(Deutsche Übersetzung weiter unten.)

The “Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā” as we know it today was mainly shaped by Kunga Rinchen (1475‒1527), whose practice manual “Garland of Mahāmudrā” was translated by Khenchen Könchog Gyaltsen, and by Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa’s disciple Könchog Trinlé Namgyal (17th c.), who wrote down his teachers oral instructions in the “Dharmakīrti Zhalung.” These manuals present the Fivefold Path as a fully ritualized form of practice with successive stages starting with a preliminary practice (Ngöndro) and individual rituals for practicing bodhicitta, yidam deity, guru yoga, mahāmudrā, and dedication.

But such a ritually structured set of practices cannot be found in the earlier writings of the lineage. In particularly, in Jigten Sumgön’s own collected writings, the Fivefold Path ist mentioned many times, but never as a ritual path. Instead, the “Fivefold Path” is presented as the fundamental principle of all practices of meditation: Whatever practice one performs, it should always be preceded by (1) the cultivation of the resolve for awakening (bodhicitta), through which (2) one’s body is manifested as the yidam deity, which is the basis for (3) practicing one’s guru in one’s heart or at the crown of one’s head, which culminates in (4) the practice of the mind free from mental activity (mahāmudrā). Finally, the virtuous roots of such practices should always be (5) dedicated for the benefit of the beings.

There is also no fixed yidam deity for this practice, although the manuals focus on Cakrasaṃvara as the main deity. In the early instructions of Jigten Sumgön, this is left open, and in the case where the practitioner does not yet have his own personal deity, Avalokiteśvara is recommended as the yidam deity of the Fivefold Path.

The following brief instruction by Jigten Sumgön is a typical early instruction on the Fivefold Path. There are many such instructions in his collected works, but this one is perhaps the most condensed presentation.

Quintessential Practice of Sūtra and Mantra: Essential Instruction of the Fivefold Path of Mahāmudrā

Generally, the certain cause for attaining perfect buddhahood is the resolve for awakening. Therefore, at all times and in every way, make the pledge to cultivate the resolve when you practice the root of great waves of virtue, when you get to any practice, and at the beginning of a practice session as follows:

“May all my mothers—the sentient beings who are as limitless as space—have happiness, be free from suffering, and attain the precious, supreme, and perfect awakening; for that purpose I will, until I reach buddhahood, bind body, speech, and mind to virtue; I will, until I die, bind body, speech, and mind to virtue; and I will, until the same time tommorrow, bind body, speech, and mind to virtue”—thinking that, practice your body as your cherished deity. If you do not have one, practice my cherished deity, the lord of great compassion, the noble Avalokiteśvara, or any powerful lord whatsoever. Practice the excellent guru in your heart. At the time of death, practice him at the crown of your head, it is said.

Then, look at your own awake and clear awareness and “not seeing anything at the time of looking at it is seeing true reality.” Therefore, dwell in that state without any mental activity.

If your mind begins to move again with high and low thoughts, transform your going, standing, lying, sitting, or any other conduct, so that through practice it becomes uninterrupted virtuous practice, the essence of being without thoughts, and the spontaneously accomplished nature. Then maintain that without interruption.

After you have produced the root of virtue or dwelled evenly in your experience, recollect from time to time the root of virtue that has been accumulated by yourself and all sentient beings in the three times and the virtue that is existent [in the buddha nature of all beings]:

“May through this virtue that has been accumulated by myself and all sentient beings in the three times and that is existent I and all sentient beings quickly attain the precious, supreme, and perfect awakening.” Thereby the root of virtue is to be dedicated.

It is very important that you practice at all times uninterruptedly in that manner, guard the precious approximation vow1, and whichever lay vows from among the four roots you are able to maintain. Accordingly, the Exalted One said: “If you do not guard at least one rule, you are not part of my retinue.” Thus, knowing that all activities are without purpose if you do not belong to the retinue of our teacher, make efforts to guard disciplined conduct! This is complete.

1 “Approximation vows” (bsnyen gnas kyi sdom pa, Skt. upavasasaṃvara) are vows where lay persons practice the first four vows of ordination, relinquish alcohol, fancy clothing, jewelry, and high seats, and also cease taking meals after noon for one day to approximate the vows of ordination.

Der “Fünffache Pfad der Mahāmudrā”, wie wir ihn heute kennen, wurde hauptsächlich von Kunga Rinchen (1475-1527) geprägt, dessen Praxishandbuch “Girlande der Mahāmudrā” von Khenchen Könchog Gyaltsen übersetzt wurde, und von Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpas Schüler Könchog Trinlé Namgyal (17. Jh.), der die mündlichen Anweisungen seines Lehrers im “Dharmakīrti Zhalung” niederschrieb. Diese Handbücher präsentieren den Fünffachen Pfad als eine vollständig ritualisierte Form der Praxis mit aufeinanderfolgenden Stufen, beginnend mit einer vorbereitenden Praxis (Ngöndro) und individuellen Ritualen für die Praxis von Bodhicitta, Yidam-Gottheit, Guru-Yoga, Mahāmudrā und Widmung.

Aber eine solche rituell strukturierte Reihe von Praktiken ist in den früheren Schriften der Linie nicht zu finden. Insbesondere in Jigten Sumgöns eigenen Gesammelten Werken wird der Fünffache Pfad viele Male erwähnt, aber nie als ritueller Pfad. Stattdessen wird der “Fünffache Pfad” als das grundlegende Prinzip aller Meditationspraktiken dargestellt: Welche Praxis man auch immer ausführt, man sollte immer (1) die Kultivierung des Entschlusses zum Erwachen (bodhicitta) vorausgehen lassen, wodurch (2) der eigene Körper als Yidam-Gottheit manifestiert wird, was die Grundlage für (3) die Praxis des Gurus im Herzen oder auf der Kroe des Kopfes ist, was wiederum in (4) der Praxis des von geistiger Aktivität freien Geistes (mahāmudrā) gipfelt. Schließlich sollten die heilsamen Wurzeln solcher Praktiken immer (5) zum Nutzen der Wesen gewidmet werden.

Es gibt auch keine feste Yidam-Gottheit für diese Praxis, obwohl in den Handbüchern Cakrasaṃvara als Hauptgottheit genannt wird. In den frühen Unterweisungen von Jigten Sumgön wird dies offen gelassen, und für den Fall, dass der Praktizierende noch keine eigene persönliche Gottheit hat, wird Avalokiteśvara als Yidam-Gottheit des Fünffachen Pfades empfohlen.

Die folgende kurze Unterweisung von Jigten Sumgön ist eine typische frühe Unterweisung zum Fünffachen Pfad. Es gibt viele solcher Unterweisungen in seinen gesammelten Werken, aber diese hier ist vielleicht die komprimierteste Darstellung.

Quintessenz der Praxis von Sūtra und Mantra: Die Wesentliche Unterweisung des Fünffachen Pfades der Mahāmudrā

Im Allgemeinen ist die sichere Ursache für das Erreichen der vollkommenen Buddhaschaft der Entschluss zu Erwachen. Gelobe daher zu jeder Zeit und auf jede Weise wie folgt den Entschluss hervorzubrigen wenn du die Wurzel der großen Wellen des Heilsamen praktizierst, wenn du irgendeine Praxis übst, und zu Beginn einer jeden Praxissitzung:

“Mögen alle meine Mütter — die fühlenden Wesen, die so grenzenlos wie der Raum sind — Glück besitzen, frei von Leiden sein und das kostbare, höchste und vollkommene Erwachen erlangen; zu diesem Zweck werde ich, bis ich die Buddhaschaft erreicht habe, Körper, Rede und Geist an das Heilsame binden; ich werde, bis ich sterbe, Körper, Rede und Geist an das Heilsame binden; und ich werde, bis zur gleichen Zeit morgen, Körper, Rede und Geist an das Heilsame binden”—wenn du das denkst, übe deinen Körper als die Gottheit, die du am meißten schätzt. Wenn du keine solche Gottheit hast, praktiziere meine geschätzte Gottheit, den Herrn des großen Mitgefühls, den edlen Avalokiteśvara, oder irgendeinen anderen mächtigen Herrn. Praktiziere den ausgezeichneten Guru in deinem Herzen. Zur Zeit des Todes praktiziere ihn auf dem Scheitel deines Kopfes, so heißt es.

Dann schaue auf dein eigenes waches und klares Gewahrsein und “nichts zu sehen zum Zeitpunkt des Betrachtens ist das Sehen der wahren Wirklichkeit.” Verweile also in diesem Zustand ohne jegliche geistige Aktivität.

Wenn dein Geist wieder beginnt, sich mit hohen und niedrigen Gedanken zu bewegen, wandele dein Gehen, Stehen, Liegen, Sitzen oder jedes andere Verhalten so um, dass es durch die Praxis zu einer ununterbrochenen heilsamen Praxis wird, die Essenz des ohne Gedanken Seins und die spontan vollendete Natur. Dann halte dies ohne Unterbrechung aufrecht.

Nachdem du die Wurzel des Heilsamen hervorgebracht oder in der meditativen Ausgeglichenheit deiner Erfahrung verweilt hast, rufe dir von Zeit zu Zeit die Wurzel des Heilsamen, das von dir und allen fühlenden Wesen in den drei Zeiten angesammelt wurde, und des Heilsamen, das [in der Buddhanatur aller Wesen] vorhanden ist, ins Gedächtnis:

“Mögen ich und alle fühlenden Wesen durch dieses Heilsame, das von mir und allen fühlenden Wesen in den drei Zeiten angesammelt worden ist und das [in der Buddhanatur der Wesen] existent ist, schnell das kostbare, höchste und vollkommene Erwachen erlangen.” So ist die Wurzel des Heilsamen zu widmen.

Es ist sehr wichtig, dass man zu allen Zeiten ununterbrochen auf diese Weise praktiziert, das kostbare Annäherungsgelübde1 bewahrt und je nach Fähigkeit eines oder mehrere der vier Wurzelgelübde aufrecht erhält. Dementsprechend sagte der Erhabene: “Wenn du nicht mindestens eine Regel bewahrst, gehörst du nicht zu meinem Gefolge.” Da ihr also wisst, dass alle Betätigungen zwecklos sind, wenn ihr nicht zum Gefolge unseres Lehrers gehört, bemüht euch, diszipliniertes Verhalten zu bewahren! Dies ist vollständig.

1 “Annäherungsgelübde” (bsnyen gnas kyi sdom pa, Skt. upavasasaṃvara), sind die Gelübde, bei denen Laien für einen Tag die ersten vier Gelübde der Ordination praktizieren, auf Alkohol, besondere Kleidung, Schmuck und hohe Sitze verzichten und auch die Einnahme von Mahlzeiten nach dem Mittag einstellen, um sich den Gelübden der Ordination anzunähern.

Collected Works of Jigten Sumgon, vol. 3, p. 67‒70.

མདོ་སྔགས་ཉམས་ལེན་གྱི་ཉིང་ཁུ་ཕྱག་ཆེན་ལྔ་ལྡན་གྱི་ཁྲིད་སྙིང་བསྡུས༎ བླ་མ་དམ་པ་རྣམས་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ། །སྤྱིར་རྫོགས་པའི་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐོབ་པར་བྱེད་པའི་རྒྱུ་ངེས་པ་བྱང་ཆུབ་ཀྱི་སེམས་ཡིན་པས། དུས་དང་རྣམ་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་དང་། རླབས་པོ་ཆེའི་དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་བྱེད་པ་དང་། ཉམས་ལེན་གང་དུ་བསྣུན་པའི་དུས་དང་བསྒོམས་པའི་ཐུན་འགོ་ལ། སེམས་བསྐྱེད་པའི་དམ་བཅའ་འདི་ལྟར་བྱ་སྟེ། མ་ནམ་མཁའ་དང་མཉམ་པའི་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་བདེ་བ་དང་ལྡན། སྡུག་བསྔལ་དང་བྲལ། བླ་ན་མེད་པ་ཡང་དག་པར་རྫོགས་པའི་བྱང་ཆུབ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཐོབ་པར་བྱ། དེའི་ཆེད་དུ་སངས་མ་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་བར་དུ་ལུས་ངག་ཡིད་གསུམ་དགེ་བ་ལ་བཀོལ། མ་ཤིའི་བར་དུ་ལུས་ངག་ཡིད་གསུམ་དགེ་བ་ལ་བཀོལ། དུས་དེ་རིང་ནས་བཟུང་ནས་ཉི་མ་སང་ད་ཙམ་གྱི་བར་དུ་ལུས་ངག་ཡིད་གསུམ་དགེ་བ་ལ་བཀོལ་སྙམ་དུ་བསམས་ལ། རང་གི་ལུས་ཡི་དམ་གྱི་ལྷར་བསྒོམ། མེད་ན་ངའི་ཡི་དམ་གྱི་ལྷ། ཇོ་བོ་ཐུགས་རྗེ་ཆེན་པོ་རྗེ་བཙུན་སྤྱན་རས་གཟིགས་དབང་ཕྱུག་གང་ཡང་རུང་བ་ཞིག་ཏུ་བསྒོམ། བླ་མ་དམ་པ་ཐུགས་ཀར་བསྒོམ། ནམ་འཆི་བའི་དུས་སུ་ནི་སྤྱི་བོར་བསྒོམ་པ་ཡིན་གསུངས། དེ་ནས་རང་གི་རིག་པ་རིག་རིག་ཏུར་ཏུར་པོ་འདི་ལ་བལྟས་ལ། བལྟས་པའི་དུས་སུ་གང་ཡང་མ་མཐོང་བ་དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད་མཐོང་བའོ་ཞེས་པས། དེའི་ངང་ལ་ཅི་ཡང་ཡིད་ལ་མི་བྱེད་པར་བཞག། རྣམ་པར་རྟོག་པ་མཐོ་དམན་གྱིས་སེམས་རྣམ་པར་གཡེངས་ན། འགྲོ་འཆག་ཉལ་འདུག་གམ། སྤྱོད་ལམ་བསྒྱུར་ནས་བསྒོམས་པས་རྒྱུན་ཆད་མེད་པའི་དགེ་སྦྱོར། རྣམ་རྟོག་མེད་པའི་ངོ་བོ། ལྷུན་གྱིས་གྲུབ་པའི་རང་བཞིན་དུ་འོང་བ་ཡིན་པས། དེ་རྒྱུན་ཆད་མེད་པར་བསྐྱང་། དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་བྱས་པའི་རྗེས་སམ། ཐུགས་དམ་ལ་མཉམ་པར་བཞག་པའི་རྗེས་ལ། སྐབས་སྐབས་སུ་བདག་དང་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱིས་དུས་གསུམ་དུ་བསགས་ཤིང་ཡོད་པའི་དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་དྲན་པར་བྱས། བདག་དང་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱིs་དུས་གསུམ་དུ་བསགས་ཤིང་ཡོད་པའི་དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་འདིས། བདག་དང་སེམས་ཅན་ཐམས་ཅད་མྱུར་དུ་བླ་ན་མེད་པར་ཡང་དག་པར་རྫོགས་པའི་བྱང་ཆུབ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཐོབ་པར་གྱུར་ཅིག་ཅེས། དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་བསྔོ་བར་བྱའོ། །དུས་རྒྱུན་ཆད་མེད་པར་ཚུལ་དེ་ལྟར་ཉམས་སུ་བླང་ཞིང་། བསྙེན་གནས་ཀྱི་སྡོམ་པ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་བསྲུང་བ་དང་། རྩ་བ་བཞི་ལས་གང་ཐུབ་ཐུབ་ཀྱི་དགེ་བསྙེན་གྱི་སྡོམ་པ་སྲུང་བ་གལ་ཆེ་སྟེ། དེ་ལྟར་ཡང་བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་ཀྱིས། ཁྲིམས་གཅིག་ཙམ་ཡང་མི་བསྲུང་ན་ངའི་འཁོར་དུ་མ་གཏོགས་སོ། །ཞེས་གསུངས་པས་སྟོན་པའི་འཁོར་དུ་མ་གཏོགས་ན་བྱས་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་དོན་མེད་པར་ཤེས་པར་བྱས་ནས། ཚུལ་ཁྲིམས་བསྲུང་བ་ལ་འབད་པར་བྱའོ། །རྫོགས་སོ༎་༎

This prayer covers the whole path of mahāmudrā from the common outer preliminaries up to the special dedication, ending in verses of one-pointed devotion. It was composed by the first Drikung Chungtsang Rinpoche, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa (1595-1659). ♦ 1

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have trained the thought that the leasures and endowments are hard to obtain, I have wasted my life! Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced the thought of impermanence and death, I have only ever grasped as permanent that which is conditioned. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced the thought that cause and result never fail, I have only ever confused what to accept and what to reject. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced seeing saṃsāra as suffering, ♦ 2 I have only ever taken the path of the lower realms. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have maintained the prātimokṣa as my vows, I am separated from the mind of renunciation. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, practiced seeing all beings as my parents, I have only ever brought forth attachment and rejection for my friends and enemies. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced love and compassion, ♦ 3 I have only ever brought forth hatred and ill will. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced the aspiration and completion of the resolve for awakening, I have only ever pursued my own happiness. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced my body as the body of the deity, I have only ever brought forth attachment to ordinary appearances. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have counted the mantras to be recited, I have merely wasted the wind of my life force. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced the samādhi that is like a reflection, I have only ever thought of it as something seizable. ♦ 4 Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have dissolved the visualization according to the gradual and the sudden method, ♦ 5 this has remained only a mechanical procedure. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced my own mind as being free from mental proliferation, I have only ever cultivated an attitude. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced not grasping whatever appears, I have only ever superimposed my awareness on it. ♦ 6 Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced the inseparable union as beyond mind, I have only ever fallen into the extreme of dualistic fixation. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced the fundamental nature as something unfabricated, I have only ever added the unfabricated. ♦ 7 Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have dedicated completely free from the three components, ♦ 8 I have only ever striven for glory. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

Although I, a commoner of little mind, have practiced one-pointed devotion, I have only ever been carried away by hopes for the pleasant and fears of the disagreable. Please look compassionately on me from afar!

From the depths of my heart, I, a commoner of little mind, pray to the refuge lord of this and all future lives, the physician who can cure the chronic disease of samsāra, the courageous one who conquers the afflictions that are the enemy, the sun that dispels the darkness of ignorance, the moon that protects me from the heat of suffering, the jewel that fulfills all my needs, desires, and hopes, and the guru who is a cure for everything!

Please look upon me quickly with compassion and grant me the blessing within effortlessness!

Grant me the feast of the spontaneous attainment of the twofold purpose on this seat! Please do not let the hope of this fortunate devotee go unfulfilled! May my devotion not be wasted uselessly! May my prayer not go unheard! May I be introduced to equanimity through your compassion!

You are the lord of refuge of this, the next life, and the intermediate state! Apart from you there is no other! No matter what happiness and sorrow, salvation and disaster may arise, there is no hope for me except you! Please look compassionately upon me from afar! Guru! Give me your attention! Guru! Give me your attention!

Notes
1. [] “Four Session [Guru]-Yoga: Sea of Blessings,” Collected Works of Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa, vol. 14 (pha), pp.321‒330, this prayer on 325‒327.

2. [] These four, the thoughts regarding (1) the leasures and endowments, (2) impermanence and death, (3) cause and result, and (4) the sufferings of saṃsāra constitute the four outer common preliminaries that all Buddhists share in their practice.

3. [] These three, renunciation, seeing all beings as one’s parents, and practicing love and compassion are the basis for cultivating the resolve for awakaning (bodhicitta).

4. [] Practicing samādhi as something seizable means that one is attached to the arising of bliss, luminosity, and non-thought from samādhi. That attachment is only a cause of saṃsāra.

5. [] The gradual dissolving is the procedure where the outer world is dissolved into the palace of the deity, the palace into the body of the deity, the body into the heart syllable, and the syllable gradually into emptiness. The sudden dissolving turns the visualization abruptly into non-thought.

6. [] Such an artificial superimposing of awareness on apearances is only another form of grasping.

7. [] In his commentary on the Single Intention, Rigdzin Chökyi Dragpa says that some mantra practitioners use the “emptiness mantra” (“oṃ śūnyatā …”) “to empty” outer and inner phenomena. Thereby, however, they remain within duality by applying the emptying mantra with their mind to an object, to their consciousness, and to their bodies. Thereby, they mentally create the trap of fundamental nature, into which they fall.

8. [] In mahāmudrā practice, the “three components” (Tib. ’khor gsum, Skt. trimaṇḍala) of dedication have to be canceled out. The three components characterize the functioning of the dualistic mind. In the case of the perfection of giving or of dedication, the first of these three is the notion of a subject, which is the agent or acting entity. The second is an object, which is the patient (or recipient) of the action/dedication. The third is the action of giving or dedication proper.

Sorry, this time only German:

Ich habe jetzt unten rechts bei den PDF-Downloads einen Link zur deutschen Übersetzung von Jigten Sumgöns “Kühlende Sandelholz-Mala” eingefügt.

Diese Instruktion Jigten Sumgöns war der erste Text, den ich zusammen mit meinem Mentor Ngawang Tsering in den achziger Jahren gelesen habe (tatsächlich fand ich noch Dateien zu diesem Text von 1992!). Ich habe den Text viele Male überarbeitet, jetzt lasse ich ihn endlich los. Der Text ist ein wunderbares Beispiel für die Art und Weise, wie Jigten Sumgön öffentliche Belehrungen gab: Immer mit direktem Bezug zur Praxis, und immer ohne in verschiedene Fahrzeuge zu unterscheiden. Für Jigten Sumgön gab es nur einen Pfad, nämlich den, der zur vollkommenen Buddhaschaft führt.

Viel Spaß beim Lesen!

Karma Chagme (1613-1678) composed a text called “How to Guard the Three Vows: The Sun that Dispels the Darkness,” which is the fifth chapter of his famous “Mountain Dharma” (Ri chos mtshams kyi zhal gdams). You can find the whole translation of this chapter in the download section of this blog (scroll down and see the right hand side).

Here, I will present his summary of all vows from that chapter. Instead of making footnotes (as in my translation), the notes are here integrated into the text in blue print.

Summary of All Vows
The three vows of refuge, the five of the householders,
Most basic are the “vows of refuge.” They are presented in three groups of three rules each. After one has taken refuge, one observes the following: 1a) One continually strives to worship the three jewels, b) one does not abandon the three jewels even at the cost of oneʼs life, c) one recollects the qualities of the three jewels and continually practices taking refuge; 2a) one does not turn to other deities, b) harm other beings and c) rely on non-Buddhist teachers, 3) one worships the images and representations of a) the Buddhas, b) the teachings and c) the community, even if they only consist of mere clay figures, single letters or shreds of robes.
As a householder, one can maintain five vows or less. These are avoiding 1) killing, 2) stealing, 3) sexual misconduct, 4) lying and 5) the consumption of intoxicating substances. Either two or three of these are to be observed (but one can also take all five). In the so-called approximation vow (upavasasaṃvara), one enters into all five commitments for the duration of one day, but “sexual misconduct” is replaced by chastity, and there are other additional vows such as avoiding elevated seating, singing, dancing, jewelry, perfume, and “untimely meals.” Literally, upavasa means “approach” or “approximation,” i.e., a lay person approximates the lifestyle of the ordained ones for the period of one day.

the ten vows of ordained novices,
These are the four roots of the vinaya: celibacy, not killing, not stealing, not lying about spiritual accomplishments, and additional vows such as avoiding intoxication, elevated seating, singing, dancing, jewelry, and perfume.

the two hundred and fifty-three vows of fully ordained monks,
In addition to the ten vows of the novices, the fully ordained ones have to follow a large catalogue of vows concerning the life in the sangha and regulating the contact with the layity. A good and complete documentation was published by Charles Prebish (1975). Buddhist Monastic Discipline: The Sanskrit Prātimokṣa Sūtras of the Mahāsāṃghikas and Mūlasarvāstivādins. University Park Pennsylvania: Pennsylvania State University Press. (Maybe you can ask someone to send you a PDF?)

the vows of the bodhisattvas,
There are different sets of vows for the bodhisattvas. Candragomin has summarized them in his Twenty Verses (Bodhisattvasaṃvaraviṃśaka 6‒7, translation by Mark Tatz), forming the Yogācara tradition of the bodhisattva vows:

(6) With attachment to gain and respect,
Praising oneself and deprecating another;
Stingily not giving Dharma and wealth
To the suffering, [poor] and forsaken.
(7) Heedless of another’s confession,
Striking him out of anger;
Rejecting the Greater Vehicle,
And showing what appears like good Dharma.

The Twenty Verses are a summary of the ethics chapter of the Bodhisattvabhūmi.

the four white and the four black dharmas
that are to be accepted and rejected,
The four white dharmas: (1) Never consciously telling lies, ranging from “even if it costs one’s life” to “even for fun;” (2) always maintaining an altruistic motivation, never deviating from it, and not deceiving the beings; (3) cultivating the certainty that all bodhisattvas are buddhas and praising them; (4) motivating the beings regarding the unsurpassable awakening and the great vehicle, without giving up the lesser vehicles.
The four black Dharmas: (1) To deceive the guru; (2) to slander those who have cultivated the resolve for complete awakening; (3) to have no faith in spiritual merit and repent virtuous actions; (4) To deceive the beings.

the eighteen and the twenty transgressions,
According to the Madhyamakas, depending on which basic text they follow, there are eighteen or more root vows of the bodhisattvas. In his Śikṣasamuccaya, Śāntideva cites the Ākāśagarbhasūtra with nineteen transgressions, the first six of which apply to “kings and ministers.” The remaining twelve roots are for beginners and average bodhisattvas:

(1) To teach emptiness to the unprepared so that they lose faith;
(2) to induce someone to give up the great vehicle;
(3) to induce someone gifted only for the small vehicle to enter the great vehicle;
(4) to believe that one cannot remove the stains in the small vehicle;
(5) out of greed for wealth and fame, to praise oneself and disrespect others;
(6) falsely claiming that one has realized emptiness;
(7) inducing others to punish a monk;
(8) inducing a monk to abandon his meditation;
(9) giving up the decision to awaken;
(10-12) being stingy, angry, or hypocritical.

Only one root is taught for those bodhisatvas who are particularly blunt, namely at least not to give up the resolve for awakening.

the fourteen root pledges of the mantra vows
There are countless pledges in the different tantras and tantra classes. After one has been initiated into one of the highest tantras, the fourteen root transgressions mentioned here are especially important:

(1) To disrespect the vajra master;
(2) to disobey the Buddha’s instructions;
(3) to be angry with oneʼs vajra siblings;
(4) to give up love, even for a single being;
(5) to lose bodhicitta;
(6) to disregard religious teachings;
(7) to reveal secrets to the immature;
(8) to disregard one’s psycho-physical constituents as something ordinary;
(9) to disregard that which is pure by nature;
(10) to feel affection for the wicked;
(11) to construct mental concepts of the ultimate truth;
(12) to cause someone to lose faith;
(13) to reject the substances of the pledges of mantra;
(14) to disrespect women.

and the eight grave transgressions,
The eight serious violations are:

(1) To engage (in the activities of the mantra) with women who have nopledges;
(2) to get into conflict with others during the activities of the mantra;
(3) to accept the external and internal nectar of the pledges from women who are not qualified in the sense of the mantra;
(4) not to teach mantra although it has been requested by qualified students;
(5) to answer qualified questions about mantra evasively;
(6) to spend more than one week with those who despise the great vehicle;
(7) to consider oneself a mantra adept if one knows only some of the rituals of the stage of cultivation;
(8) to reveal secrets to unqualified persons.

the roots of the body, speech, and mind of the Nyingmapas
and the twenty-five branches.
These were taught in detail as the hundred thousands of millions.

In brief, the roots of all these vows are as follows:
The entire prātimokṣa is included in avoiding harm for others
together with the mental basis for that.
The entire system of the bodhisattva vows is included in bringing benefit to others
together with the mental basis for that.
The entire system of the pledges of mantra is included in one-pointed devotion to the guru.

If you say: “In detail, it is too detailed, in brief, it is too brief;
but what is practiced concretely?”
[I reply]: Preserve the four roots as if they were your life,
abandon alcohol and meat [of animals killed] for your sake, etc.—
these are the purest vows of this day and age.
They are also of utmost importance for the vows of the bodhisattvas and mantra.

Whatever activities of virtue accumulation one pursues,
the core of the entire training of the bodhisattvas
is the cultivation of the resolve to awaken for the sake of all beings,
and to make wishes for the dedication of the root of virtue
for the benefit of all beings
and for attaining perfect awakening.
The meaning of this [is explained in the sutra of] detailed advice to the king.

Whoever your root guru is
—whether ordinary being or a buddha—
think of him as being inseparable from the lord of the [buddha] family
on the crown of your head.
This is the pledge of the guru’s body.

Practice whatever is appropriate for you:
The deity of meditation with your body, recitations through your speech,
holding the breath or vajra recitation.
This is the pledge of the speech of the deity of meditation.

View your mind as emptiness, mahamudra,
perform as best as you can on days such as the tenth of the month timely offerings,
the tantric feast, and torma offerings!
Never explain to those who hold wrong views the vital points of mantra.
This is the pledge of the dakini’s heart.

Continue your efforts regarding the offering of tormas and the torma
of the twenty-ninth day of the last month.
The twenty-ninth day of the last month is the penultimate day of the Tibetan year. The focus of this torma offering ritual is to come to a conclusion with the past year by repelling negativity and misfortune and thus averting it for the next year. The ritual is traditionally performed in all households, monasteries, and retreat places all over Tibet on this day.

Perform as best you can on the appropriate days of the year, the appeasements
and petitions, and the feast offering.
Since one cannot avoid mistakes in ritual practice regarding the protectors, etc., “amendments” must be made on certain days to appease these deities. “Petitions” are requests to the deities regarding fortunate conditions in the future. The “feast offering” is one of the obligations one has towards the yidam deity.

In it are contained the pledges concerning the gods of wealth [who provide] qualities
and the protectors of the teaching [who engage in various] activities.

Watch at all times the essence of your mind.
That is the pledge of liberating one’s mental continuum through realization.

From time to time, train in the visualizations of the compassionate exchange
of yourself and others,
Literally, the “sending” of one’s happiness to others and the “taking” upon oneself the suffering of others.

fulfill the hopes of your trainees concerning empowerments,
transmissions, instructions, and so forth.
This is the pledge of bringing the mental continuum of others to maturity
through compassion.

Make aspirations and dedications that everyone who is connected
[to you] through seeing, hearing, remembering, and touching,
may be born in the buddha field of great bliss.
This is the pledge of the great vehicle that samsara is to be completely emptied.

In this way, the pledges are differentiated and summarized.
They are clearly differentiated and easy to practice.

[Colophon]
This was taught by Rāga Asya (Karma Chagme) during the noon session
of the twenty-fourth day of the eighth month of the horse year.
The text literally says “the ninth day of the red half of the month,” which refers to the second half of the month with a waning moon. Since only the animal sign is mentioned, three years are most likely, namely 1642, 1654, or 1666.

It was written down by Tsöntrü Gyatso, who had requested the teaching.
If there are mistakes in it, I confess them before the scholars.
May all beings bring the three vows to perfection through this virtue.

[This translation was made in August 2000 in Hamburg and slightly revised in 2020 by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch.]

When different Buddhist groups form an association, e.g. in a counry, the question of a common definition of Buddhism is sometimes raised. The idea of that is obviously to come up with a kind of essence that is something like the least common denominator, which includes all and doesn’t reject anyone. I find this difficult, not only because “essentialism” has such a bad name these days.

Someone who tries to give an answer that is based on the teachings is Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. He says (Lions Roar, January 12, 2017):

Buddhism is distinguished by four characteristics, or ‘seals.’ If all these four seals are found in a path or a philosophy, it can be considered the path of the Buddha.

What are these four seals? They are, as he summarizes:

– All compounded things are impermanent.
– All emotions are painful. This is something that only Buddhists would talk about. Many religions worship things like love with celebration and songs. Buddhists think, “This is all suffering.”
– All phenomena are empty; they are without inherent existence. This is actually the ultimate view of Buddhism; the other three are grounded on this third seal.
– The fourth seal is that nirvana is beyond extremes.

I have no problem with any of the four seals, and also not with putting them together.  But I am uncomfortable with the idea that when any of these are not “found in a path or a philosophy,” it cannot be “considered a path of the Buddha.” Does he really mean to exclude people who do not follow the teaching of emptiness? And isn’t “nirvana is beyond extremes” very Mahayana? Moreover, is someone, like me, who has not fully grasped that “emotions are painful” and that “phenomena are empty” not a Buddhist, or not a complete Buddhist?

The more I think about it, the more I become aware that one perhaps should not try to define what Buddhism is, but rather talk about what people, who consider themselves followers of the Buddha, do.

What would that be?

All Buddhists seem to be striving—although to different degrees—in three fields: meditative practice, cognition, and conduct. With “cognition” I mean that we try to train our consciousness to recognize errors and understand how these errors function. The most basic error, according to the Buddha, is that we ignore something that actually causes suffering and often even hold it to be joyful (most prominently: the self). Through training cognition in many ways, Buddhists try to identify that error and to stop its proliferation in our mind. As soon as one has even only a little understanding of that, one can start to change one’s conduct and to integrate that understanding in meditative practice, applying antidotes against that error and habitualizing our improved understanding of reality. In that way, conduct and meditative practice become aids for an improved cognition until awakening is attained.

Okay, let’s test this against my own criticism above.

Does this formulate a philosophical position that is not shared by all Buddhists? Is this perhaps a position that ordinary people like me are far from understanding properly? The only position formulated above is that Buddhists try to recognize errors and seek to abandon them. If that would not be the case, one would not do anything.—That is why I try to describe Buddhism as something one does rather than what philosophical position one holds. Does this exclude people from being recognized as Buddhists? I hope not. Even the most humble persons who “only” practice by making offerings to the Sangha do that because they perceive a fault in this life, hope for improvement, and actually do something about it: They make an offering and put themselves in a humble state of mind.

Is this perhaps over-inclusive? Not if we agree on one point, namely that Buddhists are unique in perceiving existence—at least to some degree—as suffering and seek to end that suffering. As Khyentse Rinpoche says:

All emotions are painful. This is something that only Buddhists would talk about. Many religions worship things like love with celebration and songs. Buddhists think, “This is all suffering.”

I wouldn’t narrow it down so much on emotion alone, but I do agree that it is unique in the world of religions that the Buddha has described existence—including in heavenly realms—as ultimately only suffering. But here we have the problem again that this is an ideal view that most people have not yet fully realized. Yet Buddhists do seem to be attracted to the view of the entire existence as suffering. That is a strange attraction since from the point of view of its competetive ability in the market of religions it seems to be a huge disadvantage—it seems so negative. Yet it still appeals to people. Perhaps, if we now also look through the lense of what is, we could say that Buddhism is about existence as suffering and that people are, for whichever reason, somehow attracted to that idea. To me, this attraction is one of the big misterys about Buddhism.

Jigten Sumgön explains in the Single Intention that this is so because of Buddha nature: Everyone possesses it, and because it is pure, all beings have at least the capacity to recognize the huge gap between that purity within them and existence as it actually is. The rest of this blog entry will now be devoted to how the Single Intention explains the fact that people are drawn to a teaching that speaks so extensively about suffering.

The early commenator of the Single Intention, Doré Sherab, explains this point in the context of vajra statement 6.13. Here, Buddha nature, the nature of mind, and mahamudra are treated as synonymous terms. He explains that since every sentient being posesses the Buddha nature, which is the mahamudra of the ground, they gradually understand more and more about the nature of suffering and thereby are more and more attracted to taking up disciplined conduct in all of its forms until Buddhahood is attained. He thereby draws our attention to the analogy between Buddha nature/mahamudra on the one hand, and disciplined conduct on the other: Because of the purity of the first we are disgusted by samsara and strive with the help of the purity of the other, i.e., disciplined conduct, for awakening and Buddhahood. The passage reads in the Dosherma (section 6.13):

“[Discipined conduct and mahamudra] are one by being analoguous. In general, the sentient beings who revolve in samsara have not realized true reality. Therefore, based on grasping a self, they accumulate karma, through which, as a result, they revolve in the three realms. But if they realize their mind, they are free from grasping a self, and thereby they are also without an object of desire or hatred that could arise. Since this freedom from desire and hatred is pure disciplined conduct, [discipined conduct and mahamudra] are one by being analoguous. For ordinary sentient beings too, even though they have not realized their mind, discipined conduct and mahamudra are one, as expressed in the Uttaratantra (1.40):

If there were no buddha element,
there would be no aversion to suffering,
and there would be neither a desire to pass beyond sorrow,
nor an effort and the aspiration toward it.

“From the perspective of the gradual path, having understood that the lower realms are suffering, there arises the striving for the higher realms. Even guarding merely the approximation vows is the power of mahamudra. Similarly, understanding that everything below the peak of existence is suffering, a mind arises that strives for what is higher than that. Thus, guarding the disciplined conduct up to the vows of full ordination too is the power of mahamudra. Understanding that all of samsara is suffering one sets one’s mind on the two lower awakenings,♦ 1 and that too is the power of mahamudra. Seeing all sentient beings as one’s kind mothers one has the urge to obtain Buddhahood. That too is the power of mahamudra. For instance, when the sun rises, by the rising of the first light blue dawn, the whitish dawn, and then the reddish dawn, it becomes ever so slightly more radiant, and then gradually, up to daybreak, it becomes very bright. This is all due to the power of the sun.”

Notes
1. [] Shravaka and pratyekabuddhahood.

Note for English readers: I describe here the style of spiritual songs, where a special rhythm is produced through changes in the patern of heavy and light syllables. My German translation of Nuden Dorje’s text tries to follow his rhythmical pattern. Since I am not a native speaker of English, I have not tried to achieve the same effect in my English translation of the text. For the English translation of the guru-realization, please scroll to the bottom of the page.

Dieser kurze Text wurde von Drikung Nuden Dorje (1849‒1902) verfasst. Er ist auch bekannt als Lho Bongtül und Lho Jedrung und sticht heraus als jemand, der Überlieferungen aus allen Schulen erihelt und weitergab. In dieser kurzen “Guru-Verwirklichung” verwendet er eine Grundrhythmus, wie man ihn auch aus den spirituellen Liedern von Jigten Sumgön und anderen Meistern kennt. Normalerweise wechseln sich in sieben-silbrigen Versen die schweren und leichten Silben ab (schwer: ‿ leicht:__ ):

dag la dang bar je pé dra
‿   __   ‿    __   ‿  __  ‿

In spirituellen Gesängen findet man jedoch oft Doppelsilben, die den Rhythmus bestimmen, wie z.B. in Jigten Sumgön’s Lied an Rinchen Drag:

bu nyön dang sön dang rin chen grags//
‿    __     __       ‿      __    ‿     __     ‿

Genau diesen Rhythmus verwendet Nuden Dorje auch in diesem Text bis zum Mantra—danach wechselt er dann in den “normalen” Rhythmus. Heute, am 803ten Tag des Mahaparinirvana Jigten Sumgöns, habe in meiner Übersetzung versucht, diesen Grundrhythmus wiederzugeben:

Auf meinem Kopf ein Löwensitz
‿     __    __     ‿      __   ‿  __  ‿

Da man im Deutschen oft mehr Silben braucht, habe ich gelegentlich auch an anderer Stelle eine Doppelsilbe eingefügt, z.B. so:

gütiger Wurzellama mit dem
‿ __ __  ‿  __   ‿  __   __    ‿

So etwas finden wir gelegentlich auch bei Jigten Sumgön:

ka lo tä chig dug gam mi dug som
‿ __ __   ‿     __     __    ‿    __   ‿

Manchmal hat Jigten Sumgön sogar drei leichte Silben hintereinander:

dag nal jor pa ri trö kyi glön pa trim
‿    __  __   __  ‿ __   __    ‿    __   ‿

Hier nun Nuden Dorjes Text mit Übersetzung:

སྐྱོབ་པ་འཇིག་རྟེན་གསུམ་གམོན་གྱི་བླ་སྒྲུབ་ཤིན་ཏུ་བསྡུས་པ་བཞུགས་སོ༎

Sehr kurze Guru–Verwirklichung des Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön

བདག་ཐ་མལ་སྤྱི་གཙུག་སེང་གེ་དང་༎ གདན་པདྨ་ཟླ་བ་བརྩེགས་པའི་སྟེང་༎

Auf meinem Kopf ein Löwensitz || darauf auf Lotussitz und Mond ||

རྗེ་དྲིན་ཅན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་དང་༎ སྐྱབས་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐམས་ཅད་འདུས་པའི་སྐུ༎

gütiger Wurzellama mit dem || Körper der alle Zuflucht und ||
Buddhas in sich vereinigt hat, || der allen Schutz in sich vereint; ||

མགོན་གཅིག་བསྡུས་མཉམ་མེད་སྐྱོབ་པ་རྗེ༎ སྐུ་དཀར་དམར་མདངས་ལྡན་སྐྱིལ་ཀྲུང་བཞུགས༎

Schützer, der unvergleichlich ist, || rot-weißer Körper in hellem Glanz, ||
Beine im Lotussitz gekreuzt, || Hände hälst du in der Geste der ||

ཕྱག་མཉམ་བཞག་ཆོས་གོས་རྣམ་གསུམ་གསོལ༎ དབུ་སྒོམ་ཞྭ་མཚན་དང་དཔེ་བྱད་ལྡན༎

Meditation im Schoß und trägst || dreifache Dharma-Roben und ||
Meditationshut und bist mit den || Merkmal’n verseh’n, ich meditiere ||

ཡིད་རྩེ་གཅིག་མོས་པས་བཞུགས་པར་བསྒོམ༎ ཕྱོགས་གཡས་གཡོན་རྩ་བརྒྱུད་བླ་མས་བསྐོར༎

hingebungsvoll, ohne Ablenkung. || Du bist umgeben von all den ||
Gurus der Linie, rechts und links. ||

བདག་མོས་གུས་གདུང་བས་གསོལ་འདེབས་ན༎ རྗེ་ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་ཐུགས་རྗེའི་སྤྱན་གྱིས་གཟིགས༎

Wenn ich nun mit Respekt und voll || Hingabe zu dir bete, dann ||
schau mit dem Auge des Mitgefühls! ||

གནས་རིགས་དྲུག་འཁོར་བའི་སྡུག་བསྔལ་འདི༎ ཡིད་རྩེ་གཅིག་གཡེང་མེད་དྲན་པར་ཤོག།

Denk an uns Wesen in den sechs || Daseinsbereichen voller Leid! ||
Schau konzentriert, ohne Ablenkung! ||

སེམས་བསྐྱེད་རྫོགས་ཟུང་འཇུག་གི་གདམས་པ་འདིས༎ སེམས་ཆོས་སྐུར་རྟོགས་པར་བྱིན་གྱིས་རློབས༎

Dies ist die Instruktion, wonach || in meinem Geist die Erzeugungsstufe ||
mit der Vollendung vereinigt ist. ||Möge mein Geist gesegnet sein ||
in der Vollendung des Dharmakāya! ||

མ་མཁའ་ཁྱབ་སེམས་ཅན་མ་ལུས་པ༎ རྗེ་སྐྱོབ་པའི་ཐུགས་དང་དབྱེར་མེད་ཤོག།

Mögen nun alle Wesen, die || früher einmal meine Mutter waren, ||
eins mit dem Geist dieses Schützers sein! ||

ཨོཾ་རཏྣ་ཤྲཱི་ཧཱུཾ།

Oṃ Ratna Shrī Hūng.

མཐར་ནི་བླ་མ་འོད་དུ་ཞུ༎ རང་གིས་སེམས་དང་བླ་མའི་ཐུགས༎

Schließlich schmilzt der Guru und || löst sich auf in Licht und dann ||
wird der Geist des Gurus mit || meinem Geist vereinigt, wie ||

དབྱེར་མེད་ཆུ་ལ་ཆུ་བཞག་བཞིན༎ འཛིན་མེད་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོར་སྐྱོང་།

Wasser sich mit Wasser mischt. || Diesen Mahāmudrā-Geist ||
halte ich ohne ihn festzuhalten! ||

ཞེས་པ་འདིའང་ལྷོ་རྗེ་དྲུང་བས་སྦྱར་བའོ༎

(Dieses wurde von Lho Jedrung [Nüden Dorje] verfasst.)
(Am 14.6.2020, dem 803ten Mahaparinirvana von Jigten Sumgön, von Jan-Ulrich Sobisch in Hamburg übersetzt.)

སྐྱོབ་པ་འཇིག་རྟེན་གསུམ་གམོན་གྱི་བླ་སྒྲུབ་ཤིན་ཏུ་བསྡུས་པ་བཞུགས་སོ༎

Very short guru realization of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön
by Nüden Dorje

བདག་ཐ་མལ་སྤྱི་གཙུག་སེང་གེ་དང་༎ གདན་པདྨ་ཟླ་བ་བརྩེགས་པའི་སྟེང་༎

I am in my ordinary form. On my crown is a lion seat, lotus and moon, and upon that

རྗེ་དྲིན་ཅན་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་དང་༎ སྐྱབས་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐམས་ཅད་འདུས་པའི་སྐུ༎

the benevolent root lama with the body that is the union of all refuge and buddhas.

མགོན་གཅིག་བསྡུས་མཉམ་མེད་སྐྱོབ་པ་རྗེ༎ སྐུ་དཀར་དམར་མདངས་ལྡན་སྐྱིལ་ཀྲུང་བཞུགས༎

He unites all protection. Protector! You are incomparable, your red and white body shines brightly, and your legs are crossed in the lotus position.

ཕྱག་མཉམ་བཞག་ཆོས་གོས་རྣམ་གསུམ་གསོལ༎ དབུ་སྒོམ་ཞྭ་མཚན་དང་དཔེ་བྱད་ལྡན༎

You hold your hands in the lap in the gesture of meditation, wearing triple Dharma robes and the meditation hat. You are endowed with the major and minor features.

ཡིད་རྩེ་གཅིག་མོས་པས་བཞུགས་པར་བསྒོམ༎ ཕྱོགས་གཡས་གཡོན་རྩ་བརྒྱུད་བླ་མས་བསྐོར༎

I meditate devotionally, without distraction. You are surrounded right and left by all the gurus of the lineage.

བདག་མོས་གུས་གདུང་བས་གསོལ་འདེབས་ན༎ རྗེ་ཁྱེད་ཀྱི་ཐུགས་རྗེའི་སྤྱན་གྱིས་གཟིགས༎

Now, when I pray to you with respect and devotion, please look with your eye of compassion.

གནས་རིགས་དྲུག་འཁོར་བའི་སྡུག་བསྔལ་འདི༎ ཡིད་རྩེ་གཅིག་གཡེང་མེད་དྲན་པར་ཤོག།

Think of us beings in the six realms of suffering one-pointedly, without distraction!

སེམས་བསྐྱེད་རྫོགས་ཟུང་འཇུག་གི་གདམས་པ་འདིས༎ སེམས་ཆོས་སྐུར་རྟོགས་པར་བྱིན་གྱིས་རློབས༎

This is the instruction that in my mind the generation stage is united with the completion. May thereby my mind be blessed in the realization of the Dharmakāya!

མ་མཁའ་ཁྱབ་སེམས་ཅན་མ་ལུས་པ༎ རྗེ་སྐྱོབ་པའི་ཐུགས་དང་དབྱེར་མེད་ཤོག།

May all beings who were once my mother now be one with the mind of this Protector!

ཨོཾ་རཏྣ་ཤྲཱི་ཧཱུཾ།

Oṃ Ratna Shrī Hūng.

མཐར་ནི་བླ་མ་འོད་དུ་ཞུ༎ རང་གིས་སེམས་དང་བླ་མའི་ཐུགས༎

Finally, the Guru melts and dissolves into light. My mind is united with mind of the guru,

དབྱེར་མེད་ཆུ་ལ་ཆུ་བཞག་བཞིན༎ འཛིན་མེད་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོར་སྐྱོང་།

like water mixes with water. I maintain this Mahāmudrā mind without maintaining!

ཞེས་པ་འདིའང་ལྷོ་རྗེ་དྲུང་བས་སྦྱར་བའོ༎

(This was written by Lho Jedrung [Nüden Dorje].)
Translated on June 14th, 2020, the 803rd Mahaparinirvana, by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch in Hamburg.

Samadhi empowerments that precede practices like that of Cakrasamvara are well-known. The name “samadhi empowerment” seems to suggest either that one’e ability to practice samadhi is empowered by this practice, or that these empowerments—instead of being bestowed by a teacher who is actually present—occur “only” within the space of one’s samadhi. Many benefits are mentioned in the texts, the most extraordinary one would be that in the best case the blessing from this samadhi is indistinguishable from an actual fourfold empowerment. Other benefits are that breaches of the pledges and corruptions of vows are healed and one’s virtuous practice increases. An important aspect of samadhi empowerment also seems to be that it enhances the perception of the guru as the Buddha.

In the “profound dharma” section of Jigten Sumgön’s teachings (zab chos), I found a brief text with instructions:♦ 1

Instructions on the samādhi empowerment

Again, the precious guru said: This samadhi empowerment is very profound! Take your yogic position on a comfortable seat, cultivate the resolve, and vividly visualize your body as the cherished deity. Imagine in that way that your principle guru dwells on a four-layered seat in the space in front of the area of the spot between the eyebrows of [the deity you] visualize. The form of his body is that of the exalted great Vajradhara. He and Vajrayogini are inseparable and enter into the union.♦ 2 They are endowed with the ornaments and garb such as the six bone ornaments. In brief, visualize vividly the guru as the body of Heruka. Then, offer once the seven limbs such as the outer, inner, secret, and true reality offerings.

After that, you supplicate three times: “Guru Mahavajradhara, grant me the empowerment!” White rays of light come forth and dissolve into the spot between your eyebrows. Imagine that thereby all veils of the body are cleared. You have received the vase empowerment. You are the essence of the body of all buddhas. Your body has the leisure of a deity. Overjoyed, think: “I have realized that.”♦ 3 Again, the guru and the consort enter into the union. From the spot between their eyebrows, bright and redish-white rays of light come forth and dissolve into your throat. Thereby the veils of speech are cleared and you have received the secret empowerment. You are the essence of the speech of all buddhas and your speech has the nature of mantra—audible and empty. Overjoyed, think: “I have realized that.”

Blue rays of light come forth from the hearts of the guru and his consort. They dissolve into your heart. Thereby the veils of the mind are cleared and you have revceived the empowerment of discriminating knowledge and primordial wisdom. You are the nature of the mind of all buddhas, the nature of mind, unarisen from the beginning, free from arising, abiding, and ceasing. Overjoyed, think: “I have realized that.”

Then, the guru Heruka with the consort turn into many-colored rays of light that dissolve into your body through the crown of your head. Thereby the impurity of holding body, speech, and mind as something different is purified. You have received the precious forth empowerment of the word. You are the essence of the primordial wisdom of the nonduality of the body, speech, and mind of all the buddhas of the three times—spontaneous sameness. Overjoyed, think: “I have realized that.”

Then, remain within that state equanimously in mahamudra. Afterwards, within that, you have to dedicate the root of virtue.

Practicing like that this samadhi empowerment as much as you can, up to 108 times a day, if the samadhi is luminous, the attainment of the [actual] four empowerments and the blessing [of this samadhi empowerment] are indistinguishable. Breaches of the pledges are automatically cleared, all corruptions are repaired, one is well, and the virtuous practice increases. Therefore, please keep this in mind and practice it!
<<end of translation – the Tibetan text is documented below the notes>>

These instructions are in the tradition of Ga Lotsawa, who is also in the transmission lineage of the Cakrasamvara empowerment that Jigten Sumgön transmitted. Ga’s method is preserved in the works of Gyalwa Yanggönpa (1213‒1258).♦ 4 Here the guru is in the form of Sahaja Cakrasamvara with Vajravarahi. The visualization of the seat and the guru is much more detailed. They are surrounded by numerous tantric deities of the father and mother tantras and of the Nyingma tantras. The offerings are also much more detailed. Before the actual empowerment, one sends out rays of light that fall upon the numerous mandalas visualized in the space. The white drop of bliss of all the male deities of these mandalas melts and dissolves into the guru as Cakrasamvara. The rays of light also fall upon the consorts of these mandalas and their red drops of bliss melt and dissolve into the guru and his consort. The essence of all mandalas is now present as this Cakrasamvara with consort.

There are not only one, but two rounds of empowerments. With the first round, one is purified through the light rays coming from the guru and the consort. With the second round, one’s body is gradually filled with nectar via the spot between the eyebrows, etc. Through that nectar one receives the actual empowerment. Finally, the guru and consort melt and dissolve into oneself and one is inseparable from the body, speech, and mind of the guru.

Through this empowerment, the text says, all transgressions and loss of pledges are healed and all veils, obstructions, and unfortunate conditions are removed. A good samadhi will arise. Even if one dwells at the dangerous places of non-humans, one cannot be harmed. All the qualities of mantra arise and increase. This practice is praised a lot in the Buddhakapala Tantra. The glorious Ga Lotsawa practiced it every night. The precios Nyö (gNyos rGyal ba lha nang pa, 1164‒1224) never broke his habbit of practicing it seven times a day. Lama Zhang (Zhang g.yu brag pa, 1123‒1193) practiced it three times at night. The disciple of Yanggönpa, who recorded this teaching, says: “I practice it every time I go to sleep and every morning. Since this is extremely important, please practice it without interruption!”

The samadhi empowerment that one finds in the works of Phagmodrupa♦ 5 is connected to the tradition of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. His teacher—here probably Sachen Künga Nyingpo—told him that it is important for great meditators (sgom chen) to have the samadhi empowerment. He tells the story of the famous translator Gö Lotsawa (‘Gos Khug-pa Lhas-btsas, 11th c.), who went to India to become a translator. He had 108 teachers, and two of them were his root gurus.  One was known for his supernatural perception and the other was very venerable. Under them, Gö Lotsawa became very learned, in particular in the Guhyasamaja Tantra. Once, he thought that there is no one as learned in the Guhyasamaja as he was. A yogi apeared, who said: “You still don’t know the meaning of the Guhyasamaja.” Gö asked him, where he could learn more. The Yogi told him to go to Nagseb and study with a very venerable teacher there. Gö went there and found in a grass hut a woman who had the color of a dove with a very beautiful body and countenance. “Who are you?” he asked. “I am the venerable lady.” He offered her a mandala with some gold and requested Guhyasamaja instructions from her. However, she said that he had a problem with previous pledges and that he, therefore, did not understand the Guhyasamaja. She said: “If you practice this samadhi empowerment, you will primordially understand the Guhyasamaja.” She gave him a brief samadhi empowerment.

The visualization is very similar to that of Jigten Sumgön’s instructions. The text mentions that Gö Lotsawa practiced the samadhi empowerment for a month. He thereby mastered the meaning of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. But the text states also that “it is very important that the nature of the guru is unchangeable [in your mind]. You will not find a guru superior to him.”

At the end, it is mentioned that Gö “bestowed it on lama Sakyapa and he bestowed it on me.” The Sakyapa lama mentioned here should be Khön Könchog Gyalpo (1034-1102), the founding father of the Sakya tradition, who was known to have been a disciple of Gö Lotsawa. But it is impossible that Khön bestowed it directly on Phagmodrupa, as the latter was only just born when Khön died. As mentioned above, it is more likely that he received it from Khön’s son, Sachen Künga Nyingpo, with whom Phagmodrupa had studied intensively before he met Gampopa.

I think that it is noteworthy in all of these texts that they deal with the way of seing the guru. In Ga Lotsawa’s text, the guru receives the white and red drops of bliss of the deities of all mandalas, and he is then understood to be the essence of entirely all mandalas. In Gö’s text, it is very important to think “that the nature of the guru is unchangeable. You will not find a guru superior to him.” His female guru, who told him to practice the samadhi empowerment, had also told him that his problem with understanding the Guhyasamaja teachings was a breach of the pledges. Could it be that this breach had been that he did not see his guru as the Buddha?

In an instruction for those of highest capacity concerning the practices of luminosity and the transference of the consciousness,♦ 6 Jigten Sumgön talks about the practice of the samadhi empowerment when he says:

“Put your mind one-pointedly and without distraction on the guru being the Buddha. As long as that has not become clear, practice with much effort! When it has become clear, the dependent origination of the guru’s blessing and one’s devotion come together and thereby it is impossible that it is not clear. The mahamudra with which one has familiarized earlier becomes sevenfold and arises automatically. Like water ist poured into water and butter into butter, one proceeds in a state of mahamudra, and the primordial wisdom that is nondual with the guru’s mind and one’s own consciousness mix inseparably in mahamudra.”

Notes
1. []Khams gsum chos kyi rgyal po thub dbang ratna shrI’i nang gi zab chos no bu’i phreng ba, Dehra Dun: International Drikung Kagyu Council, 1217, vol. 6, no. 763.

2. []This is most probably intentionally ambiguous. The Tibeta term snyoms par ʼjug means both to enter into a mental equilibrium, which is a “union,” and to join in sexual union.

3. []This reminds us of an important aspect of meditative visualization, namely that one should not only visualize the forms and activities of the deities, but also be convinced that a result is produced thereby.

4. []’Bri gung chos mdzod chen mo, TBRC W00JW501203, vol. 48, pp. 321‒327.

5. []gSung ‘bum, TBRC W23891, vol. 7, pp. 676‒682.

6. []’Bri gung chos mdzod chen mo, vol. 10, no. 814.

Tibetan text of Jigten Sumgön’s instructions on the samadhi empowerment

༄།།ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་གྱི་དབང་བསྐུར་གྱི་གདམས་པ༎ ཡང་བླ་མ་རིན་པོ་

ཆེའི་ཞལ་ནས། ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་གྱི་དབང་བསྐུར་འདི་ཤིན་ཏུ་ཟབ་པ་ཡིན།

དེ་ཡང་སྟན་བདེ་བའི་སྟེང་དུ་འཁྲུལ་འཁོར་ལེགས་པར་བཅའ། སེམས་

བསྐྱེད་ལུས་ཡི་དམ་གྱི་ལྷར་ཝལ་གྱིས་བསྒོམ། དེ་ལྟར་སྒོམ་པའི་སྨིན་མཚམས་

ཀྱི་ཐད་སོའི་མདུན་གྱི་ནམ་མཁའ་ལ་གདན་བཞི་བརྩེགས་ཀྱི་སྟེང་དུ། རང་

གི་རྩ་བའི་བླ་མ་བཞུགས་པར་བསམ། སྐུའི་རྣམ་པ་ནི་བཅོམ་ལྡན་འདས་རྡོ་

རྗེ་འཆང་ཆེན་པོ། ཡུམ་རྡོ་རྗེ་རྣལ་འབྱོར་མ་དང་གཉིས་སུ་མེད་ཅིང་སྙོམས་

པར་ཞུགས་པ། རུས་པའི་རྒྱན་དྲུག་ལ་སོགས་པའི་རྒྱན་ཆ་ལུགས་དང་ལྡན་པ།

མདོར་ན་བླ་མ་ཧེ་རུ་ཀའི་སྐུར་ཝལ་གྱིས་བསྒོམ། དེ་ནས་ཕྱི་ནང་གསང་གསུམ་

དེ་ཁོ་ན་ཉིད་ཀྱི་མཆོད་པ་ལ་སོགས་པ་ཡན་ལག་བདུན་པ་ཚར་གཅིག་དབུལ།

དེའི་རྗེས་ལ་བླ་མ་རྡོ་རྗེ་འཛིན་པ་ཆེན་པོས། བདག་ལ་དབང་བསྐུར་བར་མཛད་

དུ་གསོལ། ཞེས་གསོལ་བ་ལན་གསུམ་གདབ། དེ་ནས་བླ་མ་ཡབ་ཡུམ་གྱི་སྨིན་

མཚམས་ནས། འོད་ཟེར་དཀར་པོ་བྱོན་ནས་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྨིན་མཚམས་སུ་ཐིམ་

པས་ལུས་ཀྱི་སྒྲིབ་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་སངས་ཀྱིས་དག་པར་བསམ། བུམ་པའི་དབང་

ཐོབ། བདག་ཉིད་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་སྐུའི་ངོ་བོ། ལུས་ལྷའི་དལ་ཡིན་པ་

ལ། དེ་ལྟར་རྟོགས་པ་རེ་དགའ་སྙམ་དུ་བསམ། ཡང་བླ་མ་ཡབ་ཡུམ་སྙོམས་པར་

ཞུགས། སྦྱོར་མཚམས་ནས་འོད་ཟེར་དཀར་ལ་དམར་བའི་མདངས་ཆགས་པའི་

རྣམ་པར་བྱོན་ནས་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་མགྲིན་པར་ཐིམ་པས། ངག་གི་སྒྲིབ་པ་དག་

གསང་བའི་དབང་ཐོབ། བདག་ཉིད་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་གསུང་གི་ངོ་བོ་

ངག་གྲགས་སྟོང་སྔགས་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན་ཡིན་པ་ལ། དེ་ལྟར་རྟོགས་པ་དེ་རེ་

དགའ་སྙམ་དུ་བསམ། བླ་མ་ཡབ་ཡུམ་གྱི་ཐུགས་ཀ་ནས་འོད་ཟེར་སྔོན་པོ་བྱོན་

ནས་རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྙིང་གར་ཐིམ་པས། ཡིད་ཀྱི་སྒྲིབ་པ་དག་ཤེས་རབ་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱི་

དབང་ཐོབ། བདག་ཉིད་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་ཐུགས་ཀྱི་རང་བཞིན་སེམས་

ཉིད་གདོད་མ་ནས་མ་སྐྱེས་པ། སྐྱེ་འགག་གནས་གསུམ་དང་བྲལ་བ་ཡིན་པ་ལ།

དེ་ལྟར་རྟོགས་པ་རེ་དགའ་སྙམ་དུ་བསམ། དེ་ནས་བླ་མ་ཧེ་རུ་ཀ་ཡབ་ཡུམ་འོད་

ཟེར་ཁ་དོག་སྣ་ཚོགས་སུ་གྱུར་ནས། རང་ཉིད་ཀྱི་སྤྱི་བོ་ནས་ལུས་ལ་ཐིམ་པས། ལུས་

ངག་ཡིད་གསུམ་ཐ་དད་དུ་འཛིན་པའི་དྲི་མ་དག་བཞི་པ་ཚིག་དབང་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་

ཐོབ། བདག་ཉིད་དུས་གསུམ་གྱི་སངས་རྒྱས་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་སྐུ་གསུང་ཐུགས་གཉིས་

སུ་མེད་པའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱི་ངོ་བོ་མཉམ་པ་ཉིད་ལྷུན་གྱིས་གྲུབ་པ་ཡིན་པ་ལ། དེ་ལྟར་

རྟོགས་པ་རེ་དགའ་སྙམ་དུ་བསམ། དེ་ནས་དེ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་ངང་དུ་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ལྷན་

གྱིས་མཉམ་པར་བཞག་རྗེས་དེར་དགེ་བའི་རྩ་བ་བསྔོ་བ་བྱ། དེ་ལྟར་ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་

གྱི་དབང་བསྐུར་འདི་ཉིན་ཞག་རེ་ལ་བརྒྱ་རྩ་བརྒྱད་མན་ཆད་ཅི་ནུས་རེ་ཉམས་སུ་

བླངས་ན། ཏིང་ངེ་འཛིན་གསལ་ན་དབང་བཞི་ཐོབ་པ་དང་བྱིན་རླབས་ཁྱད་མེད།

དམ་ཚིག་གི་འགལ་འཁྲུལ་ཆགས་ཉམས་ཐམས་ཅད་སོར་ཆུད་ནས། ཁམས་བཟང་

ཞིང་དགེ་སྦྱོར་འཕེལ་བ་ལགས་པས། དེ་ལྟར་ཐུགས་ལ་བཞག་ནས་ཉམས་སུ་ལེན་

པར་ཞུ་གསུངས༎ ༎

 

Finally! After 15 years of work, the book is now available at Wisdom Publications (https://wisdomexperience.org/product/buddhas-single-intention/). 841 pages packed with the wisdom of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön, his fathers, and his sons.

Here is the forword of His Holiness Kyabgön Chetsang Rinpoche:

It gives me great pleasure to be able to offer a few words on the occasion of the publication of Professor Jan-Ulrich Sobisch’s The Buddha’s Single Intention: Drigung Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s Vajra Statements of the Early Kagyü Tradition. I have been aware of Professor Sobisch’s ongoing study of Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s Single Intention, or Gongchik (dgongs gcig), for at least the last decade or so—first with the late Ngawang Tsering and later with several learned teachers of our Drigung Kagyü lineage. It is gratifying to now have in hand the fruit of Professor Sobisch’s hard work. In particular, with the help of Khenpo Könchok Rangdröl, former principal of Kagyu College in Dehradun, India, Professor Sobisch has produced a meticulous and complete translation of Rikzin Chökyi Drakpa’s influential Gongchik commentary known as Light of the Sun. Furthermore, this volume also includes Professor Sobisch’s careful selection of relevant passages from the two earliest surviving Gongchik commentaries—the Dorsherma and Rinjangma, both composed within fifty to sixty years of Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s mahāparinirvāṇa in 1217.

As the book’s title suggests, it is a window into the early, formative period of the Kagyü tradition. The root text of the Gongchik with 150 vajra statements organized into seven chapters (plus an eighth, ancillary chapter with 47 vajra statements) represents the distillation of Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s unique presentation of the Buddhadharma as he received from his root guru Phakmodrupa, who in turn was one of the key disciples of Gampopa, fountainhead of the Dakpo Kagyü. In particular, these vajra statements reflect Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s understanding that all 84,000 aspects of the Buddhadharma—the teachings classified into the so-called Lesser, Great, and Vajra Vehicles; the categories of prātimokṣa precepts, bodhisattva trainings, and tantric samayas; the division of sūtras and tantras into those of definitive meaning and those requiring further explanation—have a single, unified, holistic intention of revealing the fundamental nature (gshis babs) of all phenomena to us deluded sentient beings so that we can be freed from suffering and attain the perfect buddha state. Importantly, this fundamental nature—whether we call it sugatagarbha, emptiness, dependent origination, nature of mind, or rikpa—can best be understood in the way that virtue and nonvirtue lead to happiness and suffering, respectively and unmistakenly, and ultimately to the resultant states of nirvāṇa and saṃsāra. With this understanding, the entire path taught by the Buddha is none other than the exhaustion of all nonvirtue and the perfection of all virtue. This emphasis on the inseparability of the fundamental nature and the incontrovertible workings of cause and effect is the cornerstone of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön’s Gongchik teachings.

The early Kagyü masters are well known for their absolute commitment to practice and to the spiritual welfare of their students. While learning and studying the Buddhadharma is necessary, early Kagyü masters such as Marpa, Milarepa, Gampopa, Phakmodrupa, and Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön did not engage in disputing and debating philosophical positions or composing treatises establishing tenet systems. Their energies went instead into their personal meditation practice and into guiding devoted students through personal, intimate, and direct instructions. Therefore it is my hope that with Wisdom Publications’ publishing of Professor Jan-Ulrich Sobisch’s masterful presentation of Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön’s Gongchik, readers will now not only be exposed to a major system of thought and practice in Tibetan Buddhism, but more importantly, they will take to heart these vajra statements and the related commentaries for the task of exhausting all nonvirtue and perfecting all virtue, thus leading to the perfect buddha state.

Finally, as one blessed with the name Drikung Kyabgön, I offer my personal appreciation to Professor Sobisch and to all the Drigung Kagyü teachers who have assisted in this project. This book is an important contribution to a greater understanding of the legacy of Kyobpa Jikten Sumgön and his sublime successors. May this book inspire further interest and engagement with the jewels held by the glorious Drigung Kagyü!

 

H.H. Drikung Kyabgön Tinle Lhundup, Head of the Drigung Kagyü Lineage

by Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon

I pay homage to the excellent gurus!

This mahāmudrā of the great master Saraha has four topics:

  1. Relax body and mind.
  2. Do not engage mental objects.
  3. Do not set up any support whatsoever.
  4. Release the mind in its natural state.

About the first, i.e., to relax body and mind, the great Ācārya Brahmin said: “There is no doubt that this mind that is bound with a knot will be freed when it is relaxed.” Therefore, you must relax body and mind.

About the second, i.e., not to engage in mental objects, [he said]: “Non-mentation is the body of the great seal (mahāmudrākāya). Yogi, have no hope for any results!” Therefore, rest without maintaining in your mind any notion of good or bad thoughts whatsoever.

Concerning the third, i.e., not setting up any support whatsoever: Rest without making channels, winds, vital essences, and whatever else your support.

Concerning the fourth, i.e., resting the mind in its natural state: Just rest in the natural state, without any activities and exertions whatsoever.

That concludes the great ācārya, the brahmin Saraha’s “Mahāmudrā Thunderbolt.”

 

Collected Works of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgon, vol. 2, p. 426 f.

དཔལ་ས་ར་ཧའི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ཐོག་བབས་ཀྱི་སྒོམ་ཐབས་བསྟན་པ༎

བླ་མ་དམ་པ་རྣམས་ལ་ཕྱག་འཚལ་ལོ།། སློབ་དཔོན་ཆེན་པོ་ས་ར་ཧའི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་འདི་ལ་དོན་བཞི་སྟེ། དང་པོར་ལུས་སེམས་ཁོང་གློད།་གཉིས་པ་ཡིད་ཀྱི་ཡུལ་དུ་མི་བྱ། གསུམ་པ་རྟེན་གང་ཡང་མི་བཅའ།་བཞི་པ་སེམས་རང་སོར་གློད། དེ་ལ་དང་པོ་ལུས་སེམས་ཁོང་གློད་པ་ནི། སློབ་དཔོན་བྲམ་ཟེ་ཆེན་པོའི་ཞལ་སྔ་ནས།། འཇུར་བུས་བཅིངས་པའི་སེམས་འདི་ནི།། གློད་ན་གྲོལ་བར་ཐེ་ཚོམ་མེད།། ཅེས་པས། ལུས་སེམས་ཁོང་གློད་པར་བྱའོ།། གཉིས་པ་ཡིད་ཀྱི་ཡུལ་དུ་མི་བྱ་བ་ཡང་།། ཡིད་ལ་མི་བྱེད་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོའི་སྐུ།། འབྲས་བུ་གང་ལ་ཡང་རེ་བར་མ་བྱེད་རྣལ་འབྱོར་པ།། ཞེས་པས།་བཟང་ངན་གྱི་རྣམ་པར་རྟོག་པ་གང་ཡང་ཡིད་ལ་མི་བྱ་བར་བཞག་པའོ།། གསུམ་པ་རྟེན་གང་ལ་ཡང་མི་བཅའ་བ་ནི། རྩ་དང་རླུང་དང་ཐིག་ལེ་ལ་སོགས་པ་གང་ལ་ཡང་རྟེན་མི་བཅའ་བར་བཞག་པའོ།། བཞི་པ་རང་སོར་བཞག་པ་ནི། བྱ་བྱེད་དང་རྩོལ་སྒྲུབ་ཐམས་ཅད་དང་བྲལ་བར་རང་སོ་ཁོ་ནར་བཞག་པ་ཉིད་དོ།། སློབ་དཔོན་ཆེན་པོ་བྲམ་ཟེ་ས་ར་ཧའི་ཕྱག་རྒྱ་ཆེན་པོ་ཐོག་བབས་རྫོགས་སོ༎ ༎

 

Until the Dalai Lama received the Nobel Price in 1989, Buddhism had been largely portrayed as a peaceful religion. But since the 1990s, several articles and books have appeared that critically investigated this image. By now, western scholars and the public have a much more balanced view of the history of Buddhism and the violence that was a part of it. Unfortunately, not all contributions to this new critical assessment have applied the necessary care and fairness. In this posting, I would like to investigate two recent and influential contributions to the study of violence in tantric Buddhism. Both portray particular kinds of Buddhist tantric practices as involving “real” violence; both conclude that people are really getting killed here. While I do not want to argue that such a thing—killing of people in the context of mantra—did not happen in the history of Buddhism, I do want to point out that the sources that were used for these studies not only do not allow that conclusion but are actually prime examples for texts that leave no doubt that the ritual activities are only imagined (: text) and that this kind of imagining has a particular training purpose (: context).

How could such a misjudgment have come about on the part of the authors? I will show that this is mainly due to mistranslations of the texts and to a lack of cultural context.

Interestingly, Jacob Dalton’s recent book, The Taming of the Demons (2011),♦ 1 provides – despite its many attempts to prove that the texts he investigates speak of real actual violence – the best arguments for the contrary.♦ 2 In his introduction, Dalton first concedes that “[c]onclusive proof of early tantric ritual killings may never be found; indeed, it is unclear what such evidence would even look like” (p. 3). But then he speaks throughout his book of “ritual killing of actual people” (p. 3), “a Buddhist rite for human sacrifice” (p. 4), “the [bestowed] right to enact violence” (p. 14), and that “several details suggest that a live person may be intended” [to be killed] (p. 77).

Dalton knows that later Tibetans were adamant about killing “not being performed on a live person, and their ritual manuals bear this out” (p. 4). His thesis is that the old 9th century (or earlier) Tibetan texts found in the famous library cave of Dunhuang do not “bear this out,” but rather are explicit in stating instructions for actual killing of living persons.

His chief evidence for the alleged existence of actual violence in these early rites is contained in two texts from Dunhuang. One of them (PT 840/1), which he presents in Appendix C of his book, he translates thus (p. 212, my square brackets):

“When citta [the consciousness] is led forth by the mudrā, imagine that it is grabbed with ʻja’ʼ (bzung bar bsam),” … “imagine he [sic!] is led (’dren par bsam),” and “imagine that he [sic! ] is sent (bton par bsam),” [i.e., to nirvana].♦ 3

This passage of the text extends over five and a half lines in his translation. The object that is “led,” “grabbed,” and “sent” remains the same: the consciousness (citta) of the enemy. Consciousness has the neutral gender, and thus “it” is grabbed—surely “grabbed” in a metaphorical sense. But then, suddenly, in that same passage, Dalton switches to the male gender when he translates “he is led” and “he is sent” to nirvana. What justifies this switching from consciousness to a real person—for which there is no indication in the Tibetan text? Was the wish to prove that this is an instance of killing of a real person the father of this not so subtle slip? Moreover, even if one could label this as violence, one could not state more clearly that it is entirely imagined violence (note the Tibetan verb bsam in all quotes).

The second example (PT42/ITJ419) is presented as his supposedly strongest evidence of the entire book for the possibility that a real and human victim is actually to be sacrificed. It begins with the following line (in my translation):

Imagine that a demonic iron ax that one holds aloft performs the activities of the Lady of Death.

Dalton translates “holding aloft the demonic iron axe, imagine that one performs the activities of the Lady of Death.” The Tibetan text says sta re thogs pa gcig, lit. “an ax held aloft.” The gcig in this syntactic position must refer to the ax; it cannot mean “one.” Thus, it is not oneself, the performer of the ritual that one imagines to carry out the destructive activities; it is the ritual ax. Therefore, the violence is thrice removed: (1) It is imagined, (2) it is carried out by the ax, (3) and that ax is not a real ax, but a ritual simulacrum. In exactly this manner the text continues (my translation):

Then♦ 4 imagine a dark blue syllable KRONG atop the head [of the being that is liberated]. … From the DRONG (!) atop the head, many razor-[like] weapons cleave and chop, the consciousness emerges, and it is offered to the principal [deity]. (…) Having made all these visualizations (bsam ba’i rnams) clear in his mind, the master must revive the consciousness and hold it. He throws it on top of the mandala and then has to examine the signs.♦ 5

In previous passages, the enemy to be liberated, termed throughout the text “the object of compassion,” is placed in the middle of the mandala, facing west, and smeared with white mustard seed paste. Is this a real person, a real body of a living being? Even if that should be the case—for which there is no evidence—it is clear that everything else is imagined: A syllable is imagined atop the head, from that appear visualized weapons, and it is imagined that the consciousness appears and is offered to the visualized deity. The text makes this as explicit as one could wish: “Having made all these visualizations (bsam ba’i rnams) clear in his mind”—thus, the ritual master is visualizing the activity. Other than the visualized weapons there are no real weapons mentioned in the text through which a head could be chopped off. Also, what else but a visualization would be the emerging consciousness? Tibetans do not have a concept according to which any part that could be chopped out of the head would be seen as the consciousness.

Now the master “must revive (sos) the [visualized] consciousness and hold it. He throws it on top of the mandala and then has to examine the signs.” As Dalton himself has noted a few pages before (p. 79), in the Guhyasamāja Tantra, i.e., the canonical work from which this ritual manual derived, the thing that is beheaded is, in fact, a paper effigy. Moreover, in a footnote (p. 239, n. 40) he states: “The interlinear notes to the same lines in the tantra make the use of a paper effigy still more explicit (ITJ438, 53v5: ri mor bris pa de’i mgo gcad par byas pa).” The interlinear note says: “The head drawn in the picture is chopped off.” Isn’t thus the most probable scenario that the “object of compassion” is represented in the described ritual by a picture drawn on a piece of paper or by any other effigy, such as one made of dough? The signs that are to be examined after the effigy is thrown onto the mandala are in accordance with that: The effigy faces into one particular direction, it lands “face down,” or it may “split at the crown” (which indicates an effigy made of dough).♦ 6

Despite all this evidence and virtually no evidence to the contrary, Dalton insists in his translation that what is thrown onto the maṇḍala is a real head. Moreover, he describes the above ritual procedure with these words:

Certainly the most violent text to emerge from the library cave ofDunhuang is a ritual manual for the performance of the notorious “liberation rite” (sgrol ba). Many early Mahayoga writings from Dunhuang and elsewhere mention the liberation rite, but none is so explicit or detailed as this manual. … The instructions have the victim brought in and placed at the center of the ritual altar so that he faces west; the weapon is blessed and the victim purified, before being beheaded with an axe. Finally, the position in which the head comes to rest is interpreted to determine the rite’s success. The description is unusual, as it supplies so much detail yet makes no mention of an effigy.

To repeat: The iron ax is a ritual instrument that is clearly not used to chop off any heads (“imagine[!] that a demonic iron ax that one holds aloft performs the activities”); the “weapons” that arise from the syllable are visualized, and whatever activity they perform can therefore only be imagined; according to the text, it is not the head that is thrown onto the mandala, but the consciousness; and although the ritual text itself does not mention an effigy, the tantra from which it is derived and its interlinear notes do. Dalton’s above description of the ritual is forced. If this is his “most violent” and most explicit example, his thesis that the old 9th century (or earlier) Tibetan texts from Dunhuang are explicit in stating instructions for actual killing of living persons is failed.

My second example is an article by David Gray (esp. pp. 248 ff.).♦ 7 In it, he refers to an interesting passage in Atishaʼs Abhisamayavibhanga.♦ 8 Atisha discusses here destructive means in a ritual text. Gray concludes from his translation of the passage that Atisha “justifies” and “legitimate[s] such [violent] actions.” Moreover, Gray states: “This justifies violence by those who have controlled their minds, and are thus not motivated by the passions, but rather by the cool calculus of compassion (…).” Apart from his rather eccentric formulation “cool calculus of compassion,” which is obviously a contradiction in terms, and other strange expressions (“Atisha finds solace”), Gray has, in fact, not done justice to the subtlety of Atishaʼs argument. For my discussion I would like to begin the passage Gray investigates two lines earlier because these lines provide the context for Atishaʼs reply (all translations are mine):♦ 9

འོ་ན་ཀུན་རྫོབ་ཏུ་གནོད་བྱ་གནོད་བྱེད་མེད་དོ་ཞེ་ན་ནི་རྒྱུ་འབྲས་ལ་སྐུར་པ་ཡིན་ལ།
Query: Are, conventionally speaking, the one who is going to be harmed and the harm doer inexistent? Reply: That would be to disavow cause and result!

The interlocutor asks if the person who is going to be harmed, namely oneself (attacked by the demon or enemy) and the harm doer (namely the demon or enemy who will have to be repelled) are, conventionally speaking, inexistent. (Alternatively the one who performs the rite could be the harm doer and the demon or enemy the one to be harmed. This does not make a difference in the logic of the argument.) Atisha denies their inexistence because that would mean to disregard the teaching of cause and result on the level of conventional reality. In other words, conventionally speaking, both oneself and the enemy/demon do exist. The next query follows:

ཡང་ན་ནི་ཐ་དད་ཀྱི་ཚུལ་གྱིས་བཟློག་པ་ལ་འགལ་བ་མེད་དོ་ཞེ་ན།
Query: Is there not a contradiction concerning a repelling by way of [seeing the enemy] as something separate?

This question concerns the teaching that all appearances are only the mind. If that is the case, is the enemy not also nothing but oneʼs mind? Is it, therefore, not a mistake to see him as a separate entity? Now follows the part that Gray has presented in his article, again in my own translation:

ཀུན་རྫོབ་ཏུ་རྒྱུ་འབྲས་མེད་པ་མ་ཡིན་གྱི། འོན་ཀྱང་ཞེ་སྡང་གིས་བསླང་བའི་སྦྱོར་བས་བཟློག་པར་བྱ་བ་མ་ཡིན་ཏེ། ཀུན་རྫོབ་ཉིད་དུ་ཡང་བྱམས་པ་ལ་སོགས་པའི་གོ་ཆ་དང་དོན་དམ་པར་སྐྱེ་མེད་དུ་ཤེས་པས་སོ། ད་ཡང་ཅི་ཞེ་ན། ཀུན་རྫོབ་ཏུ་ཆོས་ཐམས་ཅད་སེམས་ཙམ་ལས་གཞན་མ་ཡིན་ཏེ། དེ་བས་ན་སེམས་ལོག་པར་གཡོ་བ་ཉིད་བདུད་དང་བགེགས་ཡིན་ནོ། དེ་ཡང་ངན་སོང་སྦྱོར་བའི་རྒྱུད་ལས། ཇི་སྲིད་ཡིད་ཀྱིས་ལོག་གཡོ་བ༎ དེ་སྲིད་བདུད་ཀྱིས་སྤྱོད་ཡུལ་ལོ༎ ཞེས་གསུངས་སོ༎ སེམས་གཉེན་པོ་ལས་འཁྱར་བ་ཉིད་བདུད་ལ་སོགས་པ་ཡིན་ནོ༎
Reply: Conventionally, cause and result do not fail [lit. “are not inexistent”]. However [even though the enemyʼs harm is experienced as a real threat] it is wrong to repel [harm doers] by the application of a vengeful motivation because conventionally [one wears] the armor of love, and so forth, and ultimately one understands [harm doers] to be without birth. How is that? Conventionally, all phenomena are nothing but merely mind, and, therefore, the very deviation from [the understanding that phenomena are only] the mind is the Mara and the demons [that one must repel]. As the Sarvadurgati Tantra says:♦ 10

“Just as much as one wavers off with the mind,
just that much is the sphere of Mara.”

The very straying from [the understanding that all phenomena are] the mind, which is the antidote, is Mara and so forth.

Gray concludes from this:

Atisha here invokes the Yogacara theory of the baselessness of imputations of independent existence to phenomenal reality in order to deny the external reality of the demons who are the targets of the sadhanaʼs ritual violence. (…) This argument seems a bit inconsistent; if the demons do not in fact exist as independent entities, what need is there to insist that their destruction should be performed with a compassionate motivation?

Gray says: Since appearances are only mind, the demon doesn’t exist, and, thus, to say that he is destroyed with compassion is inconsistent. However, the passage translated from Atishaʼs text so far only pertains to a first and conventional part of his argument. Here, however, Atisha does not at all “justify” or “legitimate” a violent killing of a victim. On this conventional level, he instructs to apply love as an antidote to hatred and, still conventionally, to understand that the phenomenon perceived as the enemy is nothing but oneʼs mind. He also briefly alludes to an absolute level that is without the arising of such conventional phenomena like enemies and demons, but this will be only discussed later. Here, on the conventional level, one applies antidotes: love and the understanding that all phenomena are one’s mind.

One of the most important requirements for understanding this kind of ritual is that this is a training. As in all Mahayana practices, love for all sentient beings is cultivated at the beginning. Then, based on that, when there is a disturbance, one applies first of all that loving-kindness, and secondly one trains one’s understanding that all phenomena are only mind. This is the typical and well-known Mahayana training as it is expressed, for instance, in the Thirty-seven Trainings of the Bodhisattvas:

(16) Even if someone whom we have taken care of like our own child,
is seeing us as an enemy, we only increase our love for him,
like a mother for her sick child.
That is the training of the bodhisattvas.

(20) When hatred, our enemy, is rampant,
we may defeat the outer enemies, but they still increase.
Thus, one’s mental continuum is to be tamed with the armies of love and compassion.
That is the training of the bodhisattvas.

(22) Whatever appears is our mind.
Its nature is primordially free from proliferation.
Knowing that, not to indulge in the characteristics of perceived objects
and perceiving mind is the training of the bodhisattvas.

Up to this point in Atisha’s text, there is no one killed or repelled, neither with anger nor with compassion. This is a training of the mind. And here now follows in the text the crucial line:

… the very deviation from [the understanding that phenomena are only] the mind is the Māra and the demons [that one must repel].

Who or what is the enemy? It is one’s own deviating from this training. Just as much as one deviates from that, Mara can operate. The ritual practice of repelling enemies is, up to this point, explained by Atisha as a training in love and the understanding that appearances, even if they are threatening, are only one’s mind. Within a ritual practice such as the one commented upon by Atisha, the training takes place within several “frames,” from the outside to the inside: renunciation (when one contemplates the four thoughts that turn the mind away from samsara), love, compassion, and the resolve for awakening, purity and emptiness (with the shunyata-mantras, etc.), and, when appearances are mentally deleted and once again arise from the syllables, the understanding that all appearances are only the mind.

It can hardly be stated in clearer terms than Atisha provides them here, that the enemy one has to remove is oneʼs inability to cultivate these “frames” in one’s meditative practice. Whatever happens within these frames is a training of the mind to realize the true nature. The very wavering from these frames is the Mara that one must (metaphorically) “kill.” Since there is no person here that one must kill—only one’s own shortcomings in the training—to call this a “justification for killing” is to misunderstand the whole character of this endeavor as Atisha describes it. The enemy that appears is obviously an instance of training, and, as I have understood from interviews, it can become a particularly powerful training when it is done under adverse conditions, i.e., when, conventionally speaking, one perceives a real threat.

Atisha also clearly states that it would be wrong on the level of conventional truth to attack a real enemy, because the enemy conventionally exists for a deluded mind, and to attack him would have karmic consequences for the attacker in agreement with the teaching of cause and result. Therefore, the antidote to hatred for an enemy perceived as real is “the armor of love.” Once the yogi or yogini has removed the gross obscuration of hatred, he or she should train in the manner described above to realize that the threat that is perceived is nothing but mind. Atisha nowhere says, as Gray claims, that the enemy must be killed with compassion. The “armor of love” is not to prevent the yogis from karmic consequences; its purpose is to train and tame the mind.

Atisha provides the above explanation on the level of conventional truth. What follows is his brief argument on the level of absolute truth, which has been briefly alluded to with the above line “and ultimately, one understands [harm doers] to be without birth.” The text continues:

དེའི་ཕྱིར་ངེས་བརྗོད་ལས། མི་གསོད་གསོད་པ་མེད་པ་ཡིན༎ གང་གིས་རང་སེམས་ཐུལ་བ་ཡིས༎ བདག་གི་སེམས་ནི་བཅིངས་པ་ཡིན༎ གང་ལ་གང་གིས་གསོད་པ་ཡོད༎ ཅེས་པ་དང།
(…) Thus the Abhidhānottara says:

“There is neither killing nor not-killing.
One who has tamed his mind
is binding his mind.
Who is killed by whom?”

Note that Atisha does not primarily argue that “harm doers have no birth” with a mere “intellectual” argument of emptiness, but that he embeds his teaching in the “practical” instruction of binding the mind by taming it. This refers to exactly the training and taming of the mind as it was explained above, i.e., by entering successively into renunciation, love, and so forth, up to the realization of “only the mind” within the ritual of liberation embedded in mahayogatantra sadhana practice. Within such a realization of “only mind,” one must indeed ask the question “who is killed by whom?”♦ 11 Atisha concludes the argument with a continuation of the quote and his conclusion:

ཡང་། བྱམས་པའི་གོ་ཆ་བགོས་པ་དང་༎ སྙིང་རྗེ་ཆོས་ཀྱི་གོ་ཆ་ཡིན༎ ཤེས་རབ་མཚན་ཆར་ལྡན་པ་ཡིས༎ ཉོན་མོངས་བདུད་རྣམས་བཟློག་པར་བྱ༎ བཀའ་ཡི་འཁོར་ལོ་སྲུང་བ་ཆེ༎ ཕུར་བུས་བགེགས་མེད་དངོས་གྲུབ་འགྱུར༎ སྲུང་བའི་ཆོ་ག་འདི་དག་གིས༎ སྒྲུབ་པ་པོ་ལ་བྱང་ཆུབ་སྩོལ༎ གཙོ་བོའི་བཀའ་ནི་བླང་བར་གྱིས༎ རྣལ་འབྱོར་པ་ནི་གར་གནས་པར༎ བགེགས་རྣམས་ཐམས་ཅད་མེད་པར་མཐོང་༎ ཞེས་གསུངས་པའི་ཕྱིར་རོ༎ དེ་ལྟར་མ་ཡིན་པར་བཀའ་ལ་ལོག་པར་རྟོགས་ཏེ་ངན་པའི་ལས་དང་ལྡན་པ་ངོ་བོ་ཉིད་ཀྱིས་འོག་ཏུ་འགྲོ་བ་ལ་ཕྱོགས་པ་ཉོན་མོངས་པ་ལ་སོགས་པའི་ཞགས་པས་བཅིངས་པ་ཟོ་ཆུན་ལྟར་འཁོར་བ་རྣམས་དང་ཁྱད་པར་མེད་པས་ལམ་ལ་གནས་པའི་རྣལ་འབྱོར་པ་ཡང་མ་ཡིན་ནོ༎
Moreover:

He wears the armor of love
and the armor of the Dharma of compassion.
Being endowed with discriminative knowledge as a weapon,
he should repel the afflictions, which are the Mara.
This wheel of instruction is a great protection.
With the kila it turns into the siddhi of freedom from obstruction.
With these armors of protection
awakening is bestowed on the adept.
Hold this principal instruction!
Wherever he abides, the yogi
will perceive all obstructions as not existent.

To understand the instructions not like that and, thus, wrongly [means that] one is not a yogi abiding on the path since one possesses bad karma, moves towards the lower realms through oneʼs very nature, is bound by the noose of affliction, etc., and is not different from samsaric beings, roaming [in samsara] like a water wheel.

Gray, however, concludes from the above passage:

This justifies violence by those who have controlled their minds, and are thus not motivated by the passions, but rather by the cool calculus of compassion, which calls for violence as a defensive strategy, that is, as a way preventing evildoers from committing greater acts of violence. This denial of the reality of violence …

Such a complete misunderstanding of the intention of Atisha’s texts is only possible through several translation mistakes and a biased reading. If there ever existed a Tibetan text that justified violence, then it is certainly not this one.

Notes
1. [] Dalton, Jacob P. 2011. The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism. New Haven: Yale University Press.

2. [] The qualities and problems of this book were reviewed by Matthew Kapstein, 2013, Review of The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism by Jacob P. Dalton (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011). Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 73.1: 177–84; and Cathy Cantwell, 2014, Review article of The Taming of the Demons: Violence and Liberation in Tibetan Buddhism by Jacob P. Dalton. History of Religions 54.1: 106–12.

3. [] Lines 37–9 in the Tibetan text.

4. [] The first sentence quoted ends with the Tibetan particle las, and Dalton connects this to the Lady of Death: “from her” appears a syllable. However, that cannot be because such a function of the las particle is only possible when it is attached to a noun. In the text, it is attached to a verb, “imagine,” and in this case it simply continues the action.

5. [] Cf. Dalton 2011, 208.

6. [] It is difficult to explain that according to one sign the effigy “does not stop shaking.” But that is as difficult to explain for an effegy as for a real human head once it is chopped off.

7. [] Gray, David B. 2007. “Compassionate Violence? On the Ethical Implications of Tantric Buddhist Ritual.” Journal of Buddhist Ethics 14: 239–71.

8. [] Abhisamayavibhanga by Atisha, 188r f. Mngon par rtogs pa rnam par ’byed pa, D vol. 22, 185v7–202v3.

9. [] These and the following quotes are taken from Atishaʼs Abhisamayavibhanga, 188r f.

10. [] One of the more obvious problems of Gray’s translation is that he did not recognised the Sarvadurgati Tantra quote and has translated the words of the title and the quote as if they were part of Atishaʼs speech.

11. [] But Gray translates: “Yet those whose minds are bound kill one another,” which is syntactically impossible. He also overlooks that this is a question.