Realisation, experience, and purification

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And Phagmodrupa said: 2

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

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

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

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

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

And Dorje Sherab quotes Jigten Gönpo (in 6.6):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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