradition only became known as Jonang after the founding of the monastery with that name by Künpang Tugjé Dsöndrü [Tib. Kun spang thugs rje brtson ’grus; 1243–1313]). Yumowa’s only preserved works are his "Four Lucid Lamps"—"The Lucid Lamp of Union" (Zung ’jug gsal sgron), "The Lucid Lamp of Mahāmudrā" (Phyag rgya chen po’i gsal sgron), "The Lucid Lamp of Luminosity" ( ’Od gsal gsal sgron), and "The Lucid Lamp of Emptiness" (Stong nyid gsal ba’i sgron me). These texts deal with the correct practice of the six-branch yoga of the Kālacakratantra and treat some of the topics on which Dölpopa elaborated later (without, however, using his specific terminologies, such as rangtong, shentong, and ālaya-wisdom; for more details, see Stearns 2010, 43–45). Thus, Tāranātha’s History of the Kālacakratantra says that Yumowa is "the founder of the philosophical system of mantric shentong" (Tāranātha 1982–87, 2:16). It is obviously due to Jamgön Kongtrul’s general great reliance on Tāranātha that he also mentions Yumowa here in connection with shentong.
- The term dbyings ("expanse") is one of the two Tibetan words for the Sanskrit term dhātu in the sense of dharmadhātu. It emphasizes the unlimited and all-pervasive space-like quality of the dharmadhātu (here not understood as mere emptiness but as the union of emptiness and clarity or nondual nonconceptual wisdom), while the word khams ("basic element") emphasizes that this dharmadhātu is the innate true nature of the minds of all sentient beings.
- Shes rab phun tshogs 2007, 9.
- Note also that Rongtön’s very brief and rather generic Stages of Meditation on the "Uttaratantra" (Rong ston shes bya kun gzigs 1999, 529) explicitly states that there is a meditative tradition of practicing the contents of the Uttaratantra, saying that he presents the manner of making the Uttaratantra a living experience by summarizing the meaning that is explained in Nāropa’s pith instructions (though Rongtön’s text contains no details on this).
- When I refer to the Third Karmapa’s view as "shentong," I do so because of certain features of that view. The Karmapa’s own texts never use the terms shentong or rangtong and labeling his view as shentong by no means implies that it is the same as Dölpopa’s (for the major differences between them, see Brunnhölzl 2009, 114–17).
- See Brunnhölzl 2007b, 159–93, and 2009.
- Karma phrin las pa phyogs las rnam rgyal 2006, 396–97.
- Karma phrin las pa phyogs las rnam rgyal 1975, vol. cha, 90–92.
- Karma phrin las pa phyogs las rnam rgyal (2006, 46–47) explains this further: "Others say, ‘If this heart had the sixty-four qualities from the very beginning, the qualities of perfect buddhahood would exist in the mind streams of sentient beings, and in that case, does the buddha wisdom in the mind stream of a hell being experience the sufferings of hell?’ Such is indeed said, but it is precisely for this reason that we speak about [wisdom or luminous mind] by making the distinction that it is stained during the phase of sentient beings and stainless in the state of a buddha. In other words, perfect buddhahood and its powers and so on do not exist in the mind streams of sentient beings. This is definitely how it is, but it will be understood through saying again and again, ‘Stained buddhahood and its powers and so on exist [in their mind streams].’"
- The three bodhisattva commentaries are Kulika Puṇḍarīka’s Vimalaprabhā commentary on the Kālacakratantra (he is commonly considered as an emanation of Avalokiteśvara), Vajragarbha’s Hevajrapiṇḍārthaṭīkā, and Vajrapāṇi’s commentary on the Cakrasaṃvaratantra (Lakṣābhidanāduddhṛtalaghutantrapiṇḍārthavivaraṇa).
- Rang byung rdo rje 2006c, fol. 22a.3–4.
- Chos kyi dbang phyug (Shamarpa VI). n.d., lines 132–35 (Brunnhölzl 2007a, 349).
- Ibid., lines 136–226 (Brunnhölzl 2007a, 349–52).
- Ibid., lines 246–78 (for a translation of this section, see the chapter "The Uttaratantra and Mahāmudrā" and Brunnhölzl 2007a, 352–53). For a complete translation of this song, see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 344–57. In addition, the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra also frequently equates shentong and Mahāmudrā (see the introduction in Brunnhölzl 2010 as well as 2011b).
- Bdud ’dul rdo rje 2002, lines 82–90. For a complete translation of this song, see Brunnhölzl 2007a, 430–40.
- However, as mentioned before, Jamgön Kongtrul incorporated elements of the Jonang view into his presentation of shentong, which is the most widely used one in the Karma Kagyü School at present.
- For details on the views of Dölpopa, Tāranātha, and the Jonang School, see Hookham 1991a, Stearns 2010, Hopkins 2006 and 2007, and Sheehy 2007.
- Tib. Zab mo gzhan stong dbu ma’i brgyud ’debs (Tāranātha 1982–1987, 4:483–89).
- For details on some of the masters in this lineage, see the chapter "The History and Transmission of ‘The Five Dharmas of Maitreya’ from India to Tibet."
- Dpal dus kyi ’khor lo’i chos bskor gyi byung khungs nyer mkho, see Sheehy 2007, 81–83.
- Tib. ’Bro lo tsā wa shes rab grags.
- Tib. Lha rje sgom pa.
- Tib. Sgro ston gnam brtsegs.
- Tib. Chos kyi dbang phyug.
- Tib. Nam mkha’ ’od zer.
- Tib. Ma gcig sprul sku jo ’bum.
- Tib. Se mo che ba nam mkha’ rgyal mtshan.
- Tib. ’Jam dbyangs gsar ma shes rab ’od zer.
- Tib. Kun mkhyen chos sku ’od zer.
- Tib. Kun spangs pa thugs rje brtson ’grus.
- There were two lineage masters between Tugjé Dsöndrü and Dölpopa—Gyalwa Yeshé (Tib. Rgyal ba ye shes; 1257–1320) and Yönten Gyatso (Tib. Yon tan rgya mtsho; 1260–1327)—that are not explicitly mentioned by Tāranātha.
- Such as the connections between early Kadampa and Kagyü masters and also the fact that Tāranātha was a student of the Ninth Karmapa, Wangchug Dorje (Tib. Dbang phyug rdo rje; 1556–1603).
- Thus, this Nyingma master is the point where Jamgön Kongtrul’s shentong lineage branches off from the main Jonang lineage above.
- Tib. Ngag bdang chos ’phel rgya mtsho.
- For 250 years (mid-fifteenth to late seventeenth centuries) before the ban of the Jonang School in Central Tibet, the Jonang School had already flourished in Amdo and continues to do so to the present day—groups of monasteries in Dzamtang, Golog, Gyalrong, and Ngawa in far eastern Tibet are the only places where the Jonang tradition survived in Tibet to the present day. According to Ngawang Lodrö Tragpa, Ngawang Trinlé’s disciple Ngawang Tendzin Namgyal (Tib. Ngag dbang bstan ’dzin rnam rgyal; 1691–1738) was the first native person from Amdo to be the throne holder of Tsangwa Monastery. Following him, there were six successors before Bamda Tubten Gele Gyatso (Tib. ’Bam da’ thub bstan dge legs rgya mtsho; 1844–1904), the primary student of Ngawang Chöpel Gyatso (Tib. Ngag bdang chos ’phel rgya mtsho; c. 1788–1865; from whom Jamgön Kongtrul received Jonang teachings such as those in GISM) and Ngawang Chöpa Gyatso (Tib. Ngag dbang chos ’phags rgya mtsho; nineteenth century). Bamda was recognized as a rebirth of both Tāranātha and Kunga Drölcho. He also held the Dzogchen lineage of Dzogchen Monastery, studied closely with Jamgön Kongtrul and Patrul Rinpoche (Tib. Rdza dpal sprul rin po che; 1808–1887), and even had mutual teacher-student relationships with several Gelugpa teachers—the fourth Jamyang Shéba (Tib. ’Jam dbyang bzhed pa; 1856–1916), Kesang Goshrī (Tib. Skal bzang go shrī), and Tukwan (Tib. Thu’u bkwan thams cad mkhyen pa; 1839–1894). Bamda’s main student was Tsognyi Gyatso, the primary mentor of Ngawang Lodrö Tragpa.
- According to Kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas (1979–81, 1:506), Tsewang Norbu was also a major figure in the transmission lineage of Mahāmudrā coming from Barawa Gyaltsen Balsang (1310–1391).
- Tib. ’Jam dbyangs mkhyen rtse dbang po.
- For more details on Tsewang Norbu and the Eighth Situpa, see Stearns 2010, 77–80.
- Tib. ’Jam dbyangs chos kyi blo gros.
- ’Ju mi pham rgya mtsho 1984c and c. 1990b.
- Dbu ma sogs gzhung spyi’i dka’ gnad in ’Ju mi pham rgya mtsho c. 1990a, 22:450.3 and Dam chos dogs sel in ’Ju mi pham rgya mtsho 1992, 521.
- Tib. Zhe chen rgyal tshab pad ma rnam rgyal.
- Tib. Ldil mgo mkhyen brtse.
- Tib. Ka lu rang byung kun khyab phrin las.
- Tib. Bdud ’joms ’jigs bral ye shes rdo rje.
- For details on Düjom Rinpoche’s position on rangtong and shentong or coarse outer Madhyamaka and subtle inner Madhyamaka (or Great Madhyamaka), as well as buddha nature, see Bdud ’joms ’jigs bral ye shes rdo rje 1991, 162–216. Though he advocates the superiority of Great Madhyamaka to some degree, he also discusses the complementarity of rangtong and shentong as well as that of the second and third dharma wheels.
- Tib. Lo chen dharma shrī.
- Tib. Dge rtse paṇ ḍi ta ’gyur med tshe dbang mchog grub; considered to be an incarnation of Dölpopa.
- In that vein, it will prove to be very illuminating to compare the presentation in Jamgön Kongtrul’s TOK with the Dus gsum gyi rgyal ba sras dang bcas pa’i bstan pa mtha’ dag dang khyad par rdo rje ’chang ka rma pa’i dgongs pa gsal bar byed pa’i bstan bcos thar pa’i lam chen bgrod pa’i shing rta (two-volumes, published in 2012) by Balkang Lotsāwa Ngawang Chökyi Gyatso (Tib. Dpal khang lo tsā ba ngag dbang chos kyi rgya mtsho—the Second Karma Trinlépa; born fifteenth/sixteenth century). As its title says, this text is an overview of all Buddhist teachings but in particular elucidates the intention of the Eighth Karmapa (the main teacher of Balkang Lotsāwa). It appears that TOK (not the root text but the commentary) incorporates almost this entire text in more or less literal form. It will be one of my future projects to translate this work and compare it with TOK. Given that it is already well known that TOK incorporates a substantial number of passages from Tāranātha’s and Śākya Chogden’s works, its comparison with Karma Trinlépa’s text will shed even more light on the process through which TOK was compiled.
- Note that the Shangpa Kagyü tradition, despite its name and certain similarities in its teachings, is an independent school and not a subschool of the Kagyü School. This is clear from the Shangpa School’s having a completely different lineage and its own set of transmitted teachings. Its status as a distinct tradition is also outlined in the presentation of "the eight great chariots of practice lineages" (Tib. sgrub brgyud shing rta chen po brgyad) in Tibet.
- For more details, see the chapter "Different Ways of Explaining the Meaning of Tathāgatagarbha" and Brunnhölzl 2011a.
- For these connections, see appendix 2 and the descriptions and translations of IM, RW, and HML in this volume.
- Compare RGVV (J26.9) on Uttaratantra I.28.
- Interestingly, prasādhana is glossed as "having the nature of direct perception" (pratyakṣarūpaṃ), which accords with GC’s and JKC’s above-mentioned approach to the Uttaratantra through the path of direct perception.
- This refers to the parts of the following syllogism: "The afflictiveness of afflictions, karma, and birth (subject) is empty (predicate of the probandum) because it is conditioned (reason), just like clouds, dreams, and illusions (example)."
- This refers to the following passage in RGVV (J33.10–11): "For as long as they do not perceive the tathāgata element, which becomes apparent due to the cessation of all afflictiveness in terms of afflictions, karma, and birth without exception . . ."
- Tib. Rta nag pa rin chen ye shes.
- Kun dga’ grol mchog 1981, 83–84.
- Zhu chen tshul khrims rin chen 1970, vol. 2, fol. 72a3–4.
- Bu ston rin chen grub 2000, 201.
- Tāranātha 1982–87, 2:24.
- Note that this last sentence distinguishes between prajñā and wisdom, obviously in the sense of the former’s referring to the analytical insight into the utter emptiness of the adventitious stains, while the latter means the direct and nonconceptual realization of the tathāgata heart with its inseparable qualities. Evidently, these two are complementary, but nonconceptual wisdom can arise only once the adventitious stains are seen through.
- Kun dga’ grol mchog 1981, 170–71. This is followed by a concluding verse that includes the syllables of Kunga Drölcho’s name: :::Through summarizing all (kun) phenomena into the three characteristics, :::This guiding instruction on supreme (mchog) self-liberated (grol) joy (dga ’) :::Untainted by the stains of dualistic appearances :::Was clearly put into words here.
- For example, Mahāyānasaṃgraha III.8 says that the imaginary nature corresponds to the snake; the dependent nature, to the rope; and the perfect nature, to just the characteristics of color, smell, taste, and what can be touched that make up a rope. By contrast, the Third Karmapa’s commentary on the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga (Rang byung rdo rje 2006b, 497) explains that the imaginary nature is like the snake for which the rope is mistaken, that is, a nonexistent that nevertheless seems to appear. Just as the rope, the dependent nature appears, but is not really existent in the way it appears as a rope, since all that appears is a mere collection of threads with a certain color and shape. The perfect nature is the snake’s and the rope’s very own nature of lacking any real existence as well as unmistaken self-awareness, since it is without being mistaken about what appears.
- These are (1) natural purity (suchness, emptiness, dharmadhātu, the true end, signlessness, and the ultimate), (2) stainless purity (this natural purity’s not having any obscurations), (3) the purity of the path to attain stainless purity (the dharmas concordant with awakening, the pāramitās, and so on), and (4) the pure object in order to generate this path (the dharma of the mahāyāna).
- As already mentioned, in the "Maitreya Chapter" in the prajñāpāramitā sūtras in eighteen thousand and twenty-five thousand lines, all phenomena are divided into three kinds—"imaginary form," "conceived form," and "dharmatā-form" and so on—which correspond to the three natures.
- Śākya mchog ldan 1988b, 240.
- Vol. 2, 460-61
- Such as the Fifth Shamarpa’s biography of Gö Lotsāwa (see Mathes 2008a, 146).