Michael Sheehy at the 2019 Tathāgatagarbha Symposium

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Michael Sheehy at the 2019 Tathāgatagarbha Symposium
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Michael Sheehy explores the “images of emptiness” or expressions of emptiness in the Kālacakra Tantra. He discusses how these were interpreted by Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361) and his immediate disciples to be direct expressions of tathāgatagarbha.

Abstract from the Author

Tantric Zhentong Visions of Tathāgatagarbha in Tibetan Kālacakra Yoga Manuals
This paper investigates the concept of śūnyatā-bimba (stong gzugs), “images of emptiness” or expressions of emptiness in the Kālacakra Tantra, and gives attention to how this phenomenon was interpreted by the Tibetan Kālacakra master Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan (1292-1361) and his immediate disciples to be direct expressions of tathāgatagarbha. We are interested in the tantric epistemology of these “images of emptiness,” textual connections to tathāgatagarbha, and correlative contemplative experiences that are described within Tibetan meditation manuals on the Kālacakra sixfold yoga. As we find in Dol po pa’s writings, as well as by later Jonang authors, these expressions of tathāgatagarbha are observable and experiential, and come about through the careful execution of the yogic procedures explicated in the vajrayoga practice of the Kālacakra. We explore the process of how these expressions are said to be experienced through the precise process of withdrawing one’s sense faculties from mundane stimuli, hence rescinding one’s involvement with objectification through a threefold practice of isolating the body, voice, and mind (dben pa gsum), and how this results in the philosophical and contemplative visions of tantric zhentong (sngags gi gzhan stong). To contextualize Dol po pa’s claims, we analyze passages from early meditation procedural manuals on the sixfold yoga practices composed by two of his closest disciples, Phyogs las rnam rgyal (1306-1386) and Lo tsā ba Blo gros dpal (1313-1391), interlinear commentarial writings on the Kālacakra Tantra, prescriptive guidebooks about remedying blockages to meditative realization, and autobiographical accounts of yogins to better understand the phenomenon of these expressions of tathāgatagarbha and their categorical construction as contemplative experience within Tibetan literature. In so doing, we analyze Buddhist doctrinal relationships of emptiness and tathāgatagarbha, and probe the epistemological nature of these expressions to be nature-born experiences, external referents, visionary “images of buddhas,” and/or intentional objects of meditation.

Sources Mentioned

People Mentioned

Dölpopa Sherab Gyaltsen
1292 ~ 1361
Chokle Namgyal
1306 ~ 1386
Jonang Lotsāwa Lodro Pal
1299 ~ 1354
Yönten Gyatso
Tāranātha
1575 ~ 1634
Kalkī Śrī Puṇḍarīka
176 BCE ~ 76 BCE
Kālacakrapāda
11th century
Kunpang Tukje Tsöndru
1243 ~ 1313
Yumo Mikyö Dorje
1038 ~ 1117
Nyawon Kunga Pal
1285 ~ 1379
Chomden Rikpai Raldri
1227 ~ 1305
Rendawa Zhönu Lodrö
1349 ~ 1412
Tsongkhapa
1357 ~ 1419
Featuring Michael Sheehy
Creator University of Vienna, Tsadra Foundation
Event Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia (19 July 2019, University of Vienna, Austria)
Related Website Buddha-Nature Project
Video Web Location Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia
Creation Date 19 July 2019
Citation Sheehy, Michael. "Tantric Zhentong Visions of Tathāgatagarbha in Tibetan Kālacakra Yoga Manuals." Paper presented at the University of Vienna Symposium, Tathāgatagarbha Across Asia, Vienna, Austria, July 2019. Video, 46:01. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Fm7z5pR1EGA.