The vinaya contains a section, called the vibhanga, which is of great interest because it contains stories that communicate for each pratimoksha rule a “case history” or a reason why it has been issued by the Buddha. Western researchers have usually maintained that these stories have been added later to the rules (e.g. Stache-Rosen 1984: 30; Rosen 1959: 16). Sometimes these case histories differ to some extant between the various vinaya traditions. The case histories found in the vinaya of the Tibetan Mulasarvastivadin tradition, for instance, are more elaborate than those of other traditions. One can also find sometimes more serious differences betweent the case histories of the different traditions. However that may be, even if added later to the narration, in my opinion these case histories are much too lively, varied, and specific, and obviously not following a pattern, to have been entirely “made up.” In any case, for the Buddhist tradition they are inseparably intermingled with the actual promulgation of the rules. And as we will see, for Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön they are an essential element of the argument regarding the range of application of the vinaya that will be investigated below.

Rosen (1959: 17) says that the rules of the pratimoksha as such of the different schools are in substance largely in agreement. This may be a little too optimistic, but in general one might indeed say that the numbers and the contents of the rules are a relatively stable factor within the vast literature of the different vinayas. The nature of many of these rules and the circumstances of their origination (as reported in the case histories) suggest that they were not issued with any idea of systematically covering certain categories of faults. If one analyses the rules and their case histories alone, the impression is rather that most—if not all—of them depended on a random event where a monk (or a group of monks) behaved in a certain manner that was seen as a problem internally within the community of monks or for the Sangha’s relation to the society surrounding them. At some point during the compilation of the vinaya these rules were organised into categories, mostly, it seems, according to the heaviness of the punishment in case of an infraction, but not so much in accordance to thematic categories of faults.

The fact that the vinaya regulates behaviour within the community of ordained persons and towards the outside world has from early on let to the belief among Western researchers that the sutra pitaka deals with the inner life and believes of Buddhism, while the vinaya pitaka focusses (merely) on the outward life and conduct of the ordained. I. B. Horner says (1938: ix):

Thus a standard of conduct is imposed from the outside, and for external impersonal reasons, instead of insistence being laid, as in the Nikaya teaching, on the great subjective states attainable through a man’s [sic!] own efforts of will.

Such a reduction of the vinaya to a mere sociological phenomenon was not accepted by Holt, who said (1994: 57):

My basic contention is that the Buddhist monastic discipline is most fully understood when it is considered as a purposive affective expression of the Buddha’s dhamma, that dhamma and vinaya are by no means separate constructs.

In this he draws (in ftn. 8) from Buddhaghosa’s Visuddhimagga, which quotes a sutta verse (SN i 13) as saying (with my square brackets):

When a wise man, established well in Virtue [i.e. the conduct according to rules],
develops Consciousness and Understanding [i.e. samadhi and prajña],
then as a bhikkhu ardent and sagacious,
he succeeds in disentangling this tangle.

This is to say that the vinaya rules, meditation, and wisdom have the same goal: liberation. In the Same Intention of the Drikungpa a very similar passage from the Arya Kashyapaparivarta Mahayanasutra is quoted (D 44/146v):

If you remain within the disciplined conduct, the samadhis are obtained.
If you remain within samadhi, discriminating knowledge is practised very effectively.
Through discriminating knowledge, perfect primordial wisdom is obtained.
If the primordial wisdom is pure, the disciplined conduct is perfect.

Holt aims in his paper at demonstrating (ibid.):

… how an early Buddhist theory of action is explicit in these stories [i.e. the case histories of the vibhanga], stories that clearly illustrate, via negativa, how internally disciplined volition is reflected in the forms of interpersonal conduct advocated by the vinaya code, how dhamma and vinaya are part and parcel of an integrated religious life.

I think that Holt correctly criticises a too narrow view of the vinaya, where vinaya is seen as mere accumulation of rules of proper conduct—i.e. “proper” in the eyes of the people, or as a mere instruction for an ascetic and restrained life style. However, the Buddha does not teach a mere restraint of non-action, annihilationism, and asceticism. His dharma as a whole, i.e. including the vinaya, aims at a spiritual goal (Horner 1938: 4-5, Holt 1994: 60):

I teach dhamma for the restraint of passion, of hatred and of confusion. I teach dhamma for the restraint of manifold evil wrong states [asavas] … which are searing [tapaniya], of offenses of body, speech and thought.

In other words: dharma and vinaya, and shila, samadhi, and prajña appear to be the same project. I would argue that a larger vision of the vinaya is also visible in passage such as DN 2.154, which is an instruction in the Pali canon to take the vinaya as the teacher after the Buddha’s passing (trl. Thanissaro Bhikkhu):

Then the Blessed One said to Ven. Ananda: Now, if it occurs to any of you — “The teaching has lost its authority; we are without a Teacher” — do not view it in that way. Whatever Dhamma and Vinaya I have pointed out and formulated for you, that will be your Teacher when I am gone.

Even though it might be argued that dharma and vinaya are here mentioned as two (different?) items, the vinaya is nevertheless, like dharma, depicted as a teacher, not as a mere policeman. It could be argued that the vinaya has a message that is larger than the keeping of the ordained ones under control, and it is exactly such a view of the vinaya that Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön has in mind in his Single Intention.

Although his teacher Phagmodrupa had urged Jigten Sumgön on several occasions to take ordination, the latter remained reluctant to do that (Sommerschuh, p. 90). Only on the occasion of a gancakra (Tib. tshogs) in the memory of his teacher, when a woman behaved indecent in the presence of Jigten Sumgön, did he begin to seriously consider ordination in order to make his renounced state visible to the world (p. 123). But it was not until his experiences in his first meditation retreat in E-chung in the early 1170s that he completely understood the fundamental nature of virtue and non-virtue, and thereby of ordination and of the vinaya (p. 104). He then took simultaneously the vows of a novice and a full monk at the age of 35 in ca. 1177 (p. 122 ff.). It is for the following perhaps important to keep in mind that Jigten Sumgön’s understanding of monastic discipline arose primarily from his meditative practise.

Within the vinaya-pratimoksha chapter of the Jigten Sumgön’s Single Intention, we find a number of remarkable statements. Most of these are indicators of the great importance the vinaya now had for the author of the Single Intention and his teachings, and some are certainly astounding. Thus he states that the vinaya is not a teaching of the shravaka’s vehicle alone, but of all three vehicles, including mantra. It is furthermore stated here to arise from primordial wisdom and therefore of being itself wisdom, and when even only a single vow is guarded, nirvana will be obtained by that, to provide just a few noteworthy examples.

I would like to briefly introduce in the following one cluster of statements, namely 3.10-15 of the Single Intention, where it is not accepted that there are different statuses of rules. Accordingly, the concept of something being a “misdeed by nature” and of something being a “misdeed by rule,” 1 where in the first case it is always prohibited and never permitted, whereas in the second case there are occasions where it is permitted and occasions where it is prohibited, is rejected. Jigten Sumgön’s negation of a real function of such concepts of discernment has the consequence that for him the observance of all kinds of rules is virtuous for all beings and not only for limited groups such as only for ordained people. Furthermore he therefore also rejects that there exists a substantial difference between general “evil” (sdig pa) on the one hand and “infraction” (ltung byed) on the other, since according to him whatever is prohibited because it is non-virtuous is “inveterately prohibited” (ye bkag) and therefore evil at all times and for everyone, and whatever is permitted because it is virtuous is “inveterately permitted” (ye gnang) and therefore to be practised at all times and by everyone. It furthermore follows that whichever being avoids non-virtue and thereby avoids a prohibition will acquire a benefit from that, and whichever being commits non-virtue — possessing vows or not — will experience negative results from that.

The first of these points is dealt with in the Single Intention’s vajra-statement 3.10, 2 according to which “misdeed by rule” and “misdeed by nature” are one and the same thing, even though in general some people say that whatever is a “misdeed by nature” is always prohibited and never permitted, whereas in the case of a “misdeed by rule” there are occasions where they are permitted and occasions where they are prohibited. 3 These terms, whose distinguishing function is here refuted, can only be found in the commentarial literature of Buddhagosa, Vasubandhu, Asanga, or Pang Lotsava. According to the views of these commentators, the four basic infractions such as killing are prohibited by nature, whereas such things as needlessly digging in the earth, touching fire, and playing with water, 4 which are all from the “infraction only” section (ltung byed ‘ba’ zhig) of ordination, are only prohibited by a rule and therefore only for ordained persons. That is to say that they are not faults in themselves, but could cause problems indirectly (for instance because people complain about monks or nuns who behave in such a manner), and thus it is said that there is no fault in that kind of conduct itself, but merely in the transgression of the rule, provided one has accepted that rule through ordination.

Jigten Sumgön, however, denied the validity of this distinction into “by nature” and “by rule.” Instead he maintains that the Buddha issued each single rule he pronounced based on his realisation of true reality, that is, he issued the rules in accordance to his complete understanding of dependent origination of causes and conditions and his realisation of all knowledge objects. Thus, not being an oracle or a creator god (cf. Single Intention 1.1), he did not issue rules according to his will, but due to his awakening to the nature of all phenomena. And since he furthermore has equal love for all sentient beings, he does not prefer one group of beings over others, but instead tries to lead them all without differentiation onto the path of benefit and bliss.

The commentaries refer in this context to the story of the Tirthika teacher Mukapangu and the abandoning of surplus wealth, whereby mundane or transmundane qualities are achieved. 5 The rules concerning not eating food that was not given and concerning surplus wealth and hoarding are explained through the following context. 6 During the first eon the luminous gods were born here in this world of men. Growing attached to the taste of the foods in this world, some of them ate much. The earth element came into their bodies, they became unable to walk through the sky, and the light, too, vanished from their bodies. The others said to them: “You have a bad complexion and we are the ones with good complexion.” In that way these gods accumulated the karma of attachment and aversion based on their differentiation into self and other. The supreme fruits, i.e. tasty fruits that don’t need cultivation, were much in demand and some started to hoard them. Then the fields were divided into individual ones and demarcations were made. In short, from all this developed desire, jealousy, improper conduct such as stealing and lying etc., and the lifespan decreased. One of the chief causes for the worsening of the conditions was the hoarding of food. 7 For this reason the non-virtuous effects of hoarding food applies to all, whether householder or ordained person. On the other hand, to guard against that, which is prohibited for fully ordained people by rule constitutes a benefit also for householders. Furthermore, no matter whether a Buddha has already appeared or not, or whether the prohibitions were already announced or not, hoarding naturally causes all the above problems and to abandon hoarding is naturally beneficial for all beings. All this is perceived by the Buddha through his gnosis of omniscience, and whichever rule is issued thereby is in accordance to the nature of reality.

In the following vajra-statement (Single Intention 3.11), it is argued that if everything that is prohibited is not permitted because it is non-virtuous by nature, it follows that the distinction into groups of beings for whom the transgression of these prohibitions constitutes or doesn’t constitute a fault is false. Here the commentator Rinchen Jangchub points out that (similar to the Buddha’s statement quoted above: “I teach dhamma for the restraint of passion …”) “whichever Dharma wheel that is turned by the Tathagata is a way of abandoning and accomplishing” and that

through the primordial wisdom that realises sameness [the Buddha has] defeated the thing to be abandoned—the afflictions—and he has identified that [act] as constituting the [rules concerning] abandoning (dgag bcas). And within that state [of abandoning afflictions], to make use of immeasurable qualities is constituting [the rules concerning] accomplishing (sgrub bcas). Accordingly, all the Buddha’s teachings are taught to sentient beings in the manner of abandoning and accomplishing.

This is the principle argument, namely that all teachings, which are nothing but the abandoning and accomplishing, concern all beings in general, because what is explained by the Buddha as that which is to be abandoned and accomplished is in accordance with the nature as it is realised by wisdom. Whatever is the nature of reality concerns all beings without differentiation. ‘Evil’ and ‘infraction’ is thus only a terminological difference, the first being used for misdeeds of people without commitments and the second for misdeeds of people with commitments (Single Intention 3.12). Dorje Sherab offers the following analogy: “One says ‘dish’ (bshos) when it is offered to high class persons and ‘food’ (zan) when offered to common people.”

Furthermore, one of the most controversial views maintained in the Single Intention (3.13) is that whatever is prohibited because it is non-virtuous is “inveterately prohibited” (ye bkag) and therefore evil at all times and for everyone, and whatever is permitted because it is virtuous is “inveterately permitted” (ye gnang) and therefore to be practised at all times and by everyone. This point is according to Dorje Sherab brought up primarily against those people who hold that the foundation or root of the rules, i.e. that what they are about, is in itself neutral and is only prohibited when a rule about it has been issued by the Buddha. In that case, since the foundation or root of the rule would not be about something that is a non-virtue by nature, exceptions from such rules are possible, for instance when the Buddha allows to eat after noon if someone is sick. When such an an exception is granted, no harm is caused because there is no infraction of the rule. In this example, people argue, the Buddha shows moderation in that he softens an ascetic rule for the benefit of someone who is weakened by illness.

The second example provided is that of Arya Shariputra, who is said to have taught the Dharma until after sundown to the lady Dampa Päldenmo. This example seems to be based either on the rule that a monk should not stay with a woman after sundown, or that he is not supposed to stay with a woman alone in a house, hidden from others, or perhaps both. 8 Here, however, an exception is granted, because teaching the Dharma and listening to it is without fault, because there are no afflictions involved and the woman developed an understanding of the truth. Thirdly, to touch a woman with a desirous intention is normally prohibited, but it is allowed to touch her in order to save her from danger. 9 According to the story that is told by Dorje Sherab (where he explains the “general view”), when a woman was drowning the Buddha permitted to touch her, saying: “Produce the notion of a clot of earth with regard to the woman that is taken away by a river, grasp her by her hair and braids and pull her out!” Therefore, according to these three examples, what is first prohibited is later permitted depending on conditions. No harm is caused, because that, what the rule is about, is not in itself or naturally non-virtuous, but only prohibited because the Buddha had issued a rule for the monks as a reaction to a particular event that had caused trouble.

This view, however, is not shared by Jigten Sumgön, who maintains that whatever is prohibited is inveterately prohibited (ye bkag) and whatever is permitted is inveterately permitted (ye gnang). According to the commentator Rinchen Jangchub, this terminology goes back to Phagmodrupa, who is quoted with these words:

If a mind is associated with afflictions, an act is non-virtuous, and temporary and ultimate results [are the arising of] suffering, the prohibition is ‘inveterately prohibited’ (bkag pa ye bkag). If a mind is not associated with afflictions, an act is not non-virtuous, and temporary and ultimate results are the arising of happiness, the permission is ‘inveterately permitted’ (gnang ba ye gnang).

In one of Jigten Sumgön’s works “inveterately prohibited” is glossed as “natural non-virtue” (gshis mi dge ba). 10 The point is that it is within the powers of the Buddha to recognise what is virtuous by nature and what is not virtuous by nature, because he possesses the ten powers of the Tathagata, one of which is “the primordial wisdom that perceives what is and what is not appropriate.” Thereby the Buddha is an expert in instructing the beings, since, as it is expressed by Rinchen Jangchub, “having connected to the mind of an individual who is the basis, the Tathagata teaches a training fitting to him and he defines the levels of permission and prohibition.” The Buddha’s particular ability is, so to speak, the result of a combination of his knowledge of the nature of reality and of the minds of the beings. Thereby, for instance, he understands that hoarding and eating food with desire is non-virtuous, and he explains how food should be eaten just as it is received (i.e. without further evaluation of its quality, etc.) and that it is not to be kept for a later time.

Now, as mentioned above, some people hold that he has allowed exceptions from this rule, allowing for instance the sick to take meals also after noon. But Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön denies that hoarding food for a later time and eating it with desire can be anything but non-virtuous. Therefore the Buddha would also be unable to make an exception for the ill—we have to remember here that according to Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön all the rules are based on the Buddha’s understanding of the nature of reality, they are not his inventions and he is not a god. Therefore the Buddha explains that when food that is eaten with the intention of taking a medicine that cures diseases, it is permitted in all respects and at all times. In other words, if a person cultivates a mind to eat with such an intention, that mind is free from the desire to enjoy pleasurable taste and it is free from the greed of hoarding. This view of things is illustrated through examples.

Shariputra’s teaching the Lady until after dawn was ruled to be without infraction, since their minds were free from afflictions and endowed with the Dharma. The activity (“teaching the Dharma”) was also faultless, and the result—the Lady’s perception of the truth—was also virtuous. Such activities are never prohibited. On the other hand, afflicted activities are never permitted. The commentator Dorje Sherab adds here the point that if in general it is taught that there is no transgression when from among the four limbs “basis (or object), intention, execution, and completion” even only one is not complete, the permission in a case where all are incomplete does not need to be further discussed. This is here related to Shariputra’s teaching to the lady after dawn, where they did not perceive each other as objects of desire, where the intention was to teach or learn Dharma, free from affliction, where the action was also executed free from affliction, and where the result was her understanding of the Dharma. In other words, this case is not an exception from the rule, because it is not a case where afflicted activity was permitted. Instead it is an entirely different case than the one that is prohibited to the monks by rule, namely to spent time with a lady after sundown, or to stay with her alone in a house hidden from others.

The second example is interesting not only as a further illustration of the point, but also because the concept of the notion of an object plays a role. Here it is the notion (Tib. ‘du shes, Skt. samjña) of a woman that is to be wilfully superposed by the notion of a lump of earth or clay, so that it is allowed for a monk to touch a drowning woman when pulling her out of the water. Yet although the manipulation of the notion of the object is clearly a key point in this case, it also is explicitly mentioned by the later commentator Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa that this skilful means of manipulation is furthermore to be coupled with the special mahayana intention of benefiting another being. It seems that Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa is presenting here “intention” as the principle point and the “notion” that is produced only as a secondary matter, namely a skilful means. This however, seems to be a later development, since such an explicit mahayana motivation is not mentioned in the earlier commentaries of Dorje Sherab and Rinchen Jangchub. The key point here is to show that skilful means are not allowing for an exception to the rule, but constitute an entirely different case. To touch a woman out of desire is prohibited in all respects, whereas to touch a clot of earth is not prohibited in any respect.

The third and fourth illustration are those through the rule prohibiting alcohol, which is connected with an incident involving Arya Svagata, 11 and the rule prohibiting the lying together with women, which the Buddha issued in the context of incidents involving Maudgalyayana, Aniruddha, and others. These issues, however, are too vast to be discussed here.

The two remaining points of this cluster of vajra-statements in the third chapter of the Single Intention, namely 3.14-15, are merely conclusions of the above statement, and thus they can be merely summarised here as stating that “benefit will arise indeed [through] the guarding [of vows] by whichever of the beings of the six realms” and that “the transgressing of the rules by whichever being of the six realms is an occurring of faults.”

In final conclusion it can be said that Jigten Sumgön offers an alternative view of the vinaya, according to which

- “misdeed by rule” and “misdeed by nature” refer to one and the same act, with the first term referring to that act done by a person possessing commitments and the second to the same act done by a person without commitments;
– the Buddha bestowed the rules to the beings in general (and not the group of ordained ones alone);
– evil and infraction is not different, but the same;
– the benefit through following the rules will arise for all beings (again not only for the group of ordained ones alone); and
– transgression of the rules constitutes a fault for all beings.

According to the biography of Jigten Sumgön he came to this realisation while he practised for several years in the solitude mountain retreat, understanding thereby teachings he had received from his guru Phagmodrupa. As in many other cases of views presented in the Single Intention, what can be realised from (1) own experience, (2) instructions of the guru, (3) Buddha word, and (4) examples found (in this case) primarily in the sutras, supersedes in any case teachings as found in the Indian commentary tradition. 12 Such a view, where the instructions of the Buddha have a single intention, namely to abandon what is by nature non-virtuous and to practise what is by nature virtuous, is the heart of Jigten Sumgön’s main teaching, the Single Intention. It is just one more case of his attempt to point out the nucleus of the Buddha’s teachings, rather than to show what differentiates them.

1 “Misdeed by nature” (Skt. pratikshepana-savadya, Tib. rang bzhin gyi kha na ma tho ba) and “misdeed by rule” (Pali pannatti-vajja, Skt. prajñapti-savadya, Tib. bcas pa’i kha na ma tho ba).

2 I follow basically the commentary of Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa, the Nyi ma’i snang ba, when I refer to a commentary of the Single Intention, unless otherwise noted.

3 Schmithausen (1991: 16, ftn. 93) identifies these terms as (Pali) panatti-vajja, (Skt.) prajñapti-savadya “fault because [the Buddha] has declared or decided it to be so [for monks]” and (Skt.) pratikshepana-savadya “fault by nature, or for ordinary people [too].” These terms can only be found in the commentarial literature such as Buddhagosa’s Samantapasadika (228), the Milindapañha (266,18 ff.), Vasubandhu’s Abhidharmakoshabhashya (218,15 ff.), the Bodhisattvabhumi (Dutt 112,20 ff., 113,17—all references by Schmithausen); or in Asanga’s rNal ‘byor spyod pa’i sa las ‘dul ba bsdu ba (Yogacarabhumau-vinayasamgrahani), D no. 4040, fols. 7r7 -7v2 and in dPang Lotsaba Blo-gros-brtan-pa’s Chos mngon pa kun las btus pa’i rgya cher ‘grel pa (fol. 247v6—references by Bayer 410, ftn. 390).

4 For s “needlessly digging in the earth,” cf. Rosen (1959: 200), Patayantika-Dharma 73; for “touching fire,” cf. Rosen (1959: 177), Patayantika-Dharma 52, and for “playing with water,” cf. Rosen (1959: 191), Patayantika-Dharma 64.

5 P vol. 41, fol. 342r. See also Panglung (1981: 48).

6 For “not eating food that was not given,” cf. Rosen (1959: 159), Patayantika-Dharma 39;
the rules concerning surplus wealth and hoarding are many, see for instance Rosen (1959: 111), Naihsargika-Patayantika-Dharma 21, where the keeping of surplus alms bowls is prohibited, p. 123, Naihsargika-Patayantika-Dharma 30, where the hoarding of medicine beyond seven days is prohibited, and concerning the hoarding of cloth, p. 79, Naihsargika-Patayantika-Dharma 3, and concerning the hoarding of food, p. 157, Patayantika-Dharma 38.

7 My summary of this account is additionally based on the commentaries by Dorje Sherab and Rinchen Jangchub, Single Intention 2.9. The connection with the hoarding of food for more than one day is also explicitly made in the Aggañña Sutta (D iii 80-98, this passage 85 f.) of the Pali tradition.

8 I am not exactly certain which rule is at stake here. According to the Patayantika-Dharma 65 (Rosen 1959: 192), a monk is not allowed to stay in a woman’s house over night. According to one of the two Aniyata-Dharmas (Rosen 1959: 76 f.), a monk is not allowed to sit with a woman in a house hidden from others.

9 Cf. Rosen (1959: 58 f.), Samghavashesha-Dharma 2.

10 Collected Works, vol. 5, pp. 452-460, bKag pa ye bkag gnang ba ye gnang gi skor bstan pa, p. 460.

11 Svagata had, due to ignorance, taken food (in some versions drink) mixed with alcohol and had become heavily intoxicated. On that occasion, the Buddha provided the rule concerning intoxicants. For the story of Arya Svagata (Tib. ‘Phags-pa Legs-‘ong) in detail, see Ch’en (1947: 207-314, esp. p. 242 ff.).

12 These four points are called the “four authentic qualities” (tshad ma bzhi), on which I plan to publish a separate article, comparing the tshad ma bzhi in the teachings of the Sakyapas and the Drikungpas.

Bayer, Achim (2010) The Theory of Karman in the Abhidharmasamuccaya, (Studia Philologica Buddhica XXVI), Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies.

Collected Works, Khams gsum chos kyi rgyal po thub dbang ratna shri’i bka’ ‘bum nor bu’i bang mdzod, (Collected Works of ‘Jig-rten-gsum-mgon), H.H. Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang (Konchog Tenzin Kunzang Thinley Lhundup), Drikung Kagyu Institute, Dehra Dun, 2001.

Frauwallner, Erich (1956) The Earliest Vinaya and the Beginnings of Buddhist Literature, (Serie Orientale Roma 8), Roma: Is.M.E.O.

Holt, John Clifford (1994) “The Beginnings of Buddhist Discipline: Notes on an early Buddhist Theory of Action,” Buddhist Behavioral Codes and the Modern World, Charles Wei-hsun-Fu and Sandra A. Wawrytko (eds.), (Contributions to the Study of Religions 38), Westport, Conneticut: Greewood Press, pp. 54-66

Horner, I. B. (1938) The Book of the Discipline, Volume I, (Vinaya-pitaka), London: Oxford University Press

Prebish, Charles S. (1996) Buddhist Monastic Discipline: The Sanskrit Pratimoksa Sutras of the Mahasamghikas and Mulasarvastivadins, Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

Rosen, Valentina (1959) Der Vinayavibhanga zum Bhiksupratimoksa der Sarvastivsdins: Sanskritfragmente nebst einer Analyse der chinesischen Übersetzung, (Sanskrittexte aus den Turfanfunden 2), Berlin: Akademie Verlag

Schmithausen, Lambert (1991) The Problem of the Sentience of Plants in Early Buddhism, (Studia Philologica Buddhica VI), Tokyo: The International Institute for Buddhist Studies.

Sommerschuh, Christine (2014) Funkensprühen des kostbaren Vajra: Der Lebensweg der völligen Befreiung des Dharmaherrn Jigten Sumgön, mit der Biografie des Verfassers “Donnerklang des Ruhms”, (Vajra-Klänge, Vol. 2), Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (ed.), München: Edition Garchen Stiftung, 301 p.

Stache-Rosen, Valentina (1984) Upalipariprcchasutra: Ein Text zur Buddhistischen Ordensdisziplin, aus dem Chinesischen übersetzt und den Pali-Parallelen gegenübergestellt, (Abhandlungen der Akademie der Wissenschaften in Göttingen, Philologisch-Historische Klasse, Dritte Folge, Nr. 140), Göttingen: Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht

Thanissaro Bhikkhu (2010, (DN 2.154)

Yamagiwa, Nobuyuki (1994) “The Importance of Vinaya in the Study of Indian Buddhism, with Special Reference to Chinese Sources,” Buddhist Behavioral Codes and the Modern World, Charles Wei-hsun-Fu and Sandra A. Wawrytko (eds.), (Contributions to the Study of Religions 38), Westport, Conneticut: Greewood Press, pp. 101-109.

Dear friends,

let me misuse my blog today for an announcement concerning the publication of two books (in German language) on Jigten Sumgön and his teaching. These books appeared as the result of the combined effort of Nubpa Rinpoche, Khenpo Nyima Gyaltshen, Yeshe Metog (Claude Jürgens), and Christine Sommerschuh, and with the generous support of the Garchen Foundation. One of these books contains the detailed biography of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön and the biography of the author of that text, namely Chenga Sherab Jungne, chief disciple of Jigten Sumgön and author of the Single Intention (dGongs gcig). The other book contains the detailed retreat instructions of Jigten Sumgön, written down by Sherab Jugne and compiled by Nubpa Rinpoche. They are the first two books appearing in a new German book series called “Vajra-Klänge” (rDo rje sgra dbyangs).

Jigten Sumgön’s biography, Funkensprühen des kostbaren Vajra (rDo rje rin po che ‘bar ba), is one of the most unusual biographies of Tibetan masters. It was compiled immediately after the death of Jigten Sumgön and contains the combined accounts of his closest disciples. After its compilation, which is said to have happened within a single day, it was read to the entire assembly of monks and yogis in Drikung and approved by them. The great Tibetan historian Pawo Tsuglag Trengwa (1504-1566) lists it among the most remarkable historical sources of Tibet. Its contents is likewise remarkable. Far from being the usual eulogy of the great deeds of a bodhisattva or tantric master, it relates quite realistically the enormous struggles that Jigten Sumgön underwent on his path to complete realisation, including all faults committed, all disappointments, and all doubts and shortcomings. The book also provides a rare glimpse into the founding and establishing of one of the early Kagyüpa traditions.
Christine Sommerschuh has worked for several years painstakingly on this very difficult text that includes numerous expression in dialect not found in any dictionary. Having first established the Tibetan text of the biography, she received detailed explanations on it by Khenpo Nyima Gyaltshen, who was recently described by H.H. Drikung Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche as “one of the greatest Khenpos of Tibet and the most excellent Drikung Khenpo outside of Tibet.” The result of their efforts is a very legible and beautiful translation into German language. The book also includes my own translation of Sherab Jungnes biography, which was composed by Rinchen Phüntshog, two maps, numerous annotations, appendices with sources, a chronology, and indices of names and places.

The retreat instructions of Jigten Sumgön, Ein Meer von Nektar (bDud rtsi’i gter chen), are the key points of his “mountain Dharma” (Ri chos gnad bsdus), written down by the chief disciple Sherab Jungne. Numerous instructions on retreats in solitude can be found in seven works contained in Jigten Sumgön’s collected works, in the sections containing inner and hidden teachings. From this enormous amount of instruction, the learned and yogic master Nubpa Rinpoche compiled the Tibetan text for the present translation. Having received detailed explanations by Khenpo Nyima Gyaltshen, Yeshe Metog (Claude Jürgens) has translated this text beautifully into German language. Over a period of several years she researched these instructions, which contain as many obscure terms as the above mentioned biography. During this period Khenpo Nyima Gyaltshen never tired to answer her numerous questions.
We know of many “mountain Dharmas” (ri chos) in Tibet. I have, however, never seen one that goes into similarly subtle details concerning the dependent origination of mental, verbal, and bodily activities before and during the retreat. Jigten Sumgön, who has been praised as a master of dependent origination, is here chiefly concerned with instructions that help his disciples to achieve the best possible results by engaging in the right causes and avoiding the wrong ones. This contains for instance even the investigation of spontaneous thoughts that occur when one approaches the retreat area, the analysis of their results, the methods for enhancing positive results, and the remedies applied to avoid an unfavourable ripening. The book contains the complete Tibetan text on the even pages with the respective translation on the facing pages, indices of names and places, a list of source, and glossaries.

The books can be ordered for 22 and 17 Euros at: Garchen Foundation, Reimerdinger Str. 18, 29640 Schneverdingen, Germany,

Chenga Sherab Jungne (2014) Funkensprühen des kostbaren Vajras: Der Lebensweg der völligen Befreiung des Dharmaherrn Jigten Sumgön, mit der Biografie des Verfassers, “Donnerklang des Ruhms,” Christine Sommerschuh (trl.), (Vajra-Klänge 2), edited by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, München: Edition Garchen Stiftung, with a biography of Chenga Sherab Jungne by Rinchen Phüntshog trl. by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, 301 pp., 2 maps, ISBN 978-3-945457-02-3.

Drikung Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön (2014) Ein Meer von Nektar: Die entscheidenden Punkte für eine Klausur in den Bergen, Yeshe Metog (Claude Jürgens, trl.), (Vajra-Klänge 1), edited by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch, München: Edition Garchen Stiftung, 183 pp., ISBN 978-3-945457-01-6

Last month I had the fortunate opportunity to take several hundred pictures of a manuscript that is preserved at the Musée Guimet in Paris. It is a handwritten text of one of the first commenatries of the Same Intention (dGongs gcig), namely the sNang mdzad ye shes sgron me composed in the 1250s by one of Sherab Jungne’s direct disciples, Dorje Sherab. The manuscript has several exciting features, some of which I would like to briefly communicate here.

1. On the reverse of the first page we find two miniatures. The left one is most probably a portrait of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, showing the teaching mudra (you can click on all photos to enlarge them):

Jigten Sumgon
This is a very close copy of the Thanka decribed by Amy Heller in her article “A Thang-ka Portrait of ‘Bri gung rin chen dpal, ‘Jig rten gsum mgon (1143-1217)” published in JIABS no. 1 (October 2005): 1-10. The thanka was carbon dated to the early 13th century, and Amy concludes that it is likely “a commemorative portrait which was made shortly after the death of ‘Bri gung Chos rje Rin chen dpal in 1217.”

Sherab Jungne
On the right hand side of the reverse of the first folio we find another portrait of a Lama holding his hands folded in prayer, facing Jigten Sumgön. A probable suggestion is that it shows Jigten Sumgön’s disciple Sherab Jungne (1187-1255), who wrote down the vajra-sentences of the Single Intention of his teacher and taught them extensively after 1225. He was also the direct teacher of the author of the sNang mdzad ye shes sgron me.

The style of these miniature paintings is copying that of the thanka, which was dated to the early 13th century.

2. Several features of the handwriting suggest also an early date for our manuscript. One of them is the use of ancient orthography. Some examples:

bde’ in bde’ legs

dmyigs for dmigs

myed for med

Other ancient features are the way in which some of the letters are stacked, which resembles the writing style we find as early as in the Tibetan documents of Dunhuang:

dunhuang type stack

dunhuang type stack 2

dunhuang type stack 3

These and other features of the manuscript could mean that it was written as early as the 14th century (according to a preliminary assessment by Sam van Schaik). Unfortunately, however, the knowledge of styles of Tibetan handwriting from the 11th century onwards is not much developed and thus the dating must remain open for further investigation.

3. Another interesting fact about this manuscript is that it was brought to Europe by the French explorer and dedicated Tibetophile Alexandra David-Néel. She is known to have spend several decades of the first part of the 20th century in and around Tibet. In 1911 she travelled to Sikkim where she became friends with Sidkeong Tulku Namgyal, the Maharaja and Chögyal of Sikkim. During her stay she met the 13th Dalai Lama twice and also traveled into Tibet to Shigatse to meet the Panchen Lama in August 1916. Later, in 1924 and after a fantastic journey through China, she reached Lhasa disguised as a beggar and stayed there for about two months. Again in 1937 she travelled in the Eastern Tibetan highlands and spend time in Tachienlu (Tib. Dar-rtse-mdo). It would indeed be very interesting to find out on which occasion she got hold of this manuscript. The answer might be buried somewhere in her extensive letters archived in Digne Les Bains in the south of France.

4. The photographic documentation of this rare manuscript is a crucial first step for editing the commentary. What makes this manuscript particularly valuable are its countless annotations between the lines. These contain specifications of quotations and alternative readings, some of which might go back to another transmission of the text. (click on the photo to enlarge it)


In mantra practise, some people believe, the key to success is to gain certain experiences. They teach that by entering into samadhis of bliss, clarity, and non-thought, and by maintaining them for long periods of time, realisation arises. The only thing one is to avoid here is attachment to these experiences, because through attachment to bliss the yogi will be born within the realm of desire, through attachment to clarity he will be born in the realm of form, and through attachment to non-thought he will be born in the realm of formlessness.

Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, maintains that even the unattached experience of bliss, clarity, and non-thought is only a seed of samsara and does not even lead to the obtainment of arhatship, let alone Buddhahood (dGongs gcig 5.19). The reason for that is that as long as you make efforts to produce and maintain the states of bliss, clarity, and non-thought, you merely fabricate them. Thus even if you avoid attachment, these states are mere mental fabrication. Jigten Sumgön therefore maintains that realisation is the result of the process of purification, since the purification of those states from attachment and mental fabrication leads to the result of ‘freedom from proliferation.’

In the introduction to his commentary of the dGongs gcig, the Light of the Sun, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa quotes the Mahayana Sutralamkara (13.19, in Derge on fol. 188v):

The mind is held to be continuously luminous by nature.
It is flawed by adventitious defilements.
It is declared that there is no other mind
apart from the mind of true reality, naturally luminous.

Here the purified state is described in terms of luminosity. The luminosity of the mind, which is one side of the coin whose other side is freedom from proliferation, is the natural state of the mind. Not even the Buddha himself would be able change that state. Everything besides that is merely adventitious (Skt. agantuka, Tib. glo bur), that is, everything that is added to the luminous or non-proliferation nature is an affliction, like desire or mental activity, it does not belong to the original state, it is not essential or inherent to it, it is not a basic part or quality of the nature etc., and it is ‘newly arising,’ i.e. it is something in relation to which the nature is preexistent. Similarly the Hevajratantra (II iv 69) says:

Sentient beings are the Buddha.
They are, however, impeded by adventitious defilements.
If these are removed, that is Buddhahood.

Thus what stands between the samadhis of bliss, clarity, and non-thought on the one hand, and Buddhahood on the other, is the purification of these states. Having purified attachment to them, there is still the mental fabrication of those states to be removed. The result of that purification is called the “result of separation” (‘bral ba’i ‘bras bu). In particular, the result of the separation from the three afflictions (attachment, aversion, and delusion) by purification is the arising of the three bodies of a Buddha (Skt. trikaya), or if you count five afflictions, the result is the arising of five kayas, etc. Thus, as cited in 5.25: 1

By practising the purification of delusion
one will be Vairocana.
By practising the purification of hatred
one will be Akshobhya.
By practising the purification of desire
one will be Amitabha.
By practising the purification of envy
one will be the mighty Amoghasiddhi.
By practising the purification of arrogance
one will be Ratnasambhava.

Thus, as Dorje Sherab explains, the result of the purification—Buddhahood—is “the result of the maturation of practising all the virtuous white antidotes that purify the afflictions, and of the separation from afflictions.” In our present context of the three samadhis, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa summarises :

Realisation arises from the purification of these three experiences, but not from those [experiences themselves]! It must be understood that realisation obtained through [purified] experience is very different from a realisation that is first experienced and then lost again.

And Phagmodrupa said: 2

Even if first experience arises,
that is similar to an impermanent cloud and to lightning.
It is the cause for the arising of the mental affliction of pride.

And Dorje Sherab says elsewhere (in dGongs gcig 6.1) that if an experience arises which is just like a full stomach, it is not reliable and it will soon perish. When it perishes, one’s mental continuum quickly reverts to its previous state. Thus, how is the purification of fabricated experience achieved? Again, Phagmodrupa said (quoted in dGongs gcig 5.19):

Having abandoned attachment to bliss and clarity,
you should practise the realisation of the mind as the Buddha.

This is, according to the teachings of Phagmodrupa and Jigten Sumgön, only possible through the practise of the purest form of guru devotion, namely by perceiving the Guru as the dharmakaya. In his Cintamani (vol. 1, fol. 21r1), Jigten Sumgön says that Phagmodrupa taught him the following:

If one does not understand the guru to be the dharmakaya,
the realisation of oneself as dharmakaya is just babble.
If one does not understand the guru to be the form kaya,
one may [see] oneself clearly as the deity of meditation,
but is carried away by dead matter (peg/beg po).
If you see the guru as an ordinary being,
no matter how high one’s realisation, one will go astray in the experience.

And Dorje Sherab quotes Jigten Gönpo (in 6.6):

The former [gurus] have taught
that the qualities of all of samsara and nirvana
arise certainly from the excellent guru devotion.
If one is without devotion, there is no chance.

Thus through the ultimate devotion of seeing the guru as the dharmakaya, the mind is realised, and by practising the mind, all fabricated experiences are purified and Buddhahood is achieved. Thus Phagmodrupa teaches (as quoted in dGongs gcig 7.1):

E ma ho! This king that is the mind
—if it is realised, that is nirvana,
if it is not realised, that is the ocean of samsara.

Thus it is evident that in the context of mahamudra Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön follows the special practise method of Gampopa. Such a practise is mantra practise in so far, as there is an element of deity practise and a form of guru devotion that is more typical for mantra than for general mahayana sutra. Yet it is not exclusively mantra in the sense of other yoga practises of mantra that are exclusively tantric, such as the six yogas of Naropa. As it is practised within the Drikung Kagyüpa tradition, namely as the Fivefold Path of Mahamudra, it furthermore involves important mainstream mahayana sutra practises such as the cultivation of the resolve for awakening (bodhicitta) that precedes everything, and the dedication for the benefit of all sentient beings that always follows, and that is practised in a state that is free from the hypostatic entities known as the ‘three components’ or ‘three spheres’ (Tib. ‘khor gsum, Skt. trimandala) that characterise the functioning of the dualistic mind, namely the notions of an agent, an intended beneficiary, and an activity of merit transference. And the nature of the mind is here not identified through indirect analytical means, but through a direct investigation of the nature of the mind together with a guru yoga that identifies the nature of the guru as dharmakaya and that dharmakaya and the guru’s mind as inseparable from one’s own mind. Through such a practise, too, there may be intense experiences made of bliss, clarity, and non-thought, yet these experiences need to be purified from all attachment and fabrication, since these would become an impediment as they only lead to further birth in extremely long lasting high states of samsara.

1Although I was unable to find this exact quote in the canon, I found several very similar ones.

2This quote is attributed in the Dosherma to the Rin chen them skas.

Much could be said about the possible translations of this term. Mostly in use are ‘consecration,’ ‘initiation,’ and ‘empowerment.’ The first, ‘consecration,’ is certainly the most literal of these translations — at least from the perspective of the Sanskrit term — since abhisheka means “anointing, inaugurating or consecrating (by sprinkling water), inauguration of a king (…) religious bathing, ablution” etc. 1 “Inauguration of a king” may seem strange to some of you, but one aspect of inauguration ceremonies of ancient India was indeed the sprinkling of water over the head of the prince by ministers and brahmin priests, 2 and the same term was in fact used for both the king’s inauguration and the ritual for introducing the tantric adept to the mandala. This fact, however, demonstrates also the limitation of the literal translation ‘consecration,’ because it shows that while it does fit well the tantric vase-abhisheka, it does not fit well with the remaining three abhishekas of the highest yoga tantras, namely the secret, the wisdom, and the word (or fourth) abhisheka, which employ other tools and images than the vase abhisheka.

‘Initiation,’ though vastly popular as a translation for abhisheka, is problematic, since the term, having undergone an enormous inflation in ethnography, is used for so many different phenomena that it has lost all its distinctive functions. Its use for abhisheka may be more confusing than helping to convey the meaning of the term.

The Tibetans have decided to go for ‘empowerment’ (dbang), which is usually described as a process of removing impediments (sgrib pa gtor ba), pouring in wisdom-power (ye shes kyi nus pa blugs pa), and planting the seeds (sa bon gdab pa) of the four resultant Buddha bodies (‘bras bu sku bzhi) and initiating the process of their maturation (smin par byed pa). 3 It must be borne in mind, however, that the conceptions and images that are evoked by such a terminology happen on the surface level of truth, since, according to mahahyana philosophy, in the true sense nothing from the outside is really placed in the mental continuum that has not already been there. Therefore it is said in the Guhyasamajatantra (17.50):

In short, the five psycho-physical constituents of the person (skandha)
are well known as the five Buddhas (…),

and in the Samputi Tantra (D fol. 78v):

One’s own body is the Buddha himself —
the Buddha does not exist anywhere else!
Obscured by ignorance [some] hold
Buddhahood to be something different from their body.

Taking these teachings of the highest yoga tantras into consideration, the term ‘empowerment’ appears to be quite appropriate, as it also allows for an understanding where the adept receiving the empowerment is in fact empowered to awaken and cultivate until full maturation the inherent seeds of the Buddha bodies through gradual practise. I think that the term ‘empowerment’ does in fact convey both levels of understanding, namely that of outer ritual activities such as invocation, worship, and transference of powers from master to disciple, and the level of an inner process that in truth occurs only in the adept’s own mind. The existence of a few adepts who awaken to Buddhahood all at once when they receive empowerment is no dent in the above explanation, since for Jigten Sumgön even ‘all at once awakening’ is always based on gradual cultivation in former lifetimes. In sum one might say that empowerment is in essence an awakening of the practitioner’s potential, involving both a complete purification of impediments and a complete transformation and cultivation of the inherent potential.

The question therefore arises, how one can know that empowerment has been successfully received. Many writers stress in their discussions the correct procedures of the ritual and the appropriate qualifications of the vajra master and the disciple. Thus, for instance, the minimum requirement for a vajra master is according to Rinchen Jangchub that “entering the stages of cultivation in a state of clear and stable awareness, [he] has obtained stability on the stage of cultivation and has obtained ‘warmth’ on the stage of completion.” The marks of the disciples to be empowered, too, must be at least that “they have purified their mental continua through [practices] starting with taking common refuge [up to] the preliminaries, have supplicated the vajra master three times, and have abandoned adverse conditions.” Yet, Rinchen Jangchub says, even though someone with those qualities may have undergone the correct ritual as prescribed and presided over by a qualified master may think “[now] I have obtained the empowerment,” can ritual correctness and certain qualifications alone cause the meaning of the empowerment to really arise in the mental continuum? He provocatively states: “Sometimes merely the ritual has been performed!” In the same manner Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa summarises the most problematic point of the general opinion by stating that people believe that if all conditions are fulfilled, then “thereby the meaning of tantric empowerment must arise.” Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, maintains with this regard that “[tantric empowerment] is [only] obtained when the [true] meaning of tantric empowerment arises in the mental continuum” (dGongs gcig 5.2).

Only when the complete result of purification and transformation arises in the mental continuum is the understanding of empowerment complete, and this may occur only after a long process. Rinchen Jangchub and Dorje Sherab state the example of Geshe Putowa Rinchen Säl (1031-1106), who was fully ordained already for thirty years when he said: “Today the disciplined conduct of renunciation arose in me. My preceptor is that layman at Radreng.” This refers to his master Dromtön Gyalwe Jungne (1005-1064), indicating that the meaning of ordination (similar to the meaning of empowerment) may only arise long after the ritual has been performed, and independent from the usual conditions, as here the preceptor is said to be Dromtön, who actually cannot confer ordination, as he was only a layman (and he was also not alive anymore at that time). Likewise Gampopa obtained the full realisation of empowerment only after “practising, based on the teaching of Jetsün Mila, for six years in the Nyälgyi Sewa valley without leaving his seat.” Therefore, true empowerment is obtained when the realisation that evolves from the blessing of practising the pith instructions of the authentic guru and from the disciple’s own devotion and practise arises. In such a case vase empowerment is obtained when a strong conviction arises that the five constituents of the personality (skandha) and the six senses, their objects, and the six sensory perceptions (dhatu, ayatana) are the five Buddhas and so forth. Secret empowerment is obtained when the samadhi arises that is endowed with the joy of the purification of the eighty innate thoughts 4 as dhatu. The empowerment of discriminating knowledge is obtained when one experiences clear light through the stages of the four naturally inborn joys, namely the ‘surface level bliss of melting’ (kun rdzob zhu bde). 5 The fourth empowerment is obtained when the actual gnosis of mahamudra—the vajra yoga endowed with the seven limbs—arises. 6

1 The definition is taken from Monier Williams’ dictionary.
2 See Ronald Davidson, Indian Esoteric Buddhsm, p. 123.
3 The elements of this definition can be found in the Tibetan-Chinese-Tibetan dictionary Yisun (1985).
4 rang bzhin brgyad cu’i [kun] rtog pa’i sems: These eighty thought patterns are rooted in aversion, attachment and delusion. Cf. Lati Rinbochay (1979: 38 ff.: “eighty indicative conceptions”).
5 As Kongtrul states, except for in the Kalacakratantra great bliss is considered to be relative because “it must be realized by relying on the method of bliss from the melting of the relative [vital essence]. It is therefore considered relative owing to its connection to the relative” (Guarisco 2008: 134).
6 This topic is further discussed in vajra-statement 5.4.

One of the topics discussed in the second chapter of the Single Intention is the manifestation of results in relation to the periods of time. The general context is first of all the period during which the teachings exist in this world after the Buddha has taught them, and, more particular, within that longer period the sub-category of the so-called ‘period of results.’ According to a system that is in the Dosherma connected with an Acarya called “Bumtik Khenpo,” the ten periods of the Buddha’s teachings are the following:

(A) The period of results (‘bras bu’i dus)

1. The period of obtaining the result of Arhatship

2. The period of obtaining the result of a non-returner

3. The period of obtaining the result of a once-returner and a stream-enterer

(B) The period of accomplishment (sgrub pa’i dus)

4. The period where vipashyana predominates and where discriminating knowledge is sharp

5. The period where shamatha predominates and samadhi is practised

6. The period where of disciplined conduct

(C) The period of authoritative scripture (lung gi dus)

7. The period where abhidharma spreads

8. The period where sutras spread

9. The period where vinaya spreads

(D) The period of mere signs (rtags tsam ‘dzin pa’i dus).

The great pioneer of Tibetan and Buddhist studies, the Hungarian Csoma de Körös (1834 app.4, 194 f.) has described these periods quite nicely in the following way: 1

- ‘bras bu’i bstan pa, or ‘bras bu’i dus, the time of the wonderful effects of the doctrine for immediately becoming perfect or possessed of supernatural powers. This period of 1,500 years commenced with the death of Shakya, and was again divided into three smaller ones, each of 500 years, according to the three different degrees of perfection. In the first period, upon hearing his doctrine, some became immediately possessed of superhuman powers, or overcame the enemy, became a dgra bcom pa (arhan). In the second, many, though less perfect, proceeded unhindered in their course to perfection, so as not to turn out of the right way, i.e. they became phyir mi ‘ong pa (anagami), that turns not out of his commenced race or course. In the third, though less perfect, yet there were many that entered into the stream, i.e. became rgyun du zhugs pa (shrota panna), one that has entered the stream (that will carry him through life to felicity).

- sgrub pa’i bstan pa or sgrub pa’i dus, that period of the Buddhistic doctrine, in which yet many make great exertions to arrive at perfection. This period contains again 1,500 years, and is divided into three smaller ones, each of 500 years, according to the three diminishing degrees of diligent application. They are called lhag mthong / ting nge ‘dzin dang / tshul khrims kyi sgom pa, the exercise or practice 1. of high speculation [which I think we must correct to ‘superior insight’], 2. of deep meditation, 3. and of good moral conduct.

- lung gi dus, i.e. that period of 1,500 years of the Buddhistic doctrine, in which the volumes are yet read and explained, though the precepts which they contain are little followed. This period, according to the contents of those books (read or studied in each respected period), is sub-divided into the following three: 1. mngon pa, 2. mdo sde, 3. ‘dul ba gsum lung gis dus, i.e. 1. the period, in which the metaphysical works are studied, which the Sutras or common aphorisms, and 3. in which only books on the discipline of the religious men, and on the rites and ceremonies are read.

- rtags tsam ‘dzin pa’i dus, that period of 500 years, in which, though learning and good morals have declined, yet some signs of the Buddhistic religion are still to be found, as the dress of priests, holy shrines, relics, offerings, and pilgrimages to holy places.

According to such classifications into periods of the teachings, some people say that since the period of results is right at the beginning of the span during which the Buddha’s teachings abide in the world, after that initial period the teachings may abide, but results are not obtained. This is rejected by Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, who maintains that (2.12) “except for mostly larger and smaller [numbers], the obtaining of results occurs continuously.”

The essential argument is that the arising of results does not depend on the period of time, but on the continued presence of the three jewels. As long as the Dharma is taught and a Sangha exists, results arise from practise and accomplishment. According to the Kalacakra system of calculation, which was transmitted to Tibet by Khache Pänchen, the teachings will abide for a long period of time. 2 Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön seems to have followed this calculation of the doctrine and expressed his happiness about the long abiding of the teachings (Collected Works, vol. 3, p 551):

Great joy arises with regard to that!
The teachings abide for a long time
and those of us who practise
will obtain the vast results!
Which master wouldn’t be overjoyed?

In general in the Mahayana the continued presence of the Buddha is ensured since it is said that at the end of the five hundred year period the Prajnaparamita Sutra will perform the activity of the Buddha. But not only will results continue to arise, but according to the mantra tradition they will arise even very quickly in the present period of controversies. The reason is that although there are not many people during this period that are able to abandon the afflictions according to the sutra vehicle, but those who take them as the path through the practise of mantra are many. It should be noted, however, that in accordance with other teaching of the Single Intention this remark of Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa cannot be interpreted as meaning that in the period of degeneration the afflictions are not purified. The intention here is merely to say that the number of people who purify afflictions by abandoning them on the sutra path is smaller while the number of people who purify them by taking them as the path is larger. The purification of afflictions by taking them as the path is for instance explained in the Single Intention 5.5:

With regard to the stage of completion, too, it is maintained that within birth, death, and intermediate state, the three bodies are taken as the path; and since [this] has in mind the means of purification of the three poisons of a person’s mental continuum, i.e. the principle deity [and] retinue [with] however many or few faces and arms, it is necessary to teach the antidote of delusion, namely the dark blue colour of the body, etc., the antidote of desire, namely the deity in union with the consort, and the antidote of hatred, namely holding weapons, or about the pure nature of these.

Thus the meaning of “chiefly larger and smaller [numbers of achievers exist]” (as mentioned in vajra-statement 2.12) is that there are larger and smaller numbers of people practising according to the sutra and the mantra way. And finally, no matter whether the state of the Dharma is good or not, results are always achieved through practise. The Rinjangma states: “If the practise is done from the heart, the result is obtained—since [that] is dependent origination, we maintain that this is infallible and certain.”

1 See also Lamotte (1988: 192-8) History of Indian Buddhism, (Publications de L’Institut Orientaliste de Louvain, 36), (English Translation); Obermiller (1931: 103 f.) History of Buddhism by Bu-ston, (Materialien zur Kunde des Buddhismus, 18), 2 vols., Heidelberg; Vogel (1991) “Bu-ston on the Date of the Buddha’s Nirvana. Translated from His History of the Doctrine,” H.Bechert (ed.), The Dating of the Historical Buddha, (Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung IV, 1), pp. 403-414; and Seyfort Ruegg (1992) “Notes on Some Indian and Tibetan Reckonings of the Buddha’s Nirvana and the Duration of His Teaching,” H. Bechert (ed.), The Dating of the Historical Buddha, (Symposien zur Buddhismusforschung IV, 2), pp. 263-290; Csoma de Korös, Alexander (1834) A Grammar of the Tibetan Language, in English, Calcutta, I-VII, 1-145. p., with six appendices.

2The Kalacakra system fixes the date of Buddha’s parinirvana to 875 B.C. Khache Pänchen, i.e. Shakya Shribhadra, also transmitted a system calculating the Buddha’s parinirvana to 2134 B.C.(!) The results of Sakya Pandita’s calculations and some of his sources were documented some time ago by Seyfort Ruegg (1992) and Vogel (1991), later Davidson (2000 “Gsar ma Apocrypha,” Brill’s Tibetan Studies 2/10, 209 f., ) added a few remarks. These systems require still further attention.

It has been more than a year now that this blog has gone online. Since then, a steady stream of visitors with more than 3600 views from 58 countries has been coming in to read about the Single Intention of Drikung Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön. Thank you for your ongoing interest!

The reason why I haven’t posted anything since March 28 is that, through a generous grant, I was able to interrupt my teaching duties and (most of) the administrative work at Copenhagen University to go on a research semester. During this semester I have been in Dehradun, India, and in Vienna to meet with the ven. Khenpo Rangdrol. We have worked very intensively on Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s commentary of the Single Intention. I have still until the beginning of September to try to transform as much as possible of these collaborative efforts into the book that I hope to publish next year.

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The Single Intention has a number of key themes. One of them is the unity of all teachings. Jigten Sumgön has made this point in numerous of his teachings, and within the Single Intention it also occurs many times, for instance in the first chapter on the three wheels of the Dharma.

For the sake of easy reference, the Buddha’s teachings are divided into different sections. There are 84.000 Dharma heaps, the three baskets of vinaya, sutra, and abhidharma, the four tantra classes, the three wheels of the teachings, the teachings of definite meaning (nitartha) and the teachings of meaning requiring further interpretation (neyartha), the teachings of ‘mind only’ (cittamatra) and the ‘middle way’ (madhyamaka), the teachings of relative (samvirti) and absolute truth (paramartha), the teachings of the five paths (marga) and the ten bodhisattva levels (bhumi), the teachings of gradual and simultaneous engagement (Tib. rim gyis, cig char), the teachings of disciplined conduct (shila), meditative concentration (samadhi), and discriminating knowledge (prajna) and so on … Usually scholars make a lot of effort to differentiate these categories and to show how one category is superior to the other, or how one element has to precede another. Some people become very great scholars in this respect, and they debate skilfully, revealing their superiority over other scholars. Sometimes they go so far as to argue that their opponents, who have different opinions regarding the above categories, are not Buddhist at all!

Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, makes great effort to show how all these teachings are just one teaching, namely the teaching of the Buddha, with one purpose, namely to liberate sentient beings from suffering. His key theme of the unity of all teachings is especially visible in the first chapter of the Single Intention. We could easily fill pages and pages with examples of how Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön establishes the unity of all teachings. I will summarise here some of the key points of the first chapter.

One of the first things he discusses are the 84.000 ‘heaps of Dharma.’ Very often scholars group them into three or four categories, saying that 21.000 of them are antidotes for this affliction and 21.000 are antidotes for that affliction, etc. From this some scholars conclude that since people are dominated by particular afflictions, they would need particular antidotes. Thus they say that not all antidotes are necessary for everyone. Some go even so far as to claim that a being is liberated through a particular group of antidotes, or even by a single antidote alone. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, maintains that although some afflictions might be dominant in a person, generally all antidotes are required for achieving Buddhahood, because each being possesses all 84.000 afflictions ( Single Intention 1.2).

These 84.000 antidotes are organised in three baskets and four tantra classes. Some people claim that each basket or tantra class is intended for a particular group of people. They say that the shravakas have to practise the vinaya and the tantric adepts have their tantras. And within the vehicle of mantra they say that each class of tantra is for a particular kind of person. These opinions often imply that a person belonging to a certain group would not need (or not be allowed) to practise other practises than those belonging to “their own” kind of teaching. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, maintains that all these baskets and tantra classes are stages of the path for everyone. And not only are they stages leading to more and more subtle teachings and practises, but the full range of elements of practise is necessary for everyone. As the shravaka will not achieve great awakening without the bodhisattva and mantra practises, the bodhisattvas and tantric adepts, too, will not achieve great awakening without the vinaya ( Single Intention 1.3).

One of the most fundamental differentiation of the teachings is that into the three wheels. According to the general opinion, the first wheel is the teaching of the four truths of the Noble Ones, teaching suffering, its cause, the end of suffering, and the path for ending suffering. This is called the Dharma of the shravakas. Accordingly, the other two wheels are the teachings of mahayana, and there is a lot of discussion in the mahayana which one of these two remaining wheels contains the sutras of definite meaning and which the sutras that need further interpretation (see also below). Furthermore, there is of course the big distinction into hinayana (first wheel) and mahayana (second and third wheel). Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, maintains that the three wheels are not different by their teaching, but by their recipients. The teachings of the three wheels are like the rain falling from the sky, which is always the same, yet by virtue of the different qualities of the ground upon which it falls, the water acquires different tastes ( Single Intention 1.4). Furthermore he maintains that within each of the wheels all the three other wheels are complete (1.5) and that the seeds of each of the later wheels exist in each of the earlier ones (1.6). This is shown in great detail and very clearly in these and some others points of the first chapter.

Furthermore, some people say that within the three wheels those sutras that teach chiefly cause and result, namely the four truths of the Noble Ones which are taught within the first wheel, require further explanation. They say that only the sutras that teach emptiness and belong to the second wheel are of definite meaning. There are also many scholars who say that the sutras that teach the existence of Buddha nature in all sentient beings, which belong to the third wheel, require further interpretation. Others again say that just these sutras of Buddha nature are the definite meaning, while the sutras teaching emptiness, i.e. of the second wheel, require further interpretation. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, does not except that one wheel requires interpretation while another wheel is of definite meaning. He maintains that the teachings of definite meaning are taught in all vehicles ( Single Intention 1.9). According to him, despite the fact that different beings have different realisations, natures, faculties, motivations, and inclinations, and even though the wheels reflect that to some extend, what is taught in all the vehicles has all the time been the definite meaning and has a single intention.

Why do people say that some sutras need interpretation and others are of definite meaning (which does not need further interpretation)? In general, there are several interpretative tools for the analysis of a teaching. A teaching can be classified as (1) intentional (see below) and (2) non-intentional, it can have (3) a provisional meaning requiring to be further or otherwise interpreted (i.e. it teaches a meaning that is not the ultimate one), and (4) the definite (i.e. ultimate) meaning, and it can be understood (5) literally (i.e. exactly as expressed) and (6) non-literally. “Intentional” can for instance mean that a teaching promises a certain time frame for the success to be achieved, but that promise has the particular intention to urge the disciple to enter into the practise, or the way a teaching is formulated has the particular disposition of certain kinds of disciples in mind. All these categories have a lot of overlap, of course. Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, however, does not accept that anything that is taught in this way does not have the definite meaning in mind. In other words, the purpose or function of teaching a ‘meaning requiring further interpretation’ is not to establish an independent, autonomous meaning that is different from the definite meaning. According to our commentaries, the Buddha would be incapable of pronouncing such false and misleading teachings. Whenever a teaching is spoken that requires further interpretation, it is always done with the intention to ultimately establish sentient beings in the great happiness of higher births and well being. Thus ‘definite meaning’ means here ‘definite purpose.’ In that sense, i.e. within the perspective of a single vehicle for all disciples and the unity of the teachings, there is no difference between these two categories (Single Intention 1.10).

In his commentary, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa is mostly interested in the implications of this tenth vajra statement of the first chapter for the mantra teachings. His concern are the people of his time who explain the tantras using categories such as ‘the intentional’ and ‘the non-intentional.’ There is, however, according to Jigten Sumgön, no separate intention to be sought, since mantra is taught chiefly through symbols (Tib. brda) and signs (rtags). That is to say that a statement, according to which one would have to “kill enemies of the teachings,” is not made with an intention to establish a separate Buddhist path on which ‘killing’ would be permitted. And it is also not meant in any literal way. Instead, ‘enemy’ symbolises ‘wind and thoughts’ and ‘killing’ signifies the taming of the mind. Thus the mantra teachings of the tantras are by way of a code, with the code obviously being a ‘signifying sign’ and the meaning being ‘the signified.’ The crucial point here is not whether the tantras need to be interpreted literally or figuratively, or as having an intention or not having an intention. According to Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön’s understanding, the Buddha’s teachings always have only a single definite meaning, namely the end of suffering, and in the above case of “killing enemies of the teachings” that definite meaning is the taming of the mind. In the same manner the tantric expression “attend to your sister” (with a sexual connotation) signifies to be never separate from discriminating knowledge (prajna), “knocking down the central pillar” (of a tent) signifies transformation of the impure channels etc., and “killing the kind parents” signifies the accomplishment of the body of inseparable means and discriminating knowledge. Since the meaning is precisely what is taught in the exoteric mahayana tradition, there is nothing else intended and there is no need to clarify any further meaning, beyond that which is accepted in the general mahayana.

One might therefore ask: if the meaning is the same as in the openly taught exoteric tradition, what is there to be kept hidden by using a symbolic language? I think that what is meant here to be kept hidden is the method, i.e. the manner in which thoughts and wind are stopped, prajna is kept inseparable, the impure channels are purified and so forth, because these methods are potentially harming when practised without proper guidance. In any case, what is clear from many statements in the Single Intention is that Jigten Sumgön is not accepting a mantra path that would have a meaning that is different from the exoteric general mahayana path. Therefore he says (5.24): “What is virtuous in the vinaya is also virtuous in mantra and what is non-virtuous (in the one) is non-virtuous (also in the other).” The example given there is alcohol. According to Jigten Gönpo, the intention in mantra and in the vinaya is the same, namely to abandon alcohol. When, however, the correct method is ably applied and alcohol is really transformed into nectar, with its smell, taste, power etc. actually transformed, then, since it is not alcohol anymore, but nectar, it can (and must!) be taken. Here, too, there is no secret intention as to permitting alcohol in the mantra and prohibiting it in the vinaya. In both alcohol is prohibited and nectar is permitted. What is kept hidden is only the method of transformation, since it is to be transmitted, learned, and practised under the close guidance of an authentic guru.

Thus this is also an example for Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön’s general approach of seeing the Dharma as a unity: The teaching of the vinaya and the mantra have the same definite meaning, namely to end suffering and to establish happiness.

Regarding those people who differentiate the Dharma a lot, debate with Dharma opponents, and develop the attitude of looking down on ‘lower’ teachings or wheels, and who, for instance, follow the teachings of emptiness according to the second wheel and abuse those who follow only the teachings of the first wheel, Jigten Sumgön and all the commentators say that such an attitude is to be understood as the origin of the ‘Self of the person.’ Such people only abuse the teaching that they themselves should follow in order to abandon the ‘Self,’ and they have not understood the Buddha’s Dharma as a unity. This is taught in many of Jigten Sumgön’s teachings, and in particular also in Single Intention 1.5.

In the discussion of another vajra-statement of the sixth chapter it is mentioned that people within the sutra vehicle hold Great Madhyamaka to be the pinnacle of all systems, people within new mantra hold the Great Seal, i.e. the stage of completion without characteristics within the highest yoga tantra to be the highest realisation, and people within ancient mantra declare that nothing can match the ultimate ninth vehicle of Great Perfection. Holding the pinnacle of their system to be superior to the highest level of other systems, they do not go beyond the mentally fabricated, because they cultivate the apprehending mode of ‘being great’ and ‘I’ and thereby they do not even touch the accomplishment of the nature of mind at all ( Single Intention 6.8). But the accomplishment of the nature of mind is beyond the mentally fabricated, free from an apprehending mode, and beyond the sphere of examples and words. Yet this accomplishment of the nature of mind is the intention of all the Buddha’s teachings, of all 84.000 Dharma heaps, of all wheels, vehicles, and paths. As I have quoted in another posting before, Jigten Sumgön said:

For someone who, after taking refuge to the three jewels, has entered the gate of the precious teachings of the Tathagata, completely all the practises of the different trainings are similarly ‘Dharma.’ But some people defame the instructions of the Tathagata by claiming “only this teaching of mine is Dharma, what others are practising is not Dharma,” or “Nyingmapa-mantra is not Dharma,” or “the practise of the siddha Vajrapani is not Dharma,” or “amanasikara (“mental inactivity”) is not Dharma,” etc. This causes only desire, hatred, and cognitive misorientation for them! The maturation of such activity is the result ‘samsara’ and ‘lower realms.’ Since such results are wailful, you should never denigrate any teaching!


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