Monthly Archives: August 2013

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

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

1. The period of obtaining the result of Arhatship

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

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

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

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

5. The period where shamatha predominates and samadhi is practised

6. The period where of disciplined conduct

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

7. The period where abhidharma spreads

8. The period where sutras spread

9. The period where vinaya spreads

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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