guhyasamaja_commentary_by_aku_sherab_gyatso_and_geshe_jampa_gyatso_guh_gjg01

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Monday afternoon, 19 January 2006

I will give the oral transmission of a few pages of Khedrup Je’s Ocean of Attainments, a commentary on the generation and completion stages of Guhyasamaja, as an auspicious beginning to this commentary, followed by the oral transmission of a few pages of the commentary by Aku Sherab Gyatso. You should listen to it with a good motivation and free from the six faults of an improper vessel. Think “I will study, reflect upon, and meditate on commentary to the generation and completion stages of Guhyasamaja by Aku Sherab Gyatso in order to attain enlightenment quickly, very quickly, even within this very lifetime in this degenerate age.”

Editor’s Note: The Sacred Words of Akshobhya has been translated by Geshe Thupten Jinpa and sponsored by the Gere Foundation, New York, 1999. It has been reproduced here with permission from the translator for the exclusive use of the Masters Program. All footnotes have been added by the Masters Program Coordinator.

The text begins:

SACRED WORDS OF LORD AKSHOBYA A Memorandum on the Visualization Guide to the First Stage of the Path of the Thirty-two Deities of Guhyasamaja According to the Arya Tradition

by Akhu Sherap Gyatso

[SALUTATIONS]

Namo Guru Shri Guhyasamaja mandala deva ganashranam gacchami

The Sanskrit word “Namo” means prostration or homage, in short, “I prostrate to.” In fact when the Indians say namaskar or namaste, they are saying “I prostrate to you.” “Guru” means spiritual master, which in Tibetan is translated as “lama.” The syllable “gu” derives from guna which means qualities, whereas the syllable ru derives from rup which means heavy, therefore together they mean “one who is heavy in qualities. “Shri” means glorious and indicates the excellent qualities of the exalted body of a buddha. “Guhyasamaja” is composed of Guhya, meaning secret, and samaja, meaning king, therefore together they mean “secret king.” Deva means deity or god. Ganashranam is composed of gana, which means assembly, that is, the assembly of deities, and shranam, which means “at your feet.” Gacchami means “I go for refuge” or “I bow.” In fact in Sanskrit the refuge formula is “Buddham saranam gacchami. Dhammam saranam gacchami. Sangham saranam gacchami.” This formula is often heard recited in monasteries of the Theravadin tradition.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

May I be protected by the lord endowed with the seven aspects, The master-magician who permeates the entire space With oceans of clouds; you are the specter of pure and perfect worlds Born of untainted great bliss, the indivisible sacred body-mind.

“The lord endowed with the seven aspects” refers to Vajradhara. “The seven aspects” or “seven branches” were explained before in the context of the Grounds and Paths of Tantra. They are the characteristics of the enjoyment body of a deity. Whereas in the tantra teachings a buddha is said to have a body endowed with the seven branches, in the sutra teachings a buddha is said to have a body endowed with the five certainties: 1. the certainty of body: it is definitely adorned with the signs and exemplifications, 2. the certainty of Dharma: it definitely teaches the mahayana Dharma, 3. the certainty of retinue: it is definitely surrounded only by bodhisattva superiors, 4. the certainty of time: it definitely remains as long as cyclic existence is not emptied, and 5. the certainty of abode: it definitely abides in Not Low (Akanishta). The enjoyment body abides in Not Low and emanates infinite emanations in order to perform the enlightened activities. Thus, the enjoyment body provides whatever external conditions sentient beings need, for example, a bridge, a dwelling, food, drink, and so forth. The buddhas create these emanations only when there is benefit. In other words, when the mind of a sentient being is ripe the buddhas emanate emanations in order to subdue him or her. Similarly, Maitreya’s Ornament for Clear Realizations says:

Just as an impotent seed does not grow Even though the king of gods sends down rain, Those without fortune do not experience the excellent Even though the buddhas arise. [8.10]

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says: Even a single hair from your bodily pores destroys an army of evils; You perceive all phenomena without ever rising from your equipoise ; Surely to seek this method of attainment is most worthy of effort, Once one has witnessed the great wonder of this path .

Even a single bodily pore of a buddha is able to destroy a multitude of evils. Knowing the qualities of a buddha one generates the wish to attain that state.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The fully enlightened Buddha – the incomparable master, the king of the Shakyas – first generated the mind of awakening ; in the middle, he gathered the accumulations [of merit and wisdom] for three innumerable eons; and finally, he attained perfect enlightenment. He then taught 84,000 sets of discourse . Insofar as this is true, there is an agreement between the systems of sutra and tantra.

Both sutra and tantra say that the Buddha, having attained enlightenment, taught the 84,000 aggregates of Dharma.

With respect to when the Buddha generated the mind of enlightenment there is the question “On what support did he initially generate it?” The Buddha initially generated the mind of enlightenment on the support of a being of the hell realm when, seeing his companion suffering, he generated compassion and offered to pull the cart alone. At this very moment a hell guardian hit the future buddha on the head, whereby he died and was immediately reborn among the desire realm gods of the Thirty-three. This event is recounted in the Sutra of the Fortunate Eon. 
However, it was not sufficient for the Buddha to generate the mind of enlightenment alone in order to attain enlightenment. In addition, he had to accumulate the collections of merit and wisdom for three countless great eons. Having completed this cause, he inevitably attained the result – complete enlightenment. Then, the Buddha gave teachings, this being the best way to benefit sentient beings. He gave the 84,000 aggregates or bundles of Dharma as antidotes to the 84,000 afflictions present in the minds of sentient beings: the 21,000 afflictions included in the class of attachment, the 21,000 afflictions included in the class of hatred, the 21,000 afflictions included in the class of ignorance, and the 21,000 afflictions included in the class that is a combination of attachment, hatred, and ignorance. Although this is said in the texts, it is rather difficult to count them! 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says: However, according to the sutra tradition, [the Buddha] is said to have become fully enlightened in the sambhogakaya form in Akanishta, [the perfect buddha realm,] when he was in his last life as a bodhisattva on the tenth ground. From there, while residing as a sambhogakaya endowed with the five definite characteristics, the Buddha manifested simultaneously in a multitude of emanations to the billions of world systems. This, then, is the accepted standpoint.

According to sutra, as a bodhisattva on the tenth ground one attains the enjoyment body or sambhogakaya in Akanishta. On the other hand, according to the tantra vehicle one can attain enlightenment on the support of a human without necessarily having to be reborn in Akanishta. More precisely, a human support or body that is born from a womb, possesses the six constituents, and is endowed with the eight leisures and ten endowments is a suitable support for attaining enlightenment in a single lifetime. Thus, it is not possible to attain enlightenment in a single life on the support of a god because the body of a god does not possess these qualities, that is, it is not born from a womb and does not possess the six constituents. However, in general it is possible to attain enlightenment on the support of a god.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In contrast, according to the tantra system there is an acceptance that full enlightenment can take place both within the human and the deva realms – i.e. they can be either a human being or a deva, a celestial being.  In this view, [it is believed that] when our Buddha [Shakyamuni] was in his last life as a bodhisattva,  just before his full awakening in Akhanishta he entered the path of tantra via the “intermediate state”.  At that point, at the invocation from all the buddhas  of the ten directions, the goddess Thigle Chogma was called forth and the bodhisattva was conferred the third initiation in actuality. Thus he entered the Guhyasamaja path and attained the pure “clear light” and arose into the illusory body.  Again, he entered into clear light and re-emerged as an “illusory body,” thus actualizing the union of the learner’s stage. Subsequent to this,  at dawn he was conferred directly the fourth initiation, thus leading to his full realization of the “union of no more learning,” the state that is endowed with the seven aspects of [the male-female] union.

The Buddha in his previous lives as a bodhisattva accumulated the two collections and as a bodhisattva in the last life on the tenth ground, having been exhorted to do so by the buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions, he entered the tantra path. In other words, the buddhas urged him to enter into union with a consort and achieve enlightenment, and offered him the consort Thigle Chogma (Supreme Drop Female) and conferred the third empowerment, the wisdom-exalted wisdom empowerment, upon him. By means of this empowerment, he attained the actual or meaning clear light. Having done so, he rose up in the pure illusory body.

In the Guhyasamaja Tantra it is said that a tantric practitioner attains the third stage, the actual clear light, then attains the fourth stage, that of rising up in the illusory body, and then attains the fifth stage, union, which is of two types, first the union of a learner and then the union of a no-more-learner. According to how this occurs in one night, it is said that, as a bodhisattva, in the evening the Buddha destroyed the maras; at midnight he attained the third empowerment, the wisdom-exalted wisdom empowerment, through union with the consort, Thigle Chogma; he then attained the actual clear light, rose up in the illusory body, and then reabsorbed into the clear light and attained the union of a learner; and at dawn he entered subsequent attainment and received the fourth empowerment, the word empowerment, whereby he attained the union of a no-more-learner. In this way, the Buddha is said to have attained enlightenment at dawn. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Amongst the multitude of emanations that the Buddha manifested in realms equal to the limits of space, in our world, i.e., on earth, he displayed such events as entering the womb of his mother, being born, excelling in athletic skills,  engaging in physical penance, and so on, as mentioned in the sutra teachings. 

This passages sets out some of the twelve deeds of a supreme emanation body. Both sutra and tantra have common assertions regarding these deeds up to the deed of engaging in physical penance or practicing asceticism, but from there onward they differ.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Although there is no explicit mention [in the tantras] of the Buddha’s deeds of sitting under the bodhi tree and conquering the maras, the references in some other tantras about conquering the maras by assuming the forms of “the wrathful deity Victorious Over All Three Realms” and the red and black Yamantakas can be seen as the tantric version of this deed.

“No explicit mention” could refer to the Guhyasamaja Tantra in particular or to the tantra texts in general. It is said in other tantras that the Buddha manifested as a wrathful deity or as red or black Yamantaka and conquered the maras.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says: The following events – (i) the realization of the actual clear light at midnight as a result of being conferred the third initiation in its nakedness, (ii) the full awakening displayed at dawn on the fifteenth day of the fourth month subsequent to the conferment of the fourth initiation, and (iii) turning the three wheels of Dharma and the four classes of tantra – constitute the process by which the Buddha, in his form as Shakyamuni, taught the tantras on this earth.

Buddha Shakyamuni, although already enlightened, showed the aspect of attaining enlightenment on the fifteenth day of the fourth month of the lunar calendar. Where did he manifest attaining enlightenment? He did so in Bodhgaya, the Vajra Throne, while sitting under the bodhi tree, behind the present day stupa. The Buddha did not teach for a period of seven weeks after having become enlightened. He then went to Sarnath, near Varanasi, where he gave his first teaching.

It is recounted that when the Buddha was an ascetic wanderer during the six years prior to his enlightenment, he had five companions or servants. At the end of the sixth year, when he stopped engaging in ascetic practices and ate yogurt and other food that was offered to him whereby his body regained its strength, the other five ascetics criticized his conduct and abandoned him. They went to dwelling on a hill near Sarnath and sat down to meditate. Seven weeks after the Buddha became enlightenment, he went to this dwelling to meet the five ascetics. Knowing that he would arrive the five servants made an agreement that upon his arrival they would not show any signs of respect for him by standing up when he entered the room and so forth. However, when the Buddha entered, one of them spontaneously stood up and then the other four also quickly followed suit. Together with the Buddha they walked a short distance away to where the stupa is presently located and there the Buddha gave his first teaching at the request of Brahma and Indra, who are said to have respectively offered the Buddha a thousand-spoked golden wheel and a white conch with a clockwise swirl. Thus, among the listeners of these first teachings there were present not only the five human beings but also many gods as well as nagas. At this time the Buddha taught the four noble truths. First he taught: “True sufferings exist. True origins exist. True cessations exist. True paths exist.” Secondly he taught: “True sufferings are to be known. True origins are to be abandoned. True cessations are to be actualized. True paths are to be meditated.” Then, with the third presentation he taught: “True sufferings have been known, therefore there are no more true sufferings to be known. True origins have been abandoned, therefore there are no more true origins to be abandoned. True cessations have been actualized, therefore there are no more true cessations to be actualized. True paths have been meditated, therefore there are no more true paths to be meditated.” These are the three rounds regarding the four truths. When the Buddha was teaching the second round, one of the five ascetics attained the path of seeing and simultaneously took on the aspect of a monk wearing the three robes, with a shaved head, and so forth. During the third round, the four remaining disciples also attained the path of seeing and spontaneously became ordained. This type of full ordination is called “taking ordination by means of directly realizing the truths.” 

Tuesday morning, 20 January 2004

The seven branches of union that were mentioned previously are: (1) complete enjoyment, (2) unification, (3) great bliss, (4) being without inherent existence, (5) being filled with great compassion, (6) being without interruption, and (7) being without cessation. “Complete enjoyment” indicates that a buddha has completed the signs and exemplifications. “Unification” has several meanings, one of which is the union of method and wisdom and another is the union of the male and female consorts, however in this context it means that one possesses the union of bliss and emptiness at all times. “Great bliss” indicates that a buddha possesses the coemergent bliss that is absorbed without separation in meditative equipoise on emptiness. “Being without inherent existence” means that a buddha does never rises from meditative equipoise on the emptiness of the lack of inherent existence. “Being filled with great compassion” means that the mental continuum of a buddha is filled with compassion due to which he constantly looks upon sentient beings, examining whether or not they are ready to be ripened, and if they are he does whatever is needed to ripen them. It also indicates that he has abandoned the extreme of solitary peace. “Being without interruption” means that a buddha engages continually in the enlightened activities without interruption. “Being without cessation” means that a buddha is not obstructed by either of the two obscurations.

The twelve deeds of a buddha mentioned previously are: 1. the deed of taking high rebirth, that is, being born in the Joyous Land (Tushita), 2. the deed of being conceived in a mother’s womb, 3. the deed of being born, 4. the deed of sporting as a youth, 5. the deed of being accompanied by women, 6. the deed of acting as a prince, 7. the deed of homeless wandering, 8. the deed of engaging in ascetic practices, 9. the deed of sitting under the bodhi tree, 10. the deed of subduing the maras, 11. the deed of becoming a buddha, and 12. the deed of turning the wheel of Dharma. The maras are of four types: the mara of the aggregates, the mara of the afflictions, the mara of the lord of death, and the mara of the sons-of-the-gods (devaputra). In this context, the subjugation of the maras refers mainly to the destruction of a son-of-the-gods, a god called “the Lustful Lord” (Gharab Wangchug), who tried to harm Shakyamuni when he was sitting in meditation under the bodhi tree by emanating beautiful women who, singing and dancing, surrounded Shakyamuni. However, the Buddha, by the power of the meditative stabilization of ugliness, transformed them into ugly old hags, whereby they were unable to harm his concentration. The Lustful Lord then created a horde of troops who shot arrows at the Buddha, but the Buddha transformed them into flowers as they struck his body. In this way, the Lustful Lord was unable to harm the Buddha, and instead the Buddha destroyed him.

The mara of the aggregates mainly refers to the physical body, this being a mara or demon because it is the basis for the experience of many sufferings, such as pain and sickness. The afflictions are considered to be a mara or demon because attachment, hatred, and so forth make the mind disturbed and unhappy, causing mental suffering. The lord of death is a mara because it acts to cause suffering by separating the body and mind of the present life. 

The name “Yamantaka” (gshin rje’i gshed), mentioned earlier in the text, can be translated as the executioner (taka or gshed) of the lord of death (Yama or gshin rje). There are red and black Yamantakas, for example, Yamantaka Solitary Hero is a black Yamantaka, even though he is actually dark blue in color.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Generally speaking, it is said that as far as the teachings of the tantras are concerned, there is no period of decline caused by fluctuations, for they are taught throughout all time. For example, the Ten Grounds Sutra states:

The buddhas never go beyond sorrow; The Dharma [sun] too will never set.

Similarly, the Sacred Names of Manjushri states:

The buddhas of the past have taught this; The buddhas of the future too will teach this; And it is being taught again and again By the fully awakened ones of the present.

So, although it is difficult to [categorically] assert that according to the tantric teachings there can be no “dark era,” it must be accepted only provisionally in relation to general conventions. But if we accept these provisional notions too literally, it may lead to all kinds of contradictions and inconsistencies.

To put it briefly, all the teachings that the Buddha has given can be subsumed into the two classes of sutras and tantras. For those who are inclined towards the initial [path],  the conducts of detachment  have been taught. For those who are inclined towards the vast [path], the conducts of the grounds and perfections have been taught. For those who are inclined towards the profound [path], the conducts of attachment  have been taught. Of these, the first is the listeners [shravaka] and self-enlightened buddhas [pratyekabuddha] vehicle [i.e., the hinayana]; the second, the great vehicle [mahayana] of the sutra teachings ; and the third, the vehicle of tantra.  Amongst these, the discourse about the attainment of buddhahood in a single lifetime is a concept unique to tantra.

Aku Sherab Gyatso says that it is difficult to say that there will not be a period in which the tantra teachings disappear, this is because it is said that during the period of Maitreya the tantra teachings will not exist. On the other hand, during the period of Buddha Shakyamuni both the sutra and tantra teachings exist. In fact, it is said that as long as there exist those who study the Guhyasamaja Tantra the teachings will exist, but when there are no longer those who study the Guhyasamaja Tantra the teachings will disappear. On the contrary, the Ten Grounds Sutra says:

The buddhas never go beyond sorrow; The Dharma [sun] too will never set.

Perhaps that “ The Dharma [sun] too will never set” can be interpreted to mean that while the teachings may cease to exist in one world system, somewhere in the billion world systems they still exist. The statement that “The buddhas never go beyond sorrow” can also be debated as the buddhas do pass beyond sorrow, that is, enter nirvana. However, the response is that while the supreme emanation body passes beyond sorrow, the complete enjoyment body does not. However, the buddhas do not die due to the power of actions and afflictions.

Because the buddhas exist, the Dharma exists in their continua. There exists the Dharma of scripture and the Dharma of realization, as well as the wheel of Dharma of scripture and the wheel of Dharma of realization. Thus, that the Dharma exists because the buddhas exist means that the Dharma of realization exists. 
The Sacred Names of Manjushri is also cited saying:

The buddhas of the past have taught this; The buddhas of the future too will teach this; And it is being taught again and again By the fully awakened ones of the present.

In this fortunate eon of a thousand buddhas, the present buddha, Buddha Shakyamuni, was the fourth. All three preceding buddhas gave teachings, and the fifth buddha, Buddha Maitreya, will also give teachings. That “it is being taught again and again” means that Buddha Shakyamuni taught the three wheels of Dharma. Thus, this verse is cited in order to establish that the Dharma exists at all times.

The teachings of the Buddha can be subsumed in the two: the sutras and the tantras. The sutra teachings can be divided into the three baskets of the discipline (vinaya), manifest Dharma (abhidharma), and discourse (sutra). The basket of discipline consists of the texts that take the higher training in morality as their main subject matter. The word “discipline,” vinaya in Sanskrit and ‘dul ba in Tibetan, means to discipline, subdue, or tame, and refers to the subjugation of downfalls and afflictions. To subdue downfalls means to refrain from committing misdeeds of body and speech, whereas to subdue afflictions means to subdue the three poisons of attachment, hatred, and ignorance.
The basket of manifest Dharma consists of the texts that take the higher training in wisdom as their main subject matter. The basket of discourses or sutras consists of the texts that take the higher training in meditative stabilization or concentration as their main subject matter. Thus, all the sutra teachings are condensed in these three baskets.
The tantra teachings are subsumed in the four classes of tantra or mantra. The word “mantra” consists of two syllables; the syllable man meaning mind and the syllable tra meaning to liberate. The mantra vehicle is what liberates the mind from the appearance of and adherence to ordinariness. The word “tantra,” rgyud in Tibetan, means continuum or continuity. There are three types of tantra or continuum: the tantra of base, the tantra of the path, and the tantra of result. 

For disciples – the hearers and solitary realizers – who are inclined toward the lower vehicle, the Buddha taught the conducts that are free from attachment, saying that they should abandon the afflictive obscurations and attain liberation, which is their main object to be attained.

For disciples who are inclined toward the vast, the Buddha taught the grounds and perfections. The grounds can be understood to be the ground of utilizing belief (mos pas spyod pa), the ground of aspiration/special pure thought (lhag bsam dag pa), the ground of fruition (rnam par smin pa), and the ground of the abandonment of the obscurations (sgrib pa spangs pa). 

Or they can be understood to be the ten grounds of a bodhisattva: Extremely Joyful, Stainless, Luminous, Radiant, Difficult to Overcome, Manifest, Gone Afar, Immovable, Good Intelligence, and Cloud of Doctrine. The perfections are the ten: the perfection of generosity, the perfection of morality, the perfection of patience, the perfection of joyous effort, the perfection of concentration, the perfection of wisdom, the perfection of method, the perfection of prayer, the perfection of power, and the perfection of exalted wisdom. These are all taught in the sutra teachings.

For those who are inclined towards the profound, the Buddha taught the conducts that are together with attachment. In this context, the Buddha taught how to attain enlightenment in a single lifetime. The teachings on tantra or secret mantra are divided into four classes – action tantra, performance tantra, yoga tantra, and highest yoga tantra – based on the different types of faculties of practitioners. These four classes of tantra are explained in two ways: in terms of using attachment in the path and in terms of conduct. “Using attachment in the path” does not mean to transform attachment into the path, rather it means to use attachment to enhance the path. 
In terms of using attachment in the path:

• action tantra is characterized by the ability to use the attachment produced by looking at a meditated goddess as a means to enhance the path; • performance tantra is characterized by the ability to use the attachment produced by smiling at a meditated goddess as a means to enhance the path; • yoga tantra is characterized by the ability to use not only looking and smiling but also holding hands with a meditated goddess as a means to enhance the path; and • highest yoga tantra is characterized by the ability to use the attachment of sexual union with an actual knowledge woman as a means to enhance the path. In terms of conduct: • action tantra is characterized by an emphasis on external conduct, such as washing, eating white food, the three whites and three sweets, which is more important than internal conduct; • performance tantra is characterized by an equal emphasis on external conduct and internal conduct, that is, meditative stabilization; • yoga tantra is characterized by more emphasis on internal conduct, meditative stabilization, although external conduct is still practiced; and • highest yoga tantra is characterized by relying entirely on internal conduct, meditative stabilization, without relying at all on external conduct. In fact, a qualified practitioner of highest yoga tantra is actually able to enjoy the five meats and five nectars.

Tuesday afternoon, 20 January 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Within the tantras, there are four classes corresponding to the levels of the aspirants. Although all qualified tantric aspirants are capable of taking attachment into the path, there are differences depending on the levels of faculty of the practitioners. For example, the practices that present the path by emphasizing the external – such as washing, anointing and so on – over the inner yogic meditation belong to action tantra. These are taught to those aspirants who are capable only of, and not more than, taking into the path the attachment generated through the exchanging of glances between oneself and a visualized goddess. Similarly, those practices that present a path in terms of an equal emphasis on both the external rituals and inner yogas belong to performance tantra. These are taught to those who are capable of, and not more than, taking into the path the attachment generated through the exchanging of glances and playful games with one’s visualized goddess. Furthermore, those practices that present a path that emphasizes inner yogas over external rituals belong to yoga tantra. These are taught to those aspirants who are capable of taking into the path the attachment generated through looking at, laughing with, and holding the hands of one’s visualized goddess, but not the attachment generated by actual sexual union with a consort. Finally, the practices that present a path that emphasizes only the inner yogas and that is not dependent at all upon external rituals belong to unsurpassed yoga tantra. These [teachings] are taught to those aspirants who are not only capable of taking into the path attachment generated through looking at, laughing with, and holding hands of the goddess, but who also have the ability to take into the path the attachment generated from the bliss of the actual act of conjoining the two sexual organs. Since there is nothing beyond this [class], it is called the “unsurpassed yoga tantra.”
The Vajrapanjara Tantra states:

To the inferior, performance tantra …

Similarly, the Tantra of Union states:

Laughing, glancing, and holding hands…

The meaning of these verses and also the passage

Like insects, the tantras are of four kinds,

suggest that just as tree-born insects eat away into the tree so, in the present context, the wisdom of simultaneous great bliss generated from attachment and its likes consumes attachment and its attendant emotions. Many people misunderstand this idea of “taking attachment into the path,” thinking that actual afflictions are turned into aspects of the path. This, however, is not the case. Afflictions such as attachment are brought into the path as a source of impetus, thereby transforming them into favorable conditions. As a sutra states,

As the manure of Shakya town becomes fertilizer…

The Vajrapanjara Tantra is the Vajra Tent Tantra. The statement in the Tantra of Union “Laughing, glancing, and holding hands…” includes sexual union with a consort. Just as insects born from a tree consume that very same tree and thereby exhaust it, similarly tantric practitioners are able to exhaust attachment by transforming it into an aid to the path. In other words, they use attachment as a means to enhance the path whereby the exalted wisdom of coemergent great bliss realizing emptiness is generated and then acts to abandon that very attachment. While many people misunderstand the concept of “taking attachment into the path” to mean that attachment is transformed into the path, it is to be understood as merely being brought into the path. It is similar to the way in which manure becomes fertilizer helping crops to grow but does not itself transform into the crops.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says: Although the transformation of attachment and its likes into aids on the path can be effected at high levels of realization of the perfection vehicle, on the tantric path this can be achieved even at the beginner’s stage. The manner in which this takes place is as follows. At first, even when attachment and its likes arise, one ensures that one does not fall under the control of ordinary negative impulses. Then, due to the power of a surging experience of emptiness, negative emotions subside while the force of the path increases, thus acquiring powerful capacity to destroy the opposing forces of the path.

Bodhisattvas abiding on the grounds of the perfection vehicle can also transform attachment and so forth into aids to the path. For example, for the bodhisattvas abiding on the third ground anger becomes an aid to the path due to the power of their practice of patience. While in the case of the perfection vehicle only bodhisattvas on the higher grounds can take attachment into the path, in the case of the tantra vehicle even beginners can take attachment into the path. For example, bodhisattvas on the first ground, understanding that there is need to give birth to a son who will become a universal king and thereby benefit sentient beings, unite with a consort and thereby produce a son. In addition, even at the beginner’s stage a tantric practitioner on the generation stage can use attachment as a means to enhance the path by meditating a female deity with whom he unites in sexual union, thereby producing bliss which is used to realize emptiness. When attachment is about to arise in the mind of a tantric practitioner, he or she meditates on the view of emptiness of the three spheres because when the view of emptiness is manifest, the attachment that was about to become manifest remains dormant. At the same time the force of the path increases, whereby it becomes able to abandon the objects of abandonment.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

As regards the unsurpassed yoga tantra, the earlier Tibetan masters list three categories: (i) father tantras, (ii) mother tantras, and (iii) non-dual tantras. The Sakyapas identify the Hevajra Tantra as an example of the “non-dual” tantra, while the Jonangpas list the Kalachakra Tantra as a “non-dual” tantra. Thus, depending upon what they consider to be their preferred tantra, they identify it as a non-dual tantra and hail it as supreme. However, such standpoints are fraught with contradictions. In contrast, the great master Tsongkhapa maintains that the “father” in “father tantras” and “method” in “method tantras” refer to the illusory body. Similarly, the “mother” and “wisdom” in “mother tantras” and “wisdom tantras” refer to clear light. Thus, those tantras that emphasize the attainment of the first are father tantras, while those that emphasize the attainment of the latter are mother tantras. Furthermore, when one speaks of the “non-dual method and wisdom tantras,” method here refers to the pristine cognition that is the union of great bliss and wisdom realizing emptiness.  Hence, there is a great deal of difference between this and the earlier understanding of non-duality. Tsongkhapa has stated that since an unsurpassed yoga tantric text must necessarily have as its subject matter the wisdom of indivisible bliss and emptiness, all unsurpassed yoga tantras are [by definition] non-dual tantras.

There are father tantras, mother tantras, and non-dual tantras. The Sakyapas assert that the non-dual tantras are supreme and say that the Hevajra Tantra is a non-dual tantra and therefore supreme. On the other hand, the Jonangpas say that the Kalachakra Tantra is a non-dual tantra and is therefore supreme. In short, both of these schools identify a particular tantra as non-dual and then proclaim it to be supreme. However, this gives rise to many internal contradictions, which are discussed by Lama Tsongkhapa in his Great Exposition of the Stages of Tantra.

In our system, father tantras are method tantras, while mother tantras are wisdom tantras. Father tantras are those tantras that mainly present the illusory body, whereas mother tantras are those tantras that mainly present the clear light. Non-dual tantras are those tantras that present inseparable method and wisdom. According to Lama Tsongkhapa’s system if it is a highest yoga tantra it is necessarily a non-dual tantra because all highest yoga tantras necessarily present method and wisdom as inseparable. However, some tantras mainly present method and some mainly present wisdom. For example, the Guhyasamaja Tantra is a father tantra because it mainly presents how to attain the illusory body, the causes that are necessary to attain it, and the result that is attained. On the other hand, the mother tantras mainly present how to attain the actual clear light. Thus, method refers to the father and wisdom to the mother. Sutra also says: “The father is skilled in method, the mother is skilled in wisdom.” 
The illusory body is called “the rainbow body” in the Nyingma tradition. The illusory body is presented in terms of the twelve analogies that were explained in the context of the Grounds and Paths of Tantra. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Earlier Tibetan masters maintain that those tantras that begin with “Thus have I heard once” are father tantras, while those beginning with the passage “When the supreme secret is propounded”  are mother tantras. Similarly, some maintain that those tantras that involve the descent of the wisdom beings done through [visualizing] male deities are father tantras, while those done by female deities are mother tantras. The great master Tsongkhapa, in his Great Exposition of Tantra and other works, has refuted many of these viewpoints. Once you become aware of this point, you will develop great certainty in our [preferred] standpoint.

“The supreme secret” refers to the bhaga or vagina of the consort, this being understood from the Guhyasamaja Tantra which says “Insert the vajra into the supreme secret.” The assertions set out here are refuted by Lama Tsongkhapa’s Great Exposition of the Stages of Tantra.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There are three types of method tantras. For example, the Guhyasamaja Tantra is a tantra of desire[-transmuting]-method, for when this tantra is enumerated it states “One thousand Guhyasamajas.” Then there are those tantras for whose wrathful activities there must be the causal motivation of compassion, while for the immediate impetus one requires harsh emotions. And the tantras that teach the path of such a transformation are tantras of anger[-transmuting]-method. This includes such tantras as the red and black Yamantakas. The great master Tsongkhapa has stated that there exist occasions when desire and anger can be taken as aids on the path. However, as far as delusion is concerned, except for the transformation of the attendant factors, there are no occasions when delusion itself can be taken on the path. Because of this, Kyapgön Dorjechang has said that the statement that the Arali Tantra is a tantra of ignorance-[transmuting]-method should be understood as referring to taking the consciousnesses of sleep and dream states into the path. 

The Guhyasamaja Tantra is considered to be a method tantra transmuting attachment, whereas the Yamantaka Tantra is considered to be a method tantra transmuting hated. There are four types of enlightened activities: the peaceful, increasing, powerful, and wrathful. When performing wrathful activities the causal motivation must be love and compassion, whereas the temporal motivation of the action must be a rough or violent mind that thinks to bind, cut, and slay harmful sentient beings. For example, the Kalarupa ritual says that negative beings are hooked, bound, beaten, and killed. Thus, the temporal motivation must be a violent mind, whereby hatred is said to be taken into the path. While attachment and hatred, which are concomitant with ignorance can be taken into the path, ignorance cannot.

Kyapgön Dorjechang is Aku Sherab Gyatso’s spiritual master. He said that when the Arali Tantra says that ignorance can be taken into the path it means that sleeping and dreaming can be taken into the path. This is because when falling asleep the mind is unclear and is therefore similar to ignorance. In short, while there are method tantras for transmuting attachment, hatred, and ignorance, only attachment and hatred can be taken into the path. Ignorance cannot be taken into the path. On the other hand, sleeping and dreaming can be taken into the path. It is taught that sleeping is mixed with the truth body, dreaming is mixed with the enjoyment body, and waking is mixed with the emanation body. When one lies down to sleep at night, one should imagine that the earth element dissolves into the water element due to which there is an appearance like a mirage, the water element dissolves into the fire element due which there is an appearance of smoke, the fire element dissolves into the wind element due to which there is an appearance of fireflies, and the wind element dissolves into the consciousness due to which there is an appearance of the last flame of a butter lamp. Then the eighty indicative conceptions dissolve into the white appearance, that into the red increase, that into the black near-attainment, and that into the clear light of sleep. One then abides in the clear light of sleep. In this way sleep is taken into the path. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Generally speaking, four types of Guhyasamaja have been taught, namely those of the (i) literal meaning,  (ii) general meaning, (iii) hidden meaning, and the (iv) ultimate meaning. And, since all tantric paths are contained in it, it is called the root of all tantras. Also, as the words and meanings of all the sutras converge in this tantra, it is called the “jewel ornament of all sutras.” It is said that Segyü Dorjechang once told Künkhyen Jamyang Shepa that if one understands the Guhyasamaja Tantra, one understands all the sutras and tantras. Furthermore, whether or not the essence of the Buddha’s teachings survives depends upon the survival of the study and practice of Guhyasamaja Tantra. For example, the Sacred Words of Manjushri states:

At that time and period When this essential point can be heard, It is said that at that time Buddha’s precious doctrine also remains.

Therefore, it is critical that we all strive hard at this juncture, when we have not only met with the secret mantra vehicle but also the teachings of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. We are supposed to have had the fortune of encountering the sutra and tantric teachings of the second Buddha (Tsongkhapa), but the masters have said that if we do not meet with the teachings of the Chakrasamvara and Guhyasamaja Tantras, we have not encountered the complete doctrine of the great Tsongkhapa.

There are four types of Guhyasamaja Tantras: • the literal or word meaning, which is the actual meaning of the terms, • the general meaning, which is a meaning that is common to sutra and tantra, • the hidden meaning, which is of three types – the mind hidden in appearance, the quality hidden in attachment, and the illusory hidden in the conventional, • the ultimate or final meaning. All the paths of secret mantra are gathered in the Guhyasamaja Tantra and all words and meanings of the sutra lead to the meaning of the Guhyasamaja Tantra, that is, in the end they converge in the meaning of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. For this reason the Guhyasamaja Tantra is said to be a container of the set of sutras. Atisha always carried a container or vessel with him, into which he would put his articles of secret mantra such as his vajra, bell, and rosary.

Segyü Dorjechang said that when one understands the Guhyasamaja Tantra, one will understand all the sutras and tantras. The abidance of the essence of the teachings of the Buddha depends upon the abidance of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. In other words, as long as the Guhyasamaja Tantra remains teachings remain. The Sacred Words of Manjushri also says that as long as there is the transmission of the Guhyasamaja Tantra the doctrine of the Buddha exists. 
To meet with the teachings of secret mantra is very difficult, therefore, since we have met with them as well as with the Guhyasamaja Tantra in particular, we are very fortunate and should strive in it. We should progress through the five stages of the Guhyasamaja Tantra – the generation stage, the isolation of mind, the illusory body, the clear light, and union – to the state of Vajradhara. To meditate the generation stage means to meditate the self-generation, the taking of the three bodies into the path: taking death into the path to the truth body, taking the intermediate state into the path to the enjoyment body, and taking birth into the path to the emanation body. Whatever is born must die, therefore death is first taken into the path. After death comes the intermediate state, therefore after that the intermediate state is taken into the path. After wandering in the intermediate state one takes rebirth, therefore birth is next taken into the path. This process is explained in terms of a rebirth as a human being. In conclusion, the main yoga of the generation stage is the meditation on the three bodies, which transforms ordinary death into the path to the truth body, the ordinary intermediate state into the path to the enjoyment body, and ordinary birth into the path to the emanation body. 
At the beginning of a self-generation there is the recitation of OM SVABHAVA… by means of which everything becomes empty. One abides in this wisdom realizing emptiness thinking, “I am the exalted wisdom truth body.” Then, one rises from the empty state as a blue light, one cubit in height, and thinks, “I am the enjoyment body.” Then one rises as a deity, this being the equivalent of taking birth, and thinks, “I am the emanation body.”

Wednesday morning, 21 January 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Even when one endeavors in the study of the five treatises, it is the tantras that one must eventually arrive at. As stated by Tsongkhapa, “Whatever you have taught...” in the sutra system, all teachings, including those on the four truths, must finally converge on the teachings on emptiness. This does not mean merely that these teachings must relate to means of understanding and cognizing emptiness, but that they must also be understood in terms of perfecting the path of emptiness. Therefore, it is essential that we realize without mistake the “limit of reality’s sphere”  – i.e., emptiness – on the basis of fusing the innate mind with emptiness, as if merging the two indistinguishably into a single taste. So, the statement that all sutras converge on emptiness must mean that they converge on the attainment of the ultimate aspiration [of the tantra].

When one studies the five treatises, in addition to teaching emptiness, they also show the path to the state of Vajradhara. The five treatises are: 1. Valid Cognition; 2. the three mothers, the Sutras of the Perfection of Wisdom in three lengths, the hidden meaning of which is the topic of texts such as the Ornament for Clear Realizations and so forth; 3. the Supplement to the ‘Middle Way,’ which is an explicit presentation of the topic of the Sutras of the Perfection of Wisdom; 4. the Discipline (Vinaya), such as the Root Sutra composed by Gunaprabha, the four sections of the Discipline, the seventeen sections of the Discipline, and so forth; and 5. the Treasury of Manifest Dharma, mainly the Explanation of the Treasury of Manifest Dharma by Vasubandhu, which explains the aggregates, constituents, spheres, the worlds (the environment and the inhabitants), their causes (actions and the afflictions or subtle increasers), the persons on the paths that abandon those subtle increasers, the exalted wisdoms, and the meditative absorptions. The study of these texts is a means for entering the path of tantra. In other words, an understanding of emptiness alone is not sufficient, nor is an understanding of method and wisdom. One has to integrate this understanding in one’s mental continuum through listening, thinking about, and meditating upon these texts. In this way the understanding of emptiness and the primordial mind will be fused inseparably. In short, all the sutras and tantras are the means to achieve the state of Vajradhara, that is, their purpose is to achieve the state of Vajradhara.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The long version of the Guhyasamaja Tantra has not been translated into Tibetan. The meaning of this tantra must be explained in terms of the hermeneutics  of the “six boundaries”  and “four modes.” For example, the provisional meaning of Vajradhara (Dorjechang) is said to be the deity who holds in his hand the symbol vajra. Yet the definitive meaning is that he upholds internally the vajra of pristine cognition, which is an indivisible union of bliss and emptiness.  Thus the first level of meaning requires further interpretation to arrive at its final meaning. 

The meaning of the Guhyasamaja Tantra is explained in terms of the six boundaries or limits and the four modes. The six limits are: (1-2) the provisional or interpretable meaning and the definitive meaning, (3-4) the intended meaning and the meaning without an intention, (5-6) the literal meaning and the non-literal meaning.

The four modes are: (1) the literal or word meaning, (2) the general meaning, (3) the hidden meaning, and (4) the final meaning.

The interpretable or provisional meaning of Vajradhara is “the one holding a vajra,” this being the usual vajra that is made of metal. The definitive meaning of Vajradhara is one possessing the exalted wisdom of inseparable bliss and emptiness in his mental continuum.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Similarly, the statement

In the vast plain of wilderness, Ornament [the site] with flowers and fruits…

can mean that one’s place of meditation in the wilderness should be ornamented with flowers, etc., or it could mean that one’s body – which has been isolated of all prana winds due to the dissolution of all winds into the central channel – is beautified by the minor and major noble marks of the illusory body. The first is the meaning at the level of generation stage and is thus (1) provisional, while the second is at the level of the perfection stage and is thus (2) definitive.

This passage cited from a tantra says that one should ornament an isolated place with flowers and so forth. This is interpreted to indicate the illusory body which is adorned with the signs and exemplifications. One’s aggregates are devoid of the winds due to the dissolution of the winds of the eighty indicative conceptions into the central channel. In order to attain the illusory body it is necessary to meditate the meditative stabilizations of the three isolations: the isolation of body, isolation of speech, and isolation of mind. Thus, this verse should not be taken literally but should be understood to mean that one should meditate the three isolations in order to achieve the completion stage. Thus, its definitive meaning is that one should achieve the completion stage, that is, an illusory body adorned with the signs and exemplifications.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There is also the (3) literal meaning, when the meaning is understood only within the bounds of linguistic convention. There is also the (4) non-literal reading, when a specific meaning is stipulated even though there is nothing in the linguistic convention that suggests such meaning. For example, the sugatas [the buddhas] have stipulated the meaning of the ten syllables such as KO, TRA, and KHYA. In the context of unsurpassed yoga tantra, they are said to refer to the ten winds, while in the context of yoga tantra they refer to the various names of Vajrapani.

The literal meaning is such what is understood from the words alone, for example, when “vase,” “pillar,” and so forth are expressed we understand just those objects and nothing else. On the other hand, there are meanings that are non-literal, those that are not understood in the normal conventions of the world but are explained by the buddhas; for example, the ten winds – the five root winds and five secondary winds – are called KOTAKHYA and so forth. The five main winds are: the vitalizing wind, the downward-voiding wind, the equally-abiding wind, the upward-moving wind, and the pervasive wind. The five secondary winds are: the moving wind, fully-moving wind, perfectly-moving wind, strongly-moving wind, and definitely-moving wind. They are so-called because they move to the five sense doors: those of the eye, ear, nose, tongue, and body. Due to these winds the eye sense power sees, the ear sense power hears, and so forth. The winds move in dependence on the channels, thus if the channels are defective the winds cannot flow in them, causing various problems.

These ten words – KOTAKHYA, KOTAVA, KOTA, KOTAVASHCHA, KORARAGA, KOLAKHYA, KOLAVA, KOLA, KOLAVASHCHA, and KOLATATHA – are explained in yoga tantra to be various names for Vajrapani. These words only occur in the context of tantra, they are not worldly linguistic conventions. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There is then the (5) intentional reading, whereby what is intended is something else [to what is stated on the surface]; i.e., it is said in an elliptical manner. For example, in the sutras it has been stated that “Father and mother are to be killed,” etc., and also “Ascertain this as essence, though there is none,” etc. In such cases, the meanings of the tantras are taught by means of intentions. Finally, there is the (6) non-intentional reading, in that what is taught on the surface is to be taken at its face value without any elliptical reading. There are thus six boundaries.

A meaning with an intention is, for example, the meaning of the statement “Father and mother are to be killed,” which was specifically said by the Buddha to Ajatashastru in order to alleviate his intense regret for having killed his father and in order to ripen his mental continuum. Ajatashastru thought about the meaning of this statement and eventually came to understand that it did not mean that one should kill the mother and father whose substances created one’s body, rather it means that the actions and afflictions which gave rise to one’s body are to be killed or destroyed. In short, the Buddha meant that actions and afflictions, which are similar to a father and mother in the sense of producing the body, are to be destroyed. If one destroys afflictions and actions one will become pure, that is, one will attain liberation.

The statement “Understanding what is without an essence as an essence” was said in relation to the buddha lineage. Presently we seek fame, food, clothing, and so forth thinking that they have an essence although they have none. While we presently have a precious human rebirth with the eight freedoms and ten endowments that can be used to attain liberation, instead of doing this we seek that which is without essence, fame, money, a partner, and so forth, mistakenly thinking that they have an essence. 
In short, such phrases were said by the Buddha with a specific intention. 
A meaning without an intention is a statement that is to be taken at its face value; for example, the Buddha’s teaching “All compounded phenomena are impermanent. All contaminated phenomena are suffering. All phenomena are empty and selfless. Nirvana is peace.”

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

There are four modes of interpretation. The first is the (1) linguistic meaning,  in that what is taught is at the level of conventional linguistics. The level of significance that is common to sutra and tantra, to both lower and higher vehicles, and also to both the generation and perfection stages, is said to be the (2) general meaning. There is also the (3) hidden meaning, in that both sutras and the tantras teach topics that are said to be concealed. For example, there is (a) the “concealing the mind in appearance,” referring to the teachings of the “three isolations’;” (b) those which present the characteristics of the “seal” [i.e., the consort] and the method of engaging in sexual union with such a seal, which are said to conceal the principles of desire; and (c) those which present the illusory body are said to conceal the relative truth, the illusory body. Thus, there are three “concealments.”  The (4) ultimate exposition is the presentation of the illusory body and clear light, themes that are not found in the lower classes of tantra.  This is called ultimate because illusory body is the ultimate culmination of all winds, while the ultimate culmination of all cognitive states is the “clear light” mind of the Buddha’s omniscient wisdom. 

The linguistic or word meaning is the actual obvious meaning, for example, “sun,” “moon,” and so forth just refer to those objects and nothing else.

The general meaning is an explanation that is common to both sutra and tantra, to both the lower and higher vehicles, and to both the generation and completion stages; for example, the explanations of the four truths, the two truths, the five powers such as faith and so forth, as well as the aggregates, constituents, and spheres. 
The hidden meaning is an implicit meaning. For example, in the case of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras while emptiness is explicitly taught the paths are only implicitly taught. In the case of tantra, a hidden meaning is, for example, the mind hidden in appearance, the illusory hidden in the conventional, and the quality hidden in attachment. In the case of the mind hidden in appearance, “appearance” refers to the three appearances: the white appearance, red increase, and black near-attainment. That which is hidden is the three isolations: the isolation of body, isolation of speech, and isolation of mind. The quality hidden in attachment refers to the characteristics of the “seal” and ways of relying upon her. While the descriptions of the characteristics of a qualified consort are explicit, the way to rely on her, the melting of the constituent, the induction of the bliss realizing emptiness, and so forth are hidden. 
The illusory hidden in the conventional refers to the illusory body. For example, a magician creates an illusion, such as a beautiful woman, that does not exist in reality yet appears to exist from its own side as a woman, as beautiful, and so forth. The wind with the five light rays is the basis from which the illusory body is established. Such an illusory body is called “the conventional truth.” The fact that the illusory body is the conventional truth is not explicitly mentioned, rather it is called “the stage of the illusory body.” The clear light is the ultimate truth. 

Wednesday afternoon, 21 February 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The “disciple-exposition” is given in private on the basis of a one-to-one instruction, while the “public-exposition” is aimed generally at all members of the targeted audience.  Of the five classes of disciples – i.e., (i) utpala flower-like, (ii) pundarika flower-like,  (iii) lotus-like, (iv) sandalwood-like, and (v) jewel-like – the first four are eligible as a target audience for public-exposition but not for disciple-exposition. The last type is stated to be appropriate for both modes of instruction. These days, even a disciple at the level of the sandalwood type is extremely rare. Although the disciple-exposition is popular within the Sakya teachings, if there are qualified teachers and students, the Gelukpas are also not impoverished of this level of instruction. Sectarian sentiments do not get one anywhere; what is required is to rely on the instructions of teachers.  We need to understand the meaning of the tantras through the application of the hermeneutics of the six boundaries and four modes and apply this to a combined study of the five great explanatory tantras.  

There are two types of exposition: a disciple or student exposition and a public or collective exposition. A disciple exposition is a teaching that is given one-to-one, whereas a public exposition is a teaching that is given to many people at the same time. In the context of mantra, such as the Guhyasamaja Tantra, there are five types of disciples, among whom the jewel-like alone are suitable for the disciple exposition. Thus, the other four types of disciples are suitable to receive only the public exposition, and are not suitable for the disciple exposition. However, since the jewel-like are suitable for the disciple exposition, they are also suitable for the public exposition. In the Sakya tradition the disciple exposition is common, but when there is a qualified teacher and a qualified student it also exists in the Gelug tradition.

One should rely on the oral instructions of a guru or lama who possesses the transmission or lineage. It is not enough just to study texts by oneself, as in this case the lineage that is passed from ear to ear and possesses four validities would be lacking. This is mentioned in the prayer at the end of the long Vajrayogini sadhana. It is only in dependence on the oral instructions that one comes to understand the meaning correctly. 
There is the root tantra of Guhyasamaja and the five great explanatory tantras. The six boundaries or six limits and the four modes were explained earlier. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The great Tsongkhapa says:

The essential points of the path lie sealed in the root tantra Within [hermeneutics of] six boundaries and four modes. By following the explanatory tantras’ guide And guru’s instructions, they become known; it has been taught.

There is no separate set of writings called “Guru’s Instructions;” rather, one must rely on the great treatises of Nagarjuna and his spiritual sons for the knowledge of how to interweave the root and explanatory tantras. Therefore, Tsongkhapa continues with the following:

By grasping this point, … I have found all the essential points of the perfection stage.

“The texts of Nagarjuna, the father, and his spiritual sons” can refer to Nagarjuna and his spiritual son Aryadeva, or to Nagarjuna and his spiritual sons, Aryadeva, Chandrakirti, Buddhapalita, and Nagabodhi. In the terms of tantra, glorious Aryadeva and Chandrakirti are renowned for their excellent explanations. Thus, the essential points of the generation and completion stages are to be understood on the basis of these texts by Nagarjuna and his spiritual sons.

In the context of Guhyasamaja, the completion stage has six stages: the isolation of body, isolation of speech, isolation of mind, illusory body, clear light, and union. One should understand how these six stages are correlated with the root and explanatory tantras. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 12) says:

It is therefore important to combine the reading of the root tantras with its explanatory tantras on the basis of the guru’s instructions. For this, it is first necessary to develop some [intellectual] understanding of the two stages [of the tantra] in order to correctly engage with tantra. My teacher, the protector Vajradhara, told me that the seventh Dalai Lama, Kelsang Gyatso, has stated that this is the significance of Tsongkhapa’s point that is made in his summary of the Four Interwoven Commentaries about how one’s entry into the tantra must be preceded by a study of the five stages.

It is important to gain an understanding of how the root tantra and its explanatory tantras correspond. To do so, one should first gain an understanding of the two stages.

Four Interwoven Commentaries is Lama Tsongkhapa’s explanation of Chandrakirti’s Clear Lamp. After citing some words from the Clear Lamp, Lama Tsongkhapa adds his annotations on the same line, this being called “the straightforward annotations.” Then there are the annotations above, which are annotations written above the citation from the Clear Lamp, and the annotations below, which are annotations written below the citation from the Clear Lamp. One should read the root tantra of the Guhyasamaja Tantra and then the commentary Clear Lamp, followed by the three sets of annotations. Lama Tsongkhapa also wrote the commentary Condensed Outlines and Shoots of Analysis. Aku Sherab Gyatso’s teacher said that the VII Dalai Lama advised that one should first understand the five stages, after which one should enter tantra, that is, listen to and reflect upon the root tantra and its commentaries. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 12) says:

There are two sections to my exposition of the paths of the two stages: 

1. The origin-stories of the tantras 2. The stages of the actual instruction of the experiential guide

First the history of the tantra that was taught is set out. Then the stages of the actual experiential guide or practical guide are explained. This involves the lama explaining something to his disciple and not explaining any more until the disciple actually gains an experience of what has been taught. This is literally called the “red guide,” being likened to peeling off layers of skin until the guts are revealed and then explaining “This is the liver. This is the heart,” and so forth.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 12) says: 1. The origin-stories of the tantras There are many different ways in which the present Buddha [Shakyamuni] has taught the tantras. The Guhyasamaja Root Tantra opens with the following:

Thus have I heard once: The Buddha abided inside the womb of Vajra Queen, the essence of body, speech, and mind of all tathagatas.

The above [passage] relates, in the following order, the context, the perfect congregation, the mandala of the mantra, and the mandala of Guhyasamaja, and is [therefore] subject to four modes of explanation. The literal exposition must be related to the origin of the teaching of the tantras. Thus, [the statement] “Thus have I heard once” indicates the time when the tantra was heard. There are three ways in which we can understand the time of the hearing of the tantra, namely (i) that it was heard at one time, but also at other times; (ii) that it was heard within a single instant; and (iii) that it was heard at one time, but never at others.

The root tantra begins with the forty Sanskrit syllables: E VAM MA YA SHRU TAM E KA SMIN SA MA YE BHA GA VAN SAR VA TA THA GA TA KA YA VAK CHI TTA HRI DA YA VA JRA YO SHID BHA GE SHU BI JA HA RA, which in English are translated as: “Thus have I heard. At one time the Bhagavan, the essence of the exalted body, exalted speech, and exalted mind of all the tathagatas, was abiding in the bhaga of the Vajra Queen.” E VAM is translated as thus; MAYA as I; SHRU TAM as heard; EKA SMIN SA MA YE as at one time; BHA GA VAN, literally “the endowed transcendent destroyer,” has been left as Bhagavan; SAR VA as all; TATHAGATA, literally “the one gone thus,” has been left as tathagata; KA YA as exalted body; VAK as exalted speech; CHI TTA as exalted mind; HRI DA YA as essence; VA JRA has been left as vajra; YO SHID BHA GE as the bhaga or womb of the queen; and SHU BI JA HA RA as abiding. A very extensive explanation can be given regarding this statement, for example, just with respect to the word EVAM there are the three: EVAM of the base, EVAM of the path, and EVAM of the result. The bhaga or womb is triangular in shape like a phenomenon source, the definitive meaning of abiding in it is “abiding in the mandala of the triangular phenomenon source.” The three angles of the triangular phenomenon source represent the three doors of liberation. KAYA (exalted body of a buddha) is that which is composed of many parts. VAK is the exalted speech of a buddha that possesses the sixty-four melodious qualities. CHITTA is the exalted mind of a buddha, that is, the omniscient mind simultaneously realizing modes and varieties.

When was the Guhyasamaja Tantra heard? The time is indicated by “at one time.” From whom was it heard? It was heard from the Bhagavan. Where was he abiding? He was abiding in the center of the mandala, the triangular phenomenon source. What was heard? The Guhyasamaja Tantra was heard. In this way, this single passage sets out the context or the setting in which the Buddha gave the teachings on the Guhyasamaja Tantra. 
In addition, the perfect congregation or retinue is also set out. Who is the perfect retinue for the hearing of the Guhyasamaja Tantra? King Indrabhuti requested the Buddha for this teaching, which would allow him to remain as a layman without taking ordination, and he was the main listener. In response to his request the Buddha taught the Guhyasamaja Tantra. The perfect retinue includes Vajrapani and others. When the Buddha taught a tantra he himself manifested in the aspect of the respective meditational deity, while his retinue of disciples, Ananda and so forth, manifested as Vajrapani and so forth. It is said that the Buddha was always accompanied by eight close bodhisattvas: Kshitigarbha, Akashagarbha, Avalokiteshvara, Vajrapani, Maitreya, Sarvanirvaranavishkambin, Samantabhadra, and Manjushri. Thus, when the Buddha taught the Guhyasamaja Tantra he manifested in the form of Guhyasamaja, and at the same time the eight close bodhisattvas manifested in the aspect of the deities in Guhyasamaja’s retinue. 

Thursday morning, 22 January 2004

The setting of the Heart Sutra is described in the first lines of the sutra:

Thus I have heard. At one time the Bhagavan was residing on Vulture’s Peak near the city of Rajghir. He was accompanied by a great sangha of monks and a great sangha of bodhisattvas. On that occasion the Bhagavan was absorbed in a particular concentration called ‘profound appearance.’

From whom was the Heart Sutra heard? It was heard from the Bhagavan. Where was it heard? It was heard on Vulture’s Peak. Who heard it? It was heard by the retinue: a great sangha of monks – five hundred hearer foe-destroyers – as well as a great sangha of bodhisattvas – the eight close bodhisattva disciples. Similarly, the setting of the Guhyasamaja Tantra is described at the beginning of the tantra:

Thus have I heard. At one time the Bhagavan, the essence of the exalted body, exalted speech, and exalted mind of all the tathagatas, was abiding in the bhaga of the Vajra Queen.

“The dharani mandala” and “the Guhyasamaja mandala,” which are mentioned in the first chapter of the root tantra of Guhyasamaja, will be explained later on. The four – the setting, perfect retinue, the dharani mandala, and the Guhyasamaja mandala – are set out sequentially. They are subject to the four modes of explanation: the word or literal exposition and so forth. The literal exposition is related to the way in which the tantra was taught. There are three interpretations of the statement “Thus have I heard. At one time…”: (i) that it was heard at one time, while other tantras were heard at other times or in other places, (ii) that it was heard within a single instant; and (iii) that it was heard at one time, but not at others – there being tantras that were heard only once and others that were heard more times.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

[The expression] “The essence of the body, speech, and mind of all the tathagatas” is an epithet for Vajradhara, and it is in this sense that the guru is said to be the ultimate embodiment of all refuges. “Abided in the womb of the vajra queen” means that the Buddha was seated within the celestial mansion inside the triangular mandala of the dharmadhatu.  Being within single-pointed meditative equipoise on emptiness, he has destroyed all afflictions. [Hence the word] “womb” indicates space.  This is analogous to [statements we find in the sutras like] “He was immersed in the meditative absorption called ‘the profound illumination’.” 
[The statement] “Beyond and far beyond description” pertains to the congregation; the first qualification [i.e., “beyond”] relates to the congregation, while the second [i.e., “far beyond description”] expresses the immeasurable qualities of the congregation. The [expression] “mantra mandala” subsumes the mantra goddesses into nine and thus reveals the signs of the essential points of the path of great bliss. The [expression] “Guhyasamaja mandala”  narrates how the tantra was taught by creating a mandala in response to [the verses] “That which originates from the encompassed secret...,”  which are the request to teach the mandala of great bliss.  This is the literal reading based on the actual words of the tantra.

“The essence of the exalted body, exalted speech, and exalted mind of all the tathagatas” is an epithet for Vajradhara. In other words, the essence of the exalted body, speech, and mind of all the tathagatas is Vajradhara. This is the essential point of stating that the guru encompasses all the sources of refuge: the Buddha Jewel, Dharma Jewel, and Sangha Jewel. The guru should be seen to be an actual buddha, and for this reason he is called “Guru-Buddha.” The realizations in his mental continuum – true paths and true cessations – are the Dharma Jewel. The fact that the guru possesses the signs of ordination indicates that he is also the Sangha Jewel. The Lama Chopa, Offering to the Spiritual Master, says:

You are the guru, you are the yidam, You are the dakinis and Dharma protectors; From now until enlightenment I shall seek no refuge other than you. In this life, the bardo, and all future lives Hold me with your hook of compassion, Save me from the fears of samsara and nirvana, Grant all attainments, be my constant friend, And guard me from interferences.

“Abiding in the womb of the vajra queen” indicates that the Buddha was abiding in the center of the inestimable mansion located inside the triangular phenomenon source. Thus, the womb or bhaga, which is itself triangular in shape, refers to the triangular phenomenon source. The definitive meaning of the phenomenon source is the three meditative stabilizations of the three doors of liberation: the meditative stabilization of emptiness, the meditative stabilization of signlessness, and the meditative stabilization of wishlessness. The meditative stabilization of the door of liberation of emptiness realizes that all phenomena lack inherent existence; the meditative stabilization of the door of liberation of signlessness realizes that causes lack signs of inherent existence; and the meditative stabilization of the door of liberation of wishlessness realizes that there is no inherently existent wished for result. In short, all phenomena are empty of inherent existence; all signs of the inherent existence of all the phenomena that are causes are pacified; and all phenomena included in results are not inherently existent wished for results. Thus, that the Buddha abides “in the womb of the vajra queen” means that he is single-pointedly absorbed on emptiness and is analogous to statements such as “He was absorbed in the meditative absorption called ‘profound appearance,’” which occurs at the beginning of the Heart Sutra.

In short, the bhaga or womb indicates the place. The womb of the female consort is represented in Hindu holy places by the room inside which a lingam is located. 
The Guhyasamaja Tantra continues, saying: “Beyond and far beyond description.” “Beyond descriptions” refers to the congregation or retinue of disciples, whereas “far beyond description” refers to the inexpressible excellent qualities of the retinue. 

The words “dharani mandala” (translated as “mantra mandala” above) condense the dharani goddesses into nine, and represent the essential points of the path of great bliss. Because the main male and female deities of the mandala enter into union, producing great bliss, the words “great bliss” indicate the union of the male and female deities. In short, the principal deity generates bliss in dependence on the pleasure of sexual union with the female deity. The words “assembled mandala” refer to the description of the inestimable mansion, which is square in shape, has four doors, four archways with eleven layers, pillars, and so forth. The verse “That which arises from the Secret Assembly,” found in the root tantra of Guhyasamaja or the Clear Lamp, is a request to teach the mandala of great bliss. In response, the Buddha emanated the mandala of Guhyasamaja and taught this tantra. In short, when the Buddha was abiding in this world he was requested to explain the mandala of great bliss that arises from the Secret Assembly (Guhyasamaja), and in response he emanated the entire supporting and supported mandalas with its thirty-two deities and then taught the Guhyasamaja Tantra. This is the literal reading of the actual words of the tantra.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

However Butön Rinpoche, in his history of Guhyasamaja, reports on an origin story [of the tantra] as told by the past Tibetan masters, a story that appeals to the Tibetan mind. On this account, Indrabhuti – a king from the Western part of India – saw many monks running back and forth and many unusual animals flying in the sky when the fully enlightened Buddha turned the wheel of Dharma on this earth. In the morning, they were going from east to the west and in the evening, from west to the east. He wondered what the significance of the vision was and found that it related to the “hearers” [disciples], who were part of the circle of congregation around Buddha Shakyamuni, who lived in central India, towards the east from where he was. And the moment [Indrabhuti] had the wish for this great teacher, who possessed such a perfect congregation, to appear, at that very instant the Buddha knew this and instantaneously arrived, along with his retinue. 

Butön Rinpoche was one of the main teachers of Lama Tsongkhapa. He recounts the story that when Buddha Shakyamuni was alive, King Indrabhuti, who lived in the western part of India, saw many monks moving back and forth from the east to west in the morning and from the west to east in the evening, and many creatures never seen before flying in the sky. Wondering what this meant, he was told that they belonged to the retinue of Buddha Shakyamuni who at that time was abiding in central India. King Indrabhuti made a wish for the Buddha and his retinue to appear in front of him, and immediately the Buddha and his retinue appeared there in his palace.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The king requested the Buddha to teach a method for [attaining] enlightenment without having to discard the acts of sensuality. The Buddha dissolved his appearance as one “free of attachment” and assumed the form of a universal monarch. He thus initiated the king into the mandala of Guhyasamaja and taught him the tantras and gave the pith instructions. The king, together with his retinue, attained full enlightenment within a single lifetime by following the path of glorious Guhyasamaja. The king then revealed the Dharma to all of his subjects, each of whom became enlightened and departed to their own buddha realms. At that very site a naturally-arisen celestial palace of Heruka came into being. The land was then overrun by water, forming a vast sea filled with nagas [i.e., serpent beings]. Vajrapani gave Dharma teaching to the nagas, from amongst whom the males became heroes and the females, heroines; thus they became enlightened. A town was later formed on the site where the sea dried and it is the present-day Udyana [modern day Swat valley in Pakistan], of which Visukalpa was one of the kings. He imparted the complete instruction to Naga-born Yogini, who was originally a nagin and later became a yogini and a member of the lineage. From her, the lineage passed on to Saraha and then to Nagarjuna, and so on. 

King Indrabhuti requested the Buddha to teach a method that would enable him to attain enlightenment without needing to give up objects of desire, such as his queen and so forth. At that time the Buddha was appearing in the form of a fully-ordained monk free from attachment and wearing the three robes, but after the request he transformed into the aspect of a universal or wheel-turning king surrounded by a retinue of female consorts, indicating that it was possible to attain enlightenment in this state. The Buddha then emanated the Guhyasamaja mandala, and from within it he conferred the entire Guhyasamaja empowerment on the king, including the vase empowerment, secret empowerment, wisdom-exalted wisdom empowerment, and word empowerment. The purpose of giving the king the empowerment was to transform him into a suitable vessel for the teachings of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. The Buddha then taught the king the tantra, that is, the root tantra of Guhyasamaja, and the pith instructions regarding how to practice this tantra. In dependence on the path of Guhyasamaja, King Indrabhuti together with his retinue attained enlightenment in a single lifetime. The king then taught this tantra to his subjects who also attained buddhahood in that same life and went to their own buddha realms. In this way the kingdom became completely empty and a temple of Heruka naturally arose there. The land was then flooded with water, forming a vast sea filled with nagas. Vajrapani gave Dharma teaching to the nagas, whereby the males became heroes and the females, heroines, and then they too became enlightened. Later on when this water had dried up, a town was formed on this site, called Udyana, which is said to correspond to the present day area of Orissa in Western Bengal.

Visukalpa, one of the kings of Udyana, taught the complete instruction to Naga-born Yogini, who was originally a nagin and later became a yogini. She is included among the lineage lamas of the Guhyasamaja Tantra and is mentioned in the Guhyasamaja sadhana. From her, the lineage was passed on to Saraha, then to Arya Nagarjuna, and so on. Originally Nagarjuna was called “Glorious Bhikshu,” whereas he was given the name “Nagarjuna” because he went to the naga land where he was venerated by the nagas. That this would happen had been prophesied by the Buddha. 

Thursday afternoon, 22 January 2004

With respect to the statement “Beyond and far beyond description,” the Clear Lamp says that “beyond description” refers to the retinue or congregation, whereas “far beyond description” refers to the buddha lands, which are beyond description because they are as numberless as particles.

Who is the I of “Thus have I heard”? The Clear Lamp by Chandrakirti says that it is Vajrapani.

The Clear Lamp says that “(i) that it was heard at one time, while others were heard at others” refers to other tantras that had been heard at other times or in other places, indicating that Vajrapani had heard many teachings.

The nine goddesses of the dharani mandala are: Lochana, Mamaki, Pandaravasini, Tara, Rupavajra, Shaptavajra, Ghandevajra, Rasavajra, and Sparshavajra. When the Buddha manifested as Vairochana, he emanated these nine goddesses from his body. What did they do? They entered into union with Vairochana, whereby bliss was produced.

“The essential points of the path of great bliss” refers to the fact that due to the union of the male and female consorts bliss is produced, whereby the exalted wisdom of bliss and emptiness is generated.

In short, the root tantra of Guhyasamaja begins with the statement: “Thus have I heard. At one time the Bhagavan, the essence of the exalted body, exalted speech, and exalted mind of all the tathagatas, was abiding in the bhaga of the Vajra Queen.” Here the title “the Bhagavan” indicates the perfect teacher, whereas the rest of the passage indicates the perfect place. Then it continues with the words “Beyond and far beyond description,” which indicate the perfect retinue.

“That which originates from the Secret Assembly…” is the request to teach the mandala of great bliss. The entire verse read:

That which originates from the Secret Assembly, The secret of all the tathagatas, That which is the assembled vajra essence; Please Bhagavan explain this.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The following verses record the lineage:

The compiler Vajrapani who collected all the secrets… to To Chandrakirti and so on, the masters of the lineage…

There are two traditions regarding the lineage or transmission of the Guhyasamaja Tantra. The first lineage is: from Vajradhara to Vajrapani, to Lobpay Dorje, to Krishnacharya, to Lama Trinkyi Shukchen, to Je Rinpoche Go (Go Lotsawa), to Ngarpa Senge Gyaltsen, to Dok Yeshe Senge, to Dok Aryadeva, to Lentse Nyima Cham, to Hlakpa Rinchen Drak, to Thur Hlawa Tsultrim Kyab, to Tang Phewa Phagpa Kyab , to Serdingpa Zhon, to Nu Od, to Choku Ozer, to Phagpa Od, to Choje Buton Rinchen Drub, to Sonam Gyaltsen, to Namkha Zangpo, to Rendawa, and to Tsongkhapa.

The other lineage is: from Vajradhara to Lodro Rinchen, to Arya Nagarjuna, to Matadhipa, to Telopa, to Narotapa, to Marpa Lotsawa, to Tshurton Wangki Dorje, to Khonton Gang pa Kirti, to Jagangpa Sonam Rinchen, to Thur Hlawa Tsultrim Kyab, to Tang Phewa Phagpa Kyab, to Serdingpa Zhon Nu Od, to Choku Ozer, to Phagpa Od, to Choje Buton Rinchen Drub, to Khyungpo Hlay Pa Zhunnu Sonam, to Tsongkhapa.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

As the following verses intimate, the personages who are responsible for bringing the transmission of this instruction to Tibet are the great Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo, Patsap [Nyima Drak], Chak [Lotsawa], etc. [Thus we find in the sadhana the following:]

By the force of aspirations to uphold the Buddha’s sublime Dharma…

Amongst many of these great translators, the most renowned [in relation to Guhyasamaja] were Marpa Lotsawa and Gö Lotsawa. Lodrak Marpa Lotsawa Chökyi Lödrö sought teachings from such masters as the great pandita Naropa and from him received all the tantras and their associated pith instructions. Although he received the teaching on the exposition of [Chandrakirti’s] Clear Lamp, the transmission of this text was never established . Tsongkhapa takes Marpa as a valid authority [on Guhyasamaja] and cites the few passages attributed to him. Marpa had disciples such as the “four pillars,” and if we are to judge by Milarepa’s Hundred Thousand Songs, [Marpa’s teachings] are authentic. As regards Ngoktön Chödor and Metön of Tsangrong [region], the Treatise [Tsongkhapa’s Lamp Thoroughly Illuminating the Five Stages] makes a reference to a certain “commentary of the tantra by Ronyam Dorje, the Khampa disciple of Tsur,” etc. It also makes such references as “Ngok says this” and “Me states that,” thus giving the impression that, on the whole, the works of these masters are valid, though they may not reflect a high level of clarity and depth.

The great translator Lotsawa Rinchen Sangpo was born in the tenth century. His present reincarnation is a layman, who is a Member of Parliament. There are no recognized incarnations of Patsap Nyima Drak and Chak Lotsawa, whereas the reincarnation of Marpa Lotasawa is Serkong Dorje Chang. A Nyingma lama who lives in Parping, Nepal is said to be the reincarnation of Gö Lotsawa.

Lodrak Marpa Lotsawa Chökyi Lödrö received teachings from his master Naropa. The four pillar-like disciples of Marpa are Milarepa, Ngoktön Chödor, Metön Tsönpo, and Ronyam Dorje. The “commentary of the tantra by Ronyam Dorje” perhaps refers to a commentary that he wrote on the root tantra alone. Lama Tsongkhapa quotes the commentaries by Ngog and Me, which however are not completely correct. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Marpa was apparently very strict with his instructions, so that he gave mostly one set of practices like tummo [inner heat] to each of his students, which resulted in his teachings becoming dispersed. It appears that although the tradition of undertaking the practice of all five stages on one seat did exist, [in Tibet] this was not well known. The tradition became almost extinct until Tsongkhapa wrote his Completion of the Five Stages on [One] Sitting. Further, to provide more extensive exposition [of the perfection stage], Tsongkhapa wrote his Lamp Thoroughly Illuminating , thus going into great depth and detail regarding the meanings of many of the terms and the practices that they pertain to.

Marpa gave instructions to a few students at a time, due to which his teachings later became dispersed. His most renowned teaching is that on the Six Yogas of Naropa, which include tummo or inner heat and so forth. Although the tradition of undertaking the practice of all five stages on one cushion did exist, it was not well known. When it had almost disappeared, Tsongkhapa revived it by writing Completion of the Five Stages on [One] Sitting. This text is neither particularly short nor particularly long. The five stages are the generation stage, the isolation of mind, the illusory body, the clear light, and union. In this context the isolation of body and isolation of speech are included in the retinue of the isolation of mind. The Lamp Thoroughly Illuminating the Five Stages is an extensive commentary on the Guhyasamaja Tantra. The generation stage of Guhyasamaja is mainly explained by Khedrub Je’s Ocean of Attainments: the Generation Stage.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

In works such as The Four Interwoven Commentaries, although Gö Lotsawa’s Thousand Doses in One is treated as authoritative [by Tsongkhapa], there are parts [of Tsongkhapa’s works] where the actual wording of the text is not followed to its letter. So it seems that on the exposition of the five stages, Gö Lotsawa does not carry quite the same authority as Marpa Lotsawa. 

Lama Tsongkhapa considers the Thousand Doses by Go Lotsawa to be a valid text, however it differs from Marpa Lotsawa’s text. The Four Interwoven Commentaries are the commentary Clear Lamp together with the straightforward annotations, which are mainly based on Go Lotsawa’s translation, and the annotations above and the annotations below, which are based Patsab Lotsawa and Chak Lotsawa’s translations. The Clear Lamp does not exactly follow the Guhyasamaja Root Tantra.

Friday morning, 22 January 2004

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Gö Lotsawa, who is known [also] as Gö Khukpa Latse, was born in Tanak, a region in the Tsang province. He is reputed to have studied with seventy-two Indian masters. On the cycle of texts related to Guhyasamaja, he studied especially with Prince Meghavegin, Nagakoti from the fortress of Nepal, Cahadu from the city of Nepal, and Kalasamayavajra. From all of these masters, Gö received complete expositions of the root tantra and commentary on the two stages. Thus both Marpa and Gö Lotsawa possessed the transmissions of the initiation, commentarial guide, exposition of the root tantra and also, the exposition of [Chandrakirti’s] Clear Lamp. Nevertheless, owing to the extensiveness of their approaches, it has become the received view that the transmission for the commentaries on the two stages came through Marpa, and the exposition of the root tantra and Clear Lamp, through Gö Lotsawa. Because of this, Tsongkhapa has stated in his Shoots of Analysis that Marpa’s tradition excels in instruction, while Gö’s system excels in exposition.

Gö Lotsawa studied with many masters. He received the explanation of the root tantra and its commentary on the two stages of Guhyasamaja from Prince Meghavegin, Nagakoti from the fortress of Nepal, Cahadu from the city of Nepal, and Kalasamayavajra. In this way, he received the explanation of the root tantra based on Chandrakirti’s Clear Lamp and the commentary on the entire generation and completion stages. With respect to the generation stage of Guhyasamaja there are forty-nine points, whereas with respect to the completion stage there are six stages: the isolation of body, isolation of speech, isolation of mind, illusory body, clear light, and union. The generation stage includes the practice of taking the three bodies into the path: taking death as the path to the truth body, taking the intermediate state as the path to the enjoyment body, and taking birth as the path to the emanation body. In general the generation stage is said to be a contrived yoga.

Both Marpa and Gö Lotsawa possessed the transmissions of the initiation, commentarial guide, exposition of the root tantra and also, the exposition of Chandrakirti’s Clear Lamp, however, the transmission or lineage that includes Marpa is better known, due to which there is a difference in the degree of their renown. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

With respect to initiations, there are lineages stemming both from Marpa and Gö Lotsawa. Therefore, Butön Rinpoche received both these lineages in their entirety from his teacher, Phakpa Ö. The great Tsongkhapa received from his teacher Rendawa and from Khyungpo Lhepa, a student of Butön, the transmissions of all the teachings related to Guhyasamaja available in Tibet belonging to the traditions of both Marpa and Gö. This is not limited to the teachings of Guhyasamaja alone; in fact, there is no instruction that existed in Tibet that Tsongkhapa had not received, known about, or subjected to careful scrutiny. Therefore, the tradition of great Tsongkhapa excels in all systems of exposition.

Tsongkhapa received the transmissions of Guhyasamaja from Rendawa and from Khyungpo Lhepa of Tsang, nowadays called Shangpa. Lama Tsongkhapa not only received teachings on Guhyasamaja but also on all other subjects.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

During the early dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet, because of the presence of Shantarakshita and his disciple [Kamalashila], the philosophy is believed to have been that of Svatantrika-Madhyamaka. Kamalashila refuted the rhetoric of “sudden” and “gradual” approaches introduced by the Chinese monk Hvashang Mohoyen, which led the then monarch [Trisong Detsen] to make a pronouncement decreeing that the philosophy of Nagarjuna be upheld as supreme. 

There are the two periods – an earlier dissemination and a later dissemination – of Buddhism in Tibet. During the earlier dissemination Shantarakshita, a proponent of the Svatantrika-Madhyamaka school, was invited to Tibet. Kamalashila was his spiritual son, and Haribhadra also received extensive teachings, mainly on the Perfection, that is, the Ornament for Clear Realizations, from him over a period of seventeen years.

At that time the view of the Chinese monk Hvashang Mohoyen was widespread in Tibet, he asserted the view of the sudden and gradual, or simultaneous and successive (gcig char pa dang rim gyis pa). He propounded that all conceptions are objects of abandonment because they bind the mental continuum. He explained this with the analogy that when someone is trapped in a net, he is trapped whether the net is made of gold or of iron, saying that, likewise, conceptions that are compassion, the mind of enlightenment, and so forth are to be abandoned because they are conceptions. He said that one should remain with an inattentive mind. In order to refute this view, Kamalashila was invited to publicly debate this subject with Hvashang Mohoyen at Samye Monastery in Tibet. The debate was attended by the king, Trisong Detsen, as well as Shantarakshita, and many others. Prior to the debate an agreement was made that if Kamalashila were to lose the debate all his followers would from then onward follow Hvashang Mohoyen, and vice versa if Hvashang Mohoyen were to lose. Kamalashila began the debate: “Is the conception that all conceptions are to be abandoned not a conception?” Hvashang Mohoyen was unable to respond. He was also unable to respond to the successive questions, due to which he ran away, leaving behind a shoe in his hurry to escape. However, the fact that he left a shoe behind indicated that in the future some Tibetans would continue to uphold his view. In fact, they say: “It does not exist because it is not seen by the Buddha. It is not non-existent because it is the basis of cyclic existence and nirvana.” This is the view of existence-non-existence. Some time after his victory, Kamalashila composed his three volumes on the Stages of Meditation, which are frequently commented by His Holiness the Dalai Lama. As a result of this debate King Trisong Detsen decreed that Nagarjuna’s view that all phenomena are empty of inherent existence should be upheld in Tibet. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya (Tibetan text page 17) says:

As tantra was practiced in secret, during the reign of Trisong Detsen corruption of the tantras gradually occurred, whereby the instructions were often passed on simply from father to son. This led to an atmosphere of moral decline such that people had no restraint over indulgence in excessive womanizing and alcohol abuse [on the pretext of tantric practice].

Because tantra was practiced in private during the reign of Trisong Detsen, it was passed from father to son, each time becoming more corrupted and leading to excessive womanizing and misuse of alcohol. So-called tantric practitioners would offer a large quantity of alcohol, for example, during the tsog ceremony, and at the end of the puja would drink it until they became drunk. In this way the practice of secret mantra degenerated. This has also happened more recently in Missouri, India, where some Nyingma practitioners were allowed to offer tsog in a special temple but at the end, having become drunk, they vomited and urinated in the hall.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

The monarchs of Ngari, Lha Lama Yeshe Ö and his nephew, were deeply suspicious of these tantras and so began creating new translations of the sutras and tantras from India. The old literature, though adulterated, was not totally abandoned but was classified as the “old tantras” and is extant to this day. Although the Guhyasamaja Tantra was translated during the earlier dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet, Marpa and Gö translated it afresh. In the realm of philosophy, Hvashang propagated a false view during this early period. Thus Tsongkhapa writes in his Great Exposition of the Stages of the Path the following: “During the period of early dissemination of the doctrine…”

The bodhisattva, Yeshe Ö, and his nephew, Jangchub Ö, made new translations of the sutras and tantras from India. Since the older translations, although adulterated, could not be thrown out, they were put aside and given the name “the old tantras.” These are still extant today, and are included in the volumes of the Kangyur, the Translations of the Buddha’s Words. Likewise, although the Guhyasamaja Tantra was translated during the earlier dissemination of Buddhism in Tibet, Marpa and Gö translated it afresh. During this early period Hvashang propagated his false view.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Even Tsongkhapa himself held this view of “‘non-thinking’ focused on the indiscernible reality” during the earlier part of his life. It is said that once at a prayer congregation at Kyormolung, while meditating on the four-fold emptiness from the Heart Sutra, such as “form is empty” and so on, Tsongkhapa became totally immersed in meditation. He was found left behind, leaning on a pillar even when everyone had departed from the temple. Today, one can see this pillar, which is now known as “the pillar of meditation.” 

In the earlier part of his life Lama Tsongkhapa received teachings on Hvashang Mohayen’s view of non-thinking, which left strong imprints on his mental continuum. It is recounted that during an assembly in Kyormolung when the Heart Sutra – “Form is empty. Emptiness is form. Form is not other than emptiness. Emptiness is not other than form.” – was being recited, Tsongkhapa became totally immersed in meditation. He remained leaning against a pillar even when everyone else had departed from the temple. At the time of Aku Sherab Gyatso, this pillar was still extant whereas later the whole monastery of Kyormolung was destroyed by the Chinese.

There is also a story about Lama Lhangdor Rinpoche of Sera Monastery, who during the assemblies would lean against a particular juniper tree. Eventually this tree dried up, and it is recounted that this was due to the power of his meditative stabilization of the totality of fire. This tree was still there when I went to Tibet in 1988. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

That in the early part of his life Tsongkhapa was inclined towards the above philosophy of “non-thinking” is evidenced from numerous references to this view in [his text] Golden Rosary. Gungthang Rinpoche states that there are also similar indications of this in other early writings of Tsongkhapa, such as his Expressions of Sadasharudita’s Realization. Later, Tsongkhapa met with Lama Umapa, who acted as a medium for Manjushri and from whom Tsongkhapa was later to receive many teachings.

Thus, in the early part of his life Lama Tsongkhapa was inclined toward the view of non-thinking. Essential Explanation, a commentary on the Ornament for Clear Realizations by Gyeltsab Je, is based on teachings he received from Lama Tsongkhapa. Gungthang Rinpoche states that there are also similar indications of this in other early writings of Tsongkhapa, such as his Expressions of Saduprarudita’s Realization. However, later on in his life Lama Tsongkhapa met Lama Umapa, Pawo Dorje, who acted as an intermediary between Lama Tsongkhapa and Manjushri, as at that time Lama Tsongkhapa was not yet able to see and speak with Manjushri directly. Thus, Manjushri would give teachings, which Lama Umapa would transmit to Lama Tsongkhapa.

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Tsongkhapa asked Manjushri:

Does the view of non-thinking represent the philosophical standpoint of Prasangika-Madhyamaka or Svatantrika-Madhyamaka? [Manjushri replied:] Neither! [Lama Tsongkhapa asked:] What must I do then? [Manjushri replied:] Take what I teach you as a seed. Pray to your gurus by viewing them as inseparable from Manjushri, undertake an in-depth study of the great Indian treatises, and engage in practices of purification and accumulation of merits. If you combine these three elements well, you will attain a flawless view in a not-too-distant future. And, if they are in conflict with the great treatises, it is the so-called oral instructions that need to be discarded. Never abandon the great treatises.

In this dialogue, Manjushri clearly states that the view of non-thinking is neither the view of the Prasangika-Madhyamaka nor that of the Svatantrika-Madhyamaka schools. Manjushri told Lama Tsongkhapa to take this teaching as a seed, that is, a brief note on an important point, and on this basis to analyze the great texts. In addition, he told him (1) to make prayers to his gurus while viewing them as inseparable from Manjushri, (2) to purify obscurations, and (3) to accumulate merit.

Merit is accumulated by such practices as making offerings of water bowls and mandala offerings, doing prostrations, and so forth. In short, Lama Tsongkhapa was advised by Manjushri to do the practices contained in the seven-limb prayer. 
With respect to purification, there are four types of obscurations that need to be purified: karmic obscurations, fruitional obscurations, afflictive obscurations, and obscurations to knowledge. Among them, the main one that needs to be purified is the karmic obscurations – obscurations due to having committed the ten non-virtuous actions, the five actions of immediate retribution, the five secondary actions of immediate retribution, and heavy negative action of having abandoned the Dharma. The main obscuration to the realization of emptiness is the acquired conception of a self, it must be purified in order to attain the correct view, the wisdom realizing emptiness. While Lama Tsongkhapa had already realized emptiness, for the benefit of sentient beings Manjushri told him that if he were to combine these three practices he would soon attain a flawless view. 
Manjushri also advised Lama Tsongkhapa to discard whatever does not accord with that taught in the great treatises. 

Sacred Words of Akshobhya says:

Therefore, through the combination of the above three factors, Tsongkhapa acquired the perfect view of profound emptiness. However, it is said that he did not reach the culmination of his understanding of tantra until he reached [the age of] fifty. It cannot be the case that Tsongkhapa was not versed in the exposition of tantra. Rather, this pertains to the statement that a thorough knowledge of the limits of reality’s expanse is dependent on tantra. This is because, in order to engage spontaneously in the acts of serving others while abiding unstirred within meditative equipoise on the ultimate nature of reality, it is essential to cease conceptual thoughts that lead to objectification. This cessation can be achieved by absorbing into the central channel all gross and subtle winds, which cause the occurrence of these conceptions. And it is only in the tantras, not the sutras, where this process of dissolution is taught. Therefore we can say that Tsongkhapa’s philosophical analysis did not reach its culmination until he gained an experiential understanding of tantra. After this, he wrote many works of great eloquence and significance.

Although Lama Tsongkhapa had earlier gained a complete realization of emptiness, he did not gain a complete understanding of tantra until he was 50 years of age. This is because in order to have a complete understanding of emptiness, it is necessary to dissolve the coarse and subtle winds, which cause the eighty indicative conceptions to arise, into the central channel. The eighty indicative conceptions are divided in terms of the three appearances: 33 in relation to white appearance, 40 in relation to red increase, and 7 in relation to black near-attainment. However, even though they are divided in this way, in reality they all dissolve prior to the white appearance, that is, they dissolve when the consciousness constituent dissolves into the white appearance. Due to the dissolution of the eighty indicative conceptions, the winds in the right and left channels enter, abide, and dissolve in the central channel. When the coarse winds cease, also the coarse conceptions cease. However, at this time the subtle conceptions still remain.

There are five root winds and five secondary or branch winds, which are taught only in tantra. Lama Tsongkhapa gained an experience of tantra and completed the practice of tantra, and then composed many excellent explanations, totaling eighteen volumes. 

STUDENT: It was said that the practice of Yamantaka uses anger in the path. In the case of attachment, it is used to melt the bodhichitta, which induces the bliss realizing emptiness. Is anger used to melt the bodhichitta in the completion stage or just as a means to eliminate interferences in the generation stage? GESHE JAMPA GYATSO: Are you asking: “How is anger taken into the path? How is it used to melt the bodhichitta?” Generally speaking, anger can be used to melt the bodhichitta; for example, when a man out of anger has sexual intercourse with that man’s wife due to which the bodhichitta melts! However, in the case of Yamantaka anger is not taken into the path for the purpose of melting the drop, but is done in order to show a wrathful or rough aspect, completely without anger, in order to eliminate beings who are creating interferences. While these beings perceive hatred, which is a wish to harm, wrath is similar in aspect to this but does not wish to harm.

END

guhyasamaja_commentary_by_aku_sherab_gyatso_and_geshe_jampa_gyatso_guh_gjg01.txt · Last modified: 2016/02/01 07:49 (external edit)