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My principal meditation teacher was Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche, one of the first Tibetan lamas to present meditation in the West.
During the 17 years that I knew him,
from 1970 until his death in 1987, he transmitted the somatic Vajrayana
lineage to me and his other senior students. Since his death, I have
been fortunate to have the time and the opportunity to explore
extensively Rinpoche’s transmission through study, practice—and most importantly, teaching—where I have learned the most. One single concept best characterizes
the instruction that Rinpoche received from his teachers and that he
wanted to pass on to his students: “embodied spirituality.” But in using
this term, what are we talking about? The somatic approach teaches that the
spiritual is already, from the beginning, implicit within what we call
the material—not only in our own physical body but also (as we shall
discuss further below) in the larger body of our incarnate situation in
the cosmos. This means that the essential nature of our incarnational
materiality, both what is inside (body) and what is outside (cosmos), is
already primordially and inherently spiritual. Trungpa Rinpoche taught that authentic spirituality
cannot exist apart from embodied reality because disembodied
spirituality is exclusive, separationist, and incomplete. Any attempt to
present spirituality as disembodied is a bogus spirituality, a
conceptualized, self-serving construct; at the end of the day, it is
simply ego’s game, all over again, just on a subtler and more hidden
level, what Trungpa called “spiritual materialism.” The somatic view of Vajrayana
Buddhism has revolutionary implications for our meditation practice as
modern people and for our spiritual journey altogether. As mentioned, it
means that our spiritual life, far from involving a distancing and
separating from our body and all the realities of our physical
incarnation, requires just the opposite: we must turn toward our body
and our life as the proper and only possible arena for authentic
spiritual development—as the only place where our path can unfold and as
the only possible true access point for our genuine realization.
Anything else is a chimera, a dream.
When I talk about embodied spirituality in the book, The Awakening Body, then, I mean that connecting with our body and our ordinary life are not add-ons: they are the practice of spirituality; they are what the spiritual journey is all about. The somatic point of view is that the
spiritual journey can only really begin within the depths of our
incarnation; that we make the full journey only by exploring our own
actual experience as an incarnational being, as it progressively
discloses itself in our practice and our life; and that, in the end,
this body is what we realize in all of its dimensions, in all of its
subtlety and depth. This is the ultimate spiritual illumination, the
long-sought elixir of life, the realization of nirvana. There isn’t
anything beyond this for, as I hope to show you, this is the
illumination of the totality of Being. We can further clarify what embodied spirituality is by seeing what it isn’t. In many of the traditional religions
of both West and East, including many forms of Buddhism, the spiritual
life is understood as a process of separating oneself from everything
that is problematic and nonspiritual in order to gain higher,
“spiritual” states of meditative awareness. And what are these
nonspiritual things that one is separating oneself from? All that seems
ordinary, mundane, and “worldly”; the body and all that is seated in it,
including instincts and sensations; feelings, emotions, and bodily
perceptions; human attachment and sexuality; all that feels potentially
problematic, chaotic, and obstructive in our life, all that triggers us,
activates us, and stirs us up and leaves us feeling confused, troubled, and incomplete. Meditation
is often viewed as a way to separate ourselves from all of this and
rise above it, to get to an altitude where we can relax into a space
that is unobstructed and peaceful. This goal of separation seems to
reflect a somewhat negative attitude toward our regular life and the
ordinary world as if, at least in a spiritual sense, those things don’t
hold very much of importance for us. And so we often practice meditation
as a process of progressive distancing
and disembodiment, where we are employing meditative techniques to
separate what we feel are the “higher” part of ourselves—our more pure,
clear, and clean parts—from everything that is lower—all the mundane,
ordinary, pained, nagging, struggling parts. This approach leads, as mentioned, to a state of spiritual dissociation.
The process might look like this:
down to meditate and use a technique to try to calm the distress and
chaos in our mind, disturbances perhaps fueled by our compulsive
thinking, painful memories of unresolved situations or relationships,
aggressive competitiveness, and distressing feelings and emotions. We
try to smooth the turbulence of all the things that seem to be closing
in on us, suffocating us, creating an intense claustrophobia. This
tranquilization of our minds is a well-known practice in Buddhism called
mindfulness, mentioned earlier. The powerful techniques for this can
indeed induce the desired effects and, as our minds begin to quiet down,
we may then enjoy a more peaceful and open state.
But here is where things get very
tricky: the practice of meditation as a process of tranquilization
typically implies a conscious intention, a mental image of what we are
looking for, and a process of deliberate inclusion and exclusion leading
us toward our desired spiritual goal. This is tricky because of our
remarkable human capacity to limit and control experience: witness the
human ego itself. It has been estimated that out of every million parts
of information received and processed by our body, we humans only admit
13 parts into our conscious awareness. That means we only allow ourselves to be conscious of .000013 percent of the data, of experience, known to our body. That capacity to limit and control
our experience is operational in the way mindfulness is practiced by
many of us, although we may be quite unconscious of this fact. What
often happens with many of us is that we are able, with sufficient
discipline and willpower, to get ourselves into something like the
desired state; but it takes a tremendous amount of effort of separation
and exclusion of everything else to get there and it leaves us in a bit
of a trance.
The positive benefits of this kind of meditation should not be minimized:
to have a way to separate ourselves, at least for a time, from all that is problematic and painful in ourselves and our lives
to have a safe haven to retreat to in the midst of life’s storms
to be able to rest and recuperate can have considerable benefits.
This kind of meditation thus becomes a
powerful panacea helping us to remove ourselves from the more seamy and
squalid, the more difficult and anxiety-ridden realities of daily life:
“What a relief!” Some would argue—some do argue—that
this is exactly what meditation is for and, for that reason, we should
enthusiastically embrace the capacity it gives us to step out and
temporarily dissociate, to disembody, from our embedded, bodily
existence. Meditation in this sense is clearly an oasis and an important
one in our life, but, as Nietzsche famously remarked, “Where there are
oases, there are also idols.” Taking us in quite another direction,
the somatic teachings see the spiritual life as a journey toward ever
fuller and more complete intimacy and even identification with our human
incarnation—and we are not talking about just the “nice” parts. This
means surrendering our separate spiritual stance, our “spiritual” self,
and falling into contact, communication, alignment, and, finally, union
with the most ordinary, basic aspects of our human existence, as they
are. These include everything we go through, our whole somatic
existence, with its sensations, bodily perceptions, feelings, and
emotions—including all of our ordinary mental life, the ups and downs,
the confusion, the pleasure and pain, everything.
For somatic spirituality,
our problem is not, as in conventional spirituality, that we are too
close to these mundane features of our life but rather that we are too
far away from them; our problem is not that we are too embodied (the
disembodied approach), but that we are not embodied enough.
The only place we can truly,
authentically, and fully wake up is in the midst of life—right in the
middle of our quotidian life, exactly as it is. The somatic lineage is thus
life-affirming to an absolute degree; it is, in Trungpa Rinpoche’s
words, “ultimate positivity”: we walk the path toward realization by
abandoning any sense of distinction between our spiritual journey and
our life journey that consists of the specific, gritty realities of our
ordinary existence; in fact they are one and the same. Many writers in our contemporary
culture are articulating these or similar ideas. However, simply having
this perspective on a purely intellectual or conceptual level is going
to be of limited help for ourselves or our world. If, on the contrary,
through the somatic methods, we come to see and experience this for
ourselves, it changes everything.
We no longer need to be
minimizing or denying large parts of ourselves or be engaged in a
constant struggle to free ourselves from the mundane aspects of
ourselves and our lives.
Quite the opposite, we are now fully
and thoroughly liberated into a complete acceptance and openness to
everything we are, to see for ourselves that everything we go through is
an engagement with the heart of reality itself. Moreover, the somatic
approach shows us how to meet the most painful and problematic
situations, emotions, and people in our life and to find within those
difficult aspects of our life the next step on our path or spiritual
journey. In short, to see the grittiness of the world and, more than
that, to experience it directly as the blessing we have been searching
for. The approach of somatic spirituality
shows us how to transform the yuck and poison of our own negativity into
something fresh, wholesome, and creative. And then, finally, the most
simple and ordinary aspects of our human experience become sources of
insight, freedom and joy, and revelations of the deepest mysteries of
the universe. Thus it is that if we turn our back
on our body and our bodily existence—on the ordinary, the commonplace,
and mundane—we are turning our back on what is ultimately and finally
real; we are giving up our one opportunity to find our own true and
destined place within the infinity of being.
The direct experience of THIS is exactly experienced in me (us) beyond both THIS IS IT and THIS IS NOT! Each Now, THIS should be experienced anew beyond both the habitual, fixed “THIS is IT” and the indispensable negating “THIS is NOT!”. THIS beyond THIS and NOT!
JUST THIS in our daily world is too boring, so nothing special. Everywhere we naturally have THIS, wherever we are, wherever we go . We are usually not even conscious of it at all. We are already in the ocean of THIS without fail, without paying attention. Therefore, everything is habitually going on, even THIS. Once we (cosmos) are ignited by the fire of THIS awareness by/with THIS experience, suddenly the whole Univerself (you, me, our families, all living beings) are
awakening/actualizing/embodying/opening/flowering/laughing as THIS active/mindful/awakening NOW.
As this experience, the new universe is born breath-by-breath in the midst of our muddy world reality. This is our One_Experience. Our daily chaotic busy way need not be boring (and blind) if we discover THIS New habit-less awakening of Now-universe even in the midst of our messy city lives. Depending on ourselves, our sensitivity, each of our daily encounters is ever-habitual, ever-boring, OR This encounter is awakening, wondrous, opening, unknown, New-Life-being-born, New–cosmos.
“All is one, one is all”, my master’s master replied to me once, and his words are only understood when we are JUST THIS.“ When we are JUST THIS” means we discover/experience THIS and also we are discovered/experienced by THIS inseparably at the same time (as one Univerself-function).
THIS is ever-deepening Life as each Now is being born so fresh at/by unknown concrete encounters, for example, This_One_breathing_awareness, being called by someone, meeting with a street cat, or.... We do not need anything else at all!
“Through his own deep experience, Reggie Ray
skillfully guides us into an awakened bodily life. He offers necessary,
wise, and liberating practices of realization within our mysterious
—Jack Kornfield, PhD, author of A Path with Heart
“Touching Enlightenment provides
readers with a fresh look at the steps required to turn our
understanding of enlightenment into full embodiment—a vital process that
determines the way in which we actually conduct our lives. An
indispensible book for the serious practitioner.”
—John Daido Loori, abbot of Zen Mountain Monastery and author of True Dharma Eye: Master Dogen’s Three Hundred Koans
"Reggie Ray’s approach to the dharma is wonderfully fresh while also radically rooted in the foundation of the Buddha’s meditation instruction—mindfulness of body. He has a richly textured understanding of the lived body as the vessel of wisdom mind, as well as the carrier of all the karmic patterns that obscure this pristine awareness. Highly recommended."
—John Welwood, author of Toward a Psychology of Awakening Excerpts:
"This breathing practice also helps us uncover the energy that ultimately is the big toe... ...our seemingly solid physical sensations of the big toe are a substantialized and solidified experience of a more primary experience of the big toe: that it is actually a vibrating, scintillating field of energy... in a sense, we become the energy of the big toe, we are it."
"... by sensing it and
feeling it, not just as the body does, but as the body. We begin to
experience moments when we realize that, fundamentally, "we" are the
body. As we find ourselves in greater and greater somatic embodiment, we
discover deeper and deeper contact with this world. At this point, our
conclusions about it recede into relative unimportance. Life is then
less and less about thinking and more and more about simply being."
"When we bring our breath consciously into different parts of our body,
there is the physical part, in this case pulling the breath in through
the pores of the skin. But at a deeper level, there is the inner breath,
by which we are bringing the life energy into that particular part of
"...Now you are breathing through the entire body,
through every pore of the entire body, into every portion of its
interior, all its bones, muscles, and organs, into all the cells of the
body. Just work on that for a few minutes. It isn't easy, but if you
stay with it, the energy, attention, and sense of intense vitality will
become greater and greater.
As you are breathing through the
entire body, notice if there are any places that perhaps seem a little
dead or a little resistant to the breath, and you can emphasize those
areas a bit. You are still breathing through the entire body, but you
are ending up in that particular spot, trying to bring more life to it,
more energy, more awareness, more feeling of being awake and sensitive
Continue this for another minute or two. Try to
make a lot of effort now, maximize your effort and exertion to the
utmost, breathing in through every pore of your body, into every single
cell of your body, surface and depth, simultaneously.
you think you can't possibly do any more, you can just let go of the
technique and lie quietly. Feel the energy circulating throughout your
body. This is the inner breath, the prana, which is your vitality,
flowing through your nadis, or energy pathways. Your body is now very,
very awake, and you can feel an electricity flowing everywhere. Stay
with this for several minutes, enjoying it and being completely in the
flow. Stay with it until you feel really satisfied. After resting for a
few more minutes, you can sit back up. As you do so, continue this sense
of the full body, cellular breathing but gently now with a very light
"We realize that our body feels, senses, knows its
interconnection with all things. In fact, we are, we exist, only in and
through interconnection; ultimately, we are nothing other than
"interbeing," in Thich Nhat Hanh's beautiful phrase. All of this becomes
increasingly clear the deeper we enter into our somatic existence...
...modern science is showing us that there is no solid, impermeable,
discrete envelope to our individual body and that we are in constant and
open-ended exchange with our larger bodies, just as our brain is with
our lungs, our bones with our circulatory system: the same principle,
just a larger scale."
"We have seen how the interior of our
physical body unfolds first as more open than we had suspected, then as
the space of our own awareness itself. In our further unfolding, again
we saw, we discover that this "interior space" is not limited to our
body at all, but is to be found "outside" of us, as a cosmic reality, in
the earth beneath us; in this unfolding of our cosmic body, we discover
an increasing boundlessness to our own awareness."
standpoint, so to speak, of an experience of the earth beyond subject
and object opens the way for the unfolding of a different way of being
in and with the rest of the cosmos. Initially, we may begin to feel
something very strong calling us - calling, calling continually: a
mountain we have seen, a glacier, a particular valley, an open vista, a
certain hillside or place in the forest, a tree, a river, a lake. We
start to sense - although we cannot quite believe it - that the
mountain, for example, is alive, and aware, and strongly inviting us,
pulling us in its direction. There is something about it that is drawing
us to it in the most compelling way. We may dream about it at night and
feel its call during the day. What we feel is entirely somatic: our
hearts are on fire and its call is resonating throughout our bodies.
Such is the depth of somatic life, of *feeling* life, that is now
becoming our way of being."
"Have you ever been present to a
raindrop falling on a window sill, watched its great globule tumbling
into sight, splashing on the sill, spreading out in slow motion, and
exploding into a thousand specs of light? Have you ever gazed into a
campfire, suddenly finding yourself within it, discovering your own
state of being as nothing other than the raging inferno, burning,
burning, burning, fueled by all it meets? Have you contemplated a lake
and suddenly found yourself lost in its endlessly wet and watery world?
Have you glanced up into a great tree only to meet an ancient presence
looking back at you with immense understanding and care? Have you ever,
one day, looked up at the sky and realized with a sudden, electric shock
that courses through your body, that you are meeting a vast shimmering
awareness, incredibly alive, that is watching you, utterly seeing you
through and through, holding you within its boundless love?"
"...The mountain is our heart, the running streams, our blood; our mind,
the limitless sky; our thoughts, the small passing clouds. Ultimately,
we are nothing other than these."
Last year, Thusness wrote in a discussion with a follower of early Buddhism who doesn't identify with Theravada,
key issue about authenticity is centered on the idea of whether
authenticity is based on the 'words of Buddha' or the 'teaching
of Buddha'. All the four tenet systems have claimed their authenticity
and each generation based on their experience, studies and realizations
attempt to integrate these four tenets. If (authenticity is) strictly
based on the 'words of the Buddha' then Mahayana isn't by definition
Buddhism, of course.
...Yes Nixon, Vajrayana has
their culture incorporated into Buddhism. But when we talk about
Mahayana teaching, I think the cultural aspect has to be put aside.
Rather, we should look at Mahayana as a development based on the
'teaching'. It is a development over time about what exactly is the
right understanding of the 'teaching'.
linked to political systems and which sect is in power and their
'closeness' to the ruler, so we also cannot assume popularity as
...We have stripped out those
magical elements and fantasies when talking about the teachings as well.
Many are simply metaphorical. Great teachings often blend themselves
into cultures and teachers often used their cultural background settings
as a base to explain and make people understand the deeper 'meaning' of
certain ideas. Now, we must also understand that 'logic' is not the
only way of understanding. Some insights are triggered not with rational
induction or deduction theory. So a development of a great teaching to
allow someone to understand something deep requires us to have
multifaceted discipline and instrument.
We are not
just a rational being. We dream and fantasize.. to understand our
nature, our suffering, our way of understanding, we got to know
ourselves too. When attempting to know what Buddhism has developed into a
particular trend, these are all needed. However for deciding whether
what is authentic, these are not needed."
Thusness then discussed the Tathagatagarbha teachings:
is a potentiality, the idea that everyone has the capacity to actualize
oneself to Buddhahood. Invented as part of a reaction towards the
strong movement of Hindu culture. Hinduism is basically based on Brahman
and Atman - the eternal Self, and Buddhism's anatta is a direct
contradiction against that. It is for this reason that Mahayana
developed. In all the four tenets, the middle way, the yogacara, the
sutra school and Vaibhashika, all are based on the fundamental
understand of the three universal characteristics.
said, in every system, there is surely some of those hiccups that
deviate from the definitive view. Even in Theravada, we see the Thai
Forest traditions promoting Poo Roo - The One Who Knows, as ultimate.
Many foreigners in the West that are less informed can mistaken that to
represent the teaching of the Buddha too. There are those who go even
further to say that Anatta implies 'not self' as the five aggregates are
'not self' and the essence of the teaching of anatta is to find the
True Self, quoting instead the Kevatta Sutta on the luminous mind and
consciousness without features.
Buddha Nature is thus not a problem peculiar to Mahayana, in all traditions we see this.
me, I'm a non-sectarian, so I am quite free not having prejudice
for/against Theravada, Mahayana or Vajrayana. We get our experience and
teaching to release, as well as to relief ourselves from our suffering
from a great teaching.
To come to our understanding
of what is the fundamental cause of our suffering, and the core teaching
of Selflessness is not that straight forward. We experiment and test
our paradigm to see if it works. It is a life experience and journey.
my experience and journey, there is essential two paths. First is
taking and seeking comfort in the ultimate and carrying it throughout,
and the other, is looking into the fundamental core of suffering and
understanding its nature. So there are basically these two - one relies
on the essentialist practice that they need to have an ultimate, and the
other says no... there is no need to, you just have to understand the
nature of suffering. Therefore when we clearly see this, we realize that
Buddhism is based on the latter, and the whole development of Theravada
and Mahayana is based on such a system. Otherwise there is no
difference from other (religions). As such it depends on an individual
path and which core system one believes in.
the essence view has in a certain sense proven to not be the way and I
greatly appreciate the Buddha's path. To state otherwise would mean that
Buddhism is using the view of an essence to solve suffering, which
isn't true for me."
"I just appreciate Buddhism as a
beautiful teaching and Buddha as my teacher, as a student doing
something for a teacher... nothing more than that. I seldom participate
in discussion as I am not a scholar and cannot contribute much."
not in my nature to seek Buddhism. I have a strong Taoist background
and passion for Hinduism when I was young. So philosophically and
culturally, essencelessness is not a view that suits me. But it takes
painful experiences to come to a willingness to let go, to see the truth
of impermanence and anatta. To challenge and come to an understanding
that you don't actually have to do this and that.... (or have an)
ultimate here and there to release. But rather to truly accept and look
deeply into impermanence, then you will let go and we can come to a new
understanding of the relationship of suffering and the truth of
suffering having to do with a fundamental paradigm we hold so dearly.
mindset and experience can change, so is your understanding, and you
just begin a new path with new understanding. Impermanence from
personal, micro and macro view. You see when you see impermanence and
use it as a door in practice, your view changes also, from Vipassana
observing the minutest sensations in our bodily sensations to
appreciating a view in current quantum physics, macro view, to observe
events. So our idea changes and we adopt such understanding in our life
over time. Sometimes it really depends and it needs the right condition
and situation to trigger it, just like the case of financial crisis."
[24/3/19, 11:17:05 PM] John Tan: From the perspective of clarity, it is true that Buddhism anatta and emptiness is more profound and deep… lol. But still good to caution about respecting all religions and practice. Why empty clarity is only pointed out in buddhism. So although it is true about all points to pure consciousness, it is realizing the emptiness that is the prajna eye to allow us to clearly see the empty nature of clarity. Otherwise we will most likely land in alaya or [be] required to still in deep stillness of samadhi.”
Mahāparinirvāṇa Sūtra is one of the most famous text of Mahāyāna
Buddhism devoted to the positive affirmation of the eternal Self (or
True Self) as opposed to impermanent nonself.
Buddha gives the following characteristics to the notion of Self: “The Self (ātman) is reality (tattva), the Self is permanent (nitya), the Self is virtue (guna), the Self is eternal (śāśvatā), the Self is stable (dhruva), the Self is peace (siva)”"
the historical Buddha teach the Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra?
Certainly not. It developed several hundred years after the first suttas
appeared. But Buddhism as a whole is clearly an evolutionary/evolving
thing, in the same way as everything in the
world - biology, religion, worldviews, politics, economy, art, culture,
you name it, it has grown and evolved over time. Something that is
alive and living is evolving and growing and progressing, otherwise it's
dead. From the Pali suttas, to the Abdhidharma, to Mahayana -
Tathagatagarbha, Prajnaparamita, Yogacara, Madhyamika, etc... from
Theravada, to Mahayana, to Vajrayana, (and even within Theravada,
Mahayana and Vajrayana, there were many evolutionary offshoots) etc.
Sutra should be seen in that light. It arose as an evolutionary
reaction to the environment, the times. In particular as a reaction to
the growing influence of Hinduism. But something evolutionary would by
definition include its preceding doctrines, but 'transcend' it by adding
'new features' or a 'new presentation' of it. However, it cannot be
something that fundamentally contradicts the preceding teachings by
completely replacing it with something else (then that would not be
'transcend and include'), such as replacing the non-substantialist
Prajnaparamita tenets with a diametrically contradicting tenet such as a
substantialist/essentialist or Vedantic vision of reality.
we cannot understand Tathagatagarbha Sutra without first understanding
the fundamental teachings of Prajnaparamita, Abhidharma, and Pali
Suttas, since the evolutionary edge always includes but transcends its
And we know this from the Mahayana
sutras that dealt with the Tathagatagarbha doctrines. We know that
Nirvana Sutra "transcends and includes" its preceding doctrines.
Sutra: "If selflessness is demonstrated, the immature grasp to the
explanation thinking there is no self. The intelligent on the other hand
think "The [self] exists conventionally, there is no doubt."
-- The conventional nature of self is taught even in the Pali Suttas, such as Vajira Sutta.
Sutra: "One must know that the teaching of the Buddha is "this is the
middle way." The Bhagavān Buddha teaches the path as the middle way that
is free from the extremes of permanence and annihilation. Some fools
however, confused about the Buddha's teaching, like those with weak
digestive heat who consume butter, quickly come to have views about the
two extremes. Though existence is not established, also nonexistence is
Krodha wrote: "This is how tathāgatagarbha is defined. As a potential. The Mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra:
That is called “Buddha-nature” because all sentient beings are to be unsurpassedly, perfectly, completely enlightened at a future time. Because afflictions exist in all sentient beings at present, because of that, the thirty two perfect marks and the eighty excellent exemplary signs do not exist. Child of the lineage, I have said that “curd exists in milk,” because curd is produced from milk, it is called “curd.” Child of lineage, at the time of milk, there is no curd, also there is no butter, ghee or manda, because the curd arises from milk with the conditions of heat, impurities, etc., milk is said to have the “curd-nature.""
is a potentiality, the idea that everyone has the capacity to actualize
oneself to Buddhahood. Invented as part of a reaction towards the
strong movement of Hindu culture. Hinduism is basically based on Brahman
and Atman - the eternal Self, and Buddhism's anatta is a direct
contradiction against that. It is for this reason that Mahayana
developed. In all the four tenets, the middle way, the yogacara, the
sutra school and Vaibhashika, all are based on the fundamental
understand of the three universal characteristics." - John Tan, 2015, What is an Authentic Buddhist Teaching?
Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith:
passage merely indicates that sometimes Buddha taught there is no self,
other times he taught there was a self, as an antidote to different
extremes. It is not the case however that this passage is claiming there
is an actual self that is real, permanent, and so on. The Nirvana sutra
states, as mentioned before:
When it is
explained that the tathāgatgarbha is empty, the immature cultivate an
incorrect fear; the intelligent know permanence, stability and
immutability to be illusory.
Also the idea that tathāgatagarbha is full-fledged buddhahood is contradicted by this passage:
The seed existing in oneself that turns into buddhahood is called "tathāgatgarbha," the buddhahood which one will obtain.
When the Tathāgata explains to the bhikṣus and bhikṣunis that his
body is afflicted with a limitless great illness, at that time it should
be understood that absence of self is being explained, and one should
cultivate the meditation of selflessness. When the Tathāgata explains
liberation is signless, empty and nothing at all, at that time one
should understand the explanation that liberation is free from the 25
existences, and therefore it is called emptiness. Why?, since there is
no suffering, there isn't any suffering at all, it is supreme bliss and
signless. Why?, since that [suffering] is not permanent, not stable and
not immutable, and because the nature of peace is not nonexistent,
therefore, liberation is permanent, stable, immutable and peaceful, that
is the Tathāgata. When the Tathāgata explains that the tathāgatagarbha
exists sentient beings, at that time, one must correctly cultivate the
meditation of permanence.
So really, it is not
necessary reify liberation as a self, though some people may find it
temporarily useful. But in the above statement there is no reason to
reify an entity. Being free from the 25 or three realms does not mean
that there is some entity outside of or apart from the three realms. A
self either a) exists in the three realms, b) or it does not exist at
all, or c) is just a philosophical abstraction used to describe the
permanence of liberation when it is attained, and the permanent
potential one has to be liberated. http://www.atikosha.org
Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith:
the Nirvana sutra clearly and precisely states that buddha-svabhaava,
the "nature of a Buddha" refers not to an actual nature but a potential.
Why, it continues:
"Child of the lineage, I have said that ‘curd exists in milk’, because curd is produced from milk, it is called ‘curd’.
of lineage, at the time of milk, there is no curd, also there is no
butter, ghee or ma.n.da, because the curd arises from milk with the
conditions of heat, impurities, etc., milk is said to have the
So one must be quite careful not to
make an error. The Lanka states unequivocably that the tathagatagarbha
doctrine is merely a device to lead those who grasp at a true self the
inner meaning of the Dharma, non-arising, the two selflessnesses and so
on, and explains the meaning of the literal examples some people
constantly err about:
tathaagatagarbha taught in the suutras spoken by the Bhagavan, since the
completely pure luminous clear nature is completely pure from the
beginning, possessing the thirty two marks, the Bhagavan said it exists
inside of the bodies of sentient beings.
Bhagavan described that– like an extremely valuable jewel thoroughly
wrapped in a soiled cloth, is thoroughly wrapped by cloth of the
aggregates, aayatanas and elements, becoming impure by the conceptuality
of the thorough conceptuality suppressed by the passion, anger and
ignorance – as permanent, stable and eternal, how is the Bhagavan’s
teaching this as the tathaagatagarbha is not similar with as the
assertion of self of the non-Buddhists?
Bhagavan, the non-Buddhists make assertion a Self as “A permanent creator, without qualities, pervasive and imperishable”.
The Bhagavan replied:
“Mahaamati, my teaching of tathaagatagarbha is not equivalent with the assertion of the Self of the non-Buddhists.
the Tathaagata, Arhat, Samyak Sambuddhas, having demonstrated the
meaning of the words "emptiness, reality limit, nirvana, non-arisen,
signless", etc. as tathaagatagarbha for the purpose of the immature
complete forsaking the perishable abodes, demonstrate the expertiential
range of the non-appearing abode of complete non-conceptuality by
demonstrating the door of tathaagatagarbha.
Mahaamati, a self should not be perceived as real by Bodhisattva Mahaasattvas enlightened in the future or presently.
for example, a potter, makes one mass of atoms of clay into various
kinds containers from his hands, craft, a stick, thread and effort.
similarly, although Tathaagatas avoid the nature of conceptual
selflessness in dharmas, they also appropriately demonstrate
tathaagatagarbha or demonstrate emptiness by various kinds [of
demonstrations] possessing prajñaa and skillful means; like a potter,
they demonstrate with various enumerations of words and letters. As
such, because of that,
Mahaamati, the demonstration of Tathaagatagarbha is not similar with the Self demonstrated by the non-Buddhists.
the Tathaagatas as such, in order to guide those grasping to assertions
of the Self of the Non-Buddhists, will demonstrate tathaagatagarbha
with the demonstration of tathaagatagarbha. How else will the sentient
beings who have fallen into a conceptual view of a True Self, possess
the thought to abide in the three liberations and quickly attain the
complete manifestation of Buddha in unsurpassed perfect, complete
Mahaamati, if what is called the all-base consciousness were (37/a) not connected to the tathaagatagarbha, because the tathaagatagarbha would not be ‘the all-base consciousness’,
although it would be not be engaged, it also would not evolve;
Mahaamati, it is engaged by both the childish and Aaryas, that also
When one can compare and contrast all of these citations, and many more
side by side, with the proper reading of the Uttataratantra, one will
see the propositions about these doctrines by the Dark Zen fools and others of their ilk are dimmed like stars at noon.
"Similarly, that tathagatagarbha taught in the sutras spoken by the Bhagavan, since the completely pure luminous clear nature is completely pure from the beginning, possessing the thirty two marks, the Bhagavan said it exists inside of the bodies of sentient beings. When the Bhagavan described that– like an extremely valuable jewel thoroughly wrapped in a soiled cloth, is thoroughly wrapped by cloth of the aggregates, ayatanas and elements, becoming impure by the conceptuality of the thorough conceptuality suppressed by the passion, anger and ignorance – as permanent, stable and eternal, how is the Bhagavan’s teaching this as the tathagatagarbha is not similar with as the assertion of self of the non-Buddhists? Bhagavan, the non-Buddhists make assertion a Self as 'A permanent creator, without qualities, pervasive and imperishable.'
The Bhagavan replied:
'Mahamati, my teaching of tathagatagarbha is not equivalent with the assertion of the Self of the non-Buddhists. Mahamati, the Tathagata, Arhat, Samyaksambuddhas, having demonstrated the meaning of the words "emptiness, reality limit, nirvana, non-arisen, signless", etc. as tathagatagarbha for the purpose of the immature complete forsaking the perishable abodes, demonstrate the expertiential range of the non-appearing abode of complete non-conceptuality by demonstrating the door of tathagatagarbha. Mahamati, a self should not be perceived as real by Bodhisattva Mahasattvas enlightened in the future or presently. Mahamati, for example, a potter, makes one mass of atoms of clay into various kinds containers from his hands, craft, a stick, thread and effort. Mahamati, similarly, although Tathagatas avoid the nature of conceptual selflessness in dharmas, they also appropriately demonstrate tathagatagarbha or demonstrate emptiness by various kinds [of demonstrations] possessing prajña and skillful means; like a potter, they demonstrate with various enumerations of words and letters. As such, because of that, Mahamati, the demonstration of Tathagatagarbha is not similar with the Self demonstrated by the non-Buddhists. Mahamati, the Tathagatas as such, in order to guide those grasping to assertions of the Self of the Non-Buddhists, will demonstrate tathagatagarbha with the demonstration of tathagatagarbha. How else will the sentient beings who have fallen into a conceptual view of a Self, possess the thought to abide in the three liberations and quickly attain the complete manifestation of Buddha in unsurpassed perfect, complete enlightenment?"
The Laṅkāvatāra also states:
"O Mahāmati, with a view to casting aside the heterodox theory, you must treat the tathāgatagarbha as not self [anātman]."
Also here is how definitive Mahayana sutras are defined:
Sūtra of Definitive Meaning vs Sūtra of Provisional Meaning
Quoted from Kyle:
The Āryākṣayamatinirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra sets out the criteria for a sūtra of definitive meaning:
'Any sūtrānta which explains in a variety of different terms a self,
a sentient being, a living being, a personality, a person, an
individual, one born from a human, a human, an agent, an experiencer —
teaching an owner in what is ownerless — those sutras are called "of
provisional meaning". Any sūtrānta which teaches emptiness, the
signless, the wishless, the unconditioned, the non-arisen, the
unproduced, the insubstantial, the non-existence of self, the
non-existence of sentient beings, the non-existence of living beings,
the non-existence of individuals, the non-existence of an owner up to
the doors of liberation, those are called "definitive meaning". This is
taught in the sūtrāntas of of definitive meaning but is not taught in
the sūtrāntas of the provisional meaning.'
not realized through other conditions,
endowed with wisdom, compassion and power,
buddhahood is endowed with two benefits.
But what does this really all mean?
When we examine Asanga's comments on this, he states:
When these are summarized, buddhahood
is described with eight qualties. If it is asked what those eight
qualities are, they are unconditioned, effortless, not realized through
other conditions, wisdom, compassion, power, the abundance of one's own
benefit and the abundance of others' benefit. [Buddhahood] is
unconditioned because it is the nature of lacking a beginning, middle
and end. It is called "effortless" because peace is endowed with the
dharmakāya. It is not realized through other conditions because each
person must realize it for themselves. It is wisdom because those three
things are realized. [Buddhahood] is compassionate because [the Buddha]
shows the path. It is powerful because it is free from suffering and
affliction. The former three [unconditioned, effortless and not realized
through other conditions] are for one's own benefit; the latter three
[wisdom, compassion and power] are for others' benefit.
In that regard, the conditioned is fully understood as arising
somewhere, and also understood as abiding and perishing. Because those
do not exist [arising, abiding and perishing], buddhahood itself is
unconditioned without a beginning, middle and an end. This is seen as a
differentiation made through the dharmakāya. Because all proliferation
and concepts are pacified, [buddhahood] is effortless [lhun gyis grub].
Buddhahood is not realized through other conditions because it is
realized through wisdom oneself produced. Here, udayo [to produce] is
not the arising of a desire for realization. As such, the tathāgata is
unconditioned due to the truth, out of the characteristics of
non-engagement, all the activities of the buddha effortlessly engaged in
without impediment and without interruption for as long as samsara
So let us parse this out a little bit.
Asanga states in his commentary on the Uttaratantra:
...the conditioned is understood as
arising somewhere, and also understood as abiding and perishing. Because
those do not exist [arising, abiding and perishing], buddhahood itself
is unconditioned without a beginning, middle and an end.
Buddhahood is unconditioned because the trio of arising, abiding and
perishing are false. Not because in contrast to things that arise, abide
and perish, buddhahood does not arise, abide and perish.
Buddhahood however has a cause, as he writes:
Buddhahood is not realized through other conditions because it is realized through wisdom oneself produced.
Buddhahood is also effortless, because, as he writes:
...all proliferation and concepts are
pacified, [buddhahood] is effortless [lhun gyis grub]...As such, the
tathāgata is unconditioned due to the truth; and from the
characteristics of non-engagement, all the activities of the buddha are
engaged in effortlessly [lhun grub], without impediment and without
interruption for as long as samsara exists
As for tathāgatagarbha always existing in the continuums of sentient
beings; if you think somehow tathāgatagarba is something other than or
different than a sentient beings mind, there there is a fallacy of the
tathāgatagarbha being something like an atman. But there is no atman in
the tathāgatagarbha theory, not really. the supreme self, (paramātma) is
explained very clearly in the Uttaratantra:
The supreme self is the pacification of the proliferations of self and and nonself.
But what does this mean? Asanga adds:
The perfection of self (ātmapāramitā)
is known through two reasons: due to being free from proliferation of a
self because of being free from the extreme of the non-buddhists and due
to being free from the proliferation of nonself because of giving up
the extreme of the śrāvakas.
He explains further:
From cultivating prajñāpāramita in
order to turn away from seeing the five addictive aggregates as self,
the non-existent self in which the others, the nonbuddhists, delight,
one attains the result, the perfection of self. In this way all the
others, the nonbuddhists, accept natureless things such as matter and so
on as a self due to their being deceived by a characteristic of a self
according to how those things are being apprehended, but that self never
The Tathāgata, on the other hand, has attained the supreme perfection of
the selflessness of all phenomena through the wisdom that is in accord
with just how things truly are, and though there is no self according to
how he sees things, he asserts a self all the time because he is never
deceived by the characteristic of a self that does not exist. Making the
selfless into a self is like saying "abiding through the mode of
There are some people who, ignoring the Nirvana Sutra's admonition to
rely on the meaning rather than on the words, fall headlong into
eternalism, unable to parse the Buddha's profound meaning through
addiction to naive literalism.
Tathagatagarbha is just a potential to become a buddha. When we say it
is has infinite qualities, this is nothing more nor less than when the
Vajrapañjara praises the so called "jewel-like mind":
The jewel-like mind is tainted with
evil conceptual imputations;
but when the mind is purified it becomes pure.
Just as space cannot be destroyed,
just as is space, so too is the mind.
By activating the jewel-like mind
and meditating on the mind itself, there is the stage of buddhahood,
and in this life there will be sublime buddhahood.
There is no buddha nor a person
outside of the jewel-like mind,
the abode of consciousness is ultimate,
outside of which there isn't the slightest thing.
All buddhahood is through the mind...
Matter, sensation, perception
formations and consciousness
these all arise from the mind,
these [five] munis are not anything else.
Like a great wishfulfilling gem,
granting the results of desires and goals,
the pure original nature of the true state of the mind
bestows the result, Buddha's awakening
There is no other basis apart from this natural purity of the mind that
is inseparable clarity and emptiness. We can call it whatever we want,
but still this fact remains. The Lankāvatara rightly observes that
tathāgatagarbha is just a name for emptiness and the ālayavijñāna for
those afraid of emptiness. Jayānanda writes that ālayavijñāna is the
mind that comprehends the basis, i.e. emptiness. How else can the mind
be purified of evil conceptual imputations other than by realizing
emptiness? Emptiness free from all extremes is the pure original nature
of the true state of the mind, so why bother confusing oneself with all
kinds of rhetoric? The mind itself has two aspects, emptiness and
clarity, ka dag and lhun grub, and these are inseparable. This
inseparable clarity and emptiness is call the ālaya in gsar ma and the
basis in Nyingma. This also known as tathagatagarbha when it encased in
afflictions, the dharmadhātu from its ultimate side, the ālayavijñāna
from its relative side and so on. It really is not that complicated.
According to the Lanka, it is a doctrine for those afraid of emptiness, therefore provisional.
According to Longchenpa, the TTG Sutras are the definitive ones. FWIW. I'm sure you know that.
Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith:
They are for Gorampa as well, providing tathāgatagarbha is properly
understood. But if for example the nine examples are not correctly
understood, he states the TTG sūtras are provisional.
Also, the reason Longchenpa claims the TTG sūtras are definitive has to
do with how he understands them in relation to Dzogchen. He also defines
Prasanga Madhyamaka as the definitive view.
In general, however, the Buddha himself declares the tathāgatagarbha
doctrine provisional, that is interpretable, in the Lanka Sūtra.
is well known through the Dharma of the tantras, agamas and upadeśas of
the Great Perfection, the teachings of Omniscient Longchenpa up to the
lineage of gurus of Kama and Terma of the present day that unconditioned
vidyā is introduced as the dharmatā of the union of clarity and
You mean rig pa. Rig pa is also empty, baseless, and not established in
anyway at all. The Dzogchen tantras and Longchenpa declare this
Retinue of nonexistent superficial appearances, listen!
There is no separate object in me, the view of self-originated
pristine consciousness. Passing away in the past does not exist. Arising
the future does
not exist. Appearing in the present does not exist in any way. Karma
does not exist. Traces do not exist. Ignorance does not exist. Mind does
not exist. Intellect does not exist. Wisdom does not exist. Saṃsāra
does not exist. Nirvāṇa does not exist. Not even vidyā (rig pa) itself
exists. Not even the appearances of pristine consciousness exist. All
those arose from a nonexistent apprehender.
-- Tantra Without Syllables.
"nonexistent apprehender," indicates the union of the two truths. Even
rig pa is something relative, that is why it is a path dharma, not a
result dharma. It vanishes at the time of the result.
No, Yogacāra really is a realist school, despite the attempts of some
traditional Tibetan and Chinese scholars, and modern scholars like Dan
Lusthaus, to revision it in nonrealist terms.
You can just use Nāgārjuna as a source: emptiness incorrectly seen is
like grasping a viper by the tail or incorrect reciting a vidyāmantra.
Nevertheless, the Lanka's perspective on tathāgatagarbha is pretty
What he says about the Rangtong treating the second turning of the wheel
of Dharma as definitive and the third (as well as the first) as
provisional is very interesting. Firstly, I would like to know if this
is true? If so, it strikes me as problematic.
Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith:
The whole theory of the three turnings of the wheel is problematic,
actually. There isn't any agreement which sutras are "third turning."
The Indian masters paid no attention to the three turnings at all. As a
doctrine it finds no place in Dzogchen teachings at all until after the
thirteenth century. The Sakyapas largely ignore it.
The Gelukpas treat the second turning as definitive.
Some teachers include the tathāgatagarbha sūtras in this category
(though the Indian Yogacāra master themselves were skeptical of
tathāgatagarbha theory, since they advocated the theory of the
icchantika, Madhyāmikas were actually more open to it than Yogacārins).
This is mostly a Tibetan trip, based on the commentary of the Korean
Master Wongchuk on the Samdhinirmocana Sūtra, translated during the
shankara wrote: The "MahaparinirvanaSutra"
is apparently of the third turning, and personally I think it is the
most definitive of all Sutras (excepting perhaps the Lotus) due to it
being the last preached before the death of Shakyamuni. Does the
Rangtong school really regard this Sutra as provisional?
Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith:
There is no such thing as a "rang stong school," except in the eyes of gzhan stong pas.
Generally speaking, everyone in India, including the Yogacāra masters,
regarded the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras as definitive in meaning. We know
this for example because Virupa, who had been a Yogacāra master prior to
his awakening, carried a copy of the PP in 8000 lines with him
everywhere he travelled.
As for what is the definitive meaning of Buddha-Nature, the Dzogchen teacher Acarya Malcolm Smith wrote:
The term bdag nyid, atman, just means, in this case, "nature", i.e.
referring to the nature of reality free from extremes as being
permanent, blissful, pure and self. The luminosity of the mind is
understood to be this.
There are various ways to interpret the Uttaratantra and tathāgatagarbha doctrine, one way is definitive in meaning, the other is provisional, according to Gorampa Sonam Senge, thus the tathāgatagarbha sutras become definitive or provisional depending on how they are understood. He states:
In the context of showing the faults of a
literal [interpretation] – it's equivalence with the Non-Buddhist Self
is that the assertion of unique eternal all pervading cognizing
awareness of the Saṃkhya, the unique eternal pristine clarity
of the Pashupattis, the unique all pervading intellect of the
Vaiśnavas, the impermanent condition, the measure of one’s body, in the
permanent self-nature of the Jains, and the white, brilliant, shining
pellet the size of an atom, existing in each individual’s heart of the
Vedantins are the same.
The definitive interpretation he renders as follows:
Therefor, the Sugatagarbha is defined as the union of clarity and emptiness but not simply emptiness without clarity, because that [kind of emptiness] is not suitable to be a basis for bondage and liberation. Also it is not simple clarity without emptiness, that is the conditioned part, because the Sugatagarbha is taught as unconditioned.
Khyentse Wangpo, often cited as a gzhan stong pa, basically says that
the treatises of Maitreya elucidate the luminosity of the mind, i.e. its
purity, whereas Nāgarjuna's treatises illustrate the empty
nature of the mind, and that these two together, luminosity and
emptiness free from extremes are to be understood as noncontradictory,
which we can understand from the famous Prajñāpāramita citation "There
is no mind in the mind, the nature of the mind is luminosity".
So, the definitive meaning of buddha-nature is the union of clarity and emptiness.
“Buddhism is nothing but replacing the 'Self' in Hinduism with Condition Arising. Keep the clarity, the presence, the luminosity and eliminate the ultimate 'Self', the controller, the supreme. Still you must taste, sense, eat, hear and see Pure Awareness in every authentication. And every authentication is Bliss.” - John Tan, 2004
“Understand immense intelligence not as if someone is there to act and direct, rather as total exertion of the universe to make this moment possible; then all appearances are miraculous and marvelous.” - John Tan, 2012
“The Pristine awareness is often mistaken as the 'Self'. It is especially difficult for one that has intuitively experience the 'Self' to accept 'No-Self'. As I have told you many times that there will come a time when you will intuitively perceive the 'I' -- the pure sense of Existence but you must be strong enough to go beyond this experience until the true meaning of Emptiness becomes clear and thorough. The Pristine Awareness is the so-called True-Self' but why we do not call it a 'Self' and why Buddhism has placed so much emphasis on the Emptiness nature? This then is the true essence of Buddhism. It is needless to stress anything about 'Self' in Buddhism; there are enough of 'Logies' of the 'I" in Indian Philosophies. If one wants to know about the experience of 'I AM', go for the Vedas and Bhagavad Gita. We will not know what Buddha truly taught 2500 years ago if we buried ourselves in words. Have no doubt that The Dharma Seal is authentic and not to be confused.
When you have experienced the 'Self' and know that its nature is empty, you will know why to include this idea of a 'Self' into Buddha-Nature is truly unnecessary and meaningless. True Buddhism is not about eliminating the 'small Self' but cleansing this so called 'True Self' (Atman) with the wisdom of Emptiness.” - John Tan, 2005
"What you are suggesting is already found in Samkhya system. I.e. the twenty four tattvas are not the self aka purusha. Since this system was well known to the Buddha, if that's all his insight was, then his insight is pretty trivial. But Buddha's teachings were novel. Why where they novel? They were novel in the fifth century BCE because of his teaching of dependent origination and emptiness. The refutation of an ultimate self is just collateral damage." - Lopon Malcolm
In January 2005, John Tan wrote:
“[19:21] <^john^> learn how to experience emptiness and no-selfness. :) [19:22] <^john^> this is the only way to liberate. [19:22] <^john^> not to dwell too deeply into the minor aspect of pure awareness. [19:23] <^john^> of late i have been seeing songs and poems relating to the luminosity aspect of Pure Awareness. [19:23] <^john^> uncreated, original, mirror bright, not lost in nirvana and samsara..etc [19:23] <^john^> what use is there? [19:24] <ZeN`n1th> oic... [19:24] <^john^> we have from the very beginning so and yet lost for countless aeons of lives. [19:25] <^john^> buddha did not come to tell only about the luminosity aspect of pure awareness. [19:25] <^john^> this has already been expressed in vedas. [19:25] <^john^> but it becomes Self. [19:25] <^john^> the ultimate controller [19:26] <^john^> the deathless [19:26] <^john^> the supreme..etc [19:26] <^john^> this is the problem. [19:26] <^john^> this is not the ultimate nature of Pure Awareness. [19:27] <^john^> for full enlightenment to take place, experience the clarity and emptiness. That's all.”
And in March 2006, John Tan said:
<^john^> the different between hinduism and buddhism is they return to the "I AM" and clings to it. <^john^> always "I" as the source. <ZeN`n1th> icic <^john^> but in buddhism it is being replaced by "emptiness nature", there is a purest, an entity, a stage to be gained or achieved is an illusion. <^john^> there is none. No self to be found. No identity to assumed. Nothing attained. <ZeN`n1th> oic.. <^john^> this is truly the All. <^john^> so for a teaching that is so thorough and complete, why must it resort back to a "True Self"? <ZeN`n1th> hmm but i got a question about just now you say impermanent... but mahayana texts also say tathagathagarbha is permanent right? <^john^> yes but for other reasons. <ZeN`n1th> what kind of reasons <ZeN`n1th> wat you mean <^john^> first you must know that there is really a very subtle difference between pure subjectivity and emptiness nature. <ZeN`n1th> icic <^john^> for one that has experienced in full emptiness nature, does he/she need to create an extra "True Self"? <ZeN`n1th> so wat difference <ZeN`n1th> no <^john^> he already knows and experiences and completely understand the arising cause and conditions of why the "true self" was created... <^john^> will he still be confused? <^john^> he knows exactly what is happening, the reality of the 'self'. <ZeN`n1th> icic.. <^john^> i would say it is due to his compassion to let the other sects have a chance to understand the dharma that he said so. <^john^> this is what i think. <^john^> but there is no necessity to preach something extra. <ZeN`n1th> oic <^john^> in light of emptiness nature, "True Self" is not necessary. <ZeN`n1th> icic <^john^> the so called "purest" is already understood, there is no clinging. <^john^> there is hearing, no hearer...etc <^john^> is already beyond "True Self". <ZeN`n1th> oic <^john^> yet it exactly knows the stage of "True Self". <^john^> if there is no hearing...then something is wrong. <^john^> <^john^> but there is hearing but no hearer. <ZeN`n1th> hahaha <ZeN`n1th> oic <^john^> put your time into practice and understanding of no-self and emptiness. <^john^> <ZeN`n1th> ok
Tan's reply on something Malcolm wrote in 2020:
like what I tell you and essentially emphasizing 明心非见性. 先明心, 后见性. (Soh: Apprehending Mind is not seeing [its]
Nature. First apprehend Mind, later realise [its] Nature).
directly authenticating mind/consciousness 明心 (Soh: Apprehending Mind). There is the direct
path like zen sudden enlightenment of one's original mind or mahamudra or
dzogchen direct introduction of rigpa or even self enquiry of advaita -- the
direct, immediate, perception of "consciousness" without
intermediaries. They are the same.
that is not realization of emptiness. Realization of emptiness is 见性 (Soh: Seeing Nature). Imo there is direct path
to 明心 (Soh: Apprehending Mind) but I have not seen
any direct path to 见性 (Soh:
Seeing Nature) yet. If you go through the depth and nuances of our mental
constructs, you will understand how deep and subtle the blind spots are.
emptiness or 空性 (Soh: Empty Nature) is the main difference
between buddhism and other religions. Although anatta is the direct
experiential taste of emptiness, there is still a difference between buddhist's
anatta and selflessness of other religions -- whether it is anatta by
experiential taste of the dissolution of self alone or the experiential taste
is triggered by wisdom of emptiness.
former focused on selflessness and whole path of practice is all about doing
away with self whereas the latter is about living in the wisdom of emptiness
and applying that insight and wisdom of emptiness to all phenomena.
emptiness there is the fine line of seeing through inherentness of Tsongkhapa
and there is the emptiness free from extremes by Gorampa. Both are equally
profound so do not talk nonsense and engaged in profane speech as in terms of
result, ultimately they are the same (imo).”
Dalai Lama - "Nature - there are many different levels. Conventional
level, one nature. There are also, you see, different levels. Then, ultimate
level, ultimate reality... so simply realise the Clarity of the Mind, that is
the conventional level. That is common with Hindus, like that. So we have to
know these different levels...." - Dalai Lama on Anatta and Emptiness of Buddha
Nature in New Book
If, following Sakya Paṇḍita, one understands tathāgatagarbha to be
freedom from proliferation, then there is no problem, since freedom from
proliferation renders samara and nirvana possible for sentient beings.
But if one takes tathāgatagarbha aka buddhadhātu to be something
existent, it is no different than a nonbuddhist view of self. He makes a
number of arguments to which the only response is some misguided,
literal reading of tathāgatagarbha sūtras, one rejected in the
Laṅkāvatara Sūtra, and even in the Uttaratantra itself, one imagines,
because in 3rd century CE India, some people were taking this doctrine
too literally. He even points out that if one argues that sugatagarbha
denotes an uncontaminated mind, this refers only to the clear aspect of
the ālayavijñāna, and not another ninth consciousness (Paramartha does
make this argument, of course, but not in India, only in China).
See A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes, pp. 56-58.
One think that should stand out as remarkable to folks, something I have
mentioned before, is just how little positive commentarial attention
the tathāgatagarbha doctrine received in India prior to the eighth
century and the appearance of the tantras. Indeed, we have no
commentaries on the Uttaratantra composed by Indians after Asanga until
the 11th century, and those were not translated into Tibetan at all.
Talk about lack of interest.
It is certainly true that there were Buddhist sectarians (Pudgalavādins)
who proposed the existence of an inexpressible pudgala, neither the
same as nor different from the aggregates. And this remains the problem
for proponents of an existent buddhadhātu. Is it part of the aggregates
or separate from them?
to other sutras like the Lankavatara and Madhyakama masters like
Candrakirti and Bhavaviveka, no, we are not to take atman statements in
Buddha nature texts literally.
The Lanka says:
nature] it is emptiness, reality-limit, Nirvana, being unborn,
unqualified, and devoid of will-effort; the reason why the Tathagatas
[...] teach the doctrine pointing to the Tathagata-garba is to make the
ignorant cast aside their fear when they listen to the teaching of
egolessness and to have them realise the state of non-discrimination and
Master Bhavya says:
expression] “possessing the tathagata heart” is [used] because
emptiness, signlessness, wishlessness, and so on, exist in the mind
streams of all sentient beings. However, it is not something like a
permanent and all-pervasive person that is the inner agent. For we find
[passages] such as “All phenomena have the nature of emptiness,
signlessness, and wishlessness. What is emptiness, signlessness, and
wishlessness is the Tathagata.”
part, perhaps, the reason for using such language is to overcome subtle
clinging to the conceptual habit of negation related to the doctrine of
anatman. At a point I think basically no words are taken literally when
it comes to ... basically ultimate wisdom. Depending on the
circumstance, a realized being may use seemingly contradictory language
without fault, depending on the needs of the circumstance, beings, etc.
regard to the dharmakaya, the children entertain a strong attachment in
terms of the belief in purity, in the existence of a self, in
happiness, and in permanence. Sravakas and pratyekabuddhas reverse these
four aspects of an exaggerated view [of a view wrongly asserting
reality where it is not present]. In doing so they get attached to
[their vision of] impurity, non-existence of self, suffering, and
impermanence. The four aspects of the [true] purity of dharmakaya and so
on act as the remedies for this attachment.
So I guess you can find multiple citations.
He also says,
conceptual elaboration consisting of the belief in the existence of a
self as it is imputed by the tirthikas and so on, and the conceptual
elaboration consisting of the belief in the non-existence of a self as
it is imputed by the sravakas and so on, have been totally stilled and
pacified without any remainder. Thus it is the perfection of true self.
Like the Buddha says in the Mahāyāna-mahāparinirvāṇa sūtra, these apparent discrepancies are pacified through understanding that the self is a convention:
who do not understand words, "While the seed of happiness exists in my
body, this conflicts with permanence because suffering is shown."
Grasping everything, these immature ones think "my body is not stable."
If impermanence is explained, the immature think it is like a pot made
by a potter. Since the intelligent on the other hand think "The seed of
dharmakāya exists in my body," they do not grasp to everything. If
selflessness is demonstrated, the immature grasp to the explanation
thinking there is no self. The intelligent on the other hand think "The
[self] exists conventionally, there is no doubt.” If it is explained
"tathagatagarbha is empty." The immature cultivate the dread of
annihilation.The intelligent know that permanence, stability and
immutability exists as a mere illusion.
import of the perfection of self [ātmapāramitā] and/or supreme self
[paramātma] is essentially the same. Asanga explains it is like the
tathāgata using the convention self because he cannot be deceived by a
self that does not actually exist.
In fact, the Lankāvtāra Sūtra states that tathāgatagarbha is just a name for the ālayavijñāna. How is the ālayavijñāna not personal and individual?
Asanga states in the Uttaratantra commentary that the name for the dharmakāya encased in afflictions is "tathāgatagarbha." How can personal afflictions encase a transpersonal entity? He later states in the same that the name for suchness, tathāta, encased in afflictions is tathāgatagarbha. The same question applies. He later describes sentient beings as "tathāgarbhins", possessors of tathāgatagarbha. In the same way consciousness pervades all sentient beings, it is stated that tathāgatagarbha pervades all sentient beings. However, no one thinks the phrase "consciousness pervades all sentient beings" means there is one unitary consciousness that pervades all sentient beings. It is the same with the basis, tathāgatagarbha. Finally, Asanga concludes his treatises by pointing out that the gnosis of tathāgatagarbha is just the tathāgata's gnosis of emptiness. He says:
"Without the gnosis of ultimate emptiness, it is impossible to realize and actualize the dhātu of pure nonconceptuality. Having stated this, the gnosis of tathāgatagarbha is the Tathāgata's gnosis of emptiness. Further, it is said extensively that the tathāgatagarbha has not been seen or realized by all śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas. However tathāgatagarbha is, the dharmakāyagarbha is just like that, and it is not within the domain of those who fall into a view of personality (satkāyadṛṣṭi), because the dharmadhātu is the antidote to views."
So how is the dharmadhātu defined in this text? Again "The so-called dharmadhātu is the tathāgatagabha that is no different than the nature of one's dharmatā."
So here you have a very precise description of tathāgatagarbha being described as individual and specific to each sentient being. Since the spyi gzhi is just a term for tathāgatagarbha in Dzogchen teachings, we can understand the meaning to be the same here, especially since in the discussion of how the basis exists in the body in the third topic of the Tshig don mdzod, Longchenpa mainly cites from the Uttaratantra.
In the same way that we talk about the vijñānadhātu or the sattvadhātu as aggregates of consciousness and sentient beings, we talk about the dharmadhātu as an an aggregate of dharmatās. Without individual dharmatās that belong to dharmins, we cannot talk about dharmatās at all, just as we cannot talk about the emptiness of nonexistents like the children of barren women, etc.
And of course in Vajrayāna teachings, we go a step further and site the location of sugatagarbha in the bodies of sentient beings. However, the idea the sugatagarbha sited in the bodies of all sentient beings refers to one transpersonal entity has been rejected by the Buddha very clearly as an incorrect view of atman. For example, the Nirvana Sūtra (Chinese recension) explicitly rejects it: "Child of a good family, some tīrthikas advocate a permanent "self," other advocate an annhilationist "not-self." The Tathagata is not like that. Because he teaches self and not-self, it is called "the middle." Now, whoever teaches the Buddha's middle way can say that the nature of buddhahood exists in all sentient beings, but it is not known and not seen because it is obscured by afflictions. Therefore, be diligent in the method of eliminating afflictions." The Indian recension of the Nirvana sutra states, "The buddhadhātu exists in all sentient beings, held in each one's body. After sentient beings exhaust afflictions, they become buddhas."
I could go on, but we are getting into TL;DR territory