Compatibility of the Tibetan Traditions’ Assertions about Primordial Mind

A Question Session with His Holiness the Dalai Lama

[Clarification of His Holiness’ answers by Dr. Berzin are included within square brackets.]

Gelug and Nyingma Regarding Primordial Clear Light Mind

Dr. Berzin: Your Holiness, lately I have been reading several commentaries written by masters from the four Tibetan traditions and have several questions. Thank you very much for kindly agreeing to answer them.
In general, Your Holiness always says that Gelug and dzogchen have the same intention. For instance, you have said that when Kagyu mahamudra and Nyingma dzogchen practitioners meditate on clear light as an object-possessor (yul-can), they directly realize an implicative negation (ma-yin-dgag) and indirectly a nonimplicative negation (med-dgag). In this way, they come to the same intended point as when, in the Gelug meditation on clear light as an object, one cognizes a nonimplicative negation directly. And so, in this case, there is no contradiction. 
On the other hand, concerning the view of other-voidness (gzhan-stong), there does seem to be a contradiction. Your Holiness had said there were two other-voidness views, and one of them abandons the second turning of the wheel of Dharma and asserts that the deep awareness (ye-shes) of other-voidness has truly established existence, for example the Jonang view of Se Dharmeshvara (Sras Dharme-shva-ra). This is to be refuted. But Mipam’s (‘Ju Mi-pham ‘Jam-dbyangs rnam-rgyal rgya-mtsho) view of other-voidness accepts both the second and the third turnings as definitive (nges-don), and therefore this is not to be refuted. Could you please explain these points further.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama: There are two views: the view in terms of object-possessor (yul-can-gyi lta-ba) and the view in terms of object (yul-gyi lta-ba). They concern, respectively, clear light as an object-possessor and clear light as an object. Thus, there is the assertion of the very nature of reality (de-kho-na-nyid) under the influence of an object-possessor and the assertion of the very nature of reality under the influence of an object. If we explain like this, then, since the single-pointed total absorption (mnyam-bzhag) on clear light that is devoid of self-established existence (rang-bzhin-gyis stong-pa) [as explained by Gelug] or pure from the top (ka-nas dag-pa) [as explained in dzogchen] is, at the time of meditating on clear light, an implicative negation that is an affirmation phenomenon (sgrub-pa ma-yin-dgag). But since it is involved with something that is not at all truly existent but is like an illusion, it amounts to being a meditation on a nonimplicative negation. 

So, when you explain its not being truly existent or the meaning of its being pure from the top, you get to the total absence (stong-sang) that is like the mere refutation of what is to be refuted. But neither of them leaves it just with this total absence by itself, but rather it is mixed with clear light. This total absence is applied to clear light as its attribute (khyad-chos), and so when we speak of meditation on clear light, the point you come to is exactly the same in both views. 

Now because Mipam explains this with a mixing of the second and third turnings of the wheel of Dharma [as both being definitive], we can say that he has no fault. But except for saying that much, we are not saying that the total extent of what Mipam says is the same as the Gelug assertions. On this crucial point, there is harmony, but that does not mean that everything he says is the same. For example, Mipam says primordial mind (gnyug-sems) is unaffected (‘dus-ma-byas), doesn’t he? Gelug includes clear light as an affected phenomenon (‘dus-byas) and says that it is not like the Nyingmapas say. On this point there is a difference.

The manner of speaking is different, but if we think about the meaning of “unaffected by causes and circumstances,” the meaning is that it is not fleetingly (glo-bur-du), in each moment, produced anew (gsar-du-byas-pa) by causes and circumstances. If Mipam asserts this as what is intended by primordial mind being unaffected, then there is no contradiction and no issue. But if he is explaining unaffected as its never having been produced by causes and circumstances (rgyu-rkyen-gyis nam-yang ma-byas-pa) and its not disintegrating (‘jig-pa) from moment to moment, if this is the intended meaning of its not at all being affected by causes and conditions, then it is not so easy to say the assertions are compatible. 

Mipam doesn’t accept primordial mind as a continuum of moments (skad-cig-ma’i rgyun).

So, it is an actual static phenomenon? 

Yes, he asserts it as a static phenomenon that is not a continuum of disintegrating moments. 

Now this static that he is asserting, what kind of static is that? I wonder if he actually is thinking in terms of it being actually static (rtag-dngos) as opposed to it being a functional phenomenon [or if he is speaking about primordial mind from another point of view]. That’s because there is the point of its being beyond thought, inconceivable. 

For example, according to the tradition of how Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro (‘Jam-dbyangs mkhyen-brtse Chos-kyi blo-gros) explains, out of the basis, result and path, Gelug – for example, Tsongkhapa (Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang grags-pa) and his spiritual sons – primarily speak from the basis point of view of how the minds of sentient beings work. [Such minds can only conceive of phenomena as being either nonstatic or static.] The dzogchen texts of Longchenpa (Klong-chen Rab-’byams-pa Dri-med ’od-zer) speak primarily of things being like how they are cognitively taken on the resultant level. [From this point of view, primordial clear light mind is static in the sense of its being beyond the distinction of static and nonstatic, and this is inconceivable to the minds of sentient beings.] When we speak of the Sakya’s “path and its results” (lam-bras) view of inseparable samsara and nirvana, it speaks primarily of the way to meditate in terms of the path as the main thing. 

[Thus, the intended meaning of Mipham’s assertion that primordial mind is not a continuum of disintegrating moments could be that it is inconceivable, beyond the minds of ordinary sentient beings.] 

Gelug and Nyingma Regarding the Good Qualities of a Buddha as Part of Buddha-Nature

It is difficult for me to understand how Mipam’s other-voidness and the Gelug view come to the same intention because, for example, concerning the “essential factor for a Thusly Gone One” (de-gshegs snying-po, Skt. tathāgatagarbha; Buddha-nature), Mipam says it is the deep awareness of clear light and this, primordially from the depths (ye-nas), has all of the good qualities (yon-tan) of a Buddha’s body and mind complete on the basis level. We don’t realize it now since it is obscured, but it is complete on the basis level. 
In Gelug, for example, Gyaltsab Je (rGyal-tshab Dar-ma rin-chen) and Jetsunpa (rJe-btsun Chos-kyi rgyal-mtshan) say that on the basis level we only have the potential ability (nus-pa) for a Buddha’s good qualities, but we don’t actually have them complete. 
How does this come to the same intention, because even if we say a Buddha’s good qualities are the play (rol-pa) of deep awareness, still at the basis level they are not complete, and it seems like they are only potential abilities. So, how do we understand Mipam’s assertion that all Buddha’s good qualities are complete at the time of the basis? 

Even for Mipam, even though he says that now we have existent the ten forces (stobs-bcu) and four guarantees about which a Buddha is fearless (mi-‘jigs-pa bzhi), the ultimate point it falls to (mthar-thug-gi babs-sa) is that, except for thinking of them as being seeds or potential abilities that abide in the manner of their being fit to be generated, if we were to say that now we actually (dngos-su) have them – that we who are with ignorance and who have grasping for true existence, that in our state, on top of this ignorance and grasping, we have the presence or existence of omniscient awareness – this is not true. It cannot be anything other than that we are fit for generating them, can it? 

But the stains [that obscure these good qualities] are fleeting, and thus the stains are phenomena that are depletable (zad-rung) and separable (‘bral-rung). Because of that, they are not primordial (gnyug-ma med-pa). Now, as phenomena like the ten forces and so on are set on top of clear light (‘od-gsal-gyi steng-la bzhag), then since we are meditating from [our minds] being a part of something that is similar to that [clear light] (de-’dra’i gcig-gi cha-nas sgoms-pa), then we could say that the forces and so on are things that we possess from the depths (ye-nas ldan-pa yin). A Buddha’s good qualities of the forces and so on aren’t things that are added like something new. 

In other words, when we say that these qualities of the forces and so on are obscured on top of the primordial, simultaneously arising (lhan-skyes) clear light, then except for setting that clear light as the forces and so on, it isn’t that the good qualities of the forces are something affixed to or added to it, is it? This is how we should think about this. 

Primordial, simultaneously arising clear light has the ability to take everything as its object (yul-re ya-la nus-pa). That is something that clear light itself has. The adverse conditions (‘gal-rkyen) that make us unable to have this clarity (gsal ma-thub) are the cognitive obscurations (shes-sgrib) and emotional obscurations (nyon-sgrib). They obscure it. But when we remove the adverse conditions, then on top of this primordial, simultaneous arising clear light, there is no need to actualize a new mind (blo gsar-pa). Rather, on top of itself we can set the forces and so on. 

Take, for example, a mirror. Sometimes a mirror is unclear and sometimes it is clear. But its quality of being clear and clearly reflecting is its self-nature, and when it is unclear, it is obscured. The effort goes into removing the dirt that is obscuring it and, aside from that, the clarity of the mirror is an attribute it has. Thus, the omniscience of primordial, simultaneously arising clear light mind is part of itself. The dirt on it, the two obscurations, are what must be removed. When removed, the clear light itself, by nature, is enlightened – it has that feature. 

Although, of course, there is the explanation about the deep awareness on the path that ripens into omniscience (smin-lam ye-shes), but basically omniscience arises on top of the clear light of the mind itself. There is no need for a new cause to establish omniscience, as is also the case with establishing void-forms (stong-gzugs). But when we say that the clear light mind has omniscience, if we say at the basis time it can know everything, that won’t do.

So, if we explain Mipam’s assertion as having this intention, then “because good qualities are possessed as its self-nature, the stains are fleeting” – in other words, because a Buddha’s good qualities exist as the nature of clear light mind, therefore its primordial nature is like this: it has no disturbing emotions. We can say that, from the side (ngos-nas) of clear light itself, when clear light is manifest, having turned back both the disturbing emotions, which are pervasive with the coarse minds, and the three subtlest appearance-making conceptual minds (snang-gsum) that exemplify them – appearance, increase and near attainment (snang-mched-thob gsum) – disturbing emotions cannot arise. Isn’t that way of explaining his intention undoubtedly all right? 

There is something to think about in “good qualities are possessed by self-nature” (yon-tan rang-bzhin-nyid ldan) – these are the words of The Furthest Everlasting Continuum, Uttaratantra (rGyud bla-ma) itself – and in “it possesses good qualities primordially from the depths” (yon-tan ye-ldan).

Aren’t there also masters such as the Third Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (Kar-ma-pa Rang-byung rdo-rje) who don’t say that these Buddha qualities are just potentials, but rather that they are complete within us?

Karmapa Rangjung Dorje’s view is probably other-voidness itself. In his commentaries, like at the occasion of his commentary to The Furthest Everlasting Continuum [An Outline and Abbreviated Points of “The Furthest Everlasting Continuum” (rGyud-bla-ma’s sa-bcad bsdus-don)], he speaks of other-voidness itself. In his commentary to Rangjung Dorje’s text, called The Lion’s Roar Explanation (rNam-bshad sengge’i nga-ro; A Commentary on “The Furthest Everlasting Continuum: An Irreversible Lion’s Roar, rGyud- bla-ma’i ‘grel-ba phyir mi-ldog-pa sengge’i nga-ro), Kongtrul (‘Jam-mgon Kong-sprul Blo-gros mtha’-yas) says that Rangjung Dorje asserts an alternative presentation of thusness (de-bzhin gzhag-gzhan). This reference in The Lion’s Roar Explanation is probably to other-voidness itself.  

In the view of other-voidness, the ultimate truth voidness is beyond dependent arising. If it is beyond dependent arising – well, some take dependent arising as being appearances (snang-ba). Some texts speak of it as that, I believe, but other than that, when we speak of dependent arising and identify what is intended by it, then as Nagarjuna said in Root Verses on the Middle Way, Called Discriminating Awareness (dBu-ma rtsa-ba shes-rab), “Whatever does not arise dependently is not possible and cannot be realized.” Thus, he has said with finality that there are no phenomena that are not dependent arisings. So, if you assert ultimate truth as beyond dependent arising, that won’t do, will it? We can’t accept that. 

Karmapa Rangjung Dorje says that all phenomena are appearances of the mind (sems-kyi snang-ba). 

When we say that all phenomena are merely appearances of the mind, if we are thinking of what can be labelled by a conceptual mind that labels (rtog-byed-gyi rtog-pa’i btags-pa), you can speak like that; it is all right. And if you say that clear light mind is beyond dependent arising, you can say this in terms of dependent arising meaning affected phenomena. But here it isn’t a dependent arising in terms its meaning affected phenomena – it couldn’t be. 

In general, dependent arising is in terms of establishment from mental labeling (btags-las grub-pa). If we say that clear light mind is beyond such dependent arising, then it comes to its being ultimately truly existent (don-dam bden-grub), or its being a sphere of reality encompassing everything that doesn’t depend on anything (ma-ltos chos-dbyings). Such a sphere would have to be truly existent, wouldn’t it? 

But even Mipam says Buddhas Bodies are neither functional phenomenon (dngos-po) nor nonfunctional phenomenon (dngos-med). They are beyond both.   

As I mentioned before, Gelug explains by taking as the primary thing the way sentient beings’ minds cognize things. When I was talking about the aspects of a Buddha being inconceivable (ma-bsam), then if we take the Buddha’s Bodies and speak in terms of affected and unaffected, or functional and nonfunctional phenomena, then for Sautrantikas on up the common assertion is that they are functional phenomena, aren’t they? That which has the ability to produce an effect (don-byed-nus-pa) is a functional phenomenon, and that which is unaffected by causes and conditions is an unaffected phenomenon. But when Mipam is speaking of Buddha Bodies being beyond how what we call “functional and nonfunctional phenomena” arise to the minds (blo-la-shar-tshul) of ordinary sentient beings, he is referring to the fact that they are extremely subtle and so they are beyond the objects of mind of us ordinary sentient beings. They are inconceivable and can’t be expressed in words (ma-bsam brjod-du med-pa). 

In general, when an arya has straightforward, non-conceptual cognition of voidness, it is said, isn’t it, that what they experience there is not something that can mix with the minds of us ordinary sentient beings. It is inconceivable to us. Likewise, when we speak of deepest truth – and deepest truth as not merely true cessation, but as Svabhavakaya, a Body of Essential Nature, or what is called here [by Mipam] a Body of Unity (zung-’jug-gi sku) – this is extremely subtle, isn’t it now? What is spoken of in anuttarayoga texts is uncommon. So, because of that, it is taken as inconceivable, and because of the reason of its being inconceivable and that it cannot be expressed in words, it is beyond the categories of functional or nonfunctional phenomena as found in common in the higher systems of tenets. To comment on it like that is all right. 

Both Mipam and Rangjung Dorje say that at the basis time the good qualities of a Buddha’s Form Body – the thirty-two major marks and so on – are complete. How do we understand that? We can’t accept that either, can we?

Except for thinking of them in terms of potentials, it can’t be the case. To say that we actually have them now won’t do. 

The Four Tibetan Traditions Do Not Come to the Same Intention on Everything

In short, when we say that the four Tibetan traditions come to the same intention, it doesn’t require everything to come to the same intention. Is that correct?

Regarding the view, the intention explained is primarily the same, they come to the same point. But right, that doesn’t mean that everything these systems of tenets say is the same. That isn’t so.

So, best to just talk about what is the same and not about what is different? 

This is the case in reference to the view. For example, when explaining in the context of Chakrasamvara and in the context of Guhyasamaja, we can say that they both come to the same important point of clear light, but the complete stages of Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja are different. Like this example, the final ultimate (mthar-thug) intended point discussed in dzogchen texts and so on is primarily clear light as an object-possessor. When the Gelug texts speak of clear light as the unity of blissful awareness and voidness, they are speaking of this as primordial mind. When we match the two, they come to the same thing. 

When we speak of the Madhyamaka view, it is a view that is common to both sutra and tantra, and we can speak of it as the causal view (rgyu’i-lta-ba). When we apply it to the deep awareness of primordial, simultaneously arising, non-dual, blissful awareness and voidness, then we get to clear light, and the point it comes to is the same [as in dzogchen]. This is what I think, and this is what should be explained. 

That doesn’t mean that everything Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma and Gelug say is the same. We can’t say that. They have different ways of speaking and different emphases. The root intention of dzogchen is the same [as that of Gelug] and the root intention of mahamudra is the same – this can be said. But in terms of what appears forthrightly [in their works, there are differences]. In the works of [the Third] Dodrubchen (rDo-grub-chen 'Jigs-med bstan-pa’i nyi-ma) [specifically, in The General Shared Meaning of the Guhyagarbha Tantra (gSang-ba snying-po rgyud spyi-don)], he quotes that Ju Mipam speaks by combining the middle and the last turnings of the wheel of Dharma, and because of that he has no fault. Except for saying that, to say that everything Mipam and the major Nyingma masters said is the same [as what the Gelug masters assert] – he’s not saying that. You can’t say that. 

So, even taking the case of Mipam, by his taking the combination of the second and third turnings of the wheel of Dharma [as definitive], he comes to the same intended point [as Gelug], but we can’t say that everything Mipam says comes to same [as Gelug]. The ways they explain to obtain the result are a different matter. Nevertheless, when dzogchen speaks of the ascertainment of the view in terms of clear light as an object-possessor and when Gelug speaks of it in terms of the unity of blissful awareness and voidness, they both come to the same intended point. 

The Issue of Mixing the Assertions of the Different Traditions

When we explain dzogchen, should we explain it in terms of all their assertions, or just in terms of it coming to the same intention as Gelug, in which case, isn’t it “mixing”? When explaining dzogchen, don’t we have to say all qualities are possessed primordially from the depths?

But there is, it seems, that intention – “because it has good qualities as its nature” – Uttaratantra itself says that. But now, in Sakya, they say [the contrary] that all phenomena of the result are complete in the manner of potentials (‘bras-bu’i chos thams-cad nus-du grub-tshul tshang). That is clear, isn’t it? “All phenomena of samsara are complete [in the basis situation] in the manner of defining characteristics (mtshan-nyid-kyi tshul-du tshang); all phenomena on the path are complete in the manner of qualities; all phenomenon of the result are complete in the manner of potentials.” 

So, we can’t say that the Tibetan traditions are all completely the same. For example, when we explain totally in terms of dzogchen, then probably we have to say primarily what is said in the dzogchen texts themselves. But in any case, when we try to establish Kagyu, Nyingma, Sakya and Gelug as having one intention, we must not mix. The Gelug way of speaking is like this, the Sakya way is like this, but the point that they come down to is like this. When we mention what dzogchen says on this point, quote dzogchen texts; for what Gelug has to say, quote Gelug texts; for what Sakya says, quote Sakya texts. Establish it that way. But while explaining a dzogchen text completely in terms of itself, then there is also some necessity to say that the Sakya intention is this and the Gelug is that. 

Is Panchen Lozang Chokyi Gyaltsen’s (Pan-chen Blo-bzang chos-kyi rgyal-mtshan) “A Root Text for the Precious Ganden-Kagyu Tradition of Mahamudra” (dGe-ldan bka’-brgyud rin-po-che’i phyag-chen rtsa-ba) a case of mixing?

In my opinion it is mixing. On this there is a little debate. In his Notes from a Discourse on Ganden Mahamudra (dGe-ldan phyag-chen khrid-kyi zin-bris) delivered by Kachen Zhechen (dKa’-chen bzhay-chen; the Second Jamyang Zhepa, ‘Jam-dbyangs bzhad-pa dKon-mchog ‘jigs-med dbang-po), Gungthang Rinpoche (Gung-thang dKon-mchog bstan-pa'i sgron-me) says that Je Rinpoche (Tsongkhapa) gave a mahamudra discourse to Sera Gungru Gyaltsen Zangpo (Se-ra Gung-ru rgyal-mtshan bzang-po). Now, in general, Gungru Gyaltsen Zangpo’s way of discussing the view and that of Kedrub Je (mKhas-grub rJe dGe-legs dpal-bzang) is a little different. That is well known.

So, Je Tsongkapa gave him his uncommon discourse on mahamudra. Others, like Sherab Senge (rGyud Shes-rab seng-ge), in his Discourse on the View, the Four Mindfulnesses (lTa-khrid dran-pa-bzhi), speaks of a manner of discourse on the view that does not appear in (Tsongkapa’s) Grand Presentation of the Graded Stages of the Path (Lam-rim chen-mo). And, fundamentally, doesn’t Panchen Lozang Chokyi Gyaltsen say this indirectly? In his commentary on his text, An Extensive Explanation of “A Root Text for the Ganden-Kagyu Lineage of Mahamudra” (dGa'-ldan bka'-brgyud srol phyag-chen rtsa-ba rgyas-par bshad-pa), he quotes many Kagyu texts. He doesn’t especially quote dzogchen or Sakya texts, but only those of former Kagyupas. I think this had a special necessity. 

Also, the name of his text says “Ganden-Kagyu mahamudra.” For the Guhyasamaja mahamudra, the preliminary Guru-yoga is (Panchen Lozang Chokyi Gyaltsen’s) A Ritual to Honor the Spiritual Master, Lama Chopa (Bla-ma mchod-pa). The source of the view of inseparable blissful awareness and voidness in the Lama chopa is Guhyasamaja. And the main lama for the five stages of (the complete stage of) Guhyasamaja is Marpa. Coming down from Marpa, mahamudra seems to derive from Guhyasamaja’s five stages as where it is included. So, in Kagyu, when it says it combines the two streams of Kadam and mahamudra (bka’-phyag), the mahamudra is to be taken as coming down from Guhyasamaja’s five stages. But I don’t really know now, but in my opinion, I think it is like that. 

I am thinking of writing something on the one intention of Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma, and Gelug. A while ago, I gave something about this in America. Taking this as a basis, then adding a few things here and there, I gave something further about this in England. I think I need to do this. In Dodrubchen’s works, it is extremely clear. That is the clearest. 

There is also a little about this in Sakya. Within the works of the Sakya masters, there is talk [by Khyentse Wangchug (mKhyen-brtse dbang-phyug Rab-brtan mgon-po bsod-nams)] that primordial, simultaneously arising clear light can be relative truth and [by Mangto Ludrub Gyatso [Mang-thos Klu-grub rgya-mtsho)] that it can also be deepest truth. In the works of Drugpa Pemakarpo (‘Brug-pa Padma dkar-po), he says it is relative truth and, within relative truth, it is accurate (yang-dag-pa) relative truth. It is very clear that all of these come to “pure from the top” (ka-dag), primordial, simultaneously arising clear light.  

When they have different assertions, should we just have equanimity, or should we debate?

Basically, when they say deepest truth, they have “this” intention, and when they say relative truth, they have “this” intention. Although they say there is deepest truth, the way they assign things (‘jog-lugs) to deepest truth is different. Although the words “this is deepest truth and this is relative truth” are the same, directly (on each occasion) we need to see what the manner of explaining the intention (of those words) is in terms of the difference (of what they set as) deepest and relative truths. 

So, if we look at Longchenpa’s works, he takes this deepest truth as what primordially, simultaneously arises. Taking just this much, then what is fleeting is set as relative truth and, in terms of that, then we cannot set clear light as relative truth. The talk that clear light is relative truth is according to what is said (by Nagarjuna) in Root Verses on the Middle Way, Called Discriminating Awareness as its source – namely, that an item found by lines of reasoning analyzing the ultimate final (mode of existence) (mthar-thug dpyad-byed-kyi rigs-pa’i rnyed-don) is deepest truth. Then in terms of this, (what is other than that) is relative truth. 

So, do you understand the essential point? In terms of the most important point, we can say that they all come to one intention, but they are not one in all respects and there is no need for them to become one. There is no need to prove that, in all respects, they are non-contradictory. 

Is Asserting the Second Turning of the Wheel of Dharma as Being of Interpretable Meaning a Case of Abandoning the Dharma?

When those who assert other-voidness, like the Jonangpas, say that the second turning of the wheel of Dharma is of interpretable meaning (drang-don), are they abandoning the second turning of the wheel? 

Se Dharmeshvara wrote a text that I saw in which he abuses the second turning very strongly. To say like that that the second turning is of interpretable meaning and not of definitive meaning won’t do.

If that is the case, then when Gelugpas say that the third turning of the wheel is of interpretable meaning and not of definitive meaning, are they abandoning the third turning? 

But when Gelugpas talk of the third turning, they are referring to the Samdhinirmocana Sutra, The Sutra Unraveling What Is Intended (dGongs-pa nges-par ‘grel-ba’i mdo) and specifically to its Chapter Requested by the Arya Paramartha Samudgata (Don-dam bden-pa ’phags-pa zhus-pa’i le’u), where the three types of characterized phenomena (mtshan-nyid-gsum) [dependent phenomena (gzhan-dbang), thoroughly established phenomena (yongs-grub), and totally conceptional phenomena (kun-brtags)] are identified. They are not speaking about all the sutras that can be included in the third turning. For example, if we speak of the Tathagatagarbha Sutra, A Sutra on the Womb for a Thusly Gone One (De-bzhin gshegs-pa’i snying-po mdo), which is the basis of the Uttaratantra, as being included in the third turning – I wonder if it can really be included in the category of interpretable sutras from the point of view of Engaging in Madhyamaka, Madyamakavatara (dBu-ma-la ‘jug-pa)? I have indecision wavering about putting it there. 

Does abandoning the second turning of the wheel of Dharma only mean to say that it is interpretable? 

Probably, for all practical purposes, if someone says it is interpretable, they have abandoned it. “Interpretable” implies that they want to abandon it. Since they say this is interpretable, that means it really is not necessary to accept it, doesn’t it. When you say it is not actuality, you are not accepting it, are you? The reason for saying they have abandoned it is that the word “interpretable” (drang-don, Skt. neyārtha) implies that there is some other intended meaning that one needs to be led to. 

When we try to establish that Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu, Nyingma have one intention, when we look at what the greatest masters of Kagyu or of Nyingma had to say [from the point of view of the Gelug assertions], there are places where there are a few little mistakes. For instance, except for the Fifth Dalai Lama and some others, many Gelug lamas, quoting some points of what others had to say, have said that Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu and Nyingma do not have the same intended meanings. But I am trying to establish that they do have one intention. But it can’t be established solely on the basis of everything that Gelug Lamas have said, and similarly, I am not saying to establish this on the basis of everything that the most learned Kagyu masters have said either.

So, we shouldn’t hide the differences, but emphasize the similarities.

Oh yes, there are differences. But no need to hide them. I think there should be one intention and to establish this, there is this and that, and, on the basis of that, then I think we can conventionally say they “have one intention.” But within Nyingma, there are, of course, those who say Sakya, Gelug, Kagyu and Nyingma don’t have one intention and that dzogchen atiyoga is the best and Gelug is inferior. And on the other side, among Gelugpas there are those who say there is none better than Gelug, and Nyingma is mistaken, aren’t there? No one can say there aren’t those who have spoken like this. But I accept sources like Dodrubchen with confident belief. Nevertheless, I also am not saying I accept everything Dodrubchen says – for instance, concerning one Buddha-family (rigs-gcig).

I found it very helpful to read all these commentaries from the different Tibetan traditions, but when I read them, they all make sense. They all seem very reasonable. That is the difficulty. So, it seems maybe if you don’t debate completely with them, then each of them can bring results.

That’s just precisely it.

Thank you very much.