THE ESSENCE OF SHENTONG
To explain the essence
of Shentong, the ultimate Mahayana, we will:-
I. describe the general philosophical schools,
II. characterize Madhyamaka principles, and
III. refute criticisms by others.
General Philosophical Schools
While the views and doctrines of non-Buddhists lack a path to
liberation, our Buddhist view and doctrine has such a path to
liberation. And although non-Buddhists lack a path to liberation, some
do have an exalted teaching leading to the higher realms like the
Samkhyas, Jains, and other yogic non-Buddhists. By eschewing harmful
actions and cultivating virtue, they are reborn as humans or desire
realm gods. By meditating on the four absorptive states, they are
reborn in the form realms. And by meditating on the four formless
concentrated states, they are reborn in the formless realms. Others
lack even a path to the higher realms, like hedonists and nihilists who
underrate the law of karma and pursue violence.
reason non-Buddhists have no path to liberation is this: they do not
reject the attitude which fixates on a self, called self-clinging. From
beginningless time in cyclic existence, the attitude of self-clinging
has been strong and continuous. On top of that, some philosophical
schools even affirm the existence of the self in many ways. They
cultivate that idea! Because they have no antidote to self-clinging,
they are unable to overcome it. And this self-clinging is the cause of
all other disturbing emotions!
noble non-Buddhists meditate on general impermanence of birth, old age,
sickness, and death. They understand that this life and the desire
realms are suffering. They regard gross material things like form as
unreal. They develop contentment and have few desires. They are kind
and compassionate. As a result of meditating on the equality of friend
and foe, they possess equanimity. They refrain from the four root
downfalls. Therefore, they have a positive view, meditation, and
action, and they can reach the higher realms.
The Four Schools of Buddhism
four schools of Buddhism are Vaibhashika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra, and Madhyamaka. The first two are Hinayana, or
Shravakayana. The last two are Mahayana.
does one categorize Hinayana and Mahayana? They are categorized
according to whether they maintain the Shravakayana sutras as the final
teachings of the Buddha or whether they maintain the Mahayana sutras
and treatises as the ultimate teachings. Proponents of the Hinayana and
Mahayana teachings are grouped in the Hinayana and Mahayana schools,
However, individuals in those schools cannot be determined as either
Hinayanist or Mahayanist categorically. Individuals who cultivate
Mahayana aspirations and practice in their mind-stream are Mahayanists.
Individuals who cultivate Hinayana aspirations and practice in their
mind-stream are Hinayanists. If they do not cultivate any aspiration or
practice, then whatever scriptures they read or schools they follow,
they are neither Mahayanist nor Hinayanist.
There are individuals who adhere to Mahayana tenets but actually
practice the Hinayana path. There are also individuals who adhere to
Hinayana tenets but actually practice the Mahayana path. There are
individuals who adhere to and practice Mahayana tenets, and those who
adhere to and practice Hinayana tenets. Many hold tenets but do not
actually practice a path. There is hardly anyone practicing the path
who does not adhere to tenets.
The Vaibhashikas hold that mind, divided
into cognition and mental events, exists as objectively real. The
arising and dissolving of the five sense faculties and five sense
fields also exist as objectively real. Non-concurrent formations, the
three uncompounded elements such as the sky, and the past and future of
things, they assert that these elements truly exist. They also assert
that gross objects and the continuum of objects are unreal.
Consciousness arises out of truly existent sense faculties and objects.
The eye directly perceives form.
most refined Vaibhashika doctrines, like the Kashmir School, assert
that all compounded phenomena dissolve from moment to moment and thus
are impermanent. They maintain that the personal self is merely a
mental designation and insubstantial.
worst doctrines of Hinayana, like the Sammitiyas, agree that compounded
phenomena are impermanent, because they eventually perish. However,
they say that compounded phenomena do not dissolve moment to moment.
Therefore, they assert that the continuum of phenomena is somewhat
substantial. Although they do not view the self as independent,
solitary, and eternal – as non-Buddhists do – they see the self as
materially evident and thus real. With this faulty view, they have no
actual path to liberation; but they have taken refuge in the Three
Jewels and they do study, contemplate, meditate and practice morality.
Therefore, they are motivated by the desire for liberation, and
eventually they will achieve liberation.
Vaibhashikas maintain that the Seven Books Of Abhidharma are the words of the
Buddha. Because the sutras contain many teachings with hidden meanings
and provisional truths, they believe it is necessary to rely on a
commentary for the view and teachings, called the Mahavaibhasa.
The Sautrantikas say that uncompounded
elements and non-concurrent formations are imputed. Since they are just
mental designations, they are unreal. Furthermore, the continuum of
objects, like form and so on, and the continuum of mind are unreal. The
past and future of things are also merely imputed. However, momentary
partless particles and the instantaneous flickering of mind are real.
They assert that the eye does not perceive form and that eye
consciousness also does not directly perceive form. What the eye
consciousness sees is the reflection of form, which the eye
consciousness recognizes as form. However, they maintain that
appearances have an external basis of form, which gives rise to
Sautrantikas maintain that the Seven Books of Abhidharma are not the words of the
Buddha. Since there are mistakes in commentaries, such as the Mahavaibhasa, they say that one should
follow the sutras.
According to both schools, the Shravaka Pitakas alone represent the
Buddha's teachings. The famous Mahayana sutras like the Prajnaparamita, Ratnakuta, and Avatamsaka are not the Buddha's
teachings. They say the difference between the Hinayana and Mahayana
lies in the actions of individuals, not in different scriptures.
those schools assert as real and their negation of Mahayana are the
flaws in their doctrine. They are correct on all other counts, such as
instantaneous dissolution and personal non-self.
According to Cittamatra, external objects, such as
form, are like dream images. They are mind itself, manifesting as this
and that; the appearances are not external. Take the example of form.
What is known as the eye faculty is the mind manifesting as the eye.
Therefore, the eye does not exist independently. Furthermore, what is
known as form is mind manifesting as form. So form also does not exist
independently. From the eye faculty and form, it seems the eye
consciousness arises. It is a mistake to see these three [sense
faculty, sense object, and sense consciousness] as separate; they are
of one stuff, mind. When the eye consciousness perceives form, it sees
What causes form to
arise? Apart from mind, there is no real form which gives the
impression of an external world. Without examining or analyzing,
ordinary people believe that the eye sees form. But when analyzed, form
cannot be established, but mind appearing as form can be truly
established. Therefore, the nature of all consciousnesses can be truly
established. Within that, the objective pole appears externally as the
material world, and the subjective pole appears internally as
consciousness. Within non-duality, consciousness is regarded as real.
Cittamatrins find it sufficient to define non-duality as the
inseparability of the subject and object. They regard the true nature
of consciousness as primordial wisdom. They claim to refute duality
according to their system, but when examined by a higher viewpoint,
they do not fully refute it. When they propose that the subject and
object are not separate entities, they must also assert that the mind
exists in its own right.
Cittamatrins regard consciousness as real and consciousness by nature
as non-dual primordial wisdom. They do not see the subjective pole as
just consciousness, but as the part which appears as separated from the
mind appearing as objects. These assertions are mistaken. Their other
points are correct.
There are two
schools of Madhyamaka: general Madhyamaka and Great Madhyamaka.
The general Madhyamaka is known in Tibet as Rangtong. In both India and Tibet,
that school is known by its view, 'free of inherent nature.' The
masters of the Rangtong school are Buddhapalita, Bhavaviveka,
Vimuktasena, Shantarakshita and their followers. There are differences
among their viewpoints; however, they all agree that phenomena are
relative. Phenomena include all compounded things – such as form, mind,
and non-concurrent formations– and uncompounded elements such as space
and non-entities. These phenomena are free of inherent nature. That is
the ultimate truth for Rangtongpas. Relative and absolute are neither
identical nor different. Their separation is merely a classification.
nature of dharmata contains nothing at all; it is free from
elaboration, illustrated by the example of space. Relative phenomena
are empty of reality even as they appear. Their manifestation is
unceasing, illustrated by the example of a magical illusion. On both
relative and absolute levels, the nature of dharmata transcends
reification, such as existence and non-existence, affirmation and
maintain that ultimate dharmata is merely transcending concepts, like
space. They say that the Buddha's wisdom is relative, not truly
existing, and that the ultimate truth also does not truly exist. The
Prasangikas formulate a philosophical framework, but in order to avoid
the contention of others, they make no assertions. They believe that
one can reverse wrong views without developing certainty. These
assertions are mistaken. They are correct when they assert that all
phenomena, including the subjective and objective poles, are unreal.
What is non-existent also is not real.
Cittamatrins and Rangtong Madhyamikas do not fully understand the
self-luminous awareness of primordial wisdom, which is the real secret
of buddha-nature. The Rangtong masters of the past never refuted
Shentong. Their later followers made refutations, because they
misunderstood the key points of Shentong.
In Tibet, the Great Madhyamaka, which is Yogacara
Madhyamaka, is known as Shentong. It was elucidated in the
scriptures of Maitreya, Asanga, Vasubandhu and Dignaga. It was also
profoundly illuminated in Nagarjuna's Praise to Dharmadhatu. Shentong was the viewpoint
of both masters, Nagarjuna and Asanga.
According to Shentong, all the following are regarded as compounded and
transient and thereby unreal: the three uncompounded dharmas, regarded
as unconditioned by all schools up to and including Cittamatra, but
which are actually imputed and insubstantial; all basic samsaric
dharmas such as external objects, the eight types of consciousness, and
the fifty one dharmas of mental events; and everything included in the
path and result, such as all newly arisen aspects within the fruition
of Buddhahood and whatever appears to those yet to be tamed. From the
vantage point of ultimate truth, whatever appears as sight and sound,
all the phenomena within dharma and dharmata, everything included in
subject and object, are compounded and transient and thereby unreal.
ultimate truth is dharmadhatu and self-luminous awareness, which is
non-dual pristine wisdom. This is called uncompounded dharmata. When
examined by reason, nothing but this can be established as true.
However, in the Rangtong way of comparing it to space, it is
insubstantial; for that reason, they assert that it is not ultimate
Shentong school is faultless, endowed with all good qualities.
Mahayanists accept Mahayana sutras as the words of the Buddha. However,
Cittamatrins hold four sutras – Sandhinirmocana, Lankavatara, Ghanavyuha and Avatamsaka – as definitive and the
rest of them as provisional. The founders of this school are the five
hundred masters of the early Mahayana. The holders of the general
Madhyamaka consider the Third Turning sutras as provisional and the Prajnaparamita sutras of the Second
Turning as ultimate. The real founders of this school are Buddhapalita
and so on as mentioned above. Their followers claim that the eight
proponents of the 'free of inherent nature,' like Rahulabhadrika, and
Nagarjuna adhered to their view alone.
Great Madhyamaka bases its view on the sutras of all Three Turnings of
the Wheel of Dharma. The view that establishes ultimate dharmata as
true is presented in a general way in the following scriptures: Katyayana Sutra, Sunyata Nama Mahasutra and many other sutras from
the First Turning; the Maitreya Pariprcchanama Sutra, the Prajnaparamita in five hundred stanzas, and
many other sutras from the Second Turning; and also many sutras from
the Third Turning including the four important ones mentioned above.
most definitive presentation of this subject is found in the Tathatagatagarbha Sutra,
Mahabheriharaka Sutra, Angulimala Sutra, Srimaladevi Sutra,
Mahaparinirvana Sutra, Ratnamega Sutra, Prasanta Viniscaya Sutra and so forth. Based on these
sutras, the subtle and distinct view reveals pure dharmadhatu as
buddha-nature. In a subtle and distinctive way, these secretly
whispered teachings describe pure dharmadhatu, buddha-nature,
dharmakaya – permanent and unchanging – with all the ultimate qualities
of the Buddha, primordially and naturally present.
Maitreya was the author who elucidated the meaning of the sutras
through his literature. In the Abhisamayalankara, he gave a brief and general
explanation. In the Mahayana Sutralankara, Madhyanta-vibhanga and Dharmata-vi-bhanga, he clearly explained this
view in detail. The extraordinary and most subtle view of these
essential sutras is presented in the Uttaratantra. Asanga and Vasubandhu wrote
commentaries on these texts. In Asanga's commentary on the Uttaratantra, this extraordinary view is
utterly clear and elaborate. In their entirety, the commentaries of
these two brothers are clearly Shentong Madhyamaka. In Vasubandhu's
commentary on the Prajnaparamita in 20,000 stanzas and his
commentary on the Dharmata-vibhanga, the Shentong view is extensive and
exceedingly clear. His disciples, Dignaga and Sthiramati, and many
other good students in his lineages taught widely the doctrine of
general Shentong. The subtle Shentong, since it is difficult to fathom,
was spread by ear to ear transmission only to the best students.
Later, there emerged many in India who confused the Shentong Madhyamaka
and Cittamatra schools. For that reason, the majority of Tibetans
misunderstood them as the same. In Tibet, a variety of scholars
translated these texts, but translators like Zugawe Dorje and Tsen
Khawoche, who were within Maitrya's meditative lineage, held the pure
view. The omniscient Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen spread the lion's roar of
the distinctive and profound Shentong across the land.
The Madhyanta-vibhaga says:
While defining the
relative truth, impure perception which gives rise to appearance exists
on a relative level. Subjective and objective appearances which are
manifested to that are just imputations of the mind. For that reason,
these are not real, even at the level of relative truth. Therefore,
relative truth is freed from both extremes. By accepting that
conceptual mind only exists on a relative level, one is freed from the
extreme of nihilism. By transcending the imputed subjective and
objective poles, one is freed from the extreme of eternalism.
That does not have
Emptiness is there,
And that is also
It is not emptiness
In that way
everything is explained.
It is, it is not,
it is –
That is the Middle
primordial wisdom of emptiness is free of contrivance. It is truly and
naturally present within our impure perception and consciousness. When
dharmata is covered, obscured consciousness remains as temporary and
removable, and the defilements are unreal. Therefore, it is said that
ultimate truth is also freed from both extremes.
Because emptiness is truly established and all dharmas – like concepts
within the range of subject and object – are unreal, ultimate truth is
beyond the extremes of 'is' and 'is not,' eternalism and nihilism.
Therefore, subjective and objective duality of the relative level are
only deluded appearance. Because nothing is independently established,
it is empty of self-nature. When divided into self and other, it is not
possible to be another's nature. Therefore, it is never non-emptiness.
The nature of primordial wisdom is ever-present and never changes. For
that reason, it is not empty of its nature; it is permanent.
Generally, if it is empty and emptiness, it need not be empty of its
own nature. Primordial wisdom is empty of all contrivance and dualism
which is other than its own nature. That is why it is empty.
The three natures are the imaginary, the dependent, and the
Whatever is grasped by mental designation is the imaginary nature. Non-entities and the
appearances of objects arising in the mind are imaginary. The
relationship between name and object, such as grasping the name as the
object or mistaking the object as the name, are also imaginary. Outer,
inner, fringe and center, big and small, good and bad, space and time,
and so on, whatever is grasped by thought is imaginary in nature.
The dependent nature is simply consciousness
which arises as subjective and objective poles, based on the habitual
tendencies of ignorance.
The perfected nature is self-aware,
self-luminous, and free from contrivance. The synonyms of the perfected
nature are dharmata, dharmadhatu, suchness, and ultimate truth.
dependent and imaginary natures are equally false and relative.
However, it is necessary to separate them into individual categories.
The imaginary nature does not exist even on a relative level. The
dependent nature exists on a relative level. The perfected nature does
not exist on a relative level, yet it truly exists on an ultimate
level. Therefore, imaginary nature exists by designation, and the
dependent nature exists as tangible. The perfected nature does not
exist in either of these two ways, rather it exists in an uncontrived
imaginary nature is non-existent emptiness. The dependent nature is
existent emptiness. The perfected nature is ultimate emptiness.
Lord Maitreya said:
If one understands
As well as ultimate
It is said that one
The imaginary nature has no characteristics.
The dependent nature
has no arising.
The perfected nature
ultimately has no nature.
These are the three
All phenomena are
revealed to be without nature
By establishing the
non-natures of the three natures.
According to this system, all phenomena are permeated by emptiness and
free of inherent nature; therefore, all phenomena are empty and
non-empty. This is the Shentong view. And Shentongpas are the real
exponents of 'free of inherent nature.' The Rangtong masters, like
Bhavaviveka and Buddhapalita and others, are considered the main
teachers of the 'free of inherent nature,' based solely on popular
the perfected nature real? Does it arise, dwell, or cease? Does it come
or go? Is it changeable? Is it space or time? Is it one or many? It is
none of these. If all of those qualities are present, then the
perfected nature would not be real. The perfected nature is unborn,
non-dwelling, and unceasing. It does not come or go. It is not one or
many. It has no cause and no fruition. Within itself, it is free of the
characteristics, the qualities, and basis. It is beyond all space and
time. Within itself, it is free of all relative phenomena. It is
indivisible because it cannot be separated into distinct parts. Because
it is the nature of all phenomena, it is ever-present and all pervasive.
The Meaning of the Great
Secondly, we will discuss the meaning of the Great Madhyamaka.
The Sutralankara states:
Suchness and the Tathagata are of the same stuff which is called
buddha-nature. The meaning of Tathagatagarbha, Sugatagarbha, and the
essence of the Buddha is the same. That abides equally in the Buddha,
in all phenomena, and in all sentient beings. In sentient beings,
buddha-nature is present as a seed. In the Buddhas, buddha-nature is
completely actualized. The ultimate Buddha is the same as the seed in
the mindstream of sentient beings. Therefore, all sentient beings have
In all suchness
there is no differentiation.
itself is purified;
All beings have
the essence of that.
buddha-nature that is in sentient beings is called gotra and dhatu. If the buddha-nature in
the Buddha is not like a seed and buddha-nature in beings is like a
seed, are these not two different things? No. Buddha is suchness
itself. Even when we talk about Buddhas as people, to them
buddha-nature is not hidden and has become actualized. And when we talk
about a seed, it gives a meaning of something hidden inside and
therefore does not apply to the Buddhas. Although that suchness of the
Buddhas always abides in sentient beings, because beings do not see it,
it can be described as hidden or as a seed. When the seed is described
as unchanging, then it can be said that Buddhas also have the seed of
buddha-nature. For that reason buddha-nature is free from both entity
and non-entity; that is why it is truly unconditioned and ultimately
the most profound and subtle understanding, there is no dispute that
the dharmadhatu of the Buddha is naturally present with all the
qualities of the Buddha. That is inseparable from the dharmadhatu of
sentient beings; therefore what is wrong if we say that buddha-nature,
which is in sentient beings, is also present with all the qualities of
The Uttaratantra states,
uncreated, inseparable and all-pervasive. Its limitless qualities are
more numerous than the grains of sand on the banks of the Ganges."
Thus, if the seed of the Buddha is present with all the unconditioned
qualities, it has all the qualities of the ultimate Buddha.
wisdom of all-pervading space (dharmadhatu) entails only ultimate
truth. Although the other four wisdoms are mainly ultimate because of
primordial nature, they have certain aspects which are newly attained
through the practice of the path and which are relative. The ten powers
and the four fearlessnesses are similar. Physical qualities such as the
major and minor marks, and the sixty attributes of speech, are relative
and absolute in equal aspects. The svabhavikakaya is nothing but
ultimate truth. The dharmakaya is predominately ultimate. As long as we
do not differentiate real and imputed, sambhogakaya and nirmanakaya are
relative and absolute in equal aspects. What appears to others as
Buddha activity is relative. The potency and power of wisdom are
absolute. The ultimate aspect of the kayas, wisdoms, qualities and
activities is primordially present in buddha-nature. When an individual
becomes enlightened, these are not newly attained; they are just freed
from the stains that obscure them. Whatever is newly attained is the
relative aspect. The ultimate aspect of the qualities of past and
future Buddhas are the same nature. The relative aspect of those are
also the same after one attains enlightenment, but at the time of
enlightenment they are different. Therefore, it is impossible to say
that the nature of relative qualities is the same or different.
is newly attained, or generated by practicing the path, is called the
'generated result;' it is not real. The 'liberated result' occurs just
by removing obscurations from the primordially abiding Buddha. It is
not really cause and effect. It is just called 'liberated cause' of the
path as a description. The liberated result is explained in the
Abhidharma: "When intellect is exhausted, that is freedom." This is not
the cessation of all mental activity. In the Dharanisvaraja Sutra it says, "It is
primordially exhausted, therefore it is called cessation." This is the
ultimate liberated result and the truth of cessation. If you ask: is
removing obscurations the same meaning as 'exhaustion of intellect'?
The answer is no. From the vantage point of dharmadhatu obscurations
are not removed; removing is from the individual point of view. One may
sometimes use the term 'exhaustion of intellect' to refer to the time
of enlightenment, but actually there is nothing to exhaust. Dharmadhatu
is primordially pure because it has never been stained; for that reason
cessation is not newly created by mind. Buddha-nature which is non-dual
wisdom permeates all phenomena equally. It is ornamented with all the
ultimate qualities of the Buddha. The great perfected nature is
unchanging and free from all contrivances; it is endowed with all
aspects of wisdom. This is the only unmistaken reality. The wisdom of
the noble ones is undiluted and truly established by experience. Since
it is unchanging, it is permanent, stable, and enduring.
Buddha-nature and its qualities such as the marks and signs were taught
in the tantras of the Secret Mantrayana in their entirety. Whatever is
called relative, dualistic, and diluted appearance, or in short, all
phenomena of sight and sound, can not stain the perfected nature. The
perfected nature does not exist separately as untarnished dharmadhatu
but really abides in relative truth. The imaginary nature is just
diluted appearance. Since reality is like the hare's horns, it is
unstained because there is nothing to be stained. Buddha-nature, the
perfected nature, is never empty of itself. All that is other and
relative is primordially empty. Ultimate truth, the perfected nature,
is shentong 'empty of other' not rangtong 'empty of itself.' What is
relative is empty of other-nature as well as empty of self- nature.
What is ultimate is empty only of other nature. This way of teaching is
called Shentong Madhyamaka.
order to overcome the attachment to worldly dharmas, we practice the
renunciation of suffering and impermanence. To renounce selfishness one
should bring bodhicitta into the mindstream. In order to renounce gross
attachments to relative phenomena, we meditate on understanding
relative truth as unreal. In order to renounce subtle attachments we
meditate on non-thought by dissolving relative thoughts into space.
Through practice we will gradually see the face of buddha-nature, which
is non-thought. Whatever path we practice, the purpose is to see the
we will refute the criticisms by others of Shentong Madhyamaka.
Although criticisms are addressed in detail in The Ornament of Shentong
here I include an abbreviated version. Others quote the Lankavatara Sutra to say, "If buddha-nature
has all the marks and signs, how is it different from the 'soul,' or
Atman, of non-buddhists? In reply the Buddha said, "It is not the same
because of emptiness." Others interpret the sutras to say that
buddha-nature is unreal; if it had marks and signs it would be
analogous to non-buddhist traditions. Buddha-nature, they say, is
insubstantial like space. To them we reply: to think everything which
is empty is untrue, insubstantial and non-existent is a fault of
attachment to your own inadequate doctrine.
reason buddha-nature is not analogous to non-buddhist traditions is
this: the sutras say the marks are empty, but they do not say that they
are not present. To say that buddha-nature with its radiant, perfected
marks and signs is provisional is nothing more than deception. Anyone
who criticizes the proponents of 'the permanent nature' as non-buddhist
likewise reject the Tatagathagharba sutras. It is also
incorrect to say that the meaning of permanence refers to continuity.
The continuum-permanence is even in samsara and duality. If permanence
referred to continuity, then all compounded things would be permanent.
you think that first it was defiled and later it became pure, it
follows that it is impermanent. From the vantage point of dharmata,
first it was not impure, later it did not become pure. Whether it seems
defiled or pure depends on the individual's mind-stream. Just because
individuals change their perspective, it is wrong to conclude that
dharmata is changed.
people find it unreasonable that sentient beings have the Buddha's
wisdom in their mind-stream, they are contradicting the Buddha's direct
statement "The Buddha's wisdom resides in the multitude of sentient
beings." They also say: it is incorrect that sentient beings have the
Buddha's qualities, because if sentient beings have the ten powers of
wisdom in their mind-stream, then they should have the full power of
discrimination. What they say is not correct, because we do not assert
that everything in the mind-stream of sentient beings is Buddha. If
buddha-nature and its qualities, remaining in the mind-stream of
sentient beings, makes sentient beings omniscient, then the Buddha
sitting on his throne, would also make the throne omniscient. Of course
the eight consciousnesses, in the mind-stream of sentient beings, are
not Buddha. The Buddha which remains in the mind-stream of sentient
beings is not there as something within something else on a relative
level. It remains there as its nature on an ultimate level.
Let's briefly review the Three Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma. First
is the Turning of the Four Noble Truths. Second is the Turning of
Emptiness. The Third is the Turning of Full Revelation. The First
Turning consists of the sutras taught to the Shravakas, or the sutras
of the Hinayana. The Second Turning consists of the root sutras of the
Mahayana, but certain points are not fully revealed. The Third Turning
is like the commentary of the Second where the most definitive
teachings are fully revealed.
of three natures – imaginary, dependent, and perfected – have two
aspects. The imaginary nature consists of the subjective and objective
imaginary natures. The dependent nature consists of the impure and pure
dependent nature. The perfected nature consists of the unchanging
nature and the unmistaken nature.
actual imaginary nature is the objective aspect. The actual perfected
nature is the unchanging aspect and not the unmistaken aspect, though
they are the same nature. The unmistaken aspect of perfected nature is
included in the pure dependent nature. The subjective part of the
imaginary nature and the dependent nature are identical. If examined by
reason, the actual dependent nature is included in the imaginary nature
but its natural state is the perfected nature. Therefore, all phenomena
are included in the perfected and imaginary natures. All phenomena of
samsara and nirvana are classified into the three natures or the two
truths, relative consciousness and ultimate wisdom. Relative perception
of form, sound, touch, and smell and so forth is unreal. The natural
state of the sights and sounds are within the aspect of primordial
wisdom. Therefore, they are real. In this way there is no contradiction
between relative and ultimate truth.
As requested by some interested students,
this was spoken
at the hermitage
of Cholong Changtse,
the North Peak of
the Dharma Valley.
May it be Auspicious!
Translated by the Tibetan IV class at The
Naropa University under the guidance of Ringu Tulku., May 1, 1999