An Ornament for Acquiring Realization known as
The Six Diamond Stanzas
Translation of the Tun-huang manuscript:
Svasti: Holy Of Holies! Homage To The Body-Speech-Mind Of
The All-Beneficent Lord, Vajra Of Great Bliss!
I. The intrinsic nature of diversity is nondual, since
2. Singularity is unintelligible (aprapancita).
3. Facticity (yatha) is non-conceptual, since
4. The totality of created appearance is all-beneficent.
5. Already having abandoned the disease op striving,
6. Just remain in effortless abiding (avasthita).
The Tibetan text of the Tun-huang MS.:
Svasti: dpal.gyi.dpal/ bcom.ldan.hdas/ kun.tu.bzang.po/
sku.gsung.thugs.rdo.rje.bde.wa.chen.po.la.phyag.htshal.lo / /
(4) rnam.par.snang.mdzad.kun.tu.2 bzang/
(6) lhun.gyis 3 gnas.pas.bzhag 4 pa.yin/
Variations of spelling in the above:
1 ba. 2 du. 3 kyis. 4 gzag
Translation of the rNying-ma rGyud-‘bum redaction:
The sanskrit title: […]San-ti dar-pa[…].
The tibetan title (translated): the single spot of absolute totality
Svasti: holy of holies! Homage to the body-speech-mind of the
All-beneficent lord, the vajra of great bliss!
1. The intrinsic nature of diversity is non-dual, since
2. Singularity is unintelligible.
3. Facticity is non-conceptual, since
4. The totality of created appearance is all-beneficent.
5. Already having abandoned the disease of striving,
6. Just remain in effortless abiding.
This concludes the cuckoo of awareness (vidya-kokila), the enlightened-mind.
The Tibetan text of the rNying-ma rGyud-‘bum redaction.:
Svasti: dpal.gyi.dpai/ bcom.idan.hdas/kun.tu.bzang.po/
(6) lhun.gyis. gnas.pas.bzhag.1 pa.yin/
Variations of spelling in the above:
Commentary, Part One: The Textual Background
This text is known as the Rig-pa’i khu-byug (pronounced Rig-pay Khu-jug) in Tibet, a title equivalent with the Sanskrit Vidya-kokila, meaning the Cuckoo of Awareness. The antiquity of the Rig-pa’i khu – byug is established by the fact that there exists a manuscript version of it among the scrolls and folio treatises discovered by Sir Aurel Stein at Tun huang in the heart of Central Asia, The Tun-huang MS. is catalogued as #746 of the Tibetan Manuscripts from Tun-huang housed in the India Office Library in London. The Tun-huang version contains no title and the author remains anonymous. Nevertheless the six stanzas in the Tun-huang version are followed, in the same hand, by a short commentary. According to the commentary the document was known by three titles:
Cuckoo of Awareness (rig.pa’i.khu.byug),
An Ornament for Acquiring Realization (rig.byed.snang.ba’i.rgyan),
- Six Diamond Stanzas (rdo.rje.tshig.drug).
The first title is defined as a simile (dpe), the second as a description of the document’s intent (dön), and the third as a common description based on verse structure.
Another redaction of the same text appears in the rNying-ma rGyud-‘bum, or “collection of ancient Tantras” pertaining to the Nyingma school of Tibet. This text is entitled quite differently. It is initially called The Single Place of Absolute Totality (rDzog.pa.chen.po.sa.gcig.pa) and afterwards referred to as the Mind of Enlightenment Awareness Cuckoo which in Sanskrit would have been Bodhicitta Vidyakokila. The Nyingma redaction of this text also supplies a “Sanskrit” title for which the Tibetan rDzog.pa.chen.po.sa.gcig.pa is given as a translation. The Sanskrit is given as San-ti dar-pa, which obviously has been poorly transcribed. Samten G. Karmay (vide The rDzogs-chen in its Earliest Text, proceedings of the 1982 Seminar of Tibetan Studies, Columbia University) refers to this as “a fake Sanskrit title” but he is wrong. The title is not faked; rather, it is badly misspelled and significant syllables have been dropped. San-ti must be a misspelling of Sandhi or Samdhi, since rDzog-pa-chen-po is the equivalent of Maha-samdhi. Dar-pa is meant to equate with the Tibetan sa (earth, place, location), and therefore originally must have been an equivalent term such as dhara, earth, or even more likely, desha, a place, a site. just as the first adjective, maha, has been dropped from the title, so for some reason has the last, which nevertheless would have had to have been matra (=gcig-pa, single, sole). Thus the original Sanskrit, if reconstructed, probably would have been something like: Mahasamdhi-desha-matra.
We know how this text got into the rNying.ma.gyud-‘bum. It is thefirst of five texts traditionally known as snga.’gyur.lnga, or “the five early translations.” These are included in a collection of eighteen sacred treatises known as the Sems.sde.bco.brgyad., or the fundamental treatises of the Mind-category (Sems.sde) of Dzogchen. The five early translations, or first five of the eighteen Sem-de treatises, are:
All of these were translated, according to Nyingma tradition, by the famous Bhikshu Vairocanaraksita, otherwise known simply as Vairocana or Bairochana. The translator Vairocanaraksita was one of the initial Tibetan candidates ordained by the Indian Upadheya (Tib: Khenpo, Abbot) Santaraksita who, in the latter portion of the 8th century founded the first Tibetan monastery of Samye, Vairocana was a close spiritual disciple of Acarya Vimalamitra, the Dzogchen master.
The fact of Vairocanaraksita having translated the Six Diamond Stanzas, and of its circulation amongst Dzogchen circles in Tibet at this early period, is well attested to by Vairocanaraksita’s contemporary Nub Sanggye Yeshe, who quotes from it under the title of “The Cuckoo” on more than one occasion in his famous treatise, the Samten Mig.drön.
There is no reason not to believe that the Six Diamond Stanzas predate Vairocanaraksita’s era. What is of interest is that, though titles and adjoining materials differs, the Tibetan and Tun-huang versions of the basic text are the same. This would imply that the Tun-huang version is a copy of Vairocanaraksita’s translation, since no two translators select the exact same words when composing a translation. However there are unanswered problems which arise from this observation.
The Tun-huang version of the text is followed by a scholarly commentary, set in the form of questions and answers. This commentary is unknown amongst surviving works from Tibet, yet as Karmay points out, it is obviously older than the known Nyingma commentaries. The classical Nyingma commentary is the Khu.byug.Ita.ba.spyod.pa’i.’khor.to, which may be found in the Bairo rgyud ‘bum, Vol. 5, no. 10 (Ta), i.e., the Vairocana collection of tantras. Another known commentary of early date is the bsTan.pa.yangs.kyi.snying.po, in the Bairo rgyud ‘bum, Vol. 1, no.1. Neither of these are as old as the commentary appended to Tun-huang text. Where does this ‘older’ commentary come from, if not from Vairocana himself?
Karmay further points out that the Six Diamond Stanzas “also serve as the basic structure on which later texts are built, expanded and elaborated.” Several of these later texts are however scriptural tantras of the established Dzogchen tradition in Tibet, supposed to have been composed prior to the “early translation period,” i.e., the eighth century A.D.. The Kun.byed.rgyal.po., Tokyo 1965, Vol.9, no.451; which recently has been translated into English by Prof. Eva Dargyay, contains the exact six lines of our text, with the same Tibetan wording as that found in Vairocana’s translation. Likewise in the rDzogs .pa .chen .po .chos .nyid .byang .chub .sems .bkra .shis .mi .’gyur .gsal .bar .gnas .pa’i .rgyud, an important Dzogchen tantra, the six verses are interpolated at the end of the eighth chapter. Again the wording is that of Vairocana’s translation. Does this mean that these texts are compositions produced not earlier than, but in fact after, the era of the Indian Dzogchen masters and the original group of Tibetan translators?
Two of the earliest datable Tibetan texts which concern Dzogchen are the (1) Upadesa known as the Rosary of Views (man.ngag.lta.ba’i. phreng.ba) by Lord Padmasambhava, and the (2) Lamp of Concentration (bSam.gtan.mig.sgron) by Nub Sanggye Yeshe. Samten Gyaltsen Karmay, who has reviewed both texts (vide: The Great Perfection, E.J.Brill, Leiden 1988), suggests that the former may “be the only extant work on rDzogs-chen attributable to Padmasambhava.” If so, it should stand as an historical testament on the state of Dzogchen as it was known in the eighth century. Sanggye Yeshe’s Sam-ten Mig-drön likewise serves this purpose.
As to the Rosary of Views, it purports to outline in brief all the views (i.e., philosophical and yogic trends) known at that period. These views are classed first as “worldly” and “non-worldly.” The former are such views as those held by ordinary people, materialists, agnostics and animists. The latter consists of either the Analytical way (laksanayana) or the Diamond way (vajrayana).
Under the heading of Analytical way, Lord Padmasambhava lists (1) Apostolic way (Sravakayana), (2) Eremetic-awakening way (Pratyekabuddhayana), and (3) Enlightened-being way (Bodhisattvayana). As we know, the latter is elsewhere generally referred to as the Mahayana, the Great Way.
The Vajrayana is likewise divided into three categories: (4) Ritual-tradition way (Kriyatantrayana), (5) Intermediate-tradition way4 (Ubhayatantrayana), (6) the Yoga-tradition way (Yoga-tantrayana).
The last can be further divided into Exoteric Yoga and Esoteric Yoga. Esoteric Yoga consists of (7) the Generation-method (utpatti-saula), (8) the Completion-method (nispanna-saula), and finally, as the pinnacle of all views, (9) the method of Dzogchen.
Padmasambhava’s schema is the basis for that described in the later period as the Nine Ways, but the now accepted terms of Mahayoga, Anuyoga and Atiyoga are not used by him. We note also that he does not in fact list the three divisions of Esoteric Yoga as ways or vehicles (yana), but instead refers to them as methods (saula) pertaining to the Yoga-tantra Way. Thus his schema, as given in the Rosary of Views, seems to define only six ways, plus a possible seventh in the form of what he calls Esoteric Yoga.
The later Sar-ma schools of Tibet adopted from India a fourfold classification of levels of Tantra, known respectively as Kriya-tantra, Carya-tantra, Yoga-tantra, and Anuttara-yoga-tantra. Comparing this later classification with Padmasambhava’s schema, we can see at once the direction in which alternate terminologies for much the same subject matter must have evolved. In the later period the term Carya (Spiritual Practice) came to replace the far more ambiguous word ubhaya. Likewise Anuttara (Supreme) came to define a new class of Tantra, which in Padmasambhava’s era was still a subdivision (i.e., Esoteric Yoga) of Yoga-tantra, and which had not as yet come into its own as a fully separate tradition. By the time of the “new translation” period of the Tibetan Sar-ma schools, Anuttara-tantra wasa class referring to such texts as the Guhyasamaja-tantra, the Cakra-samvara-tantra, the Hevajra-tantra, and the Kalacakra-tantra. Alternatively, on the basis of schemas such as that given in the Rosary of Views, the Nyingma school evolved a ninefold classification. They changed the term ubhaya to the similar sounding upaya (Means) and listed the Nine Ways as follows: Sravakayana, Pratyekabuddhayana, Paramitayana, Kriyatantrayana, Upayatantrayana, Yogatantrayana, Mahayogatantrayana, Anuyogatantrayana, Atiyogtantrayana. The last, Atiyoga, was adopted as another term for Dzogchen.
The terminology of the Nine Ways may have come into vogue by the time of Acarya Padmasambhava. The mere non-inclusion of the terms in the Rosary of Views does not prove that he was unfamiliar with them. But the structure of the Rosary does suggest that if such terms were known, they were as yet hardly standardized. And this brings us to the next point. What did Acarya Padmasambhava understand by “esoteric” tantra?
All the quotes concerning tantra in the Rosary of Views are from the cycle of what is known as Guhyagarbha, a tradition which is said to have been patronized by King Dza of Uddiyana, except for one quote that evidently comes from the Guhyasmaja-Tantra. Padmasambhava was born in Uddiyana, and although he was exiled from that land at a young age he nevertheless would have maintained close ties with Uddiyana culture throughout the remainder of his life. Padmasambhava’s dialect would have been Uddiyan. It is also a fact that the founder of the Dzogchen teachings, Sri Pramodavajra, came from Uddiyana. Dzogchen may therefore be described as essentially an ancient Uddiyan tradition of Buddhism, brought to India by Sri Pramodavajra. This Uddiyan tradition was expounded and maintained chiefly by Uddiyanean expatriates resident in the Bodh-Gaya region, in India. It was there that the Acarya Padmasambhava, after his exile; eventually migrated, and it was there that he became ordained a Buddhist monk. In the surrounds of Bodh-Gaya, Sri Simha, a master from the northern Himalayan Cina-valley which was tied into the Uddiyana cultural sphere, taught the Dzogchen system to Padmasambhava. Not only does the term rdzog-pa-chen-po appear for the first time in literary history in the Guhyagarbhatantra, but we know that the primary Dzogchen masters who went to teach in Tibet in the early period were familiar with this tantra above all others.
In the Tun-huang commentary on the Six Diamond Stanzas the question is asked why, in the text of the Stanzas, Samantabhadra is hailed as the primordial Absolute, rather than Vajra Sattva. The passage actually reads: “In all the tantras it is said that Vajra Sattva is the Supreme Being of all the yogis (rnal.’byor.kun.kyi.gtso.bo), but here is Samantabhadra who is hailed supreme.” It is true that in the Guhyagarbha tradition the Absolute is named Samantabhadra, the All–Beneficent. The Dzogchen tradition consequently identifies Samantabhadra with the Dharmakaya (the equivalent of Nirguna-brahman in Hinduism), and Vajrasattva with the Sambhogakaya (equivalent with Saguna-brahman). The phrase “all the tantras” in the above passage applies specifically to the Yogatantras, or what the Rosary of Views refers to as Exoteric Yoga.
The question which Samten Gyaltsen Karmay raises concerning the above, is what about the so called Atiyoga tantras of Dzogchen? As Karmay Rimpoche points out, “all the tantras” of Atiyoga follow the Six Vajra Stanzas in hailing Samantabhadra as the Adi-buddha. The Tun-huang commentary seems to be unaware of this. Does this mean that the Ati-yoga tantras of Dzogchen had not as yet come into existence at the time of the composition of the Six Stanzas and its initial Commentary? Karmay’s thesis is startling and yet supported by cogent evidence. He suggests that most of the Atiyoga-tantras can hardly date back earlier than the 11th century, except for certain texts of the Sem-de grouping and those quoted by Nub Sanggye Yeshe in the Sam-ten Mig-drön. It hardly need be mentioned that such a view is highly questionable.5
If it is correct that the earliest masters of Dzogchen resided in an intellectual milieu which as yet had not been framed by the greater mass of Ati-yoga tantras, then it means that the tradition of Dzogchen, upon being established in Tibet, began to undergo change, and in fact, has not come down to us intact nor in its pure form.
Between the early and later periods stands the well known “Dark Age” of extensive anti-Buddhist persecution in Tibet initiated by Langdarma (836-842 A.D.). What has not been sufficiently emphasized is the coincidence of Langdarma’s persecutions with the occurrence in neighboring China of a strenuous Confucian purge of Buddhism under the reign of Emperor Wu-Tsung (840-846 A.D.). Thus throughout a huge area consisting of most of Central Asia, China and Tibet, for a few but nevertheless very disastrous number of years, monasteries were closed, books were burned and temples were sealed up. The following eras created a void into which obscure and unaccounted for doctrines could be discovered.
Towards the end of the 11th century, therefore, a poor caretaker in charge of a somewhat ruinous old temple of the Myang family, claimed to discover a body of previously unheard of texts. The caretakers name was Dangma Lhungyal. He showed his discovery to Che-tsun Sengge Wangchuk, who upon proclaiming their authenticity, is said to have reorganized the new texts into the Nying-t’ig6 explanatory teachings of what are known today as the seventeen root tantras of the Men-ngag-de7 section of Ati-yoga. According to other Lamas, it was Che-tsun Rimpoche who actually composed the seventeen root tantras in the first place. The matter has so far not been explored by scholars competent in textural form-criticism, but what ever future research may prove, we should for now at least keep in mind that there is a two hundred year gap between the time when these Men-ngag-de treatises are said to have been taught to Myang Ting-nge-‘dzin by Acarya Vimilamitra and their fortuitous discovery by Dangma Lhungyal. It is also worth noting that in many discovered texts which so far have been subjected to critical examination there are to be found patent anachronisms suggestive and typical of pious forgery.
The Six Diamond Stanzas are therefore of paramount value in that their established authenticity yields an authentic view of Dzogchen from the earliest possible period. In fact, this is certainly true of all the texts known as the “five early translations”. These texts teach the very essence of Dzogchen as a method of personal Enlightenment, and through studying them it is possible to come to grasp a clear understanding of the secret of meditation in this unique tradition. As the Kunpal Rimpoche emphasized: “Nowadays, people love novelty and thus neglect the ancient texts, excellent and pure though they be, liking only what is new. But among the recent texts, there are some that are genuine and some false, and it is difficult to have enough certain knowledge, unclouded by doubt, to tell the goal and method of genuine teaching from a false one.”8 The paramount value of the Six Diamond Stanzas is the fact that this text gives us a clear understanding of the historical Dzogchen doctrine from the era of its inception.
Commentary, Part Two: Textual Content
Basically what the Six Diamond Stanzas expound is the rarely revealed technique of kathinaccheda (Tib: T’ek-chod), or “cutting-through”, which is the heart of Dzogchen practice. What is cut through is the solid sense of duality which pervades the nature and function of consciousness, thereby making the world seem diversified and concrete. When the concrete (kathina) is cut (ccheda), apparent diversity collapses back into original nonduality, and sudden realization dawns. The means is via the effortless meditation or “non-meditation” advocated in the Stanzas.
1. The Intrinsic Nature Of Diversity Is Nondual
All phenomena (Skt dharma) of the universe are the diversity (Tib: sna-tshogs) spoken of here. The intrinsic nature (Skt: svabhava, own-nature) of that diversity is nevertheless nondual by virtue of its undifferentiated unicity (Skt: samata). The term “intrinsic nature” means the real condition of all the infinite aspects of existence. The real condition is parinishpanna, absolute, and thus nondual.
The Tri-svabhava-nirdesa is an extremely significant treatise written by Arya-Vasubandhu, consisting of thirty-eight stanzas explaining the doctrine of “three intrinsic natures” (trisvabhava) or “the three distinguishing characteristics” (trilaksana). It is primarily an exposition of the ontological basis of the subject/object dichotomy as understood in terms of the Yogacara view, and is very important because it answers the fundamental questions that are raised as a result of the teaching that all phenomena exist dependant on Consciousness. Vasubandhu is able to show that the resolution of the subject/object dichotomy occurs in a non-dualistic absolute known as the dharmadhatu.
The three “intrinsic natures” posited by Vasubandhu are:
The conceptually-constructed (parikalpita) nature;
The contingent (paratantra) nature; and
- The ultimately existent (parinishpana) nature.
This theory was put forward to demonstrate that the world has not one, but three simultaneous natures. The world that is perceived (and for it to be perceived, there must be a subject/object dichotomy) is described as a perceptual construct (kalpana), or conceived world. Insofar as it is a perceptual construct of reality, its nature is said to be conceptually-constructed (parikalpita). This conceptually-constructed nature is actually unreal (asat) and non-existent; it is mere illusion. Nevertheless the conception that occurs—the experience of the subject/object dichotomy—is a play of various causes and conditions. This play (vikalpa, discrimination) of various causes and conditions, is the contingent (paratantra) nature of reality Underlying that play of causes and conditions, there must be an ultimately existent (parinishpanna) nature. The reality on which these three natures are imposed, almost like veils, is defined as Tathata (Tib: de-bshin-nyid, “that-is-ness”), pure noumenon, or in other words, Ultimate Reality (dharmata).
But the explanation is not as simple as it seems. To elaborate, Vasubandhu resorts to an analogy. He says, let us consider a situation in which a magician, using certain spells (mantras), was to cause, before a crowd of spectators, a log of wood to appear as an illusory elephant. The fact that no elephant is there may be defined as the elephant’s parikalpita-nature. The hallucination (akrti) of the elephant by the crowd may be defined as its paratantra-nature. However if we consider what the elephant really is in itself (i.e., non-existent) then that is its ultimately existent (parinishpanna) nature. To comprehend the latter, we must appreciate that the universal ground of Consciousness (alaya-vijnana) is like the magic spell, wherein discrimination (vikalpa) produces the illusion and duality (dvaya) becomes the result. The original log of wood which has been made to appear as an illusory elephant is analogous to the Tathata, which has remained unchanged and pure from the beginning.
“With the non-apprehension of duality, the appearance of duality collapses, and with this collapse, the ultimately existent is realized as the non-existence of duality.“9
Thus the nature (svabhava) of diversity is nondual, which means that neither objects to be apprehended (grahya) nor an apprehender (grahika) exist as such. As Vasubandhu proclaims, “A mental image (upalamba) of dharmadhatu is brought forth through perception of this nonduality.”
Since (kyang) diversity in its intrinsic nature is nondual:
2. Singularity Is Unintelligible
The Tibetan chas.shas.nyid. refers to the singleness of things. Chas means “a part.”‘ Shas means “belonging to a group.” Nyid means “in-itself”-the essence of what something is. This implies what we call “individuality,” to exist as a separate entity or unit. However for anything to be an absolute unit, or a complete singularity, it would have to be non-dimensional and beyond designation, since anything capable of occupying space or time is itself divisible into parts. Thus a metaphysical singularity cannot have existence. As the Kunpal Rimpoche says:
“If two part-less entities meet, they must have uniform contact in every direction; contact from only one side is impossible. How, therefore, is it acceptable to speak of contact between partless entities? It is impossible for them to have contact either from one side or from all sides.”10
Certain sages or scientific thinkers, examining the world around them, have concluded that wholes, though divisible into microscopic parts, must be constituted of ultimate elements, i.e., that all things owe their reality and solidity to the fact that they are composed of irreducible part-less atoms (paramanu, elementary particle). Even if conventional atoms (anu) of least perceptible magnitude are divisible into yet smaller parts, there is the assumption, by these thinkers, that ultimately irreducible particles, or paramanus, must exist. These would be true singularities, and hence the final actualities (paramartha, absolutes) out of which the whole universe is constructed. But such is not intelligible.
Unity as well as diversity are automatic givens within the generally accepted paradigm of our empirical experience. And yet these two are both assumptions impossible to confirm scientifically, and with the collapse of one, the other likewise falls apart. An ultimate unity is impossible to locate: the least intelligible magnitude, since, being intelligible, it must have extension, would be made of parts. If for example the smallest extension thereof were to be defined as 0.0001 angstrom units, that extension is still definable in terms of what are mathematical units of yet smaller size. Whether atom or star, that ‘whole’ which is reduced to a singularity, where the density and curvature of space-time are infinite, shrinks to zero-radius. And units with zero-radius are literally zero (sunya), as clearly pointed out by Arya-Nagarjuna.
The logic of an ultimate atomism is that whatever is gross must have parts which have further parts and so on, until we reach the elementary particle which atomists believe is not made up of anything smaller and that cannot be subdivided. It is precisely this that cannot be made intelligible.
Nor can mere numbers of zero-radius singularities produce objects of measurable size, as if a certain quantity of zeros could reach critical mass. Sankara’s argument (vide Brahmasutra Sankarabhasya) that elementary particles are actualized in terms of having various qualities, rather than quantities per se, is equally invalid, since difference would still presuppose physical measurement in the final analysis. Shankara’s supposed groupings of qualitative particles are thought to combine in order to produce the gross atoms and molecules of material perception and yet, once again, the very singularity of the supposed ultimate building blocks of nature precludes their combination, since to combine they would have to possess ‘parts.’ A singularity is by definition partless and unitary. Thus the point already made by the Kunpal Rimpoche It follows that Sankara’s analogy of “rope and snake” is also naive compared to Arya-Vasubandhu’s elephant analogy given in our commentary on the first stanza above. Shankara in introducing his system of Adwaita Vedanta suggested that the world was like a segment of rope mistaken for a snake. The rope is lying on the ground. Dusk has gathered and it is not easy to see clearly. An observer walking along the road, mistakes the old piece of rope for a poisonous cobra and takes fright. In this manner, says Shankara, the world and its suffering is perceived, when the reality is the pure Absolute (brahman) alone. The world is purely illusion (maya). When the illusion is seen for what It is, just as the snake instantly becomes again the rope which it always has been, so too the world transforms back into Brahman. By this means Shankara posited nonduality (adwaita). This analogy overlooks the dichotomy established by it, of an absolute reality opposed to an absolute illusion, or existence (sat) versus non-existence (asat). Although Sankara and Vasubandhu are pointing in the end to the same final Truth, Shankara’s “languaging” of the problem falls short of Vasubandhu’s. It is the same mistake which Shankara makes in terms of his so called qualitative atoms.
In the Tibetan spros.dang.bral is a phrase meaning “beyond judgment” or “beyond discernment”. As we have translated it, it means that the subject is unintelligible (aprapancita, not capable of linguistic definition). As no word can convey the meaning of oneness, or singularity, or absolute individuality, it is necessarily beyond intelligent elaboration.
3. Facticity Is Non-Conceptual
The Tibetan word ji.bzhin.pa refers to the previous subject. Since that cannot be amplified, one should not objectify it. All mental activity and conceptualization ceases in ji.bzhin.pa.
This highly meaningful term, which we have translated “Facticity”, literally means “That-which-is”. Ji.lta.wa.bzhin is defined as bcos.bslad.med.pa, unfabricated, not spoiled. Ji.bzhin.pa is the original noumenon, or essence, behind all the phenomena which appear diversified. It is, according to Tsepak Rigzin (videTibetan-English Dictionary of Buddhist Terminology) the equivalent of ji-Ita-wa/ yatha: a thing as it is in its essence. In Dzogchen it refers to the gzhi (Skt: prakriti, ground) or sems.nyid (Skt. cittatva, mind-essence), and has the same sense as de-kho-na-nyid (tattva-viniscaya, essence of reality) and de.bzhin.nyid (Skt: tathata, translated “suchness” or “thatness”). Consequently the term is charged with significance.
Ji-bzhin-pa means accepting just That-which-is without correcting or trying to change anything. THAT is already there. There is nothing to be changed or fabricated – it already is as it is. There is a Yoga phrase which reads: TAT TWAM ASI-it means, “I am THAT”. When one realizes the perfect unicity of the all-inclusive Absolute, then there is no desire to modify or fabricate that. The Absolute already is as it is. Furthermore, in that the Absolute must by definition be complete in itself, then “That-which-is” must be “already” pure from the very beginning. Consequently Nub Sanggye Yeshe lists twenty forms of “already-ness” (zin-pa), as follows:
The Compassion [for sentient beings] has “already been performed since the beginning,”
The Mandala has “already been laid out since the beginning.”
The Offering (puja) has “already been made since the beginning.”
The Spiritual Conduct (carya) has “already been done since the beginning.”
The [Dzogchen] View (dristi) has “already been realized.”
The Meditation (bhavana) has “already been developed.”
The Covenant (samaya) has “already been kept.”
The Spiritual Practice (sadhana) has “already been accomplished.”
The Attainment (siddhi) has “already been acquired.”
The [twofold] Accumulation has “already been completed.”
The Attainment (siddhi) has “already been granted.”
The [highest] Degree (bhumt) has “already been ascended to.”
The Empowerment (abhiseka) has “already been received.”
The Obscuration (nivarana) has “already been cleared.”
The Mahamudra meditation has “already been accomplished.”
The Mantra has “already been recited.”
The Union-practice has “already been done.”
The Distraction has “already been overcome.”
The Sign (of success) has “already appeared.”
- The Heat (of meditation) has “already been generated.”
Insofar as these twenty religious items have “already been done since the beginning,” for the one who realizes this, no further “doing” is necessary. Thus one should abide in “That-which-is” (ji. bzhin.pa), the noumenal aspect of the Consciousness (sems/citta). This state of pure Facticity is non-conceptual (mi.rtog) because:
4. The Totality of Created Appearance Is All-Beneficent
Here we find that the Tibetan line rnam.par.snang.mdzad.kun.tu bzang seems to make a play on words. In Tibetan rnam.par.snang.mdzad is adopted as a translation for the Sanskrit name Vairocana, the Buddha at the center of the Sambhogakaya Mandala. We should keep in mind that the translator of this text was also named Vairocana. Perhaps he was making a pun here on his own name? It would also seem that the ending of the sentence, kun.tu.bzang, were a reference to the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra (Tib: kun.tu.bzang.po). These puns which apparently exist in the Tibetan text, could hardly have been in the original Sanskrit, and therefore should be ascribed to the industry of the translator. This fact has even led some scholars to speculate that Vairocana, the translator, may in fact have been the author of this anonymous text. The meaning of the stanza is that the total Appearance (snang, shining forth) of all creation is good (bZang po). rNam.par means “complete,” “total,” and Wang means “what-appears-to-us,” or “manifestation.” The Tibetan word mdzad means “to make” and/or that which is “made,” i.e., Creation per se. Kun.tu means “always,” “all,” or “universal.” bZang is “good,” or “beneficent.” The whole of manifestation is inherently and intrinsically “Good” (Skt: bhadra), in that it is an appearance of Samantabhadra, the Absolute.
This is not the same as inferring that the world is an evil illusion (Maya) in contrast to an ever Good God. Nor is this the answer given by the Cittamatrins. The Cittamatrins say that the world and its ills are a mere dream-projection of Consciousness (citta), and that only the latter is real. Their position is the same as that of the Vedantins who claim the world is Illusion, but they credit Consciousness (alaya-vijnana) with being intrinsically neither good nor bad – in that it experiences reality as Nirvana, it is good; in that it experiences everything as Samsara, it is bad. However in all these views, whether Gnostic, Vedantin or Cittamatrin, the subject/ object dichotomy is not “languaged” properly.
The logic of the Cittamatrins is no different from the naive Vedantin analogy of the snake and the rope. When the world (the object) is seen to be mere Consciousness (the subject), then world vanishes, say the Cittamatrins, leaving Consciousness-only (cittamatra). This implies, like Brahman for the Vedantins, a permanent subject, which is an absolute ‘self’ (atman). And if Consciousness or God were the source and creator of this world of suffering, however illusory that world might be, then Consciousness or God would still stand responsible for all the world’s ills. If “He,” the Good God, or “one” such as Consciousness, were responsible for what is an obviously painful, cruel world, then how could “good” be ascribed to such an entity?
Of course, there are those who ascribe evil and suffering to the works of an invisible Devil-Satan in the Judaic tradition, Mara the Buddhist-and think thereby that they have avoided placing the responsibility for evil and suffering on the shoulder’s of God, or Consciousness. But who then created the Devil? If the imagined Creator and Ruler (isvara) of the Universe is all-knowing, then to give birth to a secondary Being, knowing full well that he (i.e., the Devil) would bring evil into the world, amounts to the same thing as God creating evil Himself. A King who leaves the slaughter of innocents in the hands of his ministers or a Pope who allows his Inquisition to commit atrocities, is no less responsible of the act, however kind or gentle his own nature may be.
However in Vasubandhu’s analogy, the real existence of the elephant is its non-existence from the beginning. The spell which formed the hallucination is the Consciousness of the universal ground (Skt alaya-vijnana, Tib: kun.gzhi.rnam.par.shes), just as the Cittamatrins say, but with the disappearance of the “elephant” (i.e., the world of suffering) there is a simultaneous collapse of that very Consciousness. Subject and object vanish together, and therefore the ontological subject/object dichotomy is resolved. Vasubandhu thus offers a perfect description of the subtle mystery which Sankara and others, though they may have mystically cognized it, failed to clearly explain.
Only Tathata, the dharmadhatu, capable of embracing both Consciousness and the World, is ultimately real. The “three natures” (tri-svabhava) are realized to be no-nature (nir-svabhava) at all. All phenomena (dharma) are inherently empty (sunya). The collapse of the dichotomy is factually zero. Form, ideation, feeling, motivation and consciousness-the five complexes (skandha) which make up the functional complex known as the person (pudgala)-are, as the Heart Sutra of Transcendental Wisdom says, empty. But of the Tathata, the Ultimate Reality (dharmata) which remains unborn and unending, and is prior to the arising of Consciousness, Space, and Time, nothing at all can be said. That Absolute is not added to by the creation of the world with all its beings, nor diminished by its destruction-not by so much as an iota.
It is as Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj has said: “That which is prior to consciousness is the Absolute…”11 With the full realization of the Absolute, both Consciousness and the World-both God (Brahman) and Illusion (Maya)-collapse into zero. “Brahman is created out of your beingness,” says Maharaj. “All this Brahman is illusion, ignorance. Your beingness (sattva = caittanya, Consciousness) is ignorance only, from the Absolute standpoint.”12 And, “The original state prior to Consciousness cannot be described; one can only be That.”13 When the consciousness ends, then the world ends: where consciousness and world are not, That is the Absolute. As Buddha Sakyamuni said, there is no permanent subject or Creator. “The sum total of all this is illusion and nobody is responsible for creation-it has come spontaneously and there is no question of improvement in that-it will go on in its own way.”14 In these teachings of the great Marathi saint, Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, we see the same precision of language and exposition that occurs in the writings of Arya-Vasubandhu and the early masters of Yogacara. Ji.bzin.pa is the unchanging non-conceptual Matrix of Mystery, since the totality of created Appearance cannot be other than always good.
5. Already Having Abandoned The Disease Op Striving
There are said to be four reliance’s (pratisarana):
Reliance on the teaching (dharma) rather than the personality (pudgala) of the teacher.
Reliance on the meaning (artha) rather than the words (vyanjana) of the teaching.
Reliance on the definitive meaning (nitartha) rather than the provisional meaning (neyartha) of the teaching.
- Reliance on true Gnosis (jnana) rather than the consciousness (vijnana).
By resorting to reliance, and especially the fourth reliance of the above list, namely the innate Gnosis, one begins to give up the cycle of doing. As long as there is doing there is desire. As long as there is desire, there is the wheel of becoming. To abandon the wheel one should follow the course of authentic reliance.
As striving diminishes, the practitioner begins to enter the abiding state. There is a tremendous amount of teaching on the subject of abiding (gnas pa)15 in Mahamudra meditation the four deepening degrees of Contemplation are thus said to be:
Avasthita (Tib: gNas.pa): Abiding, to abide, to stabilize in one pointedness.
Acala (Tib: Mi.gYo.wa): Unmoving, the pure ‘being’ state, unfabricated, just as-it-is.
Samata (Tib. mNyam.nyid) Unicity, sameness, equalness, as one taste
- Sahajasiddhi (Tib: Lhun.grub): Spontaneously accomplishing, the stage of non-meditation.
The term zin.pas which begins the fifth stanza, here signifies that every wish has “already” been fulfilled. Everything is complete in itself. Therefore what is there to strive (rTsol) for? The Absolute is complete: nothing can be added to it, nor subtracted. In that something is “full” where would there room for desire. Desire, the root of all striving and suffering, implies that something is incomplete. For the Absolute there is no desire.
One who is full has no hunger. To eat when one is already full is a malady which causes fatigue. This disease of striving should therefore be abandoned. The Tibetan word spang means to “let go,” or “to abandon,” in the past tense. The disease of striving has already (zin-pas) been abandoned. Therefore one should:
6. Just Remain In Effortless Abiding (avasthita)
To abide spontaneously means nothing is to be done. Therefore one should remain undisturbed in the state of facticity. That is sufficient in itself, as the meditation, and means giving up any hint of making effort.
Thinking, feeling, and doing are all forms of effort. In fact, the whole bundle of five complexes (skandha) are all concerned with effort. It was with this understanding that the Lord Buddha declared that desire (tishna, thirst) is the cause of all suffering. His most basic teaching consists of the cessation (nirodha) of desire. The three ways of arriving at the state of cessation (nirodha-samapatti) are known respectively as the apostolic way (sravakayana) of discipline, the isolated-awakening way (pratyekabuddhayana) of contemplation, and the great way (mahayana) of transcendence (paramita) through love and wisdom. In fact, the teachings expounded by the historical Buddha Sakyamuni are profound in the extreme and without compare in all the threefold Universe. Following the three ways, one arrives at the end in effortless abiding.
Through mere effortless abiding, liberation automatically occurs. If we comprehend this final stanza, then the Three Statements of Sri Pramodavajra are fully understood: direct introduction to one’s own nature; direct recognition of that unique state; and direct continuation with faith in Liberation.
There is nothing more that need be said. Therefore the Tun-huang manuscript concludes by simply affirming that “to remain without striving” is the only true Accomplishment (siddhi), that “not-renouncing anything” is the only true Covenant (samaya), and that “utter non-attachment” is the only true Offering (puja). Therein is the whole profound meaning of the Six Diamond Stanzas.
2 This text is known to have been composed by Acarya Manjusrimitra.
3 From the term byang.chub.sems (Bodhicitta) which proceeds in the title of all five of these texts, we see that they form a set. Not only do they represent some of the earliest documents of Dzogchen, but it is also apparent that the term bodhicitta figured much more prominently in this early period, than the now more popular term rdzog.pa.chen.po. Concerning this point vide Kennard Lipman, Primordial Experience, Shambhala, 1987.
5 We cannot agree with Karmay’s view. There is too much material in the old Tantras and treasure texts that appears to derive from ancient sources, that they cannot have simply been fabricated in later times.
7 Man-ngag-gi-sde, the section of Upadesa, inner instruction. Ati-yoga is divided into three sections: Sems-sde Skt: cittavarga (“Mind-section”), kLong-sde Skt: Abhyantarvarga (“Space-section”), and Man-ngag-sde Upadesavarga (“Inner Instruction section”).
15 In the sayings of Sri Nisargadatta this is called “stabilizing” in the Consciousness, or the lsvara-state. “I don’t ask anybody to follow any particular path [of discipline]. I just tell them to be what they are, in their natural, spontaneous state. Stabilize there, in the beingness.” Vide Seeds of Consciousness, op cit., p. 66.