Khenpo Sherab Phuntsho at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference

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Khenpo Sherab Phuntsho on Application of Buddha-Nature in Kagyu Tradition - 19 of 22
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Understanding and Application of Buddha-Nature in the Karma Kagyu Tradition

Khenpo gives a clear explanation of the buddha-nature as understood in the Karma Kagyu tradition based on the teachings on the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje. He breaks down his presentation into three parts:

1. Literature on buddha-nature in Kagyu tradition in general and the Karma Kagyu subschool in particular
2. Rangjung Dorje's formulation of buddha-nature through 15 distinct points
3. The practical application of buddha-nature.

Khenpo skips the detailed listing of the works on buddha-nature in the Kagyu tradition, which he lists in his long article. Explaining Rangjung Dorje's formulation of buddha-nature, Khenpo says that Rangjung Dorje is a leading voice on buddha-nature, final wheel and tantras, and perhaps the first Tibetan to compose independent texts on buddha-nature, with his Treatise on Tathāgata Heart and Distinguishing Consciousness and Pristine Wisdom. He also wrote his commentary on Nāgārjuna's In Praise of Dharmadhātu, which mainly discusses the buddha-element. Although the writings of many later scholars such as Longchenpa, Jonangpa, et. al., are similar to Rangjung Dorje's understanding, he stands out as a clear and pioneering Tibetan thinker on buddha-nature.

Rangjung Dorje presents a clear definition of buddha-nature as possessing four characteristics of a union: indivisibility of emptiness and appearance like a reflection of the moon in water, indivisibility of emptiness and luminosity like a reflection in a mirror, indivisibility of emptiness and awareness like a rainbow, and indivisibility of emptiness and bliss like the taste of mute person. The definition is further clarified by his disciple Sherab Rinchen. Buddha-nature is thus the luminous nature of mind which has these four characteristics of union and is the natural ordinary consciousness.

Khenpo explains that Rangjung Dorje accepted both middle wheel and final wheel as definitive and concurring on the same point that is buddha-nature. Buddha-nature is the reality, ultimate truth, and dharmakāya. It is the ground for all existence, eternal, permanent, and unconditioned. It is pure by nature and not stained by impurities, but it is obscured by temporary impurities which do not corrupt its nature. Such buddha-nature is emptiness free from conceptual and linguistic elaborations. It is the innate mind or ground tantra taught in the tantric literature.

Explaining how the various Buddhist schools of thought view phenomena such as a flower or vase, Khenpo explains that the great middle way of zhentong is the ultimate way of grasping the nature of the flower as being identical with the nature of the mind. A flower is a projection of the mind, and the mind, by nature, is not only empty but also luminous, and it is the union of luminosity and emptiness which forms the ultimate truth. In this respect, Khenpo points out that there is nothing so surprising or unacceptable in seeing a vase, flower, or other objects as possessing buddha-nature. He elaborates the 15 points to demonstrate the essence of buddha-nature.

Abstract from the Author

Khenpo Sherab Phuntsho at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference

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Featuring Khenpo Sherab Phuntsho
Creator Tsadra Foundation
Director Perman, M.
Producer Tsadra Foundation
Event 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference Kathmandu (, Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu)
Creation Date 3 June 2023
Citation Sherab Phuntsho, Khenpo. "Khenpo Sherab Phuntsho at the 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference." 2023 Buddha-Nature Conference, Shechen Monastery, Kathmandu. Produced by the Tsadra Foundation Research Department. Video,