This question has two aspects: one pertaining to view, the other pertaining to conduct. In Buddhist literature we can find lots of statements, according to which all karmic ripening of causes and the dependent arising of results will ultimately be realised as emptiness, and thus, from that moment onwards, all phenomena are brought to exhaustion and virtue and non-virtue are not anymore something to be accomplished and abandoned. The two aspects “view” and “conduct” are actually intermingled here: dependent origination of karma, cause, and result is realised as emptiness and as a consequence virtue and non-virtue loose their value. Such statements are backed up with all kinds of quotes from Mahyana and Mantra scriptures. One tantra says: 1

The ultimate result
[arises at] the time when there are no more causes and results.

All phenomena (as we know them) somehow disappear, as one text (ascribed to Dzogchen) puts it:

The bringing of all phenomena to an exhaustion is the essential meaning,
the ultimate view, the great seal.

And Milarepa, too, is quoted: 2

From the perspective of absolute truth,
apart from [being an] obstacle, not even the Buddha himself exists. (…)
In the ultimate truth [however] there is no mind
and all phenomena are brought to exhaustion.

Tantric texts like the Guhyagharbhatantra of the Nyingmapas apparently argue with a nullification of all phenomena and values in accordance with a Madhyamaka type of illusion and emptiness (11.13): 3

Even though one has performed all activities [such as] sexual union and liberation [through killing]
in the way “from the beginning unborn,” “ultimate reality,”
“appearing as an illusion” [and] “optical illusion,”
not even as much as a dust particle has been performed.

And the same text again (19.3): 4

[On the absolute level] existence, non-existence, and anything in between are not apprehended [as objects], and
[on the relative level things are] like an illusion or an optical illusion; [thus],
there is no life and there is no life that will be taken.
Life and people are mere erroneous notions.

So, if emptiness is realised, “anything goes” because nothing matters? To reject such an attitude, Jigten Sumgön states in the Same Intention (6.17): “If emptiness is realised, emptiness emerges as cause and result.”

According to the commentator Dorje Sherab, Jigten Sumgön himself underwent a change of his view during the second year of his training under Phagmodrupa. During the first year, Jigten Sumgön had come to the realisation that all phenomena are empty. Therefore he thought (according to Dorje Sherab):

At the time of death I will become a Buddha and all concerns can be cast aside now. Someone with realisation does not take birth [again]. At death he attains the merging of the two kinds of luminosity and peace is attained. In the first intermediate state he becomes a Buddha, and through the vital point of emptiness the conceptions of cause, karma, and afflictions cannot bind [anymore], like a hemp rope burned by fire: it still has its form as it is not destroyed in its structure, but cannot bind anymore, because its nature has disappeared.

During the second year, however, he understood that such a realisation is not the ultimate one. In that year, Phagmodrupa mainly taught two things: the Jatakas, i.e. the life stories of the former births of the Buddha, and the Dharma wheel of ultimate definitive truth (i.e. in this system the sutras of the third wheel). Through these teachings, Jigten Sumgön came to realise that cause and result exist within emptiness, that this has an impact on how the realised person should behave, and that to follow such a conduct after realising emptiness is an act of compassion. One result of such a realisation was that he abandoned his status as a lay follower and took full ordination.

Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa points out in his commentary that Milarepa had the same realisation. This is expressed in his farewell teaching to Gampopa (the very last personal teaching he gave before Gampopa went away):

Do not interrupt the virtuous Dharma conduct, even though there is no hope for Buddhahood up above, and shun even the most subtle evil, although there is no fear with regard to the bad states [of birth] below.

This is to be understood in connection with the other quote from Mila above, according to which in absolute truth not even the Buddha exist. Thus the present statement is on the ultimate level, and it points out that even though in absolute truth there are neither Buddha nor bad states of birth, virtuous conduct is not to be interrupted. And Mila furthermore said: 5

Since emptiness is more subtle than the many explanations you are able to make of emptiness in accordance with authoritative scripture and reasoning, it is difficult to understand [emptiness] and to develop confidence. Having great confidence in emptiness and then understanding that emptiness itself arises as cause and result, you will automatically engage in efforts regarding abandoning and accepting of cause and result, and establishing virtue and abandoning evil. Since this great confidence in cause and result is the root of all Dharmas, it is very important to be meticulous and to make efforts with regard to the practise of abandoning evil and accomplishing virtue.

Dorje Sherab presents the same teaching with these words ascribed to Gampopa:

The Jowo Kadampa [Lamas] said: “Having realised emptiness, one must proceed very attentive with regard to karma, cause, and result.” That is very right! Now that I have gained experience [I understand that this] is a [very profound] Dharma transmission that the Kadampas possess. I call myself a yogi and I am very attentive with regard to karma, cause, and result. This is a pith instruction taught by my gurus. Since here is a lineage [for this, starting] from the Lord [Atisha], there is no chance for it to be different.

But how do cause and result still exist for those who have realised emptiness? Dorje Sherab explains this through some examples. When he was still with Marpa, Jetsün Mila, for instance, sang from time to time songs in the village and thereby was able to contribute the offerings he received from the villagers to his guru Marpa’s household. The positive karmic result of that was that later in his life, when he was already a realised yogi, the dakinis invited him to their ganacakra, and furthermore that Jomo Tashi Tseringma offered yoghurt and so forth to him with a spoon made of precious stone. These later occurrences are here causally linked to that type of virtuous conduct, and thus there exists positive karmic ripening for the realised yogi. But Mila also experienced negative results at a time when he was already an accomplished yogi, namely when he had to sustain himself with unsalted nettle soup. This is in this teaching linked to the hail he had magically brought down on the fields of his home village. Similarly, Jigten Sumgön also experience almost immediate karmic retribution after Phagmodrupa’s death, when he led the community of Phagmodru, but because he got into conflict with the community, trying to make everything more than perfect, he finally had to leave secretly the community of Phagmodru.

Thus the key point that cause and result is not nullified by emptiness and that results infallibly arise from causes even after emptiness has been realised has been established through the instructions of the lineage and through numerous examples. Towards the end of his comments on this vajra-statement, Dorje Sherab also presents two canonical quotes to establish (a) that despite having realised emptiness one has to continue one’s attentive awareness, and (b) that even when one has realised true reality, results infallibly arise from causes. The first point is made in a sutra:6

Whatever arises from conditions is not arisen,
it doesn’t have the nature of being arisen.
Whatever depends on conditions is emptiness.
Whoever understands emptiness is one with attentive awareness.

Thus, even though phenomena are unborn as empty, whoever realises that still has to practise the conduct of attentive awareness. The second point is made in the same sutra: 7

Even though it is understood that [in] true reality there is no ripening of karma,
virtuous and non-virtuous activity never goes to waste.

To understand the meaning of that, further scriptural authority from Indian treatises is presented. And who could be a better witness than Nagarjuna? Therefore, Dorje Sherab quotes two well known passages from the Mulamadhyamakakarika. The first (24.19) says:

A phenomenon that is not dependently originated
does not exist.
Therefore a non-empty phenomenon
does not exist.

And the same text (24.14) says:

For whomever emptiness is possible,
everything is possible.
For whomever emptiness is impossible,
everything is impossible.

These verses are quoted here in our context as scriptural authority for the fact that (a) every single phenomenon is dependently originated and thus empty, and (b) that when emptiness is accepted, acceptance of cause and result within emptiness is implied. The second verse is a close match to the final verse (no. 70) of Nagarjuna’s Vigrahavyavartani, whose auto-commentary has been translated by Westerhoff (2010). 8 One passage from the commentary on the last verse says (p. 130):

For whom there is emptiness there is dependent origination. For whom there is dependent origination there are the four noble truths. For whom there are the four noble truths there are the fruits of religious practice, and all the special attainments. For whom there are all the special attainments there are the three jewels, the Buddha, the Dharma, and the Sangha. For whom there is dependent origination there is righteousness, its cause and its result, as well as unrighteousness, its cause and its result. For whom there is the righteous and the unrighteous, their cause and their result, there are the obscurations, their origin, and their bases. For whom there is all this, the law of the fortunate and unfortunate states of rebirth, the attainment of the fortunate and unfortunate states of rebirth, the way of going toward the fortunate and unfortunate states of rebirth, the passing beyond the fortunate and unfortunate states of rebirth, the means for passing beyond the fortunate and unfortunate states of rebirth as well as all worldly conventions are established.

Dorje Sherab furthermore compares the arising as cause and result within emptiness to space. Space may be used as an illustration of emptiness, but within that space, the sun heats up the air, and when there is moisture, a rainbow will arise. You may deny space’s emptiness, but the birds fly through it, chasing after the rainbow without meeting with any hindrance in space, and they can also not take hold of the rainbow. Here both the empty space in which there arises the rainbow, and the rainbow itself that arises in space are obviously empty, since they cause no hindrance and they cannot be grasped. Yet, if you insist on the emptiness of space and rainbow, it is pointed out that within that very space there appears the rainbow with its five colours, vivid and unmixed, and the space cannot stop these appearances. Thus, despite space’s emptiness, the rainbow is not prevented from arising. “Similarly,” Dorje Sherab sums it up, “the happy and painful results arise from virtuous and non-virtuous activities, not being stopped by emptiness.”

There is also a very interesting passage with regard to “emptiness emerging as cause and result” in the introduction to Dorje Sherabs commentary, the Dosherma, which is traditionally ascribed to Dorje Sherab himself, but may have been substantially expanded by one of his disciples or by a scholar of a later generation. In one passage (p. 231), 9 the perspective of the path is discussed. This is important, because while the perspectives of the ground and the result have many implications regarding the view, the perspective of the path is obviously of greatest concern for those who are practising, and it also has a lot to do with conduct. This passage says that on the path, there are three aspects of dependent origination, cause, result, and emptiness, namely:

(1) to apply cause and result to emptiness,
(2) the arising of emptiness as cause and result, and
(3) the non-dual existence of emptiness, cause and result.

(1) When one dwells through one’s practice in the nature, free from proliferation, one understands that whatever arises from causes and conditions is empty of own existence. This is the truth of dependent origination. By way of realisation one enters into the state of “emptiness-equipoise”. This state of understanding equals the realisation of Jigten Sumgön during his first year with Phagmodrupa.

(2) When one experiences “one-taste” in the yoga of Mahamudra, all the fine details of cause and result arise without loss from the state of emptiness. That arising of the fine details of cause and result is the “unity of the path”, or the “unity of [the stage of] learning”. This is Jigten Sumgön’s realisation during or after his second year with Phagmodrupa.

(3) Understanding that the ultimate original nature of the dependent origination of cause and result arises perfectly without mixing up all the individual ways of the arising of “this result from that cause,” one actualises that ground, path, and result are non-dual and inseparable from the beginning. At the time of non-dual equipoise and post-equipoise (i.e. between actual sessions of meditation) this is the “union of [the stage of] no more learning”. This is Jigten Sumgön’s realisation during his second retreat in the E-chung cave ca. 1175-1177 (cf. Christine Sommerschuh’s translation of Jigten Sumgön’s biography, p. 117 f. and p. 283). 10

Obviously these three stages refer to the last three of the four yogas of Mahamudra, i.e. (1) “free from proliferation” (spros bral), (2) “single taste” (ro gcig), and (3) “no-more learning” (slob du med). Our present topic of “emptiness emerging as cause and result” is realised on the level of “single taste”, which is the realisation that Jigten Sumgön obtain while he was a disciple of Phagmodrupa.

As here in the Introduction, where the realisation of “emptiness as cause and result” is connected with the realisation of “single taste,” in the Dosherma, too, this realisation is taught to arise when all phenomena are realised as “sameness”. But even at the time of omniscience, Dorje Sherab continues, all the subtleties of cause and result arise in the state of emptiness, without anything discarded or lost. Since Phagmodrupa understood that Jigten Sumgön would realise this, he said to him: “You will be one who is better than merely a ‘great meditator’ (sgom chen),” indicating that he would become an actual siddha. And later, Jigten Sumgön remarked:

Because I mastered this [teaching], I am among all the Dharma practitioners of Tibet not only one head larger than they are, but I am distinguished by a full body length!

See also Jigten Sumgön’s statement quoted by Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa in Same Intention 6.19:

I, [the one] who is endowed with the realisation matching the eighty mahasiddhas of India, appear now in the manner of renunciation – [in that] I am very reckless!

This is in Tibetan a word play, where recklessness, which is usually connected with the “crazy wisdom” of the siddhas, is here applied to the enthusiasm through which Jigten Sumgön practised the vows of renunciation, as Atisha, Gampopa and also Milarepa (though not formally as a monk) have done before him. Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa says in this context:

Thus, however vast one’s experience and realisation is, this conduct of awareness that is practised in conjunction with disciplined conduct is the practise of the pure teachings. But nowadays some people wear the bone ornaments that [they] pretend to be [an element of their] special observance, they wrap themselves in dog-fur, brandish weapons, and they perform a conduct of a realised one that disregards cause and result and treats body and life carelessly, performing the misbehaviour of disturbing gods and nagas and filling the valley with the sound “Phat” and meaningless shouts, the meaningless [pretended] special observance of roaming around like a dog – [disciplined conduct] is so much more distinguished than that!

As Khenchen Nyima Gyaltshen explained when he taught this point of the Same Intention: To hold that all phenomena, including karma, cause and result, are empty and like an illusion, is fine in the context of view, but since within that emptiness all the fine details of cause and result arise without loss, the “anything goes because nothing matters” attitude is a wrong application of emptiness to the sphere of conduct.


1 gSang ba’i snying po de kho na nyid nges pa, D vol. 98, fol. 211r.

2 ‘Jam mgon kong sprul blo gros mtha’ yas, dPal ‘khor lo bde mchog ngam rdzong snyan brgyud kyi man ngag rtsa ba tshe ring skor gsum gyi gzhung, gDams ngag mdzod, TBRC W23605, vol. 8, p. 113 and 108.

3 Klong-chen-pa, dPal gsang ba’i snying po, p. 628.

4 The paraphrases in square brackets are taken from Klong-chen-pa, dPal gsang ba’i snying po, pp. 628.8 f.

5 For an edition of the Tibetan text of this passage, see de Jong (1959: 153 f.).

6 Arya Anavataptanagarajapariprccha Mahayanasutra, D vol. 58, fol. 230v.

7 D vol. 58, fol. 231v.

8 Jan Westerhoff (2010) The Dispeller of Disputes: Nagarjuna’s Vigrahavyavartani, Translation and Commentary, Oxford: Oxford University Press.

9 Khog dbub kyi sa dmigs, in: dGongs pa gcig pa’i ‘grel chen snang mdzad ye shes sgron me, by sPyan-snga rDo-rje-shes-rab, vol. 1, bKa’ brgyud nang bstan mtho slob khang nas dpar ‘grems zhus, Kagyu College, Dehra Dun, India, 2007.

10 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.


Top of Article

Janet Gyatso (2015) Being Human in a Buddhist World: An Intellectual History of Medicine in Early Modern Tibet, New York: Columbia University Press, 519 pp.

One of the topics discussed in this brand new book is the coexistence of Buddhist tantric and Tibetan medical knowledge. Janet Gyatso explains that for Tibetan Buddhists, access to the internal anatomy of the body was perhaps never a problem. The practice of dismembering corpses to feed them to vultures, for instance, is an old one, and the analysis of corpses from a medical perspective was already well established in India. Tibetans, too, are known to have dissected corpses in order to learn from first hand experience. Gyatso (p. 193) reports the case of Darmo Menrampa Losang Chödrag, who was very active in the field of medicine. He studied Tibetan texts, wrote medical treatises, taught at one of the medical schools, and he was allowed to perform an operation on the fifth Dalai Lama. In 1670 he gathered his students together and dissected in a park in Lhasa the corpses of four male, female, old, and young Tibetans. He found 365 bones in the body, 5 more than the accepted number in medical literature.

In this particular case, and also when it came to the problem of diverging descriptions of the inner channels of the human body in medical and tantric literature, Darmo Menrampa didn’t react like the Hindu reformer Dayananda Sarasvati (1824-83), who tore up his manual of hathayoga after dissecting a corpse and failing to find the cakras (Gyatso, p. 205). Instead, Darmo Menrampa made efforts to reconcile the tantric system and the four kinds of channels in medical literature (p. 272).

As Janet Gyatso describes in her book, we find in the Tibetan literature attempts to explain the actual nature of the channels in various ways. There are for instance those who try to identify aspects of tantric anatomy with “actual” anatomy. Others, however, recognise tantric anatomy as a unique system outside of, or apart from, “actual” anatomy. Among those who discussed the nature of tantric anatomy, some were assuming a fine or subtle kind of materiality, while others, such as some medical theorists, rather assumed a conventional material existence of the tantric channels.

In short, there are two basic approaches. One is to posit a tantric anatomy that is of an essentially different order than ordinary anatomy; the other is an attempt to reconcile the two systems in some way. The first strategy that posits tantric anatomy as an essentially different order allows to uphold various views about the tantric body (i.e. the vajra body) that in such an approach does not need to be reconciled with the anatomy of the ordinary body (tha mal kyi lus). Things that are of different orders do not necessarily need to be in total agreement. The second strategy that tries to reconcile the two systems proves to be difficult to accomplish, as it has to explain many inconsistencies between the systems.

The situation is further complicated, explains Gyatso (p. 208 f.), by the fact that there also exists a “medical body” (gso ba’i lus), i.e. the body that is to be healed by medical practise. All three bodies — the tantric, the ordinary, and the medical one — certainly have some overlap. A medical practitioner, for instance, would make a bad impression if he would try to bleed a vein as described in medical literature, when his instruments can’t hit on an actual blood vessel of the body. But there are also differences, as pointed out by those who warn that the identification of the tantric central channel with an actual material channel of the ordinary body could lead to insanity if yogic practise is attempted based on such an ordinary channel.

Among those exegetes who juxtapose the Buddhist tantric materials with the medical, we find the strategy to assume that medical literature only explains the overt channels, while tantric literature is able to provide a more detailed picture. Such a view of the superiority of the tantric system was expressed by Kyempa Tsewang (sKyem-pa Tshe-dbang, see Gyatso, p. 213 ff.), who preceded the commentator of the Single Intention, the Drikungpa Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa (1595-1659) by perhaps a bit more than a century. Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa was, as is well known, himself a tantric yogi and author of treatises in the medical tradition of the Drikungpas. He might have had in mind writers like Kyempa Tsewang when he commented on a vajra statement of Jigten Sumgön that juxtaposes tantric and medical analysis in a surprising and somewhat more nuanced way.

In general, the vajra statements found in the Single Intention are already in the earliest versions of the text contrasted with views held by others that need to be corrected, or sometimes even refuted. In the case of the present topic, the general view is explained to be that the Buddha taught the cause of the body, the basis of its abiding, and the conditions of its final disintegration in the most profound manner in the Mantra Vajrayana, since the nature of the body’s qualities and defects arises through the dependent origination of winds and channels. Thus it is assumed that the way how things really are in the body, and the functions of winds and channels, are profound only as taught in the Mantra Vajrayana.

In contrast to such a general view, Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön teaches that (5.13) “medicine teaches some ways how things are and some functions more profoundly.” This vajra statement is actually ascribed by the early commentator Rinchen Jangchub (fl. mid 13th c.) to “Je Drogön” (i.e. Phagmodrupa, 1110-1170), who, “having seen one [copy of Vagbhata’s] Ashtangahrdaya[samhita] said ‘this is very profound’ and expressed his joy.” The Ashtanga was, as Janet Gyatso (p. 107) states, influential in Tibet and the last great Indian medical work translated (by Rinchen Zangpo). Phagmodrupa might have known it through his studies in Sakya, where the medical academy specialised in the system of this work (Gyatso p. 112). According to Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa, this treatise states that first, during the body formation (lus chags pa’i dus), the four types of diseases occur respectively in dependence on whichever mental affliction predominates. By differentiating each type of disease further, each of them turns into a hundred diseases. Each of these particular diseases must be treated through different individual remedies.

With regard to medical treatments, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa states that he himself has seen how such diseases are treated by doctors who understand how the ultimate nature of channels, winds and vital essences of that body really are (and we can safely assume that he himself has also been both a tantric yogi and a medical expert). Therefore, he concludes, “I think that [medical knowledge] is very profound!” As an example for the profoundness of medical treatises, he quotes the following lines of the Ashtanga:

Since the sickness of completely all the desires and so forth
is intertwined with the [mental] continuum, it pervades the constituents of the body.

In addition to these remarks, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa recalls an earlier incident where a great practitioner with profound insights perceived in the back of one man a creature that had the size of a sinew (chu rgyus). He reported this to a doctor, who then removed the sickness by applying moxibustion to the upper, middle and lower part of the body of the creature hidden in the back of the man, thereby proving the great profoundness of medical treatments.

Furthermore, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa continues, a doctor ascertains how the rough and subtle channels of the body, the primary and secondary winds that move in them, etc., and the vital essences that are emitted and not emitted, are, and he identifies by questioning, looking, and touching, the diseases that develop from wind, bile, phlegm, combinations of these, and from heat, and cold. (This refers to the seven groups of diseases arising from wind, bile, and phlegm, as well as from combinations of two or three of them.)

Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa moreover points out that a doctor bestows life (‘tsho ba’i srog ster ba) by getting to the heart of the matter through four things, namely medical treatment, investigation (of outer appearance), dietetics, and conduct regulations (sman dpyad zas bcos bzhis) that are fitting to the disease. 1 Finally, he argues that these medical practises (lag len) have the benefit of others in mind, and that they have been well elucidated and explained by saintly authors and commentators who have well comprehended the vital points of the Sugata’s instructions, yet the same depth and clarity cannot be found in the presentations of the tantras of Buddha Vajradhara.

This latter point, namely that the same clarity of presentation cannot be found in the tantras, is actually interesting in the context of the immediately preceding vajra statement in the Single Intention, which says: (5.12) “He maintained that some [aspects of] the natural state were hidden by Vajradhara.” Another early commentator of the Single Intention, Dorje Sherab, explains that the tantras were intentionally “brought into disorder (dkrugs),” so that, as Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa states, people are prevented from attempting to enter the mandala and trainings without the proper guidance by an authentic master who is endowed with authentic lineage, pith instructions, and reading transmissions.

In the light of these words we might understand vajra statement 5.13, “medicine teaches some ways how things are and some functions more profoundly” to mean that the medical literature teaches the profound aspects of channels etc. not only more clearly, but also more openly than the tantras.

In sum, if we dare to make a conclusion based only on these bits of information that we find in the Single Intention and its commentaries, the Drikungpas do not seem to have chosen the approach of viewing the medical channels as essentially different from the tantric channels. As far as these brief statements of the eminent medical and yogic expert of the Drikungpas, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa, allow us to make a judgement, they rather seem to take the channels of both systems — the medical and the tantric — to be basically identical, and in cases of doubt, the descriptions in medical literature may be preferred, since they are — with regard to anatomical details — more profound ( / clear / openly taught) than the descriptions in the tantras.

The medical system of the Drikungpas, and in fact Tibetan medicine as such, certainly needs much more and much deeper exploration, especially its many important and interesting relations to the tantric tradition, and vice versa. I am sure that Jane Gyatso’s book, which offers much more than the single topic I have discussed here, will prove to be an essential step forward.


1 I understand “sman dpyad zas bcos bzhi” to be (1) medical treatment (sbyor ba sman), (2) investigation (of outer appearance, cha byad dpyad), (3) dietetics (‘tsho ba zas), and (4) conduct regulations (bya ba spyod lam bcas).

A friend posted on facebook an article by Donald Lopez jr. in the Buddhist magazine tricycle (Winter 2012), beginning with the words:

According to Buddhist doctrine, there can be only one buddha for each historical age. A new buddha appears in the world only when the teachings of the previous buddha have been completely forgotten, with no remnant — a text, a statue, the ruins of a pagoda, or even a reference in a dictionary — remaining. Because the teachings of Gautama Buddha, the historical Buddha — that is, our Buddha — remain present in the world, we have no need for a new buddha.

In the Dhiga Nikaya collection of the Pali canon we find indeed the following statement (ii 225 and iii 114):

Nowhere and at no time is it possible that, in one and the same world-system, two Arahant Buddhas should arise together.

This view is not only expressed in the sutras of the Shravakas, but also in some mahayana texts. Dorje Sherab provides in his commentary on Jigten Sumgön’s Single Intention the following example from a Nyingmapa tantra: 1

I have never seen that there occur
in one world or one continent,
during the period of one eon,
in one country, or on one vajra-seat
two Buddhas who complete the activities.
If there were, it would be impossible and it would contradict the Dharma.

In contrast to that, Jigten Sumgön maintains in the Single Intention (2.15) that “many Buddhas appear continuously in a single Buddha field.” His commentator Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa argues that by perfecting the familiarisation with the two accumulations of merit and wisdom, the Buddha activity will be equal to the Buddha nature of all sentient beings. At the same time, sentient beings are limitless. Thus, Candrakirti says in his Madhyamakavatara (6.194): 2

Because samsara is
without a first beginning and a final end,
it is called “free from beginning and end.”

Therefore Jigten Sumgön maintains that since Buddha activity equals the Buddha nature of all sentient beings, and since sentient beings are limitless, Buddhas are limitless. This thought is expressed, for instance, in Maitreyanatha’s Uttaratantrashastra (4.62): 3

Therefore, in all the water receptacles,
which are [the minds of] the pure trainees,
immeasurable reflections
of the sun, [which is] the Sugata, appear at once.

Therefore, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa concludes, “there come as many Buddhas as there are sentient beings to each realm of the world.” The appearance of one Buddha in one world system does not prevent other Buddhas from appearing there, too. When, for instance, the Buddha was teaching, there often appeared numerous other Buddhas to listen to him and even deliberated the teachings. Our commentaries provide only a few examples, such as the Ratnaketudharani , the Saddharmapundarika Sutra , and the Tathagatasangiti Sutra , but they are certainly numerous.

It is true that only a single Buddha is needed in a world system to reveal the twelve deeds, such as renunciation, ordination, teaching, and entering nirvana, but that doesn’t prevent other Buddhas from “manifesting there as that Buddha’s father, mother, son, retinue, and so forth, even down to showing themselves as non-Buddhists, and they teach the great [qualities],” says Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa, “since they do not harbor (…) aversion to the Buddha.”

The present vajra statement (2.15) seems to have the same intention as vajra statement (7.15) “all Buddhas dwell in the natural continuum (khams rgyud ) of all sentient beings,” for which see in this blog the article “Where the Buddhas abide.”


1Sarvatathagata Cittajñanaguhyarthagarbhavyuha Vajratantrasiddhi Yogagamasamaja Sarvavidyasutra Mahayanabhisamaya Dharmaparyayavivyahasutra , D vol. 97, fol. 201v: ‘jig rten gcig gam gling gcig tu// bskal pa gcig gi gnas skabs la// yul gcig rdo rje gdan gcig tu// mdzad pa mthar phyir sangs rgyas gnyis// ‘byung bar yang dag ngas ma mthong // byung na mi srid chos dang ‘gal//.

2Madhyamakavatara by Candrakirti, D vol. 102, fol. 213v.

3D vol. 123, fol. 70r.

I have seen and heard remarks from Buddhists these days through which they state their utter contempt for Islam. A Danish lama has been well known for such views for a long time. Somebody just sent me a snapshot of that man together with a well known Dutch right winger. A facebook account under the name of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse calls people who represent a sophisticated position regarding Islam “liberals, leftists, moderates, and cherry-picking apologists.” The same and worse can be read in the blog of a German Theravada-Buddhist meditation teacher. Except for stating the obvious, namely that there is a difference between Muslims and terrorists, I will not say more about this debate here. But I would like to share with you one of Kyobpa Jigten Sungön’s positions regarding other religions and views in general.

Jigten Sumgön’s general approach to spiritual views, conducts, and practices is one that attempts to perceive something in terms of what its nature is. In this sense he acknowledges that (1.19) there exists much that is virtuous by nature to be practised in [the systems of] the non-Buddhists too. This stands in contrast to a general opinion according to which “the complete view, conduct, and practise of the non-Buddhists is only something to be abandoned.”

One of Jigten Sumgön’s most basic positions is simply that whatever is virtuous by nature has a joyful result. Such virtue, however, is not confined to the realm of Buddhism alone. As he had pointed out in vajra-statement 1.1, the Buddha did not “invent” his own Dharma, but revealed the ultimate true nature as it is — and that nature exists as it is, independent of whether someone reveals it or not. Therefore, whoever acts in accordance with that nature will receive the respective appropriate results, no matter whether that person is a Buddhist or not, or whether that person has realised “the definite meaning that perceives the truth” or not. In fact, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa explains that even animals will enjoy the joyful fruits if they are “temporary [in] possession of … virtuous things to be practised,” such as loving kindness for their offspring. Furthermore, even a tenth level bodhisattva has to abandon that which is by nature non-virtuous, or he will suffer the consequences (which is another vajra-statement), and everyone, even animals and the lowest beings in hell, will experience the joyful fruit when they practise virtue.

An example for a wise handling of this nature is the Buddha’s own adoption of the “ritual of the three grounds,” which first did only exist among non-Buddhists. The “ritual of the three grounds” (gzhi gsum gyi cho ga) refers to the poshadha ceremony (Tib. gso sbyong), the summer retreat (dbyar gnas), and the release from summer retreat (dgag dbye). By adopting this originally non-Buddhist practise, its virtuous potential was made available to ordained Buddhists. Another example offered by Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa is Padmasmbhava’s adoption of many non-Buddhist activity rituals (mu stegs byed las), such as cycles of protection and repelling, for the removing of temporary impediments. These have, when embedded in bodhicitta, great virtuous potential, and they are particularly interesting examples because they make skilful use even of forceful and wrathful activities.

Therefore, whatever virtue is found anywhere is to be practised. The Rinjangma points out that even though one might already possess vast amounts of pure qualities, one should also accept the pure qualities found in the mental continua of other beings that are perhaps seen as inferior to oneself, as this is a matter of abandoning pride. It was through such a practise, Rinchen Jangchub says, that the Buddha was able to purify all faults completely and to complete all good qualities, causing him to obtain Buddhahood. On the other hand, if something incorrect exists in the mental continuum of a high person, this is to be abandoned. Nothing is to be accepted only because it exists in the mental continuum of, or is taught by a high person. Thus Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa quotes the well known words of Aryadeva (Jnanasarasamuccaya, D vol. 97, 27v5):

Monks and scholars should accept my words
having first investigated them thoroughly,
like gold, which is smelted, cut and burnished,
but not out of [mere] veneration.

Dorje Sherab quotes at this point the almost same words from the Shri Mahabalatantraraja (D vol. 79, fol. 216v):

Like smelting , cutting, and burnishing gold,
accept my instructions after due investigation,
but, oh Skilful Ones, do not accept it
out of reverence or other [reasons].

These lines are well known and generally accepted by all Buddhists. But what is not so generally accepted is what Jigten Sumgön advises to do, namely to make an effort to perceive the virtue in all non-Buddhist paths, too, and to practise it. To do that, I think, would prevent a Buddhist from making statements such as those mentioned in the beginning, which, I think, may lead directly to political hell.

The final one of the 150 vajra-statements discusses the place where the Buddhas finally abide. Dorje Sherab describes the general view, according to which the Exalted Buddhas, having accomplished all deeds, transcend all misery, like a fire dies whose fuel is exhausted. They abide in the “palace of the sphere of reality of Akanishta,” the dwelling place of all Buddhas, which is ornamented with inconceivable arrangements of qualities. Every single present Buddha of the ten directions transcends misery and proceeds to that place, and all the Buddhas of the future too will complete their activities, transcend misery, and proceed and abide there. In contrast to such a view Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön maintains that (7.15) all Buddhas dwell in the natural continuum (khams rgyud ) of all sentient beings. Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa shows considerable interest in this statement and provides in his comments more details than we can find in the Dosherma and the Rinjangma . His main arguments can be summarised as the following eight points:

(1) From the moment onwards when they have cultivated the resolve for the benefit of beings, the Buddhas engage only in benefiting beings. Therefore their activities are not compatible with merely dwelling “in the sphere of peace.”
(2) They dwell in “the natural continuum (khams rgyud ) of the sentient beings who exist in samsara.” (For a definition of “natural continuum” see below, no. 8).
(3) All the Tathagatas fit into the mental continuum of each and every being, since
– the Buddha’s body emanates everywhere,
– true reality is inseparable from sentient beings’ mental continua,
– all beings belong to the Buddha-family and thus posses the essence of the Buddha.
(4) That “the Buddhas are dwelling in one’s natural continuum since beginningless time” means that they are “the undefiled nature of the mind” that is connected with the beings since beginningless time, while the afflictions are not a part of the beings’ nature.
(5) When temporal adventitious defilements are removed, that has been taught to be equal to Buddhahood.
(6) Buddha fields like Sukhavati, Akanishta, and Abhirati are not somewhere else, but exist within the natural continuum of sentient beings.
(7) The very world into which a being is born is the Buddha field. This point is also made in Sherab Jungne’s Praise of Definitive Meaning , a praise of his teacher Jigten Sumgön, where he reports the following question he asked his teacher and the latter’s reply to it: “Protector! Into which Buddha field will you proceed when you leave this world? Whereto shall we direct our prayers? [Reply]: This is the Buddha field! Where else should it be? I dwell wherever the true nature of the mind and mahamudra are an inseparable unity. Never separate from the practise of your own mind! That means ‘to be inseparable from me.’ How can I be at only a single place like Oddyana und Jalandhara?”
(8) The very thing that is called “natural continuum” (khams rgyud ) is so called because it is unproduced, spontaneously achieved etc., and it is a synonym of Buddha nature (sugatagarbha ).

The Dosherma and the Rinjangma tie in here the teaching of disciplined conduct (shila ) in an interesting way. They do this by focusing (in accordance with the above points) on the inside, namely the natural continuum of beings. Thus they state that all the far-away-Buddha-activities are in truth existing within the individual natural continua of all beings. In which way? If a person engages in bad conduct, not only do all ordinary beings perceive their faults, but all the Tathagatas, too, perceive this misconduct with their pure gnosis perception (i.e., so to speak, from within the natural continuum). On the other hand, if a person behaves correctly through the three venues, just that is the entrance gate for Buddha activities and their blessings.

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


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