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Dol-bo-ba Shay-rap-gyel-tsen,• author of the Mountain Doctrine, Ocean of Definitive Meaning: Final Unique Quintessential !mtructiom,b

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Dol-bo-ba Shay-rap-gyel-tsen,• author of the Mountain Doctrine, Ocean of Definitive Meaning: Final Unique Quintessential !mtructiom,b was one of the most influential figures of fourteenth-century Tibet, a dynamic period of doctrinal formulation.

As Cyrus Stearns says in his excellent biography:~ Without question, the teachings and writing of Dol po pa, who was also known as "The Buddha from Dol po" (Dol po sangs rgyas), and "The Omniscient One from Dol po who Embodies the Buddhas of the Three Times" (Dus gsum sangs rgyas kun mkhyen dol po pa), contain the most controversial and stunning ideas ever presented by a great Tibetan Buddhist master. The controversies which stemmed from his teachings are still very much alive today among Tibetan Buddhists, more than 600 years after Dol po pa's death.

His works were monumental and seminal in that they present a penetrating and controversial re-formulation of doctrines on emptiness and buddhanature influential through to the present day.

Dol-bo-ba Shay-rap-gyel-tsen was born in the Dol-bo area of presentday Nepal in 1292 in a family practicing tantric rites of the Nying-ma order:' It is reported that after receiving tantric initiation at the age of five, he had a vision of Red Maiijushri, and subsequently his intelligence burgeoned. At twelve he was ordained and at seventeen fled, against his parents' wishes, to study with Gyi-aon Jam-yang-drak-ba-gyel-tsen' in Mustang, where in a month he learned the doctrinal vocabularyd of the

(1) pathstructure

studies associated with the perfection of wisdom teachings, dol po pa shes rab rgyal mtshan, 1292-1361. ri chos ng~s don rgya mtsho zhes bya ba mthar thug thun mong ma yin pa 'i man ngag; for editions used see the footnote on 40. For extended discussion of how Dol-bo-ba's work relates to Dzong-ka-6a's Th~ Essmce ofE/oqumc~. see my: R4kctiom on R~ality: Th~ Thr~~ Natures and Non-Natum in th~ Mind-Only School {Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), Part Four Other-Emptiness, S~lf-Emptinm: Dlil-bo-ba and Dzong-ka-ba (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion, forthcoming)

Emptiness in the Mind-Only Schoo/ of Buddhism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999), 47-55 {see also index entries under Shay-rap-gyel-tsen) Absorption in No External World: 170 lss~s in Mind-Only Buddhism (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion, 2005). Issues #63-65.

skyi ston Jam dbyangs grags pa rgya/ mtshan. chos skad.


(2) epistemology and logic,' and (3) phenomenology." His new teacher was called to Sa-gya, then the greatest learning center in Tibet, and two years later Dol-bo-ba joined him, where he continued studies on the three above mentioned topics, as well as Shantideva's Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deedr~-simultaneously mastering them in a year and a half. From this master he also received teachings on the Kalachakra Tantra and related sutras and commentaries that shaped his practice and outlook.

After receiving many other teachings, when he was twenty-one, his parents, "who had now forgiven him for ·running away,"' made an offering for his own first teaching-this being on the perfection of wisdom, epistemology and logic, phenomenology, and discipline. "His teachings were received with unprecedented acclaim, although some criticized him for teaching too many texts at once.""

At the age of twenty-two, while making a tour of western and central Tibet to learn at other institutions, he first came to be called "Omniscient,"< an epithet that even his opponents still use. As Stearns says about his extremely broad learning and about the importance of Gyiaon Jam-yallg-drak-ba-gyel-tsen to him:7

Up until the age of twenty-nine (1321) he had studied with more than thirty teachers, the most important of whom, Skyi ston 'Jam dbyangs Grags pa rgyal mtshan, had bestowed upon him some seventy initiations and teachings.

At twenty-nine in 1321, however, he was completely humbled when he visited the monastery of Jonang ,d located 160 km northwest of the Dra-shihliin- bo monastery of Shi-ga-azay, and saw "that every man and woman who was seriously practicing meditation had realized the nature of reality through meditation."8 In 1322 he returned to Jonang, where he received in-depth instruction on the Kalachakra Tantra and entered into retreat. During a second retreat for one year (or rwo or three, depending on the account), he realized the first four branches of the six-branched yoga of the Kal.achakra systemindividual withdrawal, concentration, stopping-vitality, retention, subsequent mindfulness, and meditative stabilization. Stearns says (brackets mine):

On the basis of boili pratyahara [withdrawal] and dhyana [concentration], he beheld immeasurable figures of the Buddhas and pure


The monastery was founded by Tuk-jay-dzon-dru (thugs rje bruon grus. 1242/3-1313).

lands. On the basis of prii.T}iiyii.ma [stopping-vitality] and dharar;ut [retention], exceptional experience and realization was born due to the blazing of blissful warmth.

During this retreat Dol-bo-ba realized the view of "other-emptiness" but did not speak about it for several years. In 1326 he was installed as the head of the Jo-nang Monastery and in 1327 began work on a gigantic monument-the Glorious Sttipa of the Con~tellations"-which was completed in 1333, restored by Taranatha in 1621, and refurbished in 1990. Either during or after the building of the sttipa, for the first time he taught that conventional phenomena a;e selfempty, in the sense that they lack any self-nature, whereas the ultimate is other-empty, in the sense that it is empty of the conventional but has its own self-nature. This latter realization Dol-bo-ba himself stated to be previously Ufl:known in Tibet and spoke of it this way:'"

I bow in homage to the gurus, buddhas and kalkis by whose kindness the essential points which are difficult for even the exalted ones to realize are precisely realized, and to their great stUpa. During this period Dol-bo-ba wrote and taught a great deal, while also working on the stUpa. His monumental Mountain Doctrine, Ocean of Definitive Meaning: Final Unique Quintessential Instructions "was completed well before the final consecration of the stupa on October 30, 1333."" His view of "other-emptiness" is based on profound understanding of three Indian expositions of tantras, the "th,ree cycles of bodhisattva commentaries":

1. Kalki Pl.u?-9arika's< Great Commentary on the "Kalachakra Tantra':· Stainless Lightd

2. Vajragarbha's• Extensive Commentary on the "Condensed Meaning of the Hevajra Tantra"

dpal /dan rgyu skar gyi mchod rten.

sems 'gr~t skor gsum.

rigs /dan pad ma dkar po. Dol-bo-ba also refers to him as spyan ras gzigs dbang phyug (A valokiteshvara) or Jig rten dbang phyug (Lokeshvara). d bsdus pa 'i rgyud kyi rgyal po dus kyi 'khor lo 'i 'gr~l bshad rtsa ba 'i rgyud kyi rjes su Jug pa stong phrag bcu gnyis pa dri ma med pa 'i 'od ces bya ba, vimalaprabhaniimamulatantrimusilril}i· dvada.Sasahasrikalaghukiilacakratantrariijaf"ika; P2064, vol. 46. • rdo rj~ snyi~g po.

ky~'i rdo rj~ bsdus pa'i dongyi rgya ch~r 'gr~l pa, hwajrapi7Jt/izrthafika; P2310, vol. 53.


3. Vajrapa!].i's• Meaning Commentary on the "Chakrasamvara Tantra. The latter two commentaries are said to have been composed using the rubric, or grid, of the Kalachakra Tantra, and thus all three are Kalachakra related. Dol-bo-ba speaks of these three as the quintessential instructions of tenth-ground· bodhisattvas. He also draws on a vast array of sutras, tantras, and Indi~n treatises.

Despite having relied on this plethora of Indian sources, the Mountain Doctrine was received with amazement and shock. However, Dol-bo-ba also was highly lauded and received great offerings from exalted religious figures of the day, among whom he indeed was one of the greatest. He gave teachings sometimes to thousands of persons and at other times to· the luminaries of his period. He was invited, along with Bu-aon Rin-chen-dcup<::-another great master of Kalachakra-to China by the Yi.ian dynasty (Mongolian) Emperor Toghon Temi.ir. Neither of them went, and to avoid the emperor's displeasure Dol-bo-ba "stayed in different isolated areas for four years."

Concerned about the damage to religious centers and so forth that ensued from a protracted political power struggle, Dol-bo-ba decided "to travel to Lhasa and make prayers to the Jo bo image there, which he felt to be the same as the Buddha himself."

Dol po pa had become increasingly disturbed by the extensive damage to the Buddhist communities, temples, and shrines in Tibet due to the great political turmoil that had swept through the land during the protracted power struggle between the Sa skya pa in Gtsang (the western province of Tibet] and the newly arisen Phag mo gru in Dbus [Central Tibet].

Thus, in 1358, at the age of sixty-six, he departed from Jo-nang. Along the way, he gave teachings to the Fifteenth Patriarch of Sa-gya, $o-nam-gyeltsen, d who requested that he compose The Great Calculation of the Doctrine, Which Has the Significance of a Fourth Council: along with an autocommentary. Dol-bo-ba audaciously'~ titled his work this way because he considered the doctrine of other-emptiness and its implications for the buddha- nature to be like an addition to the famous three councils in India.

phyag na rtkJ rje.

mngon par brjod pa 'bum pa las phyung ba nyung ngu'i rgyud kyi bsdus pa'i tkJn rnam par bshad pa, lakfilbhidhan~duddhrtalaghutantrapi1Jtfarthavivara1Ja; P2117, vol. 48. < bu ston rin chmgrub, 1290-1364.

bsod nams rgyal mtshan.

bka' bsdu bzhi pa'i don bstan rtsis chm po.


He also gave lectures "that were often so large that people at the edges could not hear the teaching, so it had to ·be relayed through an interpreter," 16 that is, someone repeating what he said. In the Hla-sa area: he·:was thronged with teachers and others requesting teachings, to the point where "There were so many people listening to the teachings that doors were broken and stairways collapsed."

After six months, when leaving Hla-sa to return to Jo-nang, he was thronged by believers, and, again, along the way he taught huge crowds and received the praise of monastic leaders. When he stopped in Sha-lu• to debate with Bu-aon, the latter sought to avoid confrontation, but when Dolbo- ba nevertheless made "the opening exclamation for debate (thai skad), the force ... produced a crack in the wall ofBu-ston's residence."1" In the eleventh month of the mouse year (the end of 1360), Dol-bo-ba gave a teaching on the Mountain Doctrine and the next day passed away in deep meditation.

When the corpse was offered into the fire, the smoke rose up only about the length of a spear, then went to the stitpa like a streaking arrow, circled it many times, and finally disappeared to the west.1? After the crematorium was opened, many clear, crystal-like formations appeared among the ashes, and "ashes from the cremation were gathered and put along with other relics into an image of Dol po pa that was in the great stitpa he had built."20


The Mountain Doctrine, Ocean of Definitive Meaning: Final Unique Quintessential lnstructions, long text of folios, is a sustained argument about the buddha-nature, also called the matrix-of-one-gone-thus< and matrix-of one- gone-to-bliss,d replete with citations of sutras, tantras, and Indian treatises and interspersed with objections and answers. It thereby follows the format, inherited from India, of a presentation by way of both reasoning and scripture--the scriptural citations being so rich that the book can also be considered an inspiring anthology, a veritable treasure-trove of literature about the matrix-of-one-gone-thus.

In the dedication of virtue at the end of the \:look, Dol-bo-Sa Shay-rapgyel- tsen explains the meaning of his title:

zha lu. ri chos nges don rg;ya mtsho zhes bya ba mthar thug thun mong ma yin pa 'i man ngag. de bzhin gshegs pa'i snying po, tathiigatagarbha. bde bar gzhegs pa 'i mying po, sugatagarbha.


This final definitive meaning thus of all the excellent profound scriptures of the conqueror-

Realized through the kindness of foremost ven~rable lamas from being "illuminated By profound inst~uctional counsel from the mouths of conquerorchildren such as the protectors of the three lineages and so forth- Is the mountain doctrine of profound yogic practitioners in isolated mountain retreats, Containing the entirety of the rivers of definitive meaning Of all the elevated pure siitras, tantras, and treatises, and hence is an ocean of definitive meaning, Teaching the unique finality of the spectrum of basis, paths, and fruit

And also the spectrum of view, meditation, and behavior, and hence it is concordant in name and meaning. Since it comments on profound thought, it is a commentary on the conqueror's thought,

And since it comments on all.vajra words, it unravels-the knots of vajra words,

And since it clearly teaches the profound noumenon, it is a lamp to the matrix-of-one-gone-to-bliss,

And since it contains all profound scriptures, reasonings, and quintessential instructions, it is also a supre.me wish-granting jewel. His text is aimed at presenting not what is tentative, provisional, and requiring interpretation in the Indian source texts but the definitive meaning of ultimate reality itself, so profound and difficult to realize that it is a doctrine practiced in mountain retreats by yogis. Containing a plethora of citations from Indian siitras and tantras as well as expositions of them and laden with inspiring lists of synonyms of the ultimate, it is like a great ocean into which all rivers of doctrine have flowed. Endowed with the quintessential instructions especially of the three bodhisattva commentaries by Kalki PuiJ.9-arika, Vajragarbha, and VajrapaiJ.i, it offers unique final presentations of the spectrums of Buddhist doctrine.

Dol-bo-ba developed a new doctrinal language through an amalgamation of the classical texts of the mind-only and middle way systems into a great middle way; intertwining the particular tantric vocabulary of the Kalachakra system. As he says: 2'


Tantras should be understood ·by means of other tantras. Sutras should be understood by means of other sittras. Sutras should also be understood by means of the tantras. Tantras should also be understood by means of the sutras. Both should be understood by means of both.

This all-encompassing approach, simultaneously drawing on siitras and tantras, puts topics-rather than just the differentiation of systems-to the forefront in a search for meaning. In presentations that are usually considered the classical texts of separate systems, he sees in each of those texts multiple systems crowned by the great middle way. For instance, he considers separate passages of the Sutra Unraveling the Thought, considered by many to be just mind-only, to

present the views of mind-only and the great middle way, the latter being ultimate mind-only,' also called .supramundane mind-onlY' and final mind-only,< which is beyond consciousness.d Also, in certain Indian treatises usually taken to be strictly mind-only he finds passages teaching conventional mind-only and others teaching the great middle way.

Still, Dol-bo-ba's presentation is by no means a collage drawing a little from here and a little from there and disregarding the rest. Rather, he has a comprehensive overarching perspective born from careful analysis, like other great synthesizers of his period. For him, others had just not seen what the texts themselves were saying, and instead read into classical texts the views of single systems. Since he draws from a great variety of siitras, tantras,.and treatises, Dol-bo-ba's perspective is syncretic, but it is perhaps synthetic only in the sense that he found within these an exposition of a view beyond what had become the traditional schools. It was not a mere putting together of pieces from here and there.

He also criticized the then (and still) popular notion that recognition of conceptions themselves as the body of attributes• of a buddha ·:would alone bring about enlightenment,"r without requiring abandonment of any misconceptions. g Thus he was bucking two popular trends-(1) separation of

don dam pa'i sems tsam.

b Jig run las 'das pa'i sems tsam: ibid., 213.6. mthar thug gi sems tsam.

rnam sh~s las 'das pa: ibid., 213.2.

chos sku, dharmakiiya.


For a clear and concise exposition of chis position, see Stearns, Th~ Buddha from Dol po, 151-156; also 171-174. g For an excellent study of doctrines of enlightenm,enc through seeing basic mind, see David Jackson, Enlightmm~nt by a Single Meam (Vienna: Verlag der Osterreichischen


the classical texts of the great vehicle into isolated systems and separation of siitra and tantra into isolated camps and (2) ~eduction of the final path to self-recognition of basic mind. Breaking boundaries between set systems, his grand, over-arching, iconoclastic perspective shocked Tibetan scholars from his own day to the present. The Sa-gya scholar Ren-da-wa Shon-nu-Iodro•-- over three readings-first found it unappealing, then appealing, and then unappealing. Ren-da-wa' s student, Dzong-ka-bab found it so provocative that he took Dol-bo-ba's views as his chief opponent in his works on the view of emptiness.

Dijl-bo-ba s View of Reality Basis and Fruit Undifferentiable

The Ocean of Definitive Meaning is divided into three sections of roughly equal length-basis, path, and fruit-preceded by a brief overview and followed by a short summary. The basis is the ground on which the spiritual path acts to rid it of peripheral obstructions, thereby yielding the fruit of practice. The basis

is the matrix-of-one-gone-thus, which itself is the thoroughly established nature, the uncontaminated· primordial wisdom empty of all compounded phenomena-permanent, stable, eternal, everlasting. Not compounded by causes and conditions, the matrix-of-one-gone-thus is intrinsically endowed with ultimate buddha qualities of body, speech, and mind such as the ten powers; it is not something that did not exist before and is newly produced; it is self-arisen.

From this point of view, Dol-bo-ba emphasizes that the basis (the actual way things are even in an ordinary state) and the fruit (as manifested in buddhahood) are undifferentiable (89, 93, 94, and so forth). At the beginning of the Mountain Doctrine he inspiringly speaks of the matrix-of-onegone- thus as the basic reality and pristine wisdom (61), and although ultimate buddha qualities of body, speech, and mind pre-exist in the matrix-ofone- gone-thus (100), effort at the spiritual path is nevertheless required because · there are two types of effects, separative< and producedd-separative effects being already existent factors that need only to be separated from Akademie der Wissenschaften, 1994).

red mda' bagzhon nu blo gros, 1349-1412.

b tsong kha pablo bzanggrags pa. 1357-1419.

bra[ ba'i 'bras bu. For these two, see also Cyrus R Stearns, The Buddha ftom Dol po: A

Study of the Lifo and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (Albany, N.Y.:

State University of New York Press, 1999), 84.

d bskyed pa'i 'bras bu.


defilement and do not require production, whereas produced effects have to be generated through practice. Dol~6o~6a makes the distinction that while a person is still a sentient being, the basis is obstructed by defilements, and when a person has become a buddha, the basis has separated from defile~ ments (148). Thus, a process of purification must take place before buddhahood can be attained.

Although sentient beings already. possess ,ultimate buddha-qualities, Dol~bo-ba avoids having to hold that ordinary' sentient beings are already buddhas by making distinctions between ultimate and conventional qualities and between ultimate buddha and conventional buddha. Noumenal ultimate buddha and buddha-qualities are already integrally present in the noumenon, . whereas conventional buddha and conventional ·buddha~ qualities must be attained (99, 119). Through

an elaborate, reasoned argu~ ment he directly addresses the issue of whether endowment with ultimate buddha-qualities would absurdly make ordinary sentient beings buddhas, concluding that it does not (185). He does this by pointing out that bud~ dha-qualities have negative and positive aspects, called qualities of abandonment of defilements and qualities of realization .. To show that all beings are primordially endowed with a buddha's body of attributes and yet need to attain their conventional manifestation he uses the vocabulary of: primordial abandonment and primordial realization that are contained within the noumenon

abandonment and realization that are attained through practicing spiri~ tual paths that serve as antidotes to defilements. De>l-bo~ba cites an example found in many siitras and treatises that aptly makes the point that the basis and fruit are the same and yet spiritual development is required (50, 185). An unknown treasure (basis) exists un~ der the home of a poor person that must be uncovered (path) through re~ moving obstructive dirt (defilements), yielding the

treasure (fruit) that al~ ways was there. Just as the treasure already exists and thus requires no further fashioning, so the matrix~of~one-gone~thus, endowed with ultimate buddha qualities, already dwells within each sentient being and needs only to be freed from defilements. He thereby emphasizes that:

The body of attributes of a buddha pre~exists within sentient beings. There are scriptures, reasonings, and also special quintessential instructions revealing the presence of this internal treasure, the matrix-af-onegone~ thus or matrix-of~one-gone-to-bliss. The practice of wisdom, along with its accompanying factors of merit, is required to remove the defilements preventing realization of this resource.


From this, it can be seen that, even though ultimate buddha marks, beauties, and so forth exist intrinsically in the continuums of all sentient beings, they are obscured by ignorance and thus cannot perform the activities of a buddha, which can be done only when conventional buddha-qualities are attained (185, 199). Thus, ·the undifferentiability of basis and fruit refers to the ultimate body of attributes that exists in all beings whether enlightened or not and does not refer conventional form bodies, which are attained through practice of,the path (512):

Objection: If the basis and the fruit are undi.fferentiable, what is the use of the path?

Amwer: Here also "undifferentiable entity of basis and fruit" is in terms of the ultimate body of attributes and not in terms of conventional form bodies. Also, it is not that the path is not ·-needed because:

the collection of pristine wisdom, which is the non-conceptual wisdom of meditative equipoise, acts to remove the defilements of the primordially abiding body of attributes and the collection of merit, which is endowed with the pristine wisdom of subsequent attainmen~ realizing [[[phenomena]] to be] illusion-like, generates communication bodies for the sake of others.

On this basis, Dol-bo-ba cogently holds that those who claim that just because ultimate buddha qualities are present in a person, that person must be a buddha, simply do not understand the difference between the presence of ·something and being that thing (188):

Therefore, the very many perverse challenges such as, "If buddha exists in sentient beings, all karmas, afflictive emotions, and sufferings would not exist," and so forth, and "Sentient beings would realize all knowables," and so forth are babble by those who do not know the difference between existence [or presence] and being such and such.• This is because existence, [that is, presence] does notestablish being such and such.b If it did, then since explanations exist in humans, are humans explanations?

Dol-bo-ba argues (301) that although the ultimate, the body of attributes, is not produced, it is not contradictory for it to be an effect, since its attainment is a separative effect, an ·effect of having ·been separated from


yod pa dang yin pa 'i khyad par.

yod pas yin par mi 'grub.


peripheral defilements. The presence of self-arisen pristine wisdom' is not sufficient; other-arisen pristine wisdomb must be produced through practicing the path. He uses the metaphor of the sky to convey the point (300): That which is self-arisen pristine wisdom, ultimate truth, abiding pervasively in all doe~ not differ in anyone as to its natural purity, but through the force of persons there are the differences of purity from adventitious defilements and of impurity

due to adventitious defilements, like the fact that the sole sky-which by its own nature does not exist as entities of cloucis and is purified of entities of clouds-is not purified of clouds in some areas and is purified of clouds in other areas. Therefore, it is not contradictory that just as sky that is not purified of clouds does not exist in any area, so sky that is purified of clouds does not exist in any area, but, due to the area, there is impure sky and

there is pure sky. Similarly, while the naturally pure, sole, basic element of the ultimate abides together with defilements in sqme persons and abides without defilements in some, it is posited as the basis and the fruit through the force of the presence or the absence of defilements in persons, [but] the entity of the noumenon does not differ.

The noumenori is the same, whether realized or not. However, dependent upon realization, beings come to be termed impure, partially pure, and pure.


Two Lineages


In order to show how the matrix-of-one-gone-thus yields buddhahood, Dol-bo-ba addresses the topics of its two divisions, called the two causal lineages (55). The first is the noumenal clear light itself, the natural lineage,< and the other consists of the spiritual activities of accumulating wisdom and merit, the developmental lineage.d From those two, respectively, arise the two buddha bodies-the body of attributes and conventional form bodies, the latter consisting of a complete enjoyment body and emanation bodies.

rang byung y~ shes.

gzhan byung ~shes. Due to the fact that ~shes (pristine wisdom) is not just self-arisen but also is other-arisen, it is impossible to translate ye sh~s here as "primordial wisdom" because although self-arisen pristine wisdom is primordial, other-arisen pristine wisdom is not.

c rang bzhin gnas rigs.

d rgyas 'gyur gyi rigs.

Basis Path Fruit

narurallineage collection of wisdom body of arrribures developmenrallineage collection of merir conventional form bodies Since endowment with pre-existent ultimate buddha qualities does not eliminate the need for practice of the path, when describing the final Buddha- qualities, he titles the section on the path "Explaining how effects of separation ·and of production are attained through the path." As Taranatha, second only to Dol-bo-ba in importance in Jo-nang,

says:22 Therefore, newly attained effects that are to be produced through cultivating the path are produced effects, due to which they do not truly exist, whereas the primordially abiding buddha is merely separated through cultivating the path from the covering o:ver that buddha, due to which it is called an "effect of separation" and the path also is ,called a "cause of its separation." These [effects of separation] are merely imputed cause and effect, not actual

cause and effect. These effects of separation also are not the analytical separations described in Manifest Knowledge, "Separation is a mental extinguishment." Rather, it is an ultimate effect of separation and an ultimate true cessation in accordance with the statement in the Questions of King DharaJ!ishvara Sutra, "Since it is primordially extinguished, it is called 'extinguishment."'

In this way, the natural lineage is called a "cause" but does not produce effects, and the body of attributes is .called an "effect" but it is not produced.


Two Emptinesses


Since the matrix-of-one-gone-thus, also called the immutable thoroughly established na~ure, is empty of all compounded phenomena but replete with the ultimate phenomena, or attributes, of enlightenment, it is not selfempty. If the matrix-of-one-gone-thus were self-empty, it would not exist at all (213). Rather, the matrix-of-one-gone-thus is empty in the sense of being empty of the other two natures, imputational and other-powered natures- respectively conceptually dependent factors and phenomena produced by causes and conditions.

In this way, Dol-6o-6a recognizes two important types of emptinessself- emptiness and other-emptiness. He calls the first "empty-emptiness" and the second "non-empty-emptiness (213, 252, 301). Self-emptiness means ·that an object is empty of its own entity. A table is empty of its own entity; a mind is empty of its own entity, and so forth. The meaning of this is that such phenomena cannot withstand analysis; he says (213) that


"subjects" that cannot withstand analysis and finally disintegrate are empty of their own entities." Self-empty phenomena do· not appear to wisdom of reality, since they do not exist in the mode of subsistence (57, 209, 221, 225, 248, 252, 323, 326, 328, 331, 388, 404, 414, 425, 465, 527, 535, 537).

"Conventional phenomena only provisionally exist in that they exist only for consciousness,b which is necessarily mistaken, and thus what appears to pristine wisdom< does not appear to consciousness and what appears to consciousness does not appear to pristine wisdom (527ff.). Hence, conventional phenomena do not appear to buddhas; even conventional buddha-qualities of body, speech, and mind do not appear to a buddha, being only for the sake of trainees to whom they appear.

Nevertheless, buddhas are omniscient, since they implicitly know the phenomena of cyclic existence, for when they explicitly know the ultimate, they implicitly know that these conventional phenomena do not exist (535). As he says (527): These three realms, which are appearances of ignorance, do· not appear to the pristine wisdom of one. awakened from the sleep of ig, norance because these three realms are appearances of consciousness and whatever is consciousness is ignorance.

The spheres of wisdom and consciousness are separate. Dol-bo-ba argues that if emptiness were only self-erp.ptiness, then since self-emptiness would be thusness (the ultimate), all phenomena that are selfempty (and thus are self-emptiness) would themselves absurdly be thusness. He rubs in the point by elaborating that all of the following would absurdly be the ultimate (254ff.):

those with perverse attachment

adventitious things changing into something else and again into something else·

non-virtues

the two obstructions

and minds of awful sins.

For Dol-bo-ba, whatever is self-empty is a self-emptiness. He argues against the notion that the emptiness of those ·phenomena is the ultil'nate and that the factor of their appearance is not the ultimate:

That is, phenomena. rnamshes. ~sshes.

by asking (256) whether "the factors of appearance are einpty or not empty,"

and by citing the statement in Nagarjuna's Essay on the Mind of Enlightenment that:

Conventionalities are described as emptinesses. Just emptinesses are c~:mventionalities. and the statement in the Heart Sittra that "Form is emptiness; emptiness is form."

The equation of ordinary forms with self-emptiness requires that they are not the ultimate, and the corresponding equation of the ultimate with other-emptiness requires thitt the matrix-of-one-gone-thus and all the ultimate buddha qualities of body, speech, and mind inhering in it ai:e ultimate and are other-emptiness. He holds that it is an extreme of non-existen~e to claim that ultimate other-emptiness is self-empty (329):

Whereas the partless, omnipresent pristine wisdom of the element of attributes always abides pervading all, the extreme of nonexi#; tence is the deprecation that it does not exist and is not established and is empty of its own entity. That which is the middle devoid of those extremes is the basis devoid of all

extremes such as existence and non-existence, superimposition, and deprecation, permanence and annihilation, and so forth, due to which it is the final great middle. It is non-material emptiness, emptiness far from an annihilatory emptiness, great emptiness that is the ultimate pristine wisdom of superiors, five

immutable great emptinesses, six immutable empty drops, a which is the supreme of all letters, buddha earlier than all buddhas, primordially released one-gone-thus, causeless original buddha, aspectlessness endowed with all aspectsinsuperable and not fit to be abandoned. Not to be deprecated, it is the inconceivable element of attributes beyond phenomena of con' sciousness and not in the sphere of argument; it is to be realized in individual self-cognition by yogis.

Consequently, those who come to the conclusion that: The "middle" is solely designated to the mere voidness of all extremes. "Even the middle_is empty of the middle." "Even the ultimate is empty of the ultimate." and so forth do not aq::ord with the thought of the conqueror because, for the character of the emptiness that is the final mode of

subsistence, the mere emptiness of non-entities is not sufficient. Rather, the emptiness that is the· [ultimate] nature of non-entities [that is, emptiness that is the ultimate nature opposite from nonentities] is required. Also, Vasubandhu's Commentary on the ~'Extensive Mother," the. "Twenty-five Thousand Stanza Perfection ofWisdom Sutra," and "Eighteen Thousand Stanza Perfection of Wisdom Sutra" calls the ultimate nature-chat is einpty of adventitious imputational

conventionalities and is opposite from conventionalitiesthe nature of non-entities, and 'thereupon says that this is also the perfection of wisdom of the undifferentiable entity of basis and fruit. From this also, it is established that the profound emptiness that is a synonym of the ultimate noumenon is other-emptiness. Dol-bo-ba handles the many statements such as that (363): The element of attributes is empty of the element of attributes. Thusness is empty of thusness. The limit of reality is empty of the limit of reality. The inconceivable basic element is empty of the inconceivable basic element.


by holding that they require interpretation, their purpose. being to quiet conceptualiZation of the element of attributes and so forth as this or that. In this way the element of attributes is not empty of the element of attributes. Since meditation on self-emptiness is not sufficient, he must handle the many statements that afflictive emotions are overcome through meditating on self-emptiness, such as (394}:


Objection: Aryadeva' s Lamp Compendium for Practice states: All ones-gone-thus possessing an essence of compassionseeing all sentient beings fallen into a whirlpool of suffering, without refuge, and without defender--cause those beings to purify afflictive emotions through thorough knowledge of the nature qf

afflictive emotions in a conventional manner, and cause them to be thoroughly set in meditative stabilization having an essence of the mode of reality through having cleansed conventional truth also by means of ultimate truth.

and ·so forth. Does this not say that the entities. of afflictive emotions are purified through knowledge itself that they are self-empty? Answer: This is in consideration of temporarily .suppressing or reducing the pointedness of coarse afflictive emotions because even this very passage says that, in the'end, the conventional knowledge that afflictive emotions are self-empty must also be purified by nonconceptual pristine wisdom, meditative stabilization actualizing the ultimate.

Meditation on self-emptiness brings about a temporary reduction of the coarse level of obstructions, but meditation on other-emptiness is required for eliminating .them entirely.

He explains what it means to not be self-empty and to be other-empty. on the basis of which he shows how to interpret scriptures (366): Concerning this-whether form bodies of buddhas come to the world or do not come, whether persons realize it or do not realize it, see it or do not see it-the limit of reality, which

has many synonyms such as source of attributes and so forth, has abided thusly without changing, indestructible and not susceptible to being abandoned, without difference earlier and later, always partless, omnipresent, and all-pervasive. That is the meaning of not being empty of its own entity.

Concerning the emptiness of other entities, the emptiness of imputational phenomena such as self, sentient being, living being, transmigrating being, nourisher, creature, and so forth and the primordial emptiness even of: other-powered conventional aggregates such as forms and so forth

constituents

sense-spheres dependently arisen phenomena and sentient beings traveling in the cyclic existences of the five transmigrating beings is the meaning of other-entity emptiness.

Similarly, with respect to the statement:

Because the element of attributes is void, bodhisatrvas do not apprehend a prior limit .. Because thusness, the limit of reality, and the inconceivable basic element are void, bodhisattvas do not apprehend a prior limit.

you should also understand that although it is not void of itself, it is void of others, and through having become mindful again and again of this unique profound essential of quintessential instructions that also explain well the many occasions of


non-establishment, purity, intensive purity, thorough purity, ceasedness, cessation, extinction, separation, intensive separation, purity, abandonment, and so forth, you will understand well: the meaning of the emptiness of its own entity and the emptiness of other entities

the meaning <?f empty emptiness and non-empty emptiness the meaning of the emptiness of non-entities and the emptiness that is the [ultimate] nature of non-entities [that is, emptiness that is the ultimate nature opposite from non-entities] the mere emptiness of the phenomenon that is the object negated and the emptiness that has many synonyms such as basis of emptiness, noumenon, thusness, and so forth. Similarly, with respect to the statements:

Knowledge-of-all is empty of knowledge-of-all; knowledge of- the-path is empty of knowledge-of-the-path; exaltedknowledge- of-all-aspects is empty of exalted-knowledge-of-· all-aspects. and so forth, it is necessary to realize well the modes of: self-emptiness-emptiness of non-entities other-emptiness-emptiness that is the [ultimate] nature of non-entities [that is, emptiness that is the ultimate nature opposite from non-entities].

Concerning those, if you know the division of the two truths with respect to knowledge-of-all, knowledge-of-the-path, exaltedknowledge- of-all-aspects, the fearlessnesses, individual correct knowledge, unshared buddha-attributes, buddha, enlightenment, bodhisattva, and so forth, you will not be obscured with regard to the subduer's word.

About those:

Because the ultimate ten powers and so forth are noumenal bases of emptiness, the uncompounded basic element itself, they are final true cessations. Because conventional ten powers and so forth are included in impermanent true paths, they are self-empty. Those abide in fact; consequently, it is to be known that: There is not the slightest -contradiction in teaching that those that abide as self-empty are self-empty.


Whatsoever [passages] say that the non-self-empty are selfempty are just of interpretable meaning with a thought behind them, as indicated above.

By differentiating self-emptiness and other-emptiness one can realize that the scriptures are free of self-contradiction. There are numerous faults if self-emptiness were the only ultimate. For instance, since ultimate reality is c~lled "vajra" (261), then: even squashy, essenceless, pithless, splittable, divisible, burned, and destroyed bad things-dirty substances such as the squishy, the rotten, slime, and so forth-would be the final vajra because of being empty of their own entities. If that is accepted, it would have to be asserted that those would be hard, would be the essence, would not be pithless, and so forth.

Using parallel reasoning, Dol-bo-ba asserts that the matrix-of-one-gonet!: tus and all the ultimate buddha qualities of body, speech, and mind inhering in it are indeed hard, the essence, not pithless, and so on. The qualities of other-emptiness, including uncompoundedness and permanence, are true of what is other-empty.


Two Purities


This presentation is based on a doctrine of two types of purity-natural primordial purity and purity of adventitious defilements brought about through practice (319). In this way there are naturally primordially pure versions of all phenomena ranging from forms through omniscience. For example, there are naturally primordially pure forms that are beyond the three realms and the three times, and regarding the five aggregates (319) the pure versions are the five deities

and the five wisdoms. Dol-bo-ba similarly elaborates on pure versions of the six sense powers, the six constituents, the twelve links of dependent-arising, the four truths, the six perfections, and so forth and concludes that the realms of the pure and the impure are separate: Hence, with . the correct view you should realize that the primordially naturally pure is just pure and also realize that the impure is just impure. Concerning that, the impure are all the forms and so forth included within adventitious defilements. The Hevajra Tantra extensively says:

"0 bhagavan, what are the impure?" The bhagavan said,

"Forms and so forth. Why? Because of being the phenomena• of apprehended-object and apprehending-subject." This clears away the assertion by some that the meaning of bfing pure is to _be empty of its respective entity because althougij. all phenomena of apprehended-obJect and apprehending-subJect, which have a

nature of the two obstructions, are empty of their own respective entities, they are not pure. Consequently, with good differentiation to realize being and not being primordially naturally pure, it is necessary to realize the difference between the matrixc.ofone- gone-to-bliss and adventitious defilements, and it is also necessary to realize well their modes of being empty.

Though the noumenal versions of the six perfections and so forth abide without difference in buddhas and sentient beings, their attainment or nonattainment is due to having separated or not having separated from adventitious defilements upon having stopped or not having stopped the windsb of the twelve time-cycles (322). The bifurcation of ultimate and conventional factors is clear (375):

In this way, the forms and so forth of the ultimate matrix-of-onegone- to-bliss-attained through ceasing the continuum of the forms, and so forth, of adventitious defilements, which .have an essence of impermanence, misery, emptiness, selflessness, impurity, ignorance, and so forth-are other than external and internal conventionalities.

They are said to be:

essences of vajrasattva and vajrapadma, vajra semen and· particles, vajra moon and sun, vajra knower and known, vajra vowels and consonants, and so forth essences of the syllables eva1'fl, which is the primordially undifferentiable mixture into one taste of the five immutable great emptinesses and the six immutable empty drops ... Those aggregates, constituents, and so forth-primordially devoid of obstruction, undifferentiable, of equal taste, endowed with all noumenal aspects-are other than, supreme to, and transcendent over external and internal conventional aggregates, constituents, and so forth.

Other-emptiness means empty of the conventional, which themselves are

dngos po, bhii.va.

rlung, prii.rja.


empty of their own entities. However, it seems to me that conventional and noumenal aggregates, for instance, are not totally unrelated in that when the obstructions l:>f afflictive conventionalities are removed, the noumenal versions are revealed (383).•

Why the conventional are called "other" can be seen from Dol-bo-ba's description of the difference between defilements and the basis of purification


The defilements to be purified and the basis of purification are different, and those also not just different isolatesb since they differ by way of an extremely great number of differences: because there is the difference of fabricated adventitious and natural fundamental

and because there is the difference of conventional and ultimate and because there is the difference of phenomenon and noumenon

and because there is the difference of extreme and center and because there is the difference of other-arisen and selfarisen and because there is the difference of imputational otherpowered and noumenal thoroughly established and because there is the difference of consciousness and element of attributes


and because there is the difference .of mundane and supramundane and because there is the difference of suffering and bliss and because there is the difference of contaminated and uncontaminated and because there is the difference of incomplete and· complete ' qualities of the body of attributes and because there is the difference of destructible and indestructible.

I am reminded of Plato's image of sunlight shining on objects on a platform in a cave resulting in shadows being cast on the inner w.J.ll. For Plato the light is reality; the objects on the platform are ideal forms: and the shadows are the objects that we perceive, unable to turn toward the light. It seems to me that

for Doi-Go-ba both the light and the objects on the platform are reality itself, and the shadows are the objects that we perceive, unable to dis- · lodge ourselves from adherence to the self-empty as the ultimate. However, Dol-bo-ba never says that thi: conventionalities we perceive are reflections, or shadows, of the ultimate. b /dog pa; the Gangtok edition (366.2) reads b#og pa.


Based on the two purities, the otherness of the conventional and the ultimate is pronounced.


Two Truths


Self-emptiness is not the ultimate truth, which is of a different order of being. Dol-bo-ba describes self-emptiness as meaning that phenomena that cannot withstand analysis and are subject to disintegration are empty of their own nature. All conventionalities are self-empty, or self-emptinessesthe two terms

being used interchangeably-and thus self-emptiness is a conventionality, not the ultimate. The actual ultimate truth is able to bear analysis, is permanent, and is definitive. Thorough-going release is brought about through the wisdom of other-emptiness (394).

Dol-bo-ba rejects the notion that the ultimate also could be self-empty, since then the ultimate would not exist at all (213). The mere finding that some phenomena are empty does not make all phenomena, such as the great liberation, also empty of themselves. The great liberation is empty of defects-which are

other than itself and do not exist in reality-but it itself is not empty of itself, just as a .house is empty of humans but is not empty of itself. The great liberation does not melt under examination; it can bear analysis. In this sense, other-emptiness, the thoroughly established nature, ultimately exists (219).

In Dol-bo-ba's system the ultimate is true ultimately, and conventional truths are true conventionally (342). The body of the basic element of attributes. exists in the dispositional mode of subsistence, but no conventionalities do. "Existing in the dispositional mode of subsistence" isthe meaning of ultimately

existing (225). Conversely, since other-powered natures (phenomena produced through the power of o"ther causes and conditions) are not the ultimate nature, they are empty of their own entities; they are selfempty (215); they do ~ot exist in the dispositional mode of subsistence. The ultimate is beyond the temporary nature of other-powered natures, which, like hail-stones, may appear solid but quickly disappear (see the passage from the Angulimala Sutra, 143).

For Dol-bo-ba, dependent-arisings are. limited to impermanent phenomena produced from causes and conditions, and, therefore, the ultimate cannot be a dependent-arising (332):

Thus, the ultimate truth-knowing itself by itself, devoid of the extremes of existence and non-existence-has a nature that is beyond the phenomena of dependent-arising, does not deteriorate from its own entity, and is not empty of its own entity. Jiianagarbha's Path of Yogic Meditation says, "That which is not dependently produced and does not deteriorate from its own entity is called 'the ultimate nature."'


This seems to contradict·Nagarjuna's statement that all phenomena are dependent- arisings, but Dol-bo-ba explains that it does not, first by showing that the ultimate is necessarily not impermanent and deceptive and then by indicating that Nagarjuna's reference is to all conventional phenomena, not the noumenon. The mutuality of dependent-arising and emptiness has to be to self-emptiness, not other-emptiness (398).

The ultimate is other than lowly conventionalities (389), their otherness eliminating the possibility that the two truths ate undifferentiable. Rather, an ultimate truth is not a conventional truth, and a conventional truth is not an ultimate truth. The two truths are different and are also nQ.t,the same entity

(405). Hence, the two truths are neither one nor one enticy. They are different, though not different entities, since that they are different merely means that they are not the same entity. Furthermore, though the two truths are different, their difference is not that conventionalities are appearances and their emptinesses are ultimate truths, since rhe ultimate also appears to pristine wisdom and since conventionalities are self-emptinesses

Since the ultimate, although without the phenomena of cyclic existence, is replete with beneficial qualities, it is not a mere absence. In the Ocean of Definitive Meaning, Do~-6o-ba identifies the ultimate nine times• as an affirming negative, something that indicates a positive in place of the negation; for instance (470):

Similarly, those who assert that in the mode of subsistence, except for exclusions and non-affirming negatives, there are not at all any inclusions, positives, and affirming negatives are extremely mistaken because I have repeatedly explained and will explain that: Natural exclusion, negation, and abandonment are complete in the mode of subsistence, since all flaws are naturally nonexistent and non-established in the mode of subsistence.

Natural realizations ·of the inclusionary, the positive, and affirming negatives are primordially complete [in the mode of subsistence], since all noumenal qualities are naturally complete in their basis.

and because the master, the great scholar Jinaputra's commentary on the Praise of the Three jewels by the master Maq-che!a also says: See 132, 205, and so fonh as indicated in the index. Introduction

Therefore, the negative term "does not possess" is· an affirming negative because those types of conceptual consdousnesses do not exist [in the mode of subsistence], and it possesses naturally luminous pristine wisdom, devoid of them.

The ultimate is a negative in that it excludes conventionalities, but it is not a mere negative, or non-affirming negative, in that it is self-arisen pristine wisdom endowed with buddha~qualities of body, speech, and mind. In this way self-arisen pristine wisdom itself is the ultimate, the noumenon, and hence itself permanent.

Dol-bo-ba responds to an objection that all types of wisdom must be impermanent by pointing out that there are two types of wisdom, ultimate and conventional, the former being self-arisen pristine wisdom and the latter being other-arisen pristine wisdom (403): Objection: Since all whatsoever consciousnesses are compounded, even the perfection of wisdom and knowledge-of-allaspects also are compounded, whereas the noumenon, thusness, and so forth are uncompounded. Hence, those are not fit to be synonyms.

Answer: That is not so because it is necessary to know the divisions of the two truths also with regard to wisdom• and pristine wisdom.b Although the wisdom and pristine wisdom included within ~rue paths are compounded conventionalities, the wisdom and pristine wisdom included within true cessations are uncompounded ultimates, and since those and the noumenon and so forth are synonyms, there is no fault.

Although all consciousnesses< are compounded, pristine wisdom is not a consciousness, and within pristine wisdoms there are two. types corresponding to the two truths-self-arisen pristine wisdom, which is an ultimate truth, and other-arisen pristine wisdom, which is a conventional truth. The distinction of two truths also allows that there are ultimate ·versions of the complete enjoyment body and emanation body contained in the noumenon (431):

About this, if you know the divisions of the two truths also with regard to the complete enjoyment body and emanation body, you

shes rab.

yeshes.

rnamshes.

will not be obscured with regard to the subduer's word. Concern' ing this, it is commonly widely renowned that the two aspects of the form body are the conventional complete enjoyment body and conventional emanation body. [However,] the ultimate complete enjoyment body and ultimate. emanation body are complete in the noumenal, thoroughly established thusness.

Despite seeming suggestions that .conventional phenomena are only diseased phenomena to be transcended, there are conventional types of four of the five pristine wisdoms of a buddha (456). Conventional form bodies, unlike the

ultimate colll.plete enjoyment body and ultimate emanation body, are impermanent (448). Despite the existence of ultimate complete enjoyment and emanation bodies, Dol-bo-ba reserves the term "form body" for conventional complete enjoyment bodies and conventional emanation bodies



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