Mi pham rgya mtsho

From Buddha-Nature

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PeopleMi pham rgya mtsho


མི་ཕམ་རྒྱ་མཚོ་
Mipam Gyatso(1846 - 1912) 

Ju Mipam Gyamtso was a prolific author who brought formal philosophical study, including debate, to the Nyingma tradition. Based in Kham during a period of great inter-sectarian exchange, he trained with the Kagyu lama Jamgön Kongtrul and the Sakya lama Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, among others, even as he preserved a strong Nyingma identity. Among his most celebrated works are the Beacon of Certainty and a commentary on the Ninth Chapter of the Bodhicaryāvatāra. In addition to his considerable literary output he spent decades of his life in retreat.

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On the topic of this person

Philosophical positions of this person

"Mipam explains that the last wheel’s status as the definitive meaning does not refer to everything taught in the last wheel, but specifically concerns the teaching of Buddha-nature: ...'Although the meaning of the last wheel is praised in the sūtras and commentaries, [this does] not [refer to] everything in the last wheel, but is spoken in this way concerning the definitive meaning position of demonstrating the [Buddha-]nature.' Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, pp. 4-5.

For sentient beings, buddha-nature is present, but not yet manifest.
"The primordial endowment of the qualities of Buddha in sentient beings is a central part of Mipam’s presentation of Buddha-nature. This is an important aspect of his interpretation that he shares in common with the Jonang tradition." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 97.

  • "In his Trilogy of Innate Mind, Mipam also calls this suchness of mind “Buddhanature”: “Existing in the minds of all sentient beings in the manner of suchness on the occasion when obscurations dwell as suitable to be removed, it is called ‘Buddha-nature’ because when this suchness of mind is realized, one becomes a Buddha.”The suchness, or nature, of mind is Buddha-naure. Self-existing wisdom is simply made manifest; it is not produced by a cause." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 100.

Buddha-nature is a third wheel teaching, but he holds both third and second to be of definitive meaning and integrates the two as noncontradictory in his presentation of buddha-nature as the unity of emptiness (in the seceond wheel) and appearance (of kayas and wisdoms in the third wheel). Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, pp. 4-5.

Though his view is nuanced and he at times wrote from both perspectives. Following are some examples of these variations.

  • He aligns his view with Nāgārjuna, but seems to assert rangtong in terms of the relative and zhentong in terms of the ultimate, as Duckworth quotes Mipam's Lion's Roar:

"First it is necessary to ascertain the lack of intrinsic nature of all phenomena in accordance with the scriptures of the protector Nāgārjuna; because if this is not known, one will not be able to ascertain the manner that relative [phenomena] are empty from their own side and the manner that the ultimate is empty of what is other. Therefore, one should first ascertain the freedom from constructs which is what is known reflexively." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 71.

  • However, Mipam is also quoted as stating:

"In the tradition of self-emptiness, since there is only the ultimately nonexistent, an ultimately existing phenomenon is impossible. In the tradition of other-emptiness, what is ultimately nonexistent is the relative, and what is ultimately existent is the ultimate itself. My tradition is clear in the Rapsel Rejoinder, the tradition propounding self-emptiness." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 74.

  • Mipam's position depends on the definitions used for these terms, as Duckworth points out:

"When we consider Mipam’s depiction of emptiness in light of the categories of “self-emptiness” and “other-emptiness,” we can see that according to Khenpo Lodrö Drakpa’s definitions of a proponent of self-emptiness (claiming a non-implicative negation as the consummate ultimate) and other-emptiness (claiming wisdom as not empty of its own essence), Mipam is a proponent of neither self-emptiness nor other-emptiness. However, according to Lochen’s definitions of self-emptiness and other-emptiness, we see how Mipam can be said to be a proponent of both self-emptiness and other-emptiness!" And, later on, "It is clear that Mipam defines himself as a proponent of self-emptiness—as one who propounds that there is nothing ultimately existent—in accord with his definition of the term. Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 74.

Though Mipam clearly presents several different perspectives on this issue:

  • "Mipam states that the basic element (Buddha-nature) is empty of adventitious defilements, yet not empty of consummate qualities. These consummate qualities are inseparable from the suchness of phenomena that is luminous clarity and self-existing wisdom." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 18.
  • "Mipam’s two models of two truths support his interpretation of the compatibility of emptiness and Buddha-nature. The indivisibility of the two truths, empty appearance, is Buddha-nature; and the unity of appearance and emptiness is what is known in authentic experience." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 26.
  • "In his Trilogy of Innate Mind, Mipam also calls this suchness of mind “Buddhanature”: “Existing in the minds of all sentient beings in the manner of suchness on the occasion when obscurations dwell as suitable to be removed, it is called ‘Buddha-nature’ because when this suchness of mind is realized, one becomes a Buddha.” The suchness, or nature, of mind is Buddha-naure.

Self-existing wisdom is simply made manifest; it is not produced by a cause." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 100.

  • "Mipam also refers to Buddha-nature as the abiding reality of the “ground of the primeval beginning” (ye thog gi gzhi) in his Trilogy of Innate Mind: Buddha-nature is not a mere absence; it is emptiness and luminous clarity. It is the abiding reality of the ground of the primeval beginning of all phenomena, the abiding reality that is the indivisible truth of unity—emptiness endowed with all supreme aspects (rnam kun mchog ldan gyi stong nyid)." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 105.
  • In conclusion Duckworth sums up Mipam's view as such, "Since he depicts Buddha-nature with the qualities of the Buddha present at the time of a sentient being, his presentation shares an important feature with the Jonang tradition. His interpretation also shares a quality with the Geluk tradition, given that he equates Buddha-nature with emptiness. However, Mipam’s integration of Buddha-nature and emptiness most directly reflects Longchenpa’s description of the ground of the Great Perfection, the pinnacle of Buddhist vehicles in his Nyingma tradition, where Buddha-nature represents the unity of primordial purity and spontaneous presence." Duckworth, D., Mipam on Buddha-Nature, p. 115.

Other names

  • མི་ཕམ་འཇམ་དབྱངས་རྣམ་རྒྱལ་རྒྱ་མཚོ་ · other names (Tibetan)
  • འཇམ་དཔལ་དགྱེས་པའི་རྡོ་རྗེ་ · other names (Tibetan)
  • འཇུ་མི་ཕམ་ · other names (Tibetan)
  • mi pham 'jam dbyangs rnam rgyal rgya mtsho · other names (Wylie)
  • 'jam dpal dgyes pa'i rdo rje · other names (Wylie)
  • 'ju mi pham · other names (Wylie)
  • mipham · other names

Affiliations & relations

  • Nyingma · religious affiliation
  • 'jam dbyangs mkhyen brtse'i dbang po · teacher
  • 'jam mgon kong sprul · teacher
  • Dpal sprul rin po che · teacher
  • Lung rtogs bstan pa'i nyi ma · teacher
  • Dzogchen Drubwang, 4th · teacher
  • Las rab gling pa · student
  • Dodrupchen, 3rd · student
  • Zhechen Gyaltsab, 4th · student
  • A 'dzoms 'brug pa 'gro 'dul dpa' bo rdo rje · student
  • Lung rtogs bstan pa'i nyi ma · student
  • Dil mgo mkhyen brtse bkra shis dpal 'byor · student
  • Pad+ma dbang mchog rgyal po · student
  • kun bzang dpal ldan · student