Uttaratantra: Detailed Presentation of Enlightenment

Chapter Two: The Enlightened State

Chapter two is the chapter on enlightenment, the state of total purification and growth, the highest bodhi or purified state. This is in 73 verses and discusses the topic in eight points.

The Essential Nature of Enlightenment

The first of these is the essential nature of enlightenment, and this refers to its purities. It’s referred to in terms of clear light. Clear light as both a deep awareness (ys-shes) (so, a mind) and clear light as a riddance (spang-ba), a state of being rid of something – the usual term is “abandoned.” I don’t particularly like that term “abandoned” as it sounds as though you’ve abandoned it and left it somewhere else, but “riddance” – you’re rid of it. So that’s referring to the voidness side, corresponding of course to the third and fourth noble truths: clear light as a mind being the ultimate true pathway mind, and clear light as an object being the ultimate state of riddance or voidness. Remember we had this presentation of – it’s particularly emphasized in the Gelug tradition – that the voidness of true existence and the removal, or separation (bral-ba), from all the fleeting stains comes down to the same thing; it’s known as the double purity (dag-pa gnyis-ldan) of mind of a Buddha.

The Causes for Enlightenment

The second point is the causes for enlightenment, referring to what is it that will allow us to attain it. This is referring to what will get rid of the two obscurations, the obscurations that are the disturbing emotions and the obscurations that prevent omniscience. And this is what will get rid of those: the two types of deep awareness that we have. There’s the deep awareness during total absorption (mnyam-bzhag ye-shes) on voidness, which is like space, and that would be a cause for getting rid of the obscurations that are the disturbing emotions (unawareness of voidness, grasping for true existence, and so on). And then there is the deep awareness of the subsequent attainment phase (rjes-thob ye-shes), which is on voidness that is like an illusion – in which you focus on all appearances being like an illusion, that they are nevertheless void of true existence – and that helps us to, acts as a cause, for getting rid of the obscurations that prevent omniscience (knowing all phenomena). What’s included there in that set of obscurations is the appearance-making of true existence; by seeing that everything is like an illusion, that helps us to get rid of the obscuration of making appearances of true existence.

The Resultant State of What Enlightenment Is Parted From

The third point is the resultant state, and this is explaining what the state of enlightenment is parted from, what it is separated from. This is explained in terms of the nine examples that were given in the previous chapter – of a Buddha in a muddy lotus, and so on. And so the various types of disturbing emotions, and fleeting stains, and so on, are explained using those analogies from the previous chapter.

The Influences of Enlightenment

The fourth point is referring to its influences, and this is saying that the enlightened state is of meaningful benefit to oneself and to others. For oneself, one has the Svabhavakaya, which is the state of being utterly freed from the two obscurations. So that’s of meaningful benefit to ourselves. And then for others, what’s of meaningful benefit is the Deep Awareness Dharmakaya that encompasses everything and everyone, and is fully purified.

It’s quite interesting; these points are all referring to Dharmakaya, two aspects of Dharmakaya; the first four points as well as the fifth point which will come next. Often we hear of Dharmakaya being for self-benefit of oneself, and the Form Bodies for benefit of others. But here you get within Dharmakaya the two divisions: the Svabhavakaya is of benefit for oneself, and the Deep Awareness Dharmakaya is for the benefit of others.

The Endowments of Enlightenment

The fifth point here is its endowments, in other words the characteristics or qualities that it has. These are the characteristics that are the basis for it being of meaningful benefit to self and others. For that there is a discussion of fifteen qualities of the two Dharmakayas. These are that it is unimaginable, constant, stable, serenely still, auspiciously immutable – these types of characteristics, which are then explained in the text.

The Permeation of Enlightenment

Then the sixth point is its permeation, how it permeates various things – everything. This refers to the three aspects: profound, extensive, and its great identity nature. These are the terms that are used in the text. It’s profound: it permeates everything in terms of its profundity – is referring to the Deep Awareness Dharmakaya and the Essential Nature Dharmakaya, so in other words the two Dharmakayas. Each of these is presented with five distinguishing features. Then the extensive aspect that permeates is referring to the Sambhogakaya, the Body or Corpus of Full Use, and that also has five distinguishing features. And then its great identity-nature (bdag-nyid chen-po) that permeates everywhere is referring to the Corpus of Emanations, in other words Nirmanakaya, which has the twelve deeds of an enlightened being, so it explains those twelve, it lists those twelve. And Nirmanakaya also possesses the four sealing points for labeling an outlook as being based on Buddha’s words (lta-ba bka’-btags-gyi phyag-rgya-bzhi), the four seals of Buddha’s teachings, which are how it teaches and permeates everything: that all affected phenomena are nonstatic; everything associated with confusion is suffering; all phenomena lack true identities; and that nirvana release is stillness and constructiveness. So here is where we have the basic discussion of the Buddha Bodies.

The Constancy of Enlightenment

The seventh point here is referring to the constancy of the enlightened state. That’s referring to the extent of time in which all three of these Buddha Bodies are eternal. Here the text gives ten reasons why all three of them are eternal.

Enlightenment’s Nature beyond Imagination

The eighth and final point is referring to its nature being beyond all imagination. This is the nature of how the three Buddha Bodies exist, and it gives six reasons why the nature of the three Buddha bodies is beyond imagination. That completes the second chapter.

So there are many, many lists in this. They are very fond of the lists, but the Tibetans didn’t make all this up. This style of giving lists is Indian.

Chapter Three: The Good Qualities of the Enlightened State

Chapter three is about the good qualities of the enlightened state. Remember we explained that the term “good qualities” (yon-tan, Skt. guna) is actually referring to corrections of inadequacies. Here we have 39 verses, and in them are explained and listed the 64 qualities of the enlightened state of a Buddha. 32 of them are the results of being parted (bral-‘bras). What that means is that there are certain qualities (these are all the qualities of the Deep Awareness Dharmakaya) that are there as a result of being separated from the obscurations, but they are not caused by the separation because, in a sense, they were there but were just being obscured. So they are constant, not affected by anything. These 32 are the ten forces of a Buddha, the four proclamations about which a Buddha is fearless, and the eighteen measures that are unshared with arhats. These are the qualities of the mind of a Buddha, very famous lists.

Then it gives the 32 ripened results (rnam-smin-gyi ‘bras-bu). The ripened results are the qualities of the Form Bodies of a Buddha that ripen from positive force. This refers to the thirty-two excellent signs, or major marks of a Buddha’s body. The text goes through all 32 of them and gives then analogies for these various qualities – they are like a vajra, and so on. That is the contents of chapter three.

The text itself doesn’t give the reasons, the causes, for each of these 32 marks, but in the commentaries we find that quite extensively. It is interesting that it is a slightly different list, particularly in terms of the causes, that is found in Abhisamayalamkara, the other text of Maitreya (The Filigree of Realizations).

Chapter Four: The Enlightening Influence of the Enlightened State

Chapter four is the enlightening influence (‘phrin-las) of that enlightened state, and this is in 101 verses. First the topic is that the enlightening influence of a Buddha permeates (‘jug-pa) everyone. It permeates everyone with two aspects: it spontaneously accomplishes all (all purposes), and it is unceasing.

The Enlightening Influence Accomplishes All

First the text explains how it spontaneously accomplishes all (lhun-grub), and it does this with five points.

  • Through, first of all, the source in those to be tamed – their Buddha-natures and their aspirations, what they want to achieve. So it spontaneously accomplishes all by stimulating their Buddha-natures (the thing that it tames). “Tame” is the word that is used here, it has to do with “purify.”
  • The second way that it spontaneously accomplishes all is the methods through which it tames the Buddha-nature in everyone, and that’s through the two types of Form Bodies.
  • Then the third is the taming action, the action with which it tames. It does that by stimulating and leading limited beings to the various kinds of goals, this is higher status (mtho-ris), of more fortunate rebirth, and definite goodness (nges-legs) (a technical term that refers to liberation and enlightenment). These three goals that you have in Lam-rim.
  • The fourth point is the location, it spontaneously accomplishes all in terms of going to all disciples.
  • The fifth one is the time, which is forever. So it spontaneously accomplishes all purposes, all positive purposes, of everyone forever.

So that’s this point of the enlightening influence: it permeates everyone, spontaneously accomplishing all. It tames the Buddha-nature through the two Form Bodies by stimulating and leading disciples to these various positive goals. It does that in everyone, forever.

The Enlightening Influence Permeates Everyone Unceasingly

Then the text speaks about how the enlightening influence of the Buddhas permeates everyone unceasingly. What does it mean by “unceasingly”? It’s unceasing because of six points, and these are six things that a Buddha has no conceptual thoughts (or preconceptions) about. Because a Buddha has no conceptual thoughts, or preconceptions, about these six things, then that enlightening influence continues without ceasing.

  • First of all, no conceptual thoughts or conceptions about the path for taming disciples. The path is referring to stimulating them to grow to enlightenment through the ten bhumis, the ten levels of arya bodhisattva minds – there are no concepts about that.
  • And then no conceptual thoughts about the causes for that, for progressing through these ten bhumis – and this would be the two networks: positive force and deep awareness.
  • Then a Buddha has no conceptual thoughts about the result that will come from that. Conceptual thoughts, by the way, always have grasping for true existence as part of them, and that’s the significance that a Buddha doesn’t have conceptual thoughts about these things. So the result of that is a Buddha has no conceptual thoughts or grasping for true existence about the supreme state of Buddhahood.
  • The Buddha has no conceptual thoughts, the fourth one, is the full extent of that, which is in all limited beings – it will be in all limited beings.
  • The fifth one is that a Buddha has no conceptual thoughts about the obscurations to be removed (those are the fleeting stains).
  • And a Buddha has no conceptual thoughts, the sixth one, about the condition for cutting them away – which is omniscience and intense loving concern.

Then the text gives six poetic analogies for these, one each for each of these features: like the ocean, the sun, space, treasure, clouds, and the wind. And it explains those.

What is the reason why it can continue endlessly?

Basically if we have different conceptual thoughts about what to tame, what we are doing, about the path and so on then our ideas change all the time. One conceptual thought is then replaced by another and then so on. So without that, it would then be unceasing.

Also if we think on a deeper level, then we can say if one tries to help others through conceptual mind, that conceptual mind is based on confusion. Even if it has correct understanding, accurate understanding, still it’s based on confusion and therefore it won’t last forever because one can get rid of it; whereas if it is based on deep awareness of voidness and so on, it will last forever. I think that is more the explanation.

The Enlightening Influence Effortlessly Benefits Everyone

The second part of this chapter speaks about how the enlightening influence effortlessly benefits everyone, the emphasis here is “effortless.” Again it does it spontaneously and unceasingly, and this is summed up with nine examples for the various aspects of the enlightened state which exert this enlightening influence. Here we have many, many verses in a very poetic presentation.

  • First the essential nature of the body of a Buddha influences others like Indra, effortlessly like Indra, great god Indra.
  • Then the essential nature of speech influences others effortlessly like the divine drum, the drum of the gods.
  • Then the essential nature of the mind influences others effortlessly like the monsoon clouds.
  • Then the enlightening influence of the body and speech of a Buddha effortlessly influences others like Brahma.
  • Then the enlightening influence of the mind influences others like the sun.
  • Then the enigmatic qualities (the secret or hidden qualities that we can’t understand) of the mind influence others effortlessly like a precious gem.
  • Then the enigmatic qualities of speech influence others like an echo.
  • Then the eighth, the enigmatic qualities of the body influence others effortlessly like space.
  • Then finally the ninth one, the compassion of a Buddha influences others effortlessly. That compassion being the basis for all good qualities, it influences others effortlessly like the earth.

What is noteworthy here, throughout the entire text, is that all these points (or most of these points, I should say) are presented with very graphic and poetic analogies. This is a particular teaching style of this text, and then commentaries explain why it is similar to the sun, or why it is similar to jewels, and so on. The text itself does that as well, but the commentaries go into more detail. So it is interesting how it teaches not only through words, but through images, which reflects in many ways how we have a Nirmanakaya, as an artist teaches through art and music, and one that teaches through words – the actual verbal teachings of the Buddha.

What is meant by “Fastidious First”?

Fastidious First is the implication of the name “Brahma.” And the Hundred Sacrificer (rgya-byin) is the translation of the word “Indra,” the name “Indra.” Fastidious First, Brahma, is the first one. It’s “tsangpa” (tshangs-pa), the implication of the word “tsangba” in Tibetan. So he is the first one in a world age (yuga); he is the first being to appear. And his quality is that he is clean and fastidious about that, which means absolutely fanatic about being clean; and this is then the quality that brahmins uphold. So I translated it just to accommodate the commentary, the explanation of the name.

When I made this translation I was in my phase of translating absolutely every single word, which Serkong Rinpoche encouraged me very strongly to do. Now I would put “Brahma” in parentheses. Actually I would probably use “Brahma” and put Fastidious First in parentheses, and not repeat that but just repeat “Brahma.”

Chapter Five: The Benefits

In the last chapter, chapter five, are the benefits of this text. It is in twenty-eight verses, and here Maitreya presents the benefits specifically of listening to the explanation of these last vajra points – the four last: Buddha-nature, enlightenment, its qualities, and its enlightening influence. Maitreya says that it builds up for a bodhisattva more positive force than keeping ethical discipline or than attaining the four states of mental constancy (these four dhyanas bsam-gtan). And listening to this brings deep awareness of discriminating awareness: you’ve got this discrimination of what’s correct and what’s not correct, you’ve got Buddha-nature and enlightenment and so on, and you gain confidence to attain Buddhahood. When a bodhisattva has confident belief that he or she has Buddha-nature, then that confident belief acts as a container for the six far-reaching attitudes or six perfections, and a bodhisattva will never turn back. Shantideva also emphasized this confident belief as a very important foundation and container for the far-reaching attitudes. He does that particularly in his other text Shikshasamuccaya (bslab-btus), The Compendium of Training. He starts off with a discussion of confident belief as the basis for the whole presentation that he has in Bodhicaryavatara.

And then Maitreya concludes the benefits by saying how he supported this teaching on the scriptural authority of the sutras and on lines of reasoning. He composed it for the sake of himself and for others. Then he explains the qualities and reliability of the enlightening speech of the Buddhas on which he relied, and says we must not cause the words of the Buddhas to decline by adulterating them – mixing them with our own ideas or misquoting them. Then he explains the reasons for how that could happen (we make up our own Dharma), and that if we overcome those causes – which would cause us to adulterate the Buddhas’ teachings, abandon the words of the Buddhas – if we can overcome those causes, we’ll attain enlightenment. Then there is the dedication and that completes the text.


That’s a brief presentation of the main points and the structure of Uttaratantra (The Furthest Everlasting Continuum) by Maitreya. We can see that it speaks about something very, very extensive and very profound and does this in great detail. It is not an easy text to study; it has many different points in it and all of these points interconnect with each other. And in the study of this text, as is true in the study of almost all of Buddhist texts, it is very important to study it many times if we really want to get a deep understanding of it. Because once we’re familiar with it having studied it once or twice, then the next time through we’re able to put things together from the entire text much more easily. This text gives a great amount of topics for meditation.

As we saw there are two lineages of it, of explanation coming from India. Two ways in which the Pandit Sajjana explained it: one was focused more on a mediation aspect (whatever that actually means) and the other more on the explanation side. But we should never think that explanation and meditation aspects are two completely different things. It seems as though the difference between those two traditions is whether or not there’s the emphasis on the abiding nature being voidness of true existence or whether it is on the mind that is free from the fleeting stains.

These are the two aspects, but whichever way in which we understand it (or if we try to understand it in both ways), these are topics that are intended for meditation, for us to actually gain as Maitreya says, “the confident belief.” First of all, a clear understanding of what Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha are, and the confident belief that we have Buddha-nature and what it actually is. As he says, discriminating awareness is the big benefit that we gain from studying this. We can speak about the three higher trainings: discipline, concentration and discriminating awareness. He says that here we gain even more positive force than we do from doing the first two trainings of discipline and concentration; so we gain an even more tremendous amount of positive force from that third higher training discriminating awareness – it discriminates what is the Triple Gem, what is our Buddha-nature, and it has confidence that we have that, and in what is enlightenment, and what are the qualities and the enlightening influence in which we can help others when we are enlightened, in which we are helped by the Triple Gem, and so on. And with that confident belief that understands all of this and that it is possible for us to reach enlightenment – that it is possible for everybody else to reach enlightenment, so that it is worthwhile to try to help them – and we understand how our enlightening influence would help them, would benefit them, then as Maitreya says this becomes the container (for our practice as a bodhisattva) of the six far-reaching attitudes as we’ve studied in Shantideva’s text, Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior. So it is a very meaningful text and it is studied very much by all the traditions in Tibet.

Probably one also has to understand the Chittamatra position for this; otherwise it is only large lists. For understanding the transition from Hinayana to Mahayana, isn’t it also important to understand the Chittamatra text which you can’t avoid facing when you try to understand how these ideas are articulated. For example, in Hinayana it says that the realm of Buddha is beyond imagination and so you would also have to get into the Mahayana sutras as well to get into this view that is underlined in this presentation.

Yes, I think we do need to get the general Mahayana view, but whether or not we need to understand it as a Chittamatra text – with Chittamatra as the way that Mahayana view is presented here – I am not quite sure of that; although, of course, in China the Zen (Chan) tradition emphasizes that. But I don’t think so here.

As we saw, according to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s explanation, this text is Prasangika, we can see that from its presentation of the obscurations, how those are removed. There is no discussion here whatsoever of the storehouse consciousness (Skt. alayavijnana) or anything like that, which are the trademarks of the Chittamatra view. When it says that it comes from the third turning, the third round of transmission, everybody in the Tibetan tradition takes that to refer to the Sutra on Buddha-nature, not on the Chittamatra view. I don’t know how this is studied in the Chinese tradition, perhaps it is studied in China from a Chittamatra point of view, I have no idea. I am totally unfamiliar with that. I would assume that it is translated into Chinese and then one would need to look at the Chinese commentaries, but I certainly haven’t studied that myself.

But yes we need a general understanding of Mahayana, but I think that this text gives a general understanding of Mahayana. It certainly would be helpful to have a lam-rim background before studying this. Where Chittamatra is useful is, as we’ve discussed in going through the various tenet systems, to get the Prasangika view of voidness. It is very helpful to work through the stages of the other tenet systems, including Chittamatra. Also in the discussion of Chittamatra, we have the presentation of no external phenomena, and that also perhaps can be helpful in terms of realizing that Buddhahood is not won from circumstances that are other, that are external, but are internal. And so it could help with that. But it is very difficult to put together “mind only and no external phenomena” with an enlightening influence that benefits others. Although Chittamatra certainly is Mahayana and certainly accepts the existence of others, that not everybody just exists in our minds, but that is not very easy to understand on the basis of the Chittamatra view. It would be much easier from the view that accepts external phenomena.

If we look at some of the material in this text, some of the material is in common with Hinayana. Certainly Hinayana has the explanation of the 32 qualities of a Buddha’s mind, the 32 marks of a Buddha's physical body.


Let’s end with a dedication: Whatever positive force and understanding has come from this, may it go deeper and deeper. And may it act as a cause for gaining more and more confidence in the Triple Gem, more and more confidence in our Buddha-natures, more and more confidence in everybody’s Buddha-nature, more and more confidence in enlightenment and the possibility of reaching it, so that we can truly dedicate ourselves to that and to helping everybody reach that for the benefit of all.