From Buddha-Nature


Pith Instructions on "The Treatise on the Ultimate Continuum of the Mahāyāna"

One of only two extant Sanskrit texts that comment on the Uttaratantra, this highly original work by Sajjana presents a contemplative approach to Maitreya's treatise from an author that was the veritable source for the Tibetan exegetical traditions spawned by his students Ngok Loden Sherab and Tsen Khawoche.

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This is the essential source text for all lineages of Uttaratantra commentary in Tibet.

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Description from When the Clouds Part

As for the contents of Sajjana’s text, it is significant that its title identifies it as a "pith instruction" (upadeśa) on the Uttaratantra and not as a summary (saṃgraha, piṇḍārtha, or the like). Indeed, the text is not just a simple synopsis of Maitreya’s text but also presents Sajjana’s original interpretation that is based on his own contemplative approach to the Uttaratantra. Generally speaking, verses 1–15 of SM outline a contemplative system based on the seven vajra points, and verses 16–27 teach how "the threefold nature" of the basic element (the dharmakāya, suchness, and the disposition as briefly summarized in Uttaratantra I.27–28), the ten topics, and the nine examples fit into this system and flesh it out. In particular, Sajjana (explicitly or implicitly) reveals the mutual correlations between the Uttaratantra's key themes of "the threefold nature," the ten topics, the nine examples, and the nine afflictions illustrated by these examples. These correlations can be regarded as a brief contemplative manual for using the contents of the Uttaratantra (in particular its first chapter) as a soteriological path.

      This soteriological approach to the Uttaratantra is explicitly outlined in verses 2–4, 6–7, 10–27, and 29–30. The purpose of teaching the ultimate refuge, the Buddha, is to generate bodhicitta, which eventually results in the attainment of full awakening (verses 2–3), through showing the ultimate fruition of this bodhicitta. Besides the well-known twofold classification of the disposition for awakening (the tathāgata heart) into the naturally abiding disposition and the accomplished (or unfolding) disposition (verse 10), Sajjana also presents his own threefold classification as the disposition that is suchness, naturally abiding, and accomplished (verse 15). He says that, in general, those who gradually purify the tathāgata heart progress through the paths of accumulation, preparation, seeing, and familiarization (verse 6). However, the actual path in terms of the unfolding of the naturally abiding disposition begins only with the path of seeing (verse 10), when the tathāgata heart is directly seen for the first time. In order to accomplish this, the causes or focal objects of the path of purifying the tathāgata heart are six—the three jewels and the three conditions that consist of the awakening of a buddha, its qualities, and the resulting enlightened activity for sentient beings, with the latter primarily manifesting as the teaching of the profound and the vast (verses 11–12). In particular, the three jewels manifest as (external) conditions for those who have not yet gathered the accumulations of merit and wisdom (verse 4).

      Based on these causes and conditions, those who wish to reveal their tathāgata heart should engage in reflection and familiarization by relying on the ten topics discussing the basic element (verse 7). Among these ten topics, to contemplate (1) the "nature" of the basic element represents the foundation of the path. This nature is matured or comes to life through (2) its "cause" (faith in the dharma, supreme prajñā, samādhi, and compassion). To reflect on (3) "fruition" leads to firm conviction in the Buddhist path. Thus, the contemplation of topics (1)–(3) makes one free from mundane desire, that is, one is left only with the latencies of desire, hatred, and ignorance. Through contemplating (4) the "function" of the tathāgata heart (weariness of suffering and striving for nirvāṇa), one actually engages in the path. (5) "Endowment" in terms of the basic element’s being associated with three causal and three resultant qualities makes up the path of seeing. (6) "Manifestation" (the suchness of ordinary beings, noble ones, and buddhas) is the basis of the path of familiarization. The actual path of familiarization consists of (7) "phases" and (8) "all-pervasiveness," which leads to the relinquishment of obscurations such as aiming at lesser forms of awakening. The evolution of the path on the last three bhūmis is due to (9) the "changelessness" of the dharmadhātu. For, by virtue of its being nonempty, unbound, inexhaustible, and unceasing, the dharmadhātu has the intrinsic nature of nonconceptuality. That the final fruition of the path can be reasonably expected to occur is due to the nature of (10) the "inseparability" of the tathāgata heart and all buddha qualities, due to which it is identical with the final result of the path (verses 16–19). In this way, the ten topics not only describe the stages of the entire path, but the reflection on, and familiarization with, them is what actually constitutes the path. (pp. 290-292)

Text Metadata

Text exists in ~ Sanskrit
Commentary of ~ Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra