Dbu ma gzhan stong smra ba'i srol legs par phye ba'i sgron me

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LibraryCommentariesDbu ma gzhan stong smra ba'i srol legs par phye ba'i sgron me


དབུ་མ་གཞན་སྟོང་སྨྲ་བའི་སྲོལ་ལེགས་པར་ཕྱེ་བའི་སྒྲོན་མེ།
dbu ma gzhan stong smra ba'i srol legs par phye ba'i sgron me
The Lamp That Excellently Elucidates the System of the Proponents of the Other-Emptiness Madhyamaka
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In terms of its contents, the Lamp represents a digest of the Uttaratantra, discussing its seven vajra points. In particular, the text’s structure closely follows the first chapter of the Uttaratantra and RGVV, explaining the first four vajra points in detail. Thus, the Lamp refers to both the Uttaratantra and RGVV throughout, though each one is only quoted explicitly once. In addition, the text cites the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta, the Avataṃsakasūtra, and the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkārabhāṣya (once each). It also refers to the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga, the Madhyāntavibhāga, the Kālacakratantra, and six verses from the Dharmadhātustava.

(Karl Brunnhölzl. When the Clouds Part, 2015: p. 323.)
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  • Brunnhölzl, Karl. When the Clouds Part: The Uttaratantra and Its Meditative Tradition as a Bridge between Sūtra and Tantra. Tsadra Foundation Series. Boston: Snow Lion Publications, 2014.

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Description from When the Clouds Part

Interestingly, despite its title, the term shentong never occurs in this work. In its own words, its topic is "the meaning of the two realities [according to] the dharma principles that derive from the levels of yogic pursuit," which indicates that the Eighth Karmapa wrote his text from the perspective of the direct realization of ultimate reality. Indeed, despite its occasional refutations of wrong views, the Lamp is primarily not a polemical text but largely an instruction to be contemplated. Thus, its multilayered meanings come to the fore only when read several times, reflecting on each sentence and also consulting the materials in the notes.[1]

      In terms of its contents, the Lamp represents a digest of the Uttaratantra, discussing its seven vajra points. In particular, the text’s structure closely follows the first chapter of the Uttaratantra and RGVV, explaining the first four vajra points in detail. Thus, the Lamp refers to both the Uttaratantra and RGVV throughout, though each one is only quoted explicitly once. In addition, the text cites the Anūnatvāpūrṇatvanirdeśaparivarta, the Avataṃsakasūtra, and the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkārabhāṣya (once each). It also refers to the Dharmadharmatāvibhāga, the Madhyāntavibhāga, the Kālacakratantra, and six verses from the Dharmadhātustava.

      The Lamp’s presentation of the vajra points of the Uttaratantra is repeatedly contrasted with the limited views on emptiness or ultimate reality of those Mādhyamikas who do not understand the "Great Madhyamaka" of Maitreya, Asaṅga, and Vasubandhu. Those Mādhyamikas include Candrakīrti, Haribhadra, and other Indians and Tibetans "who flatter themselves as being Mādhyamikas." In particular, the Lamp repeatedly denies that merely not finding phenomena as either existent, nonexistent, both existent and nonexistent, or neither existent nor nonexistent under analysis through Madhyamaka reasoning does not represent the true seeing of ultimate reality. The Karmapa also denies that śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas realize phenomenal identitylessness.

      Despite never using the term shentong, the Lamp does advance some classical Shentong positions, such as the perfect nature’s being empty of both the imaginary and the dependent natures. The text says that the adventitious stains to be relinquished consist of both the imaginary and the dependent natures, while what is to be adopted is the tathāgata heart (which is thus implicitly equated with the perfect nature). Throughout, the text follows the disclosure model of buddha nature’s existing with all its qualities primordially and only needing to be revealed through realizing that the adventitious stains are ultimately nonexistent. In that vein, the Lamp says that through the reality and the blessing of the unconditioned tathāgata heart and of the natural purity of the dharmadhātu, initially and seemingly, it is the conditioned adventitious stains (and not the tathāgata heart) that, while actually always being nonexistent, become weary of suffering and aspire for nirvāṇa. Later, it is through the light of wisdom arising from the tathāgata heart itself that these adventitious stains are actually overcome. That is, through self-arisen wisdom’s looking at the adventitious stains of its own continuum, no attributes or bearers of attributes, which make up the adventitious stains, are to be seen. At that point, through this wisdom’s being free from all stains, it manifests true actuality just as it is.

      At the same time, the Eighth Karmapa’s Shentong view is often characterized by the Kagyü School as representing "expanse Shentong"[2] as opposed to "wisdom Shentong"[3] or "luminosity Shentong."[4] The latter means that the wisdom of buddha nature is empty of adventitious stains (the "other") and that this wisdom itself is not empty but really existent as the ultimate nature of luminosity. Thus, this approach emphasizes the luminous nature of the mind and its innate buddha qualities (typical proponents are Dölpopa and his followers, including Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Tayé). "Expanse Shentong" means that buddha nature’s wisdom itself is free from any reference points, which emphasizes the space-like quality of mind’s nature. This approach, which is highlighted by the Lamp’s frequent use of the word "expanse" in connection with, or as a synonym for, the tathāgata heart, is also predominant in the sections of the Eighth Karmapa’s commentary on the Abhisamayālaṃkāra that discuss Shentong and in the writings of the Sixth Shamarpa, Chökyi Wangchug.[5]

      The Lamp also contains some Mahāmudrā elements, such as speaking several times of instantaneous awakening or buddhahood, the dharmakāya’s being nothing but self-aware wisdom realizing itself, the knots of discriminating thinking being undone, and the power of yoga, without thinking, relinquishing all improper conceptions. (pp. 323-324)

  1. The notes provide references to the relevant verses in the first chapter of the Uttaratantra, pertinent passages in RGVV, and some sūtra sources. The additional comments in the notes are mostly based on the explanations by Khenpo Tsültrim Gyatso Rinpoche.
  2. Tib. dbyings gzhan stong.
  3. Tib. ye shes gzhan stong
  4. Tib. gsal ba gzhan stong
  5. See Brunnhölzl 2010 and 2007a, 344–57 (particularly 348–51).

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