Uttaratantra: The Last Four Vajra Points

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Question about Other Voidness

Your Holiness spoke of the other voidness view of the Jonangpas yesterday. Could Your Holiness say something about the other voidness view of Mipam. Is this something different?

Other voidness, as was discussed yesterday, was the view presented in the Jonangpa school from various commentaries in connection with Kalachakra by such masters as Dolpopa. In the Kagyu and Nyingma traditions, there is a type of explanation in connection with anuttarayoga tantra, the highest class of tantra. In this explanation, there is a discussion of what looks to be like the other voidness view, but in fact is speaking about something quite different. It is discussing other voidness in terms of the primordial subtlest level of consciousness or the primordial clear light mind, which is to be made manifest by the anuttarayoga tantra methods.

This is an example of other voidness in the sense that the primordial clear light mind is devoid of the fleeting stains. It has a voidness of something that is other, namely the fleeting stains that cover or taint the mind. Through various methods, one removes the stains from the primordial mind, which is this other voidness. This primordial mind is something that permeates or pervades all minds at the basis time, the time of the path and the time of the results.

When one actually is able to get down to and access this other voidness, this clear light primordial mind devoid of the fleeting stains, then in the teachings of Mipam, for instance, in the context of the Nyingma presentation of dzogchen, the great completeness, this primordial clear light mind itself is devoid of existing in a self-established manner. The terminology that's used is that it is ka-dag, pure from the top.

This means that it's devoid of existing in a self-established manner from its own side. Therefore, when one uses the meditation methods of dzogchen to come down to the clear light primordial mind, by meditating on a state devoid of the fleeting stains or meditating on the other voidness, then one also comes down to the correct view in terms of an absence of true self-established existence.

This way of presenting other voidness as is found in the Kagyu and Nyingma anuttarayoga tantra teachings, such as those of Mipam, is an example of a combination of both the second and third turnings of the wheel of Dharma. In this sense, it's an acceptable view.

Various Presentations of the Two Truths

There are various presentations of the two truths. There's the presentation of superficial, conventional truth and deepest truth as found in the Madhyamaka teachings such as in The Root Stanzas on the Middle Way by Nagarjuna. In this presentation, the deepest truth is presented in terms of the object clear light.

In the anuttarayoga systems, such as that of the Guhyasamaja Tantra, there's a presentation of the two truths on the complete stage. In this case, the two truths are referring to the deepest truth clear light and the conventional or relative truth illusory body. This is a different type of presentation of the two truths.

In the Nyingma teachings of the old school, particularly in the Guhyagarbha Tantra, there is yet another presentation of the two truths. It’s called the exceptional two truths and that's a little bit similar to what is found in the Guhyasamaja system.

In the latter two systems, the deepest level is speaking of clear light in terms of a consciousness, something that cognitively takes objects. In the anuttarayoga tantra teachings of both the old Nyingma schools and the new Sarma schools, there's the discussion of clear light. There's clear light in terms of the object clear light, and clear light in terms of the object-taker, or consciousness clear light. They discuss these two inseparably, but give them the same name, “clear light.” In this sense, although in anuttarayoga tantra, they're discussing the two truths, yet the emphasis is usually mostly on the side of clear light as a consciousness, as an object possessor.

Although there are many sources for the Nyingma teachings, the main sources that I follow are the texts by Dodrup Jigme Tenpai Nyima, a great scholar as well as practitioner. I have great trust in him.

Many later scholars of the Nyingma tradition, such as Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche, refer to the other voidness view in terms of there being two views: a positive other voidness view and a negative other voidness view. When we refer to the negative other voidness view, this is referring to a few specific texts in the Jonang tradition. The original source of this was the master Yumo Mikyo Dorje and his spiritual son Dharmeshvara. He wrote a text with a great deal of criticism toward the view of voidness as presented by Nagarjuna.

If we have one position with strong criticism against Nagarjuna and then we held a vote to see which position the various traditions within India and all the different traditions of Buddhism within Tibet would take, all of them take as their basis the view of voidness as explained by the great master Nagarjuna. If a text criticizes heavily the views of Nagarjuna and says they are incorrect, then such a text is in quite a difficult position.

However, we are not talking about just a preference of the majority against the minority. It's not a matter of that, but rather it's a question of logic and reasoning. When we look at the view of voidness as presented by Nagarjuna, no matter which way we examine it, no matter which way we analyze with reasoning and logic, it is a presentation of voidness that is totally correct. It's totally supported by logic and reasoning.

We take this as our basis in terms of reasoning and logic, this view of Madhyamaka, the middle way. It is a view that cuts through the two extremes of truly established existence and total non-existence. This view of voidness as presented by Nagarjuna is something that is without any flaws. Because it is totally supported by logic and reasoning, therefore everyone accepts it as the basis.

Question about Manifesting the Clear Primordial Mind

How do we make manifest the primordial mind?

Except for the paths and methods described in anuttarayoga tantra, there are no ways for making manifest the primordial clear light mind that comes in anuttarayoga tantra. The methods presented therein involve the various yoga practices with the subtle energy winds. This is the tradition of our guiding light, Nagarjuna.

There is also the method of making manifest the clear light mind through tummo, the inner heat. This is the tradition that is explained primarily in the Hevajra Tantra literature. It is also found in the Chakrasamvara system. There is also one method of making manifest the clear light primordial mind by just meditating single pointedly with a non-conceptual state of mind.

In general, you would say that one cannot make manifest the primordial clear light mind without having to do the other various meditations beforehand with the subtle energy systems, the channels and so forth. Nevertheless, there are special circumstances when, through the inspiration of the blessings and so on of various great masters, and through meditation on a non-conceptual state of mind on the basis of this inspirations, then it is possible for some practitioners to make manifest the clear light subtlest consciousness. This is a method that is discussed primarily in the Kagyu mahamudra systems and in the Nyingma dzogchen systems.

These are the three basic methods that are used for making manifest the clear light mind. There may be other methods then those, but I'm not aware of them.

Question about Shamatha and Vipashyana as the Basis for Removing the Fleeting Stains from the Clear Light Mind

How can one eliminate or purify away the various stains that obscure the clear light mind without a basis of shamatha and vipashyana?

Shamatha is a serenely stilled and settled state of mind and vipashyana is an exceptionally perceptive state of mind. There are two different levels of a mind that has a combined force of both these two, being stilled and settled as well as exceptionally perceptive. This can be either on a coarse or a subtle level of mind.

In anuttarayoga tantra, there is a special method in terms of tapping into the subtle energy systems, with its channels and energy winds, etc. Based on that, one can achieve a state of mind that has a combined stilled and settled and exceptionally perceptive aspect. In the sutra systems and the systems of the three lower tantras, the presentation is that one first achieves a stilled and settled state of mind of shamatha and then after that, one achieves an exceptionally perceptive state of mind of vipashyana. However, in the anuttarayoga systems of tantra, the way of achieving these is presented in a way in which the two states are achieved together at once.

Question about the Need for Self-Respect

Could Your Holiness speak about acceptance of oneself, before going into the battle to get rid of the stains on our minds? Is there importance to have love and respect for our self?

Yes, I agree. You see, sometimes if you realize your own defects and negative side, you may feel discouraged. During those moments, you need encouragement and some self-esteem. In that case, think more about the abilities of human beings and the natural pureness of our consciousness and the possibility of achieving a purified state of mind. Thinking on these lines, these positive lines, gives you inspiration, courage or more will.

But then, if your mental state becomes too proud, elated, or arrogant, that becomes a hindrance attitude. It’s something like setting the temperature in your house. If it's too hot, try to cool it. If it's too cold, try to heat it. That's the proper way. When our minds become stabilized, that's all.

Procedure for Explaining the Rest of the Text

Today I am going to do something different. It is impossible to finish the first chapter completely, therefore I will continue the explanation of a few more verses and then I will explain without the text. Something practical will be better, won't it?

Initial Presentation of the Last Four Vajra Points

(23) The accordant nature when with stains and then stainless, the qualities of stainless Buddhahood and the enlightening deeds of the Triumphant are that from which arise the three things constructive that are rare and supreme. They are the very objects of mind of those who see the deepest point.

This verse refers to the last four points of the seven points. The accordant nature refers to the Buddha-nature, the essential factors. When it's with stains, it's referring to the situation of the essential factor on the mental continuums of sentient beings, those with limited awareness. Then stainless is when all the stains have been removed from these factors, allowing us to become enlightened. It's referring to the state of enlightenment itself.

Then we also have the qualities of stainless Buddhahood and the enlightening deeds of the Triumphant Buddhas. It is from these three that one has the presentation of the three things constructive. This is referring to the Three Gems. Here, it's speaking in terms of the sources of refuge taken from our future result. When we think of the future results that we can attain, in terms of these four aspects – the last four vajra points – then we derive our refuge or source of direction from the Three Gems. The point that they are the very objects of mind of those who see the deepest point is referring to the fact that these objects can only be known in their entirety by the Buddhas themselves.

The Four Reasons Why the Last Four Vajra Points Are Beyond Imagination

(24) The family traits allowing for these three that are rare and supreme are the objects of mind of those who see all. In respective order of understanding, there are four reasons why the four aspects are beyond the realm of imagination:

This is talking about these four aspects discussed in the previous verse, the latter four of the seven vajra points. These are the family traits (our Buddha-natures, the essential factor and source allowing us to become totally enlightened) – the purified state of enlightenment itself, with its enlightening qualities and its enlightening influence. There are four reasons why these four aspects are beyond the realm of imagination, why these can only be understood by the Buddhas themselves. The four reasons are given in the next verse.

(25) Because it is pure yet possesses disturbing emotions, because it is not at all with disturbing emotions yet must be purified, because it is something undifferentiable and because it spontaneously accomplishes all, without preconceptions.

The Order of Understanding the Last Four Vajra Points

(26) Because there is what is to be realized, the realization, its branches and what brings realization, the order in which they are to be understood is that the first point is the cause allowing for purification, while the three are the circumstances.

What is to be realized is the source, Buddha-nature, or the essential factors allowing everyone to become Buddhas. The realization refers to the state in which all the stains have been removed from that source, so that all the good qualities are complete. In other words, it's the purified state of enlightenment.

Its branches refer to the various enlightening qualities of that state, and what brings realization refers to that which brings realization of this state of purifying away the stains from the source in the mental continuums of others. In other words, this is the enlightening influence that one has as a Buddha to help others to gain realization of the same state themselves.

The order in which they are to be understood addresses the order of these points. The first point is the cause that allows for purification. In other words, the essential factors or source within us, Buddha-nature, is the cause that makes it possible for this whole process of purification to take place. While the three, referring to the latter three, the state of enlightenment itself, the qualities of that state, and the enlightening influence that one has when one achieves that state, these three are the circumstances that help bring about this whole process of the purification of the stains from one's Buddha-nature.

The Buddha-Nature Source

Now we get into the main discussion about the source, Buddha-nature, in terms of the reasons why everyone has a Buddha-nature.

(27) Because the Corpuses of a Buddha radiate out, because their accordant nature is undifferentiable and because they have the family traits, all beings with limited bodies always possess the essential factors for a Buddha.
(28) Because the deep awareness of the Buddhas has permeated the masses of beings with limited awareness, and because their self-natures are stainless and this, in fact, is not discordant – in other words the family trait allowing for Buddhahood is closely named after its results – it was said that all wandering beings possess the essential factors for a Buddha.

To go over these verses, verse twenty-seven gives the reasons why everyone has the source or Buddha-nature. The first reason is explained as because the Corpuses of a Buddha, the Buddha Bodies, radiate out. According to one tradition of explanation, that of Gyaltsab Je, the enlightening influence of the Buddhas is something that always radiates out to everyone.

There are two types of enlightening influence. There's the enlightening influence to attain a higher status or higher rebirth. There's also the enlightening influence to be able to gain a state of definite goodness, either liberation or enlightenment. In this verse, it refers primarily to the second type of enlightening influence, the enlightening influence for definite goodness to influence others to achieve a state of definite goodness. This is something that radiates out constantly or continuously from the Buddhas. This is the first reason why everyone has the factors which will allow them to achieve enlightenment.

The second reason in the text is that their accordant nature is undifferentiable. This refers to the actual deepest nature of the minds of sentient beings, those with limited awareness. Their accordant nature, the voidness of their minds, is the same as the accordant nature, the voidness, of the minds of the totally enlightened Buddhas. In this sense, the actual void nature of both a limited mind and an omniscient mind is something which is un-differentiable. They both have the same nature.

In reference to this, there's a quotation from The Sixty Stanzas by Nagarjuna, in which he says that there is no duality in terms of samsara and nirvana. The nature of samsara, in other words, the nature of everything that recurs uncontrollably is devoid of truly established existence. Likewise, voidness is the nature of everything that is released from all these types of troubles or difficulties, namely all phenomena of nirvana. When one understands the reality, the lack of truly established existence of all phenomenon of compulsive existence or samsara, then one achieves nirvana, or release from all troubles.

The third reason given in the text is because they have the family traits. This refers to the fact that all beings with limited awareness have the family trait or essential factor that will allow them to become totally clear minded and fully evolved as a Buddha. They have the reality or the nature of their minds, which is without any stains by nature.

Although it has temporary stains, the stains are fleeting and they are not in the actual nature of the mind itself. All limited beings, all sentient beings, have a pure nature of mind, a mind that is devoid of self-established existence. They will continue to have this nature of the mind when the stains have been removed and they have actually achieved enlightenment.

This basic state of the nature of the mind is something that all limited beings have had since beginningless time. In other words, they have had this throughout all time. For that reason, because limited beings have the abiding nature family trait of the nature of their minds, then they always have possessed the essential factors for becoming a Buddha.

The Nyingma Interpretation of Ju Mipam

Another tradition of commentaries of this text is that of Ju Mipam. It’s a Tibetan Ju Mipam, not an Israeli Jew Mipam! In this Nyingma tradition, he explains that the first of these reasons is that the Corpuses of a Buddha radiate out. This is not in terms of the mental continuum of the Buddhas themselves and their enlightening influence radiating out to us. Rather, this is referring to each limited being's own mental continuums themselves.

Later in this text it states,

(I.50) Because it possesses mistakes fleetingly, yet has, as self-nature, qualities that are corrections of inadequacy, it has an actual nature that is inalterable, the same later as it was before.

This means that the void nature of the mind is, by nature, not tainted by the fleeting stains and that is because the stains are removable. Furthermore, all the good qualities, such as the ten powers and so forth, of a fully enlightened being are complete within the potentials of the mental continuum of the nature of the mind itself. When the text refers to the Buddha Bodies radiating out, this means, according to that Nyingma commentary that the ability on the mental continuums of all limited beings to actually achieve all the qualities of a Buddha are something ever-present and complete from the beginning and are constantly radiating out.

Two Types of Family Traits

When we discuss the family traits that allow for becoming a Buddha – another name for the source and so forth – they are of two types. This will be addressed further on in the text. The two types are the naturally abiding family traits and the evolving family traits. The naturally abiding family traits refer to the actual nature of the mind itself, free from all stains and so forth. This nature of the reality of the mind is something that has always abided as the nature of the mind without any beginning. It's a naturally abiding family trait that has always been the case.

The second type of family traits are the evolving family traits. This is referring to the various factors within the mental continuum that, when cultivated, will allow for one to achieve the various Corpuses or Bodies of a Buddha. They are things that one needs to put effort into. When one puts effort into engaging in the various constructive actions and building up positive potentials and so forth, then these are the factors within the mental continuum that can evolve. These can grow into or become the various Corpuses or Enlightening Bodies of a Buddha. In this way, there are two types of family traits, the naturally abiding family traits and the evolving family traits.

The Ten Topics Concerning the Buddha-Nature Source

The text continues with the discussion of the source, Buddha-nature, for becoming a Thusly Gone Buddha. It presents it in terms of ten topics. These ten are given in verse twenty-nine,

(29) Its essential nature, causes, results, influence, endowments, whom it permeates, phases and likewise the point of its penetrating everywhere, as well as its constant inalterability and its indivisibility from its qualities are called the points of what was intended by the sphere of the deepest point.

We will stop here with the discussion of this text and now I will speak about something in general.

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