Khenpo Ngawang Jorden at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference

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Khenpo Ngawang Jorden on Buddha-Nature and Gorampa’s Refutations - 17 of 22
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Gorampa's Refutations of Some Interpretations of Buddha-Nature

Khenpo starts by saying how the conference is a wonderful opportunity to get exposure to and learn from each other, unlike other times when we are mostly stuck within the individual systems. He also mentions that as a senior figure he is very encouraged by younger participants and pleased to learn that the general state of Buddhist scholarship is very strong and that everyone must strive for the greater welfare of Buddha's teachings. He says that the topics were distributed among three Sakya scholars. While his two colleagues chose to speak on Rongtön and Śākya Chokden, he chose to speak about Gorampa, on whom he also did his PhD dissertation, although he has not written anything in Tibetan.

The main topic of Khenpo’s presentation is Gorampa's work on Sakya Paṇḍita's Distinguishing Three Vows. Although called A Supplement to Distinguishing Three Vows, Khenpo explains that it is not really a supplement to add something to make the former text complete but rather a sequel to it in order to continue the discussion. Gorampa presents the text in the framework of ground, path, and result, of which the ground refers to buddha-nature.

Claiming to carry on the traditions of Nāgārjuna as well as Maitreya and Asaṅga, whose thoughts converge on the ultimate point, Gorampa identifies the ultimate point to be the unconditioned, luminous, constant, unceasing union. Thus, buddha-nature in Gorampa's view is the unconditioned union of emptiness and luminosity. Gorampa refutes other scholars who he thinks failed to understand the teachings on buddha-nature.

Khenpo explains the verses in Gorampa's work about the reason for composition. Khenpo reads out the passages showing Gorampa's reasons for the refutation. The teachings, according to Gorampa, were misinterpreted in the centuries following Sapan, and his main reason for the composition of the text is to clarify things and dispel the misunderstanding.

The opponents whom Gorampa refutes were not identified in his own work, but the names were given in another work entitled Blooming Lotus. Gorampa's first refutation is of the Jonangpa interpretation, which Khenpo says he has already presented in another conference in English. The second opponent is Gyaltshab Je, who has written a commentary on the Ultimate Continuum and is the main source for the Geluk understanding of buddha-nature. Gyaltshab asserted a nonimplicative negation of mere absence of inherent existence to be buddha-nature. Gorampa refutes this, saying that such negation cannot be the ground for spiritual practice, the path of practice, and the resultant state of the Buddha.

The second opponent is Śākya Chokden, and the third opponent who Gorampa refutes is Dratsepa Rinchen Namgyal, the student of Buton Rinchen Drub. Refuting the positions espoused by these scholars, Gorampa formulated a definition of buddha-nature as a union of emptiness and luminosity, which is unconditioned and permanent, but one which transcends the ordinary sense of permanence and impermanence. Khenpo's presentation generated a lively discussion on the nature of union and how the union can be seen as unconditioned and permanent if one aspect of it is the subtle form of conditioned impermanent consciousness.

Abstract from the Author

Khenpo Ngawang Jorden at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference

༄༅། །བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོའི་ཆོས་སྐོར་བགྲོ་གླེང་གི་སྐབས་འདིར་གུས་པས་གཏམ་བཤད་བྱ་རྒྱུའི་བརྗོད་གཞི་ནི། དུས་རབས་བཅུ་ལྔ་པའི་ནང་བྱོན་པའི་དཔལ་ལྡན་ས་སྐྱ་པའི་མཁས་གྲུབ་གཉིས་ལྡན་གྱི་སྐྱེས་བུ་དམ་པ་ཀུན་མཁྱེན་གོ་བོ་རབ་འབྱམས་པ་བསོད་ནམས་སེང་གེ་ཞུ་བ་ཁོང་གི་གསུང་། སྡོམ་གསུམ་ཁ་སྐོང་ཞེས་བའི་བསྟན་བཅོས་གཞི་ལམ་འབྲས་བུ་གསུམ་གྱི་ལེའུའི་བདག་ཉིད་ཅན་ལས་གཞིའི་ལེའུ་དེ་ཁམས་བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོའི་སྐོར་རེད་འདུག་པ་དེ་ཡིན།

དེ་ཡང་དགག་བཞག་གཉིས་ཀྱི་སྒོ་ནས་བཤད་པ་གནང་གི་འདུག་པ་བཞིན། དང་པོར་དགག་ཡུལ་རྒྱལ་ཚམ་དར་མ་རིང་ཆེན་རྗེས་འཇུག་རྣམས་དང་། རོང་སྟོན་ཤཱཀྱ་རྒྱལ་མཚན་གྱི་རྗེས་འཇུག་ཡིན་པར་ཁས་ཆེ་བ་རྣམས་དང་། བུ་སྟོན་རིན་ཆེན་གྲུབ་དང་པཎ་ཆེན་ཤཱཀྱ་མཆོག་ལྡན་དྲི་མེད་ལེགས་པའི་བློ་གྲོས་དང་། ཁོང་རྣམ་གཉིས་ཀྱི་རྗེས་འཇུག་རྣམས་ཀྱི་བདེ་སྙིང་འདོད་ཚུལ་ངོས་བཟུང་ཞིང་དེ་དག་ཇི་ལྟར་དགག་ཚུལ་དང་། དེ་ནས་མཐར་གོ་རམས་པ་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་བདེ་གཤེགས་སྙིང་པོའི་ངོས་འཛིན་གང་ཡིན་སྙན་སྒྲོན་ཞུ་རྒྱུ་ཡིན།
Featuring Khenpo Ngawang Jorden
Creator Tsadra Foundation
Director Perman, M.
Producer Tsadra Foundation
Event 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference Kathmandu (, Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu)
Related Website Buddha-Nature
Creation Date 3 June 2023
Citation Ngawang Jorden, Khenpo. "Khenpo Ngawang Jorden at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference." Day 3, Talk 3. 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference, Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu, June 1–3. Produced by the Tsadra Foundation Research Department. Video, 59:30.