RECOGNITION OF THE MOTHER
A philosophical Song, by Lcan skya Rol Pai Rdo Rje, translated from the Tibetan, together with The Lamp of Words, a commentary by Dkon Mchog ‘Jigs Med Dban Po, transcribed at Wu T’ai Shan, in northern China, by the Bhiksu Blo Bzan Dban Rgyal; translated into English by Paul Nietupski and Upasaka Robert Thurman
Continued from issues 60, 61, 62
C. How to Look for (the Mother Voidness)
i. Actual Meaning
MANJUSRIGARBHA SENT ALOFT A CARRIER PIGEON
ON THE STRONG WIND OF THE TESTAMENTS OF
NAGARJUNA AND CANDRAKIRTI—THEREFORE,
I WAS RELEASED FROM THE ORDEALS OF SEEKING AFAR OFF,
HOPING TO SEE THE OLD MOTHER WHO IS RIGHT WITH ME.
This means that (the author) had 'hopes of seeing' this good face of the 'old mother' voidness, who 'abides conjointly' with his own cognitive process, being released from or having put aside, the 'ordeals of seeking afar off,' by relying on the 'carrier pigeon sent aloft by Manjusrigarbha (i.e., Tson Khapa)' (in the form of his commentaries) The Ocean of Reasoning, the Great Commentary on the introduction, and the Essence of the Well Elucidated26, etc., upon the "strong wind of the testaments of Nagarjuna and Candrakirti," namely the treatises such as the Sixfold Canon of Reasoning, the Introduction to the Madhyamika, and the Clear Words'.27
ii. Refutation of Error of Some of Our Own (Dge Lugs pas).
NOWADAYS, SOME BRIGHT MINDS OF OUR SCHOOL,
OVER-FOND OF TERMS SUCH AS "SELF-SUFFICIENT," "TRUTH-STATUS,"
MAKE EXCEPTION OF THEMSELVES AND THEIR OBVIOUS PERCEPTION,
AND SEEM TO SEEK A SORT OF UNICORN TO GET RID OF.
During the 1976 transmission of the precepts, people will take the 250-bhiksu precepts, the 348-bhiksuni precepts, the ten novice precepts, and the ten major and 48 minor Bodhisattva precepts. However, initial cultivators are also welcome to join the 108-day summer session. For information write Gold Mountain Monastery.
THOUGH IN THE FACE OF THE UNOBSCURED OLD MOTHER
THEY NEVER SAY THAT THIS APPEARANCE ACTUALLY EXISTS,
THEIR MANY EXPLANATIONS, MISSING THE CRUCIAL POINT,
SUSPECT THAT THE OLD MOTHER HAS WANDERED APART.
SEEMS NOT TO BE THIS OBVIOUS UNEVEN INCOMPATIBILITY,
SINCE THE INSEPARABLE INTIMACY OF UNITED FATHER-MOTHER
SEEMS SO TENDER AND PLEASURABLE!
This means that "some bright minds," i.e., philosophers, of "our own" Dge Idan pa29 "school," relying on the methods of explanations of philosophical manuals, become intensely "attached to the terms" for objective or reality-status (in things) such as "self-sufficient," and "truth-status," when identifying the negandum (of the pure negation that is voidness of selflessness), and "make exception of themselves," claiming "it is unnecessary" to refute this "obvious" immediacy of the way things now appear to us. They then seem to weary themselves by "seeking" something else to "get rid of" (or negate) such as a "unicorn" (or horn of a rabbit, i.e., something that does not exist). Although, according to the "face," or habit-pattern, of the wisdom that directly realizes "the old mother" voidness, who is "free" from all dualistic "obscurations," there could be no "talk of the existence" of this clearly "obvious appearance," their "many explanations which miss," or do not discriminate, the "crucial point" of voidness are full of suspicions that the old mother voidness has "wandered away to some other place," (i.e., is not just as much in their immediate perception as in some world of philosophical abstractions.) As for the actual situation, although things do have a certain sort of existence, according to the person who accomplishes the analysis of view, that which now appears to us as if self-sufficient, "uneven," and full of "incompatibilities," like the antlers of a deer, does not seem to be truly existent, for the father relativity and the mother voidness are united in tender embrace, and one cannot possibly eliminate the other. They are inseparable--seeming to exist in the mode of tender and pleasurable intimacy.
II.2.ii. Opinions of Other Philosophers
A. Actual Meaning
a. Modes of Assertions of Indian Sages
VAIBHASIKAS, SAUTRANTIKAS, VIJNANAVADINS, AND THE SVATANTRIKA30 MASTERS
DESCRIBE THE SNOW-WHITE ELEPHANT BODY OF THE MOTHER
WITH A VARIETY OF NAMES, SUCH AS
THE FIERCE STRIPED TIGER OF INANIMATE OBJECTS,
THE CRAZY BRAINLESS MONKEY OF PURE SUBJECTIVITY,
AND THE POWERFUL BEAR OF SELF-SUFFICIENT NON-DUALITY!
BUT THE OLD MOTHER IS BEYOND THEM ALL!
The Vaibhasikas assert the substantial existence of everything in the past, present, and future. The Sautrantikas assert the truth-status of both external objects and self-awareness. The Vijnanavadin is the (member of) the Mind-Only school who asserts that all things have the nature of internal cognition. The (three) Svatantrika masters are Jnanagarbha, Santiraksita, and Kamalasila, whose major treatises are Analysis of Two Realities, the ornament of the Middle Way, and the illumination of the Middle way, respectively, the former being Sautrantikasvatantrika-Madhyamika, and the latter two being a Yogacara-Svatantrika-Madhyamikas."31 These Buddhist philosophers fail to recognize the white-elephant's body of the mother voidness with respect to intrinsic reality, and instead describe her with a variety of appellations.
The Vaibhasikas and the Sautrantikas say that it is incorrect that things should not have truth-status with intrinsic reality, because they do have truth-status, since inanimate objects or external things are conglomerates of indivisible atoms and are established truly. Thus, (their vision of reality) is likened to a fierce striped tiger. The Cittamatrin or Vijnanavadins assert that, although indivisibility is impossible, there is truth-status, because self-awareness as the mode of subjectivity is established as a reality, and thus they (see reality as being) like a brainless mad monkey with great curiosity. The Svatantrikas assert that, due to the non-duality of subject and object, there is neither external object nor truth-status, but yet there is intrinsically identifiable or self-sufficient status (in things), because all things are established objectively according to their special mode of being; thus (their vision of reality is) likened to a hostile bear.32
Thus, although they describe her with a variety of names, since they do not identify the negandum as the establishment of things by intrinsic reality, the old mother voidness with respect to intrinsic reality is way beyond them all.
b. Modes of Assertions of Former Tibetans
THE MANY SAGES OF THE SASKYAPAS, THE RNINMAPAS, THE BKARBRGYUDPAS, AND
THE BRUGPAS, ETC.
PROCLAIM THEIR TRADITIONAL FORMULATIONS OF VARIOUS CONVENTIONS
SELF-AWARENESS AS NON-GRASPING OF VOIDNESS/CLARITY,
THE EVER-PURE, SPONTANEOUS, ORIGINAL FACE OF SAMANTABHADRA,
THE GREAT SYMBOL WHICH IS INNATE AND NON-ARTIFICIAL,
ASSERTIONLESSNESS OF EITHER EXISTENCE OR NON-EXISTENCE, --AND SOON--
IF THESE POINTED TO REALITY PRECISELY, THEY WOULD BE VERY NICE--(BUT) I STICK MY FINGER (ON THEIR NOSES) AND SAY "HOW ABOUT THAT?"
The Saskyapas, who follow the three great Saskya Panditas,33 the Rninmapas,34 who uphold the early translations of the Tantras, The Karmapas,35 who follow the disciple of Dvags po Lha Rje, Dus Gsum Mkhyen Pa, the Brugpas,36 who follow "Gro Mgon Gtsan Pa Rgya Ras, and the Zan Than Sag Pas,37 who follows the holy Pha Tshab, all these many sages of former generations apply (to the old mother ultimate reality) a variety of terms connected with their respective beliefs. Although there are many different views and practices included within the Saskyapa tradition, the followers of the lineage of Tshar Chen Blo Gsal Rgya Mtsho assert that the awareness that is the non-grasping of clarity and voidness is the ultimate reality. The Rninmapas believe that the ultimate reality is the "primordially pure," or pure from the beginning, "spontaneous," or fully accomplished in virtue from the beginning, the real face of Samantabhadra,39 and they assert that one will attain Buddhahood when mind and phenomena are terminated. The Bkabrgyudpas assert that the great symbol (mahamudra), the Ultimate Body (dharmakaya) which is bliss innate, not artificially casually constructed, is the ultimate reality. The Zanthansagpas assert that the ultimate reality is the freedom from assertion of two extremisms of being and nothingness, since all thing neither exists nor not exist. "And so on" includes the Jo Nan assertions that voidness (itself) is truly established, and independently permanent.40 Thus the former generations of the Tibetans designated the ultimate reality with various conventional expressions, such as Great Attainment (Rdzogschen), Great symbol (mahamudra), etc., and, together with their traditional instructions (zal po) proclaimed them as their own methodologies. In regard to this, (the author) allows that, "it would be very nice" if these (formulations) were accurate and without error in "pointing out ultimate reality" or essential condition of things, but expresses his disenchantments by saying "I place my finger on your noses and ask you "What about it?"41
27 Nagajuna's Sixfold Canon Reasoning (Rigs tshogs drug) compromises the Karikas, Vigahavyavartani, Sunyatasaptati, Yuktisastika, Vaidalyaprakarana, and Ratnavali. This group of texts is considered basic to the practice of the Madhyamika and authoritive in doctrine. The Madhyamakavatara by Candrakirti is considered the basic step by step introduction to the Middle Way, although in no way as a substitute for Nagarjuna's Canon. Finally, Candrakirti's Prasannapada is the definitive commentary on the Karikas.
28 Tib, rva can zig, lit. "a horned thing." We have taken the liberty of translating this as "unicorn" as this letter is traditional in English philosophy as an example of a non-existent thing, just as a "horned rabbit" is in Indo-Tibetan philosophy.
29 This is the school named after the monastery founded by Tson Khapa, Dga Idan, near Lhasa, which became philosophically dominant in Tibet from around the same time, although not politically until the time of the Fifth Dalai Lama several centuries later.
30 The Vaibhasikas are the philosophical school predominant in the early Hinayana Abhidharmic sects. The Sautrantikas are an offshoot of the former, and represent a step up in philosophical sophistication. The Vijnanavadins were advocates of "mentalism" (in H.Guenther's phrase), and the Svatantrikas were a school of Madhyamika founded by Bhavaviveka and elaborated by Santiraksita and Kamalasila.
31 Jnanagarbha, a follower of Bhavaviveka, accepted the reality of the external things, and did not accept the fundamental consciousness (alayavijnana), and thus is called a Sautrantika-Svatantrika. Santiraksita, etc., did accept the fundamental consciousness and other postulates of the Vijnanavada or Yogacara school, and hence are called Yogacarasvatantrikas.
32 There is some ambiguity here as to whether their vision is like the animals mentioned, or whether they are. We have chosen the former as more in accord with the verses above, where the ambiguity is not present, as they definitely misperceive the white-elephant-mother-reality in this way. But we do not blame the commentator for the ambiguity, as it is natural that these people would see reality as in their own image.
33 The Saskya school took its name from a monastery of that name founded by Dkon Mchog Rgyalpo of Khon in 1073. It became a philosophical school after the great works of the first hierarch of the order, Kun Dga Snin Po (1092-1158), who with his two successors constituted the three great Saskya Panditas.
34 The Rninma school, or old school, dates from the early period of dissemination of Buddhism practiced in Tibet, hence its definition as a school in contradistinction to other schools, dates from approximately 978, the traditional date of the restoration of Buddhism after the great persecution.
35 The Karmapas were derived doctrinally from a combination of the teachings of Atisa and Marpa in the person of Dvags Po Lha Rje (1079-1153), and transmitted to his pupil from Khams, Dus Gsum Mkhyen pa(1110-1193).
36 The 'Brug pas were originally another branch from the teachings of Dvags po, transmitted through Phag mo Gru, through Lama Zan, to Glin Ras pa (1129-1188) (here mentioned as "gro Mgon, etc.).
'Brugpa comes from 'B'rug monastery in Dbus, as indeed all of these school names derived originally from place-names, and it is merely coincidental that this school became strong in Bhutan ('Brug).
37 The Zan Than Zag pas are another school of the original Bkarbrgyud, from Dvags po to Phag Mo Gru to Lama Stag un Than Pa who founded the Stag Lun monastery in 1185. Or else, this might be the name of the Zi Byed pa school, founded by the Indian Mystic Pha Dampa Sans Rgyas in the end of the eleventh century, although this seems hardly likely as this school almost disappeared by the time of Rol Pai Rdo Rje. At any rate Pha Tshab Dampa referred to by the commentator seems to be Pha Dampa.
38 Tshar Chen Blo Gsal Rgya Mtsho; one of the great Saskyapa teachers.
39 Originally one of the Buddha's eight major bodhisattva disciples, although regarded as a Buddha, the the "primordial Buddha" (adibuddha) by the Rninma school.
40 Jo Nan school was founded by Dol Bu Pa, and their tenet of absolutization of the absolute was severely criticized by Tson Khapa in his Legs Bsad Snin Po.
41 This should not be misunderstood by
considering it equivalent to the same act performed by a westerner. The The
Tibetan manner of debate was very vigorous and possibly violent-looking by our
standards, as they engage in a certain ritual dance while disputing
philosophical subjects. Hence, the placing of the finger on the nose was a
standard conventionally accepted form of strong challenge practically amounting
to refutation of the theory held by the unfortunate owner of the nose.
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