Parting from Clinging to Your Own Benefit or to the Four Extremes

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When You Have Parted from Clinging to Your Own Benefit, You Have Made the Pathway Minds Eliminate Confusion

Concerning the third (parting), “When you have parted from clinging to your own benefit, you have made the pathway minds eliminate confusion,” 

In general, when you have developed renunciation, the determination to be free from samsaric rebirth on the three planes of compulsive existence, you have completed fully parting yourself of clinging to this life. Although practicing to actualize liberation for your own peace and happiness as your provisional topmost achievement is good; nevertheless, to be interested in just liberation for yourself alone is a fully confused pathway of mind. The pathway mind that is without this confusion is the pathway mind of Mahayana to attain the totally liberated state of a fully enlightened Buddha. The roots of the Mahayana pathway mind that will make the pathway minds eliminate their confusion about the topmost achievement are love, compassion and bodhichitta. Therefore,

meditate on love, compassion, and bodhichitta.

In brief, wishing for all limited beings to have happiness is love and wishing then to be parted from suffering is compassion. Once you have developed them, then for developing aspiring bodhichitta, wishing to attain the topmost achievement, the totally liberated state of a Buddha for the sake of benefitting all limited beings, and engaged bodhichitta, contemplate on bodhichitta through equalizing and exchanging your attitudes about self and others. 


Regarding the first of these (love), contemplate, thinking, “Liberation from the sufferings of samsaric rebirth for myself alone is not sufficient. All the limited beings on the three planes (of compulsive existence) have exclusively possessed the kindness of having been my mothers and fathers a multitude of times.

It is said that, throughout limitless space, there are limitless numbers of limited beings, and each being of these limitless numbers of limited beings, over beginningless recurring samsaric rebirths, has been our parent a limitless number of times. We, too, over beginningless samsaric rebirths, have been reborn a limitless number of times. Nevertheless, for doing meditation on love and compassion, it is said that, since it is easier to generate them, you should first meditate on your present mother who has given you your body and mind of this lifetime. Therefore, meditate, imagining your mother before you in whatever form and shape she has.

“But, especially, this root mother (of my present lifetime) first carried me in her womb and, when I was born outside it, took care of the life of this being that resembled an emaciated bug. After that, she nurtured me with food, clothes and so on.” 
Having remembered the extent of the kindness that she has shown you, contemplate, thinking, “I must establish her in a state of happiness, since this mother of mine has been so kind.” 

Having contemplated on how wonderful it would be if this mother attained happiness, then contemplate that over and again and, when a great love arises wishing that this mother be endowed with extreme happiness,

Then, remember the kindness that your other relatives, your enemies who have inflicted harm, and even suffering beings, such as those in the three worse states of rebirth and so on, have shown you over beginningless samsaric rebirths. Meditate on this until love, wishing to establish all of them, too, in a state of happiness, arises on your mental continuum. 

Once you have developed a great love toward your present mother, move on and meditate on all your relatives – your father, your brothers, your sisters, and so on. Once you have developed a good level of love toward them, then meditate, as having been your kind parents, enemies who, in this lifetime, have lived bringing harm to your body and damage to your wealth, possessions, reports about you and your reputation, although it is difficult to develop even a little love for them. Then, meditate like this, in stages, on the hell beings, clutching ghosts, animals and so on.


Second, as for meditation on compassion, after remembering the kindness of this root mother of yours, 

After thinking, “That kind mother of mine has, first of all, given me my body and has given me material support from then on, until I was prepared for entering the hallowed Dharma, and so on. She has indeed been extremely kind. She must be endowed with a happiness. But what is it that causes her harm? She is harmed by suffering. She must be parted from suffering.”

Meditate, “Although this kind mother of mine must be parted from suffering, it is awful that she is now living a life in the nature of suffering. How wonderful it would be if she were parted from suffering. I shall establish her in a state that is parted from suffering.”

As with the above meditation on love, switch this to everyone else – your relatives, enemies who have made difficulties in your life, those in the three worse states of rebirth, and so on. 

Likewise, remembering the kindness, as before, of (all other) wandering beings, meditate on compassion wishing that they, too, be parted from suffering. Since, if you do not develop love and compassion on your mental continuum, you will not be able to develop a genuine bodhichitta aim, it is very important to make effort in these two. They are the roots of the entire Mahayana Dharma.


Third, as for meditation on bodhichitta, there are three points: (1) aspiring bodhichitta, (2) the bodhichitta equalizing self and others, and (3) the bodhichitta exchanging self with others.

Aspiring Bodhichitta

As for the first of these (aspiring bodhichitta), meditate, “Although my kind parents in samsaric rebirths throughout the three planes of compulsive existence must be endowed with happiness and must be parted, as well, from suffering, I do not have the ability to do that right now. Not only that, but also the great worldly beings, such as Brahma, Indra and so on, and those who are beyond being worldly – the shravaka listeners and pratyekabuddha self-realizers – do not even have it.” 

Meditate, thinking, “How do I have the ability to part all limited beings from suffering and establish them on the stage of a Buddha? Those who are famed as great in this world, such as Brahma and Indra, who possess all the fetters of being an ordinary being, do not even have it. Not even the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas have it. None of them have completely attained in themselves, in full, the good qualities of all the abandonments and realizations, and they do not know the methods to tame those needing to be tamed, which are needed for the sake of benefitting others. If I ask, ‘Who is someone with the ability to free all limited beings from their sufferings and establish them in a state of bliss?’ it is only a Buddha. Someone who can be called a Buddha has found command over good qualities beyond imagination. Even a ray of light emanated from their body, or a tiny phrase of Dharma delivered from their mouth, has the ability to establish a fathomless number of limited beings on the stage of a Buddha.”

“Who has it? Since only a fully and perfectly enlightened Buddha has it, I shall attain the topmost achievement, becoming a fully enlightened Buddha, for the sake of benefitting all limited beings. And then I shall free from the ocean of uncontrollably recurring samsaric rebirth my kind mothers and fathers.”

This is called “the pledge (to attain) the result” (’bras-bu-la dam-bca’-ba). As Acharya Shantideva says in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior (I.16), “As is understood by the distinction between aspiring to go and (actually) going, so the learned understand the distinction between these two to be as if in stages.” 

When you first think that you must go to India, this is like the pledge of aspiring bodhichitta (smon-sems). Once you have actually developed the thought of intending to go to India, when you then engage in going on the path to get there, this is like what is called “engaged bodhichitta” (’jug-sems). Shantideva’s verse is saying to apply that example. 

When that is the case, then first you need to think, “I shall attain the topmost achievement, becoming a Buddha, for the sake of benefitting all limited beings.” This is the pledge to attain the result that lies ahead. That topmost achievement of becoming a Buddha does not come from no causes and no conditions. How can it come without any causes at all? It does not come from causes that are contradictory to it, nor does it come from incomplete causes. Therefore, you need to train in the unmistaken path of Mahayana, complete with all the causes – namely, the far-reaching attitudes (the perfections) of generosity and so on. When you think, “I shall train in those” and you have actually applied yourself to that, you have developed engaged bodhichitta on your mental continuum.

This is the indispensable cause for actualizing becoming a Buddha. 

To benefit all limited beings, you first must have the thought that is intent on the attainment of becoming a Buddha. If you are not intent on becoming a Buddha, then you can put aside being able to benefit all limited beings. Therefore, this intent to attain Buddhahood is said, here, to be indispensable.

When you have this state of mind, whatever roots of constructive potential you have built up all become causes for coming to be a fully enlightened Buddha. There are many praises of this that are spoken of in The Mahayana Basket of Sutras. 

All the benefits of this are spoken of in The Mahayana Basket of Sutras. Similarly, there is a great deal said about this in Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior.

Equalizing Self and Others

As for the meditation on equalizing self and others, meditate thinking, “Since, just as I wish to be happy, all limited beings also wish to be happy; therefore, just as I work to bring about my own happiness, I need also to work to bring about happiness for all limited beings. And just as I do not wish to have suffering, all limited beings also wish not to have suffering; therefore, just as I work to eliminate my own suffering, I need also to work to eliminate the sufferings for all limited beings.”

In terms of equalizing yourself and others, then, you and other limited beings are equal in wishing to have happiness and equal in wishing to be parted from suffering. 

Exchanging Self and Others

As for the meditation on exchanging self and others, imagine before you this root mother of yours and meditate thinking, “This mother has been so kind but, oh dear, she lives (a life) in the nature of suffering. May all her suffering and destructive behavior ripen on me, and may I come to experience (their results). May all my happiness and constructive behavior ripen on her, and may this mother attain Buddhahood.”

Meditate, thinking, “May the negative potential built up from beginningless samsaric rebirth by that mother and its resultant suffering of further samsaric rebirth in the worse states of existence come to ripen on me.” Then think, “I shall give to this mother all the constructive potential I have built up throughout the three times.” Then, with tong-len, giving and taking, imagine, in accord with your lama’s quintessence teachings, that, as you inhale your breath, the negative potentials and sufferings of that mother, taking the form of rays of darkness, dissolve into you. When you exhale your breath, imagine that the constructive potentials and happiness that you yourself have built up throughout the three times dissolve into that mother as rays of brilliant daylight like the sun having risen and think that she has gained the bliss of the ultimate state. Gorampa is saying that, practicing like that, you need to meditate on tonglen over and again. 

Once you have come to be able to practice a proficient tonglen toward that mother and then, when you are able to practice it toward your father and relatives, you need to meditate on it toward those whom you find difficult to generate it with, such as your enemies, the same as you did above.

Likewise, you need to meditate, individually, with respect to your other relatives, to limited beings that you have seen or heard of, to enemies who have caused you harm, and to suffering beings such as those in the worse states of rebirth. Finally, after gathering into yourself, collected all together, the sufferings of all limited beings, then meditate that your happiness and constructive potentials become the causes, provisionally, for whatever resources they wish for and, ultimately, for their attainment of Buddhahood.

There is a verse that goes along with this practice, “May the sufferings of wandering beings, who have all been my mother, ripen upon me. May all my happiness and constructive potentials bring fulfillment to every wandering being.” Reciting this with your speech and thinking this with your mind is this form of mind training. It is a peerless method.

Since this is the essence of Mahayana practice, the secret words of all the Buddhas of the three times, then, although it might be useful to give the reasons for the necessity of meditating like this, scriptural quotations that make it be known, and (an analysis) to disperse doubts about the method for meditating, I shall not elaborate since it would become too long.

Gorampa is saying that if we need more elaboration, we should look at Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior and A Filigree of Mahayana Sutras, and the like.

From aspiring bodhichitta up until here, as explained before, you definitely need to have as a preliminary taking the safe direction of refuge and enhancing your bodhichitta aim. In addition, meditating on guru-yoga as well would be excellent.

Gorampa is saying that if you have entered onto the pathway of secret mantra and have received an initiation – if you are someone like that – then if you visualize your root guru and the other lamas from whom you have received Dharma teachings as Vajradhara, representing the essential nature of all of them incorporated into one, and then make requests to these lamas to be able to develop these pathway minds on your mental continuum, that would be extremely excellent.

At the conclusion of your meditation sessions on all these points to focus on, seal them with prayers of dedication and, further, remain mindful of them throughout all your activities – moving about, walking, sleeping or sitting.

The point here is that whenever you practice, you need to have it be complete with preparatory practices, an actual fundamental part, and a concluding practice. As preparatory practices, take the safe direction of refuge and make requests for inspiration. As the actual fundamental part, meditate to the best of your ability. Then, at the conclusion, dedicate the roots of your constructive acts for them not to diminish, but to increase further and further and, ultimately, to act as a cause for becoming a Buddha. 

For this, you need to make a definitional dedication with a purity of the three circles – non-conceptual cognition of the voidness of yourself making the dedication, of the aim to which it is dedicated, and of the act of dedication. Do this while reciting, “By this constructive act, may all beings complete their networks of positive force and deep awareness and thereby attain the two pure Buddha Bodies that arise from that positive force and deep awareness. Just as the heroic Vira Manjushri has attained omniscient awareness and Samantabhadra has likewise attained it as well, I dedicate all these constructive acts so that I may train in the footsteps of them all.” Although you cannot attain that omniscience now as an ordinary being, nevertheless, make the dedication to be able to practice in a way that is similar to that of the heroic Vira Manjushri and Samantabhadra, with purity of the three circles involved.

Up to here, Gorampa has explained, “If you cling to this life, you are not a Dharma practitioner. If you cling to samsaric rebirth, you do not have renunciation, the determination to be free. If you cling to your own benefit, you do not have a bodhichitta aim.” Now:

When You Have Parted from Clinging to the Four Extremes, You Have Made Confusion Dawn as Deep Awareness

Concerning the fourth (parting), “When you have parted from clinging to the four extremes, you have made confusion dawn as deep awareness,”

The abiding nature of all phenomena is parted from the four extremes: they are not existent, nor are they non-existent; they are not both existent and non-existent; nor are they neither existent nor non-existent.

In the tradition of another quintessence teaching, there are the two – a stilled and settled state of mind of shamatha and an exceptionally perceptive state of mind of vipashyana.

In another quintessence teaching besides the one on mind training, there is meditation on shamatha first and then meditation on vipashyana.

Further, for vipashyana, there is meditation on the selflessness of persons and meditation on the selflessness of phenomena. Nevertheless, in this tradition,

In the Sakya mind training tradition of parting from the four clingings, the practices for attaining shamatha are the common ones, shared with others. Having come to know well what absorbed concentration and so on are, then, to meet with them face-to-face, you need to practice what are their causes, which are known as the nine stages for settling the mind. These you need to listen to and learn from a lama who is your spiritual teacher. 

There are many practices – shamatha on the basis of an object and without a basis. The method, then, for settling your mind single-pointedly in absorbed concentration is shamatha. After that, vipashyana focuses on cognizing the abiding nature of all phenomena, just as it is.

During the period of total absorption, there is meditation on three points: (1) appearances are established as being of the mind, (2) the mind is established as being illusory, and (3) what is illusory is established as being without a self-establishing nature. During the subsequent attainment period, there is the practice of the view that everything is like an illusion and a dream, without clinging to anything.

As for what are called “the period of total absorption” (mnyam-bzhag) and “the subsequent attainment period” (rjes-thob) – after you sit down to meditate with absorbed concentration, then the period during the session is what is called “the period of total absorption.” What is called “the subsequent attainment period” is what you subsequently attain or realize while going about, walking, eating, sleeping, speaking and so on, after you have released your state of absorbed concentration. During these occasions, there is the practice of recognizing, without any mental wandering, that all your actions through the three gateways of your body, speech and mind are like in a dream and an illusion. 

For these, you need to meditate, having relied on the quintessence teachings of your lama. If you meditate without relying on the quintessence teachings of your lama, this is a great basis for confusion and mistakes. For those who are fortunate and have some karmic potential for this view, they will be able to meet with it face-to-face. But for those who do not have the good fortune or karmic potential, then as Manjushri Sakya Pandita has said, “Meditation by the foolish on mahamudra serves mostly as a cause for rebirth as an animal. At best, they will attain a shravaka listener’s balanced absorption on cessation and, at worst, a rebirth on the plane of formless beings.” That being so, this is something about which there can be great confusion and mistakes.

If you meditate on whatever you want, without relying on the quintessence teachings of your lama, then it is a great basis for confusion and mistakes. Since you will not be able to know about this through mere words, I shall not elaborate on it.
However, what is beneficial in the short term is that 

So long as there have been no mistakes, no blunders, and no deviations regarding the path

Whatever roots of constructive force you have established, it is very important not to have the arrogance of thinking, “I am the agent of this constructive act, the constructive act is this, and therefore I have done this constructive act.”

No matter what roots of constructive force you have built up when meditating on the generation and complete stages of tantra – such as, through the gateway of your body, doing the purification practices of prostration and circumambulation or, through your speech, applying it to constructive acts such as chanting and reciting texts or, through your mind, meditating on a Buddha-figure deity – Gorampa says that the thought that these totally lack the concrete existence of grasping for truly established existence and are like a dream and an illusion is the main point.  

There is no fault, however, if, for the sake of encouraging others to engage in constructive acts, you make known that “I have done a constructive deed like this,” so long as you do not conceal any mistakes you have made. 
Therefore, whenever you establish a root of positive force or accomplish some everyday mundane activity, if you remain mindful, thinking, “It is like a dream, or it is like an illusion,” it will act as a cause for realizing the view. Since that is the case, it is important to maintain such mindfulness like that.


Like this, there are four stages to this path. As for the first, since you are working to actualize your aims for your future lives and beyond, it is called, “having your mind go toward the Dharma.”

When you have meditated well on the difficulty of finding a human rebirth with respites and enrichments, death and impermanence, karmic cause and effect, and so forth, it is impossible not to develop the thought, wishing, “I must actualize a Dharma teaching to secure the benefit of my future lives, since this life has no essence at all.” That is called, “having your mind go toward the Dharma.”

As for the second, since you are working to actualize the pathway minds to liberation, having abandoned samsaric existence, it is called, “making the Dharma function as a pathway of mind.”

Having come to know very well the drawbacks of uncontrollably recurring samsaric existence, you understand that no matter where you are born in samsaric existence, from the highest peak of compulsive existence to the lowest hell of the trapped beings, there is not even a sliver of happiness. Having understood this and so, having abandoned samsaric existence, it is impossible not to develop the thought, wishing, “I must actualize the pathway minds to the liberation and attain liberation parted from all sufferings.” That is called “making the Dharma function as a pathway of mind,” namely the Dharma methods for actualizing the pathway minds to the liberation.

As for the third, since you are acting in accord with the vast vehicle of Mahayana, having abandoned wishes for the modest vehicle of Hinayana, it is called, “making the pathway minds eliminate confusion.”

Liberation from the sufferings of the three planes of samsaric existence by ourselves alone is no good; that is a terrible wish. All limited beings have been our mothers and fathers. To keep in mind the sufferings of all these limited beings who have been our parents and yet to wish for happiness only for ourselves – these two thoughts are totally discordant with each other. Therefore, having developed the wish that you must free from suffering just all these limited things and lead them to the enlightened stage of a Buddha, generate bodhichitta with your aspirational thoughts and, with your actions, train in the six far-reaching attitudes, the six perfections, having abandoned all wishes for the modest vehicle of Hinayana. That is called “making the pathway minds eliminate confusion” – by acting in accord with the six perfections, eliminating the confusion of wishing for your own happiness alone.

As for the fourth, since you are acting in accord with the meaning of the abiding nature of reality, having abandoned the extremes of the mental fabrication of grasping for extremes, it is called, “making confusion dawn as deep awareness.”

All phenomena are parted from the mental fabrication of the four extremes – they neither arise from themselves, nor do they arise from something else, nor do they arise from both or from neither of the two. They are neither existent, nor are they non-existent, nor are they both or neither of the two. They are parted from the extremes of absolutism and nihilism, as well as from all going and coming. Acting in accord with the meaning of the abiding nature of reality, which is parted from confusion – namely, the confusion of all these mental fabrications that grasp for all these extremes – is called “making confusion dawn as deep awareness.”

While practicing the main points of the path like this and leading your everyday life, then to make your body meaningful, make prostrations and circumambulations. To make your speech meaningful, offer praises to the Buddhas and bodhisattvas and read profound sutras.

Read profound sutras such as The Condensed (Sutra) on Far-Reaching Discriminating Awareness (Shes-rab-kyi pha-rol-tu phyin-pa bdus-pa) and A Concert of Names of Manjushri (’Jam-dpal mtshan-brjod), as well as the prayer from Engaging in Bodhisattva Behavior (Byang-chub sems-pa’i spyod-pa-la ’jug-pa), and so forth.

To make your mind meaningful, meditate on love, compassion, and bodhichitta. To make your wealth meaningful, make offerings to the Three Precious Gems, help and show respect to the monastic community, and so forth. If you join all these with pure prayers, it is certain that you will attain complete Buddhahood endowed with all good qualities and no faults.

Condensation of the Essential Points in Verse

To put into verse the condensed essential points once more: 
Understanding, full well, the difficulty of finding a bodily basis for accomplishing pure Dharma and that it’s impermanent, in the nature of something that perishes quickly, to readily accept to be ever vigilant to adopt what is positive and discard what is negative – this is the first step.

This is a guideline for abandoning clinging to this life, because, “If you cling to this life, you are not a Dharma practitioner.” 

Seeing endless numbers of wandering beings in the sea of samsara, caught in the jaws of the monsters of suffering, to develop renunciation, being keenly interested in liberation’s dry land, beyond all sorrow – this is the second step.

This is saying, “If you cling to samsaric rebirth, you do not have renunciation, the determination to be free.” 

Remembering the kindness of wandering beings, equal to space, who have over and again been your father and mother and helped you so much, to accomplish the aims of others with love, compassion, and supreme bodhichitta – this is the third step.

In saying, “If you cling to your own benefit, you do not have a bodhichitta aim,” it indicates that you will accomplish the bodhisattva path if you abandon clinging to that.

Understanding that all these things, as they appear, are from your own mind and that mind itself, being merely a network out of causes and conditions, is like an illusion, and that illusion is parted from mental fabrication, to meditate on the abiding nature of reality – this is the fourth step. 

All these appearances are manufactured by the mind; they are magical emanations of your own mind. Mind itself is like an illusion or a dream in that, except for being merely a network of mental factors that has dependently arisen from causes and conditions, it does not have truly established existence. And even that illusion, as well, is supported only by mental fabrication. Understanding that, then to totally absorb on the meaning of the abiding nature of reality, parted from mental fabrication, is the fourth step. This, then, is saying, “If grasping arises, you do not have the view.”

Having made offerings, on all occasions, to the Triple Gem and abandoned, in stages, your destructive bits, and satisfying, with your generous giving, the poor and downcast who lack a protector, if you join these with a dedication prayer having the purity of the three circles involved, it is certain that you will come to have your provisional and ultimate purposes fulfilled.
Having condensed, with this, the essential points of the Mahayana path, now, with wishes to be of some help, I present this to you, O patron of the teachings, as a gift to hold dear to your heart. Having put all this into practice, may you accomplish all aims.


The householder bodhisattva, Ralö Dorje, who, through having undividable confident belief in the precious teachings, has become a pious patron of those upholding the teachings, has requested me, saying, “I need a guideline from your enlightening speech that is a detailed training that will be of benefit to the divine Dharma.” In the face of that, I, the Buddhist monk Sonam Sengge, have written this at the sacred retreat of Dokhar (mdo-mkhar) on the third day of the waxing moon in the constellation Pleiades. Later, I shall offer you the essential points concerning karmic cause and effect, together with the quotations from the sutras that are their sources. May all be auspicious; may all be constructive.