Theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos kyi bshad pa nges don nor bu'i mdzod

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LibraryCommentariesTheg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos kyi bshad pa nges don nor bu'i mdzod


ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོ་རྒྱུད་བླ་མའི་བསྟན་བཅོས་ཀྱི་བཤད་པ་ངེས་དོན་ནོར་བུའི་མཛོད།
theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos kyi bshad pa nges don nor bu'i mdzod
A Treasury of Jewels of the Definitive Meaning: An Explanation of the Treatise on the Ultimate Continuum of the Mahāyāna
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According to Brunnhölzl, this work "clearly subscribes to the disclosure model of buddha nature, asserting that the stainless tathāgata heart adorned with all major and minor marks as well as awakening exists in all beings, refuting that the reality of cessation is a nonimplicative negation, and denying the position that the fully qualified sugata heart exists solely on the buddhabhūmi, while it is only nominal at the time of sentient beings. Also, besides CMW and Mipham’s commentary, YDC is the only other commentary I have reviewed that explicitly connects the name and contents of the Uttaratantra with the vajrayāna notion of tantra, thus underlining the text’s reputation as a bridge between the sūtras and tantras."

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Description from When the Clouds Part

Yeshé Dorje Bal Sangpo[1] (born fourteenth century) from Minyag in Kham was a student of the Karma Kamtsang master Masé Dönpa Rinchen Sangpo[2] (1317–1383), the second Kangar[3] Lama. The latter is known as one of "the five learned ones from Minyag" and was a student of the Third and Fourth Karmapas, Dölpopa, Butön, and several Kadampa masters.

      Yeshé Dorje’s commentary (YDC) is not translated in full here, but relevant excerpts are included as notes to the translations of RGVV and CMW as well as in appendices 5 and 6. The colophon of Yeshé Dorje’s text says that it was composed on the basis of the oral teachings by his guru and through bringing together many commentaries on the sūtras of definitive meaning and numerous expositions composed by former masters. Accordingly, YDC quotes many sūtras and also a great number of tantric sources (notably, it cites Nāgārjuna’s Dharmadhātustava several times). The commentary occasionally refers to the Sanskrit of the Uttaratantra, several times to differences in its translations by Nagtso Lotsāwa, Ngog Lotsāwa, Patsab Lotsāwa, and (once) a Lhotragpa Dharma Sengé, as well as frequently referring to comments by Dölpopa, Ngog Lotsāwa, Chaba Chökyi Sengé, Bang Lotsawa[4] (1276–1342), and Masé Dönpa Rinchen Sangpo. Once, YDC also mentions the Third Karmapa.

      At the very end of YDC, there is a list of lineage gurus up through Yeshé Dorje’s own teacher (it is not clear whether this is Yeshé Dorje’s own list). Interestingly, the list contains Maitreya, Asaṅga, Vasubandhu, Sthiramati, Gayādhara (994-1043),[5] Ratnavajra, and Sajjana on the Indian side, while all the figures on the Tibetan side, beginning with Ngog Lotsāwa as Sajjana’s student, are Kadampa teachers—Shang Tsebong Chökyi Lama,[6] Nyangtrenpa Chökyi Yeshé,[7] Chaba Chökyi Sengé,[8] Mawé Sengé,[9] Lotsāwa Sherab Dsöndrü,[10] a Lama Wengewa,[11] Chöbal Gyaltsen,[12] a Dashi Sengé,[13] and Masé Dönpa.

      YDC clearly subscribes to the disclosure model of buddha nature, asserting that the stainless tathāgata heart adorned with all major and minor marks as well as awakening exists in all beings, refuting that the reality of cessation is a nonimplicative negation, and denying the position that the fully qualified sugata heart exists solely on the buddhabhūmi, while it is only nominal at the time of sentient beings. Also, besides CMW and Mipham’s commentary, YDC is the only other commentary I have reviewed that explicitly connects the name and contents of the Uttaratantra with the vajrayāna notion of tantra, thus underlining the text’s reputation as a bridge between the sūtras and tantras. In addition, YDC’s concluding verses say that the Uttaratantra is far distant from extreme views and excellently teaches the supreme middle path free from reference points.

      YDC contains two interesting general presentations on the basic element and the purpose of teaching the tathāgata heart (for details, see appendices 5 and 6). The first one refutes several wrong views about the tathāgata heart (such as its being mere awareness, a nonimplicative negation, or the skandhas) and elaborates on the natures of the naturally abiding and the unfolding dispositions. The second presentation begins by identifying the three dharma wheels by following the Dhāraṇīśvararājasūtra and then distinguishes between what is of expedient meaning and of definitive meaning in these three according to the Saṃdhinirmocanasūtra. The second dharma wheel is said to teach primarily the way in which the phenomena of which the basis of emptiness is empty do not exist, while the third wheel teaches mainly that basis of emptiness. Therefore, there is no inner contradiction between these two dharma wheels. In particular, YDC refutes that the teaching on the tathāgata heart is one that bears an intention because its claimed bases of intention are not tenable, its purpose is not established, and there is no invalidation of this teaching. Also, the emptiness taught in the buddha nature sūtras and the Uttaratantra is not "the emptiness of one’s being empty of something other," which is said to be the worst kind of emptiness in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, but corresponds to this sūtra’s "great ultimate emptiness of the wisdom of the noble ones."[14] Finally, YDC denies that the Uttaratantra is a work that belongs to Mere Mentalism. (pp. 309-310)

  1. Tib. Ye shes rdo rje dpal bzang po.
  2. Tib. Rma se ston pa rin chen bzang po.
  3. Tib. Gangs dkar.
  4. Tib. Dpang lo tsā ba blo gros brtan pa. He was a teacher of Longchenpa, Yagtön, and, according to Yeshé Dorje, a guru of his guru.
  5. He was a teacher of Drogmi Lotsāwa (Tib. ’Brog mi lo tsā ba; 992/993–1043?/1072?), transmitting Virūpa’s teachings, which represent the foundation of the Sakya School.
  6. Tib. Zhang tshe spong chos kyi bla ma. He was a student of Ngog Lotsāwa and the third abbot of Sangpu.
  7. Tib. Nyang bran pa chos kyi ye shes.
  8. He was the sixth abbot of Sangpu.
  9. Tib. Smra ba’i seng ge. This must be Dan bag pa smra ba’i seng ge, a student of Chaba Chökyi Sengé.
  10. Tib. Shes rab brtson ’grus.
  11. Tib. Bla ma dben dge ba.
  12. Tib. Chos dpal rgyal mtshan. There was a teacher of Longchenpa by this name (it is also an alias of Longchenpa himself, but there is no evidence that he was part of this lineage).
  13. Tib. Bkra shis seng ge.
  14. In the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, the Buddha lists seven kinds of emptiness, among which the last one is called "the emptiness of one being empty of something other" (itaretaraśūnyatā). This emptiness is described in terms very similar to those in the Cūlasuññatasutta. The Buddha says (Nanjio ed., 75.10–19; D107, fol. 85a.2–5) that something is empty of what does not exist in it. The place where he and his saṃgha are residing at present is only empty of elephants, cattle, goats, and so on, but is not empty of the assembly of monks. It is not the case that this place itself or the monks in it do not exist. Nor is it the case that elephants, cattle, goats, and so on, do not exist as entities in other places. Though the Buddha portrays this emptiness as the most inferior kind of emptiness that is to be abandoned, as Mathes (2011b, 195–96) points out, what is empty and what remains within emptiness in terms of this emptiness and the emptiness as described in texts such as the Madhyāntavibhāga, the Uttaratantra, and RGVV differ considerably. Though the wording may appear to be similar in both cases, Mathes says, "there is after all a difference between negating the existence of elephants in a certain place and categorically negating duality. Otherwise, one could also claim that the absence of an inherently existing vase in a dependently arisen vase is inferior emptiness. Moreover, it is unlikely that the Laṅkāvatārasūtra which largely endorses Yogācāra philosophy intends to dismiss the emptiness of the three nature theory as itaretaraśūnyatā." That is, the negation that elephants exist in a certain place is a very limited negation because it refers to only one particular phenomenon in one particular place, while the general existence of elephants in other places or the existence of other phenomena is not negated. By contrast, the categorical negation of any dualistic phenomena that appear anywhere as a subject or an object or the negation of the totality of adventitious stains in the tathāgata heart are as encompassing forms of negation as can be. The negation of an inherently existing or really established vase in a dependently arising vase is the typical Gelugpa presentation of what is and what is not to be negated, respectively, in Madhyamaka. However, as some Tibetan masters point out, this can also be considered as a case of the inferior emptiness of one being empty of something other or as an inferior form of shentong ("empty of other"), which only pertains to the level of seeming reality since the dependently arising vase is said to exist on that level while being empty of inherent existence. As for emptiness with regard to the three natures, it would be self-contradictory for the Laṅkāvatārasūtra, as a Yogācāra text, to implicitly refer to the Yogācāra hallmark of the perfect nature’s being the dependent nature’s being empty of the imaginary nature as being the worst kind of emptiness that is to be discarded. It is also important in this context to note that the Laṅkāvatārasūtra ’s introductory passage to its list of seven emptinesses (Nanjio ed., 74.1–5; D107, fol. 84b.1–2) explicitly says that "emptiness" is a word for the imaginary nature, and that it is because people cling to the imaginary nature that there is a need to speak about emptiness, nonarising, the lack of existence, nonduality, and the lack of nature. By contrast, "the great ultimate emptiness of the wisdom of the noble ones" (paramārthayajñānamahāśūnyatā) in the Laṅkāvatārasūtra (Nanjio ed., 75.7–9; D107, fol. 85a.1–2.) is said to be the realization of the personally experienced wisdom of the noble ones and is empty of all latent tendencies of views and flaws. Taking all of this into account, it should be obvious that "the great ultimate emptiness of the wisdom of the noble ones" accords much better with emptiness as presented in the Uttaratantra and RGVV than "the emptiness of one being empty of something other." See also the conclusion of appendix 6.

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Text exists in ~ Tibetan
Commentary of ~ Ratnagotravibhāga Mahāyānottaratantraśāstra