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 ’...

1c) The objects of refuge

1) The general teaching of the ordinary and extraordinary objects of refuge

Now, regarding the supports or objects:

There are two objects of refuge, the ordinary and causal,
And the extraordinary fruition refuge object.
As for the premises of the cause and fruition approaches,
The causal vehicles have a fruition established later;
But it is held by the different divisions of vajrayana
That fruition exists right now, in the form of one’s own mind.
Only the name is common with the refuge teachings
Found in the other vehicles of characteristics,
Which have to be ascertained as being merely one-sided.

The objects of refuge are of two kinds, ordinary and extraordinary. The objects of lower and intermediate beings are ordinary. Those of the greater ones are extraordinary.

Why? The lesser ones one-sidedly remain in the dharmas of this side. Those proclaimed as the support of the middle two kinds also are tightly grasped as temporary and incidental objects of refuge. Those above them grasp the Mahayana. Its buddhadharmakaya is not grasped by the lesser and middle ones. Here there is the Dharma of the Mahayana. There is the Sangha of bodhisattvas.

In the causal refuge, we are brought to fruition. In the fruition-refuge, it is maintained that the three jewels are already established within our being. However, the rites and compassion accompanying both are equal. The Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras says:

Since these proclaim a wish for the real thing, their assertions too should be understood as compassionate.

In the vehicles of characteristics, we go to refuge desiring to attain buddhahood after three countless[1] kalpas, or however long it may be.  Desiring to attain dharmakaya within our own being is the fruition refuge.  Until that is attained, we go for refuge to the three jewels, as escorts on the

path. This is called causal refuge, because it is a cause of attainment. Here people wish to take the three jewels as an incidental support.

As distinguished from the ultimate singularity, the buddhadharmakaya, rupakaya, the dharmas of scripture and realization involved in the four paths of the continuum of a spiritual warrior, the two cessations of the continuua of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, the four ranks of noble beings, stream-enterers etc, and the bodhisattvas dwelling on the ten bhumis of the Mahayana are not taken as objects of refuge. This is because they are relative, because they have not reached the ultimate, and because such persons still have to rely on others in attaining enlightenment.

Because rupakaya is relative, and because the dharmas of realization gathered within the being of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, and bodhisattvas are other than the buddhas’ realization, having human signs of accomplishing by effort and progress, they are deceptive. They  and  all the Dharmas of scripture have to be abandoned at the time of seeing. Therefore, having become afraid of the Sangha with its obscurations and habitual tendencies at each of its levels, at the time of relying on the Buddha we become afraid of these. The Uttaratantra says:

Since they are abandoned, and have deceptive dharmas;
Since they do not exist, and because of having fear;
These two Dharmas and the Sangha of noble ones
Are not to be taken as permanent objects of refuge.

Where is there such a refuge? Ultimately only in dharmakaya.

The same text says:

The refuge is the singleness of buddhahood.
Because the Sage, the Buddha, exists as dharmakaya,
The assembly of the Sangha is also that ultimate.

The Sutra of Repaying Kindness (drin lan bsab pa’i mdo) says:

The venerable Ananda asked, “To what Buddha should we go for refuge?

The Buddha spoke, saying, “There is refuge in dharmakaya, but not in rupakaya. He asked, “To what Dharma should we go for refuge?”

The Buddha spoke, saying, “There  is  refuge  in  absolute  Dharma,  but  not  in  relative

He asked, “To what Sangha should we go for refuge?”

The Buddha spoke, saying, “There is refuge in the absolute Sangha,  but  not in  the relative Sangha.”

In brief, those who wish to attain the three enlightenments of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, or bodhisattvas, within their being, proclaim their purpose. Since what is to be accomplished by refuge as a cause is the ultimate, saying it is a fruition refuge, Shakyamuni and so forth, the buddhas who came as other continuua,[2] taught the path that protects from fear, and so performed the action of teaching. The Dharma they taught performs the actions of the path that makes beings cross over to the place of fearlessness. The Sangha performs the action of being companions who liberate from fear.  Therefore, since in one’s own being there are these actions of the cause that establishes the three jewels, this is classified as causal refuge. This is because if one practices the Dharma taught by the Buddha, having associated with the Sangha, one will be liberated from fear.

In regard to this, some gurus say that, according to the Mahayana, that which protects from subtle obscuration and subtle fear is only the buddhadharmakaya. Therefore they postulate that as the fruition refuge.

According to the pratyekabuddha vehicle, the future self-arising of realization of the Dharma jewel within one’s being is the fruition. That is classified there as the fruition object of refuge.

According to the shravaka vehicle, the Sangha of arhats, whose state will arise in one in the future, is postulated as the fruition object of refuge.

Those fruition refuge objects of each of the three vehicles are different. Teaching it like that is not quite right. According to the Mahayana, it is proclaimed that if we are enlightened, our essence is one with trikaya, the nature of the three jewels. Then how can it be suitable for the Mahayana to say that the Dharma and Sangha do not arise?

Both the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas maintain that the two cessations are what is ultimately to be attained, and hence that their respective versions of absolute truth, supreme enlightenment and dharmakaya occur as the goal. Then how can the Buddha and Dharma jewels be non-existent for the shravakas? For the pratyekabuddhas too cessation is proclaimed as  dharmata and enlightenment, and it is also maintained that only the Dharma jewel is gained. Therefore, they both maintain that what exists as the fruition object of refuge is  their  own particular  version of  enlightenment. The ultimate three jewels are attained, and these are said to be the fruition refuge. The Sutra Requested by the Householder, Drakshulchen (khyim bdag drug shul can gyis zhus pa’i mdo) says:

In going to the Buddha for refuge, it is maintained that buddhahood is attained.  In going to the Dharma for refuge, it is maintained that the Dharma is attained. In going to the Sangha for refuge, it is maintained that the Sangha is attained.

With the goal of establishing the nature of the two truths, going to the three jewels for refuge is the causal refuge. The Jewel Heap Sutra says:

O monks, whether this was done for the sake of self or others, or so that you might be personally liberated from fear and torment, you are persons who have gone to refuge. This and that, which you wish and hope for, will be completely perfected.

As for the secret mantra, wishing to see manifestly that the nature of mind exists as buddhahood which is even now intrinsic to us, we go to refuge with the ordinary object, the external three jewels.

Because of that, we rest with meditative equanimity in the extraordinary nature of our own minds, the primordial unborn.

Thus, both the three jewels of the individual tantric mandalas and the three jewels of the general teachings are said to be causal objects of refuge. Going to refuge with them is going to a causal refuge. On the other hand, the nature of our own minds, self-arising wisdom, is the primordially existing three jewels. This is the object of fruition-refuge. One-pointed resting in  that, without accepting and rejecting or defilements of artificiality, is the fruition refuge.

The external three jewels are indeed “fruition” in the sense of being desirable for attaining the fruition. For the sake of that fruition, wanting them as its cause is indeed estimable from the viewpoint that proclaims taking them as a refuge. However, the fruition chiefly exists intrinsically and spontaneously, and it is resting in that without aspiring to anything else that is the fruition refuge. The external causal refuges are classified as a corresponding condition for establishing that. The Practice of Wisdom (ye shes grub pa) says:

All the masters of the three mandalas[3]
Had a desire to gain complete perfection.
Therefore they also aspired to have its cause.

As for the luminous nature of the mind,
All the masters of the three mandalas,
Having realized that, then meditated
Within its one-pointed equanimity.

This is truly explained as supreme fruition.

Regarding these two ways of identifying the three jewels, in the lesser, ordinary vehicle, the Buddha is the supreme nirmanakaya. The Dharma is the twelve kinds of scripture uttered by the Master of the dharmas of scripture and realization,[4] as well as the paths of the individual continuum, the samadhis and so on.

The two Sanghas are those of ordinary beings and noble ones. The lesser Sangha of ordinary beings is that of male and female getsuls and genyens.[5] This is the field of merit of beings. The greater are those who have taken full ordination, the great Sangha of monks and nuns. The Sangha altogether includes these four above. Among the noble ones are stream-enterers, once-returners, non-returners, and arhats. The main point is buddhahood.

As it is told within the Mahayana, there is also the nature of the three kayas of buddhahood, possessing the two purities of nature and the incidental. This is the ultimate in which the two benefits are perfected. The Uttaratantra says:

It is uncompounded and self-existing
It is not realized by external conditions.
It possesses knowledge, kindness, and power.
This is buddhahood with the two benefits.

The essence of Dharma is inexpressible by speech or thought. Its nature is the path or antidote that leads to buddhahood. Its aspects are the characteristics of the five paths and two cessations of the Dharma of the meaning, as well as the twelve limbs of the Buddha’s verbal teachings. The same text says:

Without discursive thought, duality, and concept
Are the clear and luminous aspects of the antidote.
Wherever anyone is free from all desire,
That is known as possession of the authentic two truths.
That itself is the Dharma. The two kinds of lack of desire,
Comprise the state of cessation and the truth of the path.

In the two cessations, former defilements are cleared away by the antidote. These two cessations are:

  1. cessation of discriminating awareness in absence of complexity
  2. cessation  of  discriminating  awareness  that  rests  in  the  natureless  meaning  in  which defilements or complexities are like space.

On the path, there is realization of the aspects of accumulation, unification, seeing, and meditation. Comprehending the characteristics of the two truths involves all the dharmas of scripture and realization.

The Sangha is the newly-seen meaning of the luminous nature of mind of those who abide on the ten bhumis. The same text says:

Because of the inner meaning of nature and extent,
Perceived within the pure vision that is seen by wisdom,
The assembly who are non-returning through such a mind,
Have possession of all the virtues free from mind.

What is maintained in the extraordinary topic of the vajrayana, differs in the individual tantras. The kriya and charya tantras say that the Buddha Jewel is the five wisdoms, and pure dharmata, the nature of the three or four kayas, along with its emanations and blessing-bestowing  deities. These  are gathered under three families, tathagata,[6]padma, and vajra. The deities of the greater and lesser mandalas possess respectively the peaceful and wrathful accouterments of sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya.

The Dharma Jewel is as before, adding the particular individual texts of each yana.  The Sangha

Jewel is the three-fold Sangha of shravakas, bodhisattvas, and vidyadharas.

In yoga tantra the Buddha Jewel is the five wisdoms and the pure dharmata of nirvana or the three kayas. This includes the continuity of the mandala which gathers all the peaceful and wrathful appearances of the five families and trikaya under Vajrasattva as the master of all mandalas. It also includes the ratna, padma, karma, and tathagata families, along with their chief deities, retinues, and root mandalas with their one or many deities. There are divisions of the samaya, Dharma, and karma mandalas; the four seals or mudras, samayamudra, Dharmamudra, karmamudra, and mahamudra; and all the great and lesser mandalas developed in one or more stages. The Dharma and Sangha Jewels, are as already explained.

In mahayoga, the Buddha Jewel is the Bhagavan’s great buddha activity, dwelling inseparably with the vajra nature of the body, speech, and mind of all the tathagatas as the chief deity. There is also the retinue, as one, many, or deity-clusters, dwelling within the abundant totality of Gandavyuha, and all the many emanations emanated by them. The Dharma Jewel is all that  was previously taught. There is also the unsurpassable Sangha Jewel, blazing with the major and minor marks, whose nature is inseparable from that of the three jewels.

As to why they are called the rare and excellent three jewels,[7] the Uttaratantra says:

Since they arise but rarely and since they are undefiled;
Since they are powerful and ornament the world;
Since they are superior, and since they are excellent,
They are called the rare and excellent triple gem.

Because of six similarities to precious gems, the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha, are known as “the three jewels,” and said to be like precious jewels.

  1. The similarity of rare occurrence
    They are rare because even in the changes of many kalpas, their virtuous roots are not established and not encountered.
  2. The similarity of being undefiled
    This is because they are always free from defilement.
  3. The similarity of being powerful
    This is because the six consciousnesses and so forth have powerful virtues beyond the scope of thought.
  4. The similarity of being the ornament of the world
    This is because they are the cause of the wholesome thoughts of all beings.
  5. The similarity of superiority to ordinary gems
    This is because they are beyond the world.
  6. The similarity of being changeless by praise and blame and so forth
    This is because their nature is unconditioned.

As for the three-fold classification, the Uttaratantra says:

According to the meaning of teacher, teaching, and students,
According to the three vehicles and the three activities,
And according to different objects of devotion,
There are three kinds of refuge that have been presented.

Also the commentary to that text says:

9. In order to teach the good qualities of the teacher, abiding in a concern for things pertaining to the teacher, from the viewpoint of those with devotion for the individuals of the bodhisattva vehicle and the Buddha as performer of the highest action, the Buddha is the refuge. This is because He is the most excellent of those with two legs. So it is taught and presented.

10. In order to teach the good qualities taught by the teacher, abiding in them because, by so doing, the Dharma of profound interdependent arising will later be comprehended, from the viewpoint of those with devotion for the individuals of the pratyekabuddha vehicle and Dharma as the performer of the highest action, Dharma is the refuge. This is because it is supreme among things that are desireless. So it is taught and presented.

11. In order to teach the good qualities of the students who auspiciously enter into the teachings, they abide in them because later words heard from others will be comprehended. From the viewpoint of those who have devotion for individuals within the shravakayana and for the Sangha as the performers of the highest action, the Sangha is the refuge. this is because it is the supreme among assemblies. So it is taught and presented.

In brief, the temporary refuge is the three jewels. The ultimate refuge is the singularity of buddhahood. The same text says:

The holy truth which is the refuge of beings
Is the singularity of buddhahood.
Because the Sage possesses dharmakaya,
This is also the Sangha and its goal.

The occasion of fruition, the ultimate goal, is like that. So it is explained.

2) The particulars of the causal object

?? missing ?? skipping to B.1.d

Footnotes and references:


Technically three asamkhya kalpas would be 3 x 1050 kalpas.




Body, speech, and mind.


gsung rab yan lag bcu gnyis - twelve divisions of the teachings. 1) mdo ‘i sde. = discourses or general teachings. 2) dbyangs kyis bsnyad pa’i sde. = hymns and praises. 3) lung du bstan pa’i sde. = prophecies. 4) tshigs su bcad pa’i sde. = teaching in verse. 5) ched du brjod pa’i sde. = aphorisms. 6) gleng gzhi’i sde. = pragmatic narratives. 7) rtogs pa brjod pa’i sde. = biographical narratives. 8) de lta bu byung ba’i sde. = narratives of former events as examples. 9) skyes pa’i rabs kyi sde. = jataka narratives of former births. 10) shin tu rgyas pa’i sde. = extensive teachings.  11) rmad du byung ba’i sde.  = narratives of marvels.  12) gtan la dbab pa’i sde. = teachings in profound doctrines.

mdo sde dbyangs bsnyan lung bstan tshigs su bcad
ched brjod rtogs pa brjod dang de ltar byung
gleng gshi shin tu rgyas dang skyes rabs bcas.
gtan phab rmad du byung ba’i sde rnams so
Sutra and geya vyākarāā and gāthā,
Udāna and nidāna, avadāna and ityukta,
Jataka vaipulya, adbhutadharma, and upadesha.


dge bsnyen - layman, lay devotees, virtue obtained, people with the five precepts not to kill, not to lie, not to steal, not to take intoxicants, not to engage in sexual misconduct, upasika. The five to be renounced for laymen, lay- vows. see also under renunciate and layman, dge tshul - novice, novice monk, shramanera. novitia te. the precepts are those five with the addition of afternoon food, singing and the wearing of ornaments, the ten to be renounced by novices. dge slong - fully ordained monk with 250 precepts, --ma nun with 350.


Like buddha family.


The Tibetan for “jewel” in this case literally means “rare and excellent.”

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