Where the Buddhas abide

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

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

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

4 comments
  1. a buddhist monk said:

    It seems you take “dwelling in Akanishta” as >>merely dwelling “in the sphere of peace.”<< The latter is the Hinayana idea of Nirvana that is being refuted and not Akanishta! Jigten Sumgön is not providing a "contrast to such a view" about Akanishta, he is explaining the meaning of the metaphorical description of the state of a Buddha! Even the 'sphere of peace' is never understood as a physical place where an Arahant is 'going', so, why should Mahayana scholars come to such a view? Why should they call Akanishta the "sphere of reality" if it is just a place somewhere else?

  2. Dear “buddhist monk”,

    actually it is not me who is taking it as anything. The passage in question is how the commentator Dorje Sherab describes a general view (as he always does at the beginning of his comments). This general view is either a general view of many people or a specific view, for instance when he says “some old Tibetans” or even once “some Nyingmapas”. Unfortunately, in the vast majority of the cases he does not identify the other party. Here he seems to address a general opinion according to which (Mahayana) Buddhas proceed to a Buddha field after they pass away — somehow as if they would from then on “dwell in peace” like their Hinayana counterparts. Such an idea is, as you sense it, already part of the critique. However, the key point of Kyobpa Jigten Sumgön’s view is that there is no going anywhere into any Buddha field at all. As he has taught to Sherab Jungne, and as the latter has reported in his “Definite Praise”, when Sherab Jungne asked Jigten Sumgön to which Buddha field he should direct his prayers to after the teachers passing, Jigten Sumgön denies that there is a departing to any particular Buddha field at all. In a sense he seems to say that a Buddha’s dwelling in such a field after passing away from here would be like a Hinayana Buddha’s dwelling in peace.

    jan

  3. Jamie Throgmorton said:

    Hi-Thank you for sharing this. Very good. One question–where it is said “I dwell wherever the true nature of the mind and mahamudra are an inseparable entity,” this is confusing. I understand that mahamudra IS the true nature of the mind, but the quote seems to say otherwise. Is mahamudra a provisional understanding? Not sure. Would really appreciate your clarification. Thanks.

    • Good point. It is actually said in the praise of Jigten Sumgön containing definite meaning (nges don), composed by Chenga Sherab Jungne, his chief disciple, right after Jigten Sumgöns death. But this line is actually quoting Jigten Sumgön himself. What he probably means is that it is usually so that the nature of the mind — mahamudra — is glimpsed, but not thoroughly realised until one has completely familiarised it. As he said in the Gongchik (6.10): “Familiarising (goms par byed) realisation (rtogs pa) is practise (sgom pa).” Back to the initial quote. I think he means here: Whoever makes this effort to familiarise with it, is with him. So, are the nature of the mind and mahamudra ever separate? Of course not, but that is not yet realised. Therefore, until it is realised and familiarised, they are, from an unrealised perspective, not yet inseparable.

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