The Essence of the
from the analysis of the
'Potential for the Rare and Supreme'
Ultimate Explanatory Mahayana Teaching on the Uttara Tantra
By Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche
Chapter 5 Buddha-nature: The Last Four Vajra Points
The last four vajra points are the buddha-essence,
enlightenment, the buddha qualities, and the buddha activities.
Each vajra point
will be divided into two parts: a general and then a more detailed
description. The following introduction is a description of the last
four vajra points. These points cannot be understood directly by
The Nature of Each Point
That those three, excellent, rare and supreme arise from the suchness,
polluted and unpolluted, the qualities of immaculate Buddhahood and the
victor's deeds, such is the domain of knowledge for those who perceive
The nature of sugatagarbha or Buddha-nature is
unpolluted suchness which is the true condition of phenomena when it is
not distorted by illusion or the confusion created by the mind. In the
example in which a rope is mistaken for a snake, if one understands the
nature of the rope, one is not afraid of it. Normally, the
suchness of phenomena is distorted by the illusion of samsara, even
though the actual nature of this suchness is emptiness and
clarity. In this
way, polluted suchness is similar to Buddha-nature . If one has a
jewel covered with mud and the mind is removed, the purity of the jewel
is revealed. Because the nature of the jewel is pure, one can remove
the impurities and it will still retain its purity. In the same way,
Buddha-nature is stainless when the emotional and cognitive
are removed. The presence of unpolluted suchness which is Buddhahood
will appear. Once all the impurities are removed, the suchness
can manifest in all of its purity and is revealed as enlightenment
the second of the last four vajra qualities. When the
suchness has been purified, all the qualities inherent in this suchness
These are the buddha qualities which are the third
of the last
four vajra points. The buddha qualities represent total fulfillment for
oneself and others. They are the fulfillment of one's own
potential because all the causes of suffering, karma, have been
removed. This happiness is complete and unchanging because all causes
of happiness are present. From the qualities of Buddhahood spring the
power to help other beings which is the fourth of the last
vajra points, buddha activity. The realization of Buddhahood is the
supreme way to help all beings and as long as samsara continues
Buddhahood will continue to help an infinite number of beings. Buddha
activity gives more than temporary relief from suffering, It permits
beings to achieve ultimate happiness.
It is said that before we see the three jewels as
rare and supreme, we see them as a refuge with the Buddha being the
ultimate refuge. But where do these refuges come from? They arise from
the above four qualities of unpolluted suchness, the qualities of
Buddhahood, and the activities of Buddhahood. Through these qualities
one can achieve the three refuges. It is difficult for ordinary persons
to understand how these last four vajra points can bring about
the realization of the three jewels because only Buddhas are capable of
perceiving this directly.
The potential for these three rare and supreme gems is the domain of
knowledge of the omniscient. In respective order there are four reasons
that these four aspects are inconceivable. They are:
The Buddha can perceive the last four vajra
points and understand
them fully. The three jewels are the fruition of the realization of the
path. Only the Buddhas can see the causal ground because they are
endowed with pure vision of both exactly what is and the variety of all
phenomena. Therefore Buddha -nature , enlightenment, the buddha
qualities, and buddha activities are inconceivable to ordinary beings.
Pure yet accompanied by defilement, completely undefiled yet to be
purified, truly inseparable qualities, total non-thought and
There are four reasons why the four vajra points are
inconceivable to ordinary beings.
First, the essence of enlightenment is inconceivable
because it is pure but is also accompanied by defilements. The essence
of enlightenment is perfectly and naturally pure from the very
beginning having never known any stain. Yet it is accompanied by
defilements. This sounds like a paradox. The thought that suchness is
present with defilements is quite inconceivable to ordinary beings. If
one tries to meditate on this, one cannot experience it directly;
therefore it can perceived only by the Buddhas.
Second, enlightenment is inconceivable to ordinary
beings because enlightenment is completely free of defilements, and yet
must be purified. Buddha -nature is completely pure and at the same
time only through gradual purification Buddha -nature manifest in its
full purity (enlightenment). There is a logical contradiction between
the original purity and the need to purify that purity through
Third, the buddha qualities are inconceivable
because they are inseparable from Buddha -nature . From the beginning
all the qualities of Buddhahood are present in Buddha -nature , yet one
achieves all these qualities only when one reaches Buddhahood.
Fourth, buddha activity is inconceivable because it
is both spontaneous and nonconceptual. Buddha activity occurs without
any effort on the part of the Buddha . This activity responds to what
people need, yet the Buddha does not need to think, 'I must do this for
person.' However, in every instant the appropriate activity occurs
exactly in the way it suits the needs of each and every being.
there is that to be realized, the realization, the attributes of
realization and that which brings realization, then respectively, the first point is the prime cause, that
to be purified, and the remaining three points constitute conditions.
The reasons that these vajra points are
inconceivable is they appear to be paradoxes. However, closer
examination reveals no real contradiction. First, the nature or essence
of Buddha -nature is perfectly pure. The impurities, the defilements,
are only the fruition of a mistaken view and therefore have nothing to
do with the actual essence of Buddhahood. Second, the defilements can
be removed because they are not an inherent aspect of
this reason, they can not pollute its nature . If one examines the
of Buddhahood there is no real contradiction either, because from the
viewpoint of the actual nature these qualities have always been present
in the essence of Buddhahood. When they are covered up by impurities,
these qualities manifest as activity. When impurities are removed, the
qualities display their presence as enlightened action. This is similar
to what happens on a cloudy day. When the sun is covered by
clouds, the sunlight cannot manifest; however the light itself has not
been changed. In the same way, when the qualities of enlightenment are
obscured they do not manifest but they are still present. The fourth
point of activity does not involve a contradiction.
Either Buddha activity is spontaneous, effortless, and
nonconceptual. It is the result of all the previous wishes and
resolutions and prayers
made by the Buddhas when they were on the path to enlightenment. From
the strong impetus of previous practice all this activity can arise
spontaneously and without any conceptualization.
The Realization of
these Vajra Points
The essence of Buddhahood is actual realization. The
attributes that spring from this realization are the qualities that
enable other beings
to develop realization. Buddha -nature constitutes the causal condition
and the other three vajra points constitute the result which makes it
possible for other beings to be purified.
The buddha essence is always present in everyone because the dharmakaya
of perfect Buddhahood pervades everything, this suchness is
undifferentiated and they have the potential.
28. It is said that all beings
possess the essence of Buddhahood since the buddha jnana has always
been present in them, also because the immaculate nature is non-dual
and the buddha potential is named after its fruition.
The Buddha taught three turnings of the wheel of
dharma. In the first turning the Buddha taught the four noble truths
which are principally7 related to the relative level of reality. We
perceive the nature of suffering which is the first noble truth. The
origin of this suffering is to be found in all our previous actions and
emotional obscurations. The third noble truth, that of the cessation of
appears when one eliminates these two causes of suffering. Finally, in
order to realize the truth of cessation, one has to enter the proper
path, which is the truth of the path. The Buddha then explained that
one has must progress along five different levels of the path before
reaching complete enlightenment. In the second turning the Buddha
taught the ultimate nature of phenomena. He said that all phenomena are
empty by nature . In the third turning the Buddha went further when he
explained that this emptiness of phenomena does not mean simple absence
of objects. When beings are in the impure phase, they still possess the
essence of Buddhahood. When they reach Buddhahood, the two-fold
jnana appears: the knowledge of
exactly what is and the variety of phenomena. The third turning exceeds
the meaning of the first two turnings.
The Uttara Tantra relates to the third turning
because it is concerned with the presence of Buddha -nature in all
beings. There are three reasons that Buddha -nature is present in all
beings. First, the dharmakaya of the Buddha pervades all phenomena and
can give rise to any phenomena and in this way, is present everywhere.
Second, the suchness or the actual nature of nirvana and samsaric
phenomena is undifferentiated. There is no 'good suchness' which
relates to nirvana and no 'bad suchness' which
relates to samsara. There is only one suchness of the nature of all
phenomena. Third, all beings possess the foundation of Buddha -nature
which and when it is purified can develop into full Buddhahood.
Qualities of Buddha-nature
The meaning signified by the ultimate space should be understood through its nature, cause,
result, function, endowments,
approach, phases, all-pervasiveness, inalterability, and the inseparability of
There are ten different aspects by which one can
approach an understanding of the essence of Buddhahood. These are
cause, result, influence, endowments, approach, the various phases,
all-pervasiveness, inalterability, and inseparability of its
Like the purity of a jewel, space, or water Its essence is always
undefiled. It emerges through aspiration for dharma, highest prajna,
meditation, and compassion.
31. Its qualities resemble
those of a valued gem because it is powerful, of space because it is
unalterable, and of water because it moistens.
The nature of Buddha-nature is explained by means
of three examples those of a jewel, the sky, and water. The
significance of these examples will be explained later. The dharmakaya
is like a jewel because it is totally free of any impurities. It is
cloudless sky because the sky is by nature free of clouds. It is like
water because water is naturally very pure. The impurities found in
water are not part of the nature of the water. In the same way,
Buddha-nature is perfectly pure.
There are four different ways in which Buddha-nature
can be made manifest;
Buddha-nature is compared to a jewel because it
possesses the tremendous power to achieve ultimate happiness,
Buddhahood, which is of greatest value for all beings. It is extremely
powerful and is compared to a jewel because a jewel has the power to
- First, one must aspire to realize
the dharma because without aspiration
one will not practice it.
second way is to allow the essence of Buddha-nature to shine through
in all of its clarity. This is accomplished with intelligence (prajna).
- The third way is as through samadhi
- the fourth is
compassion. Without study
one will not reflect on Buddha-nature and
without meditation one will not be able to continue the process which
makes Buddha-nature manifest.
The essence of Buddhahood is compared to the sky
because the sky never changes. The earth is constantly changing, but
the sky even over periods of thousands of years, becomes anything
different. In the same way, the suchness of all phenomena is
unchanging. There is no alteration in its nature .
The essence of Buddhahood is compared to water
because water has a wet and flowing quality which allows it to go
everywhere. Its mere presence enables everything to grow. Buddha
-nature also possesses the ability to moisten the lubricating quality
Buddha-nature possess the lubrication of
compassion, the un- changing quality of space, and the power of a
Hostility towards the dharma, the view that there is a real self, fear
of samsara's suffering and disregard for the benefit of beings are the
four sorts of obscuration.
In our present condition as ordinary beings the
essence of Buddhahood has not manifested because we encounter the four
obstacles to Buddhahood.
The first obstacle
is hostility or a natural
dislike for the dharma. One may wish not to have anything to do
dharma and not want to practice. Obviously, one will never enter the
dharma with this kind of attitude. Even if one does not have hostility
towards the dharma, one may have no confidence in the value of the
teaching and feel that that everything taught is useless.
obstacle is the strong belief in the
reality of a self. Even if one is interested in the dharma and
to practice, if one has a very solid belief in the reality of self, one
will encounter an obstacle to the manifestation of Buddha-nature
because a belief in self contradicts the logic of the path and is also
the root of all negativity. In order for the essence of Buddhahood to
manifest, it is necessary to remove the two types of emotional and
cognitive obscurations. If one has a very strong belief in a self, one
cannot begin to remove these obscurations.
The third obstacle
is the fear of the suffering of
samsara because this fear will prevent one from entering the
path. We are striving to eliminate suffering, but in order to do this
we must understand that suffering is not real, that its nature is
empty. If one
can understand that suffering is void, one will not fear this suffering
and will be able to help all beings attain freedom from it.
The fourth obstacle
is the lack of concern for the
welfare of other beings and the associated lack of desire to
This occurs when one feels one's own problems are enough and for this
reason one is not really interested in what happens to others. Someone
who practices with this attitude is going to reach the higher states of
rebirth in samsara and a form of liberation such as that of the arhats.
However, this liberation will not be the complete realization of Buddha
-nature which manifests as Buddhahood.
For the desire-bound, the mistaken, shravakas, and pratyekabuddhas the
causes of purification are the four qualities: strong aspiration for
the dharma and so on.
Each obstacle has a type of person associated with
it. The first obstacle is associated with persons hostile to the
dharma. The second obstacle is an integral part of many religions. Some
religions include a need to eliminate a belief in a self in their basic
but many do not even question the reality of the self because it is
considered to be a fundamental aspect of ordinary experience and as
such does not need to be relinquished. The Buddhist term for people
holding this belief in self is tirthika. Tirthikas are people
who are fairly close to the dharma in that they are religious, but
religious belief is not powerful enough to manifest the essence of
Buddhahood because they still believe in the reality of a self. The
limits the realization of the shravakas.
They are individuals who are
only interested in their own liberation because they are afraid of
suffering. The fourth obstacle limits the liberation of the
These four obstacles can be removed by their
opposite qualities. The aspiration to practice on the path will
eliminate hostility towards
the dharma. Great prajna will eliminate the belief in self. The
best form of meditation, samadhi, will eliminate the fear of samsara.
Compassion will awaken a concern for the sufferings of other beings.
In the Uttara Tantra the main emphasis is on view.
Practice is mentioned, of course, but this text is essentially
explanation of the view. The text quite clearly explains the actual
nature of phenomena in terms of its two aspects, emptiness and clarity.
aspect is the spacious, unreal aspect. The clarity aspect is the
the vivid understanding. In this text these two aspects are shown to be
the inseparable union of emptiness and clarity which is Buddha-nature .
To summarize, buddha potential can be examined in
terms of its innate aspect and the aspect developed through practice.
Through practice and the presence of certain qualities, Buddha -nature
can manifest. But in attempting to develop this one encounters four
kinds of obstacles. If these four obstacles can be overcome with the
help of the four favorable conditions, one can work towards Buddhahood
and gradually approach the state of the son of a Buddha - 'a Bodhisattva.'
Those whose seed is aspiration for the supreme yana, whose mother is prajna, originator
of the Buddha 's qualities, for whom meditative stability is a
comfortable womb, the compassionate nursemaidâ€”these are born
the sons of the Buddhas.
The birth of a Bodhisattva can, for example, be
compared to the birth of a child. First aspiration to practice the
dharma must have arisen not just dharma in general, but the highest
form of dharma, the Mahayana. The aspiration to practice the dharma
creates all of the qualities needed on the path and will eventually
lead to Buddhahood. This is compared to the semen of the father which
can give birth to a child. This seed needs a mother. Once one aspires
to develop realization, one will want to practice the dharma and
develop an understanding of non-self, as well as the understanding of
the true nature of phenomena. This quality of prajna is compared
to the mother because the semen needs a special environment in which to
develop. This is the womb of the mother. The womb represents
meditation. If there is some degree of understanding of non-self and
the nature of phenomena, this understanding will increase. This is like
the embryo of a child that needs to grow in the favorable environment
of the womb until it is fully developed, possessing all of the parts of
its body. Similarly, in order to reach its full
development, prajna requires the favorable environment of
fourth quality that of compassion is compared to a nursemaid. When
babies are born they still need a great deal of care. With proper care
and attention, their bodies will grow and their intelligence will
develop. Eventually the child becomes an adult. The nursemaid is
compassion because compassion makes the development of the qualities of
prajna and meditation possible. When compassion has arisen,
one's understanding grows and one's meditation improves. This example
makes it clear why it is that if one possesses the four qualities of
aspiration, prajna, meditation, and compassion one can become a son of
the Buddha and truly work on the path of enlightenment.
The meditation referred to here is principally
tranquillity mediation (Skt. shamatha
). It is consistently connected to both
the intelligence of prajna and compassionate care for other
beings. Without these two qualities meditation we will not be able to
cut the root of samsara because it will not be based on an
understanding of non-self. This form of meditation, which is not based
and compassion, will create karma, which brings about rebirth in a form
or formless realm.
Its result possesses the transcendental qualities of purity, identity,
happiness, and permanence. Its function is (to create) revulsion for
suffering accompanied by the aspiration, the longing for peace.
The third quality is the fruition which occurs when
Buddha -nature is fully manifest. The fourth quality is the influence
the fruition of Buddha -nature exerts. These two points can be
explained in conjunction with one another because while fruition is the
ultimate goal the influence of fruition is the immediate goal.
The fruition of Buddha -nature possesses the
transcendental qualities of purity, identity, happiness, and
permanence. Complete purity is achieved when Buddhahood is achieved.
When one has gone beyond self and non-self, one achieves the
transcendental quality of identity. The qualities of transcendental
happiness and permanence are also manifest at the time of fruition. The
text states that the function of Buddha -nature brings about a
for suffering' and a longing for peace. Buddha-nature enables us to
recognize the suffering of our existence. When we have recognized this,
we develop a longing to overcome suffering. This aspiration is present
in all beings, though it is hazy in some persons and very clear
in others. The degree of clarity in which Buddha -nature manifests
depends on our circumstances. If the right conditions occur,
individuals will meet a teacher and will be able to follow the path.
Those who have not encountered these external conditions but still have
the wish to eliminate suffering will not know that there is a path
to liberation. For this reason, Buddha -nature is said to influence
individuals by causing them to want to eliminate suffering and find
In brief the result of these (the emergence of these qualities)
represents the remedy to both the four ways of straying from dharmakaya
and to their four antidotes.
There are four conditions that contradict the
emergence of the qualities of the dharmakaya. They are impurity,
suffering, impermanence, and absence of true transcendent identity.
When one dwells in samsara, one interprets things incorrectly; one
what is impure is pure, one believes what is selfless possesses a self,
one believes something permanent is impermanent, and one believes that
suffering is happiness. These are the features of samsaric illusion; we
perceive everything as the opposite what it really is. In the hinayana
teachings the Buddha taught that what we believe is pure is not; that
the belief in self is mistaken; that phenomena are devoid of any
self-entity; that what we believe is happiness is really suffering and
misery; and that what we take to be permanent constantly changes. At
the level of the relative samsara is impure, has not self, is the
occasion for suffering and is impermanent. At the level of ultimate
truth, however, these four aspects of samsara are no longer relevant.
Ultimate reality transcends both these four aspects of
samsara and their opposites. It transcends pure and impure, non-self
and self, and every form of delusion.
This is purity because its nature is pure and all karmic impurities
have been removed. It is true identity because all of the complications
of 'self ' or 'non-self' have been absolutely quelled.
The quality of transcendental purity transcends pure
and impure. This purity is not the purity which is a concept found in
the language of ordinary beings, nor is it the freedom from the
impurities shravakas and pratyekabuddhas understand it to be; it is a
purity that transcends these notions. There are two aspects of this
purity: the purity of our true nature and the purity which is
incidental impurities. The purity of Buddha-nature is extremely pure
and complete; it is only masked by impurities. It is transcendental
purity because when these fleeting impurities have been removed, purity
is fully manifest.
The second quality is that of transcendental
identity. The ordinary belief in the self includes two different
aspects 'innate belief in self and the habit of thinking of self as
'I'; innate belief in self is present at birth. No one needs to teach
us that we are 'I'; we automatically understand ourselves as I. This
in a self is also found in some religions which believe in the
existence of a self which must be liberated.
In contrast, the belief in non-self is developed by
those who practice the hinayana and the general aspect of the Mahayana.
What is important to understand is that both the belief in a self and a
belief in non-self are simply mental concepts and, for this reason,
have no actual reality. Transcendental identity corresponds to the
complete pacification and the eventual disappearance of all such
illusory fabrications as the idea of self or non-self.
It is happiness through the five aggregates which are of a mental
nature and also their causes' demise. It is permanence since the
sameness of samsara and nirvana have been realized.
The third quality is the transcendental
quality of happiness. When one is born in samsara, one is subjected to
different types of sufferingâ€”all-pervasive suffering and the
suffering of change.
But since one is not aware of the real suffering of conditioned
existence, one believes that to achieve happiness is to remain lost in
samsara. On the hinayana path one learns that the actual nature of
samsara is suffering. One meditates on this idea, develops a conviction
is true and practices abandoning the causes of suffering. However, in
the special aspect of the Mahayana teachings, it is taught that the
view of suffering and happiness of samsara are illusory and that the
actual nature of phenomena is beyond both these concepts. One learns
that suffering is only a mental creation of the five aggregates,
being produced by the very fine mental imprints on the mind which are
created by ignorance. The ultimate nature is beyond both the idea of
suffering and the idea of happiness. This is transcendental happiness.
The fourth quality is transcendental permanence.
When one is an ordinary person lost in samsara, one believes all things
are lasting, permanent, even though all conditioned things constantly
change. The belief in permanence is an illusion. In the hinayana
practice the teachings reverse the idea of permanence replacing it with
the concept of impermanence. However, in the ultimate sense, both of
these concepts have no actual reality. The actual nature of things
transcends the ideas of permanence and impermanence; Buddha-nature is
transcendental permanence because the whole of samsara and nirvana is
identical and the qualities inherent in nirvana are already present in
samsara. This permanence should be understood as the transcendence of
change because everything is identical. There are four transcendental
qualities: purity, identity, happiness, and permanence considered in
the context of either the teachings of the hinayana or the
general mahayana doctrines. The idea that Buddha-nature can be
described by those qualities seems to contradict the teachings of the
Buddha . However, these four transcendental qualities are explained in
the context of a description of the ultimate nature of phenomena which
is beyond the limiting extremes of suffering and happiness, of
permanence and impermanence, of self and non-self, and of purity and
Those of compassionate love have, with prajna, completely cut through
all self-cherishing. They will not want to enter personal nirvana
because they dearly care for every being. Hence by relying upon these
means to enlightenmentâ€”wisdom and compassionâ€” the
deeply-realized abide neither in samsara nor the personal peace of
Once we have achieved these four transcendental
qualities, we are free from the extremes of samsara and nirvana. We
will not fall back into samsara or enter into the one-sided nirvana of
individual liberation. This fruition is the achievement of liberation
from the two
extremes. Prajna prevents us from falling into samsara and
compassion prevents us from seeking liberation for ourselves
alkl. There are two aspects to a belief in a selfâ€”the personal
the phenomenal self-entity. Through prajna, the highest form of
spiritual intelligence, we can cut the root of this misconception and
become free of emotional and cognitive obscurations as well as all the
fine mental imprints. With compassion we see beyond our own personal
interest and satisfaction. In the root text it says those with
compassionate love will 'cut through all
self-cherishing' because they cherish all beings. Cherishing means not
to drop them without any concerns, but to really help them.
4. The Function of Buddha-nature
If there were no Buddha -nature there would be no discontent with
suffering nor desire, effort, and aspiration for nirvana.
41. Perception of suffering,
samsara's fault, and happiness, nirvana's quality, is due to the
potential's presence. Why should this be? Without such potential it
will not be present.
The influence or function of Buddha -nature is
covered in two points. The first point discusses what would happen if
Buddha -nature were not present in all beings. If beings didn't have
, they wouldn't feel weariness of suffering and wouldn't
therefore want to go beyond suffering (nirvana). One can see that
non-sentient objects such as trees or stones don't have Buddha -nature
consequently they don't have any wish to achieve Buddhahood. So this is
would be missing if Buddha -nature weren't there. Secondly, samsara
will inherently bring much pain and difficulties. Of course, there will
be some happiness and satisfaction,
but this happiness is likely to change and become pain. So when we are
in samsara, we are likely to experience pain. By possessing Buddha
-nature , we are able to see that worldly existence brings suffering
and can conceive of nirvana. So we can aspire to go beyond the
suffering of conditioned existence. If one didn't have this
seed of Buddhahood, it would be impossible to perceive these aspects
and strive for nirvana.
5. Endowments of Buddha -nature
Like a great ocean'”an inexhaustible abode containing gems of
inestimable qualities. Like a lamp flame this essence is endowed with
The fifth point is endowments or literally
possessing the qualities of Buddha -nature at the moment of fruition.
Buddha -nature can be compared to the ocean because the ocean contains
many precious things. In the same way, Buddha -nature has the potential
for achieving Buddhahood because it already has all the various
qualities of Buddhahood. These qualities are the qualities of the body
of the Buddha and the qualities required on the path to Buddhahood had
such as faith, courage, prajna, and so on. These various qualities are
also inseparable and this is demonstrated in a comparison of a butter
lamp. In more detail:
Because it contains the essence of dharmakaya, the jnana of the Victors
and great compassion, then, through environment, jewels, and its
waters, it has been taught as being similar to an ocean.
Buddha -nature possesses three seeds the seeds of
dharmakaya, the seeds of jnana, and the seeds of compassion. The
completely pure dharmakaya of the Buddhas is the first seed of
aspiration. Buddha-nature can arise only in those who have the
aspiration to achieve enlightenment.
The second seed for realizing the jnana of the
Victorious Ones (the Buddhas) is prajna.
The ground from which
prajna develops is
meditation. In ordinary beings prajna
is fairly weak and with
cultivation it becomes greater and greater until it blossoms into the
full jnana of the Buddhas. Fully developed this jnana
becomes the jnana of things
as they are and the jnana of
The third seed is the great compassion of the
Buddhas. The Buddhas have perfect compassion which is free from any
conceptual reference point and the fruition of this seed leads to
enlightenment. So within Buddha-nature is contained all the seeds of
the future qualities of the Buddhas.
In comparing the endowments of Buddh -nature with
an ocean, the vastness of the ocean is compared to the aspiration for
enlightenment. The qualities of prajna and meditation are compared to
the jewels in the ocean. Buddha -nature contains these two qualities
which are very precious because they give rise to the twofold
jnana of the Buddhas. To show
that prajna and
meditation are not just dry qualities, the wetness of the ocean is
to a the 'wet' quality of compassion.
Since direct cognition, jnana, and freedom from stain are inseparable
in the immaculate ground, they are compared to the light, heat, and
color of a flame.
In the second example, the qualities of
Buddha-nature at the time of fruition are compared to a butter lamp.
Buddha-nature is completely stainless, totally pure in nature even
some fleeting impurities are covering it temporarily.
The essence of Buddhahood at fruition has the
qualities of clear cognition (Tib. ngon
she ), jnana, and freedom from impurities. The quality of clear
cognition has five powers relating to the variety of phenomena.
first power of cognition is 'divine
vision' which is the ability to see extremely distant and small things.
- The second power is the 'divine ear' which is the ability to hear
very distant and very soft sounds.
- The third power is the 'knowledge of
of others' which is clairvoyance or exactly knowing the thoughts of
- The fourth power is 'knowledge of the past'
which is being able to see things going back thousands of years.
is the power of 'miraculous transformation of one's body.'
All of these powers of clear cognition relate to
Buddha 's jnana.
The second quality of jnana refers to the knowledge
of things as they are. It perceives phenomena as merely manifestations,
not having any actual reality; so this jnana is stainless because
isn't polluted by any belief in reality.
The third quality is clarity. There are two aspects
of knowledge: knowing the relative and knowing the ultimate. These are
always present together; when one knows the variety of phenomena, one
knows the true nature of phenomena and one has the third quality of
clarity. The parallel between these three qualities is demonstrated
with a butter lamp's light, heat, and color. The light can
dispel darkness; once darkness is gone one can see everything very
clearly. So the brightness of the light is compared to the clear
cognition which can see phenomena very clearly. The stainless jnana is compared with the heat of
the butter lamp because the heat is
inseparable from the brightness of the flame. So the stainless
jnana of the Buddha is
inseparable from this essence of Buddhahood. The
color of the butter lamp refers to the great clarity of the knowledge
of the Buddha . This example of the butter lamp shows how that these
three qualities of Buddha-nature are inseparable.
6. Manifestation or Approach
Suchness is approached in different ways by ordinary beings, the deeply
realized, and the completely enlightened. Hence the seers of the true
nature have taught that all beings have this buddha essence.
46. Ordinary beings go in a wrong
direction. Those who see the truth revert from this and the tathagatas
face it just as it is, unerringly and without conceptual complication.
Buddha -nature is present in all beings, its
essential nature never changes or transforms into anything. Some
individuals understand this, some do not, and the teachings describe
three types of individuals. First there are ordinary beings who
are not yet free
of their emotional instability. Then there are more evolved persons,
the Bodhisattvas. Third there are the perfect Buddhas which can
be illustrated by the Tibetan name for ' Buddha ' which is
formed of two syllables sang gay
. Sang means 'pure,' and gay means
'perfectly blossomed.' So perfect purity represented in the first
of sang gay and perfect knowledge represented in the second syllable.
When the qualifier of 'perfect' is added one finds that all
the qualities of purity and understanding are perfectly complete in the
These three types of individuals have three different ap-proaches to
buddha essence. The ordinary beings will approach it in a mistaken way,
the Bodhisattvas will approach it without mistake, and the Buddhas will
see it directly. The difference is simply their approach to Buddha
-nature , but the object of their approach, enlightenment, is the same
for all of them. In more detail: Ordinary beings approach Buddha
-nature in a completely incorrect direction. This can be understood in
an example of a rope in a dark place that someone mistakes for a snake.
If one person sees it is as a snake and another person sees it as only
a rope, one of them
has a mistaken perception and the other the right perception even
though both are looking at the same thing. So it is with Buddha -
nature : ordinary beings see it incorrectly and the Bodhisattvas see it
correctly. But there is still a third way to see it, the Buddhas see
Buddha -nature just as it is with their direct, clear, extensive, vast,
and complete vision. The Bodhisattvas, for instance, see it clearly,
but do not see it in its entirety. So it is said that the Buddhas see
Buddha -nature completely, just as it is, with the complete absence of
The impure, those both pure and impure and those absolutely perfectly
pure are known respectively as ordinary
beings, Bodhisattvas, and tathagatas.
The seventh point describes Buddha-nature in terms
of phases: the impure phase, the slightly impure phase, and the totally
pure phase. The impure phase is the stage of ordinary beings in which
nature is obscured by the emotional and cognitive obscurations. The
mixed phase is purer than the first, but there are still some
impurities left. There are two kinds 'impurities' impurities from
insight and impurities from cultivation of this insight.
The Bodhisattvas are in the mixed stage and have
relinquished impurities of insight which are intellectually
perceptions. Usually one has many concepts about things and generally
sees phenomena in a distorted way. The Bodhisattvas have eliminated the
concepts that obscure the true nature of things, but they
haven't dispelled the 'innate obscuration' which can only be
eliminated by cultivation of this insight. The Buddhas, on the other
hand, are in the
third stage of having purified all obscurations.
The Buddha-nature, summarized by the six points on essence and so on,
is explained through three phases and by means of three terms.
In summary, Buddha-nature is described in terms of
three phases of impure, partially pure, and completely pure. These are
similar to the six points of nature, cause, and so on. This impure
phase corresponds to ordinary beings; partially pure to Bodhisattvas,
and completely pure to tathagatas .
Just as space, concept free by nature is all-embracing so also is the
immaculate space, then nature of mind, all-pervading.
50. This, the general
characteristic of all, permeates the good, the bad, and the ultimate, like space permeates all forms whether
lesser, mediocre, or perfect.
All-pervasive means that Buddha-nature embraces
everything with nothing left out. For example, space is all-pervasive:
It is everywhere
and contains everything. Of the two natures of the mind (emptiness and
clarity) emptiness is compared to space. The clarity is given the name
'immaculate space.' Immaculate space is the name
for Buddhahood and is all-pervasive in all beings.
In logic there are general and particular
characteristics of things. A general characteristic would be something
like impermanence which applies to all phenomena. A particular
characteristic would be like fire is hot and burning which doesn't
apply to other
phenomena. Buddha-nature is a general characteristic of all beings
of what qualities they possess. This is compared to space which
pervades all forms and objects from very precious jewels to the most
inferior objects such as rubbish, all of which have different
Since the faults are but accidental, whereas its qualities are part of
its very character, it is the changeless reality, the same after as it
One's faults are incidental to Buddha-nature and
good qualities are an inherent part of Buddha-nature. The nature of
buddha essence is that it never changes and has just temporary faults
covering it up. The qualities are inherently present in Buddha-nature
and manifest in enlightenment, rather than these qualities just begin
to develop at the
time of Buddhahood. So Buddha -nature is changeless and it is the same
before and after Buddhahood. 52. Just as space pervades all but remains
absolutely unaffected; because of its extreme subtlety, similarly this,
present in all beings, remains absolutely taint-free.
Just as universes always arise and disintegrate in space, so also do
the sense arise and disintegrate in the uncreated space.
54. Just as space has never
been consumed by fire, likewise this is never consumed by death,
sickness, and ageing's fires.
55. Earth is supported by
water, water by air, air by space. But space is supported neither by
air, water, nor earth.
56. In a similar way the
aggregates, the elements, and the senses are based upon karma and
defilements. Karma and the defilements are always based upon the mode
of thought which is wrong.
57. This improper mode of
thought has its basis in the mind's purity whereas the true nature of
mind has no basis in any of the many phenomena.
Unalterability in the phase of ordinary beings is
unalterable for four reasons. First, it is like space which is void and
pervades everything and there isn't one object in the
universe that isn't
permeated by space. Because the nature of space is extremely
nature is not altered by the objects whether it surrounds pure or
polluted objects. From the beginning, Buddha -nature has been present
in all beings but it was covered by the impurities of anger, jealousy,
stupidity, etc. which don't affect the nature of this Buddha
-nature . So buddha essence is unaffected by the impurities just as
space is unaffected by the objects it contains.
Second, if the nature is unalterable, consider all
the universes which are made up of the elements. When the
universe first begins, it has to manifest in space and when it
disintegrates, it disintegrates in
space. All this occurs in space, but space itself doesn't
change or decompose. In the same way, Buddha -nature contains the five
aggregates, elements, entrances, etc. and appearances which we
experience. Everything arises and disintegrates in the uncreated
space of Buddha -nature .
Third, one may think the process of arising and
disintegration may change the space so that it will be destroyed.
But space has never been destroyed by fires. Since the beginning
of time countless fires have never destroyed space. In the same way,
buddha essence has never been burned out by the fires of death,
sickness, and old age. On the relative level, there is the appearance
of birth, sickness,
and old age, but these do not affect Buddha-nature just as fire
doesn't affect space.
Fourth, Buddha-nature is unalterable. At the
formation of the universe, the earth element rested on water and this
ocean rested on a great circle of air and the air rests on space. So
all the elements
rest on space while space rested on nothing. All the five aggregates,
the elements of thought, and the sense faculties rest on karma. They
arise because there is karma'”that is good and bad actions'”and
karma rests on the defilements of attachment, aggression, and ignorance.
These defilements rest on a false view of the
true nature of things. This false view of reality rests on the purity
or true nature of the mind. But this true nature of the mind
(Buddha-nature ) like space doesn't rest on anything. So in this
similar to the five aggregates, the water is similar to karma and the
to an improper mode of thinking, and space to Buddha -nature .
The aggregates, entrances, and elements should be known as being
similar to earth. The karma and defilements of beings are to be known
as similar to water.
Earth is similar to the five aggregates, twelve
entrances, and eighteen
elements. The five aggregates are form, feeling, cognition, mental
formations, and consciousness. The earth is very coarse or dense and is
the element that is the basis for life. In the same way the aggregates,
elements, and entrances are the basis of our experiences of pleasure
and pain. Water spreads everywhere on the earth and makes it possible
for plants to grow from the earth. In the same way, the positive and
negative actions of our life determine the quality of our experiences
and are motivated by defilements and a belief in a self. Water also is
unstable because it moves and goes everywhere and in the same way the
defilements also have this unstable way.
The improper mode of thought is similar to air whereas the true nature
is like the element of space'” it has no base and no abiding.
60. The improper mode of thought
abides within the true nature of mind. This improper mode of thought
gives rise to karma and the defilements.
Improper thinking is rooted in the basic ignorance
of not realizing the essential nature of things. Because of this,
de-lusion arises and
is similar to air because air is very light and subtle, but animated by
the slightest movement. Similarly, ignorance is very subtle and creates
a very slight movement which stirs up karma and defilements. Improper
thinking is not realizing the true nature of mind while proper thinking
is to see phenomena correctly. In the example of seeing a rope in a
dark place as a snake, the perception of a rope and snake have the same
visual sensation. However, because of improper thinking, the rope is
seen differently. So one can say this improper thinking rests on the
nature of the mind and from it arises karma and the defilements. The
actual nature of phenomena is peace and voidness and the absence of
conceptual fabrication. Because one perceives true phenomena
incorrectly, one incorrectly believes phenomena to be real. The first
distortion occurs in perception of 'self' and 'others' and from this
the feeling of attachment to 'self' and a dislike of what is connected
From this distortion arises all the physical, mental, and verbal
negative reactions. So the basis of this improper mode of thinking
arises from karma.
From karma and defilements' waters
arise the aggregates, entrances, and elements, arising and
disintegrating just as everything begins and has an end.
Karma and defilements manifest in all our
experiences. Because of karma and defilements we are born in samsara
and experience the various sensations based on the qualities of our
karma. This is compared to the earth rising from the water element. The
water contains many of particles of earth which arise to make solid
earth. The solid substance will appear, but after a while it will
into the water element which gave birth to it. In the same way,
the water of our karma and defilements arise from the aggregates,
elements, and entrances of our experiences. Out of the water of our
karma comes birth, old age, sickness, and death and we then sink
into our karma to begin again.
The nature of mind is like the element of space; it has neither causes,
nor conditions, nor these in combination, nor any arising, destruction,
63. This true nature of
mind'”clarity'”is like space, unchanging, not becoming defiled by
desire and so on, passing impurities which from improper thinking
64. It is not produced by the
waters of karma, defilements, and so forth nor will it be burnt by the
cruel fires of ageing, sickness and death.
65. One should know that the
first three'” of death, sickness and age'” are similar respectively to
the fires which blaze at the end of time, in the hells and ordinarily.
The true nature of the mind is compared to space
because space is never
created or destroyed. Likewise, the actual nature of the mind is
changeless, clear, and not polluted by impurities. Space is not created
by water or destroyed by fire and similarly Buddha-nature is not
created by the water of karma and defilements or destroyed by the fire
of old age, sickness, and death. The fires of death and old age
are compared to the fires at of the end of time (hell fire) and
ordinary fire respectively.
Free from birth ageing, sickness, and death, they have realized the
true nature , just as it is. On account of this the wise have awakened
compassion for beings, and even though free from the miseries of birth
and so on, they demonstrate these.
67. The suffering of aging, sickness
and death'” these the deeply-realized have radically removed. They are
without them because their birth is not brought about by karma and the
Birth is acquiring a new set of aggregates in a
particular life. Sickness and old age are alterations of the aggregates
and death occurs when the aggregates terminate. The Bodhisattvas are
beyond old age, sickness, and death because they have realized the true
nature of reality. Even though they are free from these four states,
they do not try to liberate just themselves because this realization
leads to a desire to free others. In more detail:
Even though Bodhisattvas give the appearance of
birth, old age, sickness, and death, they do not experience suffering
themselves. The realized ones, who have reached the Bodhisattva
levels have eliminated the root of birth, old age, sickness, and death
have eliminated karma. They have eliminated suffering and the
experience of suffering because suffering is the fruition of the
defilements. The Bodhisattvas have the direct realization of voidness
and clarity, therefore have transcended birth, old age, sickness, and
death. Even though they are beyond this, they can see that other beings
haven't realized this and this arouses compassion so
they continue to manifest these four states.
Since they have seen the truth, just as it is, their compassionate
nature shows birth, aging, sickness, and death even though they have
transcended birth and the rest.
69. Those blinded by ignorance see the
sons of the victors'” the ones who have realized this changeless true
nature '” as having birth and so on. This is indeed a wonder !
Taking each Bodhisattva level, the text begins with
of the victorious ones' who are all the followers of the Buddha. In
this context the text refers to those who have reached the first
Bodhisattva level, that is those who have gained direct realization of
the true nature of phenomena and realized buddha essence without
distortion so they have the 'eyes of jnana.'
Others who don't have this realization are like the blind and the
Bodhisattvas remain to help
these blind individuals. These Bodhisattvas don't have to
return and help others, but do so out of compassion.
Those who have reached the domain of realization appear within the
immature's field of experience. Therefore the skills and compassion of
these friends for beings are truly excellent.
Those who have reached the level of the 'realized
are in the next stage. The Tibetan word for 'realized' is pag
pa which literally means 'higher.' These are beings who have
a higher state and the term refers to the first level of the
Bodhisattva. One reaches this domain when one reaches the path of
insight which is the moment when phenomena are seen directly. An
ordinary being may be on the path of accumulation or the path of
junction. On these levels a person does not have this direct insight
and therefore is called an 'immature' being which in Tibetan means
'infant.' Ordinary beings are compared to infants because they cannot
eat or take care of themselves. The difference between ordinary beings
and deeply realized beings rests completely on the absence of insight
into the nature of reality. The realized Bodhisattvas can manifest all
the suffering in the domain of ordinary beings because they possess
skillful means. This shows their realization is changeless and their
suffering is an appearance to help others.
Even though they have transcended everything worldly, the world hey do
not leave. They act within the world for the world but unblemished by
72. A lotus, born in water, by water
is unblemished. Similarly, even though they are born in the world, by
worldly things they are unblemished.
Even though Bodhisattvas in the second to seventh
levels have transcended the defilements and karma, they do not depart
from the world. When they work in the world, they do not become
polluted by the defilements because they understand the true nature of
phenomena. For example, a lotus grows in dirty water, but it is not
dirty. In the same way, Bodhisattvas are immersed in our world but they
are not polluted by karma, defilements, or the suffering of our world.
In order to accomplish their task, their brilliant intelligence is like
a fire blazing without cease. They always rest evenly immersed in
meditative stability upon peace.
74. Due to previous impetus and their
being ideation-free, no effort need be made to bring beings to
75. They know precisely the
ways and means to train anyone and whichever teaching, physical form, mode of conduct, or action
would be appropriate.
76. Like this, those of unhindered
intelligence excellently engage themselves in benefiting beings as
limitless as the sky, continually and spontaneously.
The main difference between Bodhisattvas of the
seventh and eighth level is that seventh level Bodhisattvas have a
slightly different experience between meditation and post-meditation.
If you have dry wood, when lighted it catches fire automatically
without effort. In the same way, Bodhisattvas have great compassion so
they automatically help other beings. Bodhisattvas on the eighth and
ninth levels are constantly immersed in a state of balance, meditation
on peace, so when they are helping others their minds are always in a
perfect state of meditation. So there is no difference between their
meditation and post-meditation.
The way in which these Bodhisattvas act in the worlds to help beings
during the post-meditation phase is the same as the tathagata's way of
truly liberating beings.
78. Although this is true, the
differences between these Bodhisattvas and the buddhas are like those
between the earth and an atom or between an ox's hoof-print and the
Bodhisattvas on the ninth level are very similar to
Bodhisattvas of the eighth level. Bodhisattvas on the tenth level have
qualities of Bodhisattvas on the eighth and ninth levels, but they are
developed even further. As a result of their actions in previous lives,
they have gathered a great amount of virtue and spiritual energy and
knowledge and can help beings without any effort or having to
conceptualize 'I must help' because they don't
believe in the substantiality of objects. When they act, it is
completely spontaneous like wood being placed on a fire. Even though
this action is automatic, it is extremely precise so that by sitting,
coming, and going they can teach the dharma. They chose a particular
style that helps beings directly, know exactly when to act, and know
how to act. Some beings, for example, need miracles and clairvoyance;
others need only to observe very pure conduct; still others need only
to hear the dharma. Buddha activity will come when it is needed, not a
few days early or a few days later.
The activity of Bodhisattvas on the tenth level goes
everywhere and embraces everyone and is compared to space. There are
uncountable beings everywhere and the extent of their negative karma is
inconceivable. The activity of the Bodhisattvas goes on continuously
and manifests spontaneously. These Bodhisattvas act without hindrances
and interference of thoughts. They are in meditation all the time. The
activities of these Bodhisattvas are practically the same as the
Buddhas. The difference, however, between a tenth level Bodhisattvas
and the Buddhas is the same as the difference between the earth and an
atom or the difference between the ocean and water found in a
hoofprint. There is a vast
difference in the degree that they manifest.
Because it has inexhaustible qualities, its nature is not to alter. It
is the refuge of beings because it has no limits in the future, right
to the very end. It is always non-dual because it is non-conceptual. It
is also of indestructible character because, by nature , it is
80. This has no birth because
it is permanent, no death because it is eternal, no harm because it is
peace, and no aging because it is unchanging.
81. It has no birth in a
mental form because it is
permanent. It has not death through inconceivable death and
transmigration, because it is eternal.
One may incorrectly think that when a Bodhisattva
has achieved the last stage of perfect Buddhahood, the Buddha -nature
improves. But it doesn't change for four reasons. In the pure phase,
-nature is the dharmakaya and all the qualities are present so it can't
change and therefore is permanent. It is eternal because Buddhahood is
the constant refuge of beings and buddha activity won't end. The
dharmakaya or stainless dharmadhatu is nondual because within it is the
sameness of samsara and nirvana and all these qualities are pacified
because there are no conceptual differences. The fourth quality is
indestructibility because it is not created by defilements
or karma. It is present from the beginning, has not been created, and
therefore is indestructible. In more detail:
Buddha -nature is unalterable because it has no
birth because it has no beginning, it has no death because it has no
end, it is
free from sickness because it doesn't change from good to bad, and
it is free from old age because it is indestructible.
When Buddhahood is achieved, there is no change in
the physical body; there is also no change in the subtle body. In
Buddhahood there is no body. The word 'kaya'
literally means 'body.' In the nirmanakaya it looks as if
individual is taking birth and has a real body, but in the true sense
it has an appearance
of physical form. The dharmakaya is beyond the four extremes and eight
fabrications so it has nothing to do with a body in the ordinary sense.
Buddhahood is free from birth because it is
permanent, it has no death because it is eternal. There is no death in
the ordinary sense, but there is also the absence of even very subtle
changes. This is why the Buddha can protect all beings and help all
beings until the end of samsara.
It is unharmed by the disease of the finer karmic imprint because is
It has no aging produced by untainted karma because it is immutable.
83. This uncreated space has the
attributes of permanence and so forth which should be known
respectively through the first pair of verses and likewise the next
pair and the next pair to the last.
84. Being endowed with inexhaustible
qualities it has the attribute of permanence, the quality of not
altering. Because it equals the furthest end its attribute is eternal,
the nature of a refuge. Because its very character is not to
conceptualize, it has the attribute of peace, the non-dual true nature
As its qualities are not things fabricated, its attribute is
immutability, the changeless nature .
It is the dharmakaya. It is the tathagata. It is the highest truth. It
is the ultimately-true nirvana. Like the sun and its rays, these
aspects are inseparable; so there is no nirvana apart from Buddhahood
Buddhahood is not harmed by sickness because it has
peace which overcomes the duality of samsara and nirvana. Since this
dualistic division has ended, there is no suffering or sickness even
from the fine karmic imprints that lead to a very subtle suffering.
Buddhahood has no old age or degradation of the stream of existence.
The Buddhas have no old age or degradation even in a subtle way from
the untainted factors because Buddhahood is immutable.
In summary, uncreated space refers to the
emptiness aspect, while Buddha -nature refers to the clarity aspect.
The name '
Buddha-nature' shows it can bring forth all the qualities of the
Buddha . So uncreated space has the attributes of permanence, eternity,
peace, and immutability. Each refers to a different quality: the
absence of birth to permanence; the absence of death to eternity; the
absence of sickness to nonduality; and the absence of old age to
immutability. So these qualities are unalterable.
In the normal world good qualities wear out, but the
qualities of Buddhahood are permanent because the body, speech, and
mind of the Buddha are inexhaustible and changeless and therefore
permanent. Vast numbers of beings on this earth are beset with negative
karma causing an almost inexhaustible amount of impurities. For buddha
activity to help purify these beings for as long
as samsara lasts requires that these qualities be eternal. It also has
the nature of a refuge because it is there to help beings. The third
quality is nonduality. Because in Buddhahood everything isn't divided
into good and bad, it is beyond this and therefore in a state of peace.
The last is the quality of indestructibility because it never vanishes
because the qualities of Buddhahood are not fabricated. At the impure
level of ordinary beings the aggregates and the four elements
change while Buddha-nature is changeless as described in the example of
space. In the mixed phase buddha essence remained changeless even
though Bodhisattvas work to help all beings. In the phase of total
purity the buddha essence is changeless even though the Buddhas help
all beings. So buddha essence is changeless.
10. Inseparability of the Qualities
In brief, since the meaning of this untainted space is divided into
four aspects, dharmakaya and so on should be known as four synonyms for
86. Dharmakaya that is
inseparable from the buddha qualities, the achievement of the
potential, just as it is, the true nature , neither false nor
unreliable, and that has, from the very beginning, the very nature of
87. Buddhahood is every aspect
of true and perfect enlightenment. Nirvana is total removal of impurities,
along with their latencies. In the true sense, these are not different.
Liberations' characteristic is to be inseparable from its qualities'”
complete, numberless, inconceivable and stainless as they are. Such
liberation as this is the tathagata.
Buddha-nature is given four different names: the
dharmakaya, tathagata, highest truth, and supreme nirvana. It is called
the 'dharmakaya' because it is the true nature of all
things. It is called the 'tathagata' because it is the ultimate
seeing what is there. It is called the truth of the realized ones or
the 'highest truth' because the realized ones see phenomena
as-it-is. It is called
the 'ultimately true nirvana' because it is beyond the
suffering of samsara.
The inseparability of the four qualities is similar
to the sun and the sunshine because one cannot have one without the
other. The dharmakaya, the tathagata, the highest truth, and the
supreme nirvana are inseparable at the stage of ordinary beings,
Bodhisattvas, and Buddhas. When Buddhahood is achieved, there is no
other nirvana beyond that and no other truths. In more detail:
Untainted space is divided into the four aspects of
the dharmakaya, the tathagata, the highest truth, and ultimate
nirvana. The dharmakaya is the sum of all the qualities of the Buddha
(the ten powers, four fearlessnesses, etc.) and these are inseparable.
The term 'tathagata' is used to show that from the beginning of
time the buddha causal ground has been within all beings. The term
'highest truth' shows that the true nature is always present and
no falsehoods. The term 'nirvana' means beyond suffering
because this nature is free from all impurities so there is no pain or
suffering. In the fruition of Buddhahood all the aspects of knowledge
are the Buddha . All the aspects of knowledge means achieving knowledge
of things as they are and the knowledge of variety and also totally
removing of all impurities and karmic imprints. The ultimate
achievement is represented with Buddhahood being complete knowledge and
nirvana being complete purity. Buddhahood and nirvana are not separate,
however, in the ultimate sense.
Liberation is the direct realization of phenomena by
seeing it as- they-are. Liberation has the characteristics of being
inseparable, numberless, unthinkable, and stainless. All these
qualities are complete in the dharmakaya.
The first example illustrates that when some of the
parts are missing, the whole cannot exist. The second example shows the
inseparability of different parts of a whole.
Suppose there were some painters. Each expert in a different sphere so
whatever skill possessed by one, the others could not do
89. Their king and ruler gives
them a canvas with the order, 'all of you must now go and paint my
90. Having this received they
commence its painting as best they can but one of them departs to some
far and foreign land.
91. Since this man was
missing, through going to another place, the portrait in all its parts
could not be finished. Thus is an example made.
Imagine some artists, each skilled in painting just
one part of the body so that one artist can draw, for example, the
eyes; another can draw just the arms, another just the hair, etc. Now a
king gathers these artists together and gives them a canvas and asks
them to do his portrait. In the middle of the painting, one of the
artists leaves the country so that the portrait can't be completed.
The 'artists' are generosity, skillful conduct,
patience, and so on. Voidness, endowed with every finest aspect is like
the royal picture.
Similarly, Buddhahood is similar to the completed
picture with each artist representing the different qualities necessary
to achieve Buddhahood. If all the qualities of the six paramitas are
all the conditions for reaching Buddhahood are there and voidness can
be apprehended directly. The voidness with all the aspects is like the
fully completed portrait of the king. The voidness is not emptiness,
but the great fullness of these qualities with the quality
of clarity in which all these aspects of knowledge can flourish. For
this voidness to be realized all the qualities of the paramitas have to
be present just as all the artists have to be present to complete the
Prajna, jnana and perfect freedom are like the sun's light, beams, and
orb, because they are respectively bright, radiant and pure, and since
they are inseparable.
94. Therefore until the
achievement of Buddhahood nirvana is never achieved, just as without
sunlight and sun rays the sun could never be seen.
The inseparability of the qualities of
and freedom is illustrated by the sun. The Tibetan word for 'prajna' is
sherab and this literally means 'better knowledge' so prajna
means the understanding without distortion both of the nominal and
phenomenal aspect of things. Jnana
(Tib. yeshe ) is very clear
is used for the cognition of the essential or nominal aspect of things.
One doesn't use jnana for gaining knowledge
about a river or a mountain, but reserves this for knowledge about the
true nature of things. These two qualities are present as seeds in
ordinary beings and are fully manifest at Buddhahood. When the
impurities at the stage of ordinary beings are removed, the third
quality of perfect freedom emerges. Prajna, jnana, and
freedom from impurities
are compared to sunlight, sun rays, and the orb of the sun and
are luminous, radiant, and pure respectively.
Nirvana is not possible without the jnana of
the Buddha . The example states that without sunlight and the sun's
rays the sun
cannot be seen. So the qualities of the Buddha are inseparable.
Examples of Buddha-nature
Thus has the victor's essence been described through a tenfold
presentation. One should understand form the following examples its
presence within the confines of the defilements.
96. Similar to a buddha in a
decaying lotus, honey amidst bees, grains in their husks, gold in
forth, a treasure in the ground, shoots and so on piercing through
fruits, abuddha statue inside tattered rags.
97. A monarch in a poor and
ugly woman's womb or a precious image inside some clay, this nature is
within all beings present but obscured by the impurity of passing
98. The impurities correspond
to the lotus, the insects, the husks, filth, the ground, the fruit, the
tattered rags, and the woman's strongly afflicted by burning sorrows
and the clay. The buddha , the honey, the grains, the gold, the
treasure, the nyagrodha tree, the precious statue, the supreme ruler of
all the continents and the precious image correspond to this supreme,
immaculate nature .
One may still have doubts about how Buddha-nature
is changeless, but does not manifest because of impurities. To
illustrate this nine examples of buddha essence and the impurities are
given. When the Buddha gave teachings, he didn't simply declare the
truth, but he gave reasons for what he was saying. The reasons for his
teachings were sometimes very apparent and at other times very obscure.
The obvious teachings were the ones grasped by the senses. There are,
however, teachings which cannot be grasped with sensory faculties
because they were about things very far away, or very remote in time,
or about karma. A particular karma will prevent one from living certain
types of lives. Since one cannot understand these more hidden meanings
directly, one has to understand them through inference. For instance,
if we say there's a fire behind that
hill because we can see smoke, people believe it even though they
can't see the actual fire because smoke is a valid sign of a fire. For
to be significant it must have universal applicability i.e., whenever
there is a fire, there must be smoke. The sign must also be valid, if
we say there's a fire because I see a tree, it is an invalid
sign. So a sign for showing the presence of something that is hidden
must have universal applicability and be a valid sign. The presence of
buddha essence is illustrated with signs using nine examples. Then this
reasoning is applied to Buddha -nature itself.
The nine examples of beautiful things covered up by
impurities are listed along with the nine impurities followed by a list
pure things covered up. These will be elaborated below. The method for
presenting each example is the same: first a verse gives the example,
then a verse gives its meaning, and finally a verse presents the
parallel between the example and Buddha-nature .
Someone endowed with pure divine vision, upon seeing the tathagata
shining with a thousand marks adorned within a decaying lotus, would
remove him from the prison of those petals of that 'flower of water
100. Similarly the sugatas
(with their buddha eyes) see their own true nature even in those in the
worst of hells and, their nature being compassion present until the
very end, they bring freedom from all those veils.
101. Once the sugata inside
the closed decaying lotus had been seen by someone with divine vision, the petals
were sliced asunder. Likewise, when the buddhas see the essence
of perfect Buddhahood in beings but obscured by an impure shell of
desire, hatred and so on, through their compassion those victors
destroy such obscurations.
Imagine an ugly, withered lotus covering a beautiful
statue of the Buddha . Someone with clairvoyance could see the statue
and think that this was not a good place for such a beautiful statue
and would break open the lotus shell and remove the statue. Similarly,
Buddha-nature is in the mind of all beings, even those in the worst
it is obscured by the defilements of the three poisons. The Buddhas
with divine vision and great compassion see this Buddha -essence and
help beings out of the shell of defilements. Individuals with
Buddha-nature need to reach Buddhahood so they do not continue to
suffer in samsara; therefore they need the buddhas with their vision
and their teachings to receive the tools to make this Buddha-nature
A clever man trying to get honey amidst swarms of bees would, having
spotted it , employ skillful means to separate that honey from the host
of bees and then actually obtain it.
103. Likewise the great sages with their omniscient vision, upon seeing
the honey-like causal ground, the essence, cause total, radical
relinquishment of the bee-like obscurations.
104. The man who tries to get he honey surrounded by a myriad of bees
disperses all the bees and procures the honey as he planned. The
untainted intelligence which is in all beings is like the honey: The
buddhas, skillful victors over bee-like defilements, like the man.
Imagine some tasty honey which is surrounded by
swarming bees. If an experienced person knows how to separate the honey
from the bees, then people can enjoy the honey. This means the Buddhas
with the omniscient eyes of twofold knowledge can see the Buddha
-nature in all beings which is like the honey. The bees circling the
honey can be removed because they aren't part of the honey. In the same
way, the impurities of beings aren't part of their Buddha -nature
and therefore can be removed allowing Buddha -nature to manifest. In
this example, the man who knows about honey is like the Buddhas who are
skilled in removing obscurations, which are the bees.
Kernels of grains, still in their husks, are unusable for man. Whoever
wants them as food must remove them from their husks.
106. Similarly, whilst
Buddhahood, present in all beings but mixed with defilement-impurities,
has not been from defilement freed then buddha activity in the three
worlds will not be accomplished.
107. Incompletely threshed
kernels of rice, buckwheat, and barley that have not been de-husked
still have their husks and beards. Just as these are not usable, tasty
food for men, likewise the 'lord of all qualities' present in in living
beings and whose corps has not yet been freed from defilement, will not
give the taste of the joy of dharma to beings afflicted by
Imagine a grain of rice enclosed in its husk.
Kernels of rice, buckwheat, and barley cannot be used as food when they
are unhusked. Similarly, as long as Buddha -nature called 'the lord
of all qualities' is not liberated from the shell of impurities, it
cannot give the taste of the joy of dharma to beings.
The gold of a man on a journey dropped into a place containing filth
and rot. being of indestructible nature for many centuries that gold
remained in that same place yet quite unchanged.
109. A god with perfect divine
vision noticed it there, told someone, 'There is gold here. Once you
have cleansed this most valuable thing then do what can be done with
such a precious substance.'
110. In a similar way, the
Victors see the quality of beings, which has sunken into the filth-like
defilements, and shower upon them true dharma's rain that they be
purified of defilement's mire.
111. Just as the gold fallen
into the place rotting with garbage was seen there by a god who then
with great insistence showed the man that most supremely-beautiful
things, so that it might be completely cleansed so also do the victors
perceive that the most precious, perfect Buddhahood within all beings
has fallen in the defilement's great mire and so they teach them all
the dharma in order that it may be purified.
Imagine an individual going on a journey and on his
way he loses some pure gold which falls into some rubbish. It remains
unchanged for hundreds of years being quite useless. Then a god with
clairvoyance sees the large lump of gold in the rubbish and tells
someone where to find it so it can be put to proper use. Similarly, the
Buddhas can see the pure Buddha-nature of beings which has fallen into
the filth of defilements and has been lying there
for thousands of years. Even though it is there, it has not been
polluted by the defilements. If there were no rubbish there is the
first place, there would be no need to have the clairvoyant person come
along. Also if there had been no gold for the clairvoyant person to
point out, it would have been pointless as well. Similarly, if Buddha
-nature were not obscured by defilements, there would be no need for
Buddhas to enter this world and teach about Buddha-nature . Also if
beings didn't have Buddha-nature from the very beginning,
there would be no need for the Buddhas to give teachings because it
would be impossible for individuals to attain Buddhahood. This is why
the Buddhas give teachings and point out our obscurations. They do this
by producing the rain of dharma which has the ability to gradually wash
away the impurities which we have accumulated.
Gold is very useful, but if it is covered by rubbish
it is useless. This is why this clairvoyant person tells someone where
it is and tells
him to remove the rubbish and use the gold. In the same way, the
Buddhas tell us about the rubbish of our instability. They see beings
who have the wish-fulfilling gem in their hands, wasting it. Beings are
suffering, but they have the tool to eliminate the suffering and this
is why the Buddhas teach the dharma. Beings remain stuck in problems
and difficulties and don't have the power to realize
their own goal. They might think there is nothing they can do, but they
have the knowledge of things as they are and variety, so they have
everything necessary to remove the defilements. The Buddha told them
that if they practice, they can reach enlightenment.
Were there an inexhaustible treasure underground beneath the house of a
poor man, neither would he know of it presence nor could the treasure
tell him, 'Here I am.'
113. Similarly, as beings have
not realized the very precious treasure contained within their mind,
the immaculate true nature to which nothing need be added and from
which nothing need be taken, they continually experience many kinds of
suffering of deprivation.
114. The jewel treasure
contained in the poor man's
house would not tell him: 'I the precious treasure am here' and the man
would never know it there. All beings, who have the dharmakaya treasure
within the mansion of their mind, are to that poor man similar. So the
Great Sages have taken worldly birth in the most perfect way so that
those that treasure could obtain.
Imagine a man so poor that he doesn't have any food
living in a house built over a great treasure. If the man
doesn't know about the treasure, he will continue to suffer in poverty
because the treasure cannot say, 'Look, I am here.' Similarly, all
beings have the great treasure of Buddha -nature in their minds and
this treasure has always been there. They do not see the buddha essence
in their mind so they endure all the sufferings of samsara. The
can't tell the man 'I am here' even though it is very close by.
Similarly, all beings have the precious treasure of the dharmakaya
locked in their mind, but continue to suffer. Therefore the great
sages, the Buddhas, come into our world to help beings find this
Just as the imperishable quality of germinating in the seeds of mangoes
and other fruits, in the presence of prepared soil, water, and so on,
the body of a kingly tree will gradually produce.
116. So also within the
rind-confine of beings' ignorance, etc.
is contained the pure dharma nature .
Likewise, when by virtue it is sustained, it will the very substance of
a 'king of victors'
117. Just as a tree grows from
within a banana or mango fruit's
skin, due to conditions'”humidity, sunlight, air, soil, space and time,
likewise is the seed and germ
of perfect Buddhahood contained within the skin of that fruit'”sentient
defilements due to virtue's condition, this true nature will be seen
A very tiny seed in a fruit has the power to be an
enormous tree. One cannot see the tree in the seed, but if one adds all
conditions for growth such as water, sunlight, soil, etc. to the seed,
tree will develop. Similarly, buddha essence exists in all beings but
is encased in the peel of ignorance which generates our emotional and
cognitive obscurations. If one practices virtue, it will generate
the favorable conditions for this seed of Buddha-nature to grow.
Through the accumulation of knowledge and virtue, the seed will develop
into the 'king of victors' or Buddhahood. The
parallel is that just as a tree with the proper conditions grows from a
seed enclosed by the skin of a fruit into a tree, buddha essence is
in the skin of defilements and with proper conditions will manifest
A god, having discovered by the road a precious image of a tathagata,
all wrapped in smelly tattered rags, would tell someone the fact of it
lying there at the roadside, so that it might be recovered.
Similarly, when the buddhas, of unhindered vision, see the very
'substance' of the tathagatas even in
animals present but wrapped within the envelope of defilement, they
also show the means by which it may be set free.
120. A god with divine
vision who had perceived the
tathagata image, precious by nature yet wrapped in smelly rags and
lying by the road, would point it out to folk that it might be freed. Just like that, the victors see even in
animals the Buddha -
lying by samsara's road, wrapped in defilements tattered garb and
they teach the dharma in order that it might be liberated.
Imagine a very valuable buddha statue wrapped in
tattered rags and abandoned by the side of the road. A passerby would
not notice it, but if a god came along, he could see the statue.
Similarly, the Buddhas with their jnana can see that Buddha-nature of
beings is wrapped in the tattered rags of the defilements. They see
this in persons and even in animals. As a god can see a statue with
divine vision, the Buddhas can see Buddha-nature lying on the road of
samsara inside the rags of defilements. They tell beings to remove the
tattered rags so the Buddha-nature can manifest in its complete
An ugly-looking woman, having no one to whom to turn and staying in a
pauper home may hold the glory of a king within her very womb yet not
know this ruler of men to be within her present.
122. Worldly existence is like
the pauper hostel and impure beings are like the pregnant woman. Having
this being within her, she has a protector and the embryo is like the
immaculate nature .
Imagine a destitute ugly woman with no place to stay
who ends up in a pauper's hostel. Also imagine that she is pregnant and
in her womb the future king. She continues to suffer because she
doesn't know anything about it. Similarly, beings hold the precious
buddha essence but do not know anything about it or get any benefit
from it. As the woman in the hostel has a king in her womb so beings
are born in the six realms of samsara; some as humans, some as animals,
some as hungry ghosts, etc. All have to suffer'”animals suffer
from enslave-ment, spirits have to suffer from thirst and hunger,
humans have to suffer from birth, sickness, old age, and death. All are
like the poor woman living in misery.
The woman is dressed in dirty clothes, her form unpleasant and in the
pauper home she must endure the worst of sorrows, even though a ruler
dwells within her womb. Similarly, even though within them they have a
protector residing, beings believing themselves undefended can never
find their peace of mind, being by defilement overpowered'” so in the
'ground of suffering' they remain.
The poor woman with a great ruler in her womb is
dressed in dirty clothes. Because she doesn't know that she bears a
remains in poverty and is very unhappy. In the same way, beings have a
protector inside their mind, but are unaware of this so they have no
peace of mind and are overpowered by defilements; thus they remain in
samsara and undergo all kinds of suffering.
Upon seeing a complete and peaceful statue, cast in gold yet still in
its mould, externally like clay those who know would remove the outer
covering to cleanse the gold that lies within.
125. The perfectly enlightened
perfectly see that the nature of mind, clarity, is covered by transient
impurities. Hence from these obscurations they cleanse being, who are
like mines of precious gems.
126. Just as an expert removes
all the clay, knowing the nature of the peaceful statue in bright
stainless gold which it contains, so likewise the omniscient know the
peace of mind like the cleansed gold: chipping away, by means of dharma
explanation, they clean away each and every
Imagine a very pure statue covered with a crust of
clay. Someone who knew about this could remove the clay and reveal the
gold statue. In the same way, the clear light nature of the mind is
inside us, but covered with impurities. These impurities are not
permanent and can be removed like the clay crust covering the beautiful
statue. Someone knowing that the clay is covering the statue can remove
the clay gradually to reveal the gold statue. In the same way, the
omniscient Bodhisattvas know with their jnana that buddha essence is
inside beings and through teaching the dharma they can gradually remove
all the impurities covering the pure mind.
Inside the lotus, the bees, the husk, the filth, the ground, the fruit
skin, the tattered rags, the woman's womb and the clay mould there are:
128. The Buddha , the honey,
the kernel, the gold, the treasure, the great tree, the precious image,
the universal monarch, and the golden figure.
129. Similarly, it is said
that the shell of defilements covering the nature of beings is
beginningless and unconnected with it and that the stainlessness for
that nature of mind is beginningless.
130. Desire, aversion and
ignorance In their strongly active state or as latent imprints, that to
be abandoned through insight, that to be abandoned through cultivation,
the impurities present in the impure and the impurities present in the
131. These nine have been
illustrated by the examples of the lotus shell and so on. The shell of subsidiary defilements
divides into infinite categories.
132. Summarized briefly, the
nine impurities, desire and so on, have been well represented through
nine examples'” the lotus shell and so forth respectively.
133. The pollutions respectively cause the four impurities of ordinary
beings, one of arhants, two of beings training in the dharma and two
impurities of the wise.
These nine examples show that all beings have buddha
essence, but it doesn't manifest because it is covered by impurities.
Buddhas can see the buddha essence and therefore they teach the dharma
on how to remove the impurities. Because of Buddha -nature, one can
reach Buddhahood with purification.
In summary, there were nine examples of the
impurities. If one had a white shell, for example, one can't separate
whiteness from the roundness of the shell. But Buddha-nature is
completely separate from the impurities so these impurities can be
separated when Buddha-nature manifests.
Each of the nine examples corresponds to one of the
defilements and a level of the path. To summarize:
1. In the example of the lotus,
the shell corresponds to attachment
found in ordinary beings.
2. In the example of the bee swarm, the bees correspond to aggression
found in ordinary beings.
3. In the example of withered rice, the husk corresponds to ignorance
found in ordinary beings.
4. In the example of gold in rubbish, the filth corresponds to
attachment, aggression, and ignorance in
a very active state found in
5. In the example of buried treasure, the soil corresponds to the
latent karmic traces of
attachment, aggression, and ignorance left
behind in arhats.
6. In the example of fruit, the skin corresponds to fabricated
obscurations worked on by those on the path of insight by
on the Mahayana path
7. In the example of the statue in rags, the rags correspond to the
innate obscurations worked on
by those on the path of cultivation by
Bodhisattvas on the Mahayana path.
8. In the example of the pregnant woman, her womb represents the
impurities of the Bodhisattva in the
first to seventh Bodhisattva
9. In the example of the statue in clay, the clay represents the
impurities of the Bodhisattva in the eighth
to tenth Bodhisattva
In more detail:
The mind is delighted by the 'mud-born' the lotus but later becomes
dismayed. Such is the desire's happiness.
135. When bees are very irritated, they
sting. Likewise, once anger has arisen, to the heart it brings but
136. Just as kernels of rice and other
grains are covered outwardly by husks and skins, so similarly is the
vision of the very essence obscured by the 'shell' of ignorance.
137. Filth is something unpleasant'”like
such filth is the
active state, causing those who are involved in gratification to
138. When the wealth was covered, they,
not knowing its treasure could not obtain. In a similar way the
spontaneously-arising is concealed by ignorance's latent traces.
139. Just as the germ and so on split the
husk of their grain by their gradual growth, insight into thatness dispels likewise
'obscurations to be abandoned through insight.'
A lotus is a beautiful flower which grows out of
mud. When one sees a lotus blooming, it is very beautiful and one is
happy seeing it.
Later when it withers, one's pleasure disappears. In a similar way,
desire comes out of the mind of samsara and when something desirable or
attractive first presents itself, it might bring pleasure, but with
time it loses its appeal and becomes suffering.
Bees are very attached to their honey; when the
honey is touched they become very angry or irritated and give pain to
others by stinging them. So when the bees are hurt, they hurt others.
In the same way, when one is angry, one is very irritable and one hurts
others with harsh words or actions.
Grains such as rice are covered with a husk which
obscures the grain inside. In the same way, ignorance keeps one from
seeing the true nature of phenomena. It is a thick covering like a
shell or husk which prevents one from seeing what is there.
Filth or rubbish covering gold is very unpleasant
and disagreeable. In the same way when attachment, aggression, and
ignorance are very strong, they are very repulsive and also increase
one's attachment to pleasures.
The soil covers the treasure so that one does not
know a treasure is there. In the same way, very fine mental imprints
caused by ignorance are present in the mind. This is the innate
ignorance present since the beginning of time samsara which covers up
the true nature of the mind so one cannot recognize its true nature .
When one is on the path to enlightenment as an ordinary being, one is
on the path of accumulation and the path of junction. One practices
because one has a goal of practice, but little direct realization.
After a while one gets a direct insight into the nature of
phenomena and becomes a Bodhisattva who sees 'the rope as a rope' and
all misconceptions are relinquished. This is the path
of cultivation of insight which is compared to a shoot growing from the
skin of a fruit. When one has reached this path of insight, jnana
starts to manifest.
Those who, through following the path of the realized, have overcome
the very pith, the beliefs that the destructible and multiple could be
a self, still have obscurations to be abandoned through the jnana of
the path of cultivation. These have been illustrated as being like
those tattered rags.
On the path of insight, the obscurations are
eliminated but we
don't automatically reach Buddhahood. We have been in samsara for such
a long time that we have acquired very strong mental habits. The gross
misconceptions have been removed, but the innate ignorance from the
very beginning still remains as a trace. After we have the insight, we
need to cultivate this insight until it becomes very firm. This path of
cultivation is called the path of the realized ones. It is
the time when the core of the belief of self (called the 'multitude of
fears' because it causes great fear) is removed. This is
compared to tattered rags which are so rotten they are quite easy to
remove. In the
same way, these mental impurities are quite soft, subtle, and easy to
In the seven deep levels the impurities which remain are comparable to
impurities in the confine of a womb. Release from them is like freedom
from that womb whilst nonconceptual jnana is like finally maturing.
The eighth example corresponds to the impurities in
the first seven Bodhisattva levels. These are compared to a baby in the
womb. The baby must wait there nine months and with each day it knows
it is closer to being born. Similarly, a Bodhisattva at each stage is
growing more complete as impurities are removed with jnana
maturing more and more.
The impurities related to the three deep levels should be known as
similar to the traces of clay. These are those to be eliminated by the
vajra-like samadhi of the Great.
143. Thus the nine impurities, desire,
etc. correspond to the lotus and the rest. The Buddha -nature
corresponds to the Buddha and so on being the three natures' union.
The ninth example relates to the very fine
impurities of the last three
Bodhisattva levels which have to be eliminated. These are compared to
traces of clay covering a statue. These great beings, the Bodhisattvas
on the tenth level, remove these slight impurities through vajra-like
samadhi. This is compared to a vajra because it is very powerful and
solid; it can destroy everything else and not be destroyed itself.
Its three natures are the dharmakaya, the suchness and the potential.
These should be understood respectively through the three, one, and
five examples. There is a purity aspect of each of the nine examples.
There is a purity aspect of each of the nine
examples. Buddha-nature is the union of three natures: dharmakaya,
the suchness, and
causal ground. The dharmakaya refers to the clarity aspect, the
suchness to voidness, and the causal ground to the aspect of full
one has a shell that is white and round, one can say that from the
color aspect it is white, from the shape aspect it is round; however,
the white-ness and roundness are inseparable. In the same way the
clarity, voidness, and the causal ground which are the ability to
manifest as Buddhahood are also inseparable. Of the nine examples there
are three examples for the dharmakaya, one example for the suchness,
and five examples for the causal ground.
The dharmakaya should be known as two: the perfectly immaculate
dharmadhatu and the favorable conditions for this'” the teachings in
their profound and manifold aspects.
146. As it transcends the
world there is no example for it manifest within the world, therefore it has been represented by
corresponding the essence to the tathagata's form.
147. The teachings in their aspect
subtle and deep should be known as like honey's taste unique whilst the
teachings in their manifold aspect as like grains within their various
148. Suchness is said to be
similar to the substance of gold because this essence is immutable,
perfectly pure and most noble.
149. One should know the
potential as having aspects two, similar to the treasure and the tree
grown from the fruit: that since beginningless time naturally present
and that perfected through proper cultivation.
150. From this twofold
potential there is achievement of the three kayas of the Buddha :
the first kaya through the former and the other two through the latter.
The first three examples relate to the dharmakaya.
The dharmakaya can be divided into the actual dharmakaya and the
relative dharmakaya which is also called dharmakaya, but is not really
the dharmakaya. The true dharmakaya is the stainless dharmadhatu,
actual Buddha-nature , which is by nature luminosity and in the domain
of self-cognizant jnana.
Relative dharmakaya is called the
'teaching dharmakaya' which are the scriptures that
teach the meaning of the dharmakaya. These scriptures have a deep
aspect related to the dharmakaya and a vast aspect related to the
various mentalities of beings.
The first example is of the true dharmakaya
which cannot be fathomed so it is represented by the Buddha in a
withering lotus. The second example of honey represents the teaching
dharmakaya because the taste of honey is very subtle, as are the
teachings of the dharmakaya. Honey is always very sweet and all kinds
of honey have this same sweet taste. In comparison, all the various
phenomena of the dharmakaya have one taste or a similar nature . The
third example of grain in husks, the millions of grains represent the
great variety of teachings. The deep aspect of the teaching is
represented by the honey, the vast aspect is represented by the grains
in the husk.
The fourth example of gold illustrates the
changeless character of the suchness. Suchness is not completely pure
and not changed by suffering or defilements. It is perfectly pure and
therefore is compared to gold which has the same qualities.
The last five examples refer to causal ground. The
causal ground is compared to a treasure because a treasure can lie
beneath the ground for hundreds of years and remain unchanged. The
causal ground is compared to a fruit because when a fruit is still a
cannot see the tree, but the fruit contains the potential of a tree.
The example of a treasure describes the innate aspect of the causal
ground and the example of the fruit describes how the proper practice
of virtue can manifest into Buddhahood. These two aspects of the causal
ground develop into the three kayas of the Buddha . The dharmakaya is
the outcome of the innate aspect and the form kayas
are the outcome of the practice of virtue.
The essence-kaya, magnificent should be know as being similar to the
statue made of precious substance, because that is natural and
uncreated and it is a treasure of jewel qualities.
152. The sambhogakaya is like
the cakravartin, being endowed with the greater dharma's majesty. Like
the gold image are the nirmanakaya having the very nature of a
The essence-kaya, svabhavikakaya or
dharmakaya, is com-pared to an example of a buddha statue made of
precious substances. The innate aspect of causal ground is compared to
a treasure of jewels because it is there naturally. The sambhogakaya is
compared to a great king or chakravartin because the sambhogakaya
is endowed with the great power of dharma. The nirmanakaya is
illustrated by a golden statue because it is a representation of the
This ultimate truth of the spontaneously born to be understood through
faith alone'” The orb of the sun may shine but it cannot be seen
by the blind.
154. There is nothing whatever
to remove from this, nor the slightest thing thereon to add. Truly
beholding the true nature '”when truly
As an ordinary person one cannot understand Buddha
essence directly and therefore needs the help of faith to understand
it. The Buddha -nature has been there from the very beginning and was
never created by anyone. It is the spontaneously present jnana.
An ordinary person cannot see this directly because his Buddha-nature
is covered by impurities. He or she may be able to gain some indirect
understanding of it by inference, but even this is hard to understand
because it is in the domain of the inconceivable. For example, the sun
sheds its brilliant rays all the time; as far as the sun is
concerned, it never is obscured by anything. But a blind person will
never see this sunshine. In the same way, the spontaneously present
jnana has been there from the very beginning but it is hidden from
ordinary beings who do not have the clear eyes of prajna to see
the thick darkness of ignorance. They must rely on faith in order to
understand this Buddha-nature .
Buddha essence has two kinds of purity: it is
naturally pure, and it is pure from incidental impurities. It has
always had these
qualities, but when one doesn't see this fully one makes mistakes, goes
astray, and wanders in samsara.
The Buddha -nature is devoid of any affect'” such an intrinsic
characteristic would be completely foreign. Yet it is not devoid of the
supreme qualities, whose
intrinsic characteristics are indifferentiable from its domain.
Buddha-nature is void and not void in a way. The
buddha essence is devoid of any passing impurity because these are not
an intrinsic part of it. On the other hand, the buddha essence is not
devoid of the supreme qualities because the qualities are an
inseparable part of the actual nature of the buddha essence.
Importance of Buddha -nature
The fourth major division in this chapter on
Buddha-nature explains why it is necessary to teach about the presence
of the Buddha-nature and what benefits one can expect from
understanding this teaching. To review, the Buddha turned the wheel of
dharma three times.
The second turning demonstrated the voidness of all
phenomena. In these
teachings the Buddha said there is no form, sound, taste, smell, etc.
with everything being devoid of any actual nature . Everything is void
beyond the four extremes of existence and nonexistence and beyond the
eight mental fabrications. Everything is the dharmadhatu devoid of any
actual nature of its own. In the third turning, Buddha stated all
beings had Buddha -nature and he described the nature of the Buddha
-nature in detail. Ordinary beings might think that there is
a contradiction between teachings of the second turning in which the
Buddha said there wasn't anything and in the third turning in
which he said there was.
He had taught in various place that every knowable thing is ever void,
like a cloud, a dream or an illusion. Then why did the Buddha declare
the essence of Buddhahood to be there in every sentient being?
In the text it states that the Buddha taught
phenomena are devoid of actual nature ; they are like a cloud, a dream,
or an illusion. This
was explained in many sutras in the long, middle, and short form of the
Prajnaparamita sutra. The Buddha in this teaching stated that anything
knowable is devoid of any actual nature ; that is, it is always void
and always has been void. In the third turning the Buddha said that all
beings have Buddha essence which appears to contradict the second
There are five mistakes: faintheartedness, contempt for those of lesser
ability, to believe in the false, to speak about the true nature badly,
and to cherish oneself above all else.
The answer to this contraction is that if we do not
understand the presence of Buddha -nature in all beings, we will make
five mistakes in reasoning. The first mistake is faintheartedness; we
will become discouraged about the possibility of attaining Buddhahood.
We will think the Buddhas of the past have managed to attain
Buddhahood, but they were individuals quite different from
ourself, so Buddhahood is totally out of reach. If we think this way,
we may not even begin to work for liberation. The second mistake is we
don't know that other beings have Buddha -nature and we might feel
contempt for persons who have a lesser understanding than our own and
believe they have no chance of achieving Buddhahood. The third mistake
is to have misconceptions of the true nature of things and believe
appearances are real. Fourth, if we don't understand
that all beings have Buddha -nature and therefore have the possibility
of reaching Buddhahood, we might think that beings are simply empty and
void and we might therefore ridicule their true nature . If we do not
understand all beings are alike because they all possess Buddha -
nature , we may make the fifth mistake of thinking more highly of
ourself than others. We therefore spend more time looking for happiness
for ourself and less in helping others. To prevent these five
mistakes the Buddha gave three teachings.
The ultimate true nature is always devoid of anything compounded: so it
is said that defilements, karma, and their full ripening are like a
The ultimate nature of everything is devoid of
com-posite. In this true nature there is no such thing as form, sound,
sight, etc. because it is beyond both existence and
non-existence, the four extremes, and the eight conceptual
fabrications. In the ultimate sense everything is voidness, but in the
relative sense everything manifests because of the defilements, karma,
and the fruition of karma.
The defilements are said to be like clouds, karma is likened to the
experience in dreams and the full ripening of karma and the
defilements'” the aggregates'”are likened to conjurations.
These three causes of manifestation are compared to
clouds, a dream, and an illusion respectively. In the second turning,
all relative manifestation are described as an illusion but in the
all phenomena are void. The defilements of attachment, aggression,
ignorance, and belief in a self are compared to clouds which
cover buddha essence. These defile-ments give rise to our good and bad
actions (karma) which are tainted by the presence of defilements. These
actions are compared to the experiences we have in dreams. Although
sounds, forms, feelings, and so on appear to us as real in a dream,
they have no reality in themselves. This is the same for everything we
experience. As a result of defilements and karma there is the
maturation of the five aggregates. A great magician with different
tricks can conjure up different illusions. These illusions
are produced by the magician, but they do not have any actual
independent reality. In the same way, all aggregates and manifestations
of existence are conjured up by the defilements and karma and are like
an illusion with no independent reality. The second turning made clear
that on the ultimate level everything is void, but on the relative
level everything manifests to us like clouds or dreams or illusions.
Previously was it thus presented, then, further to this, the presence
of Buddha-nature was taught
ultimately in the 'changeless continuity' as here, so that these five
faults could be abandoned.
161. Not learning in this fashion
some people are disheartened, through mistaken self-contempt and
bodhicitta will not develop in them.
The purpose of this teaching was to eliminate
mis-conceptions which arise from not knowing about Buddha -nature . The
first mistake is discouragement or fainthearted-ness which is a form of
self-contempt. It appears when one thinks one is unable to do something
because one is not good enough to do it. We think, 'I
cannot get rid of the defilements; I cannot achieve Buddhahood and help
beings and practice dharma' and lack the confidence to
In general, when someone doesn't have enough
confidence in worldly affairs, they cannot accomplish what they have to
do. This is also true of the dharma; if we don't have enough
we aren't able to generate the state of mind con-ducive to
enlightenment. A Bodhisattva must have compassion and understanding.
Without self- confidence, the Bodhisattva won't be able to practice
Some people, when proud, thing, 'I am best,' because bodhicitta has
dawned in them, and they strongly dwell on the idea that those in whom
it has not dawned are inferior.
If we are able to generate some bodhichitta, then
don't have this motivation appear inferior. So to think, 'I'm
much better than others because they don't have strong motivation'
and to develop strong pride and look down on others is the second
mistake because everyone has Buddha -nature .
Right understanding cannot arise in those who think like this and so,
since they misinterpret the true, they will not understand the truth.
The third mistake is to lack the right kind of
understanding and to believe phenomenal appearances to be real. We
cling to this misconception, because we do not understand that all
phenomenal appearances are empty.
Beings' defects are not the true, being but a fabrication and
accidental. In reality, these faults are not entities whereas the
qualities are naturally pure.
The faults and defects in beings are only transient
fabrica-tions. Actually, within individuals all the qualities are pure
and present. If
we don't understand this, we will speak ill of the true nature
which is the fourth fault.
If one clings to the faults, the untrue, and disparages the qualities,
the true, one will not have the loving kindness of the wise which sees
the similarity of others and oneself.
The fifth mistake of not knowing that all beings
possess Buddha-nature and to value oneself over all beings. The
opposite is characteristic of Bodhisattvas who love others as much as
themselves. If we don't know about Buddha-nature , one cannot achieve
this complete love.
Through learning in such fashion there will arise enthusiasm and
respect towards the Buddha, prajna, jnana, and great love.
If we know about the presence of Buddha-nature, the
five mistakes can be dispelled. On hearing the teaching of
Buddha-nature we will not be discouraged; on the contrary we will be
happy to learn there is no need to continue in samsara because we
possess this essence of Buddhahood and has the power to achieve
Buddhahood in the future. We will be joyous because we discover we are
on the path with all the Buddhas of the past, present, and future
and is able to
achieve enlightenment because we have the cause of it in ourself.
The second benefit of this teaching is that we will
develop respect for all beings. Because all beings are potential
Buddhas, we cannot despise them, but can only feel respect for them.
The knowledge of Buddha-nature will also dispel the three remaining
faults. Knowing all persons possess Buddha-nature allows us to stop
believing the reality of phenomena. At first we believe everything is
empty and believe in this reality. Knowledge of Buddha-nature gives
rise to prajna which is the understanding of the true nature of things.
Understanding that Buddha-nature is possessed by all beings gives birth
to jnana. Finally, loving-kindness will develop as a result
of giving up egotism or valuing oneself over others.
Due to the growth of these five qualities, the unwholesome aspects will
be absent and the similarity will be seen. Through faultlessness,
inherent qualities and through loving- kindness which sees oneself and
others' similarity, Buddhahood will be swiftly achieved.
With the growth of these five good qualities, the
five unwhole-some qualities will be abandoned and we will understand
that all beings are the same in that they all possess the buddha
essence and have the power to achieve Buddhahood. When we know this, we
will develop loving kindness towards beings making it possible to
achieve Buddhahood quickly.
This was the first chapter, one
the 'Essence of the
Tathagatas' from the analysis of the
'Potential for the Rare and Supreme'
in the Ultimate Explanatory Mahayana Teaching on the Uttara Tantra.