Teachings given at Los Angeles, CA 2000 by His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Illuminating the Path to Enlightenment: Features of the Lam-Rim Teachings
Lines of Experience: Verse 1
I prostrate before you, (Buddha), head of the Shakya clan. Your enlightened body is born out of tens of millions of positive virtues and perfect accomplishments; your enlightened speech grants the wishes of limitless beings; your enlightened mind sees all knowables as they are.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama
As we have seen, it is traditional first to present the greatness of the author in order to explain the validity and authenticity of the teaching and its lineage. Therefore, the first verse of Lama Tsong Khapa’s Lines of Experience is a salutation to the Buddha. There is a Tibetan saying that just as a pure stream of water must have its source in pure mountain snow, an authentic teaching of the Dharma must have its origin in the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. That is why there is such emphasis placed on the lineage of the teachings.
In this verse, then, the author reflects upon the qualities of the Buddha’s body, speech and mind. The qualities of Buddha’s body are presented from the point of view of the perfection of the causes that have created it. The qualities of the Buddha’s speech are presented from the point of view of the perfect fruits of his speech, the fulfillment of the wishes of all sentient beings. The qualities of the Buddha’s enlightened mind are presented from the point of view of its nature and attributes.
In this way, Lama Tsong Khapa pays homage to Shakyamuni Buddha, who was born into the Shakya family and is chief among all humans. When he writes, “I prostrate before you,” he is saying “I bow and touch my head to the lowest part of your body.”
One of the reasons for stating the causes and qualities of the Buddha’s body is to suggest that the Buddha’s enlightened body has not existed since beginningless time. It was not there right from the start but has been created and acquired. The Buddha’s enlightened body did not come into being without cause; it was attained through causes and conditions that are compatible with the actual enlightened state. A detailed explanation of the causal relationship between the various practices and the Buddha’s enlightened embodiments can be found in Nagarjuna’s Precious Garland (Ratnavali).7
The second sentence describes the quality of the Buddha’s enlightened speech as fulfilling the wishes of limitless sentient beings. This explains the actual purpose of attaining enlightenment, which is to benefit other sentient beings. When we become fully enlightened, it is our duty to serve all sentient beings and fulfill their wishes. There are countless ways in which enlightened beings serve sentient beings, such as using their enlightened minds to discern the tremendous diversity of sentient beings’ needs and to display miraculous powers, but the primary medium used by fully enlightened beings to fulfill the wishes of sentient beings is their enlightened speech. The term “limitless beings” suggests that the Buddha uses his enlightened speech in limitless skillful ways.
We also find this respect for the diversity of practitioners’ mental dispositions in the teachings of Shakyamuni Buddha. For example, in acknowledgement of the multiplicity of practitioners’ motives, courage and ethical commitment, we find the three vehicles: the Hearer Vehicle (Shravakayana), the Solitary Buddha Vehicle (Pratyekabuddhayana) and the Bodhisattva Vehicle (Mahayana). Then, from the point of view of the wide range of philosophical inclinations, we find the Buddha’s teachings on the four main schools: Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra (Mind Only) and Madhyamaka, or Middle Way.
According to the Mahayana scriptures, we can understand the teachings of the Buddha in terms of what are known as the “three turnings of the wheel of Dharma.” 8 The first turning of the wheel was at Sarnath, near Varanasi, and was the first public sermon that the Buddha gave. The main subject of this teaching was the Four Noble Truths, in which the Buddha laid the basic framework of the entire Buddhadharma and the path to enlightenment.
The second turning of the wheel of Dharma was at Vulture Peak, near Rajgir, in present-day Bihar. The main teachings presented here were those on the perfection of wisdom. In these sutras, the Buddha elaborated on the third Noble Truth, the truth of cessation. The perfection of wisdom teachings are critical to fully understanding the Buddha’s teaching on the truth of cessation, particularly to fully recognizing the basic purity of mind and the possibility of cleansing it of all pollutants. The explicit subject matter of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras (Prajnaparamita) is the doctrine of emptiness. Then, as the basis for the emptiness teachings, these sutras present the entire path in what is known as the hidden, or concealed, subject matter of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras, which is elaborated in a very clear and systematic way in Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realization (Abhisamayalamkara).
The third turning of the wheel is a collection of sutras taught in different times and places. The principal sutras in this category of teachings are the source material for Maitreya’s Uttaratantra. Not only do they present emptiness as taught in the second turning of the wheel but they also present the quality of the subjective experience. Although these sutras do not talk about the subjective experience in terms of the subtleties of levels, they do p resent the subjective quality of wisdom and the levels through which one can enhance it and are known as the Tathagatagarbha (Essence, or Nucleus, of Buddhahood) Sutras. Among Nagarjuna’s writings there is a collection of hymns along with a collection of what could be called an analytic corpus, such as his Fundamentals of the Middle Way. The analytic corpus deals directly with the teachings on emptiness as taught in thePerfection of Wisdom Sutras, whereas the hymns relate more to the Tathagatagarbha Sutras.
The last line in this verse, “Your enlightened mind sees all knowables as they are,” presents the quality of the Buddha’s enlightened mind. The reference to “all knowables” refers to the entire expanse of reality, which encompasses both conventional and ultimate levels. The ability to directly realize both levels of reality within a single instant of thought is said to be the mark of an enlightened mind. This ability is a consequence of the individual having overcome and cleansed not only the afflictions of thought and emotion but also the subtle traces and propensities of these afflictions.
Lines of Experience: Verse 2
I prostrate before you Maitreya and Manjushri, supreme spiritual children of this peerless teacher. Assuming responsibility (to further) all Buddha’s enlightened deeds, you sport emanations to countless worlds.
In this verse, the author makes salutations to Maitreya and Manjushri and states that they are the two principal disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha. According to the Mahayana scriptures, when the Buddha taught the Mahayana sutras, Maitreya and Manjushri we re the principal disciples present. In the Mahayana tradition, we list eight main bodhisattva disciples of Shakyamuni Buddha.9 However, we should not understand these bodhisattvas as having a physical presence at the Buddha’s teachings but rather as being present on a subtler level of reality. The significance of singling out Maitreya and Manjushri is that Maitreya is regarded as the custodian and medium of the Buddha’s teachings on skillful means and Manjushri is regarded as the custodian and medium of the Buddha’s teachings on the profound view of emptiness.
Lines of Experience: Verse 3
I prostrate before your feet, Nagarjuna and Asanga, ornaments of our Southern Continent. Highly famed throughout the three realms,10 you have commented on the most difficult to fathom “Mother of the Buddhas” (Perfection of Wisdom Sutras) according to exactly what was intended.
In this verse, the author makes salutations to Nagarjuna and Asanga, who became the custodians and progenitors of the two aspects of the Buddha’s teaching: Asanga was the progenitor of the path of skillful means and Nagarjuna was the progenitor of the path of the profound view of emptiness. Lama Tsong Khapa pays homage to these Indian masters as great revitalizers of the Buddha’s teachings. Historically, Nagarjuna came to earth around four hundred years after the death of the Buddha, and Asanga about two hundred years after the death of Nagarjuna. In light of this distance of time between them, the question immediately arises as to the continuum, or lineage, between the Buddha and Nagarjuna and Asanga.
We can understand the continuity of the teachings through successive living masters in human form, such as the lineage of the transmission of the vinaya teachings of ethical discipline, but the transmission of the lineage can also be understood on a more subtle level. For example, the celestial form of the bodhisattva Manjushri had a special connection with Nagarjuna, and Maitreya had a special connection with Asanga. Thus, the great bodhisattvas may sometimes directly inspire the lineage.
When we look at the transmission of the Buddha’s teachings in this way, it obviously raises questions about the status of the historical Buddha. In the Buddhist tradition, there are generally two perspectives on this. One views Shakyamuni Buddha in conventional terms. At the initial stage, he is seen as an ordinary being who, through meditation and practice, attained enlightenment in that very lifetime under the bodhi tree. From this point of view, the instant before his enlightenment, the Buddha was an unenlightened being.
The other perspective, which is presented in Maitreya’s Uttaratantra, considers the twelve major deeds of the Buddha as actions of a fully enlightened being and the historical Buddha is seen as an emanation body. This nirmanakaya, or buddha-body of perfect emanation, must have its source in the subtler level of embodiment that is called the sambhogakaya, the buddha-body of perfect resource. These form bodies (rupakaya) are embodiments of the Buddha that arise from an ultimate level of reality, or dharmakaya. For this wisdom body to arise, however, there must be an underlying reality, which is the natural purity that I referred to before. Therefore, we also speak about the natural buddhabody (svabhavikakaya). In the Mahayana teachings, we understand Buddhahood in terms of the embodiment of these four kayas, or enlightened bodies of the Buddha.
Maitreya makes the point that while immutably abiding in the expanse of dharmakaya, the Buddha assumes diverse manifestations. Therefore, all the subsequent deeds of the Buddha, such as becoming conceived in his mother’s womb, taking birth and so forth are each said to be deeds of an enlightened being. It is in this way that we can understand the connection between the lineage masters of the Mahayana sutras.
Due to the complexity of this evolution, questions have been raised as to the authenticity of the Mahayana sutras. In fact, similar questions arose even in Nagarjuna’s time. In his Precious Garland, there is a section where he presents various arguments for the validity of the Mahayana scriptures as authentic sutras of the Buddha.11 Similarly, in Maitreya’s Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras (Mahayanasutralamkara), there is a section that validates the Mahayana scriptures as authentic sutras. Subsequent Mahayana masters have also written validations of the Mahayana scriptures.
One of the grounds upon which the authenticity of the Mahayana sutras has been disputed is the historical fact that when the Buddha’s scriptural discourses were originally collected and compiled, they did not include any Mahayana sutras. This suggests that Mahayana scriptures such as thePerfection of Wisdom Sutras were not taught by the Buddha in a conventional public context but were taught to a select group of practitioners at a higher and purer level of reality. Furthermore, although there are a few cases where the Buddha taught tantra while retaining his appearance as a fully ordained monk, he taught many of the tantras by assuming the identity of the principal deity of the mandala, such as Guhyasamaja when teaching the Guhyasamaja Tantra. There is no reason, therefore, why these tantras had to have been taught during the time of the historical Buddha.
To understand many of these issues from a Mahayana point of view, it is important to understand Buddhahood in terms of the embodiment of the four kayas. Lama Tsong Khapa, for example, was born three hundred years after the death of the great Atisha. Once when Lama Tsong Khapa was at Retreng, the monastery of Atisha’s most famous disciple, Dromtönpa, he engaged in the deep study and practice of Atisha’s Lamp for the Path. According to his biography, during this period he had vivid encounters with Atisha and Atisha’s two principal disciples, as if face-toface. This didn’t happen just once or twice but several times over a period of months. During this time, Lama Tsong Khapa spontaneously wrote the verses for the lineage masters of the lam-rim teachings.
It is said that it is possible for individuals who are karmically ready and receptive to have encounters with great beings because, even though their physical bodies may have disappeared, their wisdom embodiment remains. Even in our own lifetime there have been practitioners who have had deep, mystical encounters with masters of the past. Only by understanding the nature of buddhahood in terms of the four kayas can we make sense of these complex issues.
Lines of Experience: Verse 4
I bow to Dipamkara (Atisha), holder of a treasure of instructions (as seen in your Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment). All the complete, unmistaken points concerning the paths of profound view and vast action, transmitted intact from these two great forerunners, can be included within it.
In this verse, Lama Tsong Khapa makes salutations to Atisha Dipamkara Shrijnana. Atisha was an Indian master from Bengal, which is near pre sent-day Dhaka in Bangladesh. He had many teachers, but the principal among them was Serlingpa, who came from the island of Serling, the “Land of Gold.” Although there seems to be a place with the same name in the southern part of Thailand, according to Tibetan sources it took eighteen months for Atisha to reach the island by boat from India, which suggests that it was much further away than Thailand. There seems to be a great deal more evidence for Serling having been located somewhere in Indonesia, probably around Java, and, in fact, some reference to the master Serlingpa that has been found in that area.12
Atisha received the instructions on the practice bodhicitta from this master. He then received many teachings on the profound view of emptiness from another master, Rigpa’i Khuchug (Vidyakokila the younger, or Avadhutipa). The general understanding is that until Atisha’s time, wisdom and method (or emptiness and skillful means) were transmitted as two distinct lineages, even though the masters practiced them in union. It was Atisha who unified the two, and the profound view and vast practice were transmitted together from then on.13
From Atisha’s principal student and the custodian of his teachings, Dromtönpa, there evolved three main lineages of the Kadam order.14 The first was the Kadam Shungpawa, the “Kadampa Treatise Followers,” which was handed down through Dromtönpa’s disciple, Potowa, and emphasized study of the major Indian treatises. The second was the Kadam Lamrimpa, the “Kadampa Lam-rim Followers,” where emphasis was placed on a gradual approach to the path to enlightenment, relying more on middling versions of the treatises rather than the great ones. Then, a third lineage evolved, the Kadam Mengagpa, the “Kadampa Instruction Followers,” which relied more on actual instruction from the teacher and emphasized the immediate practice of visualization and analytical meditation.
Potowa’s principal student was Sharawa, a very famous master highly respected for his learning of the great treatises. One of Sharawa’s c o ntemporaries was Patsab Lotsawa, the great translator of Chandrakirti’s texts from Sanskrit into Tibetan. It seems that before Patsab Lotsawa’s time, Chandrakirti’s works were not available in the Tibetan language. In fact, when Atisha taught Madhyamaka in Tibet, he used mainly Bhavaviveka’s texts, such as the Heart of the Middle Way (Madhyamakahridaya) and Blaze of Reasoning (Tarkajvala). During Sharawa’s time, however, Patsab Lotsawa began his translation of Chandrakirti’s Supplement to the Middle Way (Madhyamakavatara).
It is said that when Patsab Lotsawa finished the first draft, he presented the manuscript to Sharawa and asked for his opinion. Although Sharawa did not understand Sanskrit, he made critical annotations in key areas of the text and put forward a number of suggestions and corrections. Later, when Patsab Lotsawa compared Sharawa’s comments to the original Sanskrit that he had used for the translation, he discovered that Sharawa had noted the exact areas that needed revision. Patsab Lotsawa was so impressed that he praised Sharawa’s tremendous depth of knowledge of Middle Way philosophy.
Later, after Sharawa received the revised copy of the Madhyamakavatara, he often publicly acknowledged the great contribution made by Patsab Lotsawa in bringing this new literature to Tibet. At one of Sharawa’s teaching sessions, a devotee made an offering of a small piece of brown sugar to each member of the audience. It is said that Sharawa picked up a handful, threw it up into the air and said, “May this offering be to the great Patsab, who made the tremendous contribution of bringing Chandrakirti’s works to the Tibetan people.”
It seems that the Tibetan translators working from Sanskrit sources were tremendously learned and courageous individuals. They were also extremely faithful to the original texts. So much so that even today, modern scholars praise the accuracy of the Tibetan translations. Even though the population of Tibet is fairly small, the teachings of the Buddha have flourished there for almost 1,500 years, and over this time, many highly learned Tibetan masters have composed spiritual texts; not just monks, but lay practitioners as well.
There is a commentary on the Hundred Thousand Verses of the Perfection of Wisdom in the Tengyur, the canon containing all the translated Indian treatises. When Lama Tsong Khapa scrutinized this text, he found so many Tibetan expressions and peculiarly Tibetan ways of saying things, that he concluded that it was not an Indian treatise but an original Tibetan work. He then found corroboration of his conclusion in a catalogue, which listed this text as having been composed by the eighth century Tibetan monarch, Trisong Detsen.
In the salutation in Verse 4, Lama Tsong Khapa refers to Atisha as a “holder of a treasure of instructions.” This is a reference to Atisha’s Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment. Although the Lamp is quite a short text, it is extremely comprehensive in its subject matter and contains ve ry profound instructions. According to traditional explanations, it is regarded as the instructions of Maitreya’s Ornament of Clear Realization in distilled form.
The main source for Atisha’s Lamp is a section in the second chapter of Maitreya’s text. In stating the sequence of the path and practices, Maitreya talks about cultivating faith in the Three Jewels and the altruistic intention. He goes on to describe taking the bodhicitta vow and engaging in the path by embodying the ideals of the bodhisattva through the practice of the six perfections,15 and then explains how to engage in the cultivation of wisdom where there is a union between calm abiding (shamatha) and penetrative insight (vipashyana). This is how the Tibetan tradition understands the source of inspiration for Atisha’s text.
Lines of Experience: Verse 5
Respectfully, I prostrate before my spiritual masters. You are the eyes allowing us to behold all the infinite scriptural pronouncements, the best ford for those of good fortune to cross to liberation. You make everything clear through your skillful deeds, which are moved by intense loving concern.
In this verse, Lama Tsong Khapa makes salutations to the lineage masters responsible for maintaining and transmitting the practices of the lam-rim teachings. There is a saying attributed to one of the Kadampa masters: “Whenever I teach lam-rim, the great scriptures shudder and say, ‘This old monk is extracting our heart.’”
Lama Tsong Khapa died about six hundred years ago. Of his three main lam-rim texts, the Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path is the most important, but in all three, he presents the elements of the path to enlightenment—the profound view of emptiness and the vast practice of skillful means—in varying degrees of detail, introducing the essential points of these practices in a systematic way such that even today, we can study, contemplate and implement them in our meditation practice.
Regardless of whether the term “lam-rim” or “stages of the path” is used, all traditions of Tibetan Buddhism—the old translation school, the Nyingma, and the new translation schools, such as the Sakya and Kagyü—have equivalent teachings that emphasize the foundational practices. Furthermore, the teachings of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism can be validated by tracing their origins back to the writings of authentic Indian masters. In the tradition of the Nyingma School of Tibetan Buddhism, for example, there is the genre of teachings known as terma, or “texts of revelation,” and another known as kama, or “scriptural teachings.” However, even teachings of the revealed tradition must be grounded in those of the scriptural category. In fact, the Nyingma tradition states that the teachings of the revealed texts should be regarded as more for simply channeling one’s focus and sharpening one’s practice.
The greatness of the lam-rim teachings
Lines of Experience: Verses 6 & 7
The stages of the path to enlightenment have been transmitted intact by those who have followed in order both from Nagarjuna and Asanga, those crowning jewels of all erudite masters of our Southern Continent and the banner of whose fame stands out above the masses. As (following these stages) can fulfill every desirable aim of all nine kinds of being,16 they are a power-granting king of precious instruction. Because they collect the streams of thousands of excellent classics, they are indeed an ocean of illustrious, correct explanation.
These teachings make it easy to understand how there is nothing contradictory in all the Buddha’s teachings and make every scriptural pronouncement without exception dawn on your mind as a personal instruction. They make it easy to discover what the Buddha intended and protect you as well from the abyss of the great error. Because of these (four benefits), what discriminating person among the erudite masters of India and Tibet would not have his or her mind be completely enraptured by these stages of the path (arranged) according to the three levels of motivation, the supreme instruction to which many fortunate ones have devoted themselves?
These two verses present the greatness and quality of the lam-rim teachings. Verse 6 explains the nature and lineage of the teaching, while Verse 7 explains its benefits.
1. There is nothing contradictory. One of the greatnesses of the lam-rim tradition is that these teachings enable you to recognize that there are no contradictions in any of the teachings of the Buddha. If you look at the diversity of teachings in the Mahayana scriptures, you will find that certain practices are sometimes prohibited while at other times they are encouraged. If you understand the significance of this diversity, however, you will understand that these teachings are contingent upon the different levels or capacities of the practitioners to whom they have been given. Atisha organized the entire teaching of the Buddha into the three “capacities,” or “scopes,” according to the abilities of different practitioners. Therefore, practices that are restricted for some are encouraged for others. If you don’t bear this in mind, you may develop misconceptions, which occasionally happened in Tibet.
At one time in Tibet, there were practitioners who denigrated and rejected Vajrayana because of their tremendous devotion to and focus on the vinaya, while others, because of their great admiration and enthusiasm for Vajrayana, neglected the practice of ethical discipline. If you understand Atisha’s explanation of how the teachings of the Buddha are organized according to practitioners’ different levels of mind, you will protect yourself from such grave errors.
2. Every scriptural pronouncement without exception [will] dawn on your mind as a personal instruction. The second greatness of the lam-rim is that all the teachings of the Buddha will “dawn on your mind as a personal instruction.” If your understanding of the Buddha’s teachings is limited, there is the danger that you will discriminate between the scriptures, regarding some as relevant to your practice and others as relevant only for academic study. If your understanding is more profound, however, you will realize that the way of the intelligent is to have an overview of the entire Buddhist path. This allows you to appreciate which teachings are relevant at a particular stage in your practice and which are not, while understanding that all the scriptures are instructions that will ultimately be relevant to your own personal practice at some point.
3. Easy to discover what the Buddha intended. The third greatness is that you will easily realize the Buddha’s ultimate intention; that all the Buddha’s teachings can actually converge in your practice. This will allow you to fulfill your spiritual aspirations, whatever they are—higher rebirth, liberation from cyclic existence [Skt: samsara] or complete enlightenment.
4. Protect you…from the abyss of the great error. The fourth greatness of the lam-rim is that it protects you from the “abyss of the great error,” the great mistake of abandoning the Dharma. If you realize that all the Buddha’s scriptures and teachings are relevant to your own personal practice, there is no room for discarding some and adopting others because you realize that actually, you need them all. Therefore, you will not abandon any of the Buddha’s teachings.
This point also relates to the issue of sectarianism. Practitioners sometimes harbor sectarian sentiments because of differences between the four Tibetan Buddhist traditions. If you can understand the unique features of each tradition—their methods of approach, teaching and various types of practices—you will appreciate the value and importance of this variety. It is, in fact, possible for a single individual to integrate all these diverse teachings into his or her personal practice. As the Kadampa masters used to say, “One should know how to uphold the entire teaching of the Buddha, like lifting a square piece of cloth all at once.” 17
Some Mahayana practitioners make distinctions between the Lesser Vehicle and the Great Vehicle, tending to dismiss the Lesser Vehicle teachings, particularly the Theravada. One of the consequences of this is that Theravadins then begin to question the authenticity of the Mahayana tradition. In fact, however, the Pali tradition, from which the Theravada teachings arose, should be regarded as the source of the Mahayana as well, particularly the teachings on the Four Noble Truths and the thirty-seven aspects of the path to enlightenment.18
These are really the foundation and cornerstone of Buddhist practice. To these you add the practices of the six perfections and so forth in the manner of refining certain aspects of these foundational practices, and finally you add the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism. Therefore, even though you can add to it from the bodhisattva and Vajrayana teachings, the Pali canon is really a complete set of teachings in itself. Without the foundational teachings of the Lesser Vehicle, the Paramitayana and Vajrayana teachings are incomplete because they lack a basis.
Question and answer period
Question. If there is a natural nirvana and a luminous, pure, fundamental nature, then what originally leads us to deviate from the pure luminosity for us to suffer from karma, defilements, obscurations and afflictions? How come we do not retain the state of pure luminous natural nirvana through the cycle of births and rebirths?
His Holiness. When Buddhism speaks of the luminous and fundamentally pure nature of mind, or consciousness, what is being suggested is that it is possible for the defilements to be removed from the basic mind, not that there is some kind of original, pure state that later became polluted by defilements. In fact, just as the continuum of our consciousness is without beginning, our delusions are also without beginning. As long as the continuum of consciousness has existed, so too has there been the continuum of delusion—the perception of inherent existence. The seeds of delusion have always been there together with the continuity of consciousness.
Therefore, Buddhist texts sometimes mention innate, or fundamental ignorance, which is spontaneous and simultaneous with the continuum of the individual. Only through the application of antidotes and the practice of meditation can these delusions be cleansed from the basic mind. This is what is meant by natural purity.
If you examine the nature of your own mind, you will realize that the pollutants, such as afflictive emotions and thoughts rooted in a distorted way of relating to the world, are actually unstable. No matter how powerful an affliction, when you cultivate the antidote of true insight into the nature of reality, it will vanish because of the power of the antidote, which undermines its continuity. However, there is nothing that can undermine the basic mind itself; nothing that can actually interrupt the continuity of consciousness. The existence of the world of subjective experience and consciousness is a natural fact. There is consciousness. There is mind. There is no force that can bring about a cessation of your mental continuum.
We can see parallels to this in the material world. According to Buddhism, the ultimate constituents of the macroscopic world of physical reality are what we call “space particles,” which constitute the subtlest level of physical reality. It is on the basis of the continuum of these subtle particles that the evolution of the cosmos is explained. The universe evolves out of this subtlest level of physical reality, remains for a certain period of time, then comes to an end and dissolves. The whole process of evolution and dissolution arises from this subtlest level of physical reality.
Here we are talking about a perceptible and tangible world of physical reality that we can directly experience. Of course, in this world of everyday concrete reality, there will be forces that undermine its existence. The subtle level of physical reality, however, is regarded as something that is continuous—without beginning or end. From the Buddhist point of view, there is nothing that can bring an end to the actual continuum of the subtle level of reality.
Similarly, there are various manifestations of consciousness. These include the grosser levels of thought, emotion and sensory experience, whose existence is contingent upon a certain physical reality, such as environment and time. But the basic continuum of consciousness from which these grosser levels of mind arise has neither beginning nor end; the continuum of the basic mind remains, and nothing can terminate it.
If defilements had a beginning, the question would arise, where did they come from? In the same way, Buddhism does not posit a beginning to consciousness itself, because to do so raises more questions about what led to its creation. As to the question why there is no beginning of consciousness, one can argue for this on the basis of its ever-present continuum. The real argument, however, stems from a process of elimination, because if we posit a beginning of consciousness, what kind of beginning could it be and what could have caused it? Arguing for a beginning of consciousness undermines the fundamental Buddhist belief in the law of causality.
In some Buddhist texts, however, we find references to the Buddha Samantabhadra—the ever-good and ever-pure primordial Buddha. But here we have to understand the concept of primordiality in relation to individual contexts. In this understanding, the fundamental innate mind of clear light is seen as the original source of the macroscopic world of our experience. When the Vajrayana literature describes this evolution process, for example, it speaks of a re verse cycle and a forward cycle.
In both cases, the world of diverse consciousness and mental activity arises from a subtler level of clear light, which then goes through what is known as the “three stages of appearance.” Through this process, there is an understanding that everything arises from this basic nature of clear light mind and is then dissolved into it. So again, our understanding is that this originality is in the context of individual instances, not some kind of universal beginning.
Question. Your Holiness, you spoke of monasteries like Vikramashila, where there was a strict code of ethics and where even highly realized masters could be expelled for breaking a vow. Today, certain rinpoches and high-level masters have been involved in different types of scandals. How come the code of ethics is different today?
His Holiness. One thing that needs to be clearly understood is that the individuals to whom you refer are no longer in the monastic order. People who have broken their vows, particularly one of the four cardinal rules—falsely proclaiming spiritual realizations, committing murder, stealing, and engaging in sexual intercourse—will automatically be expelled from the monastery. They will be expelled even if there are strong grounds for suspicion that they have broken their vows. This applies today as much as it did in the past. However, some of those who have broken their vows still find very skilful and devious means of retaining some kind of dignity and stature.
I always remind monks and nuns, therefore, that the moment they have transgressed their vinaya vows, they should no longer wear their monastic robes. This applies equally to members of all four schools of Tibetan Buddhism: Nyingma, Sakya, Kagyü and Geluk. Within the Tibetan tradition, however, there are two institutions of practitioners— the monastic institution of practitioners with monastic vows and the institution of lay practitioners, who wear different colored robes, don’t shave their heads and have taken only lay precepts, or pratimoksha vows. Font http://www.lamayeshe.com/index.php?sect=article&id=398