Chandrakīrti: Introduction to the Middle Way, Madhyamakāvatāra
The Text Itself
The text we are explaining here is the Introduction to the Middle Way, and to do so we will use its auto-commentary.
There are four main parts to the explanation:
1. The Meaning of the Title
2. The Translators’ Homage
3. The Main Part of the Text
4. The Conclusion
The Meaning of the Title
The Sanskrit title of the auto-commentary is Madhyamakavatarabhashya-nama. In Tibetan, it is dbu ma la ‘jug pa’i bshad pa zhes bya ba, or A Commentary to the Introduction to the Middle Way.
Madhyamaka (Middle Way) here refers to the treatises of the Middle Way. This is indicated in the text of the auto-commentary itself when it says:
In order to supplement the treatises of the Madhyamaka, I wish to compose an introduction to the Middle Way,
Generally speaking, Madhyamaka refers to the freedom from all extremes. As it is said in the Samadhiraja Sutra:
Existence and non-existence are extremes,
Purity and impurity are extremes as well,
Thus, having relinquished both extremes,
The wise do not dwell even in the middle.
The meaning expressed by the term Madhyamaka is, we could say, the sphere of reality (dharmadhatu), beyond all extremes. This can then be further divided into the Ground Madhyamaka, the unity of the two truths; the Path Madhyamaka, the unity of skilful means and wisdom; and the Fruition Madhyamaka, the unity of the two kayas.
The Ground Madhyamaka, the unity of the two truths, is beyond all extremes because it is beyond the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. The Path Madhyamaka, the unity of skilful means and wisdom, is beyond the extremes of exaggeration and denial. The Fruition Madhyamaka, the unity of the two kayas, is beyond the extremes of samsaric existence and the peace of nirvana.
In terms of the literature expressing Madhyamaka, there are Madhyamaka texts that are the actual words of the Buddha and Madhyamaka treatises. The first of these, the Madhyamika teachings of the Buddha, are found in the Prajñaparamita sutras of the ‘intermediate turning’ on the absence of characteristics. The Root Verses of the Middle Wayis primarily a commentary on the Prajñaparamita sutras, as is the Ornament of Realization (Abhisamayalankara)of Maitreya. The Introduction to the Middle Way, however, is usually said to be a commentary on the Sutra of the Ten Bhumis (Dasabhumikasutra), and not the Prajñaparamita sutras. Only its explanation of the twenty types of emptiness could be said to be a commentary on the Prajñaparamita, whilst its explanation of the three dharmas of ordinary beings [i]and the ten trainings of the noble ones [ii]are given according to the Sutra of the Ten Bhumis.
Regarding the treatises of the Madhyamaka, mention has already been made of Nagarjuna’s Root Verses of the Middle Wayand the rest of his Collection of Reasoning.
So, the text we are presently concerned with— Introduction to the Middle Way—belongs to the category of ‘expressing literature’ of the Madhyamaka, and, in particular, to the category of Madhyamaka treatises. The main body-like treatise is the Root Verses of the Middle Way, and this Introduction to the Middle Wayis a commentary on its meaning. So, the ‘Middle Way’ of the title mainly refers to the actual text of the Root Verses.
‘Introduction’ or ‘Entrance’ here signifies that this is a clarification of the Root Verses, particularly of its more difficult points. For example, the Introduction to the Way of a Bodhisattva (Bodhicaryavatara), clarifies the activity of a bodhisattva—the six paramitas, the four means of attracting disciples, the four immeasurables and so on. In the same way, the Introduction to the Middle Wayclarifies the points from the Root Verses of the Middle Waythat are in need of clarification.
So, what is the method of introduction? The various commentaries explain this slightly differently. Gorampa says there is ‘introduction’ to both the vast and profound. As for the profound means of introduction, the Root Verses of the Middle Wayemploys numerous types of reasoning in order to establish emptiness, much more extensively than the Introduction to the Middle Way. When explaining these various types of reasoning, the great scholars of the Svatantrika School use the principles of autonomous syllogism, whereas those of the Prasangika School, to which Chandrakirti belongs, use the principles of absurd consequence. Thus, in the Introduction to the Middle Way, the profound means of introduction is the explanation of the logical arguments from the Root Versesaccording to the principles of consequence.
As for the vast means of introduction, ‘vast’ here refers to the presentation of the paths and bhumis, which are only referred to indirectly in the Root Versesitself. In Arya Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, there is brief mention of the three dharmas of ordinary beings and ten trainings of the noble ones, where it says:
Its root is bodhichitta,
That is stable like Sumeru, king of mountains,
Compassion that extends throughout space,
And wisdom that is non-dual. [iii]
Just as in the shravaka vehicle,
Eight shravaka stages are explained,
In the Mahayana there are
The ten bhumis of the bodhisattvas. [iv]
This is all that is said in the Precious Garland; it is not treated extensively. And in the Root Versesthe paths and stages are only mentioned indirectly.
In the Introduction to the Middle Waythe three dharmas of ordinary beings and ten trainings of the noble ones are discussed in great detail, based on the Sutra of the Ten Bhumis. This is the vast means of introduction.
The root text of the Introduction to the Middle Waysays: [v]
Those skilled in the ways of the profound and vast,
Will gradually attain the ground of Perfect Joy.
Gorampa describes the means of introduction in terms of scripture and instructions, for as it is said in the root text: [vi]
This way of explanation I, the bhikshu Chandrakirti,
Have drawn from the Madhyamaka treatise,
And here set down correctly according to scripture,
And in accordance with instructions.
I think there is something slightly odd about this explanation. The Madhyamaka treatise, or the scripture that is referred to here is the Root Verses, and, as we have already seen, this is precisely what is to be introduced. So to say that it is also the method of introduction creates some problems. It would be fine to say that the instructions, passing from Nagarjuna to Aryadeva and so on down through the lineage of masters, constitute a means or method that is used in the Introduction to the Middle Way, but to say that the scripture to be introduced is also the method of introduction is perhaps a little confusing.
2. The Translators’ Homage
The text says:
Homage to the youthful Arya Mañjushri!
This accords with the general guidelines laid down for the translators’ homage.
The text continues:
In order to supplement the treatises of the Madhyamaka, I wish to compose an introduction to the Middle Way,…
This has already been explained above.
[i]so so skye bo’i chos gsum. Bodhichitta, compassion and wisdom.
[ii]‘phags pa bslab pa’i chos bcu po. The trainings of the ten bhumis.
[iii]Verse 2, verse 75, de yi rtsa ba byang chub sems// ri dbang rgyal po ltar brtan dang// phyogs mtha’ gtugs pa’i snying rje dang// gnyis la mi brten ye shes lags//
[iv]Chapter 5, Verse 40, ji ltar nyan thos theg pa la// nyan thos sa ni brgyad bshad pa// de bzhin theg pa chen po la// byang chub sems dpa’i sa bcu’o//
[v]Chapter 6, Verse 7bc, zab cing rgya che’i tsul la mkhas pa’i skye bos ni// rim gyis rab tu dga’ ba’i sa ni ‘thob ‘gyur bas//
[vi]Chapter 11, Verse 52, lugs ‘di dge slong zla grags kyis// dbu ma’i bstan bcos las btus nas// lung ji bzhin dang man ngag ni// ji lta ba bzhin brjod pa yin//
Madhyamakavatara | Collection of Reasoning
by Chandrakīrti with commentary by Khen Rinpoche Namdrol
Please listen to this explanation with the supreme motivation of bodhichitta, wishing to attain perfect awakening for the sake of all sentient beings.
Introduction to the Text
The Collection of Middle Way Reasoning
The great master Arya Nagarjuna was prophesied by the Buddha himself in the Root Tantra of Manjushri (Manjushrimula Tantra):
Four hundred years after I,
The Tathagata, have passed away,
A monk called Naga will appear
Who will benefit my teachings.
Reaching the bhumi of Perfect Joy
And living for six hundred years,
This great being will perfect
The science of the great peacock, [i]
And will understand the meaning of various shastras
And the meaning of the absence of reality.
When he leaves behind his mortal body,
He will be reborn in Sukhavati.
And ultimately, he will certainly gain
The perfect fruit of buddhahood itself.
He was also prophesied in the Great Cloud Sutra (Mahamegha-sutra) and the Sutra of the Great Drum (Mahabheriharakaparivarta-sutra).
Arya Nagarjuna’s two main treatises—the so-called ‘body’ treatises¾ are Root Verses on the Middle Way (Mulamadhyamakakarika) and Sixty Verses on Reasoning. The text we are concerned with here is the Introduction to the Middle Wayor Madhyamakavatara by Chandrakirti, which is a commentary on the meaning of the Root Verses.
Generally speaking, Nagarjuna composed treatises on all five sciences. Those on the science of the inner meaning, i.e., the Buddhadharma, primarily teach the aspects of view and conduct. In describing the view and the conduct of the Dharma, Nagarjuna employs both scriptural quotations and reasoning. The treatise that mostly uses quotations from the scriptures is the Compendium of Sutras (Sutrasamuccaya). It draws from the sutras in order to explain and clarify the aspects of view and conduct.
There are three collections that mainly employ reasoning in order to clarify the view and the conduct of the buddhist teachings. They are the Collection of Reasoning, the Collection of Praises and the Collection of Advice.
The Collection of Praises relates mainly to the final turning of the Wheel of Dharma. It includes eulogies in praise of the ground, the path and the fruition.
According to some past scholars the Collection of Reasoning was originally referred to simply as ‘the collection’ or ‘the teachings’ of logical reasoning and the number of texts it contained was not specified. Others, such as Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü [iv]and the omniscient Gowo Rabjampa, [v]insist that the Collection of Reasoning contains a specific number of texts. They differ in the texts they identify; yet they agree on the principle that the number of texts in the collection is fixed.
Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü said that the Collection of Reasoning contains six texts. Among these, he said, two texts are likened to the body, and this is clear because it is stated so in Chandrakirti’s commentary to Sixty Verses on Reasoning. The two body-like texts are Root Verses on the Middle Way and Sixty Verses on Reasoning. In addition, Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü goes on, there are four branch or limb-like treatises. He claims that this derives from Chandrakirti’s Commentary to the Sixty Verses on Reasoning, where it is explained how these four texts are elaborations upon the two fundamental treatises. However, this text only describes Refutation of Objections [vi]and Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness[vii] as extensions of the main two treatises. It does not mention Crushing to Fine Powder [viii]or Conventional Existence, [ix]which are the other texts Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü includes among the collection.
Gorampa disagrees with Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü because of this very point. It is clear, he says, that Refutation of Objections and Seventy Verses on Emptiness are branch-like treatises, because the way in which they are extensions of the main two treatises is clearly explained. As for Crushing to Fine Powder, Gorampa believes that it too may be counted as a branch-like treatise, and in this it seems he is in agreement with many past scholars. He also agrees that the main topic of Crushing to Fine Powder is the refutation of the so-called ‘sixteen categories of words and meaning (Skt. padartha) of the dialecticians.’ As it says in the text itself:
With the pride of intellectual knowledge,
They seek to engage in debate.
In order that they might relinquish such pride,
I shall explain the Crushing to Fine Powder. [x]
So, Crushing to a Fine Powder is included among the branch-like treatises.
Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü includes Conventional Existence among the branch-like treatises. This is because the teachings of the Root Verses of the Middle Way on how all phenomena are naturally beyond arising and empty might cause one to doubt whether all phenomena are non-existent even at the conventional level, rather like the horns of a rabbit or the horns of a donkey. Therefore Conventional Existence was taught, it is said, in order to dispel this misunderstanding, and to show how at the conventional level all phenomena are illusory and dream-like. So Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü claims that there are six texts in the Collection of Reasoning, and that one of them is Conventional Existence.
The Omniscient Longchenpa also states that there are six texts in the Collection of Reasoning, the sixth being Conventional Existence.
Gorampa disputes the inclusion of Conventional Existence. In the first place, he objects to this on the grounds that it was not translated into Tibetan. He goes on to say that it probably did not exist even in India because Chandrakirti fails to mention it at the end of his Clear Words [xi]commentary upon the Root Verses on the Middle Way when listing all the Madhyamaka texts that he had studied. If Conventional Existence really was the work of Nagarjuna, Gorampa argues, then Chandrakirti would certainly have studied it. This is the relevant section of Clear Words:
What I have shown here is based on my study of the Compendium of Sutras, the Advice of the Precious Garlandand In Praise of the Authentic, and also, for a long time and with great effort, the Karikas from the treatise of Arya [Nagarjuna], and the Sixty Verses on Reasoning, Crushing to Fine Powder and Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness as well as Refutation of Objections too. I also looked into the [Four] Hundred Verses and so on, and many profound sutras, as well as the commentary composed by Buddhapalita and that which was well explained by Bhavaviveka—all these texts one after another—and I have also included what I have discovered through my own investigations, bringing everything together in order to delight all those with intelligence. [xii]
It is because it is not among the works listed here that Gorampa felt Conventional Existence was unknown in India.
As stated earlier, Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü was amongst those earlier scholars who believed that Conventional Existence should be included in the Collection of Reasoning. Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü’s main teacher was Lotsawa Patsab Nyima Drakpa [xiii]who actually translated the Introduction to the Middle Way from Sanskrit into Tibetan, as it says clearly in the translator’s colophon at the end of the text:
…by the Indian abbot Tilaka Kalasha and the Tibetan translator, the monk Patsab Nyima Drak….
And, what is more, Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü was not just an average student; he was one of the four great disciples of Patsab Nyima Drakpa, the so-called ‘four sons’ of Patsab , i.e., Geshe Putowa from Central Tibet, Sokpa Yeshe Jungne from Changthang, and Tsangpa Sarbö and Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü from Tsang. [xiv]
So it seems strange that one of the principal students of this great Tibetan translator who worked in collaboration with an Indian scholar to translate Chandrakirti’s text would consider a non-existent text to exist, and, not only that, but also for it to be the work of Nagarjuna, and to be included within his Collection of Reasoning. If there were a reason to doubt the existence of the text in India or its authorship, Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü would surely have been aware of it. There is no obvious reason why he would endorse a spurious text, or its subject matter, or why he might wish to see it included in the Collection of Reasoning. Lotsawa Patsab Nyima Drakpa was one of the great translators and Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü was his direct disciple. They would certainly have known whether or not there was a text by Arya Nagarjuna called Conventional Existence. And they would certainly not have attributed existence to such a text if there were no grounds for doing so. This must be our conclusion too, if we investigate the matter. Hence, Gyalse Shenpen Tayé, the Omniscient Longchenpa and others include Conventional Existence in the Collection of Reasoning and the reasons for its exclusion provided by Gorampa may be considered insufficient.
The Treasury of Secret Mantra Scripture [xv]is a text belonging to the category of terma related to the cycle of Deshek Düpa, and it includes statements by Vimalamitra, Guru Rinpoche, Namkhé Nyingpo and Vairotsana. This text also refers to a six-fold Collection of Reasoning, but it gives the sixth text as Beyond All Fear. [xvi]According to Indian scholars and the earlier Tibetan commentators Beyond All Fearis a work of Arya Nagarjuna. Nevertheless, it is a commentary on the Root Verses on the Middle Way, and therefore differs from the other body-lilke or branch-like treatises of the collection. All the same, earlier scholars considered it an ‘auto-commentary’ to the Root Versescomposed by Nagarjuna himself. More recently however, Gorampa and others have expressed doubts about this, primarily because the text includes a citation from Aryadeva’s Four Hundred Verses. [xvii]Aryadeva was Nagarjuna’s pupil, and it seems unlikely that in commenting upon a text that he himself had written, Nagarjuna would quote his own student. So there are those who doubt the attribution of Beyond All Fear to Nagarjuna.
Gorampa and others who have questioned its attribution to Nagarjuna have also expressed further misgivings about Beyond All Fear. Why, they ask, would Chandrakirti have composed his Clear Words commentary to the Root Verses if Nagarjuna himself had already composed an auto-commentary? And, furthermore, why is it that there are no quotations drawn from Beyond All Fear in the writings of Buddhapalita? The answer can only be, Gorampa and the others claim, that the text in question is not in fact a genuine work of Nagarjuna.
Whether or not Nagarjuna wrote Beyond All Fear, it is perhaps best not to include it in the Collection of Reasoning. It is preferable to classify it as a commentary on the Root Verses. If all the commentaries composed by Nagarjuna were to be included in the Collection of Reasoning we would have to include his commentary on Refutation of Objections and other texts and we might end up with something more like an eight-fold collection!
There are eight commentaries on the Root Versesin the Tengyur, one of which is Beyond All Fear. There are also those by Devasharma, Gunamati, Gunashri, Sthiramati, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka and Chandrakirti. Although there is some controversy over whether or not Beyond All Fear is an auto-commentary (i.e. by Nagarjuna himself), the fact that it is a commentary is beyond dispute. And according to the Treasury of Secret Mantra Quotations it is one of the six treatises in the Collection of Reasoning.
According to Gorampa, there are only five texts in the Collection of Reasoning. [xviii]Among these, the two likened to the body are Root Verses on the Middle Way and Sixty Verses on Reasoning. Although they are both body-like texts we can draw a distinction between the two. Some past scholars explained that the Root Verses teach a freedom from the eight extremes of elaboration, i.e., ceasing and arising, non-existence and eternalism, coming and going, multiplicity and singularity, whereas the Sixty Verses on Reasoning teaches a freedom from four extremes, i.e., arising, ceasing, existence and non-existence. Others have explained that the Root Verses refute the assertions of true existence made by both Buddhist proponents of true entities and non-Buddhist tirthika philosophers; whereas the Sixty Verses on Reasoning refutes only the assertions of true existence made by proponents of entities within the Buddhist tradition. Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü explained the difference between the two texts in the following way. He said that the Root Verses teaches emptiness of inherent nature by means of elimination and negation; whereas the Sixty Verses on Reasoning teaches emptiness of inherent nature by exclusively establishing the illusory nature of the conventional.
In any case, these are the two ‘body-like treatises’ and the so-called ‘branch-like treatises’ extend from these.
According to Gorampa, the first ‘branch-like treatise’ is the ‘treatise refuting the views imputed by others’. The ‘views imputed by others’ are the sixteen categories of words and meanings of the dialecticians, and the treatise that refutes these is Crushing to Fine Powder.
According to our own tradition, once again the two body-like treatises are the Root Verses on the Middle Way and the Sixty Verses on Reasoning. Then, among the branch-like treatises, Refutation of Objections is said to be an expansion of the first section of the Root Verseson ‘Examining Conditions’. The Root Verses teaches how there can be no arising of something from itself or from something other than itself, and therefore brings certainty in the non-arising of all phenomena. The proponents of entities respond by saying that if this were the case, then even Madhyamika reasoning is without true nature. And since this reasoning is without true nature then it is not able to refute the claims made in favour of true existence. It is therefore unreasonable, they say, to claim that all phenomena are ultimately beyond arising, or beyond the two extremes of eternalism and nihilism. It is said that Refutation of Objections was composed in order to refute such arguments. In the text, it is stated that from the point of view of reality itself, the Madhyamikas have nothing to refute, and have no reasoning by which they might do so. From the conventional perspective however, even though reasoning is not truly existent, the Madhyamikas are still able to refute the assertions made by the proponents of entities, rather like a magically-created, illusory army warding off attack. For example, in the first verse of the Refutation of Objections, it is said: [xix]
“If all entities are non-existent
By their very nature, then
Your words also lack reality
And can not refute true existence.”
In his response, Nagarjuna makes such statements as: [xx]
Since there is nothing whatsoever to refute
I do not refute anything.
Therefore when you say that I refute
That itself is incorrect.
Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness is an expansion of the section of the Root Verses on ‘Examining the Conditioned’, which includes a discussion of how arising, dwelling and ceasing cannot be established. The proponents of true entities respond to this by pointing out that in many profound sutras taught by the Buddha, it is stated that conditioned phenomena are subject to arising, dwelling and ceasing. The Madhyamika replies that this is true only from the mistaken viewpoint of the conventional. This is the essence of the discussion found in the Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness.
So Refutation of Objections and Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness are direct extensions from the body-like treatises.
Gorampa, as it was said earlier, identifies only five texts in the Collection of Reasoning. The omniscient Longchenpa identifies six texts, and his list accords with that of Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü.
Among the New Translation schools, the Gelugpas claim that the Precious Garland is the sixth text in the collection. Gorampa opposed this by pointing out that the Precious Garlandis classified as advice, and therefore belongs to the Collection of Advice, not the Collection of Reasoning. In Chandrakirti’s Clear Words, for instance, which I quoted earlier, it is referred to as “the Advice of the Precious Garland.”
In any case, whether five or six texts are included, this is what is known as Arya Nagarjuna’s Collection of Reasoning.
[ii] Ratnavali (Tib. rin chen phreng ba) see Nagarjuna, Buddhist Advice for Living and Liberation: Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland, trans. Jeffrey Hopkins, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1998.
[iii] Suhrlekha (Tib. spring yig), see Nagarjuna’s Letter to a Friend with Commentary by Kyabje Kangyur Rinpoche, trans. Padmakara Translation Group, Ithaca: Snow Lion, 2006.
[iv]rma bya byang chub brtson ‘grus (?-1185).
[v]go ram pa bsod nams seng ge, the famous Sakyapa scholar (1429-1489).
[vi] Vigrahavya-vartani-karika (Tib. rtsod pa bzlog pa’i le’ur byas pa). See The Dialectical Method of Nagarjuna, trans. K. Bhattacharya, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1978.
[vii] Shunyata-saptatikarika (Tib. stong pa nyid bdun cu pa’i tshig le’ur byas pa). See Nagarjuna’s Seventy Stanzas: A Buddhist Psychology of Emptiness, David Ross Komito, Snow Lion, 1999
[viii] Vaidalya-sutra (Tib. zhib mo rnam par ‘thag pa)
[ix] Vyavaharasiddhi (Tib. tha snyad grub pa)
[x]rtog ge shes pa’i nga rgyal gyis// gang zhig rtsod par mngon ‘dod pa// de yi nga rgyal spang ba’i phyir// zhib mo rnam ‘thag bshad par bya//
[xi] Prasannapada (Tib. tshig gsal),see Lucid Exposition of the Middle Way, trans. M. Sprung, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1979.
[xii]mdo sde kun las btus dang gtam bya rin chen phreng dang yang dag bstod pa dang/ ‘bad pas shin tu yun ring ‘phags pa’i bstan bcos las bstan tsig ler byas de dang/ rigs pa drug cu zhes bya rnam par ‘thag bcas stong nyid bdun cu pa de dang/ gang yang rtsod pa rnam par bzlog pa bkod pa de dag kyang ni mthong gyur zhing/ brgya pa la sogs de dag dang ni de bzhin mdo sde zab mo rnam mang dang/ sangs rgyas bskyangs kyis mdzad pa’i ‘grel pa mthong nas legs ldan byed kyis legs bshad gang/ gcig nas gcig tu brgyud las ‘ongs dang bdag gis rnam par phye las rnyed pa gang/ de dag bsdams te blo chen ldan rnams mgu bar bya phyir yang dag bstan pa yin//
[xiii]pa tshab nyi ma grags pa (1055-1145?).
[xiv]There so-called ‘Four Sons of Patsab’ are referred to in a verse of Taktsang Lotsawa:
As regards the Great Middle Way, the supreme tradition of Nagarjuna,
The excellent clarifications made by Chandra[kirti], translated by Nyima [Drak],
Came down to the four sons….
There are different ways of listing them. According to one, they were: (1) Gangpa She’u, who was learned in the words, (2) Tsangpa Dregur (gtsang pa ‘bre sgur/skur), who was learned in the meaning, (3) Mabja Changchub Tsöndrü, who was learned in both words and meaning, and (4) Shangthang Sakpa Yeshe Jungne, who was learned in neither words nor meaning. Shakya Chokden names Tsangpa Sarbö (gtsang pa sar sbos) as the son who was learned in the words and Daryulwa Rinchen Drak as the son learned in the meaning. See Tashi Tsering, Madhyamakavatara of Acarya Candrakirti, Sarnath: Central Institute of Higher Tibetan Studies, 2005, p. 48 and Shakya Chokden, Three Texts on Madhyamaka, trans. Komarovski Iaroslav, Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2002. p. 23.
[xv]gsang sngags lung gi bang mdzod
[xvi] Mulamadhyamakavrittyakutobhaya (Tib. dbu ma rtsa ba’i ‘grel pa ga las ‘jigs med)
[xvii] Chatuhshataka-shastrika (Tib. bzhi brgya pa) See Sonam, R. (trans.) Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas, Gyel-tsap on Aryadeva’s Four Hundred, Snow Lion, 1994.
[xviii]This is also the assertion of Khenpo Namdrol’s teacher, Khenpo Tsöndrü. See Preliminaries to the Explanation of the Prajñaparamita
[xix]gal te dngos po thams cad kyi// rang bzhin kun la yod min na// khyod kyi tsig kyang rang bzhin med// rang bzhin bzlog par mi nus so//
[xx]Verse 64: dgag bya ci yang med pas na// nga ni ci yang mi ‘gog go// de phyir ‘gog pa byed do zhes// yang dag min te khyod kyis smras//
Chandrakīrti: Entering the Middle Way, Madhyamakāvatāra
Translated by Thupten Jinpa
The First Ground, Perfect Joy
I pay homage to the gentle lord Mañjuśrī.
Śrāvakas and middle-level buddhas arise from sovereign sages.
Buddhas are born from bodhisattvas.
The compassionate mind and nondual cognition
as well the awakening mind: these are causes of bodhisattvas. 1.1
As compassion alone is accepted to be
the seed of the perfect harvest of buddhahood,
the water that nourishes it, and the fruit that is long a source of enjoyment,
I will praise compassion at the start of all. 1.2
First, with the thought “I am,” they cling to a self;
then, with the thought “mine,” they become attached to things;
like buckets on a waterwheel, they turn without control;
I bow to the compassion that cares for such suffering beings. 1.3
Beings are like reflections of the moon in rippling water;
seeing them as fleeting and as devoid of intrinsic nature,
the bodhisattva’s mind falls under compassion’s sway,
yearning to set free every transmigrating being. 1.4
Through intense dedication with Samantabhadra’s prayers,
he abides in Perfect Joy; this is called the first ground.
From that point on, having attained this ground,
he is hailed by the name bodhisattva alone. 1.5
He is born into the lineage of the tathāgatas as well;
he has utterly purged the three binding factors.
Such a bodhisattva upholds the state of
supreme joy and has the power to shake a hundred worlds. 1.6
Stepping on from one ground to another, he travels perfectly to the higher ones.
At that point the paths to all lower realms are blocked for him;
at that point all the grounds of ordinary persons cease for him.
His is described clearly in terms akin to the eighth ārya. 1.7
Even when abiding on the first ground of the mind for full awakening,
he surpasses those born from the Sage’s speech
and the pratyeka-buddhas through the power of his merit,
and his merit increases ever more. 1.8
When at Gone Afar, he will also surpass them by his intelligence.
At this point the first cause of full awakening,
the perfection of generosity, will become preeminent;
committed to giving away even his very flesh,
giving becomes a sign to infer his unseen qualities. 1.9
All living beings eagerly yearn for happiness,
yet for humans there is no happiness without resources.
Material resources, in turn, come about from generosity;
knowing this, the -Buddha spoke on generosity first. 1.10
Those with weak compassion and ruthless minds, who seek their own welfare with enthusiasm,
even for them, the wealth they desire will come from generosity, a cause that relieves suffering. 1.11
Indeed it is through the practice of generosity
that he will swiftly, at some point, meet the āryas.
He will then cut clean the continuum of cyclic existence, and as a result, he will journey to the state of peace. 1.12
Those who keep in mind their pledge to help sentient beings, without much delay, attain joy through their generosity. Since it’s for both the compassionate and the one who is not, this discourse on generosity is primary. 1.13
If simply hearing or thinking of the phrase “give me”
brings such joy to the children of the Conqueror—
joy not experienced even by the arhats who enter into peace—
what need is there to speak of the joy when giving away everything? 1.14
Cutting his body and giving it away, he sees from his own pain the pain of others, such as their birth in the hells,
as if he were undergoing these situations himself;
thus swiftly he strives to cut away all their pain. 1.15
Generosity devoid of the gift, receiver, and giver is called a supramundane perfection,
but when attachment for these three arises,
it is then said to be a mundane perfection. 1.16
Abiding perfectly in the bodhisattva’s mind
and endowed with light beautifying the sublime ones,
this ground of Perfect Joy is the water-crystal gem [the moon], which dispels all darkness and reigns victorious. 1.17
The Second Ground, The Stainless
He is endowed with perfect morality and purity;
even in dreams, he shuns the stain of immorality.
Since all movements of his body, speech, and mind are pure,
he accumulates the excellent virtue of all ten courses of action. 2.1
Not only this path of virtue but in all ten deeds,
he becomes most excellent and pure.
Just as the radiant autumn moon [adorns the night sky], morality adorns him with peace and radiance. 2.2
Should he, though pure, see in terms of intrinsic nature,
his morality will remain impure because of this.
Thus with respect to all three elements of discipline,
he always remains free of the flow of dualistic thoughts. 2.3
Wealth through generosity is found even in the lower realms; this occurs when one has fractured the legs of morality. When interest and capital itself are both exhausted,
no prospects remain for one of any future wealth. 2.4
If, when free and living with favorable conditions,
we do not retain this status we enjoy,
we will fall into the abyss and be at the mercy of others. What could enable us to rise up again from such a state? 2.5
Therefore, having engaged in the discourse on generosity, the -Buddha proceeded to the discourse on morality;
and when qualities spring up in the field of morality, enjoyment of their fruits will become continuous. 2.6
Ordinary beings and the speech-born śrāvakas,
those who are established for self-enlightenment,
and the children of the conquerors—as to their definite goodness and birth in higher realms, the cause is none other than morality. 2.7
Just as the ocean and a corpse do not remain together,
and just as good fortune and calamity do not keep company, likewise the great ones who are governed by morality
do not wish for the company of immorality. 2.8
Who relinquishes what and in relation to whom— when any of these three is objectified,
such morality is described as mundane perfection; free of attachment to these three is supramundane. 2.9
This bodhisattva born of the radiant moon of morality, who is not of cyclic existence yet is its glory,
the stainless who, like moonlight on an autumn night, removes the pain from the minds of sentient beings. 2.10
The Third Ground, The Luminous
Because the fire burning off the fuels of all phenomena produces light here, this third ground is called The Luminous. Here the child of the Tathāgata perceives
a copper-colored glow like that of a sunrise. 3.1
Were a disturbed person to slice flesh from the bones
of the body of a bodhisattva though he be innocent,
cutting it off ounce by ounce over a prolonged period,
this will serve to increase his forbearance toward the torturer. 3.2
For a bodhisattva who sees selflessness,
who cuts what at what point in time in what manner?
He sees all phenomena as images in a mirror,
and by seeing thus too, he will have such forbearance. 3.3
If you respond with vengeance when someone harms you, does your bitterness reverse what was already done? Resentment serves no purpose here in this life,
and it brings more conflicts in the world beyond too. 3.4
He who speaks of exhausting
the fruits of nonvirtuous actions performed in the past, how can he bear to plant the seeds of future pain
by inflicting harm on others and being angry at them? 3.5
Indeed anger felt toward the Conqueror’s children destroys in an instant the virtue gathered
by generosity and morality over a hundred eons; thus there is no evil similar to intolerance. 3.6
Wrath disfigures your face and leads you to what is unwholesome; it robs your mind of the judgment of what is right and wrong; intolerance is swift to throw you to the lower realms.
But forbearance brings qualities opposite to those just described: 3.7
forbearance makes you attractive and dear to the sublime ones, you become wise in knowing what is appropriate and what is not, afterward you gain birth as a deva or a human,
and it secures the exhaustion of negative karma. 3.8
Knowing the faults and benefits of anger and forbearance,
respectively, of ordinary beings and bodhisattvas,
shun intolerance and cultivate swiftly and constantly
the forbearance praised by the āryas. 3.9
Forbearance, even dedicated toward perfect -buddhahood,
is mundane if objectified in terms of the three factors.
If there is no such objectification, the -Buddha said,
this is a perfection that indeed transcends the world. 3.10
On this ground the bodhisattva attains absorptions and clairvoyance;
here attachment and aversion come to exhaust completely.
Because of this he is at all times also able to destroy
all the attachment associated with the desire realm. 3.11
The three practices of generosity and so on
the Sugata lauded mostly for the householder.
They also constitute what is known as the collection of merit,
and they are the cause of the -buddha’s form body. 3.12
This bodhisattva, who abides in the sun radiating light,
having first dispelled perfectly the darkness within his own self,
wishes keenly to utterly destroy the darkness in other beings.
On this ground, though extremely piercing, no heat of anger remains. 3.13
The Fourth Ground, The Radiant
All higher qualities follow after diligence;
it is the cause of merit and wisdom, the two collections.
Where diligence comes to be set ablaze,
that ground is the fourth, The Radiant. 4.1
Here the Sugata’s children come to have,
through their special practice of the factors of enlightenment,
the light of gnosis far brighter than the glow of shining copper.
Thoughts associated with identity view totally cease. 4.2
The Fifth Ground, Hard to Conquer
This great one on the ground of Hard to Conquer
cannot be defeated even by the entire host of māras.
Excelling in meditative absorption and in the truths of the wise,
he gains mastery in refined understanding as well. 5.1
The Sixth Ground, The Manifest
On Directly Facing [aka The Manifest] he abides in the mind of meditative
equipoise and turns to the attributes of perfect Buddhahood.
This bodhisattva, who sees the truth of dependent origination,
attains true cessation by dwelling in wisdom. 6.1
Just as a single man with eyes can easily lead
a group of blind men to their desired destination,
here too intelligence leads the sightless virtues
and guides them to the Conqueror’s state. 6.2
One who has realized the utterly profound truth
through scripture and through reasoning
as well was the noble Nāgārjuna.
So I will expound here his tradition as it appears in his treatises. 6.3
Even ordinary persons when hearing about emptiness,
sheer joy surges again and again within their heart,
tears born of such joy fill their eyes,
and their hair stands up in their follicles. 6.4
Such people have the seed of perfect Buddhahood.
They are the perfect vessels for this teaching;
to them you should teach the sublime ultimate truth.
For them the ensuing qualities will come to birth. 6.5
Adopting perfect morality, they will always abide by it;
they will practice generosity and cultivate compassion;
they will practice forbearance and will dedicate
thoroughly their virtue to freedom for all beings. 6.6
They will revere those who aspire to perfect awakening.
Gaining mastery of ways profound and vast,
such persons will gradually attain the ground of Perfect Joy.
So all those who thus aspire, pray listen to this path. 6.7
Not originating from itself, and how from something other?
Not from both, and how from no cause?
If things originate from themselves, nothing is gained.
Furthermore, something already born cannot repeat its birth. 6.8
If you conceive that what is once arisen can arise again,
the growth of sprouts and so on will never happen in this world;
and seeds will reproduce themselves until the end of time.
For how can the sprout ever bring about the seed’s cessation? 6.9
For you then, there cannot exist a sprout distinct
from the seed that causes it, in shape, color, taste, potency, and ripened effects.
If it is through shunning its prior reality that a thing turns
into another thing, how then can the two be identical? 6.10
If for you the seed is not different from the sprout before us,
then just like the seed, what you call the sprout would be invisible;
or, being identical, just like the sprout, the seed too should be perceived.
Thus you should not uphold this thesis [of identity of cause and effect]. 6.11
Because the effect can be seen when the cause is no more,
even ordinary people do not accept that the two are one.
Thus the postulation that things originate from themselves
is untenable in reality as well as in everyday experience. 6.12
If you assert self-arising, the produced and that which produces,
as well as the act and the agent, will become identical.
Since these are not the same, we reject self-arising,
for it entails the unwanted consequences explained at length. 6.13
If something can originate from something other,
then pitch darkness can originate from burning flames.
In fact, everything could arise from everything,
for after all, being other equally pertains to all nonproducing things. 6.14
[Opponent:] That which is capable of being produced is called,
therefore, the effect, and that which is capable of producing it, though other, is the cause.
Sharing the same continuum, the effect arises from its producer.
Hence rice sprouts cannot come from something like barley seeds. 6.15
[Objection:] You do not think of barley, lotus pistils, kiṃśuka flowers,
and so on as producing rice sprouts; indeed they have no power to do so.
They do not belong to the same continuum; they share no likeness.
Likewise, rice seeds, also being other, differ from their sprouts as well. 6.16
A sprout does not exist at the same time as the seed,
so without its correlate, how can seed be “other”?
As it is not established that the sprout arises from the seed,
you should discard the view that things arise from other. 6.17
You may say that, like the up and down of two sides of a scale,
which cannot but be seen to take place at the same time,
the arising and ceasing of the produced and producer occur together.
Even if they are simultaneous, there is no simultaneity [of seed and sprout] here. 6.18
For as you contend, that which is arising is about to arise, so does not yet exist,
while that which is ceasing, though existent, is about to disintegrate.
If this is so, how can such a case be likened to a scale?
It makes no sense to speak of an arising when there is no producer. 6.19
If, for visual cognition, what exists at the same time as itself—
eyes and so forth, as well as concomitant discrimination, and so on—
are its producer, what need is there for it to arise, since it already exists?
If you say it does not yet exist, we have already shown the faults of this. 6.20
If the cause is a producer that produces something other,
“Is what it produces existent, nonexistent, both, or neither?”
If existent, what need is there for a producer? If nonexistent, what can a producer do?
If both, again, what use is it? If neither, what use does a producer serve? 6.21
[Opponent:] Worldly perspective, grounded in its own views, is authoritative;
that things come from what is other than themselves is perceived by people.
So what use is reasoning here in this context?
Thus other-arising is established; what need have we of reasoning? 6.22
[Response:] All entities bear dual natures
as obtained by correct or false views [of them].
What is seen by perfect vision is the ultimate truth,
and what is seen by false vision is conventional truth, it is taught. 6.23
False vision is also said to be of two kinds:
that of clear senses and that of impaired senses.
Cognitions deriving from impaired senses are
held to be distorted compared with those of the unimpaired. 6.24
Everything the six unimpaired senses grasp
and perceive within everyday experience of the world
is true from the perspective of the world;
the rest the world itself defines as false. 6.25
Overcome as they are by ignorance’s sleep,
tīrthikas postulate a “self.”
As with things imagined as real owing to illusion,
mirage, and the like, this has no existence even according to the world. 6.26
Just as what is perceived by an eye afflicted with disease
cannot invalidate the perception of those free of such defect,
likewise the mind deprived of stainless wisdom
cannot invalidate a pure, untainted mind. 6.27
Because delusion obscures the true nature, it is a concealer;
that which is contrived by it and appears to be real
the Buddha spoke of as true for a concealer;
and fabricated entities are merely conventional. 6.28
Through the force of an eye disease,
one perceives false things such as floating hairs and so on;
those with clear vision see what is actually so.
Understand suchness to be like this as well. 6.29
If ordinary perception constitutes valid knowledge,
suchness will be seen by common folk.
What need for the āryas then? And what need for ārya paths?
Yet it’s wrong to take the foolish mind as valid as well. 6.30
Since ordinary perception has no validity in every respect,
no worldly perspective can invalidate in the context of suchness.
If everyday facts are rejected from a perspective of worldly consensus,
then this will be invalidated on the authority of everyday experience. 6.31
In everyday experience, a man who simply left the seed claims
“I fathered this son!” or thinks “I planted this tree.”
So arising from other doesn’t exist
even from the perspective of the everyday world. 6.32
Because the sprout is no other than the seed,
there is no extinction of the seed at the time of the sprout;
and because the sprout and seed are not identical,
it cannot be said that seed exists when the sprout is there. 6.33
If the intrinsic characteristics of things were to arise dependently,
things would come to be destroyed by denying it;
emptiness would then be a cause for the destruction of things.
But this is illogical, so no real entities exist. 6.34
Thus, when such phenomena are analyzed,
nothing is found as their nature apart from suchness.
So the conventional truth of the everyday world
should not be subjected to thorough analysis. 6.35
In the context of suchness, certain reasoning disallows
arising from self or from something other,
and that same reasoning disallows them on the conventional level too.
So by what means then is your arising established? 6.36
Empty things dependent on convergences,
such as reflections and so on, are not unknown.
And just as from an empty thing like a reflection
a perception can arise that bears its form, 6.37
likewise although all things are empty,
they do arise from emptiness in a robust way.
Since no intrinsic nature exists in either of the two truths,
phenomena are neither eternal nor annihilated. 6.38
Since actions do not cease in an intrinsic manner,
they remain potent even in the absence of a foundation consciousness.
Indeed in some cases, the acts themselves may have long ceased,
yet their effects will come about without fail; this you should know. 6.39
Having experienced certain things in a dream,
a fool may continue to lust for them even when awake.
Likewise, even from actions ceased and lacking intrinsic existence,
effects will come to be. 6.40
While nonexistent objects are equal in their unreality,
those with eye disease perceive floating hairs,
not the forms of just any nonexistent thing.
Know likewise that ripened acts do not bear fruit again. 6.41
As such, unwholesome effects come from dark acts,
while wholesome effects are seen to come from virtuous acts,
and the wise, for whom there is no virtuous or nonvirtuous, become free.
Thus speculation on karma and effects has been discouraged. 6.42
“Foundation consciousness exists,” “Persons exist,”
“These aggregates alone exist”:
such teachings were given for those
who cannot understand the most profound truth. 6.43
Even though the Buddha was free of identity view,
he did speak in terms of “I” and “mine.”
Likewise, though things are devoid of intrinsic existence,
he spoke of their existence in a provisional sense. 6.44
[Cittamātra:] “Apprehending no objects, he perceives no subject,
and understanding the triple world to be mere consciousness,
the bodhisattva who abides in the perfection of wisdom
realizes suchness in terms of consciousness only. 6.45
“Just as in the ocean whipped by windstorm,
waves rise high one after another,
so from the seed of all, foundation consciousness,
mere consciousness arises through its own potential. 6.46
“Therefore dependent nature, which is the cause
of imputed things, has intrinsic existence:
(1) it emerges in the absence of external objects,
(2) it actually exists, and (3) it is beyond the realm of concepts.” 6.47
Where is your analogy for this mind with no external reality?
If you say, “Like a dream, for example,” let’s examine this.
Since such a mind does not exist for me even in a dream,
this analogy of yours has no validity. 6.48
If you say that the mind must exist because we remember our dream when we wake up,
the same must be true of external objects.
For just as you can recall in terms of “I dreamed this,”
similar recollection exists for external objects as well. 6.49
You may say, “Since there is no visual cognition in sleep,
no external object is seen, and thus mental cognition alone exists;
it’s the aspects of the mind that are grasped as external.
So as in dreams, it’s the same with waking life.” 6.50
Just as for you no external realities are born in a dream,
no mental cognitions are born either;
so all three factors of perception—
the eyes, their object, and the mind engendered by them—are fictitious. 6.51
For the ears and the rest too, these three factors lack birth.
And as in dreams, here too in the waking state,
phenomena are false and mind has no existence;
there are no objects of experience and no senses either. 6.52
So here, just as with the waking state,
the three factors of dream exist until woken up—
upon rousing, the three become no more.
So it is for those awakened from the sleep of delusion. 6.53
The cognition of one suffering from defective sight
perceives floating hair because of his malady.
For such cognition, both floating hair and its perception are true;
for those who have clear sight, both these things are false. 6.54
If cognition exists without the cognized,
one should see floating hair even without the malady
that makes the eyes see such things.
This is not the case, and so no such cognition exists. 6.55
Now if [you assert] that such perceptions do not occur
in those who have clear sight because the potentiality has not matured,
it’s not merely that the cognizable objects do not exist.
But such potential does not exist, so this cognition is not established. 6.56
Potentiality cannot exist for what is already arisen;
for what is not yet arisen too, there can be no potentiality.
Without the qualifier there can be no qualified,
otherwise even a barren woman’s son could have such potential. 6.57
If you speak of potentiality because consciousness will emerge,
there will be no cognition since there is now no potential.
“Things that exist through mutual dependence
have no true existence.” So the sublime ones have taught. 6.58
If consciousness arises from the maturing of potentiality already past,
it will have then emerged from a potential extraneous to itself.
And since the moments of this continuum would be alien to each other,
anything and everything could emerge from anything. 6.59
You may say that though these moments are distinct,
they have no separate continua, so therefore
the objection does not apply. But this thesis is unproven.
For such a single shared continuum is untenable. 6.60
Attributes of Maitreya and Upagupta,
who are distinct, cannot belong to a single continuum.
Things different from each other through intrinsic characteristics
could not logically be part of a single continuum. 6.61
[Cittamātra:] “The arising of visual perception takes place
from its own potentiality wholly and at once.
This potentiality, which is the basis of such consciousness,
is what is termed ‘the physical eye organ.’” 6.62
You say, “Not knowing that perceptions emerging from the senses,
such as the simple perception of blue,
come from their own seeds with nothing outer to grasp,
people speak of apprehending external objects. 6.63
“In dreams, where no external forms are present,
mind assuming their aspects arises from their ripened potentiality.
So just as in dreams, in waking states too,
the mind exists with no external reality.” 6.64
[Refutation:] Since without sight, mental cognitions
that perceive blue and so on occur in a dream,
why would such a perception not arise
from its ripened potential for a blind person without eyes? 6.65
If, according to you, there is the ripening of potentiality
for the sixth consciousness in dreams but not in an awake blind person, then just as there is no ripening of potentiality of the sixth for the blind,
why can’t one say that it does not exist in dreams either? 6.66
So just as eyelessness is not a cause for such ripening,
in dreams too, sleep is not the cause [for such activation].
So you must concede that even in a dream,
the dream sight and its objects are causes for false subjects. 6.67
Whatever responses they may present
can be viewed as akin to their thesis.
Therefore this contention is brought to an end.
The buddhas never taught that real entities exist. 6.68
The yogis who, on the basis of their guru’s instruction,
see the ground as filled with skeletons,
here too, all three factors must be seen as devoid of arising.
This is thus described as [meditation] attending to a fictitious object. 6.69
If these objects of foulness meditation are,
for you, just like your objects of sense perception,
then when other persons direct their mind to it,
they too should cognize it; this means they are not fictitious. 6.70
The same is true of someone with an eye disease;
so too is a preta’s perception of a river as a stream of pus.
In brief, this is the point: just as there is no cognizable object,
understand that there is no cognizing mind either. 6.71
Now if this entity dependent nature,
free of duality and devoid of object and of subject, exists,
by what means is its existence known?
Without observing it, you cannot say it exists. 6.72
Cognition that is aware of itself is not established.
If you say this reflexive awareness is proven by later recollection, this is not so.
For the evidence you cite remains itself unproven,
and what is not established cannot be a valid proof. 6.73
Even if reflexive awareness were allowed [for the sake of argument],
it would still be illogical for memory to recall [prior cognition];
the two being different, it would be like the recollection of someone with no prior knowledge.
This reasoning destroys all other aspects [of the purported proof] as well. 6.74
Apart from the recollection of the experience of the object,
for us, there is no recollection that is extraneous;
therefore the memory “I saw that” can occur.
This too is within the norms of worldly convention. 6.75
Therefore, since no reflexive awareness exists,
what is it that cognizes your dependent nature?
Since agent, object, and action cannot be identical,
the claim that cognition apprehends itself is untenable. 6.76
If this entity that is your dependent nature,
which has no arising and is uncognized, can still exist,
why would something not fit to be existent,
such as the son of a barren woman, offend you? 6.77
Now if dependent nature does not exist in the slightest manner,
what then can be the cause for conventional realities?
Because you remain attached to a substantially real,
you demolish all facts of worldly convention. 6.78
Those who remain outside the master Nāgārjuna’s way,
they have no means for attaining true peace.
They have strayed from the truths of convention and of suchness,
and because of this failure, they will not achieve liberation. 6.79
The conventional truth is the means,
while the ultimate truth is its end.
Those who fail to know the distinction between the two
will enter wrong paths through false conceptualization. 6.80
The manner in which you assert your dependent nature
we do not accept even on the conventional level.
And yet to gain results for the sake of the world,
we speak of things’ existence even though they do not exist. 6.81
Just as things do not exist for those arhats
who have shunned the aggregates and abide in peace,
if something does not exist from the perspective of the world,
then even in terms of the everyday world, we do not say that it exists. 6.82
If you think that the everyday world does not invalidate you,
then, using [conventions of] the world, refute this [conventional truth].
You should thus enter into a dispute with the world,
and we will follow whoever prevails from this. 6.83
“The bodhisattva who is directly facing The Manifest
realizes the threefold world to be merely consciousness”;
this statement is made to reject an eternal self or creator
and to understand that mind alone is the creator. 6.84
Therefore, to enhance the minds of the wise,
the Omniscient One spoke in the Descent into Laṅkā sutra
diamond-like words crushing the tīrthikas’ lofty peaks;
this was done to help get to the true intent. 6.85
Based on their own treatises, the tīrthikas
postulate such things as the person and so on.
Seeing none of these to be the agent,
the Buddha said that mind alone is the creator of the world. 6.86
Just as the word buddha refers to
“one who has blossomed into suchness,” so the sutras
speak of “mind only” because the mind is primary in the world.
The meaning of such sutras is not that matter has no existence. 6.87
For if the Buddha knew the world to be mind only
and, on that basis, did engage in the rejection of matter,
why then would the Great One proclaim in the same sutra
that the mind was born from delusion and karma? 6.88
It is the mind that constructed the vast diversity
of both the domain of sentient beings and their universe as well.
The Buddha said that all beings are born of karma;
there is no karma without the mind. 6.89
Even though matter does exist,
it has no status of a creator like the mind,
so what is being denied is a creator other than the mind;
it is not that matter is being negated. 6.90
While remaining within the truth of the everyday world,
all five aggregates known to the world do exist.
When we speak of the arising of the gnosis of suchness,
then, for the yogi, these five aggregates will be no more. 6.91
So if there is no matter, do not hold that there is mind,
and if there is mind, do not hold that there is no matter.
but in the Abhidharma he speaks of the existence of both. 6.92
Even after you have undone the structure of the two truths,
the substantial reality you assert remains unproven.
Thus you should know that from their very outset,
phenomena are unborn in reality but born in terms of the world. 6.93
The sutras that state what are perceived as external do not exist,
and it is the mind that is perceived in diverse forms.
Such statements are intended for those extremely attached to forms,
to help such people turn away from matter; so it is only provisional. 6.94
The Buddha himself stated this to be only provisional,
and reasoning too proves it to be only provisional.
As for other sutras that may be of same type,
they too are indicated by this scripture to be provisional. 6.95
Once cognizable objects are shown to be no more
then negation of cognition is easily obtained, the buddhas said.
Thus if there is no object, cognition is easily negated as a consequence;
so the buddhas first negated the objects of cognition. 6.96
Thus having understood this account of the scriptures,
understand those sutras that present
what is not true suchness as provisional and interpret them accordingly,
and know those that bear on emptiness are definitive. 6.97
Arising from both [self and other] is also not logical,
for it is vulnerable to the objections already raised.
This is neither found in the world nor accepted in terms of suchness,
for arising is untenable in terms of either pole of self or other. 6.98
If there can be arising from no cause at all,
then anything could come always from anything.
There would then be none of the manifold efforts of people,
such as sowing seeds for the sake of raising a crop. 6.99
If sentient beings had no causes at all,
they would be ungraspable, like blue lotuses in the sky.
Yet we do perceive the world in all its color and brilliance.
So, like our own cognition, know that beings come from causes. 6.100
The elements do not have that nature by means of which
you say that they become objects of cognition.
How can you, whose mind is so thickly covered by darkness,
In the wisdom sutras the Buddha rejects them equally,
ever correctly understand facts about the world beyond? 6.101
You should know that when you negate the world beyond,
you’re viewing the nature of things in a distorted manner.
You’ll thus possess a body that supports such a denigrating view,
just as when one asserts self-existence of the elements. 6.102
That these elements do not exist in such a manner has already been shown.
In that arising from self, something other, and both
as well as from no cause have all been refuted above,
the elements cannot exist in terms not already covered. 6.103
In that there is no arising from self, other, or both,
or independent of a cause, entities are devoid of intrinsic existence.
However, since dense ignorance enshrouds the world like thick clouds,
phenomena are misperceived in distorted ways. 6.104
Just as through a malady of the eyes some falsely perceive
floating hair, double moon, peacock feathers, swarms of flies, and so on,
likewise, through the power of delusion those who are unwise
perceive all sorts of conditioned things with their cognitions. 6.105
“Karma comes from delusion and not when delusion is absent”:
such statements are doubtless for the understanding of unwise alone.
The wise, who have dispelled the thick darkness of ignorance
with the sun of excellent intellect, realize emptiness and become free. 6.106
If entities do not exist in ultimate reality,
then like a barren woman’s son, they will have no existence
even on the conventional level; so therefore
things do exist through their intrinsic nature. 6.107
You should first argue with those with an eye disease
who see such unarisen things as floating hair; ask them,
“Why is it you see such things but not the son of a barren woman?”
Then you can refute those afflicted by the ills of ignorance. 6.108
If indeed such unarisen things as dream objects, gandharva cities,
mirage water, magical illusions, mirror reflections, and so on can be seen,
given they too are nonexistent [just like the son of a barren woman],
how is it you see these but not the other? 6.109
So although things do not arise in ultimate reality,
unlike the son of a barren woman, they do serve
as objects perceived in the context of the everyday world.
Therefore your argument remains inconclusive. 6.110
In itself, the son of a barren woman has no arising,
either in reality or in the context of the everyday world.
Likewise, all things do not arise in and of themselves,
either through their essence or in terms of the everyday world. 6.111
Therefore the Buddha declared that all phenomena
are primordially tranquil and devoid of arising
and that they transcend the bounds of sorrow.
Thus things have no arising at any time. 6.112
Things such as vases do not exist in ultimate reality,
yet they exist as well-known entities of the world.
Since all entities are likewise the same,
the consequence that they are like a barren woman’s son is not entailed. 6.113
Because entities do not arise
from no cause, from causes such as Īśvara,
from self, from other, or from both;
they arise entirely through dependence. 6.114
In that things originate entirely through dependence,
such concepts [as self-arising] cannot withstand analysis,
so this reasoning of dependent origination
rips to shreds the entire matrix of false views. 6.115
Such concepts would be in order if real entities did exist;
that no such entity exists has already been analyzed.
Without such an entity, those concepts would not come to be;
for example, without fuel there can be no fire. 6.116
Ordinary beings are chained by conceptualization;
yogis, who do not conceptualize, become free.
The wise have said that the very cessation
of conceptualization is the fruit of refined analysis. 6.117
Analysis in the treatise is not out of fondness for debate;
it expounds suchness because it’s aimed at freedom.
If other philosophical systems are undone
in the course of expounding suchness, however, this is not a fault. 6.118
Attachment to one’s own view and likewise
aversion for others’ views: all of this is just thoughts.
Therefore it is by eliminating attachment and aversion
and engaging in analysis that one swiftly gains freedom. 6.119
Seeing with their wisdom that all afflictions and all faults
stem from the identity view grasping at the perishable collection,
and knowing that self is the focus of this identity view,
the yogi engages in the negation of selfhood. 6.120
That self is the consumer, a permanent entity, and a non-creator;
it is devoid of the qualities and inert. This is what the tīrthikas postulate.
On the basis of slight and minor variations,
the tīrthikas diverge into different positions. 6.121
Like a barren woman’s child, it’s devoid of arising,
so such a self simply does not exist.
It also cannot be the basis for grasping at an “I.”
It cannot be claimed to exist even on the conventional level. 6.122
Since all the various attributes of such a self as proposed
in one treatise after another by the tīrthikas are undone
by this logical proof that “it is unarisen,” which they accept,
none of the attributes of their self remain tenable. 6.123
Thus no self separate from the aggregates exists,
for there is no apprehension of self apart from the aggregates.
It’s also unacceptable to be the basis for beings’ “I”-clinging,
for the identity view is present even in those unaware of such self. 6.124
Those who have spent many eons in the animal realm
and so on do not perceive this unborn permanent entity,
yet one sees that “I”-clinging operates in those beings as well.
There is thus no self that is separate from the aggregates. 6.125
A self that is separate from the aggregates does not exist;
the object of the identity view is thus the aggregates alone.
Some assert the basis of this identity view to be
all five aggregates, others the mind alone. 6.126
Now if the aggregates are the self,
then since they are multiple, the self would be multiple.
The self would also be substantial; viewing it would not be an error
because doing so would pertain to a substantial reality. 6.127
The self would definitely terminate at the moment of nirvana,
and prior to nirvana, the self would rise and vanish every instant.
With no agent, none of its effects could be,
and acts done by one would bear fruits reaped by others. 6.128
You may say, “There is no fault because the instants share same continuity,”
but we have already shown through analysis the defects of such continua.
Therefore the aggregates and the mind cannot be the self.
“The world is finite” and so on have not been declared. 6.129
Furthermore, when the yogi sees the truth of no-self,
for you, he would definitely see phenomena to be nonexistent.
If you say it is eternal self that has been negated, then,
for you, the aggregates or mind cannot constitute the self. 6.130
This means, according to you, that the yogi who sees no-self
has not realized the suchness of form and so on,
and so he would engage with form through objectification,
giving rise to attachment and so on. He knows not form’s true nature. 6.131
You assert the aggregates to be the self
because the Buddha has said the aggregates are the self.
But this statement rejects a self that is separate from the aggregates; also he said in other sutras that form is not self and so on. 6.132
In that it has been stated in other such sutras
that form and feelings are not self, and discrimination too is not,
mental formations are not self, and consciousness too is not,
the Buddha does not accept the statement that the aggregates are the self. 6.133
When it’s stated that the aggregates are the self,
this refers to the collection, not to the individual aggregates.
And yet the collection cannot be the savior, the tamed, or the witness; the collection cannot be the self because it does not exist. 6.134
Were the collection the self, since a chariot and the self are alike, the mere collection of chariot parts would constitute the chariot. The sutra states that the sentient is dependent upon the aggregates, thus their mere convergence cannot be the self. 6.135
If their shape is the self, since that is a property of physical things,
the body alone would be the self for you then.
The collection of mind and so on could not be the self,
for they possess no shape configuration at all. 6.136
That the appropriator and the appropriated are one is illogical,
for this would mean the object of an act and the agent are the same.
If you think, “the agent doesn’t exist, but the object of the act does,”
this is incorrect for there is no act done without a doer. 6.137
Thus the Buddha said the self is dependent upon
these six of earth, water, fire, wind, consciousness, and space,
and also on the six sense faculties of the eyes and so on,
which are in turn the bases for contact. 6.138
He also said the self is conceived on the basis of
the mind and mental factors.
Therefore self is neither identical to any of these factors, nor is it their mere collection.
Thus the thought “I am” does not grasp any of these. 6.139
You say that it’s eternal self that is negated when no-self is realized,
yet you do not consider that to be the basis of “I”-grasping.
So your claim that the knowledge of no-self definitely eradicates
the view of self is most astounding indeed! 6.140
This is like a man who, seeing a snake in the cracks of his walls,
seeks to clear the doubt about whether there is an elephant in the room,
hoping thereby to remove his fear of the snake.
Alas! He will be an object of ridicule by others. 6.141
The self does not exist in the aggregates;
nor do the aggregates exist in the self.
If they were separate, such notions might be plausible.
Since they are not different, these notions are mere concepts. 6.142
Self cannot be said to own the aggregate of form;
since self does not exist, such ownership is meaningless.
One owns a cow through difference or a body through inherence,
but self is neither identical to nor different from the body. 6.143
The body is not self, nor does the self possess the body; self does not exist in the body,
nor does the body exist in the self; in these four terms
understand all the remaining aggregates.
These are considered the twenty views of self. 6.144
When the scepter of wisdom realizing no-self crushes the mountain of self view,
these twenty high peaks belonging to the mighty range of identity view
will all be demolished together as well. 6.145
Some assert a substantially real person that is inexpressible
as one or different [from the aggregates], as permanent, impermanent, and so on.
It is claimed to be knowable by six classes of consciousness;
and this is held to be the basis for “I”-grasping as well. 6.146
Just as you do not take mind’s distinctness from body to be inexpressible,
you cannot conceive substantial realities to be inexpressible.
For if self exists in some manner as a real entity,
then, like the mind, it too will be real and not inexpressible. 6.147
For you, given that a vase is not a substantial reality,
it thus remains ineffable apart from its form and other features;
likewise, self too would be ineffable apart from the aggregates.
Therefore consider not the self to exist in its own right. 6.148
You do not take consciousness to be different from itself
but think it to be different from form and other aggregates.
In all things these two aspects [of identity and difference] can be seen,
and because the self lacks these reality attributes, it does not exist. 6.149
Therefore the basis of “I”-grasping is not a real entity;
self is not something different from the aggregates, nor is it the aggregates themselves; the aggregates are not its support, nor does the self possess them;
this proves that the self exists in dependence on the aggregates. 6.150
A chariot cannot be said to be different from its parts;
it is not identical with the parts, nor does it possess the parts;
it is not in the parts, nor do the parts exist in it;
it is not the mere collection, nor is it the shape. 6.151
For if the mere collection constitutes the chariot,
the chariot would exist even when the parts are not assembled;
since there can be no parts without the bearer of the parts,
that shape alone is the chariot is illogical as well. 6.152
For you, just as shapes exist previously in each of the parts,
if these very shapes were to persist when the chariot is formed, then,
just as there is no chariot in the unassembled parts,
in the assembled parts too, there could be no chariot. 6.153
If within the chariot that is right here and now,
the wheels and so on have acquired different shapes,
this fact would be perceived; but is not the case.
Hence shape alone cannot be the chariot. 6.154
Given that collection has no reality for you,
the shape you mean cannot be that of the collection.
For how can a be shape defined
on the basis of something utterly unreal? 6.155
Just as you admit here in the case of a chariot,
know that effects that are unreal can come to be
in dependence upon unreal causes;
you should understand the same in all instances. 6.156
This also reveals the untenable nature of the claim
that perceptions like that of a vase come from real form and so on.
With no arising, form and so on have no existence as well.
For this reason too, things cannot subsist in shapes. 6.157
Although the chariot does not exist in any of the seven terms,
both in ultimate reality and in terms of the world;
we here impute the chariot in dependence on its parts,
without analysis and through everyday convention alone. 6.158
It is the bearer of the parts and the constituted;
the chariot itself is referred to as the agent of going;
for people it is established as the appropriator.
Undermine not the known conventions of the world. 6.159
How can that which does not exist in any of the seven terms
be said to exist at all? Yogis find no such existence.
As such they also enter ultimate reality with ease,
so we should accept a thing’s existence as shown here. 6.160
If there is no chariot, then there could be
no parts-bearer and hence no parts either.
Just as when the chariot has burned no parts remain,
when the fire of wisdom burns the bearer, parts are burned too. 6.161
Similarly, through being known to the world,
and in dependence on the aggregates, elements,
and six sense bases, self too is considered the appropriator.
The appropriated are the object and self is the agent. 6.162
Self does not exist as a real entity, so it is not immutable;
nor is it not mutable; it does not arise or disintegrate;
it possesses no attributes like permanence and so on;
it has no existence in terms of identity or difference. 6.163
On the basis of this the thought grasping at an “I” arises constantly in beings,
and associated with this thoughts grasping at “mine” arise—
such a self exists as a convention unanalyzed due to delusion. 6.164
When there is no agent, the object of action is no more,
so “mine” cannot be if there is no “I.”
Thus viewing the “I” and mine to be empty,
yogis will attain total freedom. 6.165
Vases, woolen cloth, shields, armies, forests, garlands,
trees, houses, carts, rest houses, and all such things
that people designate based on their bases, know these likewise.
The Buddha, for one, did not quarrel with the world. 6.166
The parts, qualities, attachment, defining characteristics, fuel and so on,
the whole, quality-bearer, object of attachment,
the characterized, fire and so on, none of these exist
when subjected to sevenfold chariot analysis.
Yet they exist in another way, through everyday conventions of the world. 6.167
If a thing produces an effect, it is indeed a cause on that account;
if no effect is produced, with this absence, there can be no cause.
Yet effects too come to arise when there is the cause.
So tell me what comes from what, and what precedes what? 6.168
If you say that a cause produces the effect through contacting it,
cause and effect will be not distinct since they will share the same potency.
If they are indeed distinct, then a cause will not differ from non-causes.
Yet apart from these two, there is no other conception [of causal relation]. 6.169
Since your cause produces no effects, there cannot be what you call “effects”;
also a cause devoid of an effect would have no reason to be called a “cause.”
In that both cause and effect are like illusions for us, we are not vulnerable to these objections.
And yet the things of the everyday world would still have existence. 6.170
“Does your refutation refute by coming into contact with what is being refuted?
Or does it do so without coming into contact? So are you not guilty of the same fault?”
“Indeed when you speak in such a manner, you undermine your own position,
and your refutation will not have the power to refute what you are refuting. 6.171
“Since your objections rebound to your words as well, you are committing a logical fal- lacy;
and so with no sound logic, you deny the existence of all phenomena.
The sublime ones will never agree with you; and with no position of your own, you are also simply abusing the norms of refutation.” 6.172
The objection you have just raised—“Does your refutation refute
what is to be refuted without coming into contact or by contacting it?”—
will certainly apply to someone who has a thesis.
Since I have no such thesis, these consequences do not follow. 6.173
Just as the characteristics present in the sun can be seen
in its reflection, such as when there is an eclipse,
yet one can’t speak in terms of whether the sun touches its reflection, nonetheless,
things originate through dependence as mere conventions. 6.174
Also, though unreal, a mirror image exists to help make up one’s face.
In just the same way, understand that through reasoning,
which has the power to cleanse the face of wisdom,
one can realize the conclusion even with no objective evidence. 6.175
If our proof inferring the thesis possessed real existence,
and if the thesis being proven had real existence as well,
then the arguments about contact and so on could apply.
Since this is not the case, you are only frustrating yourself. 6.176
It is easy for us to make others realize
that all things lack real existence, but you cannot
easily make others apprehend intrinsic existence.
So why ensnare the world in a web of flawed logic? 6.177
Understand other remaining refutations from what has been said above.
Rebut too others’ response to our argument about whether [a cause] contacts [its effect]
and so on, and recognize also how ours is not an instance of flawed refutation.
In brief, understand all other refutations from what we have already outlined. 6.178
To help free beings, the Buddha taught no-self
in twofold terms, that of phenomena and that of persons,
and again for the sake of diverse trainees, he expounded these two
in other diverse terms through further enumerations. 6.179
After teaching in an elaborate way
sixteen kinds of emptiness,
the Buddha summarized these into four,
and he held these to be the great way as well. 6.180
Since their very nature is emptiness,
the eyes are devoid of eyes;
so are the ears, nose, and tongue;
the body and mind too are thus defined. 6.181
Because they do not endure eternally
and because they do not disintegrate,
the absence of intrinsic existence of the six senses
such as eyes is inner emptiness. 6.182
Because such is their nature,
form is devoid of form;
sound, smell, taste, touch,
and mental objects are likewise empty. 6.183
That form and so forth have no intrinsic nature
is accepted as outer emptiness.
The lack of intrinsic existence of both
is inner and outer emptiness. 6.184
That all things lack intrinsic existence,
this the wise describe as emptiness.
Emptiness itself is in turn held
to be devoid of essential emptiness. 6.185
This emptiness of what is called emptiness
is known as the emptiness of emptiness.
It was taught to counter the grasping
thought that emptiness is something real. 6.186
Space pervades all the worlds
and also the beings these worlds contain,
and it exemplifies the immeasurable thoughts.
Space is a great immensity in all directions. 6.187
That space itself is devoid of all ten directions,
this is the emptiness of great immensity.
It was taught to counteract
clinging to great immensity as real. 6.188
Since nirvana is the supreme goal,
it is the ultimate and the transcendence of sorrow.
That it is devoid of itself
is emptiness of the ultimate. 6.189
To counter the grasping thought
that nirvana is something real,
the knower of the ultimate truth
taught this emptiness of the ultimate. 6.190
The three realms, coming from their conditions,
are described with certainty to be conditioned.
That they are empty of themselves
was taught as emptiness of the conditioned. 6.191
That which has no arising and duration
and lacks impermanence is unconditioned.
That it is empty of itself
is emptiness of the unconditioned. 6.192
That which is free of extremes
is referred to as beyond extremes.
That it is empty of itself is referred to
as emptiness of beyond extremes. 6.193
Since samsara has neither
a beginning point nor a final end,
it’s referred to as beginningless and endless.
With no coming and going, it is dream-like. 6.194
That this existence is empty of itself
is described with certainty
in the treatises as emptiness
of what is beginningless and endless. 6.195
“To discard” means to reject
and definitely refers to casting aside.
“Not to discard” means to not abandon,
meaning not to be shunned at all. 6.196
And what is not to be discarded
is, in turn, empty of itself,
and this is therefore called
emptiness of not to be discarded. 6.197
Since the essence of things
such as those that are conditioned is not invented
by śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas,
nor by bodhisattvas or tathāgatas, 6.198
the essence of conditioned things
and so on is termed their intrinsic nature.
And this being empty of itself
is emptiness of intrinsic nature. 6.199
The eighteen elements, six sensory contacts,
and six feelings that arise therefrom,
all things both material and nonmaterial,
all phenomena both conditioned and unconditioned—6.200
that all these phenomena are empty
of themselves [is emptiness of all phenomena].
The formable and so on lack their own beings;
this is emptiness of defining characteristics. 6.201
Form is defined as capable of materiality;
feeling has the nature of an experience;
discrimination apprehends the signs;
mental formations construct. 6.202
Awareness of specific objects
is the defining mark of consciousness.
Aggregates are characterized by suffering,
and the elements’ nature is akin to a venomous snake. 6.203
Sense fields, the Buddha said,
are the doorways to the arising [of suffering].
All that is dependently originated is characterized by composition. 6.204
Giving is what defines the perfection of generosity, discipline is the absence of torment,
forbearance is the absence of anger,
diligence is the absence of unwholesome action. 6.205
Meditative absorption is characterized by focus,
wisdom by the absence of attachment.
These then are the defining characteristics
of the six perfections. 6.206
Meditative absorptions and the immeasurables,
likewise the absorptions of the formless states—
the knower of perfect truth said these
are characterized by unperturbed serenity. 6.207
Thirty-seven factors lead to enlightenment;
their nature is to decisively drive forth from samsara.
The nature of emptiness is unobjectifiable;
as such it is utter absence. 6.208
Signlessness is peace itself.
The nature of the third door
is the absence of suffering and delusion.
The nature of the liberating factors is utterly freeing. 6.209
The ten powers of the Buddha are defined
as that which bring utter certainty,
while the Savior’s four fearlessnesses
have the nature of total firmness. 6.210
His perfect knowledge of specific domains
is defined by absence of deficiency in confidence and so on.
That which brings about beings’ welfare,
is described as his great loving kindness. 6.211
That which protects those who suffer
defines his great compassion;
his sympathetic joy is defined by utter joy;
his equanimity is unadulterated. 6.212
The unshared attributes of the Buddha,
described as eighteen in number,
are defined as irremovable,
since they cannot be stolen from the Buddha. 6.213
The Buddha’s wisdom of omniscience
is defined as direct perception.
Since all other knowing remains partial,
it is not held to be direct perception. 6.214
That which defines the conditioned
and that which defines the unconditioned
are devoid of themselves.
This is emptiness of defining characteristics. 6.215
This present moment does not endure;
the past and future have no existence;
in that the three cannot be perceived anywhere,
they are referred to as the “unobservable.” 6.216
This unobservability is
itself empty of its own being;
it does not endure eternally nor disintegrate;
so this is emptiness of the unobservable. 6.217
Since they originate from their conditions,
things lack existence as composites.
The composite is itself empty of composite,
and this is emptiness of nonthings. 6.218
In brief, the term thing is used
to refer to the five aggregates.
They are empty of themselves,
and this is called emptiness of things. 6.219
In brief, nonthing is used
to refer to unconditioned phenomena.
These nonthings are empty of themselves,
and this is emptiness of nonthings. 6.220
The absence of intrinsic nature
is emptiness of so-called nature.
In that nature is never contrived,
intrinsic nature is the name ascribed to it. 6.221
Whether the buddhas appear in the world
or whether they do not appear in the world,
all things are empty, and this is proclaimed
to be their transcendent reality. 6.222
This is the “perfect endpoint” and “suchness”
and emptiness of transcendent reality.
This is how these enumerations of emptiness
are proclaimed in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. 6.223
Thus illuminated by the rays of wisdom’s light,
the bodhisattva sees as clearly as a gooseberry on his open palm
that the three realms in their entirety are unborn from their very start,
and through the force of conventional truth, he journeys to cessation. 6.224
Though his mind may rest continuously in cessation,
he also generates compassion for beings bereft of protection.
Advancing further, he will also outshine through his wisdom
all those born from the Buddha’s speech and the middle buddhas. 6.225
And like a king of swans soaring ahead of other accomplished swans,
with white wings of conventional and ultimate truths spread wide,
propelled by the powerful winds of virtue, the bodhisattva would cruise
to the excellent far shore, the oceanic qualities of the conquerors. 6.226
The Seventh Ground, Gone Afar
Here on Gone Afar, the bodhisattva will enter cessation
instantly and within a single moment.
He attains as well blazing perfection of skillful means. 7.1
The Eighth Ground, The Immovable
To attain again and again virtues superior to the earlier ones,
the great being will enter The Immovable
and thereby attain the state of irreversibility.
His aspirations become perfectly refined,
and he’ll be roused by the buddhas from his cessation. 8.1
Free of attachment, his mind no longer remains with faults;
thus all stains are destroyed on the eighth ground along with their roots.
With afflictions ceased, he becomes unrivaled in the three realms,
yet a buddha’s boundless space-like resources lie beyond his reach. 8.2
Though samsara has ceased,
he displays himself for samsaric beings
through diverse forms gained
through ten controlling powers. 8.3
The Ninth Ground, Perfect Intellect
On the ninth the bodhisattva’s power becomes perfectly refined,
and he attains the spotless qualities of four kinds of perfect knowledge. 9.1
The Tenth Ground, Cloud of Dharma
On the tenth ground he will receive supreme empowerment
from all the buddhas, and his superior gnosis will reach here its perfection as well.
As a heavy downpour descends from water-laden clouds, so from him,
the Dharma rain will fall freely to water the crop of beings’ virtues. 10.1
The Qualities of the Ten Grounds and the Resultant Ground
On the first ground the bodhisattva sees a hundred buddhas
and knows as well that he is blessed by them all.
At that point he can endure for a hundred eons,
and he will know perfectly what came before and what will follow. 11.1
This wise one will enter and exit a hundred meditative absorptions;
a hundred world systems he can tremble and illuminate;
through his supernatural feats he can ripen a hundred beings to maturity;
he will journey to a hundred buddhafields. 11.2
This offspring of the Sovereign Sage will open a hundred Dharma doors,
and within his body he will display a hundred other forms.
Those hundred bodhisattva forms thus displayed
will each match his beauty, wealth, and retinue. 11.3
The wise one on Perfect Joy, having attained such qualities,
attains the same on The Stainless but increased a thousandfold,
and on the next five grounds these qualities expand.
His qualities increase first to a hundred thousand, 11.4
and then increasing a thousandfold on the next;
next a hundred million, then ten billion,
then one trillion, and after this ten million trillion.
He thus attains perfectly all these qualities. 11.5
The one on the Immovable ground,
who is free of concepts, attains such a magnitude of qualities
they equal the number of atoms
in a hundred thousand billionfold worlds. 11.6
The bodhisattva residing on Perfect Intellect
attains qualities thus described
increased to the count of all the atoms
in ten times a hundred thousand countless worlds. 11.7
On the tenth ground, to say the least, his qualities
lie beyond the bounds of speech;
equaling the count of all atoms.
Such a total is a countless quantity indeed. 11.8
Such a bodhisattva can, within every pore,
display countless buddhas together with bodhisattvas.
Likewise, he can display within every single instant
celestial beings, demigods, humans, and so on. 11.9
Just as moonlight can shine bright in a cloudless night sky,
he strives again on the ground that gives rise to the ten powers,
and in Akaniṣṭha he will find the object of his striving,
supreme peace, which is unrivaled as the ultimate culmination of all qualities. 11.10
Just as space remains indistinguishable even within different vessels,
no differentiations of phenomena exist in suchness.
Since he perfectly realizes everything in terms of a single taste,
the buddha, the excellent mind, perceives the knowables in a single instant. 11.11
“If ultimate reality is pacification, then the mind will never perceive it,
yet there can be no knowledge of an object without the mind as a knowing subject. And in the absence of a knowing mind, what knowledge can there be? This is a contradiction in terms.
Also, with no knower how can you teach about it to others, saying, ‘It is thus’?” 11.12
When no-arising is suchness and that mind too has no arising,
it is by assuming its aspect then, as it were, the mind perceives suchness. Just as for you,
when the mind takes the aspect of an object, it perceives it,
so in dependence on convention, we say the mind can know suchness. 11.13
Through his enjoyment body sustained by merit
and through the force of his emanations from space and others,
sounds reverberate declaring the truth of ultimate reality;
from these the world too comes to understand suchness. 11.14
The wheel set in motion
through long and strenuous labor by a strong potter,
spins freely, and pots are seen to be produced thereupon,
even when no further immediate effort is made. 11.15
Likewise, without exerting any immediate effort,
thanks to his aspiration and beings’ merit,
the enlightened deeds of the one abiding in
the dharmakāya are inconceivable indeed. 11.16
Burning away the tinder of all objects of knowledge,
there is the state of peace, the buddhas’ perfect dharmakāya.
In such a state there is neither arising nor cessation,
and with mind ceased, it is actualized by the body. 11.17
This body of peace, radiant like the wish-granting tree,
resembles the wish-granting jewel that without forethought grants
riches of the world to beings until they gain freedom.
It will be perceived by those free of conceptual elaboration. 11.18
The buddha displays within a single instant,
and within a single causally concordant form body,
all his previous births now ceased, clear and without error;
all these lives he displays in their vividness. 11.19
The sage in whatever buddhafields there were,
their bodies, deeds, strengths, and powers;
and whatsoever retinues of disciples were assembled;
whatsoever physical forms the bodhisattvas assumed; 11.20
whatsoever teachings he gave and ways of life he assumed;
whatsoever deeds he had engaged in having listened to Dharma,
and whatever quantities of offerings he made—
all this the buddha displays within a single body. 11.21
Likewise his discipline, forbearance, diligence,
meditative absorption, and wisdom, whatever practices
he had engaged in in the past, without any omission and in clearest detail,
all of this he displays within a single pore. 11.22
He shows how the buddhas of the past, those yet to come,
and those in the present throughout the expanse of space teach
the Dharma in a resounding and clear voice, and
how they remain in the world to relieve beings’ pain. 11.23
While aware that from first embracing the awakening mind
up to the essence of enlightenment, all their deeds share
the character of optical illusions,
he displays them as his own
within a single instant and inside a single pore. 11.24
Likewise, the deeds of the bodhisattvas of three times,
and the deeds of ārya pratyekabuddhas and śrāvakas,
all these without omission as well as those of others
he displays within a single pore. 11.25
This pure enlightened activity can, as if through a mere wish,
display within a single atom an entire world system stretching
to the ends of space and display an atom that pervades countless world systems,
without the atom expanding or the world contracting. 11.26
Free of discursive thought, a buddha can display
in every single instant until
the end of time deeds countless in their diversity,
unmatched by the atoms in Jambudvīpa. 11.27
The power to know what is correct and incorrect; likewise the power to know the ripening of karma; the power to know the diverse aspirations of beings;
and the power to know the diverse elements. 11.28
Likewise to know faculties, superior and not superior;
the power to know all the different paths;
and the power to know meditative absorptions, liberating factors,
concentrations, and meditative attainments. 11.29
The power to know past existences;
likewise to know deaths and rebirths of beings;
and to know the cessation of the contaminants—
these then are the ten powers of a buddha. 11.30
“That from such and such a cause certain effects will arise
is certainly correct” has been declared by those who know such truths;
what is contrary to this statement is incorrect.
Such unobstructed knowledge of limitless facts is described as a power. 11.31
With respect to extremely diverse fruitional effects of these karma,
that of the desired and the undesired, their opposite,
and their exhausting factor, the knowledge that penetrates these
with unimpeded potency and force,
a knowledge that pervades all three times, is described as a power. 11.32
Knowing the yearnings that emerge from factors such as attachment,
their extreme diversity, such as inferior, intermediate,
and extraordinary, knowing even the aspirations veiled by other factors,
such pervasive knowledge that engages all three times is a power. 11.33
The buddhas skilled in differentiating the elements have stated
that the nature of the eyes and so forth constitutes an element.
The knowledge of the fully awakened buddhas is infinite.
So that which penetrates all the diverse elements is held to be a power. 11.34
Sharp acumen in thought and so on is called one with superior faculty;
the intermediate and inferior are described as not of superior faculty.
The mastery of all faculties, such as the eyes, and their correlations,
this knowing, free of attachment and impediment, is described as a power. 11.35
Certain path leads to buddhahood, while others
to pratyekabuddha and śrāvaka enlightenment; yet others lead to
the realms of hungry ghosts, animals, devas, humans, hell beings, and so forth.
The knowledge of these, free of impediment, is held to be a power. 11.36
In accord with the various yogis there are in the diverse worlds,
their meditative absorptions, eight liberating factors, and concentrations,
as well as the different meditative attainments, such as the nine
unimpeded knowledge of these is described as a power. 11.37
To know the past lives of self and others across deluded existences,
knowing these lives of each and every numberless being,
their bases, places, and so on,
knowing all this is described as a power. 11.38
The births and deaths of sentient beings, each and every one,
their births inhabiting worlds reaching to the edges of space,
the knowledge that penetrates all these right at the time and in their varied details,
unimpeded and utterly pure, this is held to be a power. 11.39
Through his power of omniscience, a buddha can know
the swift ceasing of the afflictions as well as their imprints; he also knows
the cessation of afflictions of śrāvakas and others brought forth by their cognition.
This knowledge, unimpeded, is accepted as a boundless power. 11.40
Birds do not stop flying because there is no more sky;
they do so when they have exhausted their strength.
Likewise śrāvakas and the like, as well as bodhisattvas,
cease declaring the buddha’s qualities, infinite as space. 11.41
Therefore how could someone like me
Nonetheless, since the noble Nāgārjuna has described them,
know and speak of the buddha’s qualities?
I have spoken briefly, setting hesitation aside. 11.42
Emptiness is the profound,
other qualities the vast.
By understanding the profound and the vast,
these [twin] qualities are obtained. 11.43
Once more, you who possess an unchanging body appear in the three worlds;
through emanations you show coming, birth, enlightenment, and turning the wheel of peace.
And all beings indulging in devious behavior, ensnared in a network of expectations,
you lead them with compassion to the state beyond sorrow. 11.44
No other means to dispel all the stains exist apart from the knowledge of suchness.
The suchness of phenomena admits of no differentiation, and the subject,
mind, that knows it is likewise undifferentiated.
Thus the Buddha taught to us beings a single, unmatched vehicle. 11.45
So long as degenerations engendering faults are present in sentient beings,
they will not enter the profound truth, the realm of a buddha’s experience.
And so the Sugata, with his wisdom and compassionate skillful means,
has taken the pledge, proclaiming, “Sentient beings I will free.” 11.46
Therefore, just as a wise [captain] conjures [images of] beautiful towns,
to relieve the frustrations of travelers journeying to an isle of gems,
you set forth vehicles to help soothe the minds of your disciples;
you spoke differently to those whose minds are trained in utter absence. 11.47
As many as the atoms in all the worlds
within the sphere of the sugatas, however many there might be,
for that many eons you’ve entered the enlightened state,
but this secret of yours should not be divulged in words. 11.48
As long as all beings have not gone to the state of supreme peace,
and as long as space itself remains undestroyed,
how can there be an entry into supreme peace for you, Conqueror,
you who were brought forth by mother wisdom and nursed by compassion? 11.49
The extent to which you are compassionate toward worldly beings,
beings who feed on poisoned food because of the defect of their ignorance,
such is not found even in the pain of a mother whose child has just consumed poison.
So Savior, do not journey to supreme peace. 11.50
Through their unskillfulness, beings cling to notions of things and nonthings,
which give rise to the pains of birth and destruction, and of loss and gain of wanted and unwanted;
beings also fall to evil destinies. So this world finds itself within your tenderness.
Through your compassion, Blessed One, you turn from peace and forsake your nirvana. 11.51
This system has been explained by the monk Candrakīrti
drawing from the Treatise on the Middle Way,
in perfect accord with the scriptures,
and in accord with oral instructions. 11.52
Just as outside this [tradition of the] Treatise,
no scriptures set forth this teaching as it is,
likewise the system found here is not found elsewhere.
O learned ones, be sure of this fact! 11.53
Terrified by the blinding color of the utterly vast ocean of Nāgārjuna’s wisdom,
some have shunned and kept their distance from this most wonderful tradition.
Yet moistened by the dew, these stanzas opened like the buds of water lilies.
Thus the hopes of Candrakīrti have now been realized. 11.54
This suchness just explained is most profound and terrifying,
yet people with past habituation will certainly realize it;
others, however, despite vast learning, will fail to comprehend.
Thus, seeing those other traditions as constructed by the authors’ own minds as akin to
the treatises that set forth propositions on self,
forsake admiration for treatises and systems contrary to this one. 11.55
May the merit of speaking about the excellent tradition of the master Nāgārjuna extend
to the edges of space itself, may such merits shine bright as autumn stars amid the mind’s sky darkened by afflictions,
and through the force of having obtained merits resembling a shining gem on a ser- pent’s hood,
may the entire world realize suchness and swiftly travel to the Sugata’s ground. 11.56
Extracted from Tsongkhapa, Illuminating the Intent: An Exposition of Candrakīrti’s “Entering the Middle Way.” Translated by Thupten Jinpa. Library of Tibetan Classics 19. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications. Forthcoming publication date: March 2021. Extracted from Tsongkhapa, Illuminating the Intent: An Exposition of Candrakīrti’s “Entering the Middle Way.” Translated by Thupten Jinpa. Library of Tibetan Classics 19. Somerville MA: Wisdom Publications. Forthcoming publication date: March 2021.
This translation of Candrakīrti’s text has been provided by the publisher for participants in His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings July 17–19, 2020. This is a draft translation and may not reflect the final published version. It may not be reproduced in print or disseminated or published electronically without permission in writing from the publisher: firstname.lastname@example.org. Wisdom is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving and transmitting the Dharma from all the major Buddhist traditions. © Institute of Tibetan Classics
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