Ye shes kyi 'jog sa

From Buddha-Nature

LibraryCommentariesYe shes kyi 'jog sa

ye shes kyi 'jog sa
The Repository of Wisdom
One of a series of short texts by the Kadam scholar Kyotön Mönlam Tsultrim, which represent an intersection between the works of Maitreya, particularly the Ratnagotravibhāga, and the practical instructions of Mahāmudrā.
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Description from When the Clouds Part

Given its unique title and its contents, there is no doubt that this text (RW) is identical with the text of the same name (Ye shes kyi bzhag sa) mentioned in BA in the context of the early transmission of the five texts of Maitreya above. Just as IM, RW was given to Séu Chökyi Gyaltsen but seems to represent Mönlam Tsültrim’s own oral instructions (for the most part in the form of questions and answers) that are based on the lineage of Dsen Kawoché and the Uttaratantra. Similar to IM, the style and contents of RW conform with both the Shentong view and direct Mahāmudrā instructions on realizing adventitious confusion, thoughts, and afflictions as mind’s natural luminosity, that is, self-arisen nonconceptual wisdom.

      In line with what Dsen Kawoché is reported to have said to Sajjana about why he wishes to study the works of Maitreya, RW begins by declaring that the texts of Maitreya are the ones into which one should put one’s trust when making a teaching one’s "death dharma." In particular, the Uttaratantra is said to be Maitreya’s instruction on true actuality, which is contained in the text’s seven vajra points. This is followed by describing buddha, dharma, and saṃgha (the first three vajra points) based on the corresponding verses of the Uttaratantra, but explaining them primarily in terms of mind’s luminosity and self-arisen nonconceptual wisdom.

      Next, the text speaks about the fourth vajra point—the basic element— versus the adventitious stains that obscure it. Interestingly, a "sentient being" is equated here with these obscurations, which consist of thoughts or conceptions (in the widest sense of this term as the all-pervasive and unceasing activity of saṃsāric mind constructing its own world in terms of subject-object appearances). Mind’s natural luminosity is unchanging and beyond any need for purification or remedy, and the mahāyāna is explained from an internal perspective as the union of prajñā and compassion within this luminosity. The two types of disposition—the naturally abiding disposition and the accomplished disposition—are defined respectively as the unconditioned dharmakāya and the weariness of saṃsāra that is the seed for realizing the luminosity that is the naturally abiding disposition. Ultimately, there are no beings with "cut-off disposition," since this term refers only to the lack of faith in the mahāyāna in certain beings.

      As for the fifth vajra point, the text defines the dharmakāya as mind’s natural purity’s having become pure of all stains of thought. What is called "buddha wisdom" refers to the realization of the actuality that is inexpressible and inconceivable by the stains of thought. This wisdom of buddhas is said to know what appears to sentient beings through wisdom (realizing the luminosity of the minds of these beings to be as pure as their own) as well as compassion (realizing that the adventitious stains of these beings are actually nonexistent). In this way, buddhas are able to promote the welfare of sentient beings through wisdom and compassion (the seventh vajra point). The sixth vajra point is touched upon later by mentioning the major and minor marks of the two rūpakāyas.

      The text says that when meditating in the tradition of Maitreya, there are two ways of thoughts disintegrating, which never mix—either through analyzing how characteristics of having an intrinsic nature appear and what their actual nature is or without depending on meditating on an image that appears in the mind.

      Both rūpakāyas are explained as being nothing but appearances of images of samādhi and wisdom in those to be guided. Through gaining certainty that they are appearances of one’s own mind, on the bhūmis, they appear as sambhogakāyas. When apprehended as independently existing buddhas outside of one’s mind, they appear as nirmāṇakāyas.

      The text denies the existence of any external objects—all appearances are appearances of one’s own thoughts.

      Elaborating on the difference between ordinary beings and bodhisattvas, our text explains that the former cling to the real existence of the conceptions that obscure their buddha nature, while bodhisattvas realize all appearances to be illusion-like. Since ordinary beings do not recognize appearances for the illusions that they are, they lack altruistic compassion. Since bodhisattvas recognize the clinging to real existence as luminosity, their realizations are not just realizations for their own benefit (as in śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas). This also means that pure buddha realms such as Sukhāvatī are experienced by them right here and now, while such realms are obscured in ordinary beings.

      The text separates ultimate reality and seeming reality, saying that self-arisen wisdom exists, while thoughts and their objects (adventitious stains) do not exist. The ultimate is equated with buddhahood and the seeming is equated with sentient beings. Furthermore, from what RW says in different places, seeming reality is also equated with adventitious stains and thoughts, while ultimate reality is equivalent to the dharmakāya and nonconceptual wisdom free from adventitious stains or thoughts. Still, the text also says that "the essence of thoughts is self-arisen wisdom—the dharmadhātu," that "at the time of realizing their luminosity, thoughts are self-arisen wisdom—the dharmakāya," and "from the perspective of a buddha [even] a single subtle thought in itself is [wisdom]." Such statements are obviously equivalent to the Kagyü Mahāmudrā hallmark "the essence of thoughts is dharmakāya." At first glance, this seems to be an assertion of both Dölpopa’s separation of ultimate and seeming reality and the Kagyü Mahāmudrā approach (thus not following Dölpopa’s critique of this approach by strictly separating the two realities and saying that the permanent ultimate beyond the three times cannot be the nature of what is adventitious and impermanent). However, as mentioned before, since all phenomena of seeming reality are not really existent in the first place (and Dölpopa and Mahāmudrā agree on this), there is always only one ultimately real phenomenon to begin with, which is buddha nature or mind’s natural luminosity. Therefore, there is only a single actual reality, and thus any presentation of two separate realities is necessarily of expedient meaning.

      Just like the Eighth Karmapa’s Lamp, RW says that the existence of self-arisen wisdom is beyond the reach of Madhyamaka because Madhyamaka dismantles only the conditioned adventitious stains of this wisdom through stopping the clinging to their real existence.

      IM also brings up the question about the difference between the self-awareness of Mere Mentalism and self-arisen wisdom, if that wisdom is said to exist. In reply, the text says that the assertion of all appearances’ being appearances of thoughts accords with Mere Mentalism. Here, however, it is held that when the luminosity of thoughts is realized, they are self-arisen wisdom—the dharmakāya. All of this accords with the typical Shentong distinction between Mere Mentalism and Shentong in terms of the final word’s being the ultimate existence of mind versus the ultimate existence of nonconceptual or self-arisen wisdom.

      Throughout, RW says that self-arisen wisdom exists primordially and that it just needs to be made manifest with all its qualities through seeing its adventitious obscurations for what they are—mere illusion-like thoughts without any real existence. This is said to be similar to the removal of dross from a precious gem. As for the progressive process of removing or rather liberating thoughts, the thoughts of ordinary beings are liberated through the thoughts of śrāvakas, while those of the latter are liberated through the thoughts of bodhisattvas. Finally, all thoughts of bodhisattvas dissolve through being liberated as uncreated buddha wisdom. (pp. 317-320)

Philosophical positions of this text

It is based on the tradition of Tsen Kawoché.

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Other Titles ~ ye shes kyi bzhag sa
Text exists in ~ Tibetan