Commentary on the Rosary of Views by His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
19-21, 2004, Miami, Florida. Translated by Thubten Jinpa. Sept. Transcribed, annotated and edited by Phillip Lecso.
His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama
We will start with the ceremony for generating the awakening mind. Generating bodhicitta or the awakening mind is truly the essence of the Buddha’s teachings as well as the path. One can say that all of the various elements of the practices presented in the teachings of the Vehicles of the Disciples and of the Self-Realized Ones can be viewed as preliminary to the practice of bodhicitta or awakening mind. The cultivation of the awakening mind is the main practice or the main element of the path. All of the other practices such as the Six Perfections and all of the Vajrayana practices can be seen as precepts of generating the awakening mind. Particularly the Vajrayana practices can be seen as an extension, elaboration or refined development of especially the last two perfections, the Perfection of Concentration and the Perfection of Wisdom.
For this ceremony for generating the awakening mind, first of all imagine the Buddha in the space in front in a standing posture. Imagine that this is really the Buddha and that he is surrounded by all of the great bodhisattva masters of India such as Nagarjuna and so on and the great bodhisattva masters of Tibet from both the Old Translation and the New Translation, all of whom made tremendous contributions for the welfare of sentient beings. So imagine that the Buddha is surrounded by all of these great masters. Based upon this visualization, we will now engage in the practice of the seven-limbs for which we will do perform a specific recitation but I will explain the seven limbs one-by-one.
The first limb is prostration and for this limb, reaffirm the visualization of the Buddha surrounded by all of the great masters, contemplate on their great enlightened qualities of body, speech and mind and finally from the depth of your heart, develop a deep admiration and reverence to these objects of refuge and veneration. Also from the depth of your heart cultivate the determination to attain their great enlightened qualities of body, speech and mind for yourself. With this sort of deep admiration and reverence, place the palms of your hands together and imagine making prostrations.
The second limb is the making of offerings and so here reaffirming the visualization in front in whose presence you have made prostrations, mentally offer everything, things that belong to you as well as things that do not belong to anyone such as the environment. All of these things you mentally offer to the great objects of refuge. Most importantly offer all of the virtue, spiritual practices and realizations that you have accumulated. For example right now after having reflected on the qualities of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha and the great bodhisattvas, one has generated a deep sense of veneration and out of that you have paid homage to the Buddha by making prostrations with folded hands. This itself is a virtuous activity performed through your body. Verbally by reciting verses which praise the enlightened qualities of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha, those verbal actions also constitute virtuous actions of speech. Even the utterance of a single word out of a motivation to bring benefit to someone else, even that single utterance constitutes virtuous activity. Offer all of these activities to the Buddha. On the mental level, cultivating deep reverence and deep conviction in the truth of the Dharma as well as cultivating a deep sense of admiration to the Buddha and the Three Jewels along with great compassion and some understanding of the view of emptiness based on the previous days’ discussions, these are all acts of mental virtue and you should make an offering of all of these. This is the most important offering and it is referred to as the true offering of spiritual practice.
The third and fourth limbs are confession and purification or disclosure/declaration and purification. Here reflect upon all of the negative activities that you have engaged in, all of which will be the causes and conditions for our own suffering which we do not desire. By reflecting upon the fact that these destructive and negative actions will give rise to suffering, one should develop a deep sense of recognition of their destructive nature. With this sense, develop a strong resolution or sense of resolve that from now on “I will never again indulge in these negative acts.” With such a thought, one declares and purifies them.
The fifth limb is rejoicing in one’s own spiritual and virtuous activities that one has engaged in and one also rejoices in the spiritual and virtuous activities of others. With relation to others, cultivate a deep sense of admiration for the great enlightened deeds of the Buddhas as well as the masters such as Nagarjuna and his immediate disciples, Asanga and his immediate disciples and also all of the great masters of the Tibetan Buddhist tradition of all four major schools. Cultivate a deep sense of rejoicing and admiration in the enlightened deeds of all of these great masters.
The sixth limb is through focusing upon the Buddhas and bodhisattvas, who are visualized in front of yourself, make supplications to this assembly to turn the Wheel of Dharma.
The seventh limb is to make a plea to the assembled Buddhas and bodhisattvas not to enter into nirvana. This is the main content of the practice of the Seven Limbs and there is no need to explicitly recite any prayers for this practice.
Now most important is to perform a concentration and here first of all, it is important to reflect on a very deep level the fundamental equality of oneself and others. This contemplation upon the fundamental equality of oneself and others needs to be understood on the basic level where just as you wish to achieve happiness and overcome suffering, so too do all sentient beings seek happiness and wish to overcome suffering. Similarly just as in your own case, your essential nature of mind is pure and your sufferings particularly your afflictions are in principal removable, in the same manner, all sentient beings possess the nature which will allow them to at least in principle, to remove the causes of their suffering. Similarly just as you have the potential for the attainment of the omniscient mind of a Buddha, so too all sentient beings equally possess that same potential of being able to attain the omniscient mind of a Buddha. Therefore from all of these points of view, if you reflect deeply, you will recognize the fundamental equality of yourself and others.
Then the question arises, “What is the difference when it comes to the wellbeing of oneself and others?” The difference only lies in the number. When one speaks about the wellbeing of oneself, one is speaking only of the wellbeing of a single individual. Whereas when one speaks of the welfare of others, one is speaking of an infinite number of sentient beings. So although on the fundamental level there is equality between oneself and others, the difference lies in the number of beings.
Having recognized the fundamental equality of oneself and others and also having realized that the difference lies only in the number of beings involved, one develops a strong wish to relieve other sentient beings from their suffering. Then next it is important to reflect upon what is stated in Santideva’s Bodhisattva’s Way of Life or the Bodhicaryavatara where he makes the following statement: All problems and adversity that can be seen in the world are in the final analysis the consequence of self-cherishing and all of the joy, happiness and prosperity that is in the world, are in the final analysis the consequence of the thought cherishing others. Through reflecting upon this statement, become aware of the shortcomings, disadvantages and drawbacks of the thought that cherishes one’s own wellbeing alone.
Chap. 8 All the joy the world contains
Verse 129 Came through wishing happiness for others;
All the misery the world contains
Came through wanting pleasure for oneself.
Then reflect upon the benefits and virtues of cultivating the thought that cherishes the welfare of other sentient beings. When one does this then one will appreciate Santideva’s summary in the text where he states: What more needs to be said, simply compare the fate of the childish whose concern is only for their own self-interest with that of the Buddha, the fully enlightened one whose only concern is the welfare of others. As Santideva points out that if one simply compares where ordinary sentient currently are with the fully enlightened Buddhas, the difference is an indication of the difference between self-cherishing and the thought cherishing the wellbeing of others. Our own situation of remaining continuously within the unenlightened state is the function and consequence of perpetually being caught in self-cherishing whereas the Buddhas and bodhisattvas have reversed this process and have replaced self-cherishing with the thought cherishing the welfare of other sentient beings. Because of this reversal of self-cherishing, the bodhisattvas have already embarked upon the path that will lead them to the full enlightenment and the fully awakened have already attained full enlightenment.
Chap. 8 Is there need for lengthy explanation?
Verse 130 Childish beings look out for themselves;
Buddhas labor for the good of others
See the difference that divides them!
By reflecting upon these lines one needs to compare the pros and cons of these two thoughts: the thought cherishing only one’s own interest and the thought cherishing the wellbeing of other sentient beings. One arrives at the conclusion that recognizes the disadvantages of self-centeredness and appreciates the value and benefit of other-centeredness, the thought that cherishes the welfare of others.
After having thought along these lines, one should then reach the conclusion making a strong resolve that “From now on, I will not allow myself to be enslaved by the two powerful negative forces; grasping at the inherent and true existence of all phenomena and cherishing my own self-centered interests.” These two graspings, grasping at the self-existence of oneself and grasping at one’s own self-interest, are the twin forces which up till now have enslaved you and are responsible for all of the adversity and suffering that you have faced. But now you have resolved that from now on “I will not allow myself to be enslaved by these thoughts and today I have truly recognized my true enemy.” Having recognized this true enemy, resolve that “From now on, I will never endorse them, never reinforce them again. Instead I will counter them and combat them with their corresponding antidotes, the cultivation of the wisdom realizing emptiness that counters grasping at true existence and the generation of the awakening mind that counters self-cherishing thoughts. With these two practices I will aim to attain enlightenment for the benefit of all beings.” Make a very strong resolve.
The actual ceremony of generating the awakening mind will be constituted of repeating three times the following three stanzas. The first two stanzas are for going for refuge in the Three Jewels as well as the generation of the awakening mind. The third stanza is an affirmation of that fact. With these three stanzas the actual practice of generating bodhicitta is very explicit as well as going for refuge.
What is not explicit is the practice of meditating upon emptiness so this needs to be complemented with a reflection upon the nature of the self. For example when you recite the line “I will always go for refuge,” this reference to the term “I” when reciting it you should be aware of the emptiness of one’s own self. Similarly when going for refuge to the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, just as the person who is going for refuge is devoid of any intrinsic existence so too the objects of refuge, the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, are devoid of intrinsic existence. The Buddha is a being as well as the Sangha is composed of beings and if the beings themselves are devoid of inherent existence then the Dharma that is a realized quality of these beings as well must be devoid of intrinsic existence.
So when you go for refuge to the Three Jewels, when you declare that “I will always go for refuge,” you need to be aware of the emptiness of yourself and also the emptiness of the object of refuge, namely the Three Jewels. Also the beings, for whose benefit you are going for refuge and generating the awakening mind, are devoid of inherent existence. If you are able to have this type of awareness when doing the recitation then this act of generating the awakening mind will also contain a meditation on emptiness. This practice will then contain both the practice of bodhicitta through generating the awakening mind which is the skilful means aspect of the path and also a cultivation of insight into emptiness which is the wisdom aspect of the path.
So recite these stanzas three times:
With the wish to free all beings
I shall always go for refuge
To the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha
Until the attainment of full enlightenment.
Enthused by wisdom and compassion
Today in the Buddha’s presence
I generate the mind for enlightenment
For the benefit of all beings.
As long as space remains
As long as sentient beings remain
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.
This is a very brief ceremony for generating the awakening mind and since the text is quite short in being only three stanzas, it would be good if you could read them on a daily basis to the point where you will have them memorized. Once you have them memorized, then reflect upon them on a daily basis and this will be very beneficial.
We will now return to the text. After having briefly explained what the three modes [of the Inner Yoga Vehicle are], the modes of generation, completion and great completion, from this point onward the text explains the way in which one engages in these three different modes. The text reads: Conviction in this mode of Great Perfection [arises] by means of four understandings: 1) understanding the oneness of cause, 2) understanding through the mode of syllables, 3) understanding through the blessings and 4) direct understanding.
Understanding the oneness of cause refers to this: Since all phenomena are on the ultimate level unborn, they are not different from each other, they are not different in sharing the characteristics of illusions on the conventional level. What is unborn itself appears as diverse illusory forms just like the reflections of the moon in water. Since illusion is devoid of intrinsic nature and is unborn, and since the ultimate and the conventional are indistinguishable, one understands the oneness of cause.
This alludes to an important passage in the Guhyagarbha Tantra which is one of the most important passages within this tantra. It presents the philosophical viewpoint of this particular text. Just as in the case of when reading or interpreting Vajrayana texts such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra, the reading of a single passage can have many different levels of meaning. For example, [in interpreting Vajrayana texts] one speaks of four modes of meaning: the literal meaning, the general meaning, the hidden meaning and the ultimate or definitive (secret) meaning. So even in relation to a single sentence or even a single word in the texts of Highest Yoga Tantra, one can read the same sentence on many different levels. This also applies to this particular passage here as well.
Commenting on this particular section of the text, especially on the phrase ‘the oneness of cause’ and that on the ultimate level all phenomena are unborn and not different from each other, Jamgon Kongtrul points out that this non-differentiation of phenomena should not be understood merely in terms of the sutra presentation of emptiness where for example, one speaks of how all phenomena are free from the eight extremes of going-coming, oneness-multiplicity and so on. The meaning here from conceptual elaboration needs to be understood as explained from the point of view of the innate mind of clear light. The point that Jamgon Kongtrul is making is that for the yogi in whose mind the wisdom of clear light has become directly manifest, there is no dualistic perception of any kind in that yogi’s mind. So from that yogi’s point of view such characteristics as coming and going or oneness and multiplicity, none of these conventional characteristics can be said to exist.
While the wisdom of clear light is manifest in the mind of the yogi, none of these dualistic perceptions of any kind will appear to that yogi’s mind. So it is from that point of view that one needs to understand the reference that all phenomena are on the ultimate level unborn and from this point of view phenomena are also not different from each other; there is no differentiation of any kind. In brief, this is a reference to the ultimate meaning clear light.
The next line of the text reads: they are not different in sharing the characteristics of illusions on the conventional level. For this line as well Jamgon Kongtrul points out that when one uses the terms conventional and ultimate, these have different meanings in different contexts, but here since ultimate truth is understood in terms of the wisdom of the clear light, then here conventional truth must also be understood in correspondence to that. Therefore, conventional truth here refers to the resonance, the self-expression of the innate mind of clear light. The self-expression of the clear light wisdom is actually the illusory body so conventional truth here refers to the illusory body which is the self-resonance or self-expression of the wisdom of clear light.
These two dimensions of the ultimate clear light which is the dimension of emptiness and the [conventional clear light] illusory body which is the dimension of appearance, effectively become the substantial or primary cause for the attainment of the enlightened mind and body.
Kongtrul Rinpoche goes on to explain oneness of experience or the oneness of taste and refers to two levels of union. In one context it is the union of objective emptiness and the subjective clear light which is understood in terms of the union of emptiness and bliss. As explained before the subjective clear light refers to the ultimate wisdom of clear light and from the perspective of this wisdom of clear light, one can understand how all phenomena are said to be of a single taste. For example, so far as the individual beings experiences of various levels of mental states is concerned, all of the subjective experiences including the grosser levels of consciousness, as explained before, they are manifestations arising out of the clear light mind. Because of that each and every state of one’s consciousness is permeated by the essential quality of the clear light consciousness.
So an analogy is given just as every part of a sesame seed is permeated by the sesame oil contained within that seed, in the same manner, all of the levels of one’s consciousness, including the grosser levels of consciousness, are permeated by the clear light nature. Another analogy that is given is that of the relationship between ice and water. When one perceives ice, there is definitely a solidity in the actual structure of the ice itself but regardless of how solid ice may seem, it never loses its essential nature of being water which is in the ice. In the same manner, the entire spectrum of consciousness is permeated by its essential nature which is clear light. Since this is the case then of course the object, the field of experience of one’s consciousness, all are in a sense, the manifestations or play of the innate mind of clear light as was explained earlier. So from this point of view there is an oneness of taste in the entirety of phenomena. When the ultimate wisdom of clear light is experienced then it is conjoined with the objective emptiness so there is a union of bliss and emptiness. This is one level of union.
However, Jamgon Kongtrul points to another level of union where bliss and emptiness are one unit of the union and the other unit is the illusory body that I spoke of earlier. The union of the clear light wisdom and the illusory body represents the higher form of union where effectively the Two Truths, the ultimate and conventional, have become integrated and united. This is a unique form of union and because of this one reads in the text: What is unborn itself appears as diverse illusory forms just like the reflections of the moon in water. Since illusion is devoid of intrinsic nature and is unborn, and since the ultimate and the conventional are indistinguishable referring to the union of the clear light and the illusory body, one understands the oneness of cause. The oneness of cause here is understood by Jamgon Kongtrul as the union of the clear light wisdom and the illusory body.
Having explained the oneness of cause next the text continues with the explanation of understanding through the mode of syllables. This section deals with the oneness of the taste of the body, speech and mind of the yogi who has attained union. The text reads: Understanding through the mode of syllables is as follows. The unborn nature of all phenomena is AH which is the nature of enlightened speech; that the unborn nature itself appearing as causally efficacious illusion is O, which is the nature of enlightened body and that the awareness which cognizes this, the illusory wisdom devoid of center and periphery is OM, which is the nature of enlightened mind.
In the terminology of the Guhyasamaja Tantra, it speaks of the innate qualities of the prana energies and the subtle levels of consciousness. These subtle levels of consciousness are indivisible from their mediums which are the prana wind energies. So just as even on the level of gross experience these subtle levels of consciousness are indivisible from the medium which is the prana energy winds. The body, speech and mind are functions of the interaction between the subtle prana energy winds and the subtle consciousness. In fact there are explicit statements in the Guhyasamaja Tantra which Jamgon Kongtrul cites in his commentary from Candrakirti’s commentary of the root tantra of the Guhyasamaja, the Bright Lamp, in which commenting on a line from the root tantra Candrakirti explicitly explains that for the yogi who has gained union, body, speech and mind have fused into a single taste.
In this text, it states that from the unit of subtle prana energy wind and the subtle consciousness, one part of the prana wind energy represents enlightened speech and the prana winds in their entirety, which arises as the illusory body, represents enlightened body. The awareness of the yogi that realizes or cognizes this represents enlightened mind. These three have fused into a single taste in the yogi who has gained union therefore the text refers to the three syllables AH, O and OM representing speech, body and mind.
Next is the understanding through the blessings and the text reads: Understanding through blessings refers to the understanding that just as, for example, the power to change a white sheet of cloth into a red sheet lies in the dye, the power to transform all phenomena into enlightened Buddhas is obtained through understanding the oneness of cause and understanding the mode of the syllables. Here the text explains the possibility of transformation that is embedded within the phenomena themselves. For example in the context of the Sutra system, one speaks of natural nirvana, which refers to emptiness and because all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence their ultimate nature is emptiness. It is this natural nirvana that allows the possibility for the eventual removal or dispelling of the ignorance that grasps at things as truly existing or as substantially real. Whereas if the belief in substantial reality is true, it would preclude any possibility or potential for transformation and change. Because all phenomena are devoid of inherent existence, because their ultimate nature is empty, it is this emptiness that allows for the possibility of transformation and enlightenment.
In the same manner, here in the context of Highest Yoga Tantra when one understands that all phenomena of cyclic existence are in some sense the effulgence or manifestations arising from the fundamental innate mind of clear light, this implies that all of these factors of samsara which come into existence are truly adventitious. Since the essential nature of mind is clear light which is free of any defilement or obscuration, this allows the possibility for all of these adventitious factors of samsara to be removable in principle. Because of this it also allows the possibility to apply powerful antidotes against the defilements so that these can eventually be removed. Therefore in this text there is the reference to ‘blessing’ and transformation through blessing. The Tibetan for blessing is byin rlabs which has the connotation of something being changed as the result of a power of brilliance or majesty. Blessing here connotes transformation. Because the essential nature of the mind is pure, it allows for the possibility of transformation.
One can relate this to the same analogy that was used earlier concerning the relationship between ice and water. When one examines a block of ice, it is as hard as a rock but despite the solidity of the ice, it retains its quality or nature of water. Because of that nature there is the possibility that it can be melted releasing the water from it. If the ice has no quality of water contained within it, if the nature of ice was not water, then there would not be the possibility of getting water from it. In the same manner, since all of the various levels of the gross afflictions, conceptual thought processes and so on, impure and contaminated states of mind arise from the innate mind of clear light, there is the possibility that they all can eventually be dissolved back into the innate mind of clear light as well.
Next is the fourth understanding which is direct understanding and the text reads: Direct understanding is understanding that the abiding of all phenomena, primordially as fully enlightened, is not contrary to the intention of the scriptures and the quintessential instructions and that it does not depend upon the words of the scriptures and quintessential instructions alone. This is understood directly as one has gained conviction from the depths of one’s mind by means of one’s own intellect. This passage points to the possibility of gaining a direct experience of this truth.
The text continues: “Gaining conviction through the path” refers to the comprehension of the meaning of the four understandings, which is the path of a yogi. However this is not like the practice in which the cause depends upon temporal process for its effect to arise; rather, one comprehends it directly by oneself through faith.
In Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary for this section, he explains that when referring to the direct understanding in this context, this should not be confined only to an understanding the ultimate wisdom of clear light alone. There can be many different levels of direct experience and this is very similar to the ideas found in the Lamdre cycle of teachings where they refer to ultimate wisdom and metaphoric wisdom. In relation to the metaphorical wisdom, in the Lamdre teachings there is also a recognition of subtler and grosser levels and so on. For example there is a metaphoric wisdom that arises following the dissolution of the three subtle levels of consciousness of appearance, red increase and near-attainment. There are grosser levels of metaphoric wisdom which arise in the aftermath of the dissolution of the grosser levels of the Eighty Indicative Conceptions. The point is that when one speaks of direct experience in this context, one should not confine the discussion to refer only to the ultimate wisdom of clear light as there are many different levels of direct experience.
Such kinds of direct experience can also be effected in some cases on the basis of an experienced master giving instructions to a ripened disciple who on the basis of the instruction can bring about an experience of direct understanding. So direct understanding has connotations on many different levels.
Jamgon Kongtrul then summarizes the entire section on the four understandings explaining that the first understanding, the oneness of the cause, explains the nature of the union of the Two Truths. The second understanding, which is the understanding of the mode of syllables, explains the oneness or fusion of the body, speech and mind of the yogi who has attained union. The third understanding, understanding through blessings, explains the process by which the impure aspects of one’s existence are purified. The fourth understanding explains the possibility of gaining direct experience or understanding of that process.
In the next section the text deals with what is called the three characteristic marks. Basically this section explains the process by which one’s understanding goes through a process of progressive deepening from the stage of understanding derived through study unto understanding derived through reflection and then culminating in understanding derived through meditation. This is the standard process through which one’s understanding becomes deepened.
The text reads: It is by means of understanding the three characteristic marks that successful realization of the goal will take place. The comprehension of the four modes of understanding is the characteristic mark of knowledge, this refers to the understanding derived through study and learning; the constant cultivation of familiarity is the characteristic mark of engagement, so this refers to the understanding derived through contemplation and reflection; and its actualization due to the force of habituation is the defining characteristic of the result, so this refers to the understanding derived through meditative practice.
The text then goes on to explain: These three characteristic marks also present the correlations, which is the inter-relationships of the various elements, the purpose and the ultimate purpose. As for the ‘correlations’, it refers to relating the characteristic mark of the knowledge of the cause – the understanding of all phenomena labeled as afflicted and enlightened as being, right from the beginning, embodiments of enlightened body, speech and mind and as the expanse of natural Buddhahood, which is the meaning of blessing. Correlation here refers to relating the characteristic marks of the knowledge of the cause to be the cause for achieving the unexcelled enlightenment.
As for the purpose, it is the comprehension of all phenomena – those that are imputed as afflicted or factors belonging to the enlightened class – as the five medicines, as well as the five nectars and so on, within the great equanimity of primordial Buddhahood with no evaluative judgments of affirmation or negation. This is the characteristic mark of engagement and since it is the cause of achieving the unexcelled Buddhahood, it is the purpose.
The ultimate purpose is as follows: Given that all phenomena that are imputed as distinct realities such as the afflicted factors, the factors of the enlightened class, the five medicines, the five nectars and so on, have spontaneously come into being within the great equanimity of unexcelled Buddhahood with no evaluative judgment of affirmation or negation, the wheel of existence itself has existed right from the beginning as the nature of unexcelled Buddhahood sharing the characteristics of nirvana. It is therefore the characteristic mark of the result and the manifest actualization of this wheel of adornment of inexhaustible body, speech and mind which is the ultimate purpose.
By explaining the three characteristic marks, the text goes on to explain the interrelationships, the purpose and the ultimate purpose of these various stages. His Holiness said that he will not elaborate on the text itself, partly because we do not have much time and partly that there is an expression: “One teaches or comments on a text like an old man chewing; you swallow the hard bits and chew the soft bits.”
The text continues with a discussion of the four branches of yogic practice, approximation, near-approximation, attainment and the great attainment. These four branches of yogic practice differing according to the specific Vajrayana practice, the deity yoga one is engaging in. The text reads: To achieve this one must strive in the yoga that brings about continuous realization of approximation, near-approximation, attainment and the great attainment. Approximation refers to knowledge of the awakening mind, in this context here, this refers to the meditation on emptiness in the tantric sense which is the understanding that it is by means of the path that all phenomena are realized as primordially in the nature of Buddhahood and that they cannot be altered by means of their counter-forces. When one speaks of the meditation on emptiness in the context of Highest Yoga Tantra, it is not adequate to simply have an understanding of emptiness as presented in the Sutras as one also needs to have an understanding of the nature of clear light. The actual meditation is performed from the perspective of the subjective clear light experience. Therefore, there is a reference to the primordial Buddhahood which does not imply that from the Vajrayana perspective that everything is primordially Buddha. The point is that given that everything arises from the innate mind of clear light, which is primordially pure, all phenomena have the potential of primordial enlightenment or Buddhahood.
The text continues: “Near-approximation” refers to the knowledge of oneself as a deity, here referring to the illusory body experience, which in turn is the understanding that since all phenomena are primordially the nature of Buddhahood oneself too is primordially in the nature of a deity and that this is not something that has been cultivated at present. Earlier there was a reference to the statement that because of their primordial nature of Buddhahood, nothing can be altered by means of their counter-forces. If one understands this from the perspective of clear light then given that the essential nature of the mind of clear light is pure, there is in the ultimate sense nothing to be removed or eliminated.
This resonates with a passage from Maitreya’s Uttaratantra and an identical stanza is found in Maitreya’s Abhisamayalamkara or Ornament of Clear Realization. In the Abhisamayalamkara there is a stanza that reads there is nothing here to be removed nor is there anything from which one needs to remove it and so on. This absence of anything to be removed is explained in terms of the emptiness of true existence so that from the point of view of emptiness of true existence, there is nothing that needs to be removed. This is because no phenomenon has ever possessed any true existence or substantial reality [to begin with] so in the ultimate sense there is nothing to be removed or negated.
202 Wisdom of the termination of stains and non-arising
Is expressed by “enlightenment,”
Because there is no termination and no arising.
These should be known according to their order.
203 Through the path called “seeing
The nature of no cessation,”
What kinds of conceptions should be exhausted,
And which aspects of no arising should be attained?
204 That the phenomena of others should exist,
While at the same time the teacher’s obscurations
With respect to knowable objects should be exhausted,
Such a statement I consider as amazing.
205 In this there is nothing to be eliminated
And there is not the slightest to be established.
Actuality is to be viewed as actuality –
The one who sees actuality is completely released.
However in the Uttaratantra, Maitreya’s Sublime Continuum, there he gives the exact same passage but explains it in a different way. There he understands all of the defilements and afflictions to be adventitious and that the qualities of the enlightened mind are naturally contained within the mind. So in this text he explains the passage along those lines.
Nothing whatsoever is to be removed.
Nor the slightest thing is to be added.
Truly looking at truth, truth is seen.
When seen, this is complete liberation.
The element is empty of the adventitious [stains],
which are featured by their total separateness.
But it is not empty of the matchless properties,
which are featured by their total inseparability.
The Fourth Vajra Point: The Element
In the context of Highest Yoga Tantra this passage needs to be then understood from the point of view of the essential nature of mind being clear light and is devoid of any defilements. So from this point of view, there is nothing to be removed or eliminated.
The text continues: “Attainment” refers to the generation of the mother. As for the great mother, which here refers to Samantabhadra, it is within the expanse of space and space itself appears as the great mother, namely as [the four great elements of] earth, water, fire and wind. One recognizes these as the mother who is the receptacle [of the creation of all phenomena]. The “great attainment” refers to the relating of method and wisdom, which is the primordial uniting of the wisdom of the five great consorts – the space of the consorts and emptiness – with the father of all the Buddhas of the five aggregates, free of aspiration. From this [union], the bodhicitta drops appear as emanations whose nature is such that within the truth of primordial Buddhahood, illusions play on illusions. And at this blissful moment of illusory supreme bliss continuum, one achieves spontaneously the truth of signlessness with the non-objectified space into a single stream. The four classes of Mara, which refers to the obstructive forces, are [thus] subdued and one achieves the final objective.
The next passage reads: This is achieved in the following manner: With respect to entering the primordially unexcelled mandala, which is the undifferentiated celestial wish-granting mansion wherein all phenomena are primordially pure, hearing the scriptures of the method vehicle is the opening of one’s eyes. A process similar to entering a mandala is explained here. Understanding the meaning [of these teachings] is seeing the mandala; cultivating its familiarity following its understanding is entering the mandala, while actualizing it after entering it is the obtainment of the great siddhi attainment. This procedure signifies the final stage of Great Perfection – that is one arrives spontaneously on the level of great accumulation, which refers to the omniscient state of Buddhahood, which is the wheel of syllables. In this last passage, the process of entering the path and progressively traversing the path is explained.
The next section reads: The persons of excellent mental faculty understand what are primordially enlightened as primordially enlightened and the familiarity of this [knowledge] enhances with firm steps. This is not a pursuit of the ordinary person. This refers to a point that I made earlier that for a genuine practitioner of Highest Yoga Tantra, some realization of bodhicitta or the awakening mind and an understanding of emptiness, as explained in the Sutra system, is indispensable. Particularly in the context of Highest Yoga Tantra meditation, an understanding of the ultimate nature of reality from the point of view of the wisdom of clear light is also indispensable. Without these realizations as a basis, there is simply no foundation upon which one can successfully engage in the practice of Highest Yoga Tantra meditation.
The next part of the text is wonderful and reads: As for the ordinary person, even though he contemplates, he will have no conviction in its truth and profundity. Relating to this fact of the mind of the ordinary person not gaining conviction, having difficulty in comprehending it and accepting its truth and profundity, there is the danger of thinking that this must be the same for everyone. [One might then] denigrate the excellent persons as all liars and thereby engender thoughts of refuting them. Because of this, it is being kept hidden as such it is taught as the “secret vehicle.” Therefore until the mind understanding the truth of all phenomena as being primordially enlightened has arisen, if one engages in other’s welfare on the basis of the lower vehicles, one will not undermine the spiritual trainees, referring to the disciples. So extensive statements are found [in the scriptures] that the master must be versed in [the knowledge of] the defects of cyclic existence, the excellent qualities of nirvana, as well as in all the vehicles, and that a master who is ignorant of some aspects [of the teachings] must not hold [the position of a teacher].
The next section of the text reads: Due to the difference of views, in terms of their profundity and so on, differences also exist in the ascetic practices and conduct [based on those differing views]. Those devoid of ascetic practice are the unreflective worldly and the nihilists. There are four kinds that have ascetic practices: (i) the mundane ascetic practice which the materialists and the extremists have, (ii) the ascetic practice of the disciples, (iv) the ascetic practice of the bodhisattvas, and (iv) the unexcelled asceticism.
Of these the unreflective is ignorant of cause and effect and so is therefore devoid of ascetic practices. The nihilists uphold the nihilistic view and are devoid of ascetic practices. The materialists seek qualities characteristic of this life so they possess ascetic practices, such as the observance of purity laws and so on. The extremists, with the goal of purifying the eternal self, engage in such asceticism as abusing the body, keeping themselves in the five types of fire and so on; they engage in the conduct in a distorted manner.
As for the ascetic practice of the Disciple, the Discipline scripture, the Vinaya, states:
Do not commit any evil;
Engage in virtues as best as you can;
Thoroughly tame your own mind –
This is the doctrine of the Buddha.
Thus they view all factors of existence, virtuous or non-virtuous, as existing separately and respectively belonging to [the categories of] ultimate and conventional truths. They engage in the conduct of practicing the virtues and relinquishing non-virtues.
As for the ascetic practices of the bodhisattvas, the Bodhisattva Vows states:
Not effecting the means when circumstances call for;
Not employing supernatural powers, threats and so on;
He who has compassion and out of loving-kindness,
And those of virtuous mind, there is no fault [in these acts].
So if it is sustained by great compassion, regardless of whatever acts one might engage in, be it virtuous or non-virtuous, one’s vows will not degenerate. For the bodhisattva vow is, in brief, to act with taking great compassion as its ground.
As for the unexcelled asceticism, the Great Pledge Sutra states:
If one is thoroughly affirmed in the Buddha’s vehicle,
Even if one indulges in all the afflictions and the five senses,
Just like a lotus [growing] in muddy water,
In him morality remains pure and perfect.
The text continues: Since all phenomena are in perfect equanimity from the very beginning, no compassion is to be cultivated and no hatred is to be eliminated. It does not mean however, that enlightened compassion does not arise for those who fail to understand in this way. Just as they comprehend by means of the view that [all phenomena are] primordially pure, they also engage in the ascetic practices and the conduct with thorough purity.
At the end is colophon which also is a dedication which reads:
This secret [instruction], a garland of views,
If there are persons who posses the skills of wisdom and method,
May such excellent beings encounter this [instruction],
Just like the blind who opens his own eyes and recovers his sight.
The quintessential instruction entitled A Garland of Views is complete. It was composed by the great master Padmasambhava.
Keep in mind that this is a very profound text and quite elaborate as well. In order to fully understand the full meaning of this text, one will obviously need to consult and study a much wider range of texts as well. Most importantly as the masters of the past advised, what is understood as the result of study must be implemented into practice so the essential point is to concentrate on a single meditative practice.
Among the members of the audience gathered here there are certainly people who are not practicing Buddhists and who follow the practices of other faith traditions or who may have no faith at all in any religious tradition. However you have had the opportunity to at least be informed and introduced to key elements of the Buddhist path and in this way at least you have acquired some knowledge and understanding.
So those of you who are not practicing Buddhists you do have one responsibility which is to constantly watch the behavior and actions of those who claim to be practicing Buddhists.
[His Holiness in English] So thank you very much. You are quite a large number of people who listened attentively and I appreciate that. Now those of you, who consider yourselves as followers of the Buddha, then practice, implement with determination and with lowered (“less”) expectations. This is important. Spiritual development takes time. In my own experience, now I am nearly seventy years old. Since around the age of sixteen I began to practice more seriously but still my experience is limited. At the same time I can assure you that if you implement [the teachings] then your mind will definitely change; it will improve. The result is that you become calmer and happier. I think being enthusiastic all of the time is important.
I think that basically, as you know, if the Buddhist system is utilized in a maximum way then try to transform your emotions; this is the proper way, not just prayer, not just faith but utilize your intelligence to analyze, analyze, thinking, thinking. In this way you develop some kind of conviction which brings determination which brings effort and then time passes and things will change. Thank you.
– Nagarjuna. Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Trans. by Jay Garfield, Oxford University Press, 1995.
– Maitreya. The Ornament of Clear Realization, Trans. by Cornelia Weishaar-Günter and commentary by Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Charitable Trust Publications, 2004.
-Lankavatara Sutra, Trans. by Daisetz T Suzuki, Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1973.
– Jamyang Shayba, Maps of the Profound, Trans. by Jeffery Hopkins, Snow Lion Publications, 2003.
– Chandrakirti. Introduction to the Middle Way, Trans by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambala Publications, 2002.
– Lindtner, Chr. “Seventy Verses on Shunyata” in Master of Wisdom, Dharma Publishing, 1986.
– Aryadeva. Yogic Deeds of Bodhisattvas, Trans. by Ruth Sonam, Snow Lion Publications, 1994.
– Shantideva. A Flash of Lightning in the Dark of Night, Trans. by the Padmakara Translation Group, Shambala Publications, 1994.
Maitreya. Buddha Nature: The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary, Trans. by Rosemarie Fuchs, Snow Lion Publications, 2000. http://kalachakranet.org/teachings/Com-Rosary%20of%20Views-HHDL.pdf