by Andreas Kretschmar | 246,740 words
The English translation of the Bodhisattvacharyavatara (“entering the conduct of the bodhisattvas”), a Sanskrit text with Tibetan commentary. This book explains the bodhisattva concept and gives guidance to the Buddhist practitioner following the Mahāyāna path towards the attainment of enlightenment. The text was written in Sanskrit by Shantideva ...
A teacher of sūtra must know the distinction between the provisional meaning [drang don] and the definitive meaning [nges don].
Düjom Rinpoche provides a very clear definition of these two levels of teachings:
The reality of all phenomena, the expanse of just what is [de bzhin nyid dbyings], the luminous realization of mind-nature—naturally pure and unchanging, beyond birth, arising, ceasing, and abiding—this space-like essence is the definitive meaning. All the teachings [bka’] and treatises [bstan bcos] which reveal it are subsumed [khongs su bsdu ba] within the definitive meaning.
All apparitions of reality [chos can snang tshod] that appear dream-like and manifesting as diverse, successive forms such as those of arising and ceasing, coming and going, purity and impurity, aggregates [phung po], elements [khams], and sense fields [skye mched], which are all appraised and exaggeratedly indicated [sgro btags] by a succession of words, thoughts and expressions are called the provisional meaning.
All the teachings and treatises which reveal them are subsumed within relative truth [kun rdzob]. For example, those which boast in words, expressions, and thoughts that mind-nature is space-like are relative truth, whereas the fundamental nature [gshis] of ultimate reality, the definitive meaning, is genuine [yang dag pa].
If one asks what are the sūtras of definitive meaning and what are the sūtras of provisional meaning? Then those sūtras which are taught in order that one might enter the path [lam] are called the provisional meaning, and those sūtras which are taught in order that one might enter the result [’bras bu] are called the definitive meaning.
Those sūtras which teach of
self, sentient beings, life itself [srog],
creatures [skyes bu],
individuals [gang zag],
personalities [shed las skyes],
personal selves [shed bdag],
doers [byed pa po],
feelers of sensations [tshor ba po],
explanations according to diverse terms [sgra rnam pa sna tshogs su bshad pa],
and of that which has no owner [bdag po med pa]
as an owner are called the provisional meaning.
The sūtras which teach of
emptiness [stong pa nyid],
of that which is signless [mtshan ma med pa],
aspirationless [smon pa med pa],
not manifestly conditioned [mngon par ’du mi ’byed pa],
uncreated [ma skyes pa],
unoriginated [ma byung ba],
insubstantial [dngos pa med pa],
without a self [bdag med pa],
without sentient beings, without life itself, without individuals, without an owner [bdag po med pa]
and without any properties even as far as the approach to liberation [rnam par thar pa’i sgo]
are called the definitive meaning.
In short, the fundamental natural state [gshis kyi gnas lugs] and the sūtras which reveal it are said to be the definitive meaning and the sūtras of this (definitive meaning), while all those teachings which guide the intellect of sentient beings by many methods to the means of entering that fundamental nature [gshis], revealing the impure bewilderment [’khrul pa], its classifications and so on, are called the provisional meaning and the teachings of the provisional meaning.
Furthermore, a teacher should know the ’four kinds of intention’ [dgongs pa rnam bzhi] with which the buddhas deliver their teachings:
- the intention directed toward sameness [mnyam pa nyid la dgongs pa];
- the intention directed toward other meanings [don gzhan la dgongs pa];
- the intention directed toward other times [dus gzhan la dgongs pa]; and
- the intention directed toward the thoughts of individuals [gang zag bsam pa la dgongs pa].
Düjom Rinpoche defines these as follows:
The intention [dgongs pa; skr. abhipraya] applies to those teachings which are included within slightly exaggerated [sgro btags] explanations and reveal indirect [kha drang par ma yin pa’i tshul] methods and purposes.
(1) Accordingly, the (Buddha’s) intention is directed toward sameness, as is exemplified in the following words spoken with an intention directed toward the sameness of the dharmakāya:
“At that time, I became the Tathāgata Vipaśyin.”
(2) When this intention is directed toward other meanings it is exemplified by the following words which were spoken with an intention directed toward the three essenceless natures [ngo bo nyid med pa gsum]:
“All phenomena are without essence.”
Now, the imaginary [kun brtags] is without essence in respect of attributes [mtshan nyid ngo bo nyid med] because in truth it definitely does not exist. The dependent [gzhan dbang] is without essence in respect of creation, because creation from the four extremes does not exist [skye ba ngo bo nyid de mu bzhi las skye ba ma grub pa]:
Things are not created from themselves because both that which was created and creation itself consist of instantaneous time moments, which renders them mutually exclusive substances [rdzas ’gal ba]. Nor are things created from something else, because the specific characteristics [rang mtshan] of that something else do not, on analysis, exist.
Then, things are not created from both (themselves and other causes), because they are mutually exclusive substances; and, (finally) without a cause, creation is impossible. The creation of whatever is apparitional and so forth instantly appears inasmuch as it is dependently originated [rten ’brel] in the manner of a mere dream or illusion.
The absolute [yongs grub] is without essence in respect of ultimate reality [don dam pa’i ngo bo nyid med] because therein (the view that) ultimate reality exists, or that the self is impure, and other such conceptual elaborations are essenceless [spros pa’i ngo bo nyid med].
(3) The (Buddha’s) intention is then directed toward other times, as exemplified in the words:
“By merely grasping (remembering) the name of the Tathāgata Vimalacandraprabha [dri med zla ’od], you will attain buddhahood.”
Although buddhahood is not attained by that alone, (the intention is that) someone who has accumulated many accumulations in the past will at some time become a buddha.
(4) The intention directed toward the thoughts of individuals is exemplified by (the buddhas’) downgrading of moral discipline [tshul khrims] and praise of liberality [sbyin pa] in the presence of certain individuals who are conceited with respect to their own moral discipline [tshul khrims mchog ’dzin gyi lta bar zhen pa rnams].
Furthermore, a teacher of sūtra must know the four kinds of covert intentions [ldem dgongs rnam pa bzhi] with which the buddhas deliver the teachings.
The ’four kinds of covert intentions’ are:
- the covert intentions with respect to entering into the teachings [gzhugs pa la ldem por dgongs pa];
- the covert intentions with respect to attributes [mtshan nyid la ldem por dgongs pa];
- the covert intentions with respect to antidotes [gnyen po la ldem por dgongs pa]; and
- the covert intentions with respect to interpretation [bsgyur ba la ldem por dgongs pa].
Düjom Rinpoche defines the term as follows:
Secondly, concerning the covert intention: It is explained that in order to induce another party [pha rol], who delights in any view whatsoever, to enter into the correct path or meaning, (the buddhas) adopt a style conforming to the needs of that person by relying somewhat on that person’s vocabulary [ming] and mannerism [cha ldan], but their meaning does not conform.
Thus, because of covert intention [ldem dgongs], when teaching, the buddhas may conform or adjust their style [tshul dang mthun pa] and presentation. However, they will never conform in meaning [don la mi mthun pa], indicating that they will in no way compromise the content of the dharma in an attempt to adapt to their audience and circumstances. Düjom Rinpoche continues:
(1) The covert intention with respect to entering is illustrated as follows. In order that certain members of those inclined to the śrāvaka [nyon thos kyi rigs can], who have not entered the greater vehicle [theg chen] out of fear of emptiness, may so ’enter’ [gzhug pa], (the buddhas) would say that form exists, and thereby the listeners would enter assuming that (form) really exists, while the teachers (the buddhas) would ’intend’ [dgongs pa] that all appearance is like a dream.
The śrāvakas are able to realize the egolessness of personal identity [gang zag gi bdag med] but not the egolessness of phenomena [chos kyi bdag med]. They feel uncomfortable with the teachings on profound emptiness. Therefore, the buddhas teach those śrāvakas that form exists, and in that way they enable the śrāvakas to begin to follow the Mahāyāna teachings on emptiness.
This method does not, however, alter the intention of the buddhas which is to have the śrāvakas eventually realize that all appearance is no more real than a dream. In that way the buddhas are skilled in the means [thabs la mkhas pa] of leading the students step by step to a deeper understanding of profound emptiness.
Düjom Rinpoche further elaborates:
(2) The covert intention with respect to attributes is exemplified as follows. In order that the natural state devoid of any essence [ngo bo nyid med pa’i gnas lugs] can be known, (the buddhas) reveal that all phenomena are devoid of an essence. The three essenceless natures [ngo bo nyid med gusm] are the imaginary [kun brtags], the dependent [gzhan dbang], and the absolute [yongs grub].
(3) The covert intention with respect to antidotes is exemplified by the following words which were spoken with an intention directed toward those beings who would think that,
“Śākyamuni is inferior to other teachers (buddhas) because he is smaller in body, shorter in lifespan and so on.”
(Therefore, Buddha Śākyamuni said),
“At that time I became the Tathāgata Vairocana.”
In this way, the listeners understand (all) the (buddhas) to be the same in their rūpakāya, while the teacher (Śākyamuni) intends (to teach) that their accumulations are equally perfected, that their attainments of the dharmakāya are equal, and that their deeds on behalf of living beings are equal.
As it is said in the Abhidharma-koṣa-kārikā:
All the buddhas are identical in their accumulations,
Their dharmakāya and their conduct
On behalf of sentient beings,
But not so in their lifespan,
Caste and physical size.
sangs rgyas thams cad tshogs dang ni
chos sku ’gro ba’i don spyod pa
mnyam pa nyid de sku tshe dang
rigs dang sku bong tshad kyis min
End of quote.
When students had doubts about Buddha Śākyamuni, thinking that he must be inferior to buddhas that had appeared in other eras due to their lifespan and physical size being greater, Buddha Śākyamuni said,
“At that time I became the Tathāgata Vairocana.”
This refers to the saṃbhogakāya buddha Vairocana called ’Great Glacial Ocean Vairocana’ [rnam snang gangs chen mtsho].
This statement by the Buddha tells us that Buddha Śākyamuni is manifest on the saṃbhogakāya level as Buddha Vairocana, named ’Great Glacial Ocean’. This saṃbhogakāya buddha is moreover indivisible from all the buddhas of the ten directions. Within each pore of his body infinite world systems appear, and within each atom of these world systems is an infinity of other worlds with infinite forms of Vairocana. Each form of Vairocana contains infinite buddhas and buddha fields. Vairocana encompasses the entirety of all world systems, and the entirety of all world systems constitutes Vairocana.
Our world system, called ’world system of endurance’ [mi mjed ’jig rten gyi khams, skr. sahalokadhātu], is an infinitely tiny segment within these oceanic world systems. On Vairocana’s palm alone are twenty-five lotuses, each containing billions of ‘third order of thousand world systems’. On the thirteenth lotus tier, at exactly the middle level of the twenty-five lotuses, our ‘third order of thousand world systems’ is found; however, our ‘third order of thousand world systems’ is merely one among billions. One ‘third order of thousand world systems’ is the field of influence of one nirmāṇakāya—in our case, of Buddha Śākyamuni.
When Buddha Śākyamuni stated that he had become ’Great Glacial Ocean Vairocana’, he eradicated all doubts concerning his possible inferiority due to the difference in his lifespan and physical size when compared with that of other buddhas. All buddhas are equal with regard to the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. Their realization of the dharmakāya, moreover, is also equal. Furthermore, they equally benefit sentient beings. Nevertheless, they differ in lifespan [sku tshe], caste [rigs], and physical size [sku bong].
Düjom Rinpoche next states:
(4) The covert intention with respect to interpretation refers to teachings given in a form which is extremely difficult to understand in order to pacify the faults of those who think,
“This doctrine is inferior to others because it is easy to understand.”
For example, it is said in the Udānavarga:
He should kill his father and mother,
And if he destroys the king and the two purities,
The country and its surroundings,
This man will become pure in nature.”
pha dang ma ni gsad bya zhing
rgyal po gtsang sbra can gnyis dang
yul ‘khor skor bcas bcom pa na
mi de dag pa nyid du ‘gyur
Now, the father and mother are craving [sred pa] and grasping [len pa] because they compound saṃsāra. The king is the all-ground [kun gzhi] because this becomes the support or ground of various habitual patterns.
The two purities [gtsang sbra gnyis] are the Brāhmaṇa view of mundane aggregates (eternalistic view) [bram ze ’jig tshogs la blta ba] and the view of those who are conceited with respect to their virtuous moral discipline and yogic discipline [dge sbyong tshul khrims dang brtul zhugs mchog ’dzin gyis blta ba].
The country and its surroundings are the eight aggregates of consciousness [rnam shes tshgos brgyad] along with the subject-object grasping of the inner sense fields [nang gi skye mched].
If all these are destroyed and purified, one becomes a buddha.
Without a teacher to explain all these different levels of interpretation, one will never truly understand the dharma. Just by reading the Buddhist texts, one will not gain genuine understanding. One needs to have the correct perspective for interpreting the scriptures. Since the texts possess many words, meanings, intentions, and purposes, it is crucial to know in what manner they are to be expounded.
Footnotes and references:
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 217-218.
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 218-220.
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, page 220.
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, page 220.
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, pages 220-221.
The term ‘third order of thousand (world systems)’ [stong gsum], often translated as ‘three thousand-fold world systems’, means 1.000 to the power of three, which equals one billion single world systems. One single world system [’jig rten gyi khams] includes Mount Sumeru, sun and moon, the four continents, the worlds of the gods of desire and the world of Brahmā.
The sum of ‘a thousand single world systems’ is called ‘the first order of a thousand world systems’ [stong dang po / stong dang po’i jig rten gyi khams / stong spyi phud kyi ’jig rten gyi khams] or ‘the lesser order of a thousand world systems’ [stong chung ngu’i ’jig rten gyi khams], which means 1.000 to the power of one.
One thousand ‘lesser order of a thousand world systems’ constitute ‘the middle order of a thousand world systems’ [stong bar ma’i ’jig rten gyi khams] or ‘the second order of a thousand world systems’ [stong gnyis pa; skr. dvi-sāhasra / stong gnyis pa’i jig rten gyi khams], which means a thousand to the power of two or one million separate world systems.
One thousand ‘middle order of a thousand world systems’ make ‘the large order of a thousand world systems’ [stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams] or ‘the third order of a thousand world systems’ [stong gsum pa; tri-sāhasra], also called ‘the third order, the larger order of one thousand world systems’ [stong gsum gyi stong chen po’i ’jig rten gyi khams; skr. tri-sāhasramahāsāhasro loka-dhātuḥ], which means a thousand to the power of three or one billion separate word systems—a trichiliocosm. For further details see Buddhist Cosmology, Illuminator, Myriad Worlds; and Prince Jiṇ-Gim’s Textbook.
Nyingmapa School of Tibetan Buddhism, page 221.
Udāna-varga (1) [ched du brjod pa’i tshoms], page 106.3.8 and Udāna-varga (2) [ched du brjod pa’i tshoms], page 76.4.4
The eight aggregates of consciousness [rnam shes tshogs brgyad; skt. aṣṭa-vijñānakāya] are 1) the consciousness of the eye [mig gi rnam par shes pa; skr. cakṣurvijñāna]; 2) the consciousness of the ear [rna ba’i rnam par shes pa; skr. śrotravijñāna]; 3) the consciousness of the nose [sna’i rnam par shes pa; skr. ghrāṇavijñāna]; 4) the consciousness of the tongue [lce’i rnam par shes pa; skr. jihvāvijñāna]; 5) the consciousness of the body [lus kyi rnam par shes pa; skr. kāyavijñāna]; 6) the consciousness of the intellect [yid kyi rnam par shes pa; skr. manovijñāna]; 7) the consciouness of the intellect endowed with afflictions [nyon mongs pa can gyi yid kyi rnam shes; skr. kliṣṭamanovijñāna]; 8) the all-ground consciousness [kun gzhi’i rnam shes; skr. ālayavijñāna].