Preliminary Teachings to the Kalachakra Initiation
by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
on The Thirty-seven Practices of Bodhisattvas
Translator: Jeffery Hopkins
Santa Monica, California
I will be lecturing on The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas by the Bodhisattva Togmey. When one engages in lecturing on or attending a lecture, hearing about the Buddhist religion in general and in this case the doctrine of the Great Vehicle, it is necessary first to go for refuge. One then practices altruistic mind generation to make the mind more altruistic. This is why we will repeat together the basic refuge formula three times.
Before beginning to lecture on The Thirty-Seven Practices of Bodhisattvas, I will give a general presentation of the structure of the Buddhist system. As is well known, there are in general the system of the Theravada and the Vehicle of Bodhisattvas. Within the Vehicle of Bodhisattvas as a sub-division there is the Vehicle of Mantra or Tantra. There are these three. I think most of you know that the Tibetan system practices all three yanas. The Theravada system concerns oneself and is practiced as a foundation. The main practice is the understanding or realization of suffering. Following these are the three practices of ethics, samadhi (or focusing our mental force sometimes called one-pointedness of mind) and then wisdom or deeper awareness of the ultimate nature, a deeper awareness of selflessness, the non-soul theory Without the practice of these things you can not practice the Bodhisattvayana. This must be taken as a foundation or basis.
On top of the foundation is the teaching of Mahayana or Sutrayana. The focus is on the proper development of infinite altruism on the basis of love and compassion. The actual implementation of the altruistic mind is the Six Paramitas or Six Perfections; giving, ethics, patience, effort, concentration and wisdom. This is the basic structure of the Mahayana or Sutrayana teachings.
In Tantrayana there are four different classes; Kriya, Carya, Yoga and Annutarayoga Tantra. Unifying all four tantric classes is a special technique to develop or increase the power of the combination of mental energy and wisdom, a meditative stabilization, which is the union of, calm- abiding of the mind with special insight. This involves deity yoga or the practice of visualizing oneself as a deity. This is the style of the Tantrayana.
In Annutarayoga tantra the special technique uses a special level of mind or consciousness. In order to develop or transform the subtlest level of consciousness into wisdom, one must first subdue the grosser levels of mind. Therefore in this system, in order to ascertain or to discriminate between these various levels of consciousness, it is necessary to engage in techniques whereby they can be manifested and identified. This is where physical practices that involve the channels, winds and drops of subtle matter are used.
This is the Tibetan system, which usually I call the complete form of Buddha’s teaching.
Now though the main teaching is the Kalachakra system in order to receive this initiation one needs preparation. Without preparing one’s mind one can not receive proper initiation. However if one had to be completely qualified even I could not be qualified. However all of us have to make effort to achieve at least this bottom line of these qualifications. These teachings will give you some sort of foundation.
Spiritual development does not take place over a few hours, that is impossible. It takes years and years of practice. From the Buddhist perspective, we accept rebirth and that the subtle consciousness has no beginning or end. The grosser levels of consciousness, particularly those negative emotions have no beginning but an end. Generally speaking the subtler level of consciousness has no beginning or end and because of that, the self itself has neither beginning nor end. Therefore we count eons, not minutes, hours or weeks. Rather we count eons. Take time for the proper development of spiritual experiences.
The person with determination to realize a meaningful goal or purpose does not worry about the time it takes to achieve it. When one develops such an attitude then time seems shorter. The opposite is true. When one is very worried about time then it takes more time. Spiritual development takes time and there is no reason to be discouraged about it. Since this is the case even if you can not quickly achieve realizations it is very important to get a sense of the whole breadth of the path from beginning to end.
In the Heart Sutra there is a line where one is committing oneself not to engage in any ill-deeds and to engage in as much virtue as possible. Therefore what are ill-deeds? Ill-deeds are those actions which when one engages in them have as their fruition suffering. What is virtue? Virtues are actions which when one engages in them they bear their fruit as happiness. It can be said generally speaking, ill-deeds are those actions which when you engage in them bring about an ill-feeling, an unhappiness of mind and/or body for other beings and will bring to you suffering. Generally speaking also those actions which when you engage in them bring about mental or physical happiness or both to others, will in the future bring to you as their fruition happiness.
The non-engagement in non-virtues and engagement in virtues depends on one’s mind so it is necessary to tame one’s mind. Thus it is extremely important to examine, to inspect one’s own mind; to examine the undisciplined states of mind and tame them. This is dharma. This is religion.
Among the many types of living beings there are different types of mental levels, different types of consciousness. In deed humans have the best type of consciousness for taking on new practices and so forth. Thus this lifetime as a human is very valuable. There are many differences within the appearance of human beings but even greater are the variety of dispositions, interests, predispositions, levels of intelligence and so forth among humans.
As is said in The Expression of the Names of Manjusri, “Due to the fact that sentient beings are of many varieties and different types of dispositions, intelligence and so forth, there are many different techniques set forth for them”. However all of them are one in the sense that they are techniques for training and taming the mind.
Since it is the case that beings are of such a great variety of dispositions and so forth, this means there has to be many different types of techniques. All of these techniques then have to be appropriately helpful for those beings. Now it is the case that in the end one needs to remove all mistaken notions or mistaken attitudes. In order to do this it is necessary to have an unmistaken view. Thus it means that from among these many different systems and these many different views, it is important to determine through reasoning which have a valid foundation through reasoning and which do not have a valid foundation through reasoning.
Therefore in sutra itself Buddha said that it is very important to depend upon reasoning. Buddha said, “O monks and scholars you should examine my words as a goldsmith examines gold before acquiring it; by scorching it, cutting it and rubbing it. You should not accept my word just out of respect for me”. Therefore it is said that in the end one must depend on reasoning in order to make these final decisions about the correct view and so forth. It would be very difficult just to use scripture.
Thus the four modes of procedure for the examination of phenomena come to be very important. These four are a mode of procedure that is a looking into the nature of things, looking into causal dependence, an examination of the performance of function and a proving by way of logic.
It is a natural fact of things that external and internal phenomena have their own characteristic properties. For instance external phenomena have a character of materiality that can be measured. Internal phenomena here refers to consciousness which is something which is not physical, that is luminous, that has a cognitive nature. It is just natural that these have defining characteristics. It is just a natural fact that there are persons, that one’s self does exist. It is also just a natural fact that one’s self wants happiness and does not want suffering, it is a natural fact. These are not characteristics, which have developed adventitiously or temporarily. They are right in the nature of things.
The next mode of procedure of the examination of phenomena is to look into their performance of function. Due to the various causes and conditions that produce them, they can perform a variety of functions. Through making a study of the relationship between cause and effect, one can understand, can predict, what will come in the future because of the specific types of activities that certain functions that specific causes and conditions produce.
In terms of the mode of the procedure of looking into or examining dependence, for instance within chemistry, you can have two chemical agents. One can talk about the cause being former and the effect later however these are even things, which can have simultaneous effects on each other. This is dependence. For instance when you bring together these two chemicals, due to their activity they produce some new manifestation. That new manifestation itself can produce some other different manifestation.
The way that one uses objects to bring about the happiness one wants and get rid of suffering is to examine these external phenomena in terms of their basic nature, the nature they naturally have. Then in combination with that, one examines the synthetic effects, which come about through the proximity of this type of material with another. This type of examination is the basic procedure for gaining happiness and getting rid of suffering through external substances.
Similarly also internally, we have many different types of consciousnesses, many different types of conceptuality. These need to be identified. Take for instance the attitudes of love and compassion, and a mind realizing emptiness and a mind realizing impermanence; even though they may not be related in a causal sense there is a relationship of dependence. When you have love or compassion and you engage in meditation on impermanence or emptiness, then this effects that meditation. Thus there comes to be wisdom that is effected by compassion, compassion that is effected by wisdom. A synthesis comes out of them and then that synthesis itself comes to produce other types of effects.
The last type of reasoning is by logic. This is to understand that if such-and-such is so then another thing would be so.
This covers analysis but who or what is the analyzer? The analyzer is the self or person. By what means does the person analyze? With consciousness? Specifically coarser or finer forms of investigation?
What kind of a consciousness is needed? What’s needed is valid cognition. This means a consciousness that understands the object exactly as it is, not as some other way, without superimposing something that is not so.
Within the Buddhist systems there are varying presentations of increasing subtlety with regard to the topic of valid cognition. An example is the differences between the Prasangika School and the lower schools. It is for these very reasons that in Buddhism there is a very fine presentation of the various types, functions and so forth of valid cognition.
Within valid cognition there are two types; direct perception and inference. Direct perception involves knowing the object directly without engaging in reasoning. Whereas the type of consciousness that engages in analysis is mainly that of inference which has to be a very clever type of consciousness that is engaged in investigation. Indeed inference flows from direct experience and it also flows to direct experience. Thus experience is very important.
In the Buddhist texts the focus of analysis between the two types of objects of analysis, these being matter and consciousness, is consciousness. The focus is consciousness. That which is doing the analyzing is also consciousness. Within consciousness it is mainly inference. The purpose of engaging in such investigation and analysis is to generate a mind in which the untamed factors of the mind have been removed, a mind that is completely tamed. Thus the object of analysis, that which is the means of analysis and that, which is the purpose of analysis, is all consciousness; mind.
This is indeed what the ideal situation is supposed to be. Even nowadays there are people achieving unusual experiences. Indeed for those people who are meditating in a profound way using various internal factors of the body, which bring about changes in consciousness, this is very interesting, very profound.
We have our laboratory right inside our own heads. So even if externally there may be many different types of appearances, people with blond hair, black hair and so forth. The internal laboratory is all the same.
Since this is the case if you examine with reasoning and determine that there is a contradiction in what has been said, then one must consider what has been said to require interpretation. Therefore in the Great Vehicle scriptures the system of there being both literal and non-literal teachings is set forth frequently. Even within the teaching of Buddha himself there are teachings, which are contradictory, contradict themselves. How do they come to be contradictory? There is a purpose. The one, which is set forth literally, that is literally acceptable, accords with reasoning. But the one that does not accord with reasoning is not acceptable literally. The Buddha taught it though for a specific reason, for a specific situation and purpose in accordance with the situation of the listener. Thus from this point of view one should respect both the literal and non-literal teachings.
This itself is a great help to understand why and how one should respect other religions. As I have been saying recently this great supermarket of religions that we have in the world, the many different religions have something to offer which is suitable for certain types of beings. Thus by looking how within Buddhism itself one respects even non-literal teachings, this can help to gain appreciation and openness to the value of all other types of religious systems.
For instance if we consider two teachings by Buddha, one in The Sutra Unraveling The Thought in which Buddha explained the thought behind his teaching the Perfection of Wisdom sutras that all phenomena do not inherently exist. It explains in this sutra that Buddha had something else behind that teaching in that actually other-powered phenomena and the thoroughly established nature of phenomena do inherently or truly exist whereas imputational natures do not. The Mind-Only school accepts The Sutra Unraveling the Thought as its own basic system. However the Madhyamika or Middle Way school follows the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. From this point of view all phenomena do not inherently exist. No phenomena inherently exist. Thus from the point of view of the Madhyamika, the Mind-Only school has fallen into the extreme of permanence in that it is holding that other-powered phenomena and the thoroughly established natures of phenomena inherently or truly exist. They also have fallen into an extreme of nihilism in that they do not accept that there are external objects.
These are both sutras set forth by the same teacher. They are both systems of tenets following the same teacher but they are very different ideas. From the point of view of the Mind-Only school, the Madhyamikas have fallen to the extreme of nihilism.
Similarly from a Buddhist viewpoint if one looks at those religious systems that assert an eternal deity that creates everything, that system has probably fallen to an extreme of permanence. This is because the deity is viewed as permanent, unitary and is under its own power. Those systems have also fallen to an extreme of nihilism in that they are not accepting the cause and effect of karma. However from the point of view of those systems, the Buddhists because they do not accept a creator of the world have fallen to an extreme of nihilism.
These modes of explanation are indeed very different but they are appropriate to help different types of sentient beings. From this point of view you can respect all of them. As I mentioned earlier, what is the purpose of engaging in analysis? It is because one wants happiness and doesn’t want suffering. In order to bring about happiness and get rid of suffering it is necessary to engage in techniques. It is from this point of view that Buddha set forth the Four Noble Truths. In these four there are two sets of cause and effect. The first set is first the effects of suffering and the causes of them are the sources of suffering; ignorance and attachment. This is what one wants to overcome, to get rid of. So that one class of the first two Noble Truths are of what one wants to overcome.
What does one want to achieve? One wants to achieve happiness, not some kind of temporary happiness but a final happiness, a permanent peace in which all suffering has been extinguished. Even if there is not the feeling, technically what is called the feeling of happiness, it is a blissful state devoid of all suffering. This is what one is seeking to achieve.
The Third Noble Truth is of true cessation of suffering and the causes of suffering. The Fourth Truth is the causes to bring about that effect. Those causes being true paths.
What are the effects of meditating on the Four Noble Truths? When one meditates on true suffering one recognizes, one understands, one’s situation of suffering. This generates a wish to overcome this suffering. When one looks into the fact of whether the overcoming of suffering depends on causes or not. It does depend upon causes. Thus it is necessary to identify what the causes of suffering are.
When one looks into the sources of suffering one understands that they are two-fold. These are afflictive emotions and actions contaminated by the afflictive emotions. Whose afflictive emotions? Whose afflictive actions are these? These are our own. It is do to our own afflictive emotions and our own actions contaminated with these afflictive emotions which entrap us in cyclic existence. When one recognizes this, that it depends upon oneself, one develops a wish to actualize the cessation of these sources of suffering. One understands that it is possible to overcome suffering since it depends on causes, which are within oneself. When one carries out the implications of this, then one develops a wish to practice to achieve the paths that will bring about such a cessation.
Within the true paths are the three trainings in ethics, meditative stabilization and wisdom. This is the mode of procedure of the Theravada way.
When one realizes that oneself is caught in cyclic existence by this process of causation, one knows with respect to oneself that there is no possibility of happiness as long as one is under the control of contaminated actions and afflictive emotions. Based on this once you have understood this with respect to yourself, then you can extend this understanding with respect to other beings. They similarly want happiness and don’t want suffering. One can understand that other sentient beings equally can not have happiness as long as they are under the control of afflictive emotions and contaminated actions. From this point of view one develops love and compassion and engages in the practices of the Six Perfections, the practices of Bodhisattvas and so forth to bring about freedom from suffering and the gaining of happiness for all sentient beings.
In the Great Vehicle scriptures a great deal of emphasis is placed on the topic of the final nature of phenomena, emptiness. Thus a very important topic in the Great Vehicle scriptures is that of the Two Truths. The presentation of the Two Truths is called the presentation of the basis. The Two Truths refer to the class of phenomena, these appearances that necessarily are dependent arisings. The ultimate truth is their emptiness of being under their own power. Once appearances are under the influence of causes and conditions they are necessarily empty of independence. This lack of independence is the ultimate truth. This is the presentation of the basis.
In dependence on the presentation of the basis is the presentation or practice of the path. The path being the accumulation of the two collections of merit and wisdom. The class of merit having to do with appearances and the class of wisdom mainly having to do with the ultimate nature of phenomena. In dependence upon these two collections, on the path, which has the nature of these two collections, one achieves a double-effect. This double-effect is the Form Bodies of a Buddha and the Truth Body of a Buddha. Thus these three sets of two are all based on the primal set which is that of the Two Truths.
What one achieves in Buddhahood are the two bodies; the Truth Body which is the fulfillment of one’s own welfare and the Form Body which is for the sake of others’ welfare.
What is the special feature of Secret Mantra for the speedy achievement of a meditative stabilization that is a union of a calm abiding of the mind and of special insight into the nature of reality? One of the most important features for the speedy development of a meditative stabilization that is a union of calm abiding and of special insight comes in Highest Yoga tantra. In Highest Yoga tantra the basis one is using within one’s meditation are special focal points within the body that assist one in the development of this meditative stabilization. Thus it is said that at this point in the practice of Highest Yoga tantra, even though one does not engage in analytical meditation as it is done in the Perfection or Sutra Vehicle and even though one just sits in stabilizing meditation on these focal points within the body, it is never the less possible and in fact one speedily generates, this meditative stabilization that is a union of calm abiding and of special insight.
In a particular practice of Highest Yoga tantra in which one is seeking to achieve a calm abiding of the mind, at this time it is even possible to remain engaged in analytical meditation. It is not necessary just to do stabilizing meditation. At the point of making use of a blissful consciousness then it is not necessary in the Sutra system to engage in analytical meditation. One can just use stabilizing meditation. This is one of its features.
Also one of the distinctive features of tantra is that in achieving a union of method and wisdom does not in the Sutra system have to make use of consciousnesses that are different entities. In tantra rather within the entity of one consciousness, one has factors of both method and wisdom. This is the special form of the undifferentiability of entity of method or compassion and wisdom in tantra.
Thus these features come mainly by way of the central distinctive feature of tantra, deity yoga. Once deity yoga is a central or focal way by which these distinctive features of tantra come about, there comes to be the importance of mandalas and the generation of oneself as specific deities in specific mandalas. The type of appearance or form of the deity upon which one will meditate depends on the type of afflictive emotion one has or how much conceptuality one has. Thus in dependence on such factors there come to be the Five Lineages of Buddhas which are different types of deities one can take for one’s own particular meditation based on one’s own situation. Since this is the case, among the different classes of tantra there are many different types of deities.
One has to understand how these lower or earlier practices form the foundation and how these other higher practices are added on to them. One has to understand the relationship between them in that the earlier practices are the foundation. For instance in building a house it is necessary to build the lower stories first before building the upper stories of the house. There is no way you can build the upper stories without first having a lower story. Also you can build the first story and not go on for the time being to build the upper stories and you still have something useful. However if you try to build the upper stories first you have nothing.
Therefore those people who think that they can do away with the Sutra Path and immediately cultivate the Mantra or Tantra Path are doing it entirely backwards. Thus it is indeed very important to understand the order of the teachings and practices that one must engage in. As Buddha set forth in The Sutra of King Garanishwara (?) many levels and the order of the teaching. Taking such sutras as their bases the great founders of the doctrine such as Nagarjuna, Asanga, Candrakirti and so forth all with one voice and with one meaning set forth that it is necessary to proceed in a gradual way, to proceed through stages.
However there are cases of unusual people who due to training in former lifetimes can make tremendous progress right in this lifetime. These are not cases however of persons doing the initial ground practices. These are cases where people are leaping over various stages of the path leading to higher levels of practice. These are very individual cases.
We will now turn to the text. It is written by the Bodhisattva Togmey Zangpo who lived about fifty years before … Rinpoche. Togmey Zangpo was not only a great scholar but also a practitioner. During his lifetime he was considered a true Bodhisattva by all. His life story is very remarkable. His main practice was that of Santideva’s Guide to the Bodhisattva’s Way of Life. He did this in connection with the Five Great Texts of Maitreya. I myself have seen his commentaries on Maitreya’s Ornament For The Great Vehicle and his commentary on The Sublime Science or Sublime Continuum Of The Great Vehicle, Uttaratantra.
The first line is in Sanskrit:
Homage to Avalokiteshvara
The homage in Sanskrit stresses the link between the Buddhism in India and Tibet. There are one hundred volumes of text considered to be Buddha’s own teaching with another two hundred and twenty-five volumes written by various India panditas as commentary on the Buddha’s teaching. Some of the volumes deal with grammar but at least two hundred volumes are on Buddha’s teaching. There are three to four volumes from Chinese teachers and the rest are from teachers in Bali and some from Nepal. The most important books are from India. India is considered the source of Buddha’s teaching. Thus there is the custom of using some Sanskrit at the beginning of a text.
The Bodhisattva deity Avalokiteshvara is a manifestation of Buddha’s compassion not necessarily a separate sentient being or separate deity. For a practitioner of an Avalokiteshvara yoga or sadhana eventually that person becomes a Buddha and we may call him or her Avalokiteshvara. In that case they are an individual Avalokiteshvara. Thus there are different meanings to the name Avalokiteshvara. In the one case it is a quality of all Buddhas, their compassion. In the other case it can refer to specific persons.
One Buddha such as Shakyamuni can cause a manifestation of his own compassion as an Avalokiteshvara. When persons achieve Buddhahood although they are equal with all other Buddhas in terms of realization, in terms of their abandonment and although they are equal with all Buddhas in the sense that all defilements have been extinguished in the expanse of reality, this does not mean that they all turn into one person. They are different persons of different continuums. As I mentioned earlier, the individual, subtle consciousness has no end. The Buddhas still posses an individual, subtle consciousness.
What is the reason why Togmey Zangpo pays homage to Avalokiteshvara at the beginning of this text? It is because Avalokiteshvara is the physical manifestation of the compassion of all Buddhas. This is a great topic of the text. Also Togmey Zangpo himself in terms of his main practice, he depended upon Avalokiteshvara as his special deity, this deity of compassion.
Among the qualities of a Buddha, the main quality is that of compassion. It is through the force of compassion that a person engages in accumulating these great collections of merit and wisdom that make Buddhahood possible. Even a Buddha’s qualities of knowledge depend upon compassion. It is through being effected by compassion that the wisdom realizing emptiness becomes this high form of realization. It is only due to that compassion that such profound knowledge is possible.
With regard to the special exalted activities of a Buddha, the activities of a Buddha come by way of the union of pure mind and pure body. These in turn similarly depend upon wisdom that is effected or moved by compassion. Thus compassion is the root again. Thus as Candrakirti said, “Compassion is important in the beginning, middle and end”. All of the great qualities of Buddhahood have their root in compassion.
In the homage it says “to” Avalokiteshvara. The “to” is a translation of the Sanskrit word which can be interpreted in two different ways. One is an interpretation as an accusative and the other as of dative. In any case the meaning here is that one is bowing down to Avalokiteshvara with a wish to attain that sort of state, for the sake of attaining that state. The word homage is explained to mean that one is wishing to actualize one’s own effect refuge.
There is one way of taking refuge that indeed is suitable and it is to put oneself in a lower position in relation to something that is a different entity from oneself. That is indeed suitable but in particular here the reference is to one’s own development of becoming a refuge. One is seeking that state so that the state to which one is paying homage is one’s own future development of being able to afford that type of refuge. This is particular to the Great Vehicle.
From this point of view there is also immeasurable compassion. There is a wish that beings be separated from suffering and there is the compassion in which oneself wishes to free other beings from suffering. The third is a case in which oneself is wishing to protect others from suffering.
Thus in the Great Vehicle compassion refers to not just to a sense of pity for other sentient beings but where oneself wants to bring about help for other beings. This leads one to take on the responsibility of freeing beings from suffering and joining them with happiness.
Respectful homage always through the three doors of body,
speech, and mind
To the supreme lamas and the protector Avalokiteshvara
Who though perceiving that all phenomena have no going or
Make effort single-pointedly for the welfare of transmigrators.
This is a homage both to Avalokiteshvara and to the lamas and gurus who teach one the doctrine. What kind of qualities do supreme lamas and Avalokiteshvara have? The line referring to single-minded effort for others indicates the factor of method, the factor of compassion. Sentient beings are those who are to be freed from suffering. Suffering is that from which they are to be freed. Oneself is the freer of them. One needs to understand that although they appear to inherently exist, sentient beings are empty of inherent existence. Within such understanding one engages in compassionate activity.
What is the meaning of it being said that all phenomena are like illusions? They are like illusions in the sense that they appear to inherently exist but actually do not inherently exist. If they did inherently exist when one sought them analytically their inherent existence should become clearer and clearer. But it does not; it is just the opposite.
If one is not satisfied with the mere appearance of phenomena but seeks to find them under analysis, then when one seeks to find them, such phenomena as going and coming will not be seen in the face of such an analytical consciousness. Thus the text refers to perceiving all phenomena as having no going or coming.
As Nagarjuna says in the expression of worship at the beginning of his Fundamental Treatise On The Middle Way, “If dependently arisen phenomena did have production, cessation, going, coming, sameness, difference and so forth that subsisted in their own nature, then this going, coming, production, cessation and so forth would have to be found when one searches analytically”. But it is not found. Thus this absence of production, cessation, coming, going, sameness and difference in the face of such an analytical consciousness is the final nature of dependently arisen phenomena.
In the face of this analytical consciousness going, coming, sameness and difference do not appear. It is said that the non-seeing of these is the Supreme of Seeings. In the line referring to going and coming, he is not indicating that there is no going or coming in general. It is in the face of such analytical consciousness that going and coming are not found. Thus this line sets forth the factor of wisdom.
…when you look at it suddenly you might think these two lines are contradictory. What it is saying on the one hand that all phenomena have no going or coming and then it is saying that these beings make efforts, single-pointedly for the welfare of beings. However this is not contradictory. What the first line sets forth when it says that all phenomena have no going or coming is in terms of what is found by this type of final analytical consciousness in terms of the basic mode of subsistence of phenomena. Thus phenomena are empty of such inherently existing going and coming. However going and coming does exist conventionally and within conventional existence one engages in the factor of method. Thus the first line sets forth the factor of wisdom or emptiness and the second line sets forth the factor of compassion or conventional existence.
These two lines set forth the Two Truths that exist as one entity with every single phenomenon. Take a phenomenon such as a person. The person themselves is a conventional truth, a phenomena which exists due to the coming together of causes and conditions. With that person is also the factor of that person’s emptiness of independence, emptiness of inherent existence due to the very fact that the person exists in dependence upon causes and conditions. A person is empty of independent inherent existence but that very emptiness of independent inherent existence makes it possible for the person to depend upon causes and conditions. This is how the Two Truths, conventional and ultimate, exist as one entity within every single phenomena.
Conventional phenomena are objects that are found by a consciousness, which does not engage in ultimate analysis, whereas ultimate truths are what are found under such ultimate analysis. Thus these two objects found by these two consciousnesses are mutually exclusive. Take the case of looking into the emptiness of an object. You consider not just the object but you consider the emptiness of the object. When you look into finding the emptiness of the object you find the emptiness of the emptiness of the object. Thus from that point of view some scholars say that the emptiness of the object relative to the emptiness of the emptiness of the object is a conventional phenomena.
In this way there are these two different objects the emptiness of the object that is found by the consciousness analyzing in this ultimate way and the conventional object that is found by the non-analytical consciousness. These two are different objects and thus while one is still on the path of learning, before Buddhahood, when one directly sees emptiness it is impossible at that time to see the phenomena that are qualified by emptiness. However at Buddhahood one can directly perceive emptiness and directly perceive phenomena at the same time. This is called a state in which the states of meditative equipoise and the state outside of meditative equipoise are mixed into one entity. Thus in the text when it states that all phenomena have no going or coming and yet make effort single-pointedly for the welfare of beings, it is referring to the state of Buddhahood at which one can directly perceive the ultimate nature of phenomena, their emptiness, and at the same time perceive those conventional phenomena themselves.
In terms of how a Buddha perceives conventional phenomena, there are many fine points that are very difficult to explain. But in general there are two types of conventional objects that a Buddha perceives. There are impure ones and pure objects. Impure objects appear to a Buddha only through the root of their appearing to other beings who are contaminated with the predispositions of ignorance. They do not appear to a Buddha from a Buddha’s own point of view but only from the point of view of their appearing to other beings.
Pure phenomena however appear to a Buddha from Buddha’s own point of view. There are many such difficult points. It is said in terms of independent appearances to a Buddha, independence here has the sense of not depending upon these phenomena appearing to other beings, thus in terms of what appears to a Buddha from a Buddha’s own viewpoint, it is said that this is just limitless purity.
There is another system of explanation, which says that even impure phenomena have as their root of appearance the very subtle wind or energy and mind, the very subtle mind and the very subtle energy with that mind. Thus from this point of view even impure phenomena are the sport of such a subtle consciousness and even they would be pure.
The two lines indicate the qualities of compassion and of wisdom that a Buddha has. The first stanza is the expression of worship and the second is the promise to compose the text.
The perfect Buddhas, the sources of help and happiness,
Arise from having practiced the excellent doctrine.
That in turn depends on knowing its practices.
Therefore, I will explain the practices of Bodhisattvas.
When one speaks or refers to a particular person becoming a Buddha, the qualities of compassion and wisdom that a Buddha has arise in dependence upon the practice of the path. The path has two aspects of the vast practices of compassion and the profound practices of wisdom.
However there is a reference to the primordial Buddha that is causeless and without beginning or end. The reference here is most likely to the fact that Buddhahood is possible because of the basic pure nature. This basic pure nature means that all defilements are adventitious. They depend upon causes and conditions. Defilements themselves depend upon a mistaken mode of perceiving things. Once they depend upon a mistaken mode of perceiving things, they can not abide forever nor can they abide in a fundamental way. They are adventitious, temporary and thus this indicates that defilements can be removed. It is from the point of view of this basic, pure nature that there are references to primordial Buddhahood that is causeless.
Every consciousness has a nature of being luminous and cognitive, or luminous and knowing. Any consciousness naturally of its own accord has a capacity to know objects. This refers to consciousness in general. Now all beings have consciousnesses and once beings have consciousnesses it means that those consciousnesses when they meet with the appropriate circumstances and conditions are capable of knowing objects.
For instance, an eye consciousness naturally has the capacity to see such a thing as is in front of me. However when it is obstructed then even though it has that capacity, it can not perceive that object. As long as one has the obstructions to omniscience, the obstructions to all-knowingness, those obstructions prevent one from knowing all objects. When those obstructions are removed then the natural capacity of the consciousness to know all objects becomes manifested. All of us have in our consciousnesses the capacity to know all objects of knowledge, to know all phenomena. This can occur when the obstructions preventing such have been removed.
It is said that all sentient beings have the capacity to become Buddhas, to achieve Buddhahood. The consciousnesses of all sentient beings naturally have the capacity to know all objects once obstructions are removed.
In the first line where it says the perfect Buddhas, the sources of help and happiness, how is it that Buddhas are sources of help and happiness? It is not that they can create or give help and happiness as some sort of creation or gift. Rather it is said in a temporary way they bring help and in a profound, deep way bring happiness through virtuous activity. Virtuous activity has its origin in altruism. From this point of view a Buddha is a source of help and happiness.
That is the promise of composition and let us leave it at that for today. Let’s meditate for three or four minutes of whatever you like; emptiness, compassion or on mind.
Transcribed and typed by Phillip Lecso from audiotapes obtained from Thubten Dhargye Ling entitled The 37 Bodhisattva Practices. I take full responsibility for all mistakes that have occurred, through hearing and writing incorrectly what was taught, for these I apologize. May all be auspicious. May any merit from this activity go to the long life and good health of His Holiness. May all sentient beings quickly attain the state of the Glorious Kalacakra even through these imperfect efforts.