Geshe Ngawang Tsesang at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference

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Geshe Ngawang Tsesang on Buddha-Nature in Gyaltsab Je's Commentary - 7 of 22
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The Gelukpa Understanding of Buddha-Nature Based on Gyaltsab Je's Commentary

Geshe starts by stating the importance of making the Buddhist message easily accessible to a common listener. He expresses concern that scholars often discuss Buddhist topics using technical terms and do not consider the general audience who do not follow the technical vocabulary. Thus, he states that his aim is to present the Geluk understanding of buddha-nature in as simplest terms as he can, based on the writings of Tsongkhapa and his two main students, using mainly Gyaltsab Je's commentary on the Ultimate Continuum. Gyaltsab Je wrote his commentary having received teachings on the Ultimate Continuum from both Tsongkhapa and Rendawa.

He divides his presentation into three sections of (1) how the sūtras teach buddha-nature, (2) what is the essence or nature of buddha-nature, and (3) what is the benefit of such teachings on buddha-nature. Discussing the first part, he mentions how the first wheel mainly focused on the topic of the absence of a personal self as the clinging to self is the main cause of suffering. However, in the middle wheel, the Buddha not only negated the inherent existence of a personal self but also extended the application of emptiness to all five aggregates and all phenomena. Thus, all phenomena are established to be empty of inherent existence. In the third wheel, such emptiness of the mind or the lack of inherent or truly existent nature of the mind, which is luminous, is given the name buddha-nature.

Going on to explain the characteristics of buddha-nature, Geshe points out that in the Geluk tradition, it is the emptiness of the luminous mind which is buddha-nature. Emptiness of other things such as pillars and vases are not considered buddha-nature, although they are also empty of inherent nature. Buddha-nature pervades all minds, as all minds are luminous by nature, but not all emptiness qualifies as buddha-nature. If any emptiness would be buddha-nature, all inanimate objects would also have buddha-nature. Similarly, if buddha-nature is identical with the resultant dharmakāya, all sentient beings would be buddhas. Thus, buddha-nature refers only to the emptiness of the mind of the sentient beings.

Asked how the teachings on buddha-nature as emptiness can help in the pursuit of enlightenment and happiness, Geshe responds using the example of a plain screen. Just as multiple pictures appear on the screen, although they do not really exist, the diverse world appears in the state of emptiness although they do not really exist. The teachings on buddha-nature show how they do not truly exist. Responding to another question, he clarifies that the Ultimate Continuum in the Geluk tradition, according to Gyaltsab's commentary, is considered to align with the Prāsaṅgika Mādhyamika thought.

Abstract from the Author

Geshe Ngawang Tsesang at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference


༡༽ མདོ་སོགས་ལས་བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོ་བསྟན་ཚུལ།
༢༽ བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་བོ་བསྟན་པའི་ཕན་ཡོན་ནམ་དགོས་པ།
༣༽ བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོའི་ངོ་བོ་ངོས་འཛིན།
༡༽ སེམས་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན་ངོས་འཛིན་དང་དེ་འོད་གསལ་བ་ཡིན་ཚུལ།
༡༽ དྲི་མའི་ངོས་འཛིན་དང་དྲི་མ་གློ་བུར་བ་ཡིན་པའི་རྒྱུ་མཚན།
༡༽ དྲི་བཅས་སེམས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་ཉིད་དང་དག་པ་གཉིས་ལྡན་གྱི་ཆོས་སྐུ་སྐྱེ་རུང་གི་ནུས་པ།
༢༽ སེམས་ཅན་གྱི་སེམས་རང་བཞིན་གྱིས་གྲུབ་པའི་སྟོང་བ་དང་། རང་བཞིན་གནས། རིགས་སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་རིགས། བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོ་སོགས་ཀྱི་ཁྱད་པར།
༡༽ འཁོར་བར་འཁོར་ཚུལ།

༢༽ བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོ་མ་རྟོགས་ན་འཁོར་པ་ལས་མི་གྲོལ་བའི་ཚུལ།
Featuring Geshe Ngawang Tsesang
Creator Tsadra Foundation
Director Perman, M.
Producer Tsadra Foundation
Event 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference Kathmandu (1 June 2023, Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu)
Related Website Buddha-Nature
Creation Date 1 June 2023
Citation Ngawang Tsesang, Geshe. "Geshe Ngawang Tsesang at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference." Day 1, Talk 6. 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference, Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu. Produced by the Tsadra Foundation Research Department. Video, 1:09:44.