I would like to announce two things:


1) The Awakening to Reality Practice Guide by Nafis Rahman: https://app.box.com/s/zc0suu4dil01xbgirm2r0rmnzegxaitq


2) AtR Guide - abridged version by Pablo Pintabona [partially done, halfway done for Stage 5]: https://atr-abridgedguide.blogspot.com/2021/11/this-is-shortened-version-of-complete.html


I would like to thank these two individuals for their great and compassionate effort to make these compilations. I trust it will be of great benefit for spiritual aspirants who find benefit in the AtR materials.





Kyle Dixon (Krodha) wrote:

https://www.reddit.com/r/TibetanBuddhism/comments/vqvv82/emptiness_and_nagarjunas_madhyamaka_in_relation/

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Posted by1 month ago
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Emptiness and Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka in Relation to Dzogchen and Mahamudra

Here is a compendium of excerpts on the topic. The consensus on this matter is quite clear. While there are some Shentong (a sūtrayāna view) and Gelug adherents of Atiyoga and Mahāmudrā, the majority align with the trödral [spros bral] view epitomized in Nāgārjuna’s Madhyamaka, and elucidated upon by Tibetan Madhyamaka masters such as Görampa. This was too long to post in a reply to the other relevant thread:

From Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso:

Furthermore, since one must rely on Nagarjuna’s reasonings in order to realize the essence of Dzogchen, it is the same for Mahamudra. Those who studied at the shedras (philosophical universities) in Tibet studied “The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way” and Chandrakirti’s “Entering the Middle Way” and other similar texts over the course of many years. Mahamudra and Dzogchen were not studied, however, because it is the Middle Way texts that are filled with such a vast array of different arguments and logical reasonings that one can pursue the study of them in a manner that is both subtle and profound. In the Mahamudra teachings as well, we find statements such as this one from Karmapa Rangjung Dorje’s Mahamudra Aspiration Prayer:

As for mind, there is no mind! Mind is empty of essence.

If you gain certainty in mind’s emptiness of essence by analyzing it with the reasoning that refutes arising from the four extremes and with others as well, then your understanding of Mahamudra will become profound. Otherwise, you could recite this line, but in your mind it would be nothing more than an opinion or a guess.

If you study these reasonings presented in “The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way,” when you receive Mahamudra and Dzogchen explanations of emptiness and lack of inherent reality, you will already be familiar with what is being taught and so you will not need to learn anything new. Mipham Rinpoche composed a brief text called “The Beacon of Certainty,” in which he states: 'In order to have perfect certainty in "kadag" (primordial purity) one must have perfect understanding of the view of the Consequence or Prasangika school. Kadag, or original, primordial purity, is the view of Dzogchen, and in order to perfect that view, one must perfect one’s understanding of the Middle Way Consequence or Prasangika school’s view. What this implies is that the view of Dzogchen kadag and the view of the Consequence or Prasangika of Chandrakirti's school are the same.

From Tulku Tsullo's instruction on the view of Dzogchen:

Therefore, whether in sutra or in tantra, there is consensus that the only direct antidote to the ignorance of clinging to things as real - which lies at the root of our karma and disturbing emotions - is the wisdom that realizes emptiness. So for Dzogchen practitioners, too, it is extremely important to realize emptiness.

The sgra thal gyur tantra states:

Nonexistent therefore appearing, appearing therefore empty. The inseparable union of appearance and emptiness with its branches.

Zilnon Zhepa Tsal said:

How could liberation be attained without realizing emptiness? And how could emptiness be realized without the Great Perfection [Dzogchen]? Who but I offers praise such as this?

The Dalai Lama states:

We need a special form of wisdom - the wisdom that realizes emptiness - to act as the direct antidote to the cognitive obscurations. Without this wisdom, which can be realized through the Great Perfection... we will not have the direct antidote to the cognitive obscurations. So this point is conclusive.

Khenchen Rigdzin Dorje [Chatral Rinpoche's heart disciple] states:

The Madhyamika consider the Prasangik as the perfect Rangtong view. The Dzogchen trekcho view as Kadag (primordially pure view) and the Prasangik view is the same. The emptiness is the same, there is no difference... It is important to understand that the words primordially pure [kadag] is the Dzogchen terminology for the Prasangic Emptiness. [The ancient Nyingmapa Masters like Long Chenpa, Jigme Lingpa, Mipham, were] Prasangikas [Thalgyurpas]... the Prasangika Madhyamika sunyata [tongpanyid] and the Dzogchen sunyata are exactly the same. There is no difference. One hundred percent [the] same.

Longchenpa says:

This system of the natural great perfection is equivalent with the Consequentialist [Prasangika] Madhyamaka’s usual way of considering freedom from extremes and so on. However, emptiness in Madhymaka is an emptiness counted as similar to space, made into the basis; here [in Dzogchen] naked pellucid vidyā pure from the beginning that is not established; that, merely unceasing, is made into the basis. - The phenomena that arise from the basis are apprehended as being free from extremes, like space.

David Germano:

While a detailed analysis of the relationship of these classical Great Perfection texts to the Madhyamaka Prasangika tradition is quite beyond the scope of my present discussion, at this point I would merely like to indicate that even in The Seventeen Tantras (i.e. without considering Longchenpa's corpus) it is very clear that the tradition embodies an innovative dialectical reinterpretation of the Prasangika notions of emptiness, rather than a mere sterile 'diametric opposition' to them that Karmay suggests.

Ju Mipham Rinpoche states in his commentary on the Madhyamakālaṃkāra, the dbu ma rgyan gyi rnam bshad 'jam dbyangs bla ma dgyes pa'i zhal lung:

Without finding certainty in primordial purity (ka dag), just mulling over some 'ground that is neither existent nor nonexistent' will get you nowhere. If you apprehend this basis of emptiness that is empty of both existence and nonexistence as something that is established by its essence separately [from everything else], no matter how you label it (such as an inconceivable self, Brahmā, Viṣṇu, Īśvara, or wisdom) except for the mere name, the meaning is the same. Since the basic nature free from the reference points of the four extremes, that is, Dzogchen (the luminosity that is to be personally experienced) is not at all like that, it is important to rely on the correct path and teacher. Therefore, you may pronounce 'illusionlike,' 'nonentity,' 'freedom from reference points,' and the like as mere verbiage, but this is of no benefit whatsoever, if you do not know the [actual] way of being of the Tathāgata’s emptiness (which surpasses the limited [kinds of] emptiness [asserted] by the tīrthikas) through the decisive certainty that is induced by reasoning.

Chögyal Namkhai Norbu states:

Madhyamaka explains with the four 'beyond concepts,' which are that something neither exists, nor does not exist, nor both exists and does not exist, nor is beyond both existing and not existing together. These are the four possibilities. What remains? Nothing. Although we are working only in an intellectual way, this can be considered the ultimate conclusion in Madhyamaka. As an analytical method, this is also correct for Dzogchen. Nagarjuna's reasoning is supreme.

and,

That view established intellectually we need to establish consciously in dependence upon one’s capacity of knowledge and on convention. The way of establishing that is the system of Prasanga Madhyamaka commented upon by the great being Nāgārjuna and his followers. There is no system of view better than that.

From Jigme Lingpa:

I myself argue ‘To comprehend the meaning of the non-arising baseless, rootless dharmakāya, although reaching and the way of reaching this present conclusion 'Since I have no thesis, I alone am without a fault', as in the Prasanga Madhyamaka system, is not established by an intellectual consideration such as a belief to which one adheres, but is reached by seeing the meaning of ultimate reality of the natural great completion.

Chokyi Dragpa states:

On the path of trekchö, all the rigidity of mind's clinging to an "I" where there is no "I", and a self where there is no self, is cut through with Madhyamika Prasangika reasoning and the resulting conviction that an "I" or a "self" does not exist. Then, by examining where mind arises, dwells and ceases, you become certain of the absence of any true reality.

Again from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso:

The great scholar and master, Mipham Chokle Namgyal, said, “If one seeks to master the basic nature of alpha purity, or kadak, it is necessary to perfect one’s understanding of the view of the Prasangika, or the Consequence School.” Alpha purity describes the basic nature of mind as it is expressed in the dzogchen descriptions. If one wishes to realize dzogchen, alpha purity, or trekcho, as it is also called, then one must perfect one’s understanding of the Consequence School. That is, one must realize that the nature of reality transcends all conceptual fabrications; it cannot be described by any conceptual terms. This is the aspect of the 'expanse.' If one recognizes this, then it is easy to realize the mahamudra because, as Milarepa sang:

”The view: is original wisdom which is empty. Meditation: clear light free of fixation. Conduct: continual flow without attachment. Fruition: is nakedness stripped of every stain.”

From Acarya Dharmavajra Mr. Sridhar Rana:

The meaning of Shunyata found in Sutra, Tantra Dzogchen, or Mahamudra is the same as the Prasangic emptiness of Chandrakirti, i. e. unfindability of any true existence or simply unfindability. Some writers of Dzogchen and Mahamudra or Tantra think that the emptiness of Nagarjuna is different from the emptiness found in these systems. But I would like to ask them whether their emptiness is findable or unfindable; whether or not the significance of emptiness in these systems is also not the fact of unfindability- no seeing as it could also be expressed. Also some Shentong scholars seem to imply that the Shentong system is talking about a different emptiness. They say Buddha nature is not empty of qualities therefore, Buddha nature is not merely empty, it also has qualities. First of all the whole statement is irrelevant. Qualities are not the question and Buddha nature being empty of quality or not is not the issue. The Buddha nature is empty of Svabhava (real existence). Because it is empty of real existence, it has qualities. As Arya Nagarjuna has said in his Mula Madhyamika Karika: “All things are possible (including qualities) because they are empty.” Therefore the whole Shentong/ Rangtong issue is superfluous. However, in Shentong, Buddha nature is also empty and emptiness means unfindable. In short, the unfindability of any true existence is the ultimate (skt. paramartha) in Buddhism, and is diametrically opposed to the concept of a truly existing thing called Brahman, the ultimate truth in Hinduism.

from Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche:

The practice of tregcho is essential when it comes to realizing the originally pure nature of mind and phenomena. This nature is emptiness, the basic state of the Great Perfection. For this reason, a thorough grounding in the view of Madhyamaka can be a great help when receiving instructions on tregcho. With the correct view of emptiness, one can meditate effectively on original purity [ka dag].

and a final warning from Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso:

If we still believe in existence, if we have some type of belief in something substantial, if we think that there is something that truly exists, whatever it might be, then we are said to fall into the extreme called eternalism or permanence. And if we fall into that extreme, we will not realize the true nature of reality.

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genivelo
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1 mo. ago
Rimé
Hi. I would be interested in knowing the sources of all those quotes.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
I complied this some years ago, I can try to track down the sources for you though.


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genivelo
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1 mo. ago
Rimé
That would be great. They are very good quotes and I would love to see them in full context.


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frank_mania
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1 mo. ago
The best book on the topic I've ever encountered is available as a free PDF here, Progressive Stages of Meditation On Emptiness by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche.

Yo, u/Regular_Bee_5605, I consider this book (or an equivalent text) essential to intellectual understanding of emptiness.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Yes, I have this book already and have read it. And he lists shentong as the highest view, but it's described differently than the "Jonang version" which may be why people on this thread have been confused. I love this book and consider it a masterpiece.


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frank_mania
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1 mo. ago
Cool. I consider it, and the conceptual understanding it can give us a jumping board to leave concepts behind. Not that I have but I did not commit the schools and labels to memory. At least not long-term memory, and it's been 20 years at least since my last dip into it. I guess I'll revisit it soon.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Very nice. Yes, he says very little about Shentong, noting that it can't be described by any concepts or the intellectual, has to be pointed out by a guru, etc. I feel grateful for his immense contribution to such an important topic. Despite being based on intellectual analysis, it's still fairly pithy and presented in a practice-oriented, not overly scholarly way.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
In fact, my reply to OP drew from the book heavily :)


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konchokzopachotso
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1 mo. ago
Kagyu
Shentong is not a suntrayana view, many take it as a higher tantra view


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
That makes sense. In Vajrayana there are some views that are not present in Sutrayana, eg. All beings already being promordially pure and enlightened from the start.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
In Vajrayana there are some views that are not present in Sutrayana, eg. All beings already being promordially pure and enlightened from the start.

The tathāgatagarbha and prajñāpāramitā sūtras are really the locus classcus for “All beings already being promordially pure and enlightened from the start.”


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
I don't know how you would get that from solely the Prajnaparamita sutras. That's why you never see Nagarjuna talking about the luminosity aspect of mind's nature, only the empty aspect. Buddha Nature is a teaching of the Third Turning, whereas emptiness is second-turning. Of course, the ultimate view is their inseparable union.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
I don't know how you would get that from solely the Prajnaparamita sutras.

The prajñāpāramitā sūtras are the first place we really encounter the idea of phenomena being in a state of cessation from the very beginning, but this is not known due to our delusion. The tathāgatagarbha is an extension of this which covers the innate embodiment of buddhahood in a coarse manner.

That's why you never see Nagarjuna talking about the luminosity aspect of mind's nature

Yes, Ārya Nāgārjuna does not generally discuss luminosity, the Siddha Nāgārjuna does though.

Buddha Nature is a teaching of the Third Turning

According to the Tibetan trope yes, but this was never a view in India. And even in early Tibet, these "turnings" were never truly set in stone. We sometimes see them inverted. The contemporary "three turning" model is not really based on any extant Indian literature, meaning it has no true doctrinal basis. Which is fine, but the main takeaway is that the rigid idea that somehow tathāgatagarbha is a higher view than madhyamaka and so on, is a personal opinion.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Your views don't agree with Ju Miphams or any contemporary Nyingma master. That's alright though. For some reason anger is arising within me, and it Is because my own attachment to my own view, which I need to examine.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
Your views don't agree with Ju Miphams or any contemporary Nyingma master.

Which aspect of my views are discordant with Ju Mipham?


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
If you really want to continue this, I'll find sources later, got therapy sessions till 9 though (thats my job). And I'll try to observe any aggression thar comes up in me if does and practice examining its empty nature, and not take it out on you.


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Mayayana
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1 mo. ago
Maybe it would be more clear to discuss it in ontological/experiential terms rather than as a legalistic battle of credentials. Doesn't this all really just come down to whether one views luminosity as a step less dualistic than emptiness realization? It seems to me that the idea of luminosity as dualistic comes from a nihilist tinge on shunyata. Whether one agrees with that or not, there's no need to pull in arcane philosophical references.

On a still more practical level, luminosity is directly relevant to formless practice. If one is trying to grasp emptiness then stressing luminosity might seem like corruption. But if one is practicing resting in awareness, that's already nondual. Calling it empty is a distorting complication.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
I agree. I think me and this guy actually agree on the essentials. The wording is just ever so slightly different.


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Mayayana
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1 mo. ago
That's what I was thinking. The risk of mistaking shunyata seems to be a red herring in the context of buddha nature. At that point, emptiness is established. I think of analogies such as light in space. It's empty, but it's also luminous. To regard that as "merely sutra view" seems to be a mistake of thinking the luminous quality is a subtle claim of a dualistic existence of awareness, and therefore not understanding emptiness. As I understand it, shentong is more like the antidote to "shunyata hangover" -- the risk of making emptiness a thing.

That does seem to be getting into a lot of splitting of hairs, but maybe it's more relevant in terms of practice. If you're trying to understand emptiness, it confuses things to say it's luminous. But if you're practicing resting in rigpa, it confuses things to need to define that as empty. The practice is connecting with the luminosity aspect, with emptiness a given at that point.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
Gzhan stong is absolutely a sūtrayāna view, the entire premise of its view is a unique interpretation of the three natures of Yogācāra synthesized with the two truths of Madhyamaka.


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king_nine
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1 mo. ago
If that alone makes it sutrayana, what’s to stop us from saying prasangika madhyamaka is also a sutrayana view, as it’s based off of the Prajñaparamita sutras? You could even then come up with the paradoxical statement that the vajrayana is a sutrayana view, as is is a unique interpretation of the Buddha-nature sutras synthesized with the two truths of madhyamaka.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
If that alone makes it sutrayana, what’s to stop us from saying prasangika madhyamaka is also a sutrayana view, as it’s based off of the Prajñaparamita sutras?

All Madhyamaka is categorized as sūtrayāna.

You could even then come up with the paradoxical statement that the vajrayana is a sutrayana view,

Vajrayāna is set apart by abhiseka. Sūtrayāna does not have abhiseka of any sort.

as is is a unique interpretation of the Buddha-nature sutras synthesized with the two truths of madhyamaka.

Indeed, but a completely different methodology which sets it apart from sūtra.


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king_nine
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1 mo. ago
Indeed, but a completely different methodology which sets it apart from sūtra.

Then a “sutrayana view” used in tantric methods becomes a tantrayana view - and this must include Zhentong ones, which are clearly used (proportionally) often in tantric contexts. This being the case, I’m not quite clear on what this distinction between a sutra view and a tantra view is supposed to accomplish


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
Then a “sutrayana view” used in tantric methods becomes a tantrayana view

This is like myself as a Dzogchenpa, referencing prasangika. The reference does not make prasangika suddenly a tantric view. It is not.

I’m not quite clear on what this distinction between a sutra view and a tantra view is supposed to accomplish

It is important to distinguish sutra and tantra views. Tantra is rooted in abhiseka, sutra teachings are not. You can adopt sutra views in the context of your tantric practice, because it does not matter, tantra is rooted in abhiseka, non-conceptual empowerment to the example jnana. It is not an intellectual view. Shentong does not have abhiseka, it is a conceptual view adopted in post-meditation [rjes thob].


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kuds1001
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1 mo. ago
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edited 1 mo. ago
The above statement is factually incorrect. Dolpopa was the first to use the term gzhan stong (in the way that most of us mean it) and he explicitly stated that gzhan stong was derived from the Kalacakra tantra and the realizations produced by its sadangayoga practice. Relevant sources for this are laid out in Cyrus Stearns' book The Buddha from Dolpo (e.g., page 46 onwards).

In the Mountain Dharma (and elsewhere), Dolpopa illustrates how gzhan stong reconciles various conflicting views of Buddhism (including the three natures and two truths) because gzhan stong represents the pure golden age (krta yuga) teachings of the Buddha, and he uses extensive collections of both sutras and tantras to make this illustration. But it's fallacious to argue that just because gzhan stong has the consequence of clarifying conflicting sutrayana views that its "entire premise" is to do so, or that it therefore becomes a sutrayana view when it's, in fact, based on the Kalacakra tantra.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
and he explicitly stated that gzhan stong was derived from the Kalacakra tantra

Shentong is a known sūtrayāna view, it is even presented in the sūtra section of Dudjom Rinpoche’s big red book, this is really a non-controversial point. Shentong is not anuttarayogatantra, not Vajrayāna since there is no abhiseka, it is a sūtra view.

On top of that shentong is substantiated by its adherents through a novel reinterpretation of Maitreyanātha’s five treatises, sūtra texts. This does not invalidate shentong in any way, but shentong is not a mantrayāna view.


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kuds1001
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1 mo. ago
I don't see this comment as addressing my points, nor do I know why we should invoke unnamed "adherents" or Dudjom R when we have word from Dolpopa himself, who originated the very gzhan stong concept, that it has its origination and basis in tantra. Its entire premise is not what you claimed (the integration of three natures and two truths), but to elucidate the Kalacakra.

For Dolpopa, the fact that gzhan stong illuminates and integrates sutra and tantra is simply further proof that it is the Buddha's definitive teaching and that the Buddha's definitive teaching is free from internal contradiction. To claim the fact that gzhan stong interfaces with sutras means that it's not a view for and from highest yoga tantra is to misunderstand Dolpopa's project and hermeneutic strategy.

If one needs a modern teacher, or someone outside the Jonang, you can read Khenpo Tsultrim's teachings in Shenpen Hookham's The Buddha Within. There is a section called "Tantric Shentong" that may be of interest, along with comments throughout the book on why, without tantric initiation and secret oral instruction, you simply will not understand what gzhan stong means, which, again, is not about reconciling sutra views, and is about the tantric sadangayoga practice.

Either way, I posted this more so for onlookers that they may have the facts about gzhan stong rather than to convince rangtongpas. Be well.


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krodha
OP
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1 mo. ago
I don't see this comment as addressing my points, nor do I know why we should invoke unnamed "adherents" or Dudjom R when we have word from Dolpopa himself

Well, the point is just that even someone like Dudjom Rinpoche understood that gzhan stong is categorized as sūtrayāna.

Dolpopa himself, who originated the very gzhan stong concept, that it has its origination and basis in tantra. Its entire premise is not what you claimed (the integration of three natures and two truths), but to elucidate the Kalacakra.

The origin of gzhan stong itself is not in tantra, the idea of it came from a master by the name of Tsan Kawoche who received teachings on the six limb yoga of Kalācākra, and specifically based this view on a reinterpretation of the pratyahāra part of the six limbs which featured some sort of empty forms, or śūnyatābimba. However this instruction came from a teacher by the name of Somanatha, who apparently utilized a translator who did not understand Sanskrit very well, and somehow this interpretation came about from the instruction, even though this view is not actually found in the Kalācākra tantra itself or any of its commentaries. Regardless, this view was created and the lineage of instructions eventually came down to Dolbupa who ran with it and used the Yogācāra three natures in relation to Tathāgatagarbha, Maitreyanatha's five treatises, and the Madhyamaka two truths to elaborate on this idea. Dolbupa's presentation is logically rooted in sūtrayāna.

or Dolpopa, the fact that gzhan stong illuminates and integrates sutra and tantra is simply further proof that it is the Buddha's definitive teaching

If you are a shentongpa and want to believe that it is the buddha's definitive teaching you can. For others, they will consider their own heart dharma the buddha's definitive teaching. "Definitive" in realation to the teachings is whatever works best for you, there is no objective trademark "definitive" teaching. For myself, the definitive buddhist teaching is Dzogchen mennagde, but that is my view. I would never in my wildest dreams try to tell anyone else that mennagde is actually some sort of objective definitive teaching, even though for me, it is.

is free from internal contradiction

The internal contradiction comes from how the three natures are synthesized with the two truths. The shentong reinterpretation deviates from the standard understanding in Yogācāra, but nevertheless shentong claims it has the actual understanding.

To claim the fact that gzhan stong interfaces with sutras means that it's not a view for and from highest yoga tantra is to misunderstand Dolpopa's project and hermeneutic strategy.

Gzhan stong is not anuttarayogatantra, there is no abhiseka involved in its teachings at all. It is just a sūtrayāna view that is referenced from within the framework of anuttarayogatantra, just like us Dzogchenpas reference prasangika even though prasangika is likewise sūtrayāna.

or someone outside the Jonang, you can read Khenpo Tsultrim's teachings in Shenpen Hookham's The Buddha Within.

I'm not interested but thanks.

There is a section called "Tantric Shentong" that may be of interest, along with comments throughout the book on why, without tantric initiation and secret oral instruction, you simply will not understand what gzhan stong means

Yes, I mean different shentong sympathetic lamas are going to make all sorts of claims of this nature.

is not about reconciling sutra views, and is about the tantric sadangayoga practice.

Shentong literally is about reconciling sūtrayāna views. It is the three natures synthesized with the two truths through a novel understanding of Maitreyanātha's five treatises.

I posted this more so for onlookers that they may have the facts about gzhan stong rather than to convince rangtongpas.

Sure, I am doing the same. To add, rang stong is a false title. It is a shentong straw man. Rangtong does not exist. There is just normal mahdyamaka and then shentong. Just because shentongpas call non-shentong madhyamaka "rangtong" does not mean non-shentong madhyamaka is rangtong.


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kuds1001
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1 mo. ago
Just a few more responses to balance out what I perceive to be factual mistakes in the above comment.

The origin of gzhan stong itself is not in tantra, the idea of it camefrom a master by the name of Tsan Kawoche who received teachings on thesix limb yoga of Kalācākra, and specifically based this view on areinterpretation of the pratyahāra part of the six limbs which featuredsome sort of empty forms, or śūnyatābimba.

It seems like you have confused Tsen Kawoche with Yumo Mikyo Dorje. Tsen Kawoche's gzhan stong was based on a meditative tradition of the Ratnagotravibhaga. Yumo Mikyo Dorje's gzhan stong was based on the Kalacakra sadangayoga (and Dzogchen). Kawoche is part of the sutra lineage of the Jonang, not the tantric Kalacakra lineage. Maybe this explains why you believe that gzhan stong is based on the sutras, because Kawoche got his inspiration from the Ratnagotravibhaga?

Gzhan stong is also not really a reinterpretation. Early commentaries on the sadangayoga like the Laghutantratika talk about how the emptiness of empty forms is not a "nihilistic emptiness." The Kalacakra means something unique by emptiness which relates to the empty forms of the sadangayoga practice. It's hard to explain but is about the simultaneous de-materialization of physical particles and arising of all the many signs and symbols of the Buddha. Emptiness in the Kalacakra is not some sort of non-implicative negation or philosophical tool, but is something that has a perceivable non-conceptual form and that is animate and dynamic.

Also, the empty forms play a role in all of the six limbs (and the unique preliminary), not just pratyahara. This is all clearly explained in the upadesha on Kalacakra practice, which clarifies how gzhan stong emerges from practice.

It is just a sūtrayāna view that is referenced from within the framework of anuttarayogatantra

You have it backwards, it's an anuttarayogatantra view from the Kalacakra that was later used to explain the sutras and reconcile their contradictions.

Dolbupa's presentation is logically rooted in sūtrayāna. Shentong literally is about reconciling sūtrayāna views.

You keep claiming that, Dolpopa states otherwise extensively.

The shentong reinterpretation deviates from the standard understanding in Yogācāra, but nevertheless shentong claims it has the actual understanding.

Gzhan stong isn't the standard understanding of the three natures, but its understanding is clearly found in canonical texts, like Vasubandhu's Brhattika, for instance.

Yes, I mean different shentong sympathetic lamas are going to make all sorts of claims of this nature

And unsympathetic lamas will make opposing claims then, no?

To add, rang stong is a false title. It is a shentong straw man.

A straw man is an argument that nobody actually believes but that people offer only to debunk. Rang stong clearly is not a straw man seeing how many people rush to defend it.

What is false is the notion that the two are opposing descriptions of the same reality. Dolpopa was clear that rang stong applies to samsara and gzhan stong applies to nirvana. So all shentongpas accept the rangtong view of samsara, the fault that makes one a rangtongpa is misapplying intrinsic emptiness to nirvana. So if rang stong was a mere straw man, it seems odd that Dolpopa would accept it as a valid description of samsara.


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
It seems like you have confused Tsen Kawoche with Yumo Mikyo Dorje. Tsen Kawoche's gzhan stong was based on a meditative tradition of the Ratnagotravibhaga. Yumo Mikyo Dorje's gzhan stong was based on the Kalacakra sadangayoga (and Dzogchen). Kawoche is part of the sutra lineage of the Jonang, not the tantric Kalacakra lineage. Maybe this explains why you believe that gzhan stong is based on the sutras, because Kawoche got his inspiration from the Ratnagotravibhaga?

Yes, thanks, I did confuse the two. But that conflation was not the basis for categorizing gzhan stong as a sūtrayāna view. The actual basis for that assertion is the lack of abhiṣeka.

Gzhan stong is also not really a reinterpretation.

The gzhan stong treatment of the yogācāra three natures is certainly novel. Only the pariniṣpanna or perfected nature is considered ultimate truth, which deviates from the traditional presentation.

Early commentaries on the sadangayoga like the Laghutantratika talk about how the emptiness of empty forms is not a "nihilistic emptiness."

Sure, but no proper view of emptiness is ever nihilistic.

Emptiness in the Kalacakra is not some sort of non-implicative negation or philosophical tool, but is something that has a perceivable non-conceptual form and that is animate and dynamic.

Yes, this is true from every view of emptiness. Emptiness is traditionally, even in prasaṅga for example, always a non-conceptual "animate and dynamic" realization.

You have it backwards, it's an anuttarayogatantra view

Again, impossible in the absence of abhiṣeka, which is what actually differentiates sūtrayāna and vajrayāna. Otherwise, if gzhan stong is simply a synonym for the luminosity of mind, then this is found in many sūtra systems, there is nothing unique about that. Luminosity is not an exclusively vajrayāna view.

Gzhan stong isn't the standard understanding of the three natures, but its understanding is clearly found in canonical texts

...according to gzhan stong pas. Hence the novel reinterpretation of Maitreyanātha's treatises to substantiate the claim.

And unsympathetic lamas will make opposing claims then, no?

Of course.

A straw man is an argument that nobody actually believes but that people offer only to debunk.

A straw man in this case, is a faux position projected onto a given party by another. Like group A claiming they are the "purple team" and then stating that all other groups are "non-purples" by default, but the other groups are not non-purples, they are oranges, and blues and greens, reds, and so on. The blanketed projected opposite is just a default moniker attributed to contrasting groups by the purple group.

Same goes for gzhan stong and rang stong. Rang stong is just normal madhyamaka in its varieties. Just because gzhan stong came along and claimed their view and rendered every other madhyamaka view as "rang stong" does not mean rang stong is actually something real. It is just something shentongpas say. If you're a shentongpa then sure there's a lot of rangtongpas out there. But if you're not a shentongpa then you'd never consider yourself a rangtongpa.

Rang stong clearly is not a straw man seeing how many people rush to defend it.

No so-called rangtongpa is defending some sort of rangtongpa view. This is again just something shentongpas say. It isn't real.

Dolpopa was clear that rang stong applies to samsara and gzhan stong applies to nirvana.

A strange view.

So all shentongpas accept the rangtong view of samsara, the fault that makes one a rangtongpa is misapplying intrinsic emptiness to nirvana.

Nirvana is a cessation by definition. Defined as analytical cessation (pratisaṃkhyā-nirodha) specifically.

So if rang stong was a mere straw man, it seems odd that Dolpopa would accept it as a valid description of samsara.

Again, a strange view.


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ChanCakes
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18 days ago
The Shentong view on the Three Natures is not common in Yogacara but it is also not novel. It is found in very early Yogacara texts like the Mahayana Sutra Alamkara.


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
u/Regular_Bee_5605


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Thanks Krodha. You mentioned Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, but he says Shentong Madhyamaka, not Prasangika, is the highest view. The misunderstanding comes because there are different forms of Shentong, is what it seems like to me. The Shentong that Kagyu teachers teach isn't the same or as eternalistic in language as that of the original Jonang school. If you're curious to see how he presents it, his book really is excellent, and pretty short too. Most Kagyu teachers call themselves Shentong, not Prasangika these days, yet it's extremely common for them to also hold the Nyingma and Dzogchen lineages (Dzogchen Ponlop Rinpoche, Mingyur Rinpoche, Tsoknyi Rinpoche, just a few of the many alive today. Many more great deceased masters held both lineages too.)

Anyway, I really think this is just a scholarly splitting of hairs. Which I'm not blaming anyone for, since I'm the one who began it. Ultimately I realize that at some point arguing about rhe exact nature of emptiness-luminosity in words is pointless, at least for me, since the reality of the matter goes beyond concepts, completely beyond words. in fact, any attempt to describe the luminous awareness left after all else has been negated with prasangika is impossible, because it's empty, it can't be found with words and concepts, can only be experienced directly. And that's why shentong I think appeals to yogis more than scholars (even though many of the teachers who hold Shentong views are great scholars themselves.)

Edit: the way its presented by the Kagyu masters who hold it is that Shentong is a form of Madhyamaka. Another way Gelug Prasangika differs from Nyingma prasangika is that like shentong Madhyamaka, Nyingma school uses a lot of the framework of Cittamatra, whereas Gelug eschews such language altogether. You will not hear Gelug teachers talking about the lack of subject and object, pure awareness etc. Tsongkhapa approached it as a pure negation, and from what I understand, did not believe all appearances came from mind. The main difference of Shentong and Cittamatra is that Shentong says that even the mind that Cittamatra reifies is empty.


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
You mentioned Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche, but he says Shentong Madhyamaka, not Prasangika, is the highest view.

Some people have that opinion.

Most Kagyu teachers call themselves Shentong, not Prasangika these days

Depends on the Kagyu sect. Karma Kagyu is heavy leaning shentong, but a sect like Drikung Kagyu is more prasanga leaning.

Ultimately I realize that at some point arguing about rhe exact nature of emptiness-luminosity in words is pointless, at least for me, since the reality of the matter goes beyond concepts, completely beyond words

Any and everything is ineffable (beyond words). The issue with shentong is that their view harbors certain irreconcilable positions, for example, shentong asserts a hard demarcation between relative and ultimate truth, stating that ultimate truth is completely separate from the relative. Shentong also states that Buddha qualities are fully formed from the beginning, meaning the kāyas of the result are fully formed at the time of the basis, both of these positions contradict Dzogchen teachings for example.


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konchokzopachotso
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1 mo. ago
Kagyu
Multiple popular drikung masters are shentong. Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche says the emptiness of Jigten Sumgon is the Shentong view, in his commentary of the four Dharmas of Gampopa


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
Khenpo Samdup Rinpoche says the emptiness of Jigten Sumgon is the Shentong view

My Drikung Kagyu lama, Drüpon Gongpo Dorje would adamantly disagree. Just depends on the lama and his/her direct lineage.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
This may not be your intention, but I enjoy this healthy debate as it's helping me become more confident in the Shentong view :)


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
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That's simply not true. Ultimate and relative truth are inseparable and I've never heard it say otherwise.

If you say they're not there from the very beginning, and that the Dharmakaya hasn't primordially always been free, wouldn't Buddhahood be yet another conditioned phenomenon? Once again, I do think this is just splitting hairs, but I guess I don't mind doing it as an intellectual exercise.

Edit: also, isn't the view that all beings are enlightened in essence from the very start the entire basis of the fruition, Vajrayana path, which involves pure perception, the seeing of promordial wisdom and clarity as having always been there but not known due to ignorance?


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
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edited 1 mo. ago
Ultimate and relative truth are inseparable and I've never heard it say otherwise.

In most systems, yes, the ultimate is a generic characteristic of the relative. However in shentong, the perfected nature, pariniṣpanna, is completely set apart from the other two, dependent and imputed natures, by virtue of shentong's novel reinterpretation of the two truths. As a result, there is an internal contradiction in the form of a hard demarcation between these natures, and one has to wonder how does a conditioned nature even relate to a completely separate unconditioned nature?

If you say they're not there from the very beginning, and that the Dharmakaya hasn't primordially always been free

In most systems, dharmakāya is the result and is not present at all times. If dharmakāya were present at all times then we would always possess the jñāna of a buddha free from the two obscurations, but alas we do not yet possess that. For example, in common Yogacara the ālayavijñāna is transformed into the ādarśajñāna or dharmakāya by virtue of the exhaustion of its karmic bījas or seeds. In a teaching like Dzogchen, dharmakāya is actually not present in the basis or result, it is a path dharma. The ngo bo aspect of the basis ripens into dharmakāya on the path, and then all the kāyas are exhausted in the result.

Shentong stands apart in asserting that dharmakāya is fully formed at the time of the basis and is then merely revealed by the removal of afflictions, and then is still fully formed at the time of the result. This is a unique view, and many question why, if the dharmakāya is fully formed in the basis would the path be necessary at all?

also, isn't the view that all beings are enlightened in essence from the very start the entire basis of the fruition, Vajrayana path

No, not quite. The Vajrayāna trope of "taking the result as the path" signifies the generation stage, where the practitioner visualizes themselves as the yidam, and his/her environment as the deity’s maṇḍala.

the seeing of promordial wisdom and clarity as having always been there but not known due to ignorance?

Yes the dharmatā of mind is always present and is merely revealed as the two obscurations are removed, however, that dharmatā ripens into the dharmakāya. Sure, there are different dharmakāyas in some contexts, the dharmakāya of the basis for example is ka dag, but this is not the actual dharmakāya. The actual dharmakāya does not dawn even for 10th stage bodhisattvas. Only a buddha can know dharmakāya.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
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edited 1 mo. ago
Dude we're literally talking about the same exact thing but using different words. This conversation is pointless.


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
There are just nuances to these views which characterize them. Shentong is not simply this idea that emptiness and luminosity are inseparable, if it were it wouldn't be any different than other sūtrayāna views such as yogācāra or tathāgatagarbha. What makes shentong "shentong" are those nuanced aspects.

Beyond that, I think these conversations are always good, it makes everyone think and consider different viewpoints. When can only bring clarity and benefit.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Shentong still holds mind is empty. It's full of qualities of wisdom and compassion, but it's still essenceless and can't be found. So luminosity isn't a "thing" or "substance" so it's therefore still Madhyamaka, not Yogacara or Advaita.


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
Shentong still holds mind is empty.

Most contemporary shentong, yes. Dolbupa's shentong though? He is quite clear that the perfected nature is established.

When pressed, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche actually admitted that there is not much difference between Dolbupa's shentong and Advaita Vedanta. For whatever that is worth.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Yeah, that's why Dolpopa's Shentong is generally only seen in the Jonang school now. It's no wonder there's confusion though if people are using the same term to mean very different things.


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genivelo
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1 mo. ago
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When pressed, Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche actually admitted that there is not much difference between Dolbupa’s shentong and Advaita Vedanta.

I would love a link to that too, if you have it.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
I think you're still not getting that there are multiple different "Shentongs" out there. And nowadays most are not taught in the way Dolpopa did. Now it's very much similar to Ju Mipham's view. It's just a synthesis of yogacara and madhyamaka basically. When I see what you're writing your view is, I recognize it as my view but worded just very very slightly differently. I eaally don't think these tiny differences matter when it's about going beyond all intellectual concepts and views together. Sure, it's important to understand the view, but the degree of nitpicking (which I'm doing too so I'm not blaming you) seems to accomplish nothing. It I'd interesting and intellectually stimulating, except when I get angry and respond with aggression I'm creating bad karma 🤣


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
I think you're still not getting that there are multiple different "Shentongs" out there.

I'm thoroughly aware. I get that there is the original Jonang shentong of Dolbupa and Taranatha. Then it begins to be slightly more subtle in Mikyo Dorje's expositions, Shakya Chogden, Jamgon Kongtrul, etc.

Now it's very much similar to Ju Mipham's view.

Mipham's view is Dzogpachenpo.

When I see what you're writing your view is, I recognize it as my view but worded just very very slightly differently. I eaally don't think these tiny differences matter when it's about going beyond all intellectual concepts and views together. Sure, it's important to understand the view, but the degree of nitpicking (which I'm doing too so I'm not blaming you) seems to accomplish nothing. It I'd interesting and intellectually stimulating, except when I get angry and respond with aggression I'm creating bad karma.

Ok, well I think we can still discuss. If you don't want to however then that is okay too.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Dzogchens view is basically identical to Mahamudra's man. How else can there be so many lineage holders of both traditions if they contradicted? My teacher mainly does Mahamudra but it's very Dzogchen influenced due to 2 of his 4 root gurus being Dzogchen masters (his father Tulku Urgyen and Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche.)


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
No it's fine to discuss I just need to monitor my kleshas!


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Mayayana
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1 mo. ago
Shentong stands apart in asserting that dharmakāya is fully formed at the time of the basis and is then merely revealed by the removal of afflictions, and then is still fully formed at the time of the result. This is a unique view, and many question why, if the dharmakāya is fully formed in the basis would the path be necessary at all?

Because it's not realized. You may consider that a mistaken view, but it's an expedient device. And the alternative must assume that a buddha is created where none exists. In a reality empty of existence, how could that be, except as a relative phenomenon?


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
Because it's not realized.

Right, this is the definition of the basis in these teachings, “something not yet realized.” The result is the total and complete knowledge of that which is unrecognized in the basis, thus, how can the result exist at the same time as the basis as Dolbupa asserts? It is nonsensical.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
I was under the impression the entire Vajrayana view was encapsulated by everything is, right now, fundamentally pure, as it is, and ignorance simply obscures that. You seem to have some unusual views about these things (which is fine, and maybe yours are right, who knows?). I think I actually agree with you on more than you think I do anyway.


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
I was under the impression the entire Vajrayana view was encapsulated by everything is, right now, fundamentally pure, as it is, and ignorance simply obscures that.

Indeed. That is the actual meaning of luminosity.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
Well I agree! Beyond time, space, ideas of existence, non-existence, both, or neither, along with the quality of cognizance. So perhaps I simply have not been explaining my views carefully or understanding yours correctly.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
And the reason I don't think ultimste truth is different than conventional truth is that all appearances are simply manifestations of emptiness-luminosity. No different in essence. All phenomena are empty, come from empty mind, yet "it is nothing at all, but anything can manifest." (That line comes from supplication to the Dakpo Kagyu lineage prayer.)


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Mayayana
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1 mo. ago
It may be nonsensical if you view it as a mechanistic, dualistic scenario, where you posit awareness as something manufactured. It doesn't seem nonsensical to me in an experiential sense. But maybe it's really just a problem of the limitation of language. If you view awareness as dualistic then your approach should be more useful for you. Personally I'm very drawn to fruition view, in which luminous awareness is the view and practice. From that point of view, emptiness is still referring to dualistic perception, saying that dualistic perception is false and all phenomena are empty of true existence. Awareness, simply not leaving nowness, is no longer referring to "pre-awake". That's why it has to be the 3rd turning. It's less dualistic as a view.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
The Gelug Prasangik doesn't really seem concerned with dualism. They are very focused on the second turning and emptiness as pure negation. As far as I'm aware, Tsongkhapa even believed that things actually do exist external to mind, but that they just don't "inherently exist." I wouldn't be surprised to hear these views from a Gelugpa, but it's surprising to see them from a Nyingma Dzogchen practitioner. I've already talked to him about his views don't seem to be the Nyingma consensus. Which is okay, I suppose. But he states that Shentong is a "bastardization" of Madhyamaka. Nice person, but I have let myself get pissed off by some of our discourse.


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Mayayana
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1 mo. ago
You go over my head with these academic references, which I think of as pretty much just the province of Gelugpas. Maybe it's my bias, but I don't think it's especially relevant, when talking about such experiential topics, to support arguments through references, as though it were a legal court case. If references are used, their practice/view relevance should be explained rather than just holding them up as absolute authority. Otherwise we end up with an absurdity: The official absolute relative truth about absolute truth. That ignores the fact that view is a practice, not an ultimate description or law of reality.

I was referring to dualism because, if I understood correctly, the deal seems to be this:

Shentong is positing a kind of absolute reality to rigpa/yeshe, not as a dualistic view but rather as a practical device. The nature of reality as luminous, like the Christian device of God. Rangtong or anti-shentong seems to view that approach as dualistic. There seems to be a misunderstanding in that rangtong is viewing it in the context of shunyata. ("It can't exist because nothing exists.") My understanding is that shentong view is from a point of view beyond shunyata, of "been there-done that". Shunyata is accepted as established, but then here we are working with non-dual awareness. If we say it's empty then we're getting into nihilist acrobatics, sollidiying emptiness as having absolute existence. You seem to be saying the same. Do I have that right? Is that also your understanding?

I had assumed krodha was Gelugpa. Like you, I don't see how his adamant denial fits with Dzogchen, rife with imagery such as "the sun obscured by clouds". It's fruition view. If you say that that sun is not self-existing from the beginning then you back yourself into a corner and interpret fruition view as lower view. Buddhahood would then have to be created. But that would then class buddhahood as a relative phenomenon. At the risk of sounding excessively abstruse and erudite: That's icky :)


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
I wouldn't be surprised to hear these views from a Gelugpa, but it's surprising to see them from a Nyingma Dzogchen practitioner.

I did not assert any view of that nature, just for the record.


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Regular_Bee_5605
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1 mo. ago
There are some Nyingmapas on here and especially the Dzogchen forum who believe some unusual things that most Nyingma masters didn't teach. Like the person you were arguing with who said realization could be "lost."


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krodha
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1 mo. ago
I have often seen Longchenpa and Jigme Lingpa referred to as Pransangika Madhyamaka adherents. Do you know if they spoke to this directly?

Longchenpa states that Prasangika Madhyamaka, meaning Nāgārjuna’s expositions (even though Nāgārjuna was obviously pre-prasanga) are the definitive sūtrayāna view, while the tathāgatagarbha sūtras are the definitive sūtra texts.


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