Special Features of the Gelug Tradition

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Introduction

Tsongkhapa (rJe Tsong-kha-pa Blo-bzang-grags-pa) (1357–1419) was a radical reformer who, through direct instruction from Manjushri in innumerable pure visions and through exhaustive study of the Indian and Tibetan Buddhist texts, impeccable logic, and intense meditation, reinterpreted many of the basic Buddhist teachings.

[See: The Life of Tsongkhapa]

Thus, the Gelug tradition that follows him as its founder has many special features not shared in common with the non-Gelug Tibetan traditions: Nyingma, Sakya, and Kagyu. Here, we shall look at only some of the major points. This is not an exhaustive survey.

Moreover, within the Gelug tradition, the various monastic textbooks differ in their interpretations of many fine points. Here, we shall present mostly the major points and occasionally offer some of the varying interpretations made by the different Gelug textbook (yig-cha) traditions.

Further, the non-Gelug positions presented here are generalizations made in order to show the contrast with Gelug in a simple fashion. They do not imply that all the non-Gelug schools share the same assertions on every point.

Administration

[1] [a] The head of the Gelug tradition, the Ganden Tripa (dGa’-ldan khri-pa, Ganden Throne Holder), is a position that any qualified monk can attain. The position alternates between the senior-most retired abbots of Gyume (rGyud-smad Grva-tshang) and Gyuto (rGyud-stod Grva-tshang) Upper and Lower Tantric Colleges and is for seven years only. The Dalai Lamas are not the heads of the Gelug tradition.

[See: Gelug Monasteries: Gyume and Gyuto]

[b] The heads of the non-Gelug traditions are either specific tulkus (reincarnate lamas) or, in the case of Sakya, members of a specific clan, and they serve for life.

Cognition Theory

[1] [a] The Gelug tradition follows the True Aspectarian (rnam bden-pa) interpretation of Sautrantika, Chittamatra and Madhyamaka cognition theory, according to which valid sensory non-conceptual cognition (dbang-mngon tshad-ma) cognizes not just sensibilia (sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and tactile sensations), but also commonsense objects (’jig-rten-la grags-pa) but without designating the commonsense objects with a name or mentally labeling them as fitting into a meaning/object category (don-spyi), such as “table.” 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions follows the False Aspectarian (rnam brdzun-pa) interpretation of Sautrantika and Chittamatra, according to which valid sensory non-conceptual cognition cognizes only single moments of the sensibilia of one sense and not commonsense objects. Commonsense objects that extend over time and over the sensibilia of several senses are merely conceptual constructs.

When some non-Gelug authors use the term “False Aspectarian” with respect to Madhyamaka, it is not only in the Sautrantika or Chittamatra sense, but also in the sense of the dualistic cognition of commonsense objects, with objects of cognition and the cognition of them being established independently of each other being false. 

[2] [a] Because valid non-conceptual cognition cognizes commonsense objects, it is a determining cognition (nges-pa) of its involved object (’jug-yul) – it decisively determines its involved object as “this” and “not that,” such that we can validly recollect it.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions say that since valid non-conceptual cognition does not cognize commonsense objects, it is a non-determining cognition of what appears to it (snang-la ma-nges-pa). It does not determine its involved object (one moment of the sensibilia of one sense) as “this” and “not that.” Such determination occurs only in conceptual cognition with the mental construct of a commonsense object. 

This is an important point in terms of the non-Gelug emphasis on valid non-conceptual meditation. Since all appearances of commonsense objects are conceptual and therefore false, there is no appearance of commonsense objects in valid non-conceptual meditation.

[3] [a] The definition of valid cognition (tshad-ma) in the Svatantrika-Madhyamaka tenet systems and below is fresh, non-fraudulent (gsar-tu mi-bslu-ba) cognition of an object. Only Prasangika-Madhyamaka omits the criterion that valid cognition needs to be fresh. This is because Prasangika does not assert existence established by findable self-natures (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa, self-established existence, inherent existence). Thus, every moment of the continuity of a commonsense object or of a static phenomenon over time is fresh. 

[b] According to the non-Gelug traditions, all tenet systems assert the definition of valid cognition as merely non-fraudulent cognition of an object. This is because they do not assert commonsense objects extending over time as being validly cognizable by non-conceptual cognition. Only one moment of any sensibilia or static phenomenon exists at a time, and therefore cognition is always fresh.

Within Karma Kagyu, the Eighth Karmapa Mikyo Dorje asserts that only an arya’s non-conceptual cognition of voidness beyond words and concepts is non-fraudulent valid cognition. Neither sensory non-conceptual cognition nor inferential cognition, which is always conceptual, is valid cognition. 

[4] [a] Apprehension (rtogs-pa) of an object is a cognition of an involved object that cognitively takes its object both accurately and with decisive determination of it as “this” and “not that.” It does not need to be fresh. Both conceptual and non-conceptual cognition can explicitly apprehend (dngos-su rtogs-pa) their involved commonsense object, such as a table, by giving rise to a mental aspect (rnam-pa, somewhat like a mental hologram) representing it and, simultaneously, implicitly apprehend (shugs-la rtogs-pa) another involved object, such as not-a-dog, without producing a mental aspect representing it. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert apprehension of an object to be merely an accurate cognition of it. Thus, valid non-conceptual cognition, for example, apprehends its involved object, such as a moment of the shape of amassed colored pixels, but does so without decisively determining it as “this” and “not that.” Apprehension is only explicit; there is no such thing as implicit apprehension of an object.

[5] [a] Svatantrika and below assert subsequent cognition (bcad-shes) as a way of knowing an object that may apprehend its object (rtogs-pa) non-fraudulently. It is not a valid way of knowing, however, because it is not fresh. It is a non-conceptual or conceptual cognition that continues to cognize an object that extends over time after the first, “fresh” moment of cognition of it. Because Prasangika does not assert existence established by findable self-natures, it does not assert subsequent cognition. 

[b] According to the non-Gelug traditions, none of the tenet systems asserts subsequent cognition. This is because they do not assert cognition of a commonsense object that lasts more than one moment.

[6] [a] Svatantrika and below define bare cognition (mngon-sum) as cognition in which the appearing object (snang-yul) is an individually characterized phenomenon (rang-mtshan, objective entity). Bare cognition is not through the medium of a generally characterized phenomenon (spyi-mtshan, metaphysical entity), such as an audio category (sgra-spyi, sound universal), a meaning/object category (don-spyi, object universal), or a concept (rtog-pa) such as space. Therefore, bare cognition is exclusively non-conceptual. 

Prasangika does not specify that such cognition be not through the medium of a generally characterized phenomenon. Instead, it specifies that such cognition not arise by directly depending on a line of reasoning. Consequently, such cognition may be either conceptual or non-conceptual, and therefore the technical term for it – in Tibetan, mngon-sum, and in Sanskrit, pratyakṣa – is more accurately translated in the Prasangika system as “straightforward cognition.” Nevertheless, only mental straightforward cognition may be either conceptual or non-conceptual. Sensory and yogic straightforward cognition are only non-conceptual. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that, in all tenet systems, all types of bare cognition are exclusively non-conceptual.

[7] [a] Other than in the Chittamatra and Yogachara-Svatantrika systems, valid sensory non-conceptual cognition cognizes external commonsense objects (phyi-don) conventionally existing in the moment before cognition of them and functioning as the focal object (dmigs-yul) of the cognition. Sautrantika and Sautrantika-Svatantrika assert that such external commonsense objects have self-established existence (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa; inherent existence); Prasangika-Madhyamaka refutes that they have self-established existence. Non-conceptual cognition of external objects occurs through fully transparent mental aspects representing them (mental holograms), which the sensory consciousness produces in order to cognize them.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that valid sensory non-conceptual cognition directly cognizes only opaque mental aspects representing a moment of external sensibilia, such as shapes of amassed colored pixels. Other than in the Chittamatra system, it cognizes external sensibilia only indirectly, because the moment of the external sensibilia that causes the sensory cognition of it no longer exists the moment the cognition of it arises. Thus, mental aspects are all opaque.

[8] [a] Valid conceptual cognition cognizes semi-transparent, generally characterized phenomena, such as the static (permanent) category table, and through them, another type of generally characterized phenomenon – fully transparent, static conceptual representations (snang-ba, fixed ideas). The conceptual representations are conceptually isolated items (ldog-pa, isolates), which are the type of “nothing-other-than” (ma-yin-pa-las log-pa) that arises in conceptual cognition and which represents the actual involved objects of the conceptual cognition. For example, in a conceptual cognition of a table, “nothing-other-than a table” arises, representing a specific external table, and it is mentally labeled on the category table

This isolate, “nothing-other-than-a-table,” being a static phenomenon, has no form of its own; but since it is equivalent to “the table,” a fully transparent mental aspect (mental hologram) of an external, commonsense table also appears. The category is the appearing object (snang-yul) of the cognition. 

Through the filter of this semi-transparent, static category and a fully transparent, static conceptual representation and mental hologram, the conceptual cognition cognizes the form of a specific nonstatic (impermanent), external, commonsense table that is its involved object, even if that table is not present. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that valid conceptual cognition cognizes semi-transparent static categories (such as the category table and the commonsense object table) and that these categories partially veil opaque nonstatic mental aspects (mental holograms) representing a specific table. The nonstatic mental aspects are the appearing objects of the conceptual cognition; while the categories are the conceptual representations (such as of a commonsense table) and thus the conceptually isolated items. The conceptual cognition does not cognize any external phenomena (for instance, shapes of amassed colored pixels).

[See: Objects of Cognition: Advanced Presentation]

[9] [a] Among negation phenomena (dgag-pa, negatingly known phenomena), individually characterized object exclusions of something else (don rang-mtshan-gyi gzhan-sel, object exclusions) are nonstatic phenomena. Examples are “not-that” and “nothing-other-than-this,” implicitly apprehended when a valid non-conceptual or valid conceptual cognition explicitly apprehends its involved object as “this.” 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that all negation phenomena are static and that individually characterized object exclusions are merely static facts about phenomena, validly knowable only conceptually.

[10] [a] According to the Jetsunpa, Kunkyen and Tendarwa textbooks, cognition of an object may be either manifest (mngon-gyur-ba) or subliminal (bag-la-nyal). With manifest cognition, the consciousness of the manifest cognition gives rise to a mental aspect (mental hologram) representing an object, and both the manifest consciousness and the person (gang-zag) cognizes it. With subliminal cognition, the consciousness of the subliminal cognition gives rise to a mental aspect representing an object, but only the subliminal consciousness cognizes it, not the person. The Panchen textbooks do not assert this type of subliminal cognition.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions do not assert subliminal cognition of objects.

[See: Dormant Grasping for True Existence: Gelug Madhyamaka]

Chittamatra

[1] [a] External phenomena (phyi-don) that are to be refuted are commonsense material objects and their sensibilia that derive from natal sources (rdzas) different from those from which the ways of being aware of them arise.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that the external phenomena to be refuted are, in addition, moments of sensibilia that derive from natal sources different from those from which the ways of being aware of them arise.

[2] [a] In accord with the True Aspectarian interpretation, valid sensory non-conceptual cognition cognizes commonsense objects that are devoid of deriving from natal sources (rdzas) different from those from which the ways of being aware of them arise.

[b] In accord with the False Aspectarian interpretation, non-Gelug asserts that valid sensory non-conceptual cognition cognizes one moment of the sensibilia of one sense that are devoid of deriving from natal sources different from those from which the ways of being aware of them arise.

[3] [a] The subtle voidness of forms of physical phenomena that appear in conceptual cognition is their absence of having existence established by individual defining characteristic marks as foundations on which affix the sound of the words “forms of physical phenomena” (gzugs gzugs-zhes-pa’i sgra rang-gi ’jog-gzhir rang-gi mtshan-nyid-kyis grub-pas stong-pa). 

[b] Non-Gelug does not assert this type of subtle voidness.

[4] [a] Of the three types of characterized phenomena (mtshan-nyid gsum), totally conceptional phenomena (kun-brtags, totally imaginary phenomena) include existent ones (namely, all static phenomena other than voidnesses) and nonexistent ones (such as unicorns and external phenomena). 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions, such as Karma Kagyu, assert that totally conceptional phenomena include all static phenomena, nonexistent phenomena, commonsense objects, and conceptual ways of being aware of them.

[5] [a] Dependent phenomena (gzhan-dbang, other-powered phenomena) include all nonstatic phenomena, both cognitive objects and ways of being aware of them. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that dependent phenomena include both objects of sensory non-conceptual cognition (moments of sensibilia) as well as all non-conceptual ways of being aware of them.

[6] [a] Thoroughly established phenomena (yongs-grub) include all voidnesses (emptiness). 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that thoroughly established phenomena refer to alayavijnana (kun-gzhi rnam-shes, all-encompassing foundation consciousness, storehouse consciousness), which is devoid of totally conceptional and dependent phenomena.

[7] [a] Both thoroughly established phenomena and dependent phenomena have truly established existence (bden-par grub-pa) and existence established as ultimate phenomena (don-dam-par grub-pa); totally conceptional phenomena lack both modes of existence. Truly established existence is existence established independently of being merely the referent object (btags-chos) of a mental label.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that only thoroughly established phenomena have truly established existence and existence established as ultimate phenomena; both totally conceptional and dependent phenomena lack both modes of existence.

Svatantrika-Madhyamaka

[1] [a] The main proponents of Svatantrika were Bhavaviveka, Shantarakshita, Kamalashila and Haribhadra. The main proponents of Prasangika were Nagarjuna, Buddhapalita, Chandrakirti and Shantideva.

[b] Some non-Gelug masters such as, in the Karma Kagyu tradition, the Eighth Karmapa, do not assert the two divisions of Madhyamaka as being Svatantrika and Prasangika, but rather as being Yogacara Madhyamaka, which he asserts as equivalent to Mahamadhyamaka (Great Madhyamaka), and Nihsvabhavavadins (Proponents of No Self-Establishing Nature). According to this classification scheme, Nagarjuna, Maitreya, Asanga, Vasubandhu, Dignaga, Dharmakirti, and, by implication, Haribhadra, are proponents of Yogacara Madhyamaka. On the other hand, Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti and, to some extent, Shantarakshita are proponents of Nihsvabhavavada, whether taken to be either True or False Aspectarian or either Svatantrika or Prasangika.

[2] [a] One of the distinctions between Svatantrika-Madhyamaka and Prasangika-Madhyamaka is the use of syllogistic logic by Svatantrika and the use of reductio ad absurdum logic by Prasangika. In other words, Svatantrika asserts a logic that can prove statements through syllogisms using lines of reasoning about objects that have existence established by findable self-natures, while Prasangika rejects such logic because it rejects such objects and argues instead through absurd conclusions (thal-’gyur). 

[b] The Non-Gelug traditions of Sakya and Nyingma, which assert a division of Madhyamaka into Svatantrika and Prasangika, accept the use of these two different types of logical argument as the main difference between the two, but do not emphasize this difference. They say they are just different pedagogic methods for reaching the same result. When the Eighth Karmapa distinguishes, among the Nihsvabhavavadins, Atisha as a master of Prasangika, he asserts Prasangika’s use of absurd conclusions as non-deceptive. 

[3] [a] Svatantrika accepts self-established existence (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa; inherent existence) and existence established by a self-defining characteristic mark (rang-gi mtshan-nyid-kyis grub-pa) in conjunction with mental labeling, while Prasangika refutes both modes of establishing existence.

[b] Non-Gelug do not make this distinction. Some non-Gelug authors, such as Mipam in the Nyingma tradition, assert that the main difference between Svatantrika and Prasangika is that Svatantrika accords provisional reality to conventional commonsense phenomena that appear to exist externally, whereas Prasangika does not make any assertions about conventional truth. Ultimately, however, both Svatantrika and Prasangika refute such existence. Most Sakya and Kagyu authors do not make even this distinction.

[4] [a] The Svatantrika view does not bring enlightenment because it under-refutes the object to be refuted by voidness, whereas the Prasangika view does bring enlightenment. 

[b] Non-Gelug asserts that whether Madhyamaka is divided into Svatantrika and Prasangika or into Yogachara-Madhyamaka and Nihsvabhavavada-Madhyamaka, there is just one Madhyamaka view and it leads to enlightenment. 

[5] [a] Svatantrika-Madhyamaka has two distinct divisions, Yogachara-Svatantrika (propounded by such masters as Kamalashila, Shantarakshita, Haribhadra, and Vimuktisena) and Sautrantika-Svatantrika (propounded by such masters as Bhavaviveka).

[b] The non-Gelug traditions do not make this distinction. 

[6] [a] Only Sautrantika-Svatantrika accepts external commonsense objects that can be validly cognized by sensory non-conceptual cognition, but not in the Sautrantika manner that their existence can be established independently of being the referent object of a mental label. Yogachara-Svatantrika, like Chittamatra, does not accept external commonsense objects.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions do not accept external existence since such existence would be dualistic, with minds and their cognitive objects established independently of each other.

[7] [a] Only Yogachara-Svatantrika accepts reflexive awareness (rang-rig) – a way of knowing that accompanies all moments of cognition and takes as its object only the consciousness and its accompanying mental factors of that moment of cognition; Sautrantika-Svatantrika does not.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions, taking Kamalashila’s Illumination for the Middle Way (dBu-ma snang-ba, Skt. Madhayamakāloka) as representative of Svatantrika, say that Svatantrika accepts reflexive awareness. 

[8] [a] Neither Yogachara-Svatantrika nor Sautrantika-Svatantrika accepts alayavijnana, even as a conventionally existent phenomenon.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions say that Svatantrika accepts alayavijnana as a conventionally existent phenomenon; but unlike Chittamatra, it does not assert it as being truly existent.

Prasangika-Madhyamaka Concerning Conventional Existence and Voidness

[1] [a] Denumerable ultimate phenomena (rnam-grangs-pa’i don-dam) – namely, voidnesses that are validly cognizable conceptually – and non-denumerable ultimate phenomena (rnam-grangs ma-yin-pa’i don-dam) – namely, voidnesses that are validly cognizable only non-conceptually – are the same voidness, a non-implicative negation phenomenon (med-dgag). Both are the voidnesses of self-established existence, and this includes the voidness of all four extremes – self-established existence, the self-established negation of self-established existence, both, and neither. The only difference between the two voidnesses is that denumerable voidness (if we may coin the term) deceptively appears to be established by a findable defining characteristic mark in conjunction with being the referent object of a word and mental label, while non-denumerable voidness does not have this deceptive appearance.  

[b] According to non-Gelug, the two types of ultimate phenomena are different. Voidnesses that are validly cognizable conceptually are just voidnesses of self-established existence. This includes the voidnesses of all four extremes – self-established existence as a self-established affirmation phenomenon, the voidness of self-established existence as a self-established negation phenomenon, both, and neither. Voidnesses that are validly cognizable non-conceptually are voidnesses beyond all words and concepts, which means beyond the conceptual categories of affirmation phenomena and negation phenomena and thus beyond all four extremes. 

For Sakya and Nyingma, the non-denumerable ultimate phenomenon of voidness beyond words and concepts is a manner of existing. For Karma Kagyu since the time of the Eighth Karmapa, non-denumerable voidness is taken to be a way of knowing that is beyond all words and concepts. Non-denumerable voidness is not an assertion of Prasangika since Prasangika does not make any assertions. 

[See: Ultimate Phenomena: Denumerable and Non-Denumerable]

[2] [a] Prasangika asserts that the two truths (bden-gnyis) – superficial truths (kun-rdzob bden-pa; relative truths, conventional truths) and deepest truths (don-dam bden-pa; ultimate truths) – share the same essential nature (ngo-bo gcig) as voidness but are different conceptually isolated items (ldog-pa tha-dad). 

Although conventional phenomena lack a self-establishing nature (rang-bzhin) that would render them with self-established existence, they do have two essential natures (ngo-bo), a superficial essential nature (kun-rdzob-pa’i ngo-bo; conventional essential nature) and a deepest essential nature (don-dam-pa’i ngo-bo). Thus, validly knowable phenomena are defined as something that holds its own essential nature (rang-gi ngo-bo ‘dzin-pa). These essential natures, however, do not render validly knowable phenomena with existence established by an essential nature (ngo-bo-nyid-kyis grub-pa). 

A mind that analyzes the deepest nature of a validly knowable phenomenon – namely, its manner of abiding (gnas-tshul) – takes as its involved object the phenomenon’s deepest essential nature. In other words, it takes the voidness of the phenomenon as the main object with which it cognitively engages. A mind that analyzes the superficial nature of a validly knowable phenomenon – namely, its manner of appearing (gnang-tshul) – takes as its involved object the phenomenon’s superficial essential nature as a table, love, a war or space. 

Neither the deepest nor the superficial essential nature stands up to this analysis with reasoning since no self-establishing nature (rang-bzhin) or self-defining characteristic mark (rang-gi mtshan-nyid) can be found on the side of either the conventional knowable object or its voidness. Thus, the object to be negated (dgag-bya) by the voidness of the manner of appearance and manner of abiding is the same self-established existence. The non-findability of either of the two essential natures, however, does not render either voidness or conventional commonsense objects as non-existent.

Even though commonsense objects have two essential natures, the two truths do not have a findable commonsense object, whether a self-established one or one devoid of self-established existence, as their common locus (gzhi-mthun). Nor are the two truths differentiated simply in terms of the two types of minds (arya and ordinary) that analyze and cognize them. The two truths are differentiated in terms of the difference in the conceptually isolated items of the voidness of their shared object to be negated, self-established existence.  

[See: The Two Truths: Gelug Prasangika

[b] Within Nyingma, Longchenpa asserts that deepest truth is the object of an arya’s deep awareness (ye-shes) – namely, voidness as a non-denumerable ultimate phenomenon – and is true (bden-pa). An arya’s deep awareness focuses on the manner of abiding that is the fundamental character of reality (gshis-kyi gnas-tshul), which is the sphere of reality (chos-kyi dbyings, Skt. dharmadhātu). The sphere of reality is beyond the cognitive engagement (‘jug-pa) of limited minds (sems) and their accompanying mental factors (sems-byung) and, from the perspective of an arya’s deep awareness, there is neither a cognizing mind nor a cognized object. Superficial truth is the object of an ordinary being’s (so-so’i skye-bo) cognition – including denumerable voidness and all commonsense objects – and is false. An ordinary being’s mental consciousness focuses on the manner of appearance of conventional commonsense objects. Such objects are the mental fabrications (spros-pa) of conceptual cognition. Thus, the two truths, one being true and the other being false, do not share as their essential nature the same manner of abiding.

The Nyingma master Mipam adds that superficial truth, being false, does not withstand analysis by logic and reason, whereas deepest truth, being beyond the conceptual constructs of logic and reason, does withstand such analysis. Thus, deepest truth (the non-denumerable ultimate phenomenon that is voidness beyond words and concepts) is truly established (bden-par grub-pa) independently of being the referent object (bdags-chos) of mental labeling with words and concepts. Deepest truth is established as being true by the deep awareness of an arya. 

[c] Sakya masters such as Gorampa do not assert two essential natures of conventional commonsense objects, nor do they assert the two truths in terms of two different manners of abiding, one true and the other false. Rather, they differentiate the two truths merely in terms of manners of perceiving (mthong-tshul). Mere point of view (blo-tsam; mere mind) is the basis of the division. Conventional truth is the ignorant, unaware experience of ordinary minds, while deepest truth is the enlightening experience of an arya’s deep awareness during total absorption (mnyam-bzhag). 

The manner of perceiving commonsense objects by ordinary minds is deceptive and totally false. It focuses on conventional commonsense objects and does not cognize a manner of abiding. The manner of perceiving of an arya’s deep awareness during total absorption is nondeceptive. It focuses on the manner of abiding of all phenomena, which is beyond all words and concepts and beyond the duality of a cognizing mind and cognized objects. 

Deepest truth, which is beyond all words and concepts is like a transcendent (‘jig-rten-las ‘das-pa) reality that is not a dependently arisen phenomenon: it neither arises from nor is affected by causes and conditions, nor is it the referent object of a mental label or word. It is totally unrelated to and independent of superficial truth. In this sense, deepest truth is a self-established (rang-bzhin) reality. Superficial truth is an interpolation (sgro-brtags-pa) of what is false; it is the appearance of nonexistent objects cognized by ignorant, unaware, ordinary minds. 

[d] Within Karma Kagyu, the Eighth Karmapa asserts that the two truths are not differentiated in terms of phenomena’s manner of abiding and manner of appearance, with an arya’s deep awareness analyzing the former and an ordinary being’s dividing awareness (rnam-shes) analyzing the latter. Rather, both an arya’s deep awareness and an ordinary being’s dividing awareness analyze the same object – the conventional truth of phenomena’s manner of appearance, which is always false. 

When the manner of appearance of all phenomena – both the mind and its cognitive objects – is conceptually analyzed with logic and reason by the conceptual dividing awareness of an ordinary being, it does not withstand the analysis. When the manner of appearance is non-conceptually analyzed by the non-conceptual deep awareness of an arya, it does withstand that analysis. This is because the non-conceptual analysis of an arya’s deep awareness discerns the absence of the false appearance of conventional phenomena. 

Thus, unlike the Sakya and Nyingma assertions, deepest truth is not formulated in terms of that which is cognized by an arya’s deep awareness, but rather in terms of what is not cognized by that awareness. It does not cognize the false appearance of conventional phenomena. The non-cognition of any appearance of conventional phenomena is an arya’s deep awareness of the nondenumerable ultimate. 

Superficial truth is devoid of a self-establishing nature (rang-bzhin). It is mere name (ming-tsam), mere conventionality (tha-snyad-tsam), mere interpolation (sgro-btags-pa tsam). Deepest truth is parted from all such conceptual elaborations (spros-bral), including the conceptual elaboration of being devoid of a self-establishing nature. Being parted from the conceptual elaboration of being devoid of a self-establishing nature, however, is not the self-identity nature (rang-gi bdag-nyid) of deepest truth, the nondenumerable ultimate. An arya’s deep awareness does not find such a nature that would establish it as existing as a “this” or a “that.”   

[3] [a] Other than non-conceptual cognition of voidness, cognition of any validly knowable phenomenon, whether non-conceptual sensory cognition or either non-conceptual or conceptual mental cognition, has two aspects, one for each of its two essential natures – in other words, one for each of its two truths. The aspect that cognizes the superficial truth of something, namely its mode of appearance, may be accurate or inaccurate. Cognition of its accompanying deepest truth, its manner of abiding (gnas-tshul), its voidness, is always false, since all appearances of the superficial truth of phenomena, whether conventionally accurate or inaccurate, appear to have self-established existence. 

[b] Since non-Gelug rejects the assertion that validly knowable phenomena have two essential natures, it does not differentiate these two aspects of valid cognition, one for superficial truth and one for deepest truth. Cognition of commonsense objects, being exclusively conceptual and thus with an appearance of a self-established duality of object and consciousness, is completely false regardless of the accuracy of what the commonsense object is. 

[4] [a] The total absorption (mnyam-bzhag) phase of non-conceptual cognition of voidness cognizes only deepest truth and does not cognize superficial truth even implicitly. The subsequent attainment (rjes-thob) phase of non-conceptual cognition of voidness explicitly cognizes superficial truth, which appears to have self-established existence, and implicitly cognizes the voidness of this appearance. The non-conceptual cognition of voidness is only complete when it is with non-conceptual cognition that voidness does not negate dependent arising and dependent arising does not negate voidness. 

[b] Non-Gelug assert that both voidness and the pure appearance of phenomena, being nondual and thus inseparable, both appear in the non-conceptual cognition of voidness. In the total absorption phase, voidness is more prominent; while in the subsequent attainment phase, pure appearance is more prominent.  

[5] [a] Of the two truths, Buddhas cognize only deepest truth. When they non-conceptually cognize deepest truth (voidness), they simultaneously cognize mere conventionalities (tha-snyad-tsam), not superficial truth. It is not that there are self-established commonsense objects that are cognized in one way by the mind of a Buddha and in another way by a mind influenced by the constant habits of grasping for truly established existence. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions also assert that, of the two truths, Buddhas cognize only deepest truth and not superficial truth. A Buddha’s omniscient deep awareness non-conceptually cognizes nonduality: inseparable voidness and appearance (snang-stong dbyer-med) and inseparable awareness and voidness (rig-stong dbyer-med). 

[6] [a] Although taken as a whole, superficial truth is false, like an illusion; nevertheless, the non-conceptual cognition of voidness does not destroy accurate mere conventionalities. In other words, non-conceptual cognition refutes existence established by a self-defining characteristic mark (rang-gi mtshan-nyid-kyis grub-pa) but does not refute the fact that commonsense objects have defining characteristic marks that can be distinguished in non-conceptual cognition of such objects. The existence of these conventional defining characteristic marks is established merely in terms of their being the referent objects (btags-chos) of the names and concepts for them.

[b] Non-Gelug assert that since commonsense objects with distinguishable defining characteristic marks are exclusively objects of conceptual cognition, the non-conceptual cognition of voidness negates conventional objects completely.  

[7] [a] Prasangika asserts that neither valid sensory cognition nor reasoning invalidates the conventional existence of validly knowable phenomena. The conventional existence of validly knowable phenomena is as the dependently arisen, referent objects of the names and concepts for them. Because such phenomena are merely what designated names refer to (ming btags-tsam), validly knowable phenomena are merely imputedly existent. Thus, dependent arising (rten-’brel) describes the conventional existence of validly knowable phenomena. 

[b] Because the non-Gelug traditions say that Prasangika makes no assertions of its own, especially not concerning the conventional existence of phenomena. Prasangika merely negates impossible ways of existing. 

[8] All Tibetan traditions agree that the attainment of non-conceptual cognition of voidness and thus the attainment of a seeing pathway of mind (path of seeing) and becoming an arya requires the buildup of the first of three countless eons of positive potential (bsod-nams; merit). In addition to this buildup of positive potential, they also agree that the attainment of non-conceptual cognition of voidness requires the non-conceptual cognition of the voidness of voidness. 

[a] Gelug asserts that just as the voidness of all four extremes regarding self-established existence is a non-implicative negation phenomenon (med-dgag, non-implicative nullification, nonaffirming negation), likewise the realization of the voidness of voidness is also a non-implicative negation. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that non-conceptual cognition of the voidness of voidness requires going beyond all words and concepts, including negations, which are also concepts. The non-implicative negation voidness is merely a concept of the absence of truly established existence.

[9] [a] Gaining valid cognition of voidness requires correctly identifying (distinguishing) the object of negation, namely self-established existence. 

[b] According to the non-Gelug traditions, all four impossible extreme modes of existence, such as self-established existence, do not exist at all. Therefore, it is absurd to try to identify a mode of existence that does not exist.

[10] [a] Existence established by a self-establishing nature (rang-bzhin-gyis grub-pa; self-established existence, inherent existence), existence established by a self-defining characteristic mark (rang-gi mtshan-nyid-kyis grub-pa), existence established by an essential nature (rang-gi ngo-bo-nyid-kyis grub-pa), existence established from something’s own side (rang-gi ngos-nas grub-pa), and truly established existence (bden-par grub-pa, true existence) are equivalent impossible modes of existence. Both superficial truths and deepest truths conventionally appear as existing in these impossible ways.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that only superficial true phenomena appear as existing in these impossible modes of existence. Deepest true phenomena, being beyond the conceptual categories of these impossible modes of existence, do not appear as existing in any of them.

[11] [a] Coarse grasping for an impossible “soul” of a person (gang-zag-gi bdag-’dzin rags-pa, coarse grasping for the self of a person) is grasping for a self that is self-sufficiently knowable (rang-rkya thub-pa’i rdzas-yod) and has both doctrinally based (kun-btags) and automatically arising (lhan-skyes) variants. Sautrantika, Chittamatra and Svatantrika consider such grasping for an impossible “soul” of a person to be its subtle variant and only to automatically arise. 

Prasangika asserts that subtle grasping of an impossible “soul” of persons is the same as grasping for an impossible “soul” of all phenomena – namely, grasping for either of them to have self-established existence. It too has both doctrinally based and automatically arising variants.

[b] The non-Gelug traditions, taking Prasangika to not make any assertions of its own, accept as valid for Madhyamaka in general, as well as for Sautrantika and Chittamatra, the coarse grasping for an impossible “soul” of a person to be grasping for a self that is static, partless and that can exist independently of a body and mind when liberated. This coarse grasping has only a doctrinally based variant. Subtle grasping for an impossible “soul” of a person is grasping for a self that is able to stand firmly on its own (rang tshugs-thub-pa’i rdzas-yod), which has only an automatically arising variant and is not shared in common with grasping for an impossible “soul” of all phenomena.

[12] [a] The voidness of phenomena cognized non-conceptually by shravaka and pratyekabuddha aryas is the same as that cognized non-conceptually by bodhisattva aryas. It is the voidness of self-established existence and it is the deepest essential nature of all phenomena, including the self.

[b] Within Karma Kagyu, the Eighth Karmapa asserts that deepest truth cognized by all three types of aryas is the same in the sense that all three are the non-cognition of any appearance of conventional truth and, being a voidness that is beyond words and concepts, this non-cognition withstands analysis by logic. The only difference is that shravaka and pratyekabuddha aryas have this non-conceptual non-cognition with respect only to the 5 aggregates, 12 stimulators of cognition and 18 sources of cognition associated with their own mental continuums as well as with respect to untainted true pathway minds. Bodhisattvas have this non-conceptual non-cognition with respect to all phenomena.

The other non-Gelug traditions assert that, within Madhyamaka, the voidness of phenomena cognized non-conceptually by shravaka and pratyekabuddha aryas is different from the voidness cognized non-conceptually by bodhisattva aryas. 

[c] According to Nyingma, arya shravakas non-conceptually cognize the voidness of their five aggregates being a monolith lacking temporal and component parts. Arya pratyekabuddhas, in addition, cognize the voidness of the truly established existence of objects of cognition, but not of cognizing minds. 

[d] According to Sakya, arya shravakas non-conceptually cognize the voidness of the truly established existence of their own aggregates. Arya pratyekabuddhas cognize, in addition, the voidness of the external existence of forms of physical phenomena. Neither of these so-called “non-conceptual” cognitions, however, is fully non-conceptual, since only cognition of what is beyond words and concepts is fully non-conceptual.

[See: Aryas’ Cognition of Emptiness: Four Tibetan Traditions]

[13] [a] The voidness of self-established existence non-conceptually cognized is a conventionally existent phenomenon; it has merely imputed existence in terms of mental labeling. In other words, voidness lacks existence established by its own findable self-nature. Thus, although voidness does not correspond to the truly findably existent category voidness, which the name voidness conceptualizes, nevertheless the name voidness conventionally refers to voidness. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that the voidness non-conceptually cognized by aryas is beyond all words and concepts.

[14] [a] Reflexive awareness and alayavijnana do not exist at all, not even as conventionally existent phenomena. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions accept the existence of both in terms of how each defines them. 

[15] [a] Recollection (dran-pa, remembering, memory) occurs based on valid cognitions, both conceptual and non-conceptual, having implicit apprehension of themselves. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions do not assert implicit apprehension and, since cognition of commonsense objects are purely conceptual, recollection occurs based exclusively on conceptual cognition. 

What Is To Be Gotten Rid Of (Abandoned) According to Prasangika

[1] [a] Unawareness (ma-rig-pa, ignorance) of the voidness of all phenomena is a disturbing emotion (nyon-mongs, afflictive emotion). Thus, it is included among the emotional obscurations (nyon-sgrib) – the obscurations that are disturbing emotions and that prevent liberation. 

[b] Except for Karma Kagyu after the Eighth Karmapa, the non-Gelug traditions assert that unawareness of the voidness of all phenomena is not a disturbing emotion. Thus, it is not included among the emotional obscurations. Only unawareness of the voidness of persons is a disturbing emotion and included among the emotional obscurations. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[2] [a] The cognitive obscurations (shes-sgrib) – the obscurations regarding all knowables and that prevent omniscience – include only the habits of grasping for the truly established existence of all phenomena (the habits of unawareness of the voidness of all phenomena) and the factor that prevents simultaneous cognition of the two truths. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions, except for Karma Kagyu after the Eighth Karmapa, include among the cognitive obscurations unawareness of the voidness of all phenomena. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[3] [a] Bodhisattva aryas of definite lineage (rigs nges-pa’i byang-sems) start to rid themselves of the cognitive obscurations only with an eighth-level bhumi mind, after ridding themselves completely of the emotional obscurations. 

[b] The other non-Gelug traditions, except for Karma Kagyu after the Eighth Karmapa, assert that bodhisattvas of definite lineage begin to rid themselves of the cognitive obscurations with a seeing pathway mind at the same time as they begin to rid themselves of the emotional obscurations. They finish ridding themselves of both sets of obscuration simultaneously with the attainment of enlightenment. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[See: Ridding Oneself of the Obscurations: Nyingma and Sakya]

Svabhavakaya and Conventional Bodhichitta during an Arya’s Total Absorption on Voidness

[1] [a] Svabhavakaya (a Corpus of Essential Nature) has two aspects: the voidness of the omniscient mind of a Buddha and the partings (bral-ba) from the two sets of obscurations on the omniscient mind of a Buddha. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert Svabhavakaya as the inseparability of the other three Corpuses of a Buddha (Buddha-Bodies): Nirmanakaya, Sambhogakaya, and Jnana Dharmakaya. This is equivalent to the inseparability of the two truths.

[2] [a] Conventional bodhichitta is always conceptual. During an arya’s total absorption on voidness, conventional bodhichitta is not manifest. According to the Jetsunpa textbooks, conventional bodhichitta continues as a subliminal cognition. According to the Panchen textbooks, conventional bodhichitta continues as a latency (bag-chags). 

[b] Within the Nyingma tradition, Mipam asserts that conventional bodhichitta is non-conceptual and continues during an arya’s total absorption on voidness, although it is not prominent. Within the Sakya tradition, Gorampa asserts that conventional bodhichitta is conceptual and it continues during an arya’s total absorption on voidness.

[See: The Union of Method and Wisdom: Gelug and Non-Gelug]

Definitive and Interpretable Meanings and the Three Rounds of Transmission of the Dharma According to Prasangika

[1] [a] The distinction between words of definitive meaning (nges-don) and words of interpretable meaning (drang-don) refers to specific passages in sutras and not to whole sutras or entire rounds of transmission of the Dharma (chos-skor, turnings of the wheel of Dharma). 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that the distinction regards whole sutras and entire rounds of transmission of Dharma. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[2] [a] Definitive-meaning passages speak about deepest truth, the voidness of self-established existence. Interpretable-meaning passages refer to superficial truths. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that definitive-meaning sutras may be taken literally, while interpretable-meaning sutras may not be taken literally but require interpretation. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[3] [a] The distinction among the three rounds of transmission of the Dharma regard subject matter – specifically, the assertions of how things exist. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions make the distinction among the three rounds according to when Buddha delivered the sutras. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[4] [a] The third round of transmission concerns the Chittamatra position that some phenomena have truly established existence and others lack truly established existence. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that the third round primarily concerns Buddha-nature.

[5] [a] The second round of transmission is of definitive meaning; the third is of interpretable meaning. 

[b] Because the non-Gelug traditions define the contents of the third round differently from the way that Gelug does, for them the third round is of definitive meaning. Some non-Gelug authors, for instance within the Nyingma school, assert the second round also to be of definitive meaning. When others, such as within the Karma Kagyu school, assert the second round to be of interpretable meaning. This is because they take the second round to teach only self-voidness (rang-stong). They consider self-voidness as equivalent to denumerable voidness. Only the third round teaches other-voidness (gzhan-stong), which they take to be the mind that non-conceptually cognizes non-denumerable voidness.

No-Longer-Happenings, Not-Yet-Happenings, the “Previously-Having-Perished” of Phenomena, and Karmic Aftermath

[1] All Tibetan traditions accept that the past and future of functional phenomena are not affirmation phenomena (sgrub-pa). Although they are existent phenomena (yod-pa) and can be validly cognized, they are invalid phenomena (mi-srid-pa) and cannot be cognized as happening now. 

The past and future of a phenomenon are negation phenomena, absences – namely, the “no-longer-happening” (’das-pa) and the “not-yet-happening” (ma-’ong-pa) of a phenomenon. In other words, the no-longer-happening of a karmic action and the not-yet-happening of its result are negation phenomena that imputedly exist on whatever a particular tenet system asserts as providing continuity into future lives. But, not-yet-happenings and no-longer-happenings are not “present happenings” (da-lta-ba), which are affirmation phenomena. 

[a] Prasangika asserts no-longer-happenings and not-yet-happenings of phenomena to be implicative negation phenomena (ma-yin dgag, affirming negations), which are nonstatic phenomena. No-longer-happenings have a beginning and not-yet-happenings have an end. Both these beginnings and ends occur because of the affect of causes and conditions. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert not-yet-happenings and no-longer-happenings as non-implicative negation phenomena (med-dgag, nonaffirming negation), which are static unaffected phenomena. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[2] All Tibetan traditions accept that with the perishing (’jig-pa, disintegration) of a nonstatic phenomenon, such as a karmic impulse, a negation phenomenon called a “previously-having-perished” (zhig-pa) of the nonstatic phenomenon ensues. 

[a] Prasangika asserts that the “previously-having-perished” of a karmic impulse is an implicative negation phenomenon, which is a nonstatic phenomenon. 

A karmic impulse’s previously-having-perished is equivalent to the “no-longer-happening” (’das-pa, past) of that karmic impulse and arises from causes and conditions – namely, the perishing of the karmic impulse – and produces effects. For example, the “previously-having-perished one moment ago” of a karmic impulse gives rise to the “previously-having-perished two moments ago” of that impulse. The stream of continuity of the “previously-having-perished” of a karmic impulse does not degenerate (nyams) as it continues; moreover, it has no end. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that a “previously-having-perished” is a non-implicative negation phenomenon, which is a static, unaffected phenomena. It is the total absence of the karmic impulse. The Gelug tradition considers this to be the Svatantrika position.

[See: A Buddha's Knowledge of the Past, Present and Future, Part 1]

[3] [a] Prasangika asserts that the various types of karmic aftermath – positive karmic potential (bsod-nams, merit), negative karmic potential (sdig-pa), karmic tendencies (sa-bon, seeds, legacies) and karmic constant habits (bag-chags) – are imputation phenomena on the basis of the mere “I” and are carried from one lifetime to the next, imputedly existent on that basis. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions that assert Mahamadhyamaka and other-voidness assert that the karmic aftermath are imputation phenomena on the alayavijnana and are carried from one lifetime to the next, imputedly existent on that basis.

[4] [a] Prasangika asserts that the continuity between the perishing of a karmic impulse and the arising of its ripening is maintained by the continuum of the karmic impulse’s previously having perished. 

[b] Non-Gelug asserts that the ripened effect arises from the karmic cause without any intermediary providing the continuity between cause and effect.  

True Stoppings (True Cessations)

[1] All Tibetan traditions assert that true stoppings (’gog-bden) are non-implicative negation phenomena that are imputation phenomena on the basis of the mental continuum of an arya. They are static phenomena that do not arise from causes and conditions. Their acquisition (thob-pa) arises dependently on causes and conditions, but the true stoppings themselves are merely states of being parted forever (bral-ba).

[a] Prasangika asserts that true stoppings are deepest truths. The Jetsunpa textbook tradition asserts them also to be equivalent to voidnesses of self-established existence on an arya’s mental continuum. The Panchen textbook tradition asserts true stoppings not to be equivalent to voidnesses of self-established existence on the mental continuum of aryas. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions follow Svatantrika in asserting true stoppings as superficial truths and not equivalent to voidness.

Mind as a Buddha-Nature Trait

[1] [a] Mind (mental activity) is a nonstatic phenomenon in the sense that it changes from moment to moment because it takes a different cognitive object from moment to moment. 

[b] According to the non-Gelug traditions, mind is a static phenomenon in the sense that its superficial nature, as clarity and awareness, has no beginning or end, does not arise anew each moment, never changes, and is unaffected by anything. No matter what object mind cognizes, the superficial nature of mind remains the same.

[2] [a] The superficial nature of mind (mere clarity and awareness) is an evolving family trait (rgyas-’gyur-gyi rigs, evolving Buddha-nature trait), not a naturally abiding family trait (rang-bzhin gnas-rigs, naturally abiding Buddha-nature trait). It evolves to become a Jnana Dharmakaya, an omniscient mind of a Buddha. 

The deepest nature of mind (its voidness of truly established existence) is a naturally abiding family trait. “Naturally abiding” means that it does not change; it does not evolve or develop through stages into the Corpus of a Buddha (Buddha-Body). It merely accounts for a Corpus of a Buddha – in other words, the voidness of the mental continuum accounts for the Svabhavakaya (the voidness of the omniscient mind) of a Buddha. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions assert that mere clarity and awareness is a naturally abiding Buddha-nature trait. It accounts for a Jnana Dharmakaya (the omniscient mind of a Buddha).

[See: Buddha Nature: Gelug Presentation]

The Eight Great Difficult Points

One of Tsongkhapa’s disciples, Gyaltsab Je (rGyal-tshab rJe Dar-ma rin-chen) summarized his master’s new interpretations of some of the most important features of the Prasangika view as the “eight great difficult points” (dka’-ba’i gnad chen-po brgyad):

[1] Negation (refutation) of the conventional existence of alayavijnana

[2] Negation of existence established by individual defining characteristic marks

[3] Acceptance of external phenomena

[4] Negation of the Svatantrika use of lines of reasoning, supposedly having existence established by their self-natures, to prove assertions

[5] Negation of reflexive awareness

[6] Assertion that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas have the full realization of the lack of impossible “souls” (the voidness) of both persons and all phenomena

[7] Assertion that grasping for the truly established existence of all phenomena, as well as its tendencies (seeds), are emotional obscurations; while the constant habits of the deception of dualistic appearance-making (gnyis-snang ’khrul-pa) – in other words, the constant habits of grasping for truly established existence – are cognitive obscurations

[8] Assertion that Buddhas are aware of the mistaken cognitions on the mental continuums of limited beings, and yet do not have mistaken cognitions themselves.

Styles of Tantra and Ritual Practice

Certain aspects in the style of practice in Gelug differ from those of the non-Gelug traditions, but these are only superficial differences. Moreover, they do not occur exclusively in Gelug and never in the other traditions.

[1] [a] Practitioners do the extraordinary preliminaries (sngon-’gro, “ngondro”) of 100,000 repetitions of various practices one by one, whenever they fit into their training. 

[b] In the non-Gelug traditions, practitioners usually do them all together as an event early in their training.

[2] [a] Practitioners do mantra retreats of various Buddha-figures (yi-dam) one by one, whenever they fit into their training. If they are studying for a Geshe degree, they usually do them only after receiving the degree. Moreover, a three-year retreat is only on one specific Buddha-figure practice. 

[b] In the non-Gelug traditions, practitioners do the mantra retreats of the major Buddha-figures of their tradition all together, one after the other, as a three-year retreat. They do three-year retreats on one Buddha-figure only afterward.

[3] [a] Monks chant with extremely deep bass voices, capable of producing chords. 

[b] The non-Gelug traditions usually chant in normal voices.

Anuttarayoga Tantra

[1] Tsongkhapa practiced six main anuttarayoga Buddha-figure systems: the Akshobhya form of Guhyasamaja (gSang-’dus Mi-bskyod-pa), the Luipa lineage of Chakrasamvara (bDe-mchog Lu’i-pa), Thirteen-Couple Vajrabhairava (’Jigs-byed Lha-bcu-gsum), Single-Figure Vajrabhairava (’Jigs-byed dPa’-bo gcig-pa), Kalachakra (Dus-’khor), and Mahachakra Vajrapani (Phyag-rdor ’khor-chen).

[2] Tsongkhapa taught eight discourse traditions for complete stage (rdzogs-rim) practice: the Luipa lineage of Chakrasamvara, the Ghantapada (Dril-bu-pa) Body-Mandala lineage of Chakrasamvara (bDe-mchog Lus-dkyil), the Six Practices (“Yogas”) of Naropa (Na-ro’i chos-drug), Kalachakra, the Arya lineage of Guhyasamaja (gSang-’dus ’Phags-lugs), the Jnanapada lineage of Guhyasamaja (gSang-’dus Ye-shes zhabs-lugs), Vajrabhairava, and Mahachakra Vajrapani.

[3] Tsongkhapa taught a method of practice that combines the Akshobhya form of Guhyasamaja, Thirteen-Couple Vajrabhairava, and the Luipa lineage of Chakrasamvara. This is the main practice of the three tantric colleges (Lower, Upper, and Say) (rGyud-smad, rGyud-stod, Srad-rgyud).

[4] [a] The distinction between father (pha-rgyud) and mother (ma-rgyud) anuttarayoga tantra is that father tantra presents more detail and emphasis on illusory body (sgyu-lus), while mother tantra presents more on clear light (’od-gsal). Guhyasamaja, Vajrabhairava, and Mahachakra Vajrapani are father tantras; Chakrasamvara, Hevajra, Vajrayogini, and Kalachakra are mother tantras. 

[b] Among the non-Gelug traditions, only Sakya and Kagyu use the category anuttarayoga tantra. They draw the distinction between father and mother anuttarayoga tantra based on other criteria, such as the gender of the secondary figures immediately surrounding the central figure or couple of the mandala.

[5] [a] Nondual tantra (gnyis-med rgyud) is not a separate category of anuttarayoga. All anuttarayoga tantras are nondual in that all teach inseparable voidness and blissful awareness (bde-stong dbyer-med). 

[b] When some masters in other Tibetan traditions use the category nondual anuttarayoga tantra for Kalachakra, Hevajra, or both, it is a separate category of anuttarayoga. The nondual tantras have features of both father and mother tantra.

[6] [a] In the practice of taking death as a pathway mind for (attaining) a Dharmakaya (’chi-ba chos-sku lam-’khyer), practitioners approach the clear-light realization of voidness through imagining that their consciousness gets increasingly more subtle through eight or ten stages. 

[b] Although the non-Gelug traditions have similar visualizations elsewhere in sadhanas, practitioners approach the clear-light realization of voidness using other methods.

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