Uttaratantra: Introduction to the Text

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Introduction

The text that I will be explaining is called The Furthest Everlasting Continuum, Uttaratantra in Sanskrit, Gyu Lama in Tibetan. It has five chapters and if I were to explain this slowly in a relaxed manner, it would take one or two weeks. But today we need to finish within eight hours. These hours are divided by half, as we have the words in Tibetan and then the translation into English. This allows us only four hours to explain the complete five chapters. This is impossible and so I'm going to explain only the first and most important part.

Also, there will be the opportunity for people to ask questions at the end of each session. If you have questions, you should write them down and these will be collected. Then at the beginning of the following session, some of them will be answered.

Mutual Goals of Religion for Spiritual Progress

To begin, I think I will explain in my own poor English. As you know, in this world there are quite a number of different religions and all of these major religions have special qualities. For certain people, a certain religion is more effective. For other people, other religions are more helpful. In any case, all religions are aiming for more or less the same goal, because in this modern period, despite many great material developments, we human beings still need some kind of internal progress, internal peace, or spiritual experience. That is something that is still very important.

Under these circumstances, unity among various religions is something extremely important. Today, I am really happy to explain Buddhist teachings in a Christian church, a Christian temple. That is something marvelous, isn't it? It's showing that we have a much closer understanding and much closer feeling. This is something with a very positive significance.

Structure of the Buddhist Teachings

Buddha Shakyamuni

There are different calculations according to certain scholars regarding when Buddha Shakyamuni lived. Some say it is more than 2800 years ago, but generally we accept more than 2500 years ago. Regardless, the Buddha Shakyamuni came to grace this earth with his presence and then attained enlightenment. Once attaining enlightenment, the state of clear evolvement, he then engaged in various enlightening deeds for the benefit of everyone. There are different interpretations of the twelve enlightening deeds of the Buddha.

According to the presentation in the Hinayana texts, the modest-minded vehicle texts, in the earlier part of his life, the Buddha himself was a sentient being. That is a being with a limited mind and limited awareness. Then, in the latter part of his life after he achieved enlightenment, he became an enlightened being, totally clear-minded and fully evolved.

According to the vast-minded vehicle, or Mahayana texts, there's the presentation of the three or four bodies or corpuses of an enlightened being. Among these we have the Nirmanakaya – an Emanation Body or Corpus of Emanations. Within those emanations, the Buddha Shakyamuni would be included as a Supreme Emanation. Throughout many lifetimes in the past, the Buddha was someone who, as an enlightened being, demonstrated over and again the various enlightened deeds.

Different Buddhist Paths and Results

Although there are these various presentations concerning the Buddha Shakyamuni, there also can be an entire discussion as to whether Mahayana is a valid path as a method for achieving the enlightened state of a Buddha. This discussion is found in The Precious Garland, a text by Nagarjuna. Our discourse here is presented in terms of the enlightened state of a Buddha and if there were only the paths of the arhats – the paths that are for the listener shravakas and the self-evolving pratyekabuddhas – then it would be very difficult to establish the attainment of enlightenment based only on the existence of just those paths.

One needs to think in terms of the fact that if there are various paths that have been indicated, then they must have various results toward which they are leading. Thinking in terms of the results of the practices that the Buddha himself taught, and likewise the paths that must exist in order to achieve these various results, then one can establish the existence of the Mahayana paths as a way for achieving enlightenment. If one doesn't accept the existence of the Mahayana paths as valid paths, then it's very difficult to accept that Buddhahood exists.

There is the presentation of how the Buddha himself came and taught. This is well known in the Hinayana texts in terms of various disciples to whom the Buddha initially taught these Hinayana teachings. But additionally, in terms of there being various pure disciples, then Buddha taught Mahayana. In terms of these disciples who were especially pure, by the force of their prior prayers and so forth, there is the teaching of the Tantrayana vehicle.

There's no necessity that all of these were necessarily taught at the time when the Buddha himself was actually gracing this earth.

Turning of the Wheel of Dharma

According to the accounts from the Mahayana texts, the Buddha himself, after demonstrating his attainment of enlightenment, set flow three rounds of transmission of the preventive measures of the Dharma – the so-called “three turnings of the wheel of Dharma.” In the first turning of the wheel, or first round of transmission at the Deer Park in Sarnath, the Buddha taught the four noble truths. These are the facts that are seen as true by the highly realized arya beings. In the second round of transmission at Vulture's Peak, the Buddha taught the Prajnaparamita Sutras (The Perfection of Wisdom Sutras) – the teachings concerning voidness or emptiness and the lack of truly established existence. Then, eventually the Buddha set flow the third or final round of transmission of his teachings.

Transmission to Tibet

The Buddha set flow these three rounds of transmission gradually in turn, one after the other. All three rounds of transmission of the teachings were gradually brought to Tibet. The flourishing of the teachings in Tibet occurred during two periods. There's the older period or the ancient period of the Nyingma transmission and then there's the later or the Sarma transmission of the teachings.

Within Sarma or the new transmission period, there's the transmission of the lines of the Sakya, the Kagyu, and the Kadam traditions. The old Kadam tradition is from the period before Je Rinpoche – that's Tsongkhapa. The teachings after Je Rinpoche Tsongkhapa are the Gelug or Ganden teachings. The situation of the teachings of the Buddha in Tibet is one in which there is a complete preservation and presentation of all the teachings of the Buddha including the modest-minded or Hinayana, the vast-minded or Mahayana, as well as the tantra teachings.

Within the tantra teachings, there's the presentation of all four classes of tantra. Particularly in Tibet there is an extremely extensive preservation of the highest class of tantra, the peerlessly integrated deity practice of anuttarayoga.

The Indian Tenet Systems

In terms of the method side or behavior side, there's the division within the teachings of the two vehicles including the modest-minded Hinayana and the vast-minded Mahayana. There is also the view or outlook in terms of the various schools of tenets. There's a division of four schools of tenets: the Vaibhashikas, the Sautrantikas, the Chittamatrans and the Madhyamikas.

Within these tenet systems, the first two, Vaibhashika and Sautrantika, are within the fold of Hinayana. The second two, Chittamatra and Madhyamaka, are both Mahayana schools. It is possible for persons themselves to be Hinayana persons in terms of their behavior, but to accept Mahayana tenets; and likewise, they could be Mahayana persons in their behavior, but to accept Hinayana tenets. It can work both ways. In Tibet, most of the great major texts of these four schools of tenets have been translated.

The Furthest Everlasting Continuum and the Four Schools of Tibetan Buddhism

Within these various schools of tenets there are many subdivisions. In terms of Nyingma, the ancient tradition teachings, when we look at our text, The Furthest Everlasting Continuum, this has a connection in terms of the Nyingma teachings of things being pure from the top or the start and the presentation of the spontaneous accomplishment of everything.

There is also a connection of these Furthest Everlasting Continuum teachings with the Kagyu presentation of the great sealing nature of mahamudra. In the Sakya teachings of the paths and its results, there’s also a connection here with these Furthest Everlasting Continuum teachings. The Sakya tradition presents three appearances in terms of the path, and three everlasting continuums in terms of the result. Specifically, within those three everlasting continuums, there is the causal everlasting continuum of the foundation of everything. There is a connection between this and The Furthest Everlasting Continuum.

In the Gelug presentation of inseparable voidness and blissful awareness, particularly in terms of the discussion of primordial consciousness, there's also a connection here with this Furthest Everlasting Continuum. In terms of the four traditions within Tibetan Buddhism, the ultimate view of reality is pointing primarily at the discussion of how it's presented in anuttarayoga tantra.

The Furthest Everlasting Continuum: A Sutra Text

When we speak of this specific text, The Furthest Everlasting Continuum, within the division between sutra and tantra, it falls within the category of a sutra teaching. Although various learned masters have their own individual ways of explaining this with their own characteristics; nevertheless, when we divide the teachings into the categories of sutra and tantra, the only way that this can really be explained is in terms of it being a sutra teaching.

When we ask what type of relation or connection it can then have with tantra, then since the ultimate, deepest point toward which the teachings are aimed or are being directed is toward the presentation as found in anuttarayoga tantra, then we can say that this anuttarayoga level is the deepest basis from which these teachings are derived and at which they are aiming. This is the way, then, in which it's related.

In Tibet, through the line of Yumo Mikyo Dorje, and then through Dolpopa within the Jonang tradition, there is the view of other voidness or other absence. We find that in all four traditions in Tibet – Sakya, Kagyu, Nyingma and Gelugpa – most of them give refutations and do not accept this position. However, there are those who have achieved meditative experiences and realizations and insights based on that view.

In terms of the division between the actual enlightening words of the Buddha himself and the various texts that were written later, the indicative texts (the shastras), this would be one of the indicative texts that came later. However, if we ask what is the source within the enlightening words of the Buddha from which this derives, it would be The Tathagatagarbha Sutra (A Sutra on the Womb for a Thusly Gone One, commonly known as The Sutra on Buddha-Nature). This sutra has been translated into Tibetan. Regarding the view of reality, voidness (emptiness), the contents of this sutra are in harmony with the contents found in the Prajnaparamita Sutras. But if the contents of the Prajnaparamita Sutras and of The Tathagatagarbha Sutra were exactly the same in terms of the middle turning of the wheel of Dharma, then since there's a danger of the two being redundant, Maitreya composed our text, The Furthest Everlasting Continuum.

However, there are two sutras on Buddha-nature. The first sutra, The Tathagatagarbha Sutra, was one of the first sutras to appear and, as I mentioned, it is available in Tibetan translation. The second sutra is the Sugata Garland Sutra (The Sutra on a Garland for a Blissful Gone One); it has not yet been translated into Tibetan. This latter sutra is an interpretable teaching, one that requires interpretation as to its meaning. It teaches Buddha-nature, the womb containing a Thusly Gone Buddha, as being static and conventional truth; whereas the first sutra, the Tathagatagarbha Sutra is a sutra of definitive meaning.

According to one group of scholars, among the five texts of Maitreya, there are three ­– A Filigree for the Mahayana Sutras, Differentiating the Middle from the Extremes and Differentiating Phenomenon and Their Actual Nature – that present the Chittamatra view, not the ultimate view. Whereas the other two of these five, A Filigree of Realizations (Abhisamayalamkara) and our text here, The Furthest Everlasting Continuum, both present the ultimate Madhyamaka view. Specifically, this Furthest Everlasting Contunuum presents the Prasangika viewpoint. That would also then be the deepest intention of A Filigree of Realizations.

According to other scholarly interpretations, The Furthest Everlasting Continuum and Differentiating Phenomenon and their Actual Nature go together and have the same intended meanings. They are considered extremely profound and subtle texts, and therefore were not initially taught in a widespread, well-known manner. Instead, they were hidden as treasure texts and then later recovered in India and made widespread by Maitripa.

Analysis of the Title of the Text

This text came through its various transmissions into Tibet and I myself have received the transmission of this text from Gen Rigdzin Tenpa, a lama from Kunu. It starts with the presentation of the name in the Indian language, Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra, and then in the Tibetan language Theg-pa chen-po rgyud bla-ma’i bstan-bcos. In English, this translates as An Indicative Composition on a Vast Vehicle of Mind, the Furthest Everlasting Continuum.

The titles of sutras, which are all expositions on a theme, can be ascribed in several different ways. Here, the name is ascribed in terms of the actual contents of the teachings. The Furthest Everlasting Continuum indicates what is being discussed in the text; whereas, other texts, like the 8000 Verse Prajnaparamita Sutra, are named in accordance with the number of verses within that text. Other texts, such as the Lankavatara Sutra (The Descent to Lanka Sutra), are named in terms of the actual place where the text was delivered, in this case Sri Lanka. Additionally, there are texts, such as Sutra Requested by the Maiden Ratna, in which the name is given in terms of the person who asked for the teaching.

Let’s more closely address each word of the title of the text. It begins with the word theg-pa, which means a vehicle of the mind. A vehicle of the mind is something that goes somewhere; therefore, it speaks in terms of both a path of mind that is going somewhere and likewise a vehicle of mind that is the actual result attained.

It is a vast vehicle of the mind, or Mahayana, because of having vast deep awareness, vast aim, vast undertakings, and so forth. There are seven points from which it is vast. Primary among them is having a vast aim or intention. Based on having a vast intention, there are vast undertakings that one engages in.

The next words in the title are translated as Everlasting Continuum. An everlasting continuum is a continuity, something that continues from past moments to present and on to future moments. In other words, it is a stream of continuity. This is a text explaining how to purify away the stains from the everlasting continuity of one's own mental continuum. This is how the title is to be understood. The text indicates the everlasting continuum in terms of what one gets down to when one has purified away the various stains.

The word “furthest” can be understood in terms of it being the later one taught. This means after the second round of transmission of the Dharma with the Perfection of Wisdom sutras. It is later in that it comes after that. Being after that, then it's furthest, meaning that it is beyond that. Since it is based on A Sutra on the Womb Containing a Thusly Gone One – that's the Buddha-Nature Sutra – in this regard, it is a composition to indicate what was meant in that sutra. Therefore, it's called A Composition to Indicate a Vast Vehicle of Mind, the Furthest Everlasting Continuum.

Analysis of the Homage

The text begins with the line,

I prostrate to all the Clear Evolved Buddhas and the spiritual hero bodhisattvas.

This is the prostration made in the beginning by the translators. These prostrations by the translators follows a custom initiated in Tibet that according to which of the three baskets of teachings, the Tripitika, that the text belonged to, the prostration and salutatory verse at the beginning was made in accordance with that. Here, the prostration is to the Buddhas and the bodhisattvas. That indicates that this text belongs to the basket of sutra teaching.

The Seven Diamond-Strong Vajra Points

The first verse gives a brief presentation of the contents of the text, it says:

(1) The Buddhas, the preventive measures of Dharma, the Assembly, and the source, the purified state, the enlightening qualities and finally the enlightening influence of the Buddhas – the body of all indicative compositions, when gathered in brief, is these seven diamond-strong vajra points.

The verse presents seven diamond-strong points. First it discusses the Buddhas, the Clear Evolved Ones, and then the preventive measures of Dharma, the Assembly of the Sangha, and the source, referring to Buddha-nature. The source for becoming a Buddha refers to the actual nature of the mind and so forth.

When Buddha-nature is referred to as the “source,” this refers to the period when is covered with stains – in other words, the period when the various stains obscuring these sources or essential factors have not been abandoned or gotten rid of. The state in which they have been gotten rid of or purified away is called the purified state or bodhi. This refers to enlightenment.

The next point concerns the enlightening qualities, which are corrections of inadequacy. These are the qualities of that state of enlightenment, referring to the 32 qualities of being parted, such as the qualities of the ten powers of the mind and so forth. These are parted qualities. Likewise, there are the 32 ripened qualities, namely the features of the enlightening body of a Buddha. The final point of the seven is the enlightening influence or Buddha activity of that state of enlightenment.

These seven diamond-strong points are the contents of this text. They are arranged into its five chapters. The first four of these – the points about the Buddhas, the Dharma, the Sangha Assembly, and the source or Buddha-nature – are presented in the first chapter dealing with the source.

The next point, the fifth, the purified state of enlightenment, is presented in the second chapter. The enlightening qualities of that state are presented in the third chapter. The fourth chapter deals with the seventh of these points, the enlightening influence. Then the fifth chapter discusses the benefits or advantages of this text.

The Most Fundamental Point

Of all seven points discussed in this text, the root or most basic, fundamental point is this point about the source, or Buddha-nature. The way that we can understand this is that this source, these essential factors, allow us to progress toward enlightenment and to achieve it. However, this source is covered with various stains. It is something that needs to be purified.

To reach the state in which all the stains have been purified away, in other words, to reach the purified state of enlightenment, we need to rely on the first three of these points, the Buddhas, Dharma and the Sangha. That means, we need to rely on those who have already purified the stains from their source, so that we ourselves can then achieve the fifth point, that purified state ourselves.

On the basis of that, we'll have all the various enlightening qualities. These are corrections of inadequacy based on having purified away the stains from the source within us. Subsequently, having achieved that state with all its qualities, we'll be able to exert an enlightening influence on others in terms of being able to awaken the sources within them. This will allow them to purify away the stains from their sources as well.

Behavior and View

To fill out and complete the meaning of what is intended in this text, there are a few words that can be added. The essence of the Buddha’s teachings is one’s behavior and view or outlook. The main point of behavior is non-violence; while the main point of the view is dependent arising.

When we look at the first of these, the surface meaning of non-violence in Buddhism is to not cause harm to any other being. But on a deeper level, not only is it referring to not causing any harm, but if possible, trying to benefit and help others. It's not necessary to go through various complicated lines of reasoning for this, but rather it's just based on the fact that everyone wants happiness and does not want suffering. On that basis, non-violence is the key point.

What is the reason for non-violence in order to bring about happiness and eliminate suffering? It is because of the view of dependent arising. The happiness that we wish to achieve is something that is based on causes or reasons; the suffering that we wish to get rid of is likewise something that arises because of causes. Since both the suffering or unhappiness and the happiness we wish to achieve are based on causes and circumstances; then, if we wish to achieve various results, we need to work in terms of their dependently arising from their causes. When we speak about the fact that happiness and suffering exist merely because of their own specific causes and circumstances, this is the presentation in Buddhism of the creator of the world.

Understanding Dependent Arising

There are both subtle and coarse levels of understanding dependent arising. One level of understanding it is in terms of the happiness that we wish to achieve and the unhappiness that we wish to get rid of. All these arise dependently on their respective causes and circumstances. When dependent arising is presented in a more expansive and extensive form it would involve the twelve links of dependent arising.

Another level of understanding is in terms of what are called “conditioned phenomena” or “affected phenomena.” These are phenomena that arise affected by or dependent upon their own respective causes and circumstances. In this sense, all affected or conditioned phenomena arise dependently from causes and circumstances.

The concept of dependent arising can be extended to cover also those phenomena that are unaffected by causes and circumstances or unconditioned phenomenon. Although they do not arise dependently upon causes and circumstances; nevertheless, their existence does depend upon their own parts. They depend upon having parts as a basis for their imputation as wholes. In this sense, these phenomena as well arise dependently on other things, their parts; so this level of understanding of dependent arising is in terms of affected and unaffected phenomenon, or in other words, conditioned and unconditioned phenomenon. Both depend on other things. None of them have their existence established independently from their own sides, independently of either causes or circumstances, or independently of parts and bases for imputation.

When we examine and observe things with our own eyes, we can see that things do arise because of causes and circumstances. This convinces us that things do not arise under their own power. Based on seeing the dependent arising of things, we can understand the lack of things being self-established, as if their existence were established independently from their own sides, under their own power.

From the fact that things arise dependently upon causes and circumstances, we also understand that various causes and circumstances are the foundation from which various effects, such as benefit and harm, come about. This leads us to the understanding that dependent arising is non-fallacious. In terms of benefit and harm, it is always the case that they come from appropriate causes and circumstances. This is fact, non-fallacious, never incorrect, never wrong.

When we are convinced of this law of dependent arising – that things arise from causes, circumstances, and so on – that naturally leads us to more conviction in the view that things lack self-established existence. We have more certainty that things are devoid of existing inherently under their own power, independently of arising dependently on causes and circumstances.

There are two understandings here. First, the understanding of dependent arising being non-fallacious gives us more conviction in the fact that things do not exist independently under their own power, self-established from their own sides. Secondly, the understanding that things are devoid of their existence being self-established from their own sides gives us more conviction in how their existence is established, how they do exist. They exist in terms of being dependently arising phenomena. These are the two true facts, the two truths.

From the Two Truths, the Four Noble Truths

If we expand from these two truths, then we get the four truths, the four noble truths. There are true problems or sufferings and true causes for all of them. These are the first two truths. We can see this in terms of this whole idea of dependent arising. Because it is fitting and appropriate that phenomena come about from causes and circumstances, then when we present what the true problems are that everyone faces, these true sufferings, it is also the case that they arise from the true causes for them.

Likewise, in terms of dependent arising, if we wish to achieve a true stopping or a true cessation of these sufferings, then it's necessary to follow a cause for attaining that, namely true paths of the mind. The second two truths – the true paths of mind and the true stoppings or cessations – likewise follow from cause and effect or dependent arising.

These true cessations or true stoppings can be explained in different terms. True stoppings can be explained in terms of the presentation of voidness, the total absence of truly established, self-established existence. They can also be explained in terms of the clear light nature of the mind. In fact, this is what is presented in this text. It discusses it from that second point of view, because it explains how the stains that cover the nature of the mind are fleeting, while the mind itself is something complete with all qualities. Based on those facts, the text establishes that there is such a thing as true cessations or true stoppings of suffering.

The text presents how to eliminate, get rid of, or purify away these various stains obscuring the nature of the mind, in order to attain a state of true cessation or true stopping of them. This is done in terms of applying various opponents. The actual opponent is the application of true paths of the mind. The fourth noble truth is true paths. This, as presented here in the text, would be the preventive measures or the Dharma. These are the true paths of the mind.

By applying these true paths of the mind, these preventive measures, then one achieves a state in which there is a parting or an absence of the things that we wanted to get rid of. We want to stop certain things; and when what we wanted to stop are actually stopped, that state of being parted from these things that we wanted to get rid of is called a “true stopping” or a “true cessation.” It's a state in which we have gotten rid of what we wanted to get rid of.

From the Four Noble Truths, the Three Gems

This state in which we have achieved a true stopping – this true stopping – is the actual Dharma Jewel, or the actual gem of preventive measures. Anyone who has such a state on their mental continuum would be an actual member of the Assembly or Sangha Jewel. Anyone who has these types of true stoppings, or has gotten rid of the things to be gotten rid of on their mental continuum, those are members of the intent community or the Sangha.

We gradually apply true paths of the mind that bring about true stoppings. We continue to work in turn applying more paths of the mind and achieving more stoppings, getting rid of more and more things that we wish to get rid of until, ultimately, we get rid of everything that needs to be gotten rid of. We've abandoned everything to be abandoned.

Once we have actually achieved that state, then someone who has gotten rid of everything to be gotten rid of is an actual Buddha. A Buddha is someone totally cleared out or clear minded and fully evolved. We need to be able to establish in this way, the three Jewels of the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha based on the four noble truths.

Causal and Resultant Refuge

We take safe direction or refuge from these Three Gems or Three Jewels: the Clear Evolved Buddhas, the preventive measures of the Dharma and the intent community or the Sangha. We can take safe and sound direction from them in terms of their existence in the mental continuums of others – those who are other than us. When we look at Buddhas who are other than us, and also the Dharma and Sangha Jewels in mental continuums other than our own, this will then act as a cause for us to actually go in that safe direction. This is known as “taking causal refuge” or safe direction, in terms of the causes for going in that direction. These are the sources that act as a cause for us to attain these Three Jewels ourselves.

We are taking our direction from others, but also there's the taking of safe direction in terms of the future results that we ourselves wish to achieve. We look in terms of the attainment of the Dharma, the Sangha, and the Buddha. In other words, the attainment that we ourselves will have in the future of this Dharma Gem in our mental continuums, the attainment that we ourselves will have in terms of being a member of this intent community of Sangha, and the ultimate attainment that we ourselves will have in the future of being a fully enlightened Buddha.

When we take our safe direction, or refuge, in terms of these attainments we ourselves will achieve in the future, that's called the “resultant refuge.” We are taking our direction from the future results that we will achieve.

To clarify, there are these two types of taking of safe direction or taking of refuge. There's taking refuge in which our source for refuge is the gems that exist in others. These act as a cause for us to achieve them ourselves. Then there's the taking of refuge in terms of the direction that we can derive from the results that we ourselves will attain on our own mental continuums in the future.

The Buddhas, Dharma and Sangha as Doctors, Medicine and Nurses

When we speak of these Three Gems, these three sources of safe direction, the main one is the Buddhas. They are like doctors. The actual safe direction that we derive from them is provided by the Dharma itself. Its measures are like medicine. If we wish to be cured from a sickness, then the actual thing that we must rely on is taking medicine to get rid of the disease. Likewise, what we need to rely on throughout the entire process of getting rid of all our problems and all our sufferings completely is the Dharma. It is in this way that the preventive measures of Dharma provide us with our actual source of direction. Like medicine, they are the things that will actually cure us or help us to get rid of all our problems and sufferings. In this way, the Dharma is like medicine and is the actual refuge gem that allows us to get rid of our problems. The gem of the Sangha, the community intent on this goal, is the helpers along this way. They are like nurses.

If we were going to take some medicine to get cured of some sickness or disease, it's necessary that we would have relied beforehand on an actual competent doctor. This doctor would have examined us correctly and would have prescribed the actual medicine that suits the sickness. Likewise, we need to rely also on nurses and others who are going to help us in the process of getting cured from our sickness.

In this way, the Three Gems are like doctors, medicine and nurses. The Buddhas are the ones that prescribe the measures that we need to take. The Dharma is the measures that we actually take to be cured of our problems. The Sangha are those who help us during the process of utilizing the Dharma in order to be cured

Although we're no longer living at the time when the Buddha Shakyamuni himself was present on this earth, we need to have a substitute who will act as a representative for Buddha Shakyamuni. In this sense, it is important for us to have a spiritual teacher who acts as a substitute for the Buddha in prescribing these Dharma measures for us to take.

Regarding these Dharma measures that others have taken to achieve their attainments, we need to take them the same as the Buddhas have done. Like them, we need to take these measures and work on our minds in order to actually cure ourselves of all our problems and prevent future ones from arising. When we take safe direction, refuge, in terms of following these preventive measures, we do so all the way to our attainment of enlightenment.

The Dharma: Defensive and Offensive Measures for Achieving True Stoppings

If we explain this word Dharma in an easily understandable way, it will perhaps be a little bit easier to understand the whole process of ridding ourselves of various faults or mistakes. Someone who follows the Dharma and takes these preventive measures is someone working with strong effort to try to overcome the various faults on their own mental continuums.

Within these preventive measures, there are both offensive and defensive measures that can be taken. Within the defensive measures, the first thing that we need to do is to identify who or what is the adversary that we want to overcome. The adversary or the enemy is the disturbing emotions and disturbing attitudes, the kleshas. What are examples of some of these disturbing emotions? They would be pride, infatuated attachment, jealousy, anger and so on. These are our enemies.

Before we can strike out offensively to get rid of these kleshas, we need to set up a line of defense within ourselves. What is that referring to? That's referring to ethical self-discipline. Even though we might have these disturbing emotions and attitudes present in our minds, nevertheless we have to prevent them from spilling over into the actual actions of our body or speech. We need to be able to hold our own and stand strongly in terms of restraining these disturbing emotions and preventing them from causing us to act or to speak in a disturbing manner.

This refers to refraining from the ten destructive actions or non-virtuous actions. This is the foundation of ethical self-discipline. We need to hold our own against the disturbing emotions so that we don't come under their power and have them cause us to act or to speak in a destructive manner. Once we can do this, then we are in a position in which we can launch an offensive attack against them.

The first way that we launch this offensive attack is to use the methods to gain a stilled and settled state of mind in which we can concentrate totally with complete concentration. That's known as shamatha or shine in Tibetan. Then, once we have this stilled and settled state of mind, we need to develop an exceptionally perceptive state of mind or vipashyana, lhagtong in Tibetan. With vipashyana, we have exceptionally perceptive awareness of voidness. In this combined state in which our minds are both serenely stilled and exceptionally perceptive, we'll be able to actually have all the proper offensive weapons to be able to get rid of these disturbing emotions and the problems that they cause us.

Provisional Opponent Forces

There are provisional opponent forces that we can employ in this battle. For example, temporarily as an opponent against anger we can apply love and patience. As an opponent to our infatuated attachment, we can meditate or build up the habit of seeing things in terms of their ugliness. This helps to overcome the infatuations that lead to our strong attachments. We can also think in terms of impermanence – nothing remains static. We can also recognize that all things involve problems and suffering, and so forth. These are ways to help us to overcome our infatuations and attachments.

To overcome pride and arrogance, we think about various topics that we want to know about, but as yet don’t know. In this way, we lessen our pride of feeling that we know everything already. As an opponent to envy and mental wandering, if we meditate on rejoicing in the happiness of others, that will act as an opponent to envy and jealousy. Like this, we have various provisional opponent forces that we can apply.

The Deepest Offensive Weapon

But to get to the deepest offensive weapon that we want to use, we need to see that all our various disturbing emotions come about because of our grasping for the existence of things to be established in an unimputed, self-established manner. This grasping for truly established existence is the root causing all our various disturbing emotions. The deepest type of offensive weapon that we need to apply is this understanding of reality. With this understanding, we will overcome our grasping for the existence of things to be established in an impossible manner.

Positive Potentials with Motivation

The fuel for these offensive weapons is the positive potential or merit that we've built up from our constructive actions. If we don't have very much fuel in our rocket, the rocket is going to fall down very quickly. Since we want our offensive weapons to be able to travel very far, we need to have a great deal of fuel in terms of a great store of positive potential or merit.

What is the root for building up these positive potentials? The root of it all is our motivation. If the motivation is just to attain liberation or freedom from our personal problems, then the fuel will only have that much potency or ability and will only go that far. Whereas, if our motivation is to achieve the full enlightened state of a Buddha, to become totally clear minded and fully evolved ourselves in order to be able to benefit numberless limited beings, then our fuel is going to have that much more power. It will have infinite power similar to that infinite motivation.

As it says in The Precious Garland, if we were to try to count all the limited beings, they are without number, they are immeasurable. If we aim our motivation toward these immeasurable, innumerable limited beings – beings with limited awareness or sentient beings – and have the altruistic wish to be able to help them all, then all the qualities and benefits that we will achieve from this motivation will be in accordance with this infinite immeasurable aim.

When we've actually rid ourselves of all the disturbing emotions, we achieve what is known as a state of liberation. But this is just a first step in the offensive assault we are taking. The first step is to get rid our disturbing emotions by applying method and wisdom; but, once we've gotten rid of these disturbing emotions and achieved liberation, there are still the various habits and most subtle obscurations present on our mental continuum that prevent us from being able to be omniscient, to be able to know all things that can be known.

It's necessary to apply a second-stage offence against these habits and subtle mental obscurations as well. We need to continue to meditate over and again and build and strengthen further and further the beneficial habit of the wisdom or understanding with which we realize voidness, the lack of truly established existence. By doing so, we'll be able to overcome all these remaining habits, all these cognitive obscurations that cause things to appear in a discordant manner and thus prevent us from being able to know everything, especially regarding the appropriate ways to help each being.

Combining Method and Wisdom

Therefore, we need to follow an offensive method, one that combines method and wisdom, one that is a combination of a serenely settled and an exceptionally perceptive state of mind. We need to follow a path in which method and wisdom are combined in the sense that method is held within the context of wisdom and wisdom is maintained within the context of method. This is the type of path that's presented in general Mahayana, according to the sutras.

If we aim for a more profound level of combining method and wisdom, then we don't just have method held within the context of wisdom and wisdom held within the context of method. What we want to do is to get the two of them together in one package or in other words, have the two share the same essential nature. This means that the two come together manifestly in the same mind.

Even though they still would have different names that can be ascribed to them, yet from the point of view of them being together in one mind, they can be combined in one package in this way. For example, "I am a monk. I am also a Tibetan and I am also the Dalai Lama." All these are different names that can be ascribed; however, they are all referring to the same thing. This is what is meant by things being together in one package with many different names ascribed. There are differences in terms of the names, but basically they are together in one package _ they share the same essential nature. When we have method and wisdom together as one package, one mind, then that is the actual method that is employed in tantra, specifically in the highest level of tantra, anuttarayoga.

When we have this tantra level of method and wisdom together in one package like this, then it acts as a weapon that will allow us to get rid of the stains or the things that we're trying to get rid of much more quickly. It's something that has a great deal more power. When we overcome these most subtle types of mental obscurations, the ones preventing us from being omniscient, from knowing all things, we will have gotten rid of all the things we need to. Then we will achieve the omniscient state of a Buddha.

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