Phende Rinpoche: Samsara-Nirvana

Deep Vision of the Non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana by Ngor Ewan Phende Rinpoche

The “Deep Vision of the Non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana” is a teaching which H. E. Ngor Ewan Phende Rinpoche gave when he was in Singapore in 1982. We are grateful to him for so kindly providing us with an English translation of the text for publication in One Vehicle when he was back in France. Lama Jamguene Ngawang Lepa is the famous author of the following text. “Here is contained the essential summary of the view of non-differentiation of samsara-nirvana, called the essence of nectar for good merit”

If we summarize all the apparently diverse opinions concerning the Masters of the Middle Path, we obtain the outer and approximate Middle Path and the inner, precise and subtle Middle Path.

The first category is the view of the Prasangikas who hold for real everything that is perceived by their senses. At the time when all treatises of the Sastras were explained and during the great debates that ensued this view was held.

The second category is the view that considers that all external appearances end up in the mind which is finally placed in its own nature, free of all manifestation. In their training of Yoga, the adepts practise mostly this view in a solitary place.

Relating to this, Atisa has said:

“During all the contradictory debates with non-Buddhists at the time of the debates concerning the Great Treatises of commentaries, it was said to be the Middle Path.
And, at the time of the training to the true sense in the practice of Yoga, it is the SubtleMiddle Path which is practised and constitutes the essential oral Teaching.”

Greater details are to be found in Atisha’s dBuma Rinpoche’i sGronMe along with the sources of his commentaries, as it is said in the Legs bShad Gon-Ma’i dGons rGyan.

Thus, it is said that our own Tradition of the view of non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana agrees with the second Tradition.

Concerning the way of meditating:

First of all, it is indicated in the explanatory Teachings, all the dharmas of the phenomenal world of Samsara (cyclic existence) and of Nirvana, are only reflections of mind itself.

This lack of existence of the smallest dharma outside the mind is asserted by:

a) references to quotations,
b) logical deduction, and
c) the Essential Teachings.


It is said in the mDo sDe Sa bCu Pa:

“Oh, Sons of Buddhas, in the end the three Spheres are nothing but Mind.”

In the rDorje Gur:

“Outside the Precious Mind, there is neither Buddhas nor beings, nor any object external
of consciousness.”

In the Chad Ma Rigs gTer:

“In truth, appearances are Mind itself and do not exist outside of it; they are classfied into
true or false according to tendencies being long-lasting or not.”

It is also explained by numerous other quotations.


“A unique object able to appear manifoldly is actually devoid of all reality.” So it is said.

Thus, a cup of water will appear differently to the six types of beings and in that way, we’ll know that appearances are devoid of all external reality. It is by experiencing that external appearances are devoid of all external reality that this will come to truth.

In the past, a great adept of the ‘Path and its Fruits’ (Essential Teaching of the Sakyapas) had a sensation of thirst caused by his winds and channels. Unable to find any water in a well, spring, or river, and totally puzzled, he hung his monk’s clothes on a tree on the other side of the river and went to sleep. The next morning, waking with his sensation of dryness gone, he realized that water was flowing as it did before in the well, spring and river. He was then forced to use a small craft to get his clothes back.

Another time, in India, a son who had a lot of respect for his old mother, left the country to do business. Upon leaving, he told his wife to please take care of his mother and to be sure to feed her good and pure food.

During the son’s long absence, the old lady caught an eye disease which made the rice she was given appear to be full of hairs. This, in turn, made her very weak due to a swollen stomach.

Upon returning, the son asked the old mother if she had been well taken care of.

“After you left, your wife never gave me good food, except this rice full of hairs which
now made me sick with a bad stomach.”

The son reprimanded his wife, who in turn answered him:

“I have only given her good food, but it seems that she has an eye disease. Go and bring
her food yourself.”

So, the son brought perfectly clean rice to his old mother who said:

“In older days, you had a lot of respect for me, but it seems that now you’re under your
wife’s thumb. This rice is full of hair!”

Understanding that her eyes were bad, he told her to keep the rice and called upon a doctor. After having been treated, he asked his mother to look at the rice. And since there wasn’t any hair in the rice, the old lady understood that her disease was the cause, and thought:

“How can my stomach be sick if I’ve not swallowed a single hair?”

Reassured, her stomach problems disappeared as the rainbow vanishes in the sky. So it is told.


Concerning the assertion from the spiritual instructions given by each of the Lineage’s Lamas, it is said:

“Sickness and disease numb and deceive the mind like a disease veils the eyesight or
like a blazing point swirling rapidly.”

Having thus thought about this truth which is asserted by the above three quotations, arguments and spiritual instructions, all appearances will be perceived as Mind.

For example, when salt absorbs itself in water, it becomes one with water. In the same way, we should understand that no existing dharma is different from Mind.

And lastly, we’ll even doubt an external existence (different from mind) of our own body. But, concerning the authentic fusion of Mind-Perception, it is said that it does not appear until the Eighth Land is reached.

Although the fusion of Mind-Perception of the preceding Land is not really the authentic one, it still appears as an experience during the practice of Yoga.

Those who wonder if the realization of appearances of Mind-as-such, is not precisely the Prasangikas’ Tradition of the Middle Path, are in fact totally wrong.

In fact, Klu-sGrub, ‘Phags-Pa Lha and ZLa Ba Grags-Pa have all three asserted that perceptions are only Mind, and who dares say that they do not understand the Prasangikas’ view?

The great Savant Mi-Pham rGya-mCho has explained it thus in his dBu-Ma rGyan-‘Grel:

“To realize that all perceptions are Mind-as-such is the essential characteristic of the
Buddhist Path’s holders; true situation of all objects, it is the sacred point of the Essential
Teachings relating to meditation. To destroy the illusion of phenomenal existence, it is
the essential hint, just as it is essential for the butcher to know the animal’s vital point
in order to kill it, or for the lumberjack to know where to plant his nail in order to dry
out the tree.

If we can hold it (the essential point) due to skilful means, it is also the heart of the
Essential Teachings pertaining to the Ultimate rDorje Vehicle.”

And so are the numerous writings praising the realization of perceptions as Mind.

To say that appearances are Mind means that they are Mind perceiving itself. In fact, Mind never perceives an external object.

Relating to this subject, the Omniscient dKon-mChog Lhun-Grub has said:

“As distinctive object to our own manifold perceiving mind, our own mental investigation
finds nothing but an illusive being. The chain of interconditioned production of the never
ceasing duality between ‘me’ and ‘other’ (appearing and resting on conditions and causes)
is empty of an own-self. Look at the own-face of the Sphere of the Inexpressible and

Therefore, if we investigate mind with mind, we’ll experience an unceasing Light which is called the Mind’s characteristic.

By its own Essence, this same Light is devoid of birth and empty of primeval cause. In an intermediary stage, it does not dwell in anything and is devoid of a distinctive essence. Finally, since it is unceasing, it is empty of the Fruit of annihilation. Mind has no form or color. It does not dwell inside or outside the body, nor in between. No matter which way we look for mind, it cannot be found. Whichever way we investigate mind, we cannot find anything in which it would realize itself (not having any distinctive essence). Although not having any distinctive nature of its own, the trick of various perceptions nevertheless appears incessantly since the beginning, therefore we never experience its lack of existence. Since this trick of various perceptions appears constantly and we cannot find any true nature, neither can we experience its existence.

This nature of Emptiness in which we have never experienced any existence, and this characteristic of Light in which we have never experienced any non-existence, have always been dissociable. Mind is Pure Light in its perception of itself, Empty in its own Emptiness, and Perfectly conscious in its own investigation. All this is only a purpose of experience for the Transcendental Wisdom of our own investigation.

But, in reality, there is no distinctive essence to hold in the Primeval Nature of the Absolute Truth. Nothing that mind should grasp, nor words to express it. But, nevertheless, in order to dissipate ignorance, the Absolute Truth is called the relative Truth of language: ‘non-dual’, ‘Union of the Two’, ‘inexpressible’, and ‘essence of Primeval Mind’.

Although this natural state comprises Samsara and Nirvana, those who ignore their true essence are said to be in Samsara, while those who know their true essence are said to be in Nirvana. The designations of Samsara and Nirvana are thus attributed according to the understanding or the lack of understanding (of their true essence).

From the true point of view, there is no bad Samsara that should be rejected nor any good Nirvana that should be realized. If this is correctly perceived, we have then obtained what is called the understanding of the view of non-differentiation of Samsara and Nirvana.

In brief, there is nowhere to concentrate outside of the non-seizure of Mind’s Emptiness-Light. The relaxed mind should constantly be in this state where there is nothing to meditate upon, free of quest and artifice.

In the Songs of the Venerable Grags-Pa rGyal-mChan, it is said:

“How could there be a cessation and a distinctive essence in a mind which is devoid
of original birth? To think that there is neither birth nor cessation is also an obstructive
thought; Give it up! You should also renounce the idea of giving up, since giving up is
also a thought!”

“That which is limitless goes beyond the realm of the expressible. The designations
‘Middle’, ‘Mind only’, etc. . . are only words and manifestations, while their mental
representations are only conceptualizations.”

However you think of it, if you have not perceived the Natural and Spontaneous State of Mind, and if you have not trained in the essential Teachings of non-grasping, you’ll be caught grasping even with the thought of non-grasping.

Understanding that this unceasing Emptiness-Light is the Natural State of Union.

rJe Sa-Pan has also said:

“Existence, non-existence, etc. . . ., there is nothing similar in the Natural State of things.
There is no object to meditate upon, nor a subject who meditates, nor the act of meditating.
Mind being devoid of a distinctive essence, how could you explain that Essence? By passing
the realm of the expressible, there is nothing to say.”

Coming out of this equanimous meditation, we’ll then realize that all the forms belonging to the visual field as well as everything that is seen, are, as soon as perceived, Perception-Emptiness, which is nothing else but the undifferentiation of Samsara-Nirvana.

In the same way, all the sounds of the audio field are, as soon as heard, undifferentiation of Audibility-Emptiness, of Samsara-Nirvana.

And, lastly, all the discursive thoughts pertaining to the mental field as well as all that is thought are, as soon as they appear, undifferentiation of Mind-Emtpiness, of Samsara-Nirvana.

Everything that appears is an Activity of the Dharma Body.

All perceptions having appeared as expressions of the non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana and without having to look anywhere else for a meditation object, like a businessman finding himself in a country full of gold, it will be possible to leave the mind on everything that appears without trying to transform it.

Some wrongly affirm that appearances, sounds and thoughts, that we have just explained above as being non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana, constitute the meditation and not the view. In the two texts of the lJon Chin Chenmo and the Dag lDan, the Great rJe-bCun affirms:

“The ‘holder of dharmas’ (phenomena) is Samsara. Dharma itself (its essence) is
Nirvana and their undifferentiation is the undifferentiated Samsara-Nirvana.”

‘Jam-dByans dKon-mChog Lhun-Grub has also said:

“That which is devoid of a distinctive essence is only perception; the nature of all
objects is the Dharma of Samsara-Nirvana; dharmas and ‘holders of dharmas’ are
in truth undiffrerentiated. Realize this view of profound meaning free from all limits!”

Thus, by examining the various quotations, doubts concerning the view of the non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana will disappear.

In summary, the Dharma Body at the moment of the path is to put in practice the method consisting of leaving Mind Itself in its natural and non-transformed state.

Thus, we obtain the Dharma Body of the moment of Fruit which is to recognize Mind Itself free of artifice. And it is That which is called Buddha.

If, outside of mind, there were a place where another Buddha could be found, we could not hold it, and even if we could, the fusion with Buddha would be difficult.

In brief, we’ll know that those who didn’t realize their Essential Nature are called sentient beings while those who do are called Buddhas.

Although we call them View, Meditation, and Action, those different labels take a specific name in the continuum of the practitioner according to the moment. They are in fact the unique View of the non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana.

As the Lamas’ Lineage has put it: First obtain the certainty that all perceived objects are summed up in mind. Then, perceive that all mind’s perceptions are illusory and understand that this illusion only appears because of the supportive links. After having perceived that the meaning of those supportive links are separated from all expressible limits, realize the certitude not relying on anyone regarding the Natural State; so is the View.

Having first started with the three preparatory Dharmas, we’ll remain in the Equanimity of the Profound View with the help of the three basic Dharmas. Then, we’ll meditate by using as final ornament the three conclusive Dharmas. So is the Meditation.

At each moment and without letting go our steadiness of watchful conscience of the View, we’ll meditate on three demons (gDen) of external obstacles, on the three diseases of internal obstacles, on the three perturbating poisons of secret obstacles, on the eight mundane dharmas; in brief, on the erroneous thoughts of passion-aversion by applying the vision seal.

Just as fire gets higher with the abundance of wood, no matter how violent the mental and dualistic perceptions of subject-object such as obstacles and bad causes, if we’re never separated from the key of the View, those perceptions will be perceived as the blissful Sphere of Dharma, just as ice cubes melting in water. A greater advantage will then result concerning the View.

Thus, a correct experience of this Profound View being born in our mind, it will become the antidote to all our disruptive forces (Klesas).

Generally, although our great compassionate Master, the Buddha, taught the aspect of repulsive meditation as an antidote to desire, the Samadhi of love as an antidote to anger and hate, the meditation of appearance in relation to the supportive links an antidote to ignorance, the charachteristics of the varied inclinations and temperaments as an antidote to pride, the meditation of the similarity between oneself and others as an antidote to jealousy, and so on . . . the repulsive aspect is only beneficial to stop desire but unable to appease anger and hate but has no effect on desire.

If the unshakable certainty appears towards this Profound View, it then becomes the antidote to all disruptive forces.

For example, just as inside Samsara, the remedy called ‘the unique benefactor’ is the antidote o all diseases, if one perceives correctly the perfect meaning of Emptiness, this understanding will then become the antidote to all disruptive forces.

It is said by Kun-mKhyen ChosKyi rGyalpo:

“Although the water of repulsion (ugliness) can wash the stains of desire, it cannot
destroy the rocky mountain of anger; although the fire love can burn the bushes of
anger, it is unable to wash the stains of passion-desire.

“With the ability to perceive as Unity Emptiness and everything that appears in relation
to the supportive links, one can totally cut the tree of self’s view with its numerous branches
and leaves of actions and disruptive forces and its fruits of birth (namely, existence).”

Thus it is explained.

If we gathered all the Doctrines of the Way, we’ll find that they are all concentrated in the six Paramitas (six Perfections). And those appear easily to the one who perceives perfectly the essential point of this View.

In the sPyod-‘Jug, from the beginning: “abandoning the miserable beings”, to the end: “they wander without a reason”, it is meant in those nine slokas (stanzas) that the six Paramitas do not exist by relying on body and external speech but that we must find them relying solely on the inside mind. Thus, the spirit of giving which comes from the heart is Giving; the total victory over the spirit of ill-will is Moral Discipline; the total victory over the spirit of anger is Patience; a mind rejoicing in practising virtue is called Zeal; a mind which remains firmly on any object is called Meditation; the knowledge of the Nature of Mind is Wisdom.

Those virtues will be born in the mental continuum of the one who will possess the perfectly Pure View. Jo-Bo rJe (Atisa) and Milarepa have both said it. The victorious Yan dGonpa has also said:

“To know the nature of virtue is the most excellent of all virtues. To know the nature
of non-virtue is the most excellent of all confessions.”

Just as it has already been explained, the wisdom of the nature of virtue being an inexhaustible virtue, it becomes the cause of Perfect Awakening. The wisdom of the nature of non-virtue is the most excellent of confessions and it is said in the Tharpa Chenpo Phyogs Su rGyas-Pa’i mDo:

“If you want purification, firmly contemplate the Pure View. When it appears,
the Perfect Liberation will also come. This is said to be the most excellent of all

The Master, Arya Deva, has also said:

“Even those who has accumulated little merit will have no doubt concerning this
Doctrine. If they did, they would have to wander in cyclic existence (Samsara).”

For it to be born rightfully in our mental continuum, we must exert ourselves with great strength in Purification and Accumulation.

Having understood that the Lama was the Essence concentrating all Buddhas, it is very important to pray to him with perfection concentration, aspiration and immense veneration.

It is said in the rNal-‘Byor-Ma Kuntu sPyod-Pa’i rGyud (bDe mChog’s commentary Tantra):

“Prostration to the Feet of the One whose kindness allows the Great Bliss to appear
in a flash. Prostration to the Lama whose Body is similar to the Jewel possessing the

Sakya Pandita, the Lord of Dharma, has also said:

“For the one who faithfully relies on You, that person immediately receives Infinite
Mercy and becomes in one instant a Perfect Buddha and realizes all the Perfect

In the Tantra, it is said:

“Due to a constant veneration and aspiration, the rank of Dorje Chang can be obtained
in six months.”

‘Brom-sTon once asked Jo-Bo rJe (Atisa):

“Have the Doctrines I practised in the past been transformed in the Way or not?”

“Those where you served your Jetsun Lama did, the others, no,” answered Atisa.

‘Brom-sTon asked again:

“Although we have many meditations adepts in Tibet, none has obtained the distinctive
Virtues. Why is this?”

“All the qualities, great or small, of Mahayana can only take birth by relying on the Lama
and since you, in Tibet, only consider Lama as an ordinary being, how do you expect the
Qualities to be born?”

It is said that to see the clean face of the Profound and Natural Situation of all dharmas, there is nothing more excellent than the practice of Guru Yoga. By practising this Guru Yoga with regularity, not only with the mouth but also with the heart, an unbearable strength of veneration and aspiration will burn from the inside, just like a great fire. There is nothing else than to think and recall the Lama.

We’ll understand that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten directions are incarnated in our own Lama. And by seeing or hearing the marvellous biographies of holy and realized Lamas of India and Tibet, we’ll also know that our Lama is their Incarnation.

Having established the certainty that the Essence of the Lama concentrates without exceptions the Three Jewels, and in order to honour Him, not even being satisfied with the offering of our flesh and blood, by thinking of Him, we will pray to Him with veneration songs, pouring tears similar to a rain shower.

If we’re able to pray to Him with such great strength, there will be no doubt of reaching the Perfection rapidly.

If we’re satisfied by saying a few prayer words such as: “The Lama knows” while only thinking of Him of time to time, then we’ll never obtain the benefits of the Profound Guru Yoga practice. That is why we must exert ourselves to a pure practice.

The most excellent of all incarnation, the Omniscient ‘Jam dByans Kun-dGa’ Bstan-Pa’i rGyal-mChan has said:

“Know that all Refuges are the Essence of the Lama. See all virtuous practices as the
Way of the Lama, and know that Samsara and Nirvana appear as Manifestations of
the Lama.

“Grant us Your Infinite Mercy so that the phenomenal world appears as the Lama!”

If what has just been said is realized, it is said to be the true and faultless practice of the Guru Yoga of the Profound Path.

This text was composed at the repeated request of Thartse Shab Droung Rinpoche Byams-Pa Nam-mKha’ Kun-bZan BStan-Pa’i rGyal-mChan and other listeners of the Lam ‘Bras (Lamdre). They asked the monk of Sakya Thouppa, Nag dBan Legspa, to record the authentic account of the stages of the view that he possessed. And it was written by the incarnation of sDe gZung Lun-Rig, namely, Kun-dGa’ BsTanpa’i Nyima.