Putting Buddha Nature into Practice

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Putting Buddha Nature into Practice
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Citation: Draszczyk, Tina, trans. "Putting Buddha Nature into Practice." A translation of Immaculate Vajra Moonrays: An Instruction for the View of Shentong, the Great Madhyamaka (Gzhan stong dbu ma chen po'i lta khrid rdo rje zla ba dri ma med pa'i 'od zer). By Jamgön Kongtrul ('jam mgon kong sprul). In A Gathering of Brilliant Moons: Practice Advice from the Rimé Masters of Tibet, edited by Holly Gayley and Joshua Schapiro, 251–84. Somerville, MA: Wisdom Publications, 2017.
Translated texts:

Article Summary

A central concept within Mahāyāna Buddhism is the doctrine of tathāgatagarbha, or buddha-nature (deshin shekpai nyingpo, deshek nyingpo), the element inherent to every sentient being. Presenting this buddha nature as the absolute in positive terms, as a state of wisdom with inconceivable qualities, is the essence of the so-called shentong view. Mind as such is understood to be shentong or "empty of other," meaning that it is empty of adventitious stains, which are not minds true nature. But mind is not empty of its enlightened qualities. Still, as long as sentient beings' perceptions are obscured by the temporary stains, they are incapable of directly relating to wisdoms inherent enlightened qualities. According to the relevant texts,[1] these stains constitute the only difference between normal beings and the awakened ones who have removed the stains and actualized their inherent buddha nature. From the perspective of both the doctrine of tathāgatagarbha in general and shentong in particular, proper Buddhist philosophy and spiritual training in ethics, view, and meditation have as their goal the removal of the stains of karma and afflictive emotions and their subtle tendencies of ignorance so that the mind's inherent qualities can manifest.
      This chapter deals with the corresponding approach in view and meditation taught by the cleric-scholar Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thayé (1813–99). As one of the leading figures in the rimé movement in eastern Tibet, he worked to preserve practice traditions from the various Buddhist lineages of Tibet—in particular, practices from the Nyingma, Kadam, Jonang, Kagyü, and Sakya schools. His work exemplifies the idea that implementing philosophical understanding in meditative training is an essential part of all Tibetan Buddhist traditions. His Immaculate Vajra Moonrays: An Instruction for the View of Shentong, the Great Madhyamaka (abbreviated here as Instruction for the View of Shentong) is but one instance of the integral relationship between philosophical understanding and meditative training. The text guides meditators in a gradual practice that aims to achieve a direct realization of the true nature of mind—buddha nature with all of its inherent qualities. (Draszczyk, "Putting Buddha Nature into Practice," 251–52)
  1. For example, the Tathāgatagarbha Sūtra, the Śrīmālādevīsiṃhanāda Sūtra, and the Ratnagotravibhāga, also referred to as the Uttaratantra Śāstra.