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 10b.6) The six perfections: Prajña that realizes the natural state

6.a) The extensive explanation of the nature of the three prajñas

Then as for the perfection of prajña:

There are three stages as we develop in prajña.
These are hearing, contemplation, and meditation.
By vipashyana practice the host of kleshas are overcome.
By completely knowing the natural state of dharmas and dharmin,[1]
From the city of samsara, we go to the peace of nirvana.

Hearing is the producer of knowledge of the nature, the natural state of all dharmas as it is. Moreover, after ascertaining that by contemplation, what produces liberation from the ocean of samsara by meditation[2] is maintained to be the nature of prajña.

The Small Commentary says:

Its sources are hearing, contemplating and meditating, or the preparation, main practice and post- practice of samadhi.

Prajña is called vipashyana, or clear seeing. It is more excellent than the other perfections. However, the prajña arising from hearing on the level of an ordinary being is also important, because someone who has not heard cannot contemplate and meditate. The Uttaratantra says:

Thus practice of generosity is the establisher.
By discipline meditating on the higher realms,
Defiling kleshas are completely abandoned.
Prajña entirely abandons all kleshas and knowables.
That is supremacy, and the cause of that is hearing.


Prajña is supreme. As for the ground of that,
It is hearing, so hearing also is supreme.

In this case, wanting to apprehend the nature of all dharmas is resolved by hearing. Regarding this, there are the presentation of the Precious Key that Makes One Meet (‘jal byed rin po che’i lde mig) and the presentation of The Treasury of objects to be Fathomed (gzhal bya dam chos mdzod). From the two sections within the first, as for the presentation of provisional meaning and true meaning, the dharmata of all dharmas is suchness, naturally pure space, naturally pure in realization as the nature of mind.

Changeless, it transcends birth, abiding, and destruction. Its essence is the space of the sky. This is the true meaning. Words of the Buddha and shastras that teach this are included within the true meaning.

The dharmin, dharma-possessor, is things that appear. This includes arising and ceasing, coming and going, pure and impure; the details of the skandhas , dhatus, and ayatanas and so forth. This is the dream-like appearance of variety dealt with by the details of speech, thought, and expression. All such teachings of exaggeration are called the provisional meaning. All words of the Buddha and shastras that teach this are included within the relative.

For example, saying or thinking, “The nature of mind is like the sky.” and personally glorying in that is relative. To say, “That which has the nature of the absolute is the true meaning,” is as it should be. The Praise of the Madhyamaka Inconceivable by Thought (dbu ma bsam gyis mi khyab par bstod pa) says:

The emptiness of dharmas
Is the true meaning, as is taught.
Teachings of rising and ceasing,
The life of beings and so forth,
Are provisional, relative meaning.

The Shri Samadhiraja Sutra says:

As the Tathagata, who is the teacher, formerly taught,
There are particular sutras distinguished as the true meaning.
As for those that teach ordinary sentient beings,
All such Dharmas are known to be the provisional meaning.

The Sutra Taught by the Noble One Inexhaustible Intellect (‘phags pa blo gros mi zad pas bstan pa’i mdo) says:

If it is asked, “Which sutras are sutras of the provisional meaning? Which are sutras of the true meaning?” Those sutras which are teachings for the purpose of entering into the path are called the provisional meaning. Those sutras which are taught for the purpose of entering into the fruition are called the true meaning.

Those sutras are called the provisional meaning which teach a self, sentient beings, life, persons, individuals, the arising of emotions, and an ego who owns the emotions and is a doer and a feeler, explaining these in a variety of words. They teach what is selfless as having an self.

Those sutras are called the true meaning that teach emptiness, marklessness, wishlessness, uncompoundedness, the unborn, the non-arising, no things, no ego, no beings, no life, no individual, and no self, and that the gate of complete liberation is unobstructed.

It is said that we should rely on the sutras of the true meaning and not on the sutras of the provisional meaning.

In brief, the nature, the way things are, and sutras that teach it are called the true meaning and sutras of the true meaning.

The many means for entering into that nature, involving confused, impure dharmas that instruct the minds of sentient beings, and all teachings of their divisions and so forth, are known as the provisional meaning and Dharmas of the provisional meaning. This is how it is explained in the Mirror of Viewing dharmas (chos rnams lta ba’i me long) and the First Key of Revelation.

In order to explain these and so that the intended meaning may be realized, from the two explanations of the four intentions and the four hidden intentions, first, as for the intentions, explaining with a little exaggeration, such teachings have a manner which is not completely straightforward. The Mahayanasutralankara says:

Equality, other-meaning And, likewise, other times,
And the thoughts of individuals
Should be known as the four intentions.

As for the intention of equality, it is like when it was said, with the intention that dharmakaya is equality, “At that time I became the Tathagata Vipashyii.”

As for the intention of another meaning, having intended the essencelessness of the three natures, “all dharmas are natureless,” is taught. That is:

1. the characteristics of false conceptions (parikalpita) are essenceless, since these are not established as real at all.

2. The arisings of other-dependent entities (paratantra) are essenceless, since, their arising is not established from any of the four extremes:

They do not arise from themselves, because for these arising and an instant in which they arise are contradictory. They do not arise from something else, since if the essential individual marks of such others are analyzed, others are not established. That they arise from both would be doubly contradictory, so that is not established. They do not arise without a cause, as that is impossible.

The mere arising of whatever appears, mere interdependent arising like dream or illusion, is appearance of what does not exist. The Sutra of the Ornament of the Light of Wisdom (ye shes snang ba rgyan gyi mdo) says:

Mañjushri, as for dreams, what appears there does not exist. Similarly all dharmas are appearances of what does not exist.

This is taught from there to “illusion, mirage, a city of the gandharvas, the moon in water, reflection, and magical emanation”.

3. In completely perfect reality, (parinishpanna) there is no absolute essence. This is because it really is absolute, and because natures are impure complex essences and so forth that do not exist. The Commentary Ascertaining the Intention of the Sutras (mdo sde dgongs pa ngyes par ‘grel pa) says:

Characteristics are essencelessness. Arising is essencelessness. The absolute is essencelessness. Having realized that, I taught that all dharmas are essenceless.

The intention of other times, is like saying, “by merely grasping the name of the Tathagata Spotless Moonlight, buddhahood is attained.” It is not attained by that alone, but someone who has previously done that, having then also gathered many accumulations, will become enlightened.

As for the intention of thoughts of individuals, for someone attached to the view that grasps discipline as supreme, it is like praising generosity after having disparaged discipline.

Second, the hidden intention is presented so that those who delight in external things can grasp the genuine path or meaning. Depending on their terminology or approach that describes what does not exist at all, though the style accords with theirs, a meaning that does not accord with that is actually being explained. The Mahayanasutralankara says:

The hidden intention of making one to enter,
The hidden intention of other characteristics
The hidden intention of the antidote
The hidden intention of a transformation.

So it is that, as for the shravakas,
In this manner their faults are tamed with the essence.
As for these manners of profound expression
These are the four that are called the hidden intentions.

As for the first, the hidden intention of making enter has the goal of making enter into the Mahayana some of the family of shravakas who have not entered, because they are frightened by emptiness. To them it is said that form exists. The hearers, with the literal understanding that it truly exists, enter. The actual intention of the explainer is that all appearances exist like a dream.

The hidden intention of characteristics is so that the essenceless natural state may be known. It is taught that all dharmas are essenceless.

The actual intention is that what is essenceless is the three nonexistences of parikalpita, paratantra, and parinishpanna, as has already been explained.

As for the hidden intention of the antidote, some say Shakyamuni’s body was small and his length of life was short and so forth, for the purpose of implying that he was less than other teachers. When it is said, “At this time I become the tathagata Vairochana,” the hearers understand that he is equal to

rupakaya. The explainer actually intends that they are equal in completing the accumulations, attainment of dharmakaya, and the benefits done for sentient beings. The Abhidharmakosha says:

In terms of the accumulations of all the buddhas,
Going to dharmakaya and benefiting beings
They are equal, but they are not in the literal sense
Of their lives and bodies having such a measure.

As for the hidden intention of transformation, a certain Dharma may be easy to understand, and in order to pacify the fault of people thinking that a Dharma which is easy to understand is less than others, they teach it so that it is very hard to realize. For example, the Particular Sayings (ched du brjod pa’i tshoms) says:

Kill your father and mother
The king is doubly cleaned.
If we conquer the country,
Together with its surroundings,
The people will be pure.

Here “father and mother” are craving and grasping at samsaric formations. Alaya is a “king,” because it is the support of the various habitual patterns.

The bhramanistic view of a transitory collection as having a self and grasping asceticism as supreme for discipline training in virtue are the two things “doubly cleaned” with the two purities of nature and the incidental. The “country and surrounding regions” are the eight consciousnesses with the inner ayatanas of grasping and fixation. “Conquering” them means that if they are purified, they become enlightened.

Here the intention and secret intention, whichever it may be, are different particular aspects of a single essence. As for the distinction between these two, the translator Loden Sherap says that another meaning than what is thought by the speaker is understood for the speaker’s words by the hearers. This meaning understood by the hearers is the intention. The meaning understood by the speaker, but not by the hearers, is the secret intention. So it is explained and the Commentary Discoursing on the Summary of the Vehicles (theg pa bsdus kyi ‘grel pa bshad sbyar) says:

The intention is only mentally presented in mind, and from the viewpoint of the external grasper it is not explicitly asserted. The secret intention is such from the viewpoint of what is grasped by the other.

These two should be known to be without contradiction. Someone may explain that something has such and such an aspect, and this does not depend on whether it is grasped or not grasped by another. That is the intention. All such explanations with any incomplete major points that may be asked about by another and so forth, and that form the remainder of the subject, are called the intention.

In order to bring benefit to others, to some degree depending on a double meaning, teaching in according with their appearances is called the secret intention.

What is said by the sayer is understood by the other who is there depending on completion by another meaning. Therefore it is merely not false. These are the two keys of the view of scripture. Word, meaning, intention, and the purpose of the particular occasion are of many kinds. Knowing that the sutras and tantras are revealed in this manner is very important.

Of two subjects presented among the objects of comprehension of the Dharma treasury, first, as for the teaching in the style of the two truths, The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

The Buddha’s teaching the Dharma
Rightly depends on two truths,
The worldly relative truth
And the truth of the ultimate meaning.

The Sutra of the Meeting of Father and Son(yab sras mjal ba’i mdo) says:

The truths of those who are skilled in the world are just these two.
You have received no others that were seen by me.
These are the relative truth and the absolute truth
Besides them there is no third of any kind at all.

Here the mere nature of so-called dharmas is made into a basis of division. Then the way things appear is called the relative truth, and the way things are is the absolute truth. It is divided into these two. Also, within the way things appear, there are the confused and non-confused. The first is the nature of speech, thought, and expression at the time of existence as a sentient being.

This is all and everything that arises as confused appearance, grasping, and knowledge. This is also all that is delusive, untrue, changeable, miserable, and so forth. It is the appearance of objects to a confused mind. Since these are the labels of speech, thought and expression, as they are thought and expressed by sentient beings, such imputations with mental images do not touch upon the reality of buddhahood, and they are called confused.

The appearances and apprehension of this time depend on dualistic appearances of incidental truth and falsity, the true and the false relative. Those of the true relative have an effective power according with appearances. They arise from causes. They are isolated by examination. They appear in a orderly way. They are classified under earth, water, fire, and air, with the knowledge of what is intrinsic to these. Appearances with no effective power, like the appearance of two moons if we put pressure on the eye, are the false relative. The Two Truths (bden gnyis) says:

They appear to have an effective power.
Because of whether they have it or do not,
They are distinguished as being true or false.
These divisions are made in the relative.

Both of these, when their nature is evaluated, are equal. They are equal in arising from habitual patterns of confusion. They are equal in appearing to the individual senses. Though they are effect- producing appearances from the incidental viewpoint of confusion, all the objects viewed by the eye- consciousness and so forth are equally natureless.

The non-confused relative is two-fold. There is the non-confusion of fruition, the wisdom that is the ground of the path, together with the buddha qualities, and the previous impermanent true relative, which is called non-confused from the viewpoint of crossing over to the nature. The commentary to the Uttaratantra says:

All truths of the path are compounded.
All compounded things are deceptive.

This is taught because these truths produce change and because of the previous purpose of crossing over. However, these are not the same as the other kind of compounded entity that has the manner of being deceptive.

By attaining the fruition, with knowledge of the rupakaya of the buddhas and its awareness, for those who abide in Akanishta, this nonconfused relative of fruition is changeless. It is permanent and self- existing. It is the treasury of perfect buddha qualities. As the great appearance of the mandalas and so forth, it is perfected mastery of the wisdom of extent. Though, as appearance, it is called relative, inseparable from dharmakaya, it abides changelessly like the sky. These matters will be extensively explained below.

Nirmanakaya is composed of appearances for those to be tamed. By the compassion of the buddhas these appearances are spontaneously present. From the viewpoint of the minds of those who are to be tamed there seems to be change, but in reality no change exists.

Like the moon in water, it appears to change from the condition of vessels in which it is reflected, but the real thing, whose characteristics are not established, is changeless. Just so, though a body appears to beings who are to be tamed, its essential characteristics are not established.

The three kayas are of one nature without gathering or separation. This is because dharmakaya is changeless. Moreover, just as the moon in the sky establishes the moon in the water, but is not of one nature with it; similarly, though emanations spontaneously appear from the state of sambhogakaya, sambhogakaya is really changeless, and nothing is really established. Though from the viewpoint of those who are to be tamed there appears to be change, nothing happens. Thus, all aspects of appearance, pure and impure, are gathered under relative truth.

Absolute truth is the nature of things as they are. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

Not to be known from another it is peaceful.
Not complicated by complexity,
With no discursive thoughts and different meanings.
These are what are called its characteristics.

All the dharmas of samsara and nirvana are primordially natureless. They transcend all objects of speech and thought. Not realized by concepts, they are not classifiable by mind. There are no proclamations of their sameness and difference. The same text says:

Regarding the amrita of the teachings
Of the buddhas, protectors of the world,
The meaning is neither one nor different.
It is neither nothingness nor eternal.

From the viewpoint of mind, all the phenomenal world of samsara and nirvana is labeled with differences of good and bad. However, since everything is primordially pure as the nature of the sky, nothing is pure, impure, both, or neither. “It is completely pure” means “It is beyond the scope of objects created by mind.” The same text says:

All is not either true or not true
All is not true as well as not true,
All is not neither true or not true.
That is the teaching of the buddhas.

The viewpoint of the nature is beyond all proclamations. This is because it is beyond all identification of essences. Though, “It is like this,” has been proclaimed, this is the view of ego and so forth. All such statements fall into the extremes of eternalism and nihilism. The Sixty Verses on Reasoning (rigs pa bcu drug pa) says:

If it is proclaimed that this is an actual thing,
Passion and aggression will rise from such a view.
It will be impatiently and wrongly grasped.
From that contention and controversy will arise

Since the nature is without assertions, it proclaims no objects, has no proclaimer, and is not identified as anything at all. That is why it is said, “It is faultless.” Eliminating the Arguments (rtsod bzlog) says:

If I had any assertions,
Then I would have these faults.
But since I have no assertions,
I do not have these faults.

The natural state or naturally pure essence of all dharmas is profound, peaceful, and free from all the extremes of complexity. It has no assertions or proclamations. It is the purity of primordial space. Though its essence is inseparable, if we divide it in terms of mental exaggerations, there are birth and the unborn. Though these and everything else are established by mind as emptiness, as complexities of the unborn there are the unliberated accountable[3] absolute and the unaccountable absolute liberated from all the complexities of born, unborn and so forth. The Two Truths says:

Though it may be that birth and so forth are obstructed,
They are explained in a way according with the truth.[4]
The birthless, where all complexities are pacified,
Is given the merely symbolic name “the absolute.”

Here if we explain the divisions according to the oral instructions, from the sphere of Dharmadhatu, which alone is classified as the ground of divisions, come apparent aspects like illusion, mirage, the moon in water, and so forth. Since what appears has the nature of nonexistence, this is called relative truth.[5] The Sutra Requested by Jönpa says:

In the surface of a spotless mirror,
Just as the face of the moon may seem to shine,
Even though its nature is not established,
So by Jönpa dharmas should be known.

It is taught there and so forth. Ordinary people see appearances as really and truly existing,

but yogins see them as uncertain, merely like a dream. Elusive and evanescent, tenuous and diaphanous, they are simply unexaminable. Knowing that, though they appear, they are unexaminable is called realizing relative truth.

We are not harmed by the conditions of appearance. When they are mastered, these appearances are established as the beginningless miracles of beings and so forth. Not proclaimed as anything at all, whatever appears is natureless; mind masters it without any differentiating of truths. If we attain this wisdom of the noble ones, the buddha fields and so forth appear, and since there is no attachment to their true existence, this is called the true relative. All conceptions and appearances of a mind attached to true existence are the false relative. The source of arising of lack of attachment to true existence and all its appearances is maintained to be the true relative.

For the absolute too, there is no attachment to the nature of mind, the natureless way things are, and all the dharmas included within that nature that are like the moon in water. Confused appearances, except insofar as they are groundless mere appearance, are also known to be the natureless essence. Liberation of existence, non-existence and other such mental conceptions into space is called realization of the way things are. The realizer of that nature as the absolute itself is called mind that realizes the absolute.

The Praise to the Mother (yum la bstod pa) by Rahula says:

Prajñaparamita inexpressible by speech or though
Unborn, unceasing with a nature like the sky,
Only realized by discriminating awareness wisdom.
I prostrate to the mother of the victorious ones of the three times.

According to that, discriminating awareness wisdom is absolute. Realizing that is realizing absolute truth. The two truths are not different like two animal horns. If the way things are in the relative is like the moon in water, the apparent form of the moon is the relative. That moon’s being without true existence is the absolute. The single nature of these two, appearing as what does not exist in the water of a pond, is the inseparably united two truths. Mind that realizes that realizes the two truths.

The apparent dharmas of form, sound, smell, taste, and touchables, along with mental conceptions that assert and deny them, are all confused appearances like the eight examples of illusion. Realizing that what appears does not exist is called setting out from the wilderness of samsara on the path of liberation.

If we mentally analyze, what does not bear analysis is relative. What does is absolute. Though that may be said, conceptual details are found to be only relative. How so? What bears the analysis of

mind either depends or does not depend on mental imputation. What is independent of mental imputation is not classified conventionally as bearing analysis. If something does depend on mental imputation, it is only a thought. These two, bearing or not bearing the analysis, are not a single aspect, but as mental examination they are one in being concerned only with mental objects, and therefore relative.[6] The Bodhicharyavatara says:

The absolute is not within the sphere of mind.
It is maintained that mind is merely relative.

That is how it is explained. In brief, the complexities of mind and the appearances of complexity are the viewpoint of the relative. The absence of complexities, the mind in which grasping and fixation have collapsed, and the appearances of such a mind, are all known to yogins as absolute. Since the two truths are inseparable, what is relative therefore may also be absolute, the main point being that these are different aspects of a single essence.

According to what is proclaimed here, though the essence has no singularity or difference at all, according to worldly usage “one nature” is said. According to what is proclaimed by such a doctrine, what appears according to the relative, either appears according to the absolute or does not appear according to the absolute, and then in either case has the fault of not appearing according to the relative.[7] The Commentary Ascertaining the Intention (dgongs pa nges ‘grel) says:

As for the compounded realm and the marks of the absolute,
These have separate marks of one and different.
But what is being conceived as one and different?
These have entered into impropriety.

According to this, since one and many are taught to be inseparably inseparable, in reality they are of nondual nature.

Of these the Miraculous (sgyu ‘phrul) says:

Absolute and relative, inseparable,
Are the great mandala that is the truth.

That is what is being taught. Moreover, regarding the differences used in presenting the two truths, there are:

the difference of two aspects of one essence,
the difference of essence,
the difference that refutes one, and
the difference of different verbal distinctions within one meaning.

From those four differences, which is the difference between the two truths? It is not the fourth, a distinction merely of conventional names, since characteristics and phenomena are different. Their essence is not different, because their essence does not exist, and because the two truths are “inseparable” merely conventionally. It is not merely the difference that refutes one, since there are no individual natures, and since the single ground would have to be divided. Therefore, merely conventionally, it is like water and the moon in water, different aspects of a single essence. The Commentary on Bodhicitta (byang chub sems ‘grel) says:

As molasses is sweet in nature,
And the nature of fire is heat,
Likewise of all dharmas
The nature is emptiness.


The relative is explained as emptiness.
But emptiness alone is relative.[8]
As it is produced and impermanent,
If it did not exist, it would not rise.

Also the Five Stages (rim lnga) says:

Absolute and relative
Are individually known.
What is the truth is mixed.
This is explained as union.

In the absolute there is no distinction of one and different at all.

The Sutra Requested by Maitreya says:

The inexpressible space of compounded characteristics is neither these themselves nor something other than these.

In the true accounting there are other extremes being hindered, existence as things, and the true account depending on purpose. Of those three, this is the first. Certainly the absolute being either liberated or not liberated from complexity is really contradictory.[9] Since any third possibility in addition to the positions of asserting and negating this is refuted, these two are a valid accounting.

Objective phenomena depend on the perceiver. Therefore, when they are postulated, such objects do not transcend the duality of thoughts that are confused or not confused about the ultimate. All such dharmas of samsara and nirvana are confusion. Dharmata is a non-confused object, but that objects are dualistic from the viewpoint of thought is certain. In terms of extent, this is something like the high and low points of art in relief. The Prajñaparamitasañcayagatha says:

By having seen all things as either true or false,
All things are grasped as having a dualistic nature.
Seeing what objects really are is the absolute,
False seeing is taught to be the truth of the relative.

If we divide according to the different doctrines, the shravakas conceptually analyze the absolute as an absolute of pure awareness and an absolute of things that cannot be harmed by being broken up by a hammer and so forth.

The stream of awareness and solid things are really composed of instantaneous entities of relative awareness. The instantaneous partless atoms of solid things are maintained to be absolute. The Abhidharmakosha says:

Other things than awareness and the atomized,
Removable, are not included in that idea.
Like water in a vase, such things are relative.
Such existence is other than absolute existence.

Some Sautrantikas according with reasoning say according to the Complete compendium of Valid Cognition (rnam ‘grel):

That which has a productive power is absolute. What is otherwise exists as the relative.
So their general definitions are explained.

Such assertions are the tenets of the logicians. In the mind-only school the object and perceiver of dualistic appearance are relative truth. Non-dual knowledge is maintained to be absolute truth. The Compendium of the Essence of Wisdom (ye shes snying po kun las btus pa) says:

So-called parts of things do not exist,
Therefore it follows that there are no atoms.
Appearances of individual things
Are experience with no object, like a dream.

Liberated from grasping and fixation,
Consciousness exists as absolute.
This perfection of the ocean of mind
Is famed as the tradition of yogachara.

For svatantrika madhyamaka whatever appears is relative, and is like illusion and so forth. It is not established as absolute, like space. The Conquest of Confusion (‘khrul ‘joms) says:

What has conception is relative, and the absolute
Is liberated from all conceptions and conceivers.

As for the prasangikas, what appears is relative, and emptiness is the absolute. However, what is called by these terms is without difference, dharmata transcending all sameness and difference, and therefore free from all the extremes of complexity. From the time it appears this is maintained to be unborn, unceasing, and without coming and going. The assertion that the relative alone is real is refuted. The Prajñaparamitasañcayagatha says:

While you maintain paratantra to be real
I do not so proclaim the relative.

You may think, “Surely these appearances are established to arise and so forth,” arising and non- arising, establishment and non-establishment are labelings of mind for what is supposed to be outside it. How could such things really exist?”

Though the assertions of your doctrine are refuted, mere appearance is not refuted. Aryadeva says:

Just as appearances are not refuted,
Because they arise in mutual interdependence;
Within this becoming suffering over and over,
Conceptions of true existence are cleared away.
Appearance in this case appears as if non-existent.

The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

Form, sound, taste and touch
And smell and dharmas are only
Like a castle of the gandharvas,
Like a dream or like illusion,
Or like an illusory person,
And like a mere reflection.

The pleasant and unpleasant
Even if they arise,
Where and what are they?

Here what is grasped? It is the good aspect of everything, the universal object, natureless appearance, which joined to each one’s personal attachment to true existence, becomes some very silly bad doctrines.

As for the distinction between these two truths, the nature without speech, thought, or expression is absolute truth. What is imputed, being said, thought, and expressed by mind, as well as appearance in terms of that, is relative truth.

If it is asked whether this absolute truth is realized or not realized by mind, the essence of the absolute transcends realized and realizer, and is not classified as being realized. The Jewel Heap Sutra says:

Kashyapa, what is the absolute, emptiness? It is not viewed by anyone. It is not actualized. It is not accomplished. It is not attained.

Well don’t the noble ones realize it? “The mind arisen in accord with the absolute,” is just a string of imputed words. Chandrakirti says:

Of the person with a mind in accord with emptiness, “Emptiness is realized,” is said, but really there is no such thing as realization of emptiness.

For example, by realizing that space is accommodating, space itself does not become an inseparable part of the mind. The Diamond Sutra says:

Those who see me as form,
Those who know me as words,
Are dwelling on wrong paths.

These persons have never seen me.
What is meant by “Buddha”
Is the view of dharmata.

The leaders are dharmakaya.
Dharmata is no knowable,
So consciousness cannot know it.

At the time of enlightenment, absolute truth and buddhahood are not different, so realized and realizer are not two. The time of seeing the truth of the noble ones is also the time of seeing the nature of mind and the wisdom of actuality as non-dual. Since realizer and realized are non-dual, wearing ourselves out over a dichotomy between realization and non-realization is meaningless and futile. Just by its being said, “the essence of the absolute is without realized and realizer,” it follows that it will not be realized by individuals. But since this is not connected with the meaning, it is like a joke.

Just by saying, “This fire is hot and burns,” it follows that this was not done by the acts of persons. We should think of the former expression as also like that. Though space may be beyond the extremes of thinking and conception and so forth, it is still encountered by persons. Just so, though the absolute is beyond expressions of complexity, it is still encountered by yogins. By its greatness it liberates from suffering and manifests the true luminosity of mind. This is what is right.

Moreover, if we do not know the nature of the two truths, we do not know the profundity of suchness. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

Those who dos not know
These divisions of the two truths,
Do not completely know,
The depth of the Buddha’s teaching.

As for the good qualities of knowing this:

Those who put their reliance on these two-fold truths,
Collect the accumulations of enlightenment.
These, by having done that, will cross over from samsara
To the other shore, which is the perfection of wisdom.

Moreover, as for all dharmas being the appearance of what does not exist, insofar as they are completely contained within the play of emptiness they are suitable, and otherwise they are not suitable. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

When emptiness is suitable
Then everything is suitable.
If emptiness is unsuitable,
Then everything is unsuitable.


Though these emptinesses are entirely proper,
Non-emptiness is never proper in the least.

In brief, impure, confused dharmas, the dream-like relative, are untrue, deceptive, a childish betwixt and between. Except as mere evanescence, they have no nature or identity. The pure and luminous nature of dharmas, the profound peace and simplicity of wisdom, the way things are, is a nature of dharmas that is changeless, self-existing, and inconceivable.

In relative truth, the accumulation of merit is hollow like dream and illusion. The accumulation of wisdom of absolute truth is the nature of dharmas like the sky.

By meditating on that as the fruition, the holy rupakaya and holy dharmakaya are both made to manifest.

With that, the first storehouse, the presentation of the two truths, has been taught. Now the nature of all dharmas as dependent arising will be taught. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

There are no dharmas at all
Not arising in interdependence.
Therefore there are no dharmas,
That are not emptiness.

In explanation of this, the nature of things is to arise interdependently. Samsara arises interdependently. Nirvana arises interdependently. From these three, as for the first, the dharmata or nature of the phenomenal world of samsara and nirvana does not come from anywhere. It does not go anywhere. It does not abide anywhere. Since the dharmin depends on dharmata, the dharmin too, from the very time of appearing to arise and cease, is free from all the extremes of complexity of birth, abiding, and destruction. This is taught to be the nature of the middle way. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

Whatever arises interdependently,
That is explained as being emptiness,
It is classified depending on that.
That itself is the path of the middle way.

The Lankavatara Sutra says:

By those who abandon eternalism and nihilism,
And are free from partial existence and non-existence,
The middle way will be completely realized.
This very thing, which is the path of the middle way,
Has been explained by me as well as by all the buddhas.

All impure appearance and the awareness that grasps it are like the dimness of illusory hairs floating before the eyes. From the very time of their appearance, they do not exist at all. The same text says:

“No nature, no apprehension,
No things and no support;”
Thus, corpse-like foolishness
Is labeled as wrong knowledge.

These errors float like the hairs
That are seen by persons with floaters.
Likewise conceptions of things,
Are wrongly imputed by fools.

The three worlds are mere imputation.

The confused appearances of dream do not exist as we go to sleep and on awaking, but in between they seem to appear. These present appearances of the six realms at first are non-existent within the primordially pure realm of the nature of mind. Since, even now, there is complete purity from these confusions, there is no such thing as a time of becoming enlightened. Here, in the middle, these appearances appear while they do not exist. Nor do their arising, abiding, and destruction exist, and therefore in their essence there is neither birth nor destruction. Earlier, now, and later they do not change. The Subsequent Tantra of the Creator of All (kun byed kyi rgyud phyi ma) says

Since later space is changeless,...

To explain, confused appearance is a mere labeling with names. Its nature does not exist like a sky- flower or the son of a barren woman. If that nature is realized, as it also says there:

The world does not arise and is not destroyed
It is like a flower in the sky.
With your prajña and with your compassion,
Do not conceive of existence or non-existence.

It is as if all dharmas were illusion.
Therefore abandon mind and consciousness,
With the world’s being eternal or nothingness.

Moreover, the eight consciousnesses depend on the alaya of the various habitual patterns, and confused habitual patterns of appearance as external objects. All this is false conception. It is temporary, without benefit, apparent though it does not exist, and ignorant. Confused thoughts that grasp at ego and ego-fixation render it without benefit. As for suffering within this dreamlike attachment to true existence of sentient beings, the Song of the Inexhaustible Treasury (mi zad pa mdzod kyi glu) says:

The play which I have made,
Fools grasp and solidify.

At the time of appearance, from the very time when memory and understanding arise, they are primordially empty, beyond all the extremes of complexity. The Samadhiraja Sutra says:

The conqueror’s children are destroyers of all things.
All of samsaric existence is empty from the beginning.
A partial emptiness is that of the extremists.
The wise do not dispute with any fools like these.

Existence and non-existence, having or not having a certain quality, true and false, pure and impure are all mind-created doctrine and therefore false conceptions. Get rid of them! The same text says:

Those with conceptions impute existence and non-existence.
But suffering is not pacified by analysis.
Both existence and non-existence are extremes.
Purity and the impure are also mere extremes.
Those who are wise do not abide in the middle either.

Also, the Sutra of the Irreversible Wheel (phyir mi ldog pa’i ‘khor lo’i mdo) says:

Existence is one extreme,
And non-existence a second.
Likewise, self and selfless,
And eternity and voidness.

As for people being bound by their respective conceptual doctrines, the Lankavatara Sutra says:

Being a grasper at words for knowing things
Proliferates the way that insects do.
Fools who are unskilled in relationships
Are fettered by their own inferior doctrines.

All dharmas whatever and whenever arise interdependently. They are unborn, unceasing, without coming and going, not single things and not different things. They are neither nothingness nor eternal. They have a nature in which all complexities have been completely pacified. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

That which arises interdependently
Is ceaseless, and it is without arising.
It is neither nothingness or eternal.
It has no coming, and it has no going,

It is neither different things nor one,
To the perfect buddhas who have taught
This teaching of peace that pacifies the complex,
To those holy beings now I prostrate.

In brief, the nature of all dharmas is primordially pure. This is the nature or ground of interdependent arising. Now, the interdependent arising of samsara will be explained. What appears as external objects, the mind’s apparent objects, appears in the form of mountains, walls, earth, water, fire, air, and space. Known as “objects arisen from the elements” or as “elemental forms,” symbolized by a roll of cloth, the strands of a rope, yak hairs made into a cord or matted into felt and so forth, these are the phenomena of things arising from causes and conditions, this and that produced of similar and dissimilar kinds. All these are called external interdependent arising. Such things arise one depending on another, and therefore there are seeming external appearances of material things.

Compounded from ignorance up to old age and death, there is also inner interdependent arising. The Lankavatara Sutra says:

Mahamati, just as from a lump of clay a pot arises, similarly from threads come cloth, from individual hairs weaving, from seeds a sprout, a stalk and so forth, and from people diligently churning come lumps of butter. So Mahamati, in external interdependent arising, from earlier to later they arise.

Internal interdependent arising is like this. Arising from the dharmas of ignorance, craving and so forth has been given the name of internal interdependent arising.

Not having individual and personal realization of primordial wisdom is the great ignorance. From that samsara is produced, and then from consciousness up to old age and death the limbs of interdependent arising, the nidanas, arise in an unbroken interdependent connection from one to the next. The Friendly Letter says:

From ignorance comes formations, and from that consciousness,
Then there is name and form, and from that the six ayatanas,
Then contact, taught to enable the source of suffering.
From contact there comes feeling, the source of suffering.
From the ground of feeling, craving then arises.
From craving comes clinging, from that comes birth from life to life.
If birth exists, there is suffering, sickness, and old age,
Loss of what is desired, death, destruction and so on.
Suffering and the skandhas thus become very great.

From the twelve divisions of the extensive treatment of this, as for 1) ignorance, the natural state is the primordial purity of dharmata, the essential nature, and the dharmas exhibited by that. By not correctly knowing these, because of formations of samsaric karma, patterns of conditioned 2) formations arise. Here there are the virtues of body, speech, and mind obscured by ignorance that accord with what is good and meritorious, the ten non-virtues and the three neutral actions. These are formations.

By the virtues the celestial realms are attained and by the non-virtues the lower realms. The neutral ones associated with these two are like the non-virtues in that respect. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

From obscurations of ignorance there is rebirth.
Therefore, from the three kinds of formations
Come the manifestation of formations,
These are the karmas that go into being beings.[10]

Then there is whatever is produced by the karma of formations, and we enter into the corresponding phenomena, whatever they may be. The awareness so-produced is 3) consciousness. The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

Conditioned by formations there is consciousness.

As regards consciousness, at the time we enter into the good existence of a human being, from the red and white bindus, the aspects into which prana and mind are gathered, come feeling, perception, formations, and consciousness. These are the four skandhas of name. Form is bound by being established as the skandha of form.

This is called 4) name and form. The same text says:

If one enters into consciousness,
Name and form will be engendered then.

In the mother’s womb from entering into consciousness, name and form are established. That form goes on from the embryonic stage of an oval and so on up to the completed body. At that time by the arising of the eye, ear, nose, tongue body and mind, there are the 5) six ayatanas. The same text says:

As for name and form, if they are engendered,
Then the six ayatanas will arise.

Then by gathering together objects, the senses, and mental attention, 6) contact arises. For example, as from bringing together form, the eye organ, and the eye consciousness, the eye-awareness arises, just so, from name, form, and consciousness, in the mother’s womb, contact arises. The same text says:

In dependence on these six ayatanas
After that true contact will arise.
In dependence on name and form,
And production of memory there can only be birth.

Therefore, in dependence on name and form,
There will be the arising of consciousness.
Then from name and form and consciousness
That which is gathered together from those three,

That is contact, and from that contact then,...

From contact arises 7) feeling. From objects being pleasing, displeasing or in between arise feelings of pleasure, displeasure, or neutrality. The same text says:

Feeling is the source of suffering.

From feeling, 8) craving proliferates. The child in the mother’s womb by feeling pleasure, and liking

that, has a craving for happiness and, from feeling pain, and wanting to get rid of that, has a craving to get rid of unhappiness. From the neutral there is craving for equanimity. These three arise. The same text says:

By the condition of feeling there is craving
The object of one’s feeling will be craved.

That which is desired from craving will be the object of 9) clinging. The same text says:

Because of craving there is also clinging.
Of that clinging there are four different kinds.

The Prasannapada (tshig gsal) says:

Thus there is attachment to feelings, and as for that desire, from having the condition of craving, there is complete grasping of the impelling cause, desire, and discipline, view, action, and “being an exponent of ego.”

At the time of craving there are also what accords, what does not accord, what is between the two, and clinging to oneself, those four.

From clinging there is 10) becoming. As for the five skandhas, form, feeling, perception, formation, and consciousness, since they are existent, becoming arises. The same text says:

When close clinging to the object exists
Of the clinger becoming will arise.
If there is no close clinging to the object,
We are liberated with no becoming.
That becoming is therefore the five skandhas.

What is first generated from that, is that future 11) birth arises. The same text says:

From becoming there is birth

Having been born, growing up, 12) aging and dying, with the cessation of life, arise. The same text says:

Old age and death and fearful suffering,
And pain together with cries and lamentation,
Unhappiness and quarrelsome discord,

All of these occur from being born. The sutras say:

From that birth old age completely ripens
In death, the decrepit skandhas are destroyed.

As for suffering, while we are sentient beings, while we are dying, because of delusion there is torment of the heart together with desire. As for lamentation, such expression of speech is motivated through suffering. Suffering is harm within the five senses. Unhappiness comes about when unpleasantness occurs. Quarrels arise from so much suffering and unhappiness.

These interdependent arisings from earlier to later are what is called “arising from causes.” Since inner consciousness of inner earth, water, fire, air, space is produced by gathering together the six dhatus, this is called “arising from conditions.” The Noble Rice Stalk Sutra says:

Similarly for inner interdependent arisings there are two external sources. What are these two? They are the connection with the cause and the connection with the condition. What is the connection with the cause of inner interdependent arising? This occurs when conditioned by ignorance there are formations. Conditioned by formations, there is consciousness.

What is the connection with the conditions of interdependent arising? It is the gathering together of the six elements. What is that like? It is like this. The gathering of the elements of earth, water, fire, air, space, and consciousness is viewed as the condition of inner dependent arising.

This is from the viewpoint of the Mahayana. According to the shravakas, ignorance is the time when there are the skandhas due to the karmic action of kleshas from former lives. These five skandhas are formations at the time when they collect karma from former lives. The five skandhas are consciousness on the occasion of entering a womb. The five skandhas are name and form in an oval embryo and so forth, before the five senses have developed prominently. The five skandhas are the six ayatanas from the time the gates of sense have developed, until we are able to perceive objects. The five skandhas become contact after we are able to perceive and grasp objects, but while we do not yet know the particulars of pleasure and pain. The five skandhas are feeling from the time when one grasps the particulars of pleasure and pain, but cannot copulate. The five skandhas are craving from when we grasp the power to copulate, but have not accepted an object of desire. The five skandhas are clinging on the occasion of accepting an object of desire. The five skandhas are becoming while subsequently collecting karma. Then, in the beginning of the next life, when the five skandhas arise from the mother’s womb, that is birth. Then in the name and form of the next life, the four limbs of the six ayatanas, contact, craving, and feeling grow old and die. The Rice Stalk says:

The ayatanas of name and form are what age and die.

From birth up to feeling it is similar. The Abhidharmakosha says:

The first ones and the last ones, two and two
Have eight more between completing them.

Ignorance is the occasion of former kleshas.

As for formations, it is the five-fold skandhas
Made one with the karma of former consciousness.

Name and form continue from that time
Until the six ayatanas are developed,
Until the three have been united together.

Contact is until feeling knows the causes
Of such experiences as pleasure and pain.

From feeling to copulation is called craving.

When we desire the act of copulation
That is the activity of clinging.

Because we have attained it, very quickly,
Its fruition, becoming, will arise.
As for that karmic action, its is becoming.

Actually being reborn is the stage of birth.

Up to feeling, there is old age and death.

There are two ways, instantaneous and ongoing, of exhausting these twelve links of interdependent origination.

From the instantaneous viewpoint, by the power of self and other, it is impossible that there is a time when life is cut off. Therefore doing evil deeds is ignorance. The aspect of entering into karma from doing evil deeds is formations. Awareness at the time of producing that karma is consciousness. Then there are the name and form and the six ayatanas of oneself and others. Then being pierced by the weapon of desiring happiness for oneself and suffering for others is contact. The pleasure and pain of that is feeling. From that, entering further and further into joy is craving. Remaining into the later arising of that is clinging. Possessing the five skandhas of that is becoming. The present and future aspect of that is birth. The aging and death of that is completed in an “instant of completing action.”

Regarding instants, there are three kinds. First is the smallest instant of vividly entering into knowledge of knowables. Then there is an instant of action, which is a hundred and twenty times that. The time from when an action is begun until it is completed is called an instant of completing action.

According to the ongoing approach, the mind-only school maintains that one cycle of cause and effect is completed in two lifetimes. In a former life the six causes are completed. In this life the six fruitions are completed. By that one goes to the next life. The six causes are ignorance, formation, consciousness, craving, clinging, and becoming. The six effects are the rest.

According to the shravakas, one round of cause and effect is completed in three lifetimes.

Depending on the cause of the ignorance and formations of the former life, the fruition in this life is the five consciousness and so on. In dependence on the cause of the craving, clinging, and becoming of this life, the fruition in the next life is birth, and old age and death. As to the purpose of knowing these, the Abhidharmakosha says:

By those, between the earlier and later extremes,
Ignorance can completely be eliminated.

With that the explanation of interdependent arising within samsaric existence is completed. Now there are the two kinds of interdependent arising of nirvana. These are those of the path and the fruition.

As for the path, the root of entering into the twelve manners of samsaric interdependent arising is ignorance. That is reversed by the insight of wisdom. By familiarity with the three prajñas, hearing, contemplating, and meditating, the first root, ignorance, is eliminated. By eliminating that, the other limbs depending on it are also eliminated one after another. By exhausting the cause of entering into craving, we cross over from abiding in samsara. The Friendly Letter says:

By the cessation of birth, these all will cease.

The Mulamadhyamakakarikas says:

As soon as ignorance ceases
Formations will not arise.
As for ignorance ceasing,
With knowledge one meditates.

By the ceasing of that and that
That and that will not manifest.
Alone, our pain and skandhas
In that way really cease.

By yogins who desire liberation not collecting the karmic causes of samsara, the fruition is that later there is no samsaric arising, and therefore formations are blocked. The same text says:

The root of samsara is conditioned formations.
Therefore the wise do not produce formations.

As for the interdependent arising of the fruition, the production of benefits for beings after buddhahood is like dream or illusion. This will be extensively explained below. As this knowledge of the inclusion of all dharmas under interdependent arising is itself included within the absolute truth, we pass beyond suffering to nirvana. The same text says:

Whoever has seen interdependent arising
By that has seen the truth of suffering.
The cause of suffering, and its cessation,
And the path to that are also seen.

These are called the two storehouses of the great teachings of the Buddha because all dharmas are included within them. Among things that should be known they are of the highest importance.

6.b) The teaching of appearance as unborn, the explanation of prajña itself,

As for the meaning resolved by that:

These appearances have been unborn primordially.
Being without an essence, they are like reflections.
Nevertheless, they still appear as variety.
Having seen the pure nature in its interdependence,
We quickly contact the highest level of non-dwelling.

All the appearances of outer and inner dharmas are like the reflection of the moon arising in water. What has no essence appears as variety. The Samadhiraja Sutra says:

When at night there seem to be moons in water,
Though these appear in clear and untroubled lakes;
The moons in water are empty, hollow, and essenceless.
All dharmas should be known to be like that.

Meditate like that, knowing that the dharmas of samsara and nirvana are natureless. Things appearing as external variety are actually within the insight of non-existent arising. If mind lets these two rest without emanation and gathering, not perceiving any dharmas other than that, mind enters into a sky-like state. This absolute space of subsiding is the perfection of prajña. The Bodhicharyavatara says:

At the time when things as well as non-things
Do not exist at all before the mind,
Then without phenomena as other
Without conception, there is perfect peace.

Saraha says:

Free from meditater and meditation,
Not moving from that, is known as meditation.
Mind does not exist, and mahamudra
as no hope of any kind of fruition.

The Mahayanasutralankara says:

Revelation of true and excellent knowables
Depends upon the samadhi of meditation.
We are completely freed from all the kleshas.
This is well explained as nurturing prajña.

These are the highest dharmas of fruition.
The existence of these is said to be three-fold.[11]
Having completely known this kind of prajña,
Capable ones establish reality.

The essence is that knowables are realized. The cause depends on samadhi. As fruition, we are liberated from the kleshas. The Prajñaparamitasañcayagatha says:

When by prajña the nature of dharmas is totally known,
We are completely and truly released from the three-fold worlds.

The action is pure of harming, and after the Dharma has been well explained, doubts are cut off. The same text says:

The herd-bull of human beings, when he turns the precious wheel, Teaches Dharma to beings so that pain will be exhausted.

As for the qualities, by prajña we reach the city of liberation. The divisions are hearing, contemplating, and meditating. The preliminaries, main body, and post-meditation of samadhi are these three prajñas. As for their virtues, the Mahayanasutralankara says:

The Buddha’s children know all aspects of what phenomena are. Why even mention that they have passed beyond suffering, and that they are the retinue where attachment of mind does not arise at all?

6.c) Summary of Prajña

By this same prajña all beings are established in the three enlightenments of body, speech, and mind. By the wisdom of prajña being completely grasped, we are inexhaustibly established in the pure worlds. Without prajña we will not have the good fortune of liberation:

Having prajña, we will be set free by upaya,
Just as saying a mantra can stop the action of poison.
If there is no prajña, upaya will put us in bondage,
Tormenting us like a medicine that itself becomes a disease.
Therefore, arouse the prajña that sees the natural state.

The Jewel Heap Sutra says:

Kashyapa, those who possess prajña are completely liberated by upaya. Those who do not possess prajña are completely bound by upaya.

The Dohakosha says:

Those who dwell in emptiness, separate from compassion
Never will attain the path to supremacy.
But those who meditate upon compassion alone
These too abide in samsara, without gaining liberation.

Those who are able to bring together both of these
Have an abode in neither samsara nor nirvana.


By that which is a chain for binding fools,
Capable ones are quickly liberated.

Knowing the nature of all dharmas, if we strive to the utmost, we will quickly be liberated. The Noble Sutra Teaching the Setting out of the Armor (‘phags pa go cha bkod pa bstan pa’i mdo) says:

Those who with great earnestness and exertion fully practice this Dharma; unborn, unceasing, utterly profound emptiness; will quickly become conversant with the Dharmadhatu of the bodhisattvas. They will have perfect retention and confident speech, completely gather the unsurpassable dharmas, be praised by the buddha bhagavats, and abide in completely pure discipline. Having attained completely pure patience, unsurpassable exertion, meditation without conception, and the great prajña, they will quickly become completely enlightened. By being in the heart of enlightenment, with their parasols borne by the four great kings, they will be supplicated to turn the wheel of Dharma. Producing the great light for gods and human beings, they will fully establish them in enlightenment.

Footnotes and references:


Discussed below.


Roughly, the distinction is that contemplation is concerned with practices limited by samsaric forms and concepts, while meditation transcends these in various ways. Thus it is almost the reverse of Catholic usage of these terms.


Conceptually described, the logial teachings of emptiness and so forth.


yang dag. The truth of the true relative.


The literal meaning of the Tibetan kun rdzob is “disguised in a costume” or “spurious.” The translation “relative” was used because some pure forms of kun rdzob, as presented below are neither disguised nor spurious. That does obscure the meaning of some passages like this where the literal sense is primary.


The same point is made when madhyamaka says that no entities bear the analysis.


If absolute and relative are separate, what appears in a true and absolute way does not appear in a confused and relative way. However, what in true reality does not appear at all cannot appear in a confused way either.


Isolated nihilistic emptiness is false


If the absolute is being defined as being beyond complexity, ie. characteristics, this causes problems in Buddhist logic which presupposes that for all entities either any given characteristic or its negation will apply


The Tibetan has a similar repetition “‘gro bar ‘gro.”


As explained below.

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