The Great Chariot

by Longchenpa | 268,580 words

A Commentary on Great Perfection: The Nature of Mind, Easer of Weariness In Sanskrit the title is ‘Mahāsandhi-cittā-visranta-vṛtti-mahāratha-nāma’. In Tibetan ‘rDzogs pa chen po sems nyid ngal gso’i shing rta chen po shes bya ba ’...

Part 2c - How the cause of liberation is produced

Now, if it is asked on what these goodnesses depend, and what the action of that is like, real goodness that is in accord with liberation, the true path, is accumulated as a cause of separation from defilement. Therefore, it depends on the alaya of the various habitual patterns. The fruition of separation attained by this cause of separation depends on the gotra or the essence. The essence is therefore the true cause of changeless liberation. That is the main point:

The gotra is the support of the goodness of liberation.
In having this we have the luminous nature of mind.
Spotless dharmadhatu is the naturally present gotra.
In its apparent aspect, this is the two rupakayas.

These are described by the Uttaratantra’s nine examples.
This nature of compassion exists eternally.
The Sugata has said that this is the “growable” gotra:
Its root is the luminosity of insight-wisdom.
Its essence is basic goodness, that does not have the three poisons.

This is taught as it is in the final Word of the true meaning sutras, the great teachings of all the buddhas. These are:

  • The Sutra of the Questions of King Dharantsvara (’phags pa gzungs kyi dbang phyug rgyal pos zhus pa’i mdo)
  • The Sutra requested by Glorious Garland of the Lion’s Roar Sutra (dpal phreng seng ge’i nga ro sgras zhus pa’i mdo)
  • The Sutra Requested by the Girl Precious One (bu mo rin po che gyis zhus pa’i mdo)
  • The Sutra Requested by the Goddess Immaculate One (lha mo dri ma med pas zhus pa’i mdo)e
  • The Sutra of the Dwarf Angulamala (mi’u thung sor phreng can gyi mdo)
  • The Noble Complete Great Nirvana Sutra (‘phags pa yongs mya ngan las ‘das pa chen po’i mdo )
  • The Sutra requested by Maitreya (byams pa zhus pa’i mdo )
  • The Tathagatagarbha Sutra (de bzhin gshegs pa’i snying po’i mdo)

These sutras say that within all sentient beings is primordially existing dharmadhatu, the naturally pure space which is the nature of mind. This is Tathagatagarbha. It exists primordially. It is changeless. Its apparent aspect is rupakaya, the source of the major and minor marks. Its aspect of emptiness is dharmakaya, primordially and spontaneously present, free from all the extremes of complexity. Its qualities, in their spontaneous presence are exemplified by a jewel; in their changelessness, by space; In moistening and pervading all sentient beings, it is exemplified by pure water. The Uttaratantra says:

Like a jewel, space, or pure water;
Its nature has never had kleshas.

Even at the very time it is obscured by defilements, its essence is undefiled suchness. The nature of mind is primordial luminosity.

The Prajñaparamita in Eight thousand Lines (brgyad stong pa) says:

Mind is not mind. The nature of mind is luminosity.

That is the dhatu of buddhahood, the gotra or enlightened family which all sentient beings possess. The Uttaratantra says:

Because the perfect buddha kaya radiates
Because of suchness being inseparable,
And because of possessing the dhatu, every sentient being
Always possesses the very essence of buddhahood.

This should be known to be the good dhatu of the Dharma. It is fundamentally enlightened from the beginning. Reciting the Names of Mañjushri (namasamgiti, mtshan brjod) says:

Buddhahood is without a beginning and end.
The first of the buddhas is without any bias.

The Two Segments (brtags pa gnyis pa) says:

Sentient beings are buddhas, in actuality,
But obscured by incidental obscurations.
When these are cleared away, then they are buddhas.

Even at the time of being a sentient being, the nature of mind has the buddha qualities of the apparent aspect, rupakaya, and the buddha qualities of the emptiness aspect, dharmakaya; but they are obscured by unremoved defilements. This is called the dhatu or gotra.

At the time of buddhahood, mind free from all defilements is called enlightenment. The difference is merely in the appearance or non-appearance of the perfected power of the nature, mind itself. It is not maintained that first, at the time of being a sentient being, the qualities are non-existent, and later they are newly produced. This is because they are changeless. The Sutra of the Completely Showing the Essence (snying po rab tu bstan pa’i mdo) says:

The element of time without beginning
Exists as the place of all phenomena.
Since it exists, all beings have reached nirvana.
As it was before, it will be later.
So it is in the changeless state of suchness.

The luminous nature of mind is not obscured by the kleshas. The Uttaratantra says:

The nature of the mind is luminosity.
It is just as changeless as the space of the sky.
By the rising of false conceptions, desire and so forth obscure it,
But its nature is not obscured by incidental defilements.

The divisions are the primordial gotra and the removable gotra, whose arising depends on clearing away incidental defilements. As for their beginningless existence as dharmin and dharmata, the Nirvana Sutra (mya ngan las ‘das pa’i mdo) says:

O son of noble family, the nature of mind is naturally luminous and naturally essenceless. The way naturally pure mind appears is by participating in buddha qualities that blaze with the major and minor marks, and not being separate from them. Nevertheless, its empty and apparent natures are distinguished.

The established gotra, superimposed on the primordial gotra, is the occasions of arousing bodhicitta and so forth, the upaya and prajña of the paths of learning. Purification occurs through the activities of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom. The Gandavyuha Sutra says:

Kye, sons of the Victorious One! This which is called the gotra of enlightenment is genuine dharmadhatu. It is vast like the sky. When its naturally luminous nature has been seen, training in accord with the great accumulations of merit and wisdom is purified.

The Uttaratantra says:

Like the buried treasure and the fruit
The two aspects of the gotra should be known
They are the beginningless natural presence
And supremacy that truly is received.

As is taught, arising from these two gotras,
The trikaya of the Buddha is attained.
By the first arises the first of the kayas,[1]
By the second rise the subsequent two.[2]

All the splendor of svabhavikakaya,
Like the precious statue of the Buddha.
Is self-arising and therefore unproduced.
It is a mine of precious qualities.

Because of its great dominion over the dharmin,
It is fully expressed, like a universal monarch.
Its phenomenal nature is like a reflection,
With emanation-bodies like forms of gold.

Svabhavikakaya is mind itself, the naturally existing gotra. This is like a naturally existing jewel. From within it comes the gotra with the nature of thedharmin. It is the support of the universal monarch ofsambhogakaya, and the reflected emanation arising in dependence on it, nirmanakaya, the supreme emanation for those who are to be tamed. At the time of existing as a sentient being, these do not appear, because defilement obscures them.

By accumulating merit through arousing bodhicitta and so forth, defilements that obscurerupakaya are cleared away. By the accumulation of wisdom through emptiness meditation and so forth, obscurations are cleared away from the dharmata-svabhavikakaya, the body of the self-existing-essence, the nature of dharmas.

The support, the naturally existing gotra, is like clear water. Within it the supported, the established gotra, rises like a variety of reflections. The two exist primordially, like reflector and reflection.

Within the gotra that exists as the ground, the incidentally established gotra exists as the phenomena of knowing mind, knowable objects. These two gotras are respectively support and supported.

The dharmin exists separably with dharmata, the naturally existing gotra. As a separable fruition, it is non- existent. The produced gotra is an antidote to purify defilements. Though the two kayas exist as if they were produced effect and producing cause, there is no actual causation. The produced gotra makes the perfect buddha qualities be born as the realization of the paths of learning. This is their liberation or ripening as the level of buddhahood. The Mahayanasutralankara says:

The nature and the vast extent of its blossoming;
That these exist as support and what is supported;
Their existence and non-existence; their buddha qualities
Are what should be known as the meaning of liberation.

Sugatagarbha pervades all sentient beings. By nine examples it is taught to exist within the covering of the kleshas. The Uttaratantra says:

A buddha in a decaying lotus, bees and honey.
Gold within a covering of an unclean nature.
Treasure in the earth, the germ within a fruit,
An image of the Buddha covered up with rags.
A king within the belly of a poor and ugly woman.

Jewels in the earth, within such forms as these,
Obscured by incidental defilements of the kleshas,
This dhatu so exists inside of sentient beings.

These nine examples are related to the obscured dhatu as it exists in ordinary individuals, arhats among the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas dwelling on the paths of seeing and meditation. Ordinary people are those who have not entered into the path; or those who have entered, but with their being obscured by the assembly of the four obscurations, passion, aggression, ignorance, and all of these together. From the four examples of the dhatu within them, first, as for the example of how the essence exists when obscured by propensities of desire, the Uttaratantra says:

Existing in a lotus that is evil-colored,
A Tathagata-statue, blazing with a thousand marks,
Having once been seen with the undefiled eye of the gods,
The statue would be removed from its mud-born lotus cover.
For Tathagatas dwelling in places without torment
Their intrinsic buddha eye sees what will later be unobscured.
Their intrinsic endless compassion will free it from obscuration.

Second is the example of the dhatu existing in a covering characterized by propensities of aggression:

Like honey that is surrounded by a swarm of bees,
Capable persons have a wish that they could acquire it.
Having seen it is there, by using skillful means,
They completely free it from the swarm of insects,
By the all-knowing eye of the great Sage himself
Having seen that the honey of the dhatu or gotra,
Has obscurations that are like the swarm of bees,
He makes them be completely abandoned and disappear.

Third is the example of the dhatu existing in a covering characterized by propensities of stupidity:

Just as kernels of grain still covered by their husks
Are not usable in that form by human beings,
And they remove the grain from out of the covering husk.
Using the part they want for food and otherwise;

Just so, mixed with defiling kleshas of sentient beings,
As many victorious ones as there are in the three-fold world,
If they are not liberated from being mixed with kleshas,
So many will not be made into victorious ones.

Fourth is the example of the essence existing in a covering manifesting kleshas characterized by the arising of passion, aggression and stupidity all together:

Just as on a journey someone’s treasured gold
In the confusion might fall into a filthy place,
That dharmin by falling there, would not have been destroyed,
Remaining there like that for many hundreds of years.

By a god who had the pure eye of the gods,
If the gold existing there was seen and found,
People would say the god established that precious thing,
This supremely precious thing, that actually was abandoned,

So the buddha qualities of sentient beings.
Have sunk and disappeared among the filth-like kleshas.
When that was seen by the Sage, to purify them of filth,
For all beings he caused the Dharma to arise.

As for the example of the dhatu existing in a covering of habitual patterns of ignorance in the arhats of the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas:

Just as in the house of a poor man, under the floor,
An inexhaustible treasure might be lying buried;
But he would not know about the existence of the treasure,
Nor would the treasure say to him that it was there;

So with the precious treasure that is within the mind,
Spotless dharmata, without adding or taking away,
When it is not realized, we experience
The impoverishment of suffering, continuously arising.

If the covering is abandoned when seen, here is the first of the two examples of what the essence is like:

Just as in a mango or in other fruits
There are undestroyed dharmas of seed and germination,
And then if there is plowed earth, as well as water and such,
The stuff of a king of trees will gradually be established.

So in the fruit of the ignorance of sentient beings,
Within the covering skin is the excellent dharma-element
Which, similarly depending on the condition of goodness,
Will gradually become the stuff of a King of Sages.

As for the second example:

As a precious statue of the Victorious One
Might be covered up in dirty tattered rags,
But still a divine one on the path might see and reveal it,
And then it would be said, “He really dwells on the path.”

So the sugata nature, wrapped in beginningless kleshas,
Having once been seen, even within an animal,
There would be a real means by which it could be freed.

From the two examples of how, within the covering of defilements to be abandoned by cultivation, there exists the splendor of the good dhatu of dharmas, as for the first:

Just as an ugly woman with no one to protect her
Staying in a shelter for the poor and homeless
Might hold a splendid king in the confines her womb,
But would not know this lord of men was in her belly.

In the refuge mission of life within this world,
Defiled sentient beings are like that pregnant woman.
With no more than she has, she will one day have her protector.
Gestation of the spotless dhatu is similar.

As for the second example:

Just as gold ore that has a big nugget inside of it
Has a external nature that is very drab,
But, having seen it, those who know it for what it is,
In order to purify the gold that is inside,
Undertake to remove the outer covering;

Having seen the luminous nature that is within us,
Although it has been covered up by the incidental;
The source of seeing what is precious in sentient beings
Removes the obscurations of supreme enlightenment.

Though the obscurations to the pure ground are many, the same text says:

Passion, aggression, and ignorance; active or as an imprint;
What is to be abandoned by seeing and meditation;
The higher bhumis respectively impure and pure,[3]
Many defilements are taught by the covering lotus and so forth.
Transcending all the divisions of closely-connecting kleshas,

By these defilements fools and those with the learning of arhats,
Are meant by respectively four and one of these examples.
Seeing and cultivation, and the pure and impure levels
Have two and two comparisons to their impurities.

Joining these examples of defilements and the essence to a determination of their meaning, the same text says:

Just as when a lotus arises from the mud,
When it first manifests, the mind is very joyful,
But afterward it decays and there is no more joy;
The joy arising from desire is like that.

Just as delicious honey is completely crawling
With irritated bees that sting like an army of spears;
Just so, if aggression rises, and swarms within our minds
Suffering will be produced within our hearts.

Just as the essence, the kernels of rice and other grain,
Is hidden by an external husk which covers it,
So sight of the essential meaning, buddhahood,
Has been obscured within the shell of ignorance.

Just as filth is something that is unsuitable,
So are those who have desire for these poisons.
That is because depending on the cause of their desire,
What is like filth will be arising everywhere.

Just as when wealth is hidden underneath the ground,
One who does not know this will not attain the treasure;
So the self-arising treasure of the nature
Is hidden in the ground of habitual patterns of ignorance.

Just as by gradual growing of the sprout and so forth
The shell of the seed is sundered, and it falls away;
So, by seeing the suchness of the natural state,
What is to be abandoned by seeing is reversed.

Those who conquer the essence of transitory collections
Through being connected to the path of the noble ones,
Make wisdom the thing to abandon on the path of meditation.
This is taught to be like being wrapped in rags.[4]

The defilements supported by the first seven bhumis,
Are like the defilement found in the covering of a womb.
Non-thought is like being free of the covering of the womb,
This completes the ripening of insightful wisdom.

Defilements associated with the three highest bhumis
Should be known like a covering of mud and clay.
By a great being’s having attained the vajra view,
The vajra-like samadhi destroys that covering.

Thus the many defilements of desire and so forth
Are like the examples of a decaying lotus and so forth.

The Enumeration of Dharmas of the Complete Passing Beyond Suffering of the Noble One (‘phags pa yongs su mya ngan las ‘das pa chen po’i chos kyi rnam grangs) says

Then the Bhagavan spoke to Kashyapa. “O son of noble family, it is, for example, like this. A wealthy king had on his forehead a vajra jewel. When he was with other wealthy ones, radiating power, it touched the heads of those other wealthy ones.

“Then the jewel on the forehead sunk inside his flesh, and he did not know where it had gone. Because a wound arose, he asked a doctor, Cure me.” After this instruction, the very capable doctor did not treat him for that wound of the jewel going into his flesh, saying these words,

“‘Kye most powerful one, why are you asking about your forehead-jewel?’

“That wealthy one, having become angry, said to the doctor, “Because my forehead jewel should not go anywhere.”

“He would think, “Is it an illusion that it is not there?” This would produce much suffering.

“Then that doctor producing joy in that wealthy one would say, “Do not produce suffering like that. If you emanate power, the jewel will sink into your flesh, and a mere reflection will appear externally. If you emanate power, aversion will arise. So by the power of the jewel it has sunk into your flesh, and it is not perceived.”

“Not believing these words that were said, the king said, “Doctor don’t lie. If it sinks into my flesh, which is matter and blood that is very opaque, it is not reasonable that a reflection would appear.”

Then the doctor would say, “A mirror is likewise opaque, but a jewel will also clearly appear in that.
When you have seen that this is like that, a wondrous, marvelous perception will arise.”

“O son of noble family, all sentient beings are like that. Since they do not venerate the spiritual friend, even though they have the buddha nature they cannot see it. It is obscured by passion, aggression, and ignorance. Many different beings who have so been overcome are within samsara and suffering.

“From that nature, O son of noble family, from within the bodies of all sentient beings come the ten powers, the thirty-two major marks, and the eighty excellent minor marks.”

This has been taught in many ways. The Hevajra says:

Within the body there exists the great wisdom
It is truth that abandons all conceptions.
Universal, it pervades all things.
It is in the body but does not rise from the body.

The Precious Garland says:

I and limitless sentient beings are primordial buddhas.
By the power of discursive thoughts there is samsara.
Instead I shall arouse the excellent mind of enlightenment.

The Wisdom of the Moment of Death says:

Whoever realizes mind is a buddha. Produce the supreme perception by not searching anywhere else.

The Praise of the Vajra of Mind (sems kyi rdo rje bstod pa) says:

Water that exists within the earth
Exists there pure without defilement.
Just so, within the covering of the kleshas,
Wisdom exists without defilement.

The Secret Essence says:

Throughout the ten directions and four times,
Perfected buddhas are nowhere to be found.
Except for the perfect buddha, the nature of mind,
Do not look for any other buddha.
The victorious ones themselves, if they should search,
Would never find it anywhere else at all.

So it is taught, there and elsewhere. In brief, by the example of the dar yug chen po, the silk banner representing the great third thousand-fold world realm of a billion worlds, and so forth it should be known that within all sentient beings primordially exist the kayas and wisdoms of buddhahood, without anything needing to be added and subtracted, like the sun and its light. That dhatu is always naturally pure. Its self-nature never changes. Its defilements are false conceptions and mere temporary changes. The commentary on the Uttaratantra says:

O great rishi, The kleshas are darkness. Complete purity is light.The kleshas are weak. Clear seeing is strong. The kleshas are temporary. Natural purity is the root.

By that and the following it is taught. Since the dhatu is primordially without defilement, it is pure. Since it is changeless, it is the true self. Since it always exists, it is permanent. Though it falls into the sufferings of samsara, it is not overcome by them, and so it is the perfection of bliss. The Uttaratantra says:

Purity, self-nature, bliss, and permanence
Are the perfect qualities of the fruition.

The dhatu of the Tathagata pervades all sentient beings. The Mahayanasutralankara (mdo sde rgyan) says:

Just as space is maintained as eternal and omnipresent,
This too is maintained to be eternal and omnipresent.
Just as space is an aspect found within all forms,
This too is in all the assembly of sentient beings.

When this essence is obscured by the kleshas, they do not stain it, any more than the sun is stained when obscured by clouds. At the time of primordial buddhahood, the dhatu exists indestructibly and inseparably. The commentary to the Uttaratantra says:

The dhatu of the Tathagata existing in the three occasions is present within all beings. All their kleshas and phenomenal appearances are composed of this changeless reality.

As regards the three occasions, the Uttaratantra says:

Having impurity, having both purity and impurity,
And having purity that is utter and complete
Are respectively said to be the occasion of sentient beings,
That of bodhisattvas, and that of Tathagatas.

The impure situation is that of sentient beings. That which is both pure and impure is that of bodhisattvas. Complete purity is the situation of the buddhas. As for an example of what the gotra is like, it is unique and cannot be expressed by any example like it. Teaching that the Tathagata is similar regarding examples, the same text says:

Since it is completely beyond the world,
No example is seen within the world.
Therefore the Tathagata and the dhatu
Are taught to be alike in this respect.

As to how it is incomparable, since it is a single essence with different situations, an explanation with many examples would be merely partial characterization of it.

It may be asked, “How can this gotra be seen as it is? Beings who do not see the natural state are accepted by the spiritual friend. Those who have devotion to the vehicles of the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas; and also beings dwelling on the bhumis realize it in a single way. This realization is one with that of the bodhisattvas dwelling on the tenth bhumi. As for this being the way it really is, it is not seen otherwise even by the buddhas themselves. The commentary to the Uttaratantra says:

Seeing clouds, you have a similar apprehension as you do for the sky. The noble ones whose eye of the mind is pure also see all this very clearly. Bhagavan, your completely pure apprehension of dharmakaya sees all the limitless knowable objects pervading the space of the sky.

The dhatu or essence is the buddha field of the three kayas of one’s own mind itself, along with their wisdoms, exist as the circle of the ornament. How is this seen? Since this is buddhahood, it is properly explained in these texts. By having faith in the paths of learning, it is entirely apprehended. The former text says:

The absolute truth of the self-arisen ones
Has to be realized along with faith.
The blazing light in the circle of the sun
Is not seen by those who have no eyes.

The Sutra on the Essence of Buddhahood (sangs rgyas kyi snying po’i mdo) says:

No matter what they rely on, individual sentient beings, shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas do not see the essence of the buddhas as it is. For example, as a blind man cannot see what is painted by others in oil colors. When they say, “it is like this pillar, he touches the pillar with his hands and grasps it as cold. They say, “it is like the wings of a swan.” By hearing the sound of the wings of a swan the color of a pillar is grasped as a fluttering sound. He asks, “What is the color of those wings like?” “It is like a conch.” By touching a smooth conch, he grasps it as smooth. Just as a blind person does not know colors as they are, seeing the highest nature of buddhahood is very difficult.


It is also very hard for sentient beings to realize it. The same text says:

A king assembled many blind men, and having shown them an elephant. Asked to describe the characteristics of an elephant, those who had touched the trunk said, “it is like a hook.” Those who touched the eye said, “It is like a bowl. Those who touched the ear said, “It is like a winnowing basket. Those who touched the back said, “It is like a tray. Those who touched the tail said, “It is like a rope.” These blind men were not talking about anything other than an elephant, but they had not understood its totality.

The buddha nature is also like that. Those who have said different things, that it is emptiness, like illusion, luminous and so forth, have not realized its totality.

Beings who are noble ones have a little realization of it, but not as it is. The Nirvana Sutra says:

O son of noble family For example, it is like this. A blind man in order to have his eyes healed went to a capable physician. The physician, holding a gold knife, removed the hindrance. Having cut off the cataract that obscured the eye. He lifted up a finger. When he showed it, the blind man said, “I do not see it.” If he showed two or three fingers, the patient would say, “I see a little bit.”

O son of noble family, if this Sutra of Complete great Nirvana is not taught, as many are not among the bodhisattvas, even after they have perfected the ten perfections, even when they abide on the tenth bhumi, they will not see the nature of buddhahood. It is like that. When this is taught by the Tathagata, they will see it a little.

The birds soaring in the sky above must examine where the pure sky is. If a swan is in the top of a tree it examines whether it is a tree or water, and thinking about the top of a ship on the ocean, or in space, also knows the top of the second. Though by such examples the essence is not seen, it is taught to be the manner of non-ascertaining seeing.

If it is asked, “what is the use of teaching this essence that is so subtle and difficult to examine, and that is not seen with certainty while we are sentient beings?”

By teaching that the essence of buddhahood exists within the being of oneself and others, having reversed our discouragement, knowing that establishing liberation is not difficult, we gain confidence.

Eliminating contempt for other sentient beings, we respect everyone equally with the teacher as buddhas. Having eliminated not knowing that realization of the kayas and wisdoms exists within us as true reality, prajña realizes the space of the absolute.

Knowing the natural state like that, it eliminates glorifications and deprecations of “is” and “is not,” and eternalism and nihilism.

Then wisdom realizes true reality, and the supreme self. Having eliminated pride and desire for anything more, it sees self and other as equal.

It is taught that these are the five necessities for the arising of the great kindness for others. The Uttaratantra says:

Like clouds, dreams, and illusions, and the other examples,
All the dharmas of knowables are always emptiness.
When this has been taught by victorious ones to sentient beings,
Why do they also teach them that they have the essence?

To answer that question the same text says:

Contempt for lesser ones and disenheartened beings,
Joining those who grasp untruth to the truth of Dharma,
And for those who have abundant faults of ego-grasping
It is taught so that those like that will abandon them.

As for those who wrongly slight the body, those enslaved by the golden net of wrong view, or those who support intention of the sutras of the true meaning and secret mantra with partialities, their “essential meaning” is really provisional. They teach the intention to be, “If the cause occurs, the fruition will arise.”

It is not like that. That is like the eternal self of the Hindu extremists.

“The two kayas of buddhahood arise from the two accumulations. This should be stated as definitely true.”

O you with your lotus net of eternalism, you truly do not know the intention of saying that there were three turnings to the wheel of Dharma. You are truly grasping the extreme of emptiness.

The first turning of the word, intended for beginners and those of weak mind, made the four noble truths and renunciation into an antidote. This was so that these beings could eliminate samsara, as a means of complete liberation from what is to be abandoned.

In the second turning, intended for them eventually when they had completely abandoned this approach and intended for those of intermediate capacity of mind, he taught the eight examples of illusion and emptiness like space. This was a means of liberating them from the bondage of grasping the antidote.

For those who reached that goal and from the viewpoint of those of the highest powers, he taught the self- nature of knowables as it really is. This is not like the self of the Hindu extremists. Their impossible self is a nonexistent, exaggerated nature. They make measures of greater and lesser, and therefore they do not maintain the dharmas of the kayas and wisdoms.

Your assertion that self and non-emptiness were taught simply as an antidote for those who are attached to egolessness and emptiness is not the true meaning. The Nirvana Sutra says:

O son of noble family, moreover it is like this. For example a woman was nursing her small child who was afflicted by mouth rot, and when the child was struck by sickness, that woman too was tormented by suffering, and sought out a physician. The physician gave her as medicine, oil and milk and shakara. When the child was given this to drink, he instructed the woman with these words.

“Because we are giving medicine to this child, for a little while until you, the mother, are cured, the child should not be given your milk to drink.” So he would instruct her.

Then so that it would not nurse, he put bile on her nipples. The child would have said that her nipple was smeared with poison and not suitable for sucking. The child, tormented by thirst, desired the breast, but having tasted it, would not take it.

After being treated by the physician the woman would wash her breast clean. When the child cried, she would go to it. “Now take the breast and nurse,” she would say. That child, though tormented with thirst, because of the former taste it experienced, would not come when called.

In this instance the mother would give these instructions. “You have drunk the medicine I gave you before. With this medicine, until the mother is cured, since it is not proper that the nipple be given for nursing, it was smeared with bile. Now, even taking your medicine, the nipple will have no taste in your mouth.” When she said that, gradually approaching as before, the child would drink.

Son of noble family, The Tathagata also, in order to liberate all sentient beings, is the persistent teacher of egolessness to sentient beings. By his having persistently done that, the attitude of “ego” becomes non-existent. Suffering is completely eliminated. This is in order to clear away the bad views of the worldly charvakas. By meditating on the dharma of egolessness, the body will become completely pure.

Just as that woman, because of her son, smeared bile on her breast, the Tathagata too is like that. So that there will be emptiness meditation, he teaches that all dharmas are selfless.

Just as that woman later washed off the bile and called her child, saying take the nipple and nurse, my teaching Tathagatagarbha is like that. O monks so that you will not be afraid, as the mother called the child, and it gradually drank her milk, O monks, you too should make a distinction.

Tathagatagarbha should not be said to be non-existent. In my former sayings in the Prajñaparamita Sutras, which taught emptiness, understand that the intention was merely naturelessness. Otherwise by meditating on the emptiness of nothing at all, the fruition produced would accord with the cause, and the kayas and wisdoms would not arise.

Emptiness expresses the ideas that the apparent dharmin, from the time it appears, is empty of complexities grasped as one and many, and empty of individual existences, like the reflections in a mirror; that all extremes are completely non-existent; and that non-existent now and primordially, things are not like their confused appearance. The Heart Sutra (shes rab snying po) says:

Form is emptiness. Emptiness is form. Emptiness is nothing other than form. From is nothing other than emptiness. Similarly, feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness are emptiness.

The Middle Length Prajñaparamita says:

Every dharmin in its own turn is taught to be empty of essence.
But if it is also formless, how will there be the view that form is empty?

The Uttaratantra says:

The emptiness that has the supreme of all aspects
Is emptiness that is expressed as form.

And also:

Here there is nothing at all that is to be cleared away,
And nothing that is to be added to what there is.
Within reality the real is what is seen.
If thus we see the truth, we will be liberated.

Of what has the characteristic of separability
The dhatu, pure of the incidental, is empty.
Of that which has the characteristic of being inseparable,
The unsurpassable dharmas, the dhatu is not empty.

Its commentary says:

Why is this taught here? For the reason that the dhatu of the Tathagata is by nature completely pure from all the causal characteristics of the kleshas that are to be cleared away.

It is free from incidental obscurations because it is its nature t o be so. Within this there is nothing to be added for reasons of phenomenal appearance. Completely undivided dharmata is also its nature. Therefore, sugatagarbha, which has divisions and what is separable, is empty of all the separable coverings of the kleshas. What is indivisible and inseparable from it is the dharmas of buddhahood beyond being encompassed by thought, surpassing in number the grains of sand in the Ganges. They are not empty.

When something does not exist in something else, the latter is said to be empty of the former; but we must subsequently assert that whatever remains there eternally exists and is known truly as it is.

Though obscurations of the two primordial kayas of buddhahood are cleared away by the two accumulations, they are not producing cause and produced effect. If they were, dharmakaya and sambhogakaya would be composite productions, and hence impermanent. However, dharmakaya is changeless. The Madhyamakavatara says (‘jug pa):

The kaya of peace is like a wish fulfilling tree,
Like a wish-fulfilling, gem it is inconceivable.
Till beings are liberated, it is always in the world,
And it will appear without complexity.

The Uttaratantra says:

The Mara of Death has been conquered by the Lord of Dharma.
Being without essence, he is the permanent lord of the world.

Contradicting this idea that it has cause and effect it also says:

Uncompounded and self-existing,
Unrealized by other conditions,
Having wise and compassionate power,
Buddhahood has the two benefits.

That refutes its having a producing cause and produced effect. Saying it is “egoless,” “emptiness,” “non-dual,” and so forth should be understood in this way. The Great Nirvana Sutra says:

The secret essence of the Tathagata is shown to be the completely pure buddha nature that neither changes nor transmigrates. If it so exists, it is logically wrong for those who are skilled in prajña not to maintain that. To say it is non-existent would be false speaking, and likewise to say that it has development or succession. Those of the race of fools espouse nihilism, not knowing the secret essence of the Tathagata.

If it is said to suffer, the blissful nature could not be within the body. Stupid fools think, “All bodies are impermanent.” This is like sending the freshness of awareness into clay. Those skilled in prajña make distinctions. They do not say that everything connected with body is impermanent in every way. Why? Because within our bodies there exists the seed of buddha nature.

Stupid fools grasp the thought that all the dharmas of buddhahood are selfless. For those skilled in prajña, selflessness too is just an abstract label. It should be discriminated as having no true existence. Knowing this, one will produce no doubts about the matter.

When someone says that Tathagatagarbha is emptiness, stupid fools give rise to views of nihilism and non-existence. Those skilled in prajña make a distinction. Within human beings there is the single Tathagata. It is said to be eternally existent, unchanging, and does not transmigrate.

If by the condition of ignorance, composite things are said to arise, stupid fools, when they have heard this, think that insight and ignorance must be distinguished as two. Those skilled in prajña realize that their natures are non-dual. That which is non-dual is reality.

When someone says that by formations consciousness arises, stupid fools grasp formations and consciousness as two. Those who are skilled in prajña realize their natures as non-dual. Non- duality is purity.

All dharmas have no self, and Tathagatagarbha also has no self. When this is said, stupid fools grasp it dualistically. Those skilled in prajña realize that their natures are non-dual. Self and selflessness are intrinsically non-dual. Tathagatagarbha has been supremely praised by the buddha bhagavats as immeasurable, beyond evaluation, and limitless. I too have taught this in all the sutras about the qualities it possesses.

So it should be known. The Sutra of Miraculous Display (rnam par ‘phrul pa’i mdo) says:

Those who have wrong craving have the characteristic of never transcending suffering.

When this is taught regarding those of the cut off family, we may think that not all beings are pervaded by the garbha; but it is not like that. The intention is that those with wrong craving who abandon the Mahayana Dharma will not be liberated for a long time. Those who are turned back from the path are only temporarily cut off from the family of those in whom the path is established. They are not cut off from the dhatu, the luminous nature of mind. The commentary to the Uttaratantra says:

“Those who have wrong craving have the characteristic of never transcending suffering.”

This teaches that wrong craving causes hostility towards the Dharma of the Mahayana. This is said with the intention that this hostility to the Mahayana Dharma will be reversed at another time. Because the dhatu exists with a nature that is completely pure, it is not proper to say that some will never become pure. Therefore the Bhagavat’s intention was that all sentient beings without distinction are capable of being completely purified. Though samsara is beginningless, it does have an end. The naturally pure and eternal dharmin is obscured by a covering of beginningless obscurations, and therefore not seen, just as a form of gold might be hidden.

For those reasons, since within the dhatu of dharmas all goodness exists, it can always be purified. Though,

samsara is beginningless, it has an end. By that is it established.

The reasons that the two gotras are awakened are two. As for the reason that dharmakaya, the naturally- existing gotra, is awakened, the Madhyamakavatara says:

When people hear about emptiness, as ordinary persons,
The highest joy will arise within them again and again.
Their eyes are wet with tears that flow because of this joy.
The hairs of their bodies rise with wonder and stand on end.

Within them the seed of attaining buddhahood exists!
They have become the vessels of direct and straightforward teachings.
Now the absolute truth has really been taught to them.

As for the reason that the dharmin-gotra of rupakaya is awakened, the Mahayanasutralankara says:

Why do we become connected vessels,
Practicing compassion, and devotion,
With dedication to what is truly good?
This is truly explained as due to the gotra.

Regarding the benefits of awakening the gotra, the same text says:

The lower realms are far off, and liberation is quick.
After that occurs, we experience little suffering.
By sadness sentient beings will then be quickly ripened.

Once the gotra is awakened, from then on we are liberated from the lower realms, like growing jasmine naturally falling to the ground. There is little suffering. By their intense weariness sentient beings will be ripened.

If there were no such gotra within sentient beings, no matter what sufferings arose, we would not be saddened. The attitude that aspires to nirvana and rejects samsara could not arise. The attitude of desiring liberation could also not arise. That in some, without being taught by anyone, compassion for the suffering of others arises, and that some who experience suffering develop renunciation and so forth is also due to the power of goodness of the beginningless dhatu of dharmas. The Uttaratantra says:

If there were no dhatu of buddhahood,
Suffering would never make us sad.
There would be no longing for nirvana,
Or effort and aspiration to that goal.

As regards samsara and nirvana,
Seeing their faults and virtues, pleasures and pains,
Is due to the existence of the gotra.
If the gotra did not exist, then neither would they.

Now some verses are interposed summarizing this extensive teaching that by having the gotra the essence of buddhahood exists within us:

Without exception all sentient beings have sugatagarbha.
In the covering veil of incidental obscurations,
Exists the primordial lamp, the luminous dhatu of dharmas.
This is the kayas and wisdoms. This itself is the Dharma.
Nothing can be added, and nothing taken away.

Existing within us, this itself is self-existing.
By devoting ourselves to this essence of emptiness and compassion,
Having attained this dhatu, called by the name “enlightenment,”
We benefit all the host of beings without remainder.

Primordially self-arising, like the sun in space,
When it is obscured by clouds, temporarily dimming the daylight,
Then we experience the dreamlike sufferings of samsara.
So make a powerful effort to clear away obscuration.

Confused incidental appearance, appearances of the six realms,
Are emanated like dreams, from habitual patterns and karma,
Appearing as what never was, is not, and shall not be.
The spontaneous presence of wisdom primordially exists.
It is always there, and yet it is not seen.

As what we perceive in sleep is not seen to be within us,
Dharmas defiled with false conceptions are vain and futile.
Do not grasp them, but train in the luminous nature of mind.
Grasp the two benefits, bringing wealth to oneself and others.

“If this gotra really exists in everyone, why, pray tell, are we still wandering in samsara?”

We exist this way, not knowing our own nature, because we vainly grasp at a meaningless ego. We are the lineage-holders of our own kleshas from earlier to later, and as such we are in bad company. We have poverty- mentality. We are conditioned by relative reference point. This issamsara. TheMahayanasutralankara says:

Well-trained in our kleshas, and in bad company.
With impoverished attitude, and relative reference point;
Briefly stated, these are the four that should be known.
These are the degradations that have defiled the gotra.

The Stages of Light (‘od rim) says:

Primordial luminosity itself is ignorant.
So-called “rising of mind” produces attachment to “mine.”
By these objects being grasped as being so-called “others,”
Beings become confused within the realm of samsara.
Because of their karma of inappropriate joys and sorrows,
They have the experience of individual beings.

The All-Creating King (kun byed rgyal po) says:

This phenomenal play, which is wonderful and marvelous,
Abides in actionlessness, like the space of the sky.
Ignorance without apprehension of anything,
Rises immediately from nothing but itself.

This is the path that is alike for everyone.
This is the nature, as it is within all beings.
Defiled by the removable, it therefore is confused.

Also it says there:

By gathering in the light that exists in all directions
To the limits of the four directions, above and below,
In an unpredictable rainbow whose colors are never fixed,
The different kinds of entities manifest in appearance.

Suchness moves, but particles never move at all.[5]
This is the principle one, the ruler of the five elements.

The primordial, luminous nature of mind, empty/luminous self-arising wisdom, is in essence emptiness like the sky. Its nature is luminosity like the sun and moon. The radiance of its compassion arises ceaselessly, like reflections in the surface of an untarnished mirror. The natures of dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, and nirmanakaya come from within sugatagarbha. Sugatagarbha is entirely without bias and partiality. Its empty essence is also the accommodating space of arising. Its luminous nature naturally abides as the five lights, and these naturally appear as objects. Arising as compassion, this cognitive knowledge of insight-wisdom is maintained to be confusion. The Secret Essence (gsang snying) says:

E MA HO! from out of sugatagarbha,
From out of our karmic relationships comes confusion.

At this time, the aspect that does not know its intrinsic wisdom to be its own nature is co-emergent ignorance. The aspect that fixates its own projections as other is the ignorance of false conceptions. Because of not knowing that all this has arisen within the natural state, by the power of attachment of ego-fixation to its objects, habitual patterns of the vessel, the external world, ripen as body. Habitual patterns of the essence, sentient beings within the world, ripen as mind. This is confusion, the various phenomena of the five poisons. The All-Creating King says:

When the nature of me, the doer of all, is not realized,
The dharmas created by me are imputed with fixed existence.
By the force of desire and craving, apparent things exist.
As impermanent illusion their nature is destroyed.
Their nature is gone without a trace as if we were blind.

The root of confusion is not knowing what we are. The Prajñapramitsañcayagatha says:

As many sentient beings as there may be,
Of lesser, middle, or of higher rank,
All of these have risen from ignorance.
So it has been taught by the Sugata.

The Prajñaparamita in Eight Thousand Lines teaches that confusion is conditioned by dualistic grasping:

Grasping an “I” and a “mine,” beings whirl in samsara.

The Prajñaparamita in Twenty Thousand Lines says:

Childish sentient beings perceive the non-existence of skandhas as skandhas. They perceive the non-existence of ayatanas as ayatanas. They perceive the non-existence of things that arise interdependently as interdependent arising. Therefore, they are completely within the grasp of the ripening karma of all these dharmas that are wrongly perceived in their interdependent

As to how these dharmas arise, from the two ignorances come samsaric formations. From that comes the succession of births of individual beings. Name and form are established. When the body has been established by the embryonic stages from an oval to birth, there are contact, perception, feeling, the six ayatanas, and old age and death. So with the twelve links of interdependent arising, we cycle through samsara.

“The primordial natural state cannot exist within samsara. It is not possible that sugatagarbha should be samsaric.”

Not so! It is like clear, unmuddied water becoming solid rock-like ice, in a penetrating winter wind. From the primordial state, conditioned by the arising of grasping and fixation, confused appearance presents itself as a variety of solid things. A song from the Dohakosha (do ha mdzod) says:

When the wind blows on the water, and thereby stirs it up,
The softness of the water becomes as hard as rock.
When we are stupefied through being disturbed by concepts,
What was formless becomes completely hard and solid.

Thus, regarding tathagatagarbha at the time of confusion, in the nature of mind is the primordially pure changeless essence called the applied alaya of reality, whereby from the state of dharmakaya come the existences of rupakaya, the buddha fields and perfect wisdom. These are obscured by the confused ignorance of grasping and fixation. In the alaya of the various habitual patterns, the seeds of various confused habitual patterns have rested from beginningless time. Their great power becomes individual experiences of the higher and lower realms, and so forth. As if in a dream, at the time of samsara, fixating I and ego, experiencing desire, aversion, and the five poisons, collecting karma and its habitual patterns, from meaningless confusion, we live with a variety of attachments to truly existing entities.

Day and night the wheel of confused appearance continuously turns, and since its succession is groundless, we are never liberated from it. It is like the confusion of a dream. Wandering because ofkleshas, because of good and evil, is like a prince wandering along a road, separated from his kingdom. It is intrinsically a time of suffering. Since the prince was born into a royal family, the happiness of true wealth is naturally within him; but now he suffers temporarily. As to what is taught by this example, the Song of the Oral Instruction of the Inexhaustible Treasury (mi zad pa’i gter mdzod man ngag gi glu), says:

Beings bound in samsara, as if they were tangled in vines,
In the desert of ego-grasping are utterly mad with thirst.[6]
Their grief is like the grief of a prince without a kingdom,
Separate from his father, with no chance for happiness.

As to the way tathagatagarbha exists at this time of wandering futilely on the plan of samsara, the Tathagatagarbha Sutra says:

Kye, Son of the Victorious One, it is like this. For example, the measure of a three-fold thousand world system is a dar yug chen po (one billion). That dar yug chen po perfectly records the number of all worlds of the three-fold great thousand world system. Similarly the measure of the
great surrounding wall of the world is written “the great surrounding wall of the world.”

The measure of the great earth is written “the great earth.” The measure of the second or middle thousand world realms is “the second or middle thousand world realm.” The measure a thousand world realms, is “a thousand world realms.” The fourth thousand world realms is “the fourth thousand world realms.” The measure of the great ocean is “the great ocean.” The measure of Jambuling is “Jambuling.” The measure of the eastern continent Videha is “Videha.” The measure of the western continent, Aparagodaniya is “Aparagodaniya.” The measure of the northern continent Kurava is “Kurava.” The measure of mount Meru is “Mount Meru.” The measure of the palaces of the gods of the terrestrial realm is written “the palaces of the gods of the terrestrial realm.” The measure of the palaces of the gods of the desire realm is “the palaces of the gods of the desire realm.” The measure of the palaces of the gods who course in the form- realm is written “the palaces of the gods who course in the form-realm.”

A billion is the measure of width of threefold-thousand world system. A billion is also the measure of atoms that are put into a single atom. Just as an atom enters into those billion worlds, similarly all the particles of atoms without remainder enter into the measure of that billion.

Then a few people arose, learned and wise with clear minds, having experience that fully entered into this. Their eye was the divine eye. Everything was completely pure and luminous for them. They looked with their divine eye. They saw those billion worlds abiding within this small atom. These few sentient beings could not fully understand that. They thought, “Kye ma, how excellent! By whom, by great force of effort and power was this atom divided?”

This dar yug chen po was made to sustain all beings. Since they thought that, therefore arousing great force of effort a tiny vajra having opened that atomic particle, and according to their thoughts, that dar yug chen po was made to sustain all beings. From one being like that, all atoms without remainder were thought to be just like that .

Kye Son of the Victorious One, like that the measureless wisdom of theTathagata is wisdom that sustains all sentient beings, and it dwells within the continuums of all sentient beings without incompletion. These mental continuums of sentient beings do not have a measure like that of the wisdom of the Tathagata. Though that is so, fools bound by grasping perception do not know the wisdom of the Tathagata. They do not know it at all.

They have never experienced or manifested it. Thus, by the desireless wisdom of the Tathagata, dharmadhatu, all the existences of sentient beings are completely seen, which is the perception of a master.

Kye ma, these sentient beings do not know the wisdom of the Tathagata as it truly is. The Tathagata’s wisdom continues to function. Whichever of these sentient beings are directly taught the path of the noble ones by me, all their perception-created bonds are cleared away. They are eliminated.

Footnotes and references:




Sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya.


1 Passion, 2 aggression, and 3 ignorance; 4 all acting or as 5 imprint; That to be abandoned by 6 seeing and 7 meditation;

The higher bhumis relatively 8 impure and 9 pure. This summarizes the relationship of the nine examples to the defilement removed and the level of the path on which the removal occurs.


Those who fixate conceptually established emptiness of composite dharmas become nihilists who deny the validity of the kayas, wisdoms, buddha qualities and so forth.


Because the elements are unreal.


brkams: either “have extreme craving” or “dried up.”

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