Loppon Malcolm:


One cannot find the nature of water apart from water. It does not precede or succeed it. Now then, if you are an essentialist [Hindu, etc.], you will argue that all water derives its nature from some hypothetical essence of water. If you are a nominalist [Buddhist], you will argue our notion of a characteristic of water is an abstraction derived from our experiences of water. So, the answer is that your nature of water is merely an abstraction, and does not really exist. See MMK chapter 5:7:

    Therefor space is not existent, it is not non-existent, is not the characterized,
    is not the characteristic; also any other of the five elements are the same as space.

And 5:8:

    Some of small intelligence, see existents in terms of ‘is’ or ‘is not’;
    they do not perceive the pacification of views, or peace.


Your quote does not support Dolbupa's entire theory, which has much more to do with his treatment of three own natures, his interpretation of the idea of the three turnings, and so on that it does tathāgatagarbha.

We all accept tathāgatagarbha theory, we just don't accept Dolbupas interpretation of it, because it is eternalist.


Nope. Gzhan stong is the theory that the ultimate truth is empty of relative truth and utterly different than it; it is not the theory that the nature of mind (tathāgatagarbha) is empty of adventitious defilements and replete with buddha qualities (potentially). You can cite the Śrīmālādevī-siṃhanāda sūtra (and the nine other tathāgatagarbha sūtras) till you pass out from exhaustion but it wont make tathāgatagarbha theory any more "gzhan stong".


Umm, no, that is not what gzhan stong is. This is how it is defined:

    Dharmatā, the thoroughly established, the ultimate truth, is not empty of its own nature, but because it is empty of imputed and other-dependent entities, relative entities, conditioned phenomena, it is empty of other entities. That is the true unperverted emptiness, ultimate truth, dharmakāya, [3/b] the limit of the real, suchness, and emptiness endowed with the supreme of all aspects. The powers, major and minor marks and so on are the unconditioned qualities that abide in that from the beginning.


What you do not seem to understand is while the sūtra passages you are citing are noncontroversial, the gzhan stong interpretation Dolbupa applied to them in general is controversial for many reasons, but mostly having to do with his novel (and largely unprecedented) interpretation of the three own natures, his idea that the perfected nature (parinispanna) was empty of both the dependent (paratantra) and imputed (parikalpita) natures. In fact Maitreyanath, Asanga and Vasubandhu uniformly consider that the absence of the imputed in the dependent is the perfected. The second place where the gzhan stong view is found contradictory to Nāgārjuna is that if one follows the gzhan stong view, samsara and nirvana cannot be inseparable. Therefore, the statement by the Buddha in the Hevajra Tantra must be false:

    This so-called "samsara,"
    just this is nirvana.

Many other clear and unambiguous statements by the Buddha on the identity of samsara and nirvana must also be considered false. Not to mention Nāgārjuna's famed dictum:

    Samsara is not the slightest bit different from nirvana,
    nirvana is not the slightest bit different from samsara;
    whatever is the limit of nirvana, that is the limit of samsara,
    a difference between those two does not exist even slightly.

We can see that Vasubandhu agrees with this meaning in the Sūtrālaṃkārabhāṣya:

    The meaning of nirvana being all-pervasive is that because samsara and peace (nirvana) have one taste due to one not having concepts about their faults and qualities, in the respect there is no difference between samsara and nirvana.



Right, so you did not even answer the question.

As a basic definition, nirvana, space and so on are included in "all phenomena." In fact, the Śatasāhasrika-prajñāpāramitā, etc., state:

    All phenomena are included with the category of suchness, those cannot go beyond that category. If it asked why, Subhuti no coming or coming can be perceived in suchness. Subhuti, all phenomena are within these categories: the dharmadhātu, are the limit of reality, uniformity and inconceivability.


    Subhuti, when categorized, all phenomena are the nature of being unreal. Subhuti, in the same way, also all phenomena are nature of emptiness, all phenomena are the nature of signlessness, all phenomena are the nature of aspirationalessness. Subhuti, in the same way also, all phenomena are the nature of suchness, all phenomena are the nature of the limit of reality, all phenomena are the nature of dharmadhātu.

This being so, it is ludicrous to assert that the ultimate is empty of all relative phenomena. Such an assertion directly contradicts the words of the Buddha. It is one thing to claim "tathāgatagarbha is empty of adventitious afflictions." It is quite another to claim that the ultimate is empty of all relative phenomena. The ultimate is merely the emptiness of all phenomena, there is no other ultimate that can be found.


And it is for this reason, for example, that Rongton Sheja Kunrig classifies gzhan stong as a species of false aspectarian yogacara, or a sort of intermediate view between yogacara and madhyamaka.


The problem lies when one conflates the language of the tathatagarbha teachings, the language of yogacara and the language of madhyamaka. The ancient yogacarins in Indian took virtually no interest in tathāgatagarbha theory devoting only a total of two commentaries to the subject: the Uttaratantra and the subcommentary on that by Asanga. Further proof, is that Madhyamakas such as Bhavavieka and Chandrakirti treast the subject of tathāgatagarbha theory with much more interest then Asanga, Vasuubandhu and so on. We do not really find consistent commentarial treatment of tathāgatagarbha theory until the Vajrayāna commentaries dating from the ninth century onward. Even here it is not systematic.
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