Dbu ma chos dbyings bstod pa'i rnam par bshad pa

From Buddha-Nature

LibraryCommentariesDbu ma chos dbyings bstod pa'i rnam par bshad pa


དབུ་མ་ཆོས་དབྱིངས་བསྟོད་པའི་རྣམ་པར་བཤད་པ།
dbu ma chos dbyings bstod pa'i rnam par bshad pa
An Explanation of In Praise of Madhyamaka-Dharmadhātu
Commentary of Dharmadhātustava
SOURCE TEXT

Among all available commentaries on the Dharmadhātustava, the Third Karmapa's is both the earliest and the longest, composed in either 1326 or 1327. Until the recent appearance of a single dbu med manuscript (fifty-two folios with eight lines each), the text had been considered lost at least since the Tibetan exodus in 1959. The title of Rangjung Dorje's commentary—An Explanation of In Praise of Madhyamaka-Dharmadhātu—already indicates that he obviously considers Nāgārjunas text to be a Madhyamaka work, not fundamentally different from what the latter says in his well-known collection of reasoning and elsewhere. Indeed then, considerable parts of the commentary are devoted to showing that the Dharmadhātustava does not conflict with Nāgārjuna's classical Madhyamaka works. Moreover, Rangjung Dorje freely uses typical terminologies from both the Indian Madhyamaka and Yogācāra traditions, such as the frameworks of the two realities, the three natures, the eight consciousnesses, the four wisdoms, and the two/three kāyas; the middle and extremes; false imagination; tathāgatagarbha; natural luminosity; and the fundamental change of state. Through both this and extensively quoting mainly Nāgārjuna, Maitreya, Asaṅga, and Candrakīrti, these two traditions are shown to perfectly accord in the essential points. Thus, the Karmapa's commentary often offers original interpretations and also elaborates on a number of supplementary topics, though it does not explicitly explain every single line of the Dharmadhātustava.

(Karl Brunnhölzl, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, 2007: pp. 193-194.)
Read the text:

Translations of This Text

  • Brunnhölzl, Karl, trans. In Praise of Dharmadhātu. By Nāgārjuna and the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (rang byung rdo rje). Nitartha Institute Series. Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion Publications, 2007.

Recensions of This Text

Text Metadata

Text exists in ~ Tibetan
Canonical Genre ~ Tengyur · Sūtra · bstod tshogs · Stotragaṇa
Literary Genre ~ Offerings and Praises - mchod bstod
Commentary of ~ Chos kyi dbyings su bstod pa

About the text

Among all available commentaries on the Dharmadhātustava, the Third Karmapa's is both the earliest and the longest, composed in either 1326 or 1327. Until the recent appearance of a single dbu med manuscript (fifty-two folios with eight lines each), the text had been considered lost at least since the Tibetan exodus in 1959. The title of Rangjung Dorje's commentary—An Explanation of In Praise of Madhyamaka-Dharmadhātu—already indicates that he obviously considers Nāgārjunas text to be a Madhyamaka work, not fundamentally different from what the latter says in his well-known collection of reasoning and elsewhere. Indeed then, considerable parts of the commentary are devoted to showing that the Dharmadhātustava does not conflict with Nāgārjuna's classical Madhyamaka works. Moreover, Rangjung Dorje freely uses typical terminologies from both the Indian Madhyamaka and Yogācāra traditions, such as the frameworks of the two realities, the three natures, the eight consciousnesses, the four wisdoms, and the two/three kāyas; the middle and extremes; false imagination; tathāgatagarbha; natural luminosity; and the fundamental change of state. Through both this and extensively quoting mainly Nāgārjuna, Maitreya, Asaṅga, and Candrakīrti, these two traditions are shown to perfectly accord in the essential points. Thus, the Karmapa's commentary often offers original interpretations and also elaborates on a number of supplementary topics, though it does not explicitly explain every single line of the Dharmadhātustava.

To give a brief overview of the text, its basic layout consists of the three phases of the dharmadhātu:

  • (1) being impure, called "sentient being" (verses 2-15; fols. l-12b)
  • (2) being in the process of the elimination of its stains, called "bodhisattva on the path" (verses 16-87; fols. 12b-42a)
  • (3) being utterly pure, called "buddhahood" (verses 88-101; fols. 42a-52a).

According to the commentary, the first verse of the Dharmadhātustava introduces these three phases.

(1) As for the first phase, elaborating on verse 2, Rangjung Dorje gives an extensive presentation of the two realities in the context of Madhyamaka ground, path, and fruition. Drawing on a great number of sources from both the Yogācāra and Madhyamaka traditions, he demonstrates that these two systems are complementary and share the same essential points. He ends this topic by saying that Nāgārjuna's collection of reasoning negates the clinging to characteristics, but definitely not the teachings on the way of being of the Buddha and the dharma, wisdom, great compassion, or enlightened activity. The main part of describing the dharmadhātu in its impure phase of being obscured by adventitious stains consists of the Dharmadhātustava's first six examples of butter in milk, a lamp within a vase, an encrusted gem, gold in its ore, rice in its husk, and the banana tree (verses 3-15). The commentary's detailed explanation of these examples emphasizes that the root of being mistaken is just the stainless dharmadhātu being unaware of itself, while there are not the slightest adventitious stains other than that, let alone any that are really existent. The dharmadhātu itself is the Tathāgata heart, which does not just refer to mere emptiness. Rather, it is the twofold wisdom of a Buddha that knows both how things truly are and the infinite variety of how they appear. This nonconceptual wisdom is obtained through becoming pure of adventitious stains, which are the four characteristics of conceptualizing the factors to be relinquished, the remedies, suchness, and the fruition, as taught in the Avikalpapraveśadhāraṇī. It is explained how the dharmadhātu is endowed with the four pāramitās of purity, self, bliss, and permanence and how these differ from the same set of four as the mistaken notions of ordinary beings. Finally, each of the six examples is matched with certain kinds of wisdom and obscurations, respectively.

(2) As for the second phase of the dharmadhātu ("bodhisattva on the path"), the commentary explains how the notions of cause and result are to be understood with respect to the dharmadhātu and the dharmakāya—there is nothing to be newly attained and nothing to be removed. With the adventitious stains—the eight consciousnesses—being mere illusions, once they are seen through, minds nature becomes aware of what it has always been (verses 16-19). Purification on the path only happens on the level of the factors to be relinquished and their remedies (primarily mind realizing emptiness) interacting in a mutually dependent way, but the dharmadhātu is empty of both and never affected by either. Once they both subside, the dharmadhātu simply displays its natural luminosity, similar to murky water becoming clear on its own when not stirred. In this way, it is not empty of its own wisdom-nature, which however is completely free from being empty, not empty, both, or neither (20-29). In other words, from among the three natures, the imaginary nature is in fact nonexistent, while the other-dependent nature appears like a dream but does not really exist the way it appears. Thus, the factors to be relinquished and their remedies (both consisting of the imaginary and the other-dependent natures) are just appearances as mere imaginations. They are unreal, not arising from themselves, something other, both, or without a cause. They are just dependent origination, and this is precisely what is expressed as emptiness. Through relinquishing the various kinds of clinging to extremes, one enters the middle, which is taught in both the Madhyāntavibhāga and the Mūlamadhyamakakārikā. Ultimate reality is this unity of appearance and emptiness, which is changeless and unmistaken. Thus, it is taught to be the perfect nature. In brief, the very same dharmadhātu is called "sentient being" when associated with obscurations, while it is referred to as "Buddha" once it is without obscurations (30-37).

The actual practice on the path consists of the two phases of meditative equipoise and subsequent attainment. The first is the nonconceptual samādhi of superior insight, being immersed in the suchness of the dharmadhātu, also expressed as Prajñāpāramitā and Mahāmudrā. During the time of subsequent attainment, bodhisattvas keep meditating with mindfulness by scrutinizing whatever appears to their senses and their minds. When sense perception, mental direct perception, and self-awareness are embraced by the correct samādhi, they all become yogic direct cognition, which is dharmadhātu wisdom's own nature. All phenomena—whether they seem to be outside or inside—are realized to be just minds self-lucid appearances, which lack arising and ceasing, thus gaining certainly that they are nothing but the dharmadhātu. This section on how the nature of the mind is found within dualistic consciousnesses includes a detailed discussion of the mental consciousness, the afflicted mind, the immediate mind, and "stainless mentation" as well as their interrelations (38-45).

In brief, the difference between saṃsāra and nirvāṇa is whether the nature of mind is realized through prajñā or not (46-50). The appearance of the three jewels—which in itself is the natural outflow of the dharmadhātu—is the supporting condition for such realization. Through seeing the kāyas of Buddhas, hearing the dharmas of the mahāyāna, smelling the scent of ethics, tasting the pleasure of the dharma, and touching upon the tangible object of samādhi, finely analyzing prajñā examines all phenomena. This means to become increasingly familiar with and rest in the immediate experience of one's own awareness-wisdom, thus proceeding through the paths and bhūmis. In this way, the dharmadhātu is also the cause for everything on the path, including the enlightened activity that this path's final fruition—buddhahood— manifests at its very end (51-61). The fundamental manner of adopting and rejecting on the path is to extract wisdom from the blend of obscurations and wisdom, while leaving behind the former. This is accomplished by seeing through these adventitious obscurations by realizing twofold identitylessness as the remedy for saṃsāra. The remedy for abiding in some kind of personal nirvāṇa is to realize the nonduality of saṃsāra and nirvāṇa. This means to realize the dharmakāya, which is the nonabiding nirvāṇa that consists of the four pāramitās of genuine purity, genuine self, genuine bliss, and genuine permanence (62-65).

As the remedies for obscurations, the ten pāramitās are the dharmas that make the dharmadhātu's luminosity shine forth, just like the qualities of a gem manifesting through removing its covering. The main mental driving force for practicing these pāramitās is bodhicitta as the dharmakāya s primary cause or seed, which needs to be cultivated through the path. Due to that, it seems as if the dharmadhātu unfolds, just like the waxing moon, but this only appears that way by virtue of the obscurations gradually dissolving (66-76). The stages of this process are the paths of accumulation and preparation, as well as the ten bhūmis. Here, "nonconceptual wisdom" is used as the conventional term for the unfolding of the dharmakāya and "illusionlike wisdom" as the expression for the unfolding of the rūpakāyas (77-87).

(3) The third phase of the dharmadhātu is its full manifestation as the dharmakāya. This is the final fundamental change of state of the five skandhas, with the skandha of the eight consciousnesses changing into the four wisdoms. Being endowed with the infinite inconceivable qualities of purity and attainment, it is the support of various sambhogakāyas and nirmāṇakāyas that appear with the major and minor marks in order to mature bodhisattvas, pratyekabuddhas, and śrāvakas (88-95). Among the many enlightened activities of these kāyas, the main one is to empower the bodhisattvas on the tenth bhūmi so that these become Buddhas too, while those who dwell in arhathood are ushered onto the path of the mahāyāna. The spontaneous enlightened activity for the welfare of all sentient beings is the final consummation of the emptiness that is endowed with the supreme of all aspects. Such effortless and nonconceptual enlightened activity is illustrated through the nine examples taught in the Uttaratantra. A Buddhas nonconceptual prajñā is like the suns luminosity, dispelling the darkness that obscures true reality. The engaging prajñā that knows all that can be known is similar to the sun's rays. The basis of both these prajñās—minds nature being utterly stainless and luminous—is similar to the pure orb of the sun. Since all three are inseparable from the dharmadhātu, they are like the sun's light, rays, and orb being inseparable. In this way, buddhahood is only complete with all of these elements (96-101). Finally, the commentary explains that all great masters, such as Nāgārjuna, Maitreya, Āryadeva, Asaṅga, Buddhapālita, Bhāvaviveka, and Candrakīrti, accord in teaching this dharmadhātu wisdom. Likewise, the correct view and realization of all yānas is to be understood as just this (for the detailed outline of the Karmapa's commentary, see Appendix I).

As for quotations from Indian texts in Rangjung Dorje's commentary, given the nature of the subject of the Dharmadhātustava, it is not surprising that by far the most citations (forty-two verses) and references come from the Uttaratantra. However, Rangjung Dorjes equal emphasis on both the Madhyamaka and the Yogācāra tradition is perfectly mirrored by him quoting and referring to a wide variety of sūtras, tantras, and treatises, in particular the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra (twenty verses), Madhyāntavibhāga (seventeen), Yuktiṣaṣṭikā (eight), Madhyamakāvatāra (seven; implying another twenty-nine), Abhisamayālaṃkāra (seven), Bodhicittavivaraṇa (seven), Mūlamadhyamakakārikā (six), and Dharmadharmatāvibhāga (eighteen lines). Also quoted at length are Asaṅga's Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā and Mahāyānasaṃgraha (both four times). The Śūnyatāsaptati, Acintyastava, and Satyadvayavibhāga are each represented with two verses. The Ratnāvalī is even quoted with forty-nine verses, but twenty-nine of them are just an elaboration on the causes of the thirty-two major marks of a Buddha, while the presentation of each one of the ten bhūmis is supported by two verses.

Nāgārjuna and Karmapa Rang byung rdo rje. In Praise of Dharmadhātu. Translated by Karl Brunnhölzl. Nitartha Institute Series. Boulder: Snow Lion Publications, 2007.pp. 193-197.