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MEDI1'ATION ON EMPTINESS

Khenpo Tsultrirn Gyarntso


MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
MEDITATION ON
EMPTINESS
BY
KHENPO TSOLTRIM GYAMTSO RlNPOCHE
NALANDABODHI PUBLICATIONS
APRIL 2001
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Nalandabodhi Publications
P.O. Box 95657
Seattle, WA 98145-2657
USA
2001 Nalandabodhi and Khenpo Tsiiltrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
Originally published in part in Taiwan, November 1993
Not to be reproduced or otherwise distributed.
Draft Edition
ISBN NUMBER: 1-929046-07-3
Copyright Information:
Talks and Songs on The Progressive Stages of Meditation on
Emptiness was originally published by Marpa Translation
Committee, Taiwan, 1993.
Realizing Emptiness: Commentaries on Arya Nagarjuna and the
songs of Gyalwa Gotsangpa and] estsun Milarepa was originally
published in Shenpen Osel magazine, Volume 2, Number 2,
June 1998, pages 14-49.
Commentary on "In Praise of the Dharmadhitu" by Arya Nagar-
juna was originally published in Shenpen Osel magazine, Vol-
ume 3, Number 2, October 1999, pages 45- 56.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
CONTENTS
PART ONE: TALKS AND SONGS ON THE PROGRESSIVE STAGES OF
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
PREFACE ............................................................................ 7
DEVELOPING THE ENLIGHTENED ATTITUDE ................. 10
THE AUTHOR'S PROSTRATION ....................................... 11
BRIEF PRESENTATION ..................................................... 12
I. THE ABSENCE OF SELF IN THE INDIVIDUAL ...................... 15
How TO ANALYZE ....................................................... 17
HOW TO MEDITATE ON THE ABSENCE OF SELF ............ 23
II. CITTAMATRA (MIND-ONLY SCHOOL) ........................... 24
How TO ANALYZE ........................................................ 28
How TO MEDITATE ...................................................... 32
MADHYAMAKA (A GENERAL INTRODUCTION) ................. 38
Ill. SVAT ANTRIKAMADHYAMAKA ......................................... 45
How To ANALYZE ......................................................... 45
How To MEDITATE ....................................................... 47
IV. PRASANGIKAMADHYAMAKA ........................................ 49
How To ANALYZE ........................................................ 49
THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN SVAT ANTRIKA AND
PRASANGIKA ................................................................. 53
How TO MEDITATE ....................................................... 54
V. YOGACARAMADHYAMAKA (SHENTONG) .......................... 57
THE VIEW ...................................................................... 57
How To MEDITATE ....................................................... 62
APPENDICES .................................................................... 69
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
PART TWO: REALIZING EMPTINESS: COMMENTARIES ON ARYA
NAGARJUNA AND THE SONGS OF 0YALWA GOTSANGPA AND
}ETSUN MILAREPA
REALIZING THE PROFOUND ThUTH OF EMPTINESS .............. 85
THE LOGIC THAT REFUTES THE IDEA THAT ANYTHING IS
ThULY EXISTENT ................................................................. 109
EVERYTHING IS }UST APPEARANCE AND EMPTINESS
INSEPARABLE ....................................................................... 133
PART THREE: COMMENTARY ON "IN PRAISE OF THE
DHARMADHATU" BY ARYA NAGARJUNA
HOW DIFFERENT NAMES ARE GIVEN TO DIFFERENT
MODES OF COMPLETELY FALSE APPEARANCE ................... 157
AT THE MEETING OF THE CONSCIOUSNESS WITH ITS
OBJECT, THERE IS NO REAL ARISING ................................ 169
APPENDICES .................................................................. 177
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
PART ONE:
TALKS AND SONGS ON
THE PROGRESSIVE STAGES OF
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
BY
KHENPO TSULTRIM GYAMTSO RlNPOCHE
TRANSLATED AND ARRANGED BY SUSANE SCHEFCZYK
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
PREFACE
The Venerable Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche is one of the
most learned Kagyii scholars, and at the same, time an advanced
yogi and great poet. He is well known for his clarity and depth in
explaining the traditional dharma scriptures, their commentaries,
and meditation instructions according to all of the four schools of
Tibetan Buddhism. Rinpoche started teaching the dharma in the
west in 1977 at the express wish ofH.H. the Sixteenth Gyalwa Kar-
mapa.
From that time onward he has always stressed the importance of
the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness. Even today, wher-
ever Rinpoche is invited for dharma expositions for the first time, he
teaches the meditation on emptiness.
Rinpoche has mentioned repeatedly that, before the dharma
spread in Tibet, the traditional approach to mahamudra meditation
in India was to meditate on emptiness. Only those who succeeded
in their meditation on emptiness were admitted to mahamudra
teachings. Thus, the Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness
served as the preliminaries to mahamudra practice. The preliminar-
ies of the Four Times Hundred Thousand as we know them today
developed later in Tibet and has served as the traditional prepara-
tion for the mahamudra practice among Tibetans since then.
This is why Rinpoche stresses the importance of the meditation
on emptiness and why there are already several booklets out on this
topic. The first publication was arranged and translated by Shenpen
Hookham in 1986 and has been of great benefit to many serious
dharma practitioners. It was translated into French and Greek. A
German publication based on this book, with further detailed medi-
tation instructions by the Yen. Khenpo Rinpoche, has been avail-
able since 1994 in Germany. There is also an unedited transcript of
a detailed commentary taught by Rinpoche at RMDC in 1991, and
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
based on Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye's Treasury'of Knowledge.
Even though there are already several publications on this
topic, Rinpoche wished expressly to publish these talks given on the
occasion of a four-day weekend retreat in an isolated place close to
Taipei, Taiwan, bearing the auspicious name Tashi. Thus, Rinpoche
responds to the wishes of his numerous Tibetan disciples who again
and again requested him to publish a Tibetan text on the Progressive
Stages of Meditation on Emptiness. In the end it was due to the pres-
ence of the scholar Lama Piintsog that Rinpoche took the opportu-
nity to compose such a text. Acarya Tubten Chopellater
transcribed the whole set of teachings into Tibetan. This will be
entered into a computer, checked and later printed. Rinpoche also
wanted to make it possible for the great number of Chinese dharma
practitioners who are seriously interested in practising the medita-
tion on emptiness to have a meditation manual in the Chinese lan-
guage, to make it easier for them to practise. This present English
translation will serve as the base for the Chinese edition.
In retranslating the talks from the tapes, I have tried to present
a translation as close as possible to Rinpoche's words. Wherever I
added something for clarification, I discussed it with Rinpoche and
marked it with a footnote in the text.
Rinpoche's unique teaching style draws on his own composi-
tions of poetry, which summarize and further clarify the meaning of
his explanations. Since, traditionally, such verses were sung in
Tibet, Rinpoche sings his songs himself and has the audience sing
them in English and in Chinese to relax the minds of his listeners,
tense from concentrating on such a difficult topic. Rinpoche's
poeJtry is printed in italics, and centered in the middle of the page.
To make it possible to study the Tibetan and check my English
translation, the entire composition is printed in Tibetan as well as in
English in the appendix.
This booklet of the Talks and Songs on the Progressive Stages of Medi-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
tation on Emptiness would never have been possible without the
immense compassion of the Yen. Khenpo Tsiiltrim Gyamtso Rin-
poche, whose loving kindness is manifested in his teaching this
basic, but most important point of dharma, the emptiness, again and
again down through the years in all situations of life.
A strong, kind, and heartfelt request by Virginia Tsai was instru-
mental in convincing Rinpoche that there are many dharma practi-
tioners in Taiwan who want to study and meditate according to his
instructions. It was she who arranged for the invitation and whose
open and friendly nature ensured a happy time in Taiwan for Rin-
poche, Lama Piintsog, and the translators.
Since this text is very condensed and meant to serve for further
explanations, it is most important that it be free of mistakes. There-
fore I am extremely grateful to Karl Brunnholzl, who examined the
manuscript for logical errors and provided much invaluable advice,
and to Klaus Dieter Mathes, who helped with his knowledge about
the topic and the Sanskrit. Any remaining flaws or errors are due to
my own misunderstandings.
That this booklet is written in readable English is thanks to
Alma Cristina, who spent many hours of her free time transforming
my deficient renderings into correct ones. If there still are incorrect
passages, it is because I failed to heed her advice.
I extend my gratitude also to all the translators I bothered with
questions, including Tony Duff, who also provided the Tibetan com-
puter program, and to all those who, with their financial support,
made it possible to translate this book in a study-retreat environ-
ment. For a final proofreading I am especially grateful to Philip
Pierce.
May this translation be helpful to many dharma practitioners so
that the benefit of all sentient beings will be accomplished.
Susanne Schefczyk, Kathmandu, January 1995
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
DEVELOPING THE ENLIGHTENED ATTITUDE
Before one engages in any dharma activity it is important to engen-
der the precious enlightened attitude, bodhicitta.
The enlightened attitude is the intention to attain the precious
state of perfect buddhahood to benefit all sentient beings, who are
in number as vast as space.
Perfect buddhahood describes a state which abides neither in
one-sided mere peace, nirva!).a, nor in existence, sarp.sara. It is
attained through the meditation of relative bodhicitta and absolute
bodhicitta.
The meditation of absolute bodhicitta enables us to cut through
the root of existence.
The meditation of relative bodhicitta helps us to abandon the
wish to stay in one-sided peace, namely only in nirva!).a but instead
to continue working for the benefit of all sentient beings within
sarp.sara until sarp.sara is emptied.
To us it is possible to attain the state of perfect buddhahood
when we apply joyous effort in listening, reflecting and meditating
upon the genuine dharma.
With this thought in mind we should work with the following
dharma teachings.
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THE AUTiiOR'S PROSTRATION
The unequalled supreme teacher, the Lord Muni,
The lords of the tenth bhiimi, Maitreya, Mafi.jusri, and
soon
-To those who make up the lineage of definitive mean-
ing-
I prostrate with deep respect
And will here explain the progressive stages of medita-
tion on the absolute, that is emptiness.
There are two kinds of progressive meditation common to all Bud-
dhists:
The progressive meditation on the relative, which decreases mis-
taken appearances and the suffering which comes from these
mistaken appearances, and
The progressive meditation on the absolute, which cuts through
mistaken appearances and the suffering coming from mis-
taken appearances radically.
Here I am going to explain the latter.
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BRIEF PRESENTATION OF lliE FivE STAGES OF MEDITATION
I. The Absence of Self in the Individual
The root of sarp.sara, the root of afflictions, the root of suffering is
the concept that clings to a self, that thinks, "I", "I", "mine",
"mine". To remedy this there is the stage of meditation on the absence
of self
II. Cittamiitra (mind-only school)
From beginningless time, due to the power of karmic dispositions,
mistaken appearances of the duality of perceived and perceiver have
arisen. To purify these there is the meditation on suchness empty of
perceived and perceiver, suchness empty of duality, namely, the first
mahayana stage, that of the meditation of the cittamiitra school.
III. Sviitantrikamadhyamaka
The remedy which purifies the delusion, the concept, that takes all
outer and inner things, all phenomena of sarp.sara and nirval).a, to be
true is the sviitantrikamadhyamaka stage of meditation. It asserts that
all phenomena are not existent by their own individual essence, and
within it one rests in blank emptiness which is like space.
IV Priisangikamadhyamaka
To rest within the absolute nature free of all mental fabrications
such as taking things to be existent or non-existent, appearing or
empty, to rest in a state beyond all conceptual fabrications and per-
ceptions of intellect, that is the stage of the priisailgikamadhyamaka
meditation.
V Yogiiciiramadhyamaka (Shentong)
To rest within the true nature of mind, clear light, sugatagarbha,
within clarity and emptiness inseparable, which is not only beyond a
mere blank emptiness but also beyond a mere freedom from mental
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fabrications, to rest uncontrived and self-settled within that state is
the fifth stage of meditation, shentong, the great madhyamaka.
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I. THE ABSENCE OF SELF
IN THE INDIVIDUAL
As the meditation on the absence of self in the individual is a medi-
tation common to all the three vehicles, it is explained as the first
step.
In the Buddhist tradition, at a merely conventional level, one
asserts a 'self as a base for previous and future lives, as a base for
karma and result. For example, one needs a self as something which
comes from the previous life to this life and which will be going to
the next life after one's death, or as something which is experienc-
ing the results of previously accumulated karma. This experiencer,
this 'self, is asserted merely relatively, only at a conventional level,
as a mere appearance.
One may ask, what is it that comes to this life from the previous
life, and, after we die in this life, goes to the next life; and what is it
that experiences the result of accumulated karma? One must
answer that, at a conventional level, the relative level, there is a self
which has the innate nature of delusion, which passes through the
lives, accumulates karma and experiences the result.
However, when one analyzes further and applies the wisdom
that realizes the absence of self, one finds that this 'self does not
exist at the absolute level.
Refuting a truly existing self in the individual the Buddhist tra-
dition refers to a 'completely imputed self {kun grtags kyi bdag} and
to a 'spontaneously arisen self {lhan skyes kyi bdag}.
The completely imputed self is a self which is asserted as abso-
lutely existing in some philosophical traditions, as for example the
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
atman, asserted by some Hindu traditions. It has the characteristics
of being eternal, an indivisible singularity, and being independent,
meaning not dependent on any causes or conditions.
The spontaneously arisen self does not depend on any religious
or philosophical tradition. It is the natural reference object of our
ego-clinging, the thoughts that think, "I", "1", "myself', "myself'
etc. Analyzing this kind of self, one finds it does not truly exist and
such thoughts are just deluded ideas.
To clarify the terms 'absolute' and 'relative':
The way things appear is called the 'relative'. This does not
describe how things really are, but only how they appear to
be.
'Absolute' means 'beyond the relative '.It is the way things
really are, it is their true nature.
The term 'true' or 'truly' {bden par} describes what is beyond any
falsity or delusion. For example, the 'relative' the way things appear,
is delusive and false. What is 'true' is beyond this 'relative' state.
Generally one uses the terms 'truly' and 'absolutely' synonymously.
What is the reason why the self of an individual does not truly
exist? The five skandhas make up the individual, the first skandha
as the individual's body and the last four the mind. Therefore, the
five skandhas constitute the reference object of our ego-clinging.
They are:
1. the skandha ofform,
2. the skandha of sensation,
3. the skandha of perception,
4. the skandha of formation, and
5. the skandha of consciousness.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
HOW TO ANALYZE
The reason why the five skandhas are not the self is that if each of
the five skandhas were the self, we would have five selves, according
to the number of skandhas.
If we analyze with logic, we will find that each individual
skandha does not exist as the self.
Also the combined group of skandhas, all five together, cannot
be the self because a group as such does not truly exist. Only on a
relative level does there seem to be a relationship between the indi-
vidual parts of a group but, if one analyzes with logic, all the single
parts are separate - they are not connected. Therefore, there is no
truly existent group. And thus the group of skandhas cannot serve
as the basis for a truly existent self.
To understand that each of the skandhas individually does not
exist as the self, we first have to analyze how it is that we take the
five skandhas to be the self:
When we are stricken by an illness in our body we think, "I am
sick." When we have a headache we think, "I don't feel well." In the
first case we take the body to be the self. In the second case we take
the head to be the self. This means that we have applied the
thought that holds on to a self to the body as well as to the head.
At times when we are physically well, when we have possessions
and wealth, when we are happy, we think, "I am well off," "I feel
fine." Here also we take the body to be the self.
Sometimes when we have some mental suffering, we think, "I
am unhappy." Here we take the mind to be the self. Sometimes
when our mind is at ease, when we are happy, we think, "I am
happy." Thinking like that we also take the mind to be the self.
From these examples we see that we sometimes take the body to
be our self, sometimes we take the mind to be our self.
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THE SKANDHA OF FORM
Now let us point out how the body cannot be the self.
Santideva explains in his Bodhisattvacaryavatara how it is that
the body is not the self. He says that the teeth, the hair, and also the
nails do not have the nature of a self or the characteristics of a self,
therefore they are not the self. If these were the self, then we would
have many selves.
It is easy to understand that our teeth etc. are not the self.
In the same way, the head, the limbs, the legs and arms, and
their smaller parts, each is not the self. If each of the parts were the
self, then one would have as many selves as there are parts in the
body. This is a mistaken notion. Therefore each of the parts cannot
be the self.
Also, the mere. accumulation which gathers all the parts into
one is not the self because, if the mere accumulation of all the parts
were the self, and if one lost a leg or an arm, then one would lose
one's self or a part of it. This again is a mistaken notion. Even if one
has no arms or legs, one still has ego-clinging. Therefore the mere
accumulation of the limbs is also not the self.
Also the blood, the skin and the flesh of the body etc. are not
the self. The logic is the same.
In the same way the inner organs, all the inner parts of the body,
the heart, the bowels etc., each of these is not the self, and also their
mere accumulation is not the self.
If we analyze our body down to its atoms, to the most subtle
parts, we find no atom, no smallest part truly existent as a self. Ana-
lyzing thus with the wisdom that realizes emptiness, we come to
understand that the body, the skandha of form, does not exist as the
self.
There are various verses in the Bodhisattvacaryavatara in which
Santideva explains how the body is not the self. This text has been
translated into Chinese as well as several western languages. It is
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very beneficial to recite and study these verses.
THE SKANDHA OF SENSATION
Why are sensations not the self?
There is a great diversity of sensations, but they can be summa-
rized as three, the sensation of happiness, that of suffering, and that
of indifference.
If the sensation of happiness were a truly existent self, since
such a self would have to be unchanging and continuous, one would
have to be continuously happy and cheerful. But one is not always
happy. Happiness changes into suffering. Therefore, the sensation of
happiness is not the self.
If the sensation of suffering were the self, the self would have
the nature of suffering. Therefore only continuous suffering would
be possible. There would be no possibility for happiness to arise.
If the sensation of indifference were the self, since the self
would have the nature of indifference, one would have an unchang-
ing sensation of indifference. Then sensations of happiness and suf-
fering could not possibly arise.
But it is not like that. The three sensations of happiness, suffer-
ing and indifference are changing all the time. Therefore, it is easy
to understand that sensations are not the self. Still one has to
include them in the analysis.
In brief, if there were a truly existent self, it would never change
and would be there all the time. Since sensations of happiness, suf-
fering and indifference are changing like day and night, that is,
changing quickly, the skandha of sensations cannot be the truly
existent self.
THE SKANDHA OF DISCERNMENT
What are discernments?
Thoughts and concepts, thinking "this is clean", "this is dirty"
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are called discernments. All concepts similar to these are included
in the skandha of discernment.
Why is the skandha of discernment not the self? If the discern-
ment of thinking "this is clean" were the self, one would only con-
tinuously have the perception of clean, and the perception of dirty
could not possibly arise.
If the discernment which thinks "this is dirty" were the self,
then one would only have the perception of dirt, as if one were liv-
ing in a heap of rubbish, and it would not be possible for a percep-
tion of clean to arise.
But it is not like that. Our discernments of clean and dirty are
changing all the time. They are changing very quickly. Therefore,
the different kinds of discernments do not exist as the self.
Here the discernments of clean and dirty were taken as an
example, but similarly no other discernment exists as the self. One
has to apply this same process of logical thinking to each discern-
ment as in the case of clean and dirty.
THE SKANDHA OF FORMATION
The skandha of formation has two aspects:
formations which are mental factors {sems byung yin pa}, and
formations which are not mental factors {sems byung ma yin
pa}.
Generally one speaks of 51 mental factors. Of these the first two are
sensation and discernment, which have been described separately as
the skandha of sensations and the skandha of discernment. The
other 49 mental factors are included under the first aspect of the
skandha of formation.
Formations which are not mental factors are those which one
can ascribe neither to body nor to mind, but which we all experi-
ence. For example, we are born, we get old, we get sick and we die.
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There are likewise many other experiences which cannot be
ascribed to mind or body. These belong to that aspect of the
skandha of formation which does not arise from mind.
Why are sensation and discernment described as two separate
skandhas? Because they are the root of arguments and fights and
therefore the Buddha taught them separately.
The arguments of worldly beings are based mainly on sensa-
tions. In order to identify the root of worldly arguments the skandha
of sensation is presented separately.
The arguments of dharma practitioners are also based on sensa-
tions, but they come about mainly due to discernments. "My view is
more profound," "His view is worse", etc.- such discernments cre-
ate the disputes and arguments of dharma practitioners. They are
listed separately under the skandha of discernment to identify the
root of dharma arguments.
All arguments and fights of dharma practitioners can be settled
naturally by recognizing and developing a firm conviction that dis-
cernments do not exist as the self, that discernments do not truly
exist, and that the thoughts of discernments are only delusions.
THE SKANDHA OF CONSCIOUSNESS
The fifth skandha is the skandha of consciousness. It makes up the
principal mind.
The principal mind is the sixfold collection of consciousnesses:
1. the eye consciousness,
2. the ear consciousness,
3. the nose consciousness,
4. the tongue consciousness,
5. the body consciousness, and
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6. the mental consciousness.
The sixfold collection of consciousnesses does not exist as the sel If
the eye consciousness were a truly existent self, since such a self
would have to be unchanging and continuous, and the self would
have the nature of the eye consciousness, that would result in the
fault of seeing form continuously. If the ear consciousness were the
self, one would always perceive only sound. That is not the case, so
this is an error. If the nose consciousness were the self, there would
be the fault of one always experiencing only smells. If the tongue
consciousness were the self, then one would always experience
tastes only. If the body consciousness were the self, then one would
always experience only touch.
Concerning the mental consciousness, one has to analyze the
mind of the past, of the present and of the future. The conscious,
ness of the past is not the self- it has ceased to take place. The con,
sciousness of the future is not the self- it has not yet come to pass.
And the consciousness of the present is not the self because it
ceases every instant, moment by moment. Analyzing thus we see
that also the mental consciousness has no base to constitute a truly
existent self. In this way it is easy to understand that the sixfold col,
lection of consciousness does not exist as the self.
In order to purify the clinging to the five skandhas as
the self
We have to develop a firm conviction that they are not
the self.
This is because the skandhas each individually are not
the self
And also the whole collection of skandhas is not the
self.
With this conviction we have to meditate.
This means that first one has to develop a firm conviction about the
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
absence of self, and then meditate. If one has not developed a firm
conviction about the absence of self, the step of meditation on the
absence of self will not be effective.
HOW TO MEDITATE ON THE ABSENCE OF SELF
As Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye taught in The Treasury of Knowl-
edge, in the chapter about the meditation progression of samatha
and vipasyana:
The way to meditate:
Analyze what the absence of self really is with your
intelligence,
Then abide evenly within the freedom from mental fab-
rications.
For the meditation on the absence of self in the individual, one
should first apply one's intelligence and analyze what the absence of
self really is, as explained above. Having performed this_analysis one
then, when meditating, abides evenly within a state free of mental
fabrications.
'Fabrications' here refers to thoughts reflecting w h ~ h r there is
a self or not. One should finish the analysis and thus be free of such
kinds of thoughts.
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II. CITIAMATRA (MIND .. ONLY SCHOOL)
The Cittamatra view is the first of the mahayana views.
In mahayana one cultivates a special conduct which comes
from a special view. Here we are just talking about the view.
There are two of thought in mahayana:
cittamatra and
madhyamaka.
The Buddha, the teacher, has taught:
0 you sons of the victorious one,
All the three realms are mind only!
This statement asserts that the three realms are not produced by
any creator nor do they arise without any cause, but they come
about due to the power of karmic dispositions. In this sense they are
mind only.
The three realms are:
1. the desire realm,
2. the form realm, and
3. the formless realm.
All the appearances of saJ.llSara, i.e. of the three realms, appear in
one's mind. Either they appear to ourselves and it is called 'appear-
to ourselves' {rang snang}, or they appear to beings other than
ourselves and then it is called 'appearing to others' {gzhan snang}.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
The three realms appearing to ourselves is our own mind only.
The three realms appearing to others is the mind of each of the
other individual beings.
The appearances which appear to a deluded mind are said to be
mistaken appearances { 'khrul snang}. The deluded mind is mistaken
or confused about the true nature of appearances in that it per-
ceives them as two, as an outer perceived object and the inner per-
ceiving mind. Thus, mind mistakes appearances for something
which they are not, and it is in this sense that appearances are
called 'mistaken appearances'.
This can be illustrated using the example of a dream:
All the different appearances which come up in my dream are
mistaken appearances which appear only to my own deluded mind.
They are my mind only.
In dependence on defining 'myself one speaks of 'others'.
So, all the appearances which cqme up in the dreams of other
individuals are mistaken which appear only to the
deluded mind of the 'other' individual dreamer. That is, these
dream-appearances are. only the minds of the others.
THE EIGHTFOW CoiLECfiON OF CoNSCIOUSNESSES
In the first chapter, the meditation on the absence of self, we intro-
duced the 'sixfold collection of consciousnesses'.
The cittamatra view, however, speaks of an 'eightfold collection
of consciousnesses'. In addition to the six kinds of consciousness, it
asserts the 'afflicted mind' as the seventh and the 'all-base con-
sciousnes' (alayavijflana) as the eighth consciousness.
The all-base consciousness, the eighth consciousness, is the
basis for everything through its two functions as the base for storage
and the base for appearance.
On the one hand, the all-base stores our karma, i.e. positive and
negative activities, whatever we have done, in the form of disposi-
25
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
tions {bag chags}.
On the other hand, when it is moved or stirred up, it brings
forth appearances which are mistaken by being perceived as two,
perceived and perceiver.
From the point of view of its former function, keeping the dispo-
sitions of various karmas and actions in storage, the all-base is called
the consciousness which takes in {len pa'i mam par shes pa}.
From the point ofview of the latter, when it is stirred up and
stored dispositions come up in the form of dualistic appearances, the
all-base sets up the condition for mistaken appearances to appear,
and thus it is called the consciousness which [provides] the condition
{ rkyen gyi mam par shes pal}.
In this way the eighth consciousness is like a tape recorder. First
one tapes sounds and takes in information. Then, later, when one
presses the button and turns on the machine, one can hear every-
thing that was recorded. Thus the tape recorder provides the condi-
tion for all the information to come up again in the form of sound.
What is it that is stored in the all-base consciousness?
As long as our activities are derived from an intention accom-
panied by ego-clinging, all our karma- virtuous, unvirtuous or neu-
tral actions, e.g. whether we hurt other beings or benefit them - is
stored in the all-base consciousness in the form of karmic disposi-
tions ..
Having directly realized the absence of self, that is, when ego-
clinging is exhausted, then one no longer accumulates karma caus-
ing rebirth in sa111sara.
However, in the mahayana tradition, the noble male and female
bodhisattvas take birth in sa111sara out of their own free will and
great compassion in order to benefit sentient beings. Of this you
should be aware.
Once dispositions are stored within the all-base consciousness,
they will never be forgotten. When a virtuous or negative action has
been completed, even if a hundred or a thousand aeons pass by, the
26
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
dispositions of that karma will not be exhausted! When the right
time comes, the corresponding result will appear in the form of mis-
taken appearances.
If one accumulates negative karma, the mistaken appearances
of suffering will arise. If one accumulates virtuous activities, the
mistaken appearances of happiness will be experienced in return.
When one has directly realized the meaning of the absence of
self and emptiness, and thus reached the bodhisattvabhumis as a
male or female arya, all karmic dispositions which cause rebirth in
saqJ.sara vanish due to the power of the wisdom which realizes the
absence of self. These dispositions dissolve like the patterns of pic-
tures scratched on ice. When the sun shines the ice melts and with
the melting all the patterns vanish.
In this way, once a male or female bodhisattva has obtained the
aryabhumis through directly realizing the meaning of the absence of
self and emptiness, karmic dispositions which cause rebirth in
saqJ.sara dissolve gradually, as the wisdom which realizes the absence
of self and emptiness becomes stronger.
When one is still under the influence of ego-clinging, however,
all the mistaken appearances of the three realms continue to arise.
This means that the dispositions being stored in the all-base con-
sciousness are stirred up and moved so that they come forth again.
This stirring is caused by the afflicted mind consciousness, the sev-
enth consciousness. Thus the all-base consciousness which contains
all dispositions is likened to the big unmoved ocean containing all
kinds of hidden treasures. The ocean is still but then a wind comes
up and moves it, causing big waves to rise. Likewise, the afflicted
mind consciousness, that part of the mind which brings all afflic-
tions, the kldas, into play, stirs up the all-base consciousness, caus-
ing the dispositions to come up in the form of dualistic appearances
like the waves of the ocean. Thus the mistaken appearances of the
three realms of saqJ.sara are experienced.
In this way, when the afflicted mind stirs up the dispositions of
27
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
negative karma, the mistaken appearances of the lower realms, such
as the hells or the states of hungry ghosts or animals, appear. Con-
versely, when the dispositions of virtuous karma are stirred up, we
experience the mistaken appearances of the higher realms, the
states of gods, humans or demi-gods.
HOW TO ANALYZE
All appearances of sarp.sara come about due to one's individual dis-
positions; this explains why it is that one and the same thing can be
seen in different ways by different individuals. The same 'water', for
example, is a human convention, and is perceived differently by the
six kinds of sarp.saric beings.
Beings living in the same realm share the same dispositions in
great measure and thus experience water in a similar way. Beings of
the hell realm, for example, see water as boiling hot lava. Hungry
ghosts perceive it as the manifestation of pus and blood. Animals
who live in water, such as the fish in rivers and oceans, consider
water their abode to live in. For us humans water is a refreshing
drink and the gods regard it as nectar and ambrosia.
The dispositions of these types of beings differ and, therefore,
the appearance of water is perceived in different ways, by each
according to the power of the dispositions of its type.
Therefore, since appearances are due to individual dispositions,
they are mistaken appearances having no true external existence of
their own. They are just like dreams.
28
For the six kinds of beings with the six kinds of bodies
as a ripened result
Six kinds of appearances appear through the power of
their dispositions.
To humans as well, who have six kinds of sense-powers,
Six kinds of appearances appear, also empowered by
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
their dispositions.
Just as there are six different kinds of mistaken appearances for the
beings of the six realms, also within the human realm we experience
different mistaken appearances.
As human beings, we have six kinds of sense-powers to each of
which a different mistaken appearance appears. The eye conscious-
ness, for example, takes only form as its object. It does not perceive
sound. This also is due to the power of dispositions. The object of
the ear consciousness is sound only; nothing other than that can
appear to it, neither form nor the like. The object of the nose con-
sciousness is only smell, of the tongue consciousness only taste, and
of the body consciousness only touch.
The mind consciousness takes all five objects of the five senses
as its object. This means that forms, sounds, smells, tastes, and tan-
gible objects appear to the mind consciousness. Besides these, all
our thinking and our recollection appear as objects for the mind
when we remember the past or make plans for the future, thus cre-
ating problems ahead of time, etc.
All this occurs due to the power of dispositions to which we
have become habituated since beginningless lifetimes. If there were
no dispositions, there would be no reason for one person to perceive
six different types of appearances through his or her six sense-pow-
ers.
Here we should analyze carefully: how do the appearances of
the objects of the five kinds of sense consciousness appear and how
do different types of appearances, such as thinking, which are the
exclusive object of the mind consciousness appear.
The appearances of the six realms are all mistaken appearances
due to the power of dispositions, and thus they are mind only. Since
as human beings we belong to one of the six types of beings of
sa111sara, we can affirm this through our experience.
For example, one and the same person can be seen in different
29
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
ways. This person's friend looks upon him as a friend and therefore
sees him as a beautiful, nice and pleasant manifestation. That is
because he is used to seeing him as a friend, and thus perceives him
as the mistaken appearance of a friend.
However, the same person's enemy sees him.completely differ-
ently. The act of seeing him causes anger, and his manifestation is
perceived as unpleasant and unattractive. This is only a mistaken
appearance due to the mental dispositions of the one who perceives
him as an enemy. When this same person is looked upon by his
father, the appearance of a son comes up. This is only an appearance
in the father's mind. He is used to associating the term 'son' with
this particular object, that is, with this person { sgra don 'brel 'dzin};
thus the thought "this is my son" develops. All this happens merely
on a mental level.
If this person has a child and the child looks at him, then the
same mental process will happen from the point of view of the child.
The child has the same object to look at, namely this person. But
the child would associate the term 'father' with this object and will
thus create the thought "this is my father". This is only a mistaken
appearance in the child's mind.
In the same way, if some insects or flesh-eating animals looked
at this person, then the manifestation of food or drink would appear.
Associating their individual habitual thinking with that person, the
carnivorous animals would think, "We will cut his flesh," and the
insects, "We will drink his blood".
To the parasites in his intestines this person would appear as
their dwelling place, their home. This again is a specific mistaken
appearance of the parasites.
All these different perceptions of one and the same person
come about only due to the different mind dispositions of those who
look at him. These are our experiences. If we analyze with logic we
will understand that there is not a single object appearing in exactly
the same way to different individuals. None of these appearances
30
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
exists truly in common. All of them appear in their different ways
due to different dispositions, as dream-appearances do. This is the
reason why they are mind only.
Changes also are a sign that appearances as we see them are
mind only. When our friend becomes an enemy, it is our inner atti-
tude towards him, our dispositions, that have changed. Yet it seems
to us that it is the person outside who has changed. But this is just
as it is in a dream. If, in a dream, a friend changes into an enemy, it
was obviously just our mind which changed and not the friend.
With the global increase of common knowledge, things happen
very quickly nowadays. One can circumnavigate the world very
quickly, and news is spread over the world within minutes through
radio, television, telephone, faxes etc. Together with this rapid
increase in technology our ways of thinking, attitudes and thus dis-
positions are changing rapidly as well. They are changing so rapidly
that sometimes it is difficult to figure out which countries in the
world are friends and which are enemies at any given moment.
This reversal of enemies and friends in the world also proves
that friends and enemies as such do not truly exist, and that they
are, just as the followers of Cittamatra assert, the mistaken appear-
ances of mind due to dispositions.
HOW TO CHANGE DISPOSITIONS
To avoid misperceptions one should deal with the situation on two
levels, the absolute and the relative.
On the absolute level, we employ the meditation on emptiness
free of duality, that is, free of the split into an outer object
and the inner perceiving mind. This meditation will eventually cut
through all dispositions, the cause for dualistic appearances. It will
completely eradicate them.
On the relative level, we use the meditation on loving kindness
and compassion. This meditation embraces all sentient beings,
31
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
including our enemies. In this way we are able to slowly change our
dispositions. We get used to the idea of experiencing love and com-
passion even for our enemies; thus they become a pleasant appear-
ance and slowly the whole world of appearances appears in
complete purity.
In this way one should purify and change one's dispositions.
The great lord of yogis, Milarepa, actualized both of these medi-
tations. Absolutely, he realized the equality of enemies and friends,
and relatively, he perfected great loving kindness and great compas-
sion for both enemies and friends. It was by the power of this realiza-
tion that his friends, his sister Peta and his fiancee Zisi became his
students. And not only his friends, but also his enemies. His worst
enemies were his uncle and his aunt. The uncle passed away early,
but his aunt also became his student in the end.
This is how we should practise, for there is no other means than
this.
One single person is seen in different ways,
And friends, enemies and so on change in different
ways.
Besides, these changes happen very quickly;
Therefore we come to understand that everything is
mistaken appearance due to dispositions.
All changes are the changing of mistaken appearances.
All changes are the changing of thoughts.
The root of all changes is the changing of dispositions.
Purify these by meditating on how everything is empti-
ness of duality, dharmata.
HOW TO MEDITATE
The meditation according to cittamatra is to abide in dharmata,
32
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
which is empty of the duality of perceived and perceiver.
To approach this state one should first recollect the view of cit-
tamatra in four different steps. There are four convictions we have
to gain before we can rest within such dharmata. These four convic-
tions correspond to the 'four applications' presented in Maitreya's
Distinguishing Phenomena and Pure Being.
The first conviction:
First, one has to develop the firm conviction that all
outer perceived objects are just mistaken appearances.
The whole diversity of appearances which we perceive as outer
objects comes about due to our dispositions. Under the influence of
dispositions, objects appear to us as we perceive them and not as
they really are. Therefore, they are mistaken appearances of mind.
These mistaken appearances are like appearances in a dream.
Everything perceived in a dream is taken to be a true outer object,
but as soon as we recognize that we are dreaming we can say, "Oh,
this is only a dream and therefore these are only mistaken appear-
ances".
Once a dream is recognized as such, then the conviction that
everything perceived in it is only mistaken appearance comes natu-
rally. In a similar way, we should become convinced about the
appearances of all outer objects.
The second conviction:
If the diversity of perceived appearances is only mis-
taken appearances, then such appearances cannot exist
as outer objects- they do not exist outside of the mind
that perceives them.
In the cittamatra tradition it is said, 'outer objects do not exist'.
That means there are no forms, sounds, smells, tastes and tangible
33
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
objects outwardly.
This is the second conviction, namely that the perceived does not
exist as an outer object. All objects perceived in a dream, since they
are mistaken appearances, do not exist outwardly. They are only
mind and, other than that, have no existence.
The third conviction:
If everything perceiv.ed, all seemingly outer objects, do
not exist outwardly, then that which looks at them, the
inner perceiving mind, cannot exist either.
If there were something perceived, necessarily there would have to
be a perceiver focussing on that. But, since the perceived is not
there outside, then also the perceiving mind which focuses out on it
cannot really exist.
One then develops the conviction that the perceiver which
focuses on the perceived does not exist.
For example, though one sees a flower in a dream, this flower is
not really there outside. And because the flower is not there, nei-
ther the eye-faculty which looks at this flower nor the eye con-
sciousness which sees it can be there. This is so simply because the
flower is not outside. Since, as in a dream, nothing perceived exists
outside, the consciousness which focuses outwardly does not exist
either.
How is it then? Mind itself is confused due to its dispositions
and therefore the two, perceived and perceiver, appear. The mind
itself appears as both, the perceived and the perceiver, but neither of
these is really there. Instead mistaken appearances appear. That is
how the confusion about perceived and perceiver comes about.
The fourth conviction:
In this way neither the perceived nor the perceiver
34
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
exists outside, and thus dharmata which is empty of
both is established.
This is the true nature from the point of view of cittamatra. When
we have developed the conviction of dharmata which is empty of the
two, perceived and perceiver, then we just rest within this state and
meditate suchness {de kho na nyid} empty of duality.
To meditate according to cittamatra, we should develop these
four stages of conviction in this same order and abide within the
true nature which is d h a ~ m a t a emptiness free of perceived and per-
ceiver. Rest self-settled, uncontrived and relaxed within that state.
What is perceived is mistaken appearance due to dispo-
sitions.
Thus outside nothing exists as an object.
Therefore the perceiver as well does not exist
And thus dharmata, empty of both, is established.
Usually a beginner is not able to abide within dharmata, empty of
duality, for a long period of time. But even so, it does not matter. If
after having developed the four kinds of conviction and rested just a
little in dharmata, one finds a thought coming up, the same pattern
should be repeated again. That is, when the thought appears we
should recollect again the four convictions one after the other and
rest again for some time within dharmata free of perceived and per-
ceiver. We have to repeat this again and again.
THE FivE-PoiNT MEDITATION R::>STURE
For a meditation such as this you should keep the five-point body
posture. This posture is best kept using the type of meditation-seats
you are already using.
The first point:
Straighten the spine like an arrow.
35
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
The second point:
Draw in the chin slightly like an iron hook.
The third point.
Cross the legs so that your shins describe a right angle
as in a plaid pattern.
These seats are designed for the five-point body
posture, so one cannot sit on them in the full vajra pos-
ture.
The fourth point:
Maintain a stable and firm position.
Generally this is done by using a meditation belt.
But if there are no meditation belts available, one
should just sit without moving one's body, in a very firm
and stable posture.
The fifth point:
Close the lower gates and draw the wind slightly inside.
When one presses the lower gates together the
wind which is down there is automatically drawn in.
This should be done just slightly.
You should keep the five-point meditation posture and meditate
according to the cittamatra point of view:
What is perceived is mistaken appearance due to dispo-
sitions.
Thus outside nothing exists as an object.
Therefore the perceiver as well does not exist
And thus dharmata, empty of both, is established.
Rinpoche's prayer of aspiration for the cittamatra stage of medita-
36
tion:
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
What constitutes the cause of all karma, afflictions and
suffering
Are dispositions toward mistaken dualistic appear-
ances.
In order to purify these,
May you in this life and throughout all lifetimes
Meditate perfectly on dharmata, empty of duality.
37
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
MADHYAMAKA
The absolute view or the definitive meaning of the mahayana is
described by both the cittamatra and the madhyamaka. Madhya-
maka is divided into two:
rangtong madhyamaka, empty of itself and
shentong madhyamaka, empty of other.
The Buddha, the teacher, turned the wheel o.f dharma three times.
The view of rangtong madhyamaka accords with the intention of
the middle turning, in which the sutras of the prajfiaparamita, 'the
great mother'' are taught.
This precious section of the prajfiaparamita sutras teaches that
all phenomena are emptiness. Beginning with form up through 'all-
knowing primordial awareness' {mam pa thams cad mkhyen pa'i ye
shes} no phenomenon exists by its own individual essence.
In the Heart of Wisdom Sutra it is said:
One should have a pure sincere view that
all five skandhas are naturally empty as well.
This means that the five skandhas. which make up our body are also
empty. And this emptiness is a natural emptiness. It is not that they
were true and not empty in the beginning and later, at some point,
the truth disintegrated and they became empty!
They are naturally empty from the very beginning. Therefore,
when male or female bodhisattvas meditate on the prajfiaparamita,
they have to view all five skandhas as being naturally empty. Their
view must be pure and sincere. They must be convinced that all five
38
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
skandhas are empty of inherent existence from the beginning. The
thought "they are empty" does not alone suffice.
It is possible, very easily, to develop a wrong understanding of
emptiness:
If one thinks the five skandhas are empty because the Bud-
dha has taught so and meditates on emptiness with such ado-
ration, then this is what is called 'emptiness as the thought "it is
[empty]'" {yin snyam gyi stong nyid}. This is not an under-
standing of the real emptiness because one thinks that things
are empty only out of devotion without any valid logical rea-
son for it.
When, at first, the five skandhas appear to our mind and we
try to dissolve them so that they become empty, that is an
'intellectually created emptiness' {blos byas kyi stong nyid}. In
the beginning the skandhas seem to be there and it is only
with our intellect that we try to force them away. In this way
we try to create an emptiness intellectually.
A third type of mistaken understanding of emptiness is a
'completely imputed emptiness' {kun brtags kyi stong nyid}. Here
images of the skandhas associated with their names appear to
our conceptual mind; thinking that they are empty is the
completely imputed emptiness. If someone says, "The
skandha of form," a:D. unclear picture of what one associates
with 'form' will appear to the mind. To regard this picture as
empty is the imputed emptiness and not the real one.
What is the real emptiness then? Let us take the five skandhas. 'Five
skandhas' is just a name. There is something to which we refer with
this name 'five skandhas', something to which we impute this name.
This something is called 'the basis for imputation' {gdags gzhi}. This
basis is not really connected to its name. One could call it anything
39
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
else. Therefore, whatever it is which we call the 'five skandhas', this
basis for imputation does not exist by its own essence. It is naturally
empty from the very beginning. This is the real emptiness of which
we have to be firmly convinced.
When we have a dream about a beautiful flower, 'flower' is just
the name, but there is something which appears to our mind to
which we give the name 'flower'. This something is the basis for
imputation. The mental object, which we see in the dream with our
eyes, comes about due to our dispositions. We tend to be mistaken
in thinking that the thing which we see and the associated name are
one. We think that the perceived object is a 'flower', but the object
seen and the word 'flower' are two separate things. The name
'flower' has no essential connection with the object to which it is
imputed. In this way the name has no intrinsic meaning and thus it
is empty. Since we are dreaming, the object which we see, the basis
for the name 'flower', also does not exist in its own essence. It is just
a dream and therefore it is empty.
This is the real emptiness. Neither the name nor its basis for
imputation truly exist in their own essence.
Likewise with the five skandhas: that to which we attribute the
name 'five skandhas' is emptiness. And thus, since there is no truly
existing basis for imputation, it is not possible to impute a name to it
and,. therefore, the name is also emptiness.
As with the dream flower, a physical flower has no essential
connection between itself, i.e. the basis for imputation, and the
name 'flower'. The connection drawn is only conceptual through
association- we see the object first and in the next moment we
label it with a name.
Also here, the name cannot truly exist. The name is not a sin-
gularity. It is not single.
For something to be truly existent, it must be single; independent
and unchanging.
In a dream where there are one hundred persons, if one proves
40
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
a single person to be truly existent, all the others are truly existent
as well.
Therefore, we have to analyze and try to find a single truly exis-
tent part which cannot be divided further.
Something truly existent must be independent. That means it has
to be there always, not just when the right causes and conditions
come together. Thus, its existence should not be dependent on
causes and conditions.
If something is truly existent, it must be permanent, continu-
ously the same, that is unchanging.
In Tibetan, 'flower' is called 'me tog' , a word of two syllables.
Both syllables are separate. In the middle there is some empty space.
'Me' and 'tog' do not have any connection.
In the act of speaking the word, when ' me' is pronounced, the
'tog' is future. When 'tog' is pronounced, the 'me' is finished already;
it is past. One is not able to say ' me' and ' tog' at the same time,
together. They act as an entity and as an absence of entity {dngos po
dngos med}. At the time when ' me' is then ' me' is the
entity and 'tog' is the absence of entity, because is there and 'tog'
is not yet there. At the time ' tog' is pronounced, ' tog' is the entity
and 'me' is the absence of entity. There is no instant when both. syl-
lables together are the entity or both together are the absence of
entity.
Even just one syllable of this name is no singularity. The sound
of just one syllable covers the three times. No matter how short it
might be, when one starts to pronounce it, the end of the syllable's
sound is unpronounced; it is still to be pronounced in the future.
When one pronounces the end of the syllable the beginning is past
already. Each and every sound passes through past, present and
future; thus it is divisible and not a singularity.
If you write the letters down, then even a single letter is not a
singularity. One can divide the letter into tiny parts of space that
the ink takes on the paper. Still each of these parts, no matter how
41
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
small it might be, can be described by its right side, left side, up and
down. So there is no smallest unit of this letter which could make
up an indivisible single part.
Therefore, the name 'me tog' (flower) is not a singularity, it is
not single and therefore cannot exist truly.
The same applies to the basis to which the name 'flower' is
imputed. It is not single. If it is a big flower it has many petals, some
petals to the east, some to the west. These are all separate and have
no connection. The same is true for the petals to the north and
those to the south. They are not connected. Between them there
are florets. Therefore, the flower is not a single thing. This means
that the basis for imputation is not single.
In the prajfiaparamitasiitras, the Buddha presented everything
as being emptiness, including all bases for imputation and all names
which are imputed.
The proponents of the madhyamaka proved this statement by
means oflogic. Arya Nagarjuna composed six treatises, The Six Col-
lections of Madhyamaka Reasoning, one of which is the Mulamadhya-
makakarika. In these texts, he presented logical proofs to prove the
Buddha's teachings on emptiness.
The Mulamadhyamakakarika, also translated into Chinese, has
2 7 chapters. It is very beneficial to study these, or even only part of
them.
Nagarjuna was very important in connection with the intention
of the middle turning of the wheel of the dharma. He was predicted
by the Buddha himself as the one who would refute the view of
existence, the view of nihilism, etc., and all fabrications of views,
and who would reject clinging to views as well.
In keeping with this prediction, Nagarjuna has been the main
and foremost scholar to validate the intention of the middle turning
of the wheel of the dharma. He r e f u ~ e all assertions of non-Bud-
dhists, of the Ti:rthikas, which are the various Hindu schools of
thought, and the lower Buddhist views. He refuted all assertions
42
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
altogether. Thus, he became the founder of madhyamaka.
The great master Nagarjuna-
With logic he dissolved
All assertions of whomsoever,
Of non-Buddhist and Buddhist schools of thought.
Why was it necessary to refute all assertions?
To make an assertion is equivalent to not holding the ultimate
view. This is so, because in holding an assertion one is clinging to a
view and making up mental fabrications. Therefore, such a view is
not the ultimate view.
This has been a brief presentation ofNagarjuna's work, mainly
the Mulamadhyamakal<arika.
Nagarjuna's disciple, the scholar Buddhapalita, wrote an impor-
tant commentary on the Mulamadhyamakakarika.
He was criticized by Bhavaviveka, a contemporary, who did not
agree with the presentation ofNagarjuna's intention in this com-
mentary. In turn, Bhavaviveka wrote a commentary from his own
point of view thus becoming the founder of the svatantrikamadhya-
maka.
Bhavaviveka was supported by many scholars, one of whom
wrote the text The Ornament of the Middle Way (Skr.
MadhyamakalaT[lkara) {dbu rna rgyan}.
The scholar Candrakirti, who wrote the text Entering into the
Middle Way (Skr. Madhyamakavatara) {dbu ma Ia 'jug pa}, defended
the first commentary by Buddhapalita and criticized Bhavaviveka's
work. Thus he is considered to be the actual founder of the
prasaitgikamadhyamaka. Candrakirti also was supported by many
scholars, among them Santideva, who wrote the text A Guide to the
Bodhisattva's Way of Life (Skr. Bodhisattvacaryavatara) {byang chub
sems dpa'i spyod pa la 'jug pa}.
In this way, the madhyamaka rahgtong school split up into two,
the svatantrikamadhyamaka and the prasangikamadhyamaka, based
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
on two differing commentaries on Nagarjuna's
makakarika.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Ill. SV AT ANTRIKAMADHYAMAKA
HOW TO ANALYZE
The main reasoning used in the svatantrikamadhyamaka tradition
to prove that all inner and outer things are empty is the reasoning
called: 'Free of Singularity or Multiplicity'.
This reasoning 'Free of Singularity or Multiplicity' is a more
detailed explanation of what was explained above. There it was
shown that neither the name 'flower' is a singularity nor is its basis
for imputation. If the name 'flower' does not exist as a singularity, it
cannot exist as a multiplicity either.
This is because a multiplicity is made up of many singularities.
That means that for a multiplicity to be truly existent there need to
be truly existent singularities. If that is not the case, a multiplicity
cannot truly exist.
Since we have already proven that the name 'flower' does not
truly exist as a singularity - any sound lasts through past, present
and future -we can conclude that it does not truly exist as a multi-
plicity either. The same applies to the basis for imputation which we
label with the name 'flower'. We already proved that it does not
exist as a singularity- any particle of matter can be divided into the
four directions -so it cannot exist as a multiplicity either.
Therefore, the name 'flower' as well as its basis for imputation
are beyond the nature of singularities and multiplicities.
One can apply this svatantrika reasoning 'Free of Singularity or
Multiplicity' to any phenomenon whatsoever to prove that it is
empty of true existence.
To apply it to suffering is very useful, because every one of us, all
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
sentient beings, experience many different types of suffering. And
the idea that suffering is emptiness is a nice one, isn't it?
Suffering is a sensation which happens over a period of time.
Thus it is divisible by each moment of the time passed. One has to
find the smallest truly existing unit of time in which there is the
opportunity to truly suffer. If one pricks one's finger with a needle,
in which moment do we feel the pain? Analyzing it, one can divide
the moment further and further into smaller and smaller units of
time. No matter how often one divides it, one will only find smaller
units which have a beginning, a duration and an end and are, there-
fore, further divisible into three. There is no smallest unit of time in
which we can experience truly existent suffering.
Our obvious suffering is the suffering of suffering. Since it does
not exist as a singularity, it cannot exist as a multiplicity either.
Therefore, suffering is without truth.
The suffering in a dream, for example, no matter whether we
dream of being burned by a fire, drowned in water, or subjected to
suffering caused by enemies or friends, by the body or by possessions
etc.- all this dream-suffering is just confused thoughts, and not at
all true.
The same applies to the suffering of change. This suffering also
does not exist as single or multiple events; therefore it has no more
truth. than the suffering in a dream.
46
It is beyond single and multiple,
Therefore suffering has no truth,
Like the suffering in a dream.
The suffering of change is like that as well.
It is beyond single and multiple,
Therefore anger has no truth,
Like the anger in a dream.
All afflictions are like that.
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
In these verses the reasoning of 'Free of Singularity or Multiplicity'
is applied to suffering and to all afflictions. One can apply the same
logic to all phenomena.
HOW TO MEDITATE
The way to meditate according to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye's
Treasury of Knowledge:
Furthermore, with a preliminary analysis a svatantrika
Abides in what is complete nothingness similar to
space.
In order to meditate according to the point of view of svatantrika-
madhyamaka, one also begins with an analysis. First one has to
establish that no phenomenon whatsoever truly exists.T o prove this
one could apply the reasoning 'Free of Singularity or Multiplicity'.
Thus, one refutes any true existence. There is no phenomenon
which exists by its own essence.
Through this analysis we negate any true existence. Everything
that has to be refuted is refuted. The result is a complete nothing-
ness, a blank emptiness in which nothing exists whatsoever. There is
no consciousness, nor any aspect of clear light. Everything is
refuted.
There is an emptiness which is just like mere space.
When the analysis is complete, one should look at this nothing-
ness and rest the mind naturally settled within itself. This is the way
to meditate according to the svatantrikamadhyamaka.
Even while reciting you should hold the view of the
Svatantrikamadhyamaka.
On an absolute level there is ell}ptiness like space, and, rela-
tively, all appearances are like illusions and dreams. While reciting
recollect this view again and again.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
The sound of the recitation, those who are reciting, the books,
the letters, all of these are appearances which are just the gathering
of causes and conditions, like dreams, like illusions. That is what
you should recollect to be the relative level.
Absolutely there is emptiness, blank like space.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
IV. PRASANGIKAMADHYAMAKA
HOW TO ANALYZE
The prasangika are called 'prasangika', which means consequentiai-
ists, because they use consequences to refute the assertions of all the
other schoois of thought. They attack the arguments of others with
iogic {rigs pas gnod byed} and show them to be invalid, but they do
not posit any assertion of their own. This means that they do not
establish any view about the absolute nature of phenomena, since
any such attempt wouid involve the conceptual mind. And, accord-
ing to the prasangika, the absoiute is not an object to be experi-
enced by the conceptual mind.
To refute the true existence of phenomena the prasangika use
the argument that there is no true arising. If something never arose
to begin with, it cannot abide in the middle nor can it cease in the
end. Thus it cannot truly exist.
The two great proponents of the prasangikamadhyamaka, Can-
drakirti and Santideva, used this argument in their treatises. They
argued that inner and outer things do not arise
1. from themselves,
2. from something other than themselves,
3. from both, themselves and something other, or
4. from neither, i.e. causelessly.
In a dream, if someone is suffering from being burned by a fire or
drowning, and does not recognize that it is a dream, this person
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
would take this dream-suffering to be newly arisen.
Similarly, ordinary beings take the arising of suffering to be true.
They think, "I didn't suffer before, now I do, so this suffering came
up newly."
Suffering simply appears as if it were truly existent, and so does
its arising. In fact, however, it is only our confused concepts which
take this suffering and its arising as true. But, from the point of view
of the absolute, of the true nature, suffering does not truly arise. It is
like the arising of suffering in a dream.
Why is there no arising?
First let us take the example of a dream:
The suffering caused by being burned by a fire in a dream does
not arise from itself
If suffering arose from itself, then it would have to exist already
before it arises. This is logically impossible since then there would be
no real arising. The prasangika refuted this point with many differ-
ent logical arguments, but here I just present a brief summary.
The main reason is that for something to arise of itself it has to
be there, before it arises.
Also, if that were the case, then there would be no difference
between the time before and the time after its arising. And such is
obviously not true.
Therefore, one can say that the suffering of being burned in a
dream did not arise from itself.
Someone might argue that the dream-suffering arises from something
other than itself, namely from the fire. But the dream-fire is only a
mere appearance; it has no essence. There is not a single atom of
fire truly existent in the dream. True suffering could only arise from
a true cause. The dream-fire is not a true fire; therefore it cannot
give rise to true suffering. Thus suffering does not arise from some-
thing other, as for example the dream-fire.
For the suffering in the dream to come about it not only
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
requires the fire as a single cause; rather a whole collection of differ-
ent causes and conditions is needed.
While one is being burned by a fire in a dream, there have to be
the appearances of fire and of something to be burned, i.e. the
appearance of a body. There also needs to be the appearance of
some empty space between the body and the fire; otherwise they
would be one and the same and that is not possible. Then the
appearance of the fire and that of the body have to meet, and some
thinking has to take place such as, "Oh, now I have been burned:"
As long as we do not recognize the dream as a dream, we take this
mere collection of causes and conditions to be a true cause for true
suffering. But these are confused concepts and there never was a
cause for suffering to arise.
As in the dream, the same applies to daytime suffering. Only
from the point of view of confused thoughts is there suffering, but in
actuality it never arises.
There is another classical argument to prove that there is no
arising from something other. If you define 'other', it means 'some-
thing which is different in essence'. If, in these terms, a result arose
from a cause which is 'other' than itself, this would mean that there
is no essential connection between the cause and its result. This
would imply a state of affairs in which any result whatsoever could
arise from any cause whatsoever. For example, a banana-tree could
arise from a seed of rice and suffering from happy events. That is
evidently not the case.
Furthermore the argument that suffering arises from both itself and
something other is illogical as well. We have already proved that it
cannot arise from itself, and we have proved that it cannot arise
from something other, so it is easy to understand that it does not
arise from a combination of both.
Another thought could be that suffering arises without any cause. In
other words, to come about the arising would not depend on any
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
causes or conditions. But, if it did not need a cause to arise, then
suffering would either arise continuously or it would never arise.
The fact that we suffer sometimes and sometimes not occurs
because suffering depends on the proper collection of interrelated
causes and conditions. If these come together, we suffer; if they do
not then we don't. But if causes and conditions were not needed, we
would either suffer continuously or we would never suffer at all. But
this is not the case.
Suffering is like the suffering of being burned by fire in a
dream.
Because it has not arisen from any of the four extremes,
It is something which does not arise.
The thought itself, which clings to its arising - this is
deluded.
With the example of a dream, it is easy to understand that the suf-
fering of being burned by a fire never arises, that it does not arise
from itself or from something other than itself, or from both or nei-
ther of these. Thus it does not arise from any of the four extremes.
When suffering does not arise, why is it that it seems to have
arisen? It is just a confused thought that takes the arising to be truly
existent. We merely think, "Oh, now suffering has arisen newly," but
this is confused thinking.
Therefore, the arising is due to one's own flaw, the flaw of con-
fused concepts.
Arguing like this, the prasati.gikas refute all schools of thought
which assert true arising from any of the four extremes. In order to
reverse the wrong views of others the prasati.gikas refute arising, but
other than that, those who have perfected the view of this tradition
do not assert that there is 'non-arising'. Since they do not make any
assertion whatsoever, they do not assert non-arising either. That
they refute arising is just in order to refute the assertions of others
and not to posit any assertion of their own.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
To summarize the view of prasangikamadhyamaka: the absolute
is free of all mental fabrications, and the relative involves appear-
ances which are the mere coming together of interrelated causes
and conditions. As it is with dream appearances or illusions, in all
phenomena appearance and emptiness are inseparable.
THE DIFFERENCE BE1WEEN SVATANTRIKAMADHYAMAKA AND
PRAsANGIKAMADHYAMAKA
Concerning absolute truth the approaches of svatantrika and
prasangika differ:
The svatantrikamadhyamaka tradition refutes truth and asserts
no truth, refutes arising and asserts no arising, etc.
In the prasangikamadhyamaka tradition there is no assertion at
all. The absolute is free of any assertion of emptiness, because it is
beyond all conventions and mental fabrications. Any speculating
about existence, non-existence, appearance, emptiness, thing, non-
thing, etc. would involve such mental fabrications.
Santideva says:
The absolute is not an object of experience for the con-
ceptual mind.
The conceptual mind is alleged to be the relative.
This means that our mind works only on a relative level and we
cannot experience tqe absolute on a relative level. There is nothing
to be conceptually grasped in the absolute. All assertions about
existence, non-existence, etc. are on the relative level. Because the
absolute is beyond all mental fabrications, it is not an object of
experience for the relative mind, which works only conceptually.
The prasangika and the svatantrika also have different
approaches towards relative truth.
In the tradition of the prasangika, there is no difference
between appearances in a dream and non-dream appearances.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
In the tradition of the svatantrika, the dream appearances
belong to what is called the 'mistaken relative' {log pa'i kun rdzob} or
the 'deluded relative' { 'khrul pa'i kun rdzob}.
Whereas non-dream appearances, what one sees with non-
deluded faculties, belong to what is called the 'true relative' {yang
dag kun rdzob}. In this way, the svatantrika distinguish two levels of
the relative.
HOW TO MEDITATE
The way to meditate accords with Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye's
Treasury of Knowledge:
[For a] prasangika the object to become accustomed to,
the dharmadhatu, [and] what becomes accustomed
to, the mind,
Are inseparable, like water being poured into water.
What one has to become accustomed to or what has to be medi-
tated upon in the prasangika tradition is the dharmadhatu or dhar-
mata or emptiness.
What is becoming accustomed or meditating is the mind. While
one is resting, the dharmadhatu and the mind should be insepara-
ble.
What is to be meditated upon, the dharmadhatu, is free of all
mental fabrications. Also the mind which meditates is free of all
mental fabrications. Therefore, what is to be meditated upon and
the meditator are inseparable.
If one pours water into water, they mix and become inseparable.
In the same way, the object of meditation and the meditator have to
be inseparable. Since both are the same in essence, namely, free of
all mental fabrications, they should stayinseparably blended as
water stays blended with water.
Rinpoche's prayer of aspiration for meditation:
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Within dharmata free of the mental fabrications of
existence and nonexistence,
Having completely pacified all mental grasping of 'it is'
and 'it is not',
Through being skilled in resting within a state free of
creating,
May you actualize the true nature which is free of men-
tal fabrications.
One should rest within dharmata, i.e. within emptiness which is free
of all mental fabrications. There is no pondering about whether
things exist or do not exist etc.
How then does one rest one's mind? There should be no grasp-
ing in any way, such as thinking "it is" or "it is not", and, as one is
resting without focal directiveness {dmigs pa'i ltas so med par}, all
mental fabrications should be pacified. Once mental fabrications
are pacified, how does one meditate further?
One has to abide within a state free of all creation without mak-
ing up anything. Any mental creation is mental fabrication. One
should be skilled in resting within a state free of any creating. Then
one will realize the true nature which is free of mental fabrications.
This is my aspiration: based upon your skill in resting without
creating anything, may you directly realize the true nature which is
free of mental fabrications.
Thus, within the object of meditation, dharmata, free of fabrica-
tions, the mind, that is the meditator, pacifies all ways of grasping,
such as 'it is' or 'it is not'. Within non-creating rest relaxedly!
Lacking sharp awareness - that is dullness.
Not being embraced by the experience of clarity - that
is haziness.
Being close to falling asleep - that is drowsiness.
If any of these three occurs
Then straighten up your body, direct your gaze towards
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
the sky,
Also, sometimes do body exercise or yoga.
Being distracted towards outer objects- that is digres,
sion.
Not finding the slightest rest - that is restlessness.
Being distracted towards all different kinds of objects -
that is scattering.
Thinking "I am resting" and not being conscious of it-
that is undercurrent movement.
Resting, and grasping this resting as such- that is self,
preoccupation.
Concerning these,
Loosen up your body, direct your awareness towards the
navel
And rest relaxedly within a state free of creating.
In the post,meditation period maintain the illusionlike samadhi.
This means that whatever you do after the session, when you take a
break, recollect again and again your conviction that all phenom,
ena are illusory.
'You can maintain the illusionlike samadhi while you work at all
different kinds of jobs, when you do body exercises or Tai,Chi, when
you go out for a walk with others, etc. At all times just maintain
your conviction that all appearances are like illusions.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
V.YOGACARAMADHYAMAKA
(SHENTON G)
THE VIEW
The third turning of the wheel of the dharma consists of that sec-
tion of sutras in which the meaning of sugatagarbha, that is the bud-
dha nature, is taught. This is known as shentong or the great
madhyamaka.
The Buddha, the teacher, taught these sutras to beings of
supreme abilities, to male and female bodhisattvas possessed of
great wisdom. He taught that the sugatagarbha is potentially
present in all sentient beings in the same way as butter is contained
in milk, sesame oil in the sesame seed, or gold or silver in gold ore or
silver ore.
It is not that good and pure sentient beings, like gods and
humans, possess sugatagarbhla and lesser beings, like hell beings,
hungry ghosts, or animals, do not. Rather it is taught that all sen-
tient beings limitless in number possess buddha nature, sugatagar-
bha.
And, because all sentient beings possess sugatagarbha, when
the right causes and conditidns come together, any sentient being is
capable of attaining the state of perfect buddhahood.
Included in the treatises expounding the sutras that teach the
sugatagarbha are some of the Five Treatises by Arya Maitreya, the
supreme lord dwelling on the tenth bodhisattvabhumi. Especially
the fifth of these, the Mahayanottaratantra {thegpa chen po'i rgyud bla
rna}, describes the sugatagarbha in a clear, easy-to-understand way.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
The Mahayanottaratantra is divided into seven 'vajra points':
1. Buddha,
2. Dharma,
3. Sangha,
4. Element, i.e. sugatagarbha,
5. Enlightenment,
6. Qualities, and
7. Enlightened Activity.
The fourth vajra point, the element, presents the sugatagarbha. It
explains briefly the reasons why all sentient beings possess buddha
nature; it gives an expanded explanation of the ten different aspects
of sugatagarbha; and it presents nine clarifying examples of how the
buddha nature is covered over by adhering obscurations.
Those who wish to study the sugatagarbha in detail should
study the Mahayanottaratantra. Studying the fourth vajra point
alone will be of great benefit. The root text has been translated into
English and there is an old Chinese translation as well.
Here, however, I will explain the sugatagarbha only in brief,
main"ly for the benefit of those who are interested in practising the
progressive meditation.
The true nature of mind, clarity and emptiness insepa-
rable,
Is well known as the 'clear light sugatagarbha'.
To purify the adhering stains of delusion
Many steps of view, meditation and conduct are taught.
The true nature of mind of sentient beings is empty in essence yet it
is naturally clear light. Clarity and emptiness are by nature insepara-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
ble. To describe this, the Buddha used the term 'clear light sugata-
garbha'. Since that time, the true nature of mind, the inseparability
of clarity and emptiness, has been referred to as sugatagarbha. The
true nature of mind, sugatagarbha, is the absolute buddha. Never-
theless it is temporarily obscured by the adhering stains of one's
delusion, in the same way as the sun is temporarily covered over by
clouds, as water is stained by mud, and gold by impurities.
In order to enable sentient beings to purify these adhering stains
of delusion, the Buddha, the great teacher, the capable one, who is
endowed with great loving kindness and compassion, taught many
progressive steps of meditation, beginning with the absence ofself in
the individual, through the vajrayana, mahamudra, and maha-ati.
He taught the view, meditation and conduct for each of these steps.
Concerning the progressive view, meditation and conduct of
shentong, one has to develop a firm conviction that the true nature
of mind is inseparable clarity and emptiness. It is about the true
nature of mind, the element, the essence of the sugatas, the essence
of the buddha, or the absolute buddha, that one has to be con-
vinced.
The lord of yogis, Milarepa, taught:
To explain the three nails of fruition:
Sarp.sara is nothing to be discarded to somewhere else.
Nirvar:ta is nothing to be obtained from somewhere else.
I am convinced that my own mind is the Buddha.
Here Milarepa presents what is also at the heart of the shentong
view. When one is convinced that one's own mind is the Buddha,
this has the same meaning as the view that one's own mind is sugat-
agarbha.
To explain Milarepa's words:
At the stage of fruition there are three profound points to be
considered, the. three nails. What are these three nails?
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Saq1sara is nothing to be discarded to somewhere else.
Whatever is called saq1sara is, like a dream, a mere appearance
coming about due to confused conceptualization. It is only as such,
and not in essence, that saq1sara exists. This means that it has no
true existence. Something which does not truly exist cannot be
abandoned. Therefore, saq1sara is nothing to be discarded to some-
where else. If it were truly existent, it would be something that
could be abandoned. But all of saq1sara's appearances lack true
existence, as dream appearances do. They do not come from any-
where, therefore they cannot go to anywhere.
Nirval).a is nothing to be obtained from somewhere else.
Nirval).a is nothing to be gotten from somewhere other than oneself.
One's own true nature of mind, sugatagarbha, is the absolute bud-
dha. That is the absolute nirval).a. It is contained within oneself.
Therefore this nirval).a is nothing to be obtained from somewhere
else; it is nothing one can purchase or buy somewhere.
If nirval).a is nothing to be obtained and saq1sara is nothing to
be abandoned, what is it that one has to actualize?
I am convinced that my own mind is the Buddha.
One has to cut one's doubts and gain the conviction that one's own
true nature of mind - clarity and emptiness inseparable, the clear
light sugatagarbha - is the absolute buddha.
Milarepa himself said, "I have cut my doubts; I am convinced
that my own mind is the Buddha". In this same way, we should trust
in our buddha nature, the Buddha within.
For this reason, through practising the profound genuine
dharma, one purifies the adhering stains of deluded conceptualiza-
tion, including the dispositions attaching to them, and the true
nature of mind, clarity and emptiness inseparable, or expanse and
awareness inseparable, the absolute buddha, is actualized. Thus one
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
becomes a buddha.
In the same context there is one prayer of J amgon Kongtrul
Lodro Thaye's Calling the Lama from Afar:
Though my own mind is the Buddha, I do not recognize
it.
Though thoughts are the dharmakaya, I do not realize
what that means.
Though the uncontrived is the natural [state], I am not
able to guard it.
Though resting self-settled is the true nature, I do nor
really trust in it.
Kind lama, look at me with your compassion,
Grant your blessing that self-awareness will be liberatfd
t
into its own state.
In this prayer we confess four faults concerning our understanding
of the buddha nature, sugatagarbha:
the fault of not recognizing it,
the fault of not realizing its meaning,
the fault of not being able to guard the uncontrived natural
state of mind,, and
the fault of not trusting in it.
Thinking about these four faults of one's own, one prays to the
lama, asking for his compassion and his blessing that self-awareness
will be liberated into its own state.
Self-awareness here means the primordial awareness which is
self-aware, which is aware of itself.
This awareness is temporarily covered over by the adhering
obscurations of conceptualization. Eliminating these obscurations
causes self-aware primordial awareness to be uncovered and thus
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
liberated into its own state.
HOW TO MEDITATE
The shentong way to meditate according to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro
Thaye in his Treasury of Knowledge is:
[In) shentong one rests without conceptualizing within
great clear light.
All [schools) also accord in the essential point, the
'mere freedom from mental fabrications'.
How does one meditate according to the shentong tradition?
Since the true nature of mind is clear light or clarity and empti,
ness inseparable, one has to rest self,settled, uncontrived, and
relaxed within the state of clear light.
All the various steps of meditation of the different schools of
thought, from the absence of self in the individual up through shen,
tong, accord in the essential point of meditation being merely free,
dom from mental fabrications. They all differ on how they describe
this mere freedom from fabrications, but they agree insofar as their
meditation of the absolute is simply freedom from fabrications.
The sravakas analyze the absence of self in the individual and
then rest within this state, free of mental fabrications. In cittamatra
one rests within an emptiness free of duality and thus free of mental
fabrications etc. This means that, in all the schools, during absolute
meditation one does not conceptualize anymore. Once the analysis
is finished, one simply rests without making up thoughts such as
"there is no self in the individual" or "there is an emptiness free of
duality". Thus, all schools differ as to the state of the absolute in
which to rest, but they all agree that meditation is freedom from
mental fabrications.
Thus in shentong one abides within the true nature of mind -
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
clear light free of mental fabrications, the mind settled within itself,
uncontrived and relaxed.
The lord of yogis, Milarepa, described how one should abide
naturally within clear light:
Rest as a small child in your own way of being.
Rest as an ocean without waves.
Rest as the flame of a butter lamp within clarity.
Rest as a human corpse without any self-concerns.
Rest as a mountain immovable.
The first example of how to rest and relax the mind:
Rest as a small child in your own way of being.
A small child in a shrine room sees all the statues, the pictures and
so on. It sees everything within the shrine room, but it is still too
young to make any associations when seeing these things. It would
not think, "This is this" or "That is that." It would not attach a con-
ventional name to a thing itself and label it. Still, all things appear
to the child's sight. Whatever a small child perceives- forms,
sounds, smells, tastes, or tangible objects - as long as the child is still
young, it would not associate a name with any of these things. It
simply sees the things, hears the sounds, smells the smells and so on,
but does not yet make the mistake of taking the actual basis of
imputation and its imputed name to be one, as we ourselves do
when we automatically make associations, label things, and then
take the label and its basis to be one and the same thing. A small
child does not do that.
Here we are told to rest in the same way as a child does. We do
not need to reject appearances, but we should not label them. We
should not create any conceptual association. For example, if we sit
in meditation and there is a flower in front of us, we do not have to
close our eyes or take the flower away. We may look at the flower,
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
but we should not think, "Oh, this is a flower." If something appears
in sight of our eyes, it is all right, but we should not label it and hold
on to it conceptually. In that way, without grasping on to anything
that we perceive, we should just rest relaxedly in the true nature of
mind. This makes meditation very easy because, even if there is
sound outside, we are not disturbed by it. We do not have to reject
the sound, we may listen to it. However, the only thing we should
not do is to conceptually grasp the sound. No matter what we per-
ceive -forms, sounds, smells etc. - we should not conceptually
grasp them, but instead rest within the true nature of mind, the
clear light.
The second example says,
Rest as an ocean without waves.
Here the ocean is described as not having any waves. It is not agi-
tated by wind. It is a very calm ocean.
This line refers to the hindrances to samadhi. There are two
main faults that hinder samadhi: dullness and restlessness.
This meditation method provides the remedy against restless-
ness, which is an outwardly oriented distraction. It exhorts us to rest
undistractedly, that is, not to be distracted by thoughts of the three
times. Such thoughts are the waves that move on the ocean. When
we think, "Yesterday I did this," or "Tomorrow I am going to do
that," or "Now I am meditating"- these are thoughts of the three
times. These thoughts are like the waves on the ocean. The ocean is
not still. In the same way, when we are meditating, we should not be
disturbed by any thoughts of friends, enemies, attachment to
friends, aversion towards enemies and so on. The meditation should
be unmoved by thoughts. Instead, we should simply rest relaxedly in
the true nature of mind, the clear light, like an ocean not moved by
wind but completely calm and still.
Rest as the flame of a butter lamp within clarity.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
When a butter lamp flame is not moved by wind, it does not flicker
but shines completely bright. Again, this is an example of how we
should rest. The meditation should be accompanied by clarity.
This method is a remedy against dullness. Explaining the
prasati.gika meditation, I mentioned three faults similar to each
other which hinder samadhi. These are dullness, haziness, and
drowsiness:
Dullness results when one is not able to keep a sharp awareness.
Haziness means that one is not held by an experience of clarity.
And drowsiness happens when the meditation is mixed with
sleep so that one is about to fall asleep.
If any of these faults occur or if all of them come up, one is not
able to meditate in true samadhi. Therefore they must be remedied.
The first fault, dullness, in which one is not able to keep a sharp
awareness, has to be counteracted with the strength of self-aware
primordial awareness. Developing self-aware primordial awareness
gives us the power to maintain sharp awareness.
The second fault, haziness, where one is not held by an experi-
ence of clarity, has to be counteracted by purposely resting within
the true nature of mind. Knowing that the true nature of mind is
clear light, or clarity, one should create this clarity. Once this clarity
is produced let the mind rest, let it settle into its own state and rest
within this clear light.
The third fault is drowsiness. At the point when one falls asleep
the six kinds of consciousness are drawn inside and stop function-
ing. When drowsiness occurs in meditation, one has to watch that
they do not stop functioning. Let the consciousnesses continue to
function clearly, but do not grasp at any of the experiences. If you
allow the consciousnesses to function then you will not fall asleep.
Appearances do not have to be rejected; simply do not grasp them
conceptually and rest your mind in clarity.
The fourth example says,
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Rest as a human corpse without any self-concerns.
When someone passes away and his human corpse is left, this
corpse does not have any self-concerns any more. It does not think,
"I am a human corpse" or "Of all the human corpses! am the best."
Neither does it think, "Oh, this coffin, my box in which I am lying is
very comfortable; it is the best box of all." This human corpse is
completely free of thoughts, completely free of self-concerns.
In the same way, when we sit and meditate we have to be free of
self-concerns. We should not think, "I am a good meditator" or "Of
all the meditators, I am actually the best:" Neither should we think,
"Oh, my experiences today are extraordinarily good". We should
give up all self-concerns.
If we have thoughts like "I am a good meditator," our medita-
tion is distracted by ego-clinging. We still cling to a self.
If we think, "I am the best meditator of all," the meditation is
distracted by great pride.
As soon as we think, "Oh, I am having such good experiences
today," the meditation is distracted by attachment accompanied by
desire. Such thoughts as in these three cases will not allow a true
samadhi to arise in our mind-streams.
If the meditation is accompanied by self-concerns such as these,
one has to remedy them by recognizing them.
We have to recognize our ego-clinging as ego-clinging and
acknowledge that we have ego-clinging, that there is still ego-cling-
ing in our meditation.
In the same way, when pride arises we have to recognize it as
such. We have to recognize that we meditate with pride.
And lastly, we have to see that there is still attachment and
desire involved in our meditation.
If we do not recognize such self-concerns, then we cannot free
ourselves from these three faults. Then, no matter how much we
meditate, our realization will not increase. Therefore, simply recog-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
nize such faults and rest relaxedly in the clear nature of mind.
Once any one of these faults - ego-clinging, pride or attach-
ment- is recognized, one has to look straight at the essence of the
concept accompanying it.
When there is a thought such as "I am a great meditator," it
should be recognized as ego-clinging. Then look at the very essence
of this thought. The very essence of this thought is clear light, clar-
ity and emptiness inseparable. Seeing the very essence of this
thought, seeing clear light and emptiness, simply relax into this
clear light and emptiness.
When a thought such as "I am the best of all meditators" comes
up, it has to be recognized as pride. Again, took at the essence, see
that it is clarity, clarity and emptiness inseparable, and just relax
into this state of clarity and emptiness inseparable.
If a thought arises such as "Oh, today I am having good experi-
ences", then this is attachment, Recognize it as attachment and
look at the essence. The essence is clear light, clarity and emptiness
inseparable. Then simply relax into this state.
This is how to relax into the essence of such thoughts.
In order to recognize one's thoughts as ego-clinging, pride or
attachment one has to look with the eye of one's wisdom, with the
eye of one's intelligence.
The fifth example states,
Rest as a mountain immovable.
A mountain cannot be moved by wind no matter how strong a
storm, there might be. Wind cannot move any mountain. In the
same way when resting within the true nature of mind, the clear
light, one should not be moved by anything. No matter what kinds
of objects or conditions influence us, no matter how strong or how
fierce conditions may be, whether there are very strong negative
conditions or very strong positive conditions, we should not be
moved in any way. Rest within the true nature of mind, the clear
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
light, immovable.
68
Rinpoche's concluding wishing-prayer for all of us:
Within the true nature of mind, clarity and emptiness
inseparable,
Through being skilled in resting free of the creations of
rejecting and accepting,
Not rejecting conceptual fabrications and characteris-
tics but having them be self-liberated,
May you manifest the absolute buddha.
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
APPENDICES
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
1

70







....,..- 1:\.





.:1\11
1:\. 'Y"'
1
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
APPENDIX I
The Author's Prostration
The unequalled supreme teacher, the Lord Muni,
The lords of the tenth bhumi, Maitreya, Maiijusri, and so on
-To those who make up the lineage of definitive meaning -
I prostrate with deep respect
And will here explain the progressive stages of meditation on
the absolute, that is emptiness.
The Absence of Self
In order to purify the clinging to the five skandhas as the self
We have to develop a firm conviction that they are not the
self.
This is because the skandhas each individually are not the
self
And also the whole collection of skandhas is not the self.
With this conviction we have to meditate.
Cittamatra
For the six kinds of beings with the six kinds of bodies as a
ripened result
Six kinds of appearances appear through the power of their
dispositions.
To humans as well, who have six kinds of sense-powers,
Six kinds of appearances appear, also empowered by their dis-
positions.
One single person is seen in different ways,
And friends, enemies and so on change in different ways.
Besides, these changes happen very quickly;
Therefore we come to understand that everything is mis-
taken appearance due to dispositions.
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- "










"--" -

- - "



11
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
All changes are the changing of mistaken appearances.
All changes are the changing of thoughts.
The root of all changes is the changing of dispositions.
Purify these by meditating on how everything is emptiness of
duality, dharmata.
What is perceived is mistaken appearance due to disposi-
tions.
Thus outside nothing exists as an object.
Therefore the perceiver as well does not exist
And thus dharmata, empty of both, is established.
Prayer of Aspiration for Meditation on Cittamatra
What constitutes the cause of all karma, afflictions and suf-
fering
Are dispositions toward mistaken dualistic appearances.
In order to purify these,
May you in this life and throughout all lifetimes
Meditate perfectly on dharmata, empty of duality.
Madhyamaka
The great master Nagarjuna -
With logic be dissolved
All assertions of whomsoever,
Of non-Buddhist and Buddhist schools of thought.
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II






-v' -v' C\ -v'



MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Svatantrikamadhyamaka
It is beyond single and multiple,
Therefore suffering has no truth,
Like the suffering in a dream.
The suffering of change is like that as well.
It is beyond single and multiple,
Therefore anger has no truth,
Like the anger in a dream.
All afflictions are like that.
Prasailgikamadhyamaka
Suffering is like the suffering of being burned by fire in a
dream.
Because it has not arisen from any of the four extremes,
It is something which does not arise.
The thought itself, which clings to its arising- this is
deluded.
Prayer of Aspiration for Prasarigika Meditation
Within dharmata free of the mental fabrications of existence
and nonexistence,
Having completely pacified all mental grasping of 'it is' and
'it is not',
Through being skilled in resting within a state free of creat-
ing,
May you actualize the true nature which is free of mental fab-
rications.
75
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS



""

....,., ....,.., ....,.,


MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Shentong
The true nature of mind, clarity and emptiness inseparable,
Is well known as the 'clear light sugatagarbha'.
To purify the adhering stains of delusion
Many steps of view, meditation and conduct are taught.
Concluding Wishing Prayer
Within the true nature of mind, clarity and emptiness insepa-
rable,
Through being skilled in resting free of the creations of
rejecting and accepting,
Not rejecting conceptual fabrications and characteristics but
having them be self-liberated,
May you manifest the absolute buddha.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS





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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
APPENDIX II
Lacking sharp awareness - that is dullness.
Not being embraced by the experience of clarity - that is haz-
iness.
Being close to falling asleep- that is drowsiness.
If any of these three occurs
Then straighten up your body, direct your gaze towards the
sky,
Also, sometimes do body exercise or yoga.
Being distracted towards outer objects- that is digression.
Not finding the slightest rest - that is restlessness.
Being distracted towards all different kinds of objects -that
is scattering.
Thinking "I am resting" and not being conscious of it - that
is undercurrent movement.
Resting, and grasping this resting as such - that is self-preoc-
cupation.
Concerning these,
Loosen up your body, direct your awareness towards the
navel
And rest relaxedly within a state free of creating.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
C\-


80





MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
APPENDIX III
The four Applications
As for progressing in correct application,
There are also four aspects:
The application which is to focus,
The application which is not to focus,
The application which is not to focus on that which
focuses,
The application which is to focus on that which has no
focus.
Commentary by Mipham Rinpoche
As for progressing in correct application, there are also four aspects:
1. First progressing in the application which is to focus on all
phenomena as mind only.
2. Then, in consequence, progressing in the application which
is not to focus on that which is perceived.
3. Then, in consequence, progressing in the application which
is not to focus on 'that which focuses on what is perceived',
i.e. that perceiver itself.
4. Then, in consequence, progressing in the application which
is to focus on 'that which has no focus at all, neither on what
is perceived nor on a perceiver', i.e. suchness.
One should know that in this way non-conceptual primordial
awareness is developed.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
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PART TWO:
REALIZING EMPTINESS:
COMMENTARIES ON ARYA
NAGARJUNA AND THE SONGS OF
GYALWA GOTSANGPA AND }ETSUN
MILAREPA
BY
KHENPO TSOL TRIM GY AMTSO RlNPOCHE
TRANSLATED BY ARl GOLDFIELD
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
REALIZING THE PROFOUND TRUTH OF
EMPTINESS
Before we listen to these teachings, Rinpoche asks that we all give
rise to the precious attitude .of bodhicitta, the awakening mind,
which means that not only for our own benefit, but rather for the
benefit of all sentient beings, who are limitless in number as space ~
vast in extent, we aspire to attain the precious state of buddhahood,
which abides neither in the cycle of existence (sal!lsara), nor in
some one,sided cessation of suffering or some kind of individual
peace (nirval).a).
In order to attain the precious rank of buddhahood for the ben,
efit of all sentient beings, we must generate in our hearts great
enthusiasm. We must generate the attitude that we will listen to,
reflect upon, and meditate upon the teachings of the genuine
dharma with all of the diligence and enthusiasm that we can muster.
At this time, when we have attained this precious human body,
endowed with the wonderful qualities of faith, diligence, and intelli,
gence, it is very important for us to use our time well. And the way
to do that is to listen to, reflect upon, and then meditate on the
genuine dharma.
When we are studying and reflecting on the meaning of the
dharma, what are very important are the explanations of how the
cycle of existence and nirvat).a - the transcendence of that cycle of
existence - appear, and how they really are - what is their true
nature.
Along those lines, tonight Rinpoche will explain, from all of the
vast array of topics of the genuine dharma, some verses from a text
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
by the noble bodhisattva and protector Nagarjuna, called the Sixty
Stanzas of Reasoning.
In the first verse, Nagarjuna prostrates to the Buddha, because
the Buddha is the one who taught the truth of dependent arising.
Because the Buddha taught that, Nagarjuna prostrates to him.
This verse reads:
I prostrate to the Mighty One
Who has taught about dependent arising,
The principle by which
Arising and disintegration are abandoned. (Homage)
If we can understand what dependent arising means, if we can
understand the truth of dependent arising and how it is that all phe-
nomena are dependently arisen, then we can abandon our attach-
ment to arising and disintegration. And since that is true, then
Nagarjuna prostrates to the Buddha, because the Buddha is the one
who taught this most important truth. The Buddha is the one who
taught us this method by which we can give up this type of attach-
ment.
The next verse, which is the first verse after the homage reads:
Those whose intelligence has gone beyond existence
and nonexistence
And who do not abide [in any extremes]
Have realized the meaning of dependent arising,
The profound and unobservable [truth of empti-
ness]. (1)
Those whose intelligence has gone beyond existence and nonexist-
ence refers to those who desire liberation, who desire to be liberated
with their intelligence. Have gone beyond existence and nonexistence
means that they are no longer attached to the idea that phenomena
truly exist, that there is some substantial existence to things; nor do
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
they believe that nothing exists, that reality is a complete nothing-
ness or an absence of anything whatsoever. They have gone beyond
both of these different extremes of view, because they have realized
the meaning of dependent arising. If one realizes this meaning, then
one will no longer be attached to either of these extremes.
Moreover, at the same time that one realizes the truth of depen-
dent arising, one will realize the truth of emptiness, which is at the
same time very profound and yet unobservable. Meaning that it
can't be fixed or located by saying "this is it" or "this is emptiness" or
"that is emptiness." It is beyond all our ideas about what it might be.
The profound truth of emptiness is not something we can describe
or pinpoint with some type of idea or description. Realizing that
truth is what is meant by "realizing the truth of emptiness."
If we still believe in existence, if we have some type of belief in
something substantial, if we think that there is something that truly
exists, whatever it might be, then we are said to fall into the
extreme called eternalism or permanence. And if we fall into that
extreme, we will not realize the true nature of reality.
On the other hand, if we propound a view saying nothing exists,
"there's absolutely nothing," that the truth is some kind of nothing-
ness or vacuum, then that too is an extreme. That's called the
extreme of nihilism. And if we fall into that extreme', we will also
not realize the truth of emptiness. The reason for that is that the
truth of emptiness, or what is actual reality, is something which is
beyond any and all of our descriptions of it or conceptions about it.
So whatever our conceptions are, they would necessarily fall into
one of these two extremes. And so, by definition, one will not real-
ize the true nature.
For example, let's take the appearance of a flower in a dream.
This flower is not something that exists, that truly exists, because
it's just a dream appearance -there's no real flower there whatso-
ever. On the other hand, you can't say there's absolutely nothing,
because there is the mere appearance of a flower - but just a mere
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
appearance, that's it. That is its nature in terms of how it exists in
the world of appearances. There's nothing really there but there is
this mere appearance. In a dream there's nothing substantial but
there is the mere appearance of something substantial. Thus, its
true nature transcends both existence and nonexistence. Its true
nature is not something we can describe with these kinds of terms,
because it is beyond any type of thing we might be able to think up
about it. And so, just like a flower that appears in a dream, all phe,
nomena that appear, wherever they appear, are the same. They all
appear in terms of being a mere appearance. There is nothing sub,
stantial to them, and their true nature transcends both existence
and non,existence and any other idea.
All phenomena that appear to us in this life are exactly the
same. None of them truly exists, nor do they have any substance;
but neither are they completely nonexistent, because there is the
mere appearance of them. In terms of ,true reality, true reality is
something which cannot be described'by terms such as "exist". or
"not exist" or by any other terms. True reality is beyond all of our
concepts about it; it is inconceivable.
As examples of what this inseparability of appearance and emp,
tiness, that characterizes all phenomena, is like, the next verse
reads:
Those who see with their intelligence
That existence is like a mirage and an illusion
Are not corrupted by believing in
The extremes of earlier and later. (17)
Existence here refers to sarpsara, cyclic existence that ignorant
beings go around and around in, again and again. Yet, even though
beings are continually going around and around in sarpsara, every,
thing in it is merely inseparable appearance and emptiness. It
appears but it has no substantial nature. In that way, it is like a
mirage or an illusion. When a magician creates an illusion of some,
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
thing, or when you see a mirage in the desert that looks like water,
these are things that appear to exist, but in reality have no substan-
tial existence at all. That is the characteristic of all appearances in
cyclic existence.
Those who see with their eye of intelligence that that is how all
these appearances truly are, are not corrupted by believing in the
extremes of earlier and later. Earlier and later refers to how you view
past and future lives. Here, you could fall into the extreme of think-
ing that past and future lives were things that truly existed, that
were somehow real and had some substance to them. That would be
falling into the extreme of permanence. On the other hand, you
could fall into the extreme of thinking that past and future lives
absolutely didn't exist, that there was nothing whatsoever. That
would be falling into the extreme of nihilism. However, by realizing
that appearances appear and yet are empty of any true existence,
you avoid falling into these extremes.
In the next verse y,re are introduced to a gradual way of begin-
ning to understand emptiness. It says:
By understanding arising, disintegration is understood.
By understanding disintegration, impermanence is un-
derstood.
By understanding impermanence
The truth of the genuine dharma is realized. (22)
The first thing that we need to understand, that we can notice and
think about, is arising, or birth- how it is that phenomena or things
in cyclic existence come into being. For example, this flower. This
flower was not just created by one cause or one thing or one condi-
tion, but rather it came into being because of the coming together of
a great many different causes and conditions. And just like this
flower, so are all phenomena in cyclic existence. They don't rely on
one cause or condition; they are dependent for their existence on a
coming together of a group of causes and conditions. If we can
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
understand that, which is the truth of arising, then what follows is
cessation. Everything that is born has to die. There's nothing that
ever is born or comes into being that does not cease to be. We know
this just by our own observation and by our own experience.
Now we understand birth and death. And if we understand
birth and death, then we also necessarily understand that phenom-
ena are impermanent. Because "impermanent" means that things
don't stay the same forever. That which is born and that which dies
go through changes. So all phenomena are impermanent.
There are two different types of impermanence. One type is
called gross impermanence, and that is the impermanence that you
can see with your eyes or experience with your other senses. When
a house is destroyed by an earthquake, you can actually see this type
of impermanence happen right before your eyes.
The second type is called subtle impermanence. Subtle imper-
manence describes the fact that all phenomena are changing
moment by moment. From moment to moment, no phenomena stay
the same. Causes and conditions are continually acting on all phe-
nomena in cyclic existence, and so none of them ever stays the
same from one moment to the next. For example [Rinpoche snaps
his fingers], even within one finger snap there are how many differ-
ent parts? How many different instants are there? Hundreds and
thousands and millions -you can keep dividing and find smaller
and smaller instants, and no two instants are the same. So even
such a tiny, minute phenomenon is constantly changing, and never
stays the same. Realizing that is realizing emptiness, which is to real-
ize that no phenomenon has any substantial, permanent nature.
90
The next verse reads:
Without a stable focus or location,
Not remaining and without root,
Arisen totally as a result of ignorance,
Without beginning, middle, or end. (26)
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
What is being described here is cyclic existence, and cyclic exist-
ence has no fixed location. It doesn't have a location that is in any
way truly existent. How can we know this to be true? We all live on
this planet Earth, and we might think that we can find some loca-
tion here. But this Earth is just suspended in space. And space is
without any direction or location to it. So, if this Earth is just float-
ing around in space without direction or location, how can we then
say that we have any direction or fixed location? It doesn't make any
sense. That is something we can think about and understand pretty
easily.
If we think about direction and location just on this Earth,
another reason why we can say that there is no location or direction
is that everybody on this Earth thinks that they are right side up.
[Laughter] Everybody thinks that they are right side up; nobody
thinks that they are upside down. But you can't really have "right
side up" without "upside down." These two depend on each other.
So really, there is no right side up or upside down on this earth. If we
analyze carefully, we can see that this is true;
Without a stable focus: No matter how hard we try to make cyclic
existence into something that truly exists, we can't do it. There's no
way to make cyclic existence into something stable, into something
that will not change, into something dependable. By nature, it's
none of those things. It is constantly changing and has no substance
to it. And so all of our attempts to solidify it in any way are com-
t.
pletely in vain. No matter what phenomena you try to use or try to
analyze to make it into something stable and fixed, you just can't do
it.
The next line says that it is without root, which means that there
is nothing grounding cyclic existence. To give an example that can
be analyzed, take this Earth. We think that Earth is made up of
atoms of substantial matter. That is the ground. That is what we are
rooted to, that is our foundation. When we analyze these atoms,
however, we really can't find anything, because, as you examine
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
more finely, you find smaller and smaller particles. And every new
particle, no matter how small, is just a collection or mass of smaller
particles. And so, if you try to find the smallest truly existent parti-
cle, you can't find it. In this way it is demonstrated that there really
is nothing substantial there. There really is no such thing as matter.
There really is no such thing as some kind of solid foundation. It
doesn't exist.
So what is the real root of cyclic existence? It is ignorance, and it is
clinging to a belief in a self in a truly existent self of the individual,
and in some substantial existence to phenomena. But these two also
have no true existence; if we analyze them, they are not substantial,
truly existent things. And since we can see that the cycle of exist-
ence springs from the erroneous belief in a truly existent self and
truly existent phenomena, then it follows that cyclic existence is
also not a substantially existent thing. So cyclic existence has no
root.
Then the next verse says not remaining; these phenomena don't
remain. They are just like phenomena that appear in a dream.
Whatever appears in a dream never really comes into being, even
though it looks as if it does. And it never really goes out of exist-
ence, even though it looks as if it does. So how could there be any-
thing to remain or have duration? Nothing ever really arises,
nothing ever really goes .away, and nothing ever really remains in
cyclic existence. All appearances are exactly the same in that way.
These appearances in a dream, if they were really to abide or
remain, would first have to come into existence. But since they
never really come into existence, they can never remain, and they
can never go away. That's how we should think about this.
Then the third line says that the real cause of cyclic existence is
ignorance. Cyclic existence arises totally as a result of ignorance. So
what does that mean? How does that work? First we are ignorant of
the true nature of phenomena; we think that they really exist. As a
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
result, we develop the other afflictions or klesas. We get attached to
the phenomena that we like and want them; and there are other
phenomena that we don't like, so we try to push them away. In this
way we develop attachment and aversion, as a result of which we
take all different kinds of actions. These kinds of actions are said to
be defiled actions because, when we act out of attachment and
aversion, our actions are governed and motivated by our ignorance.
These kinds of actions produce suffering as their result, and so we
just go around and around in the cycle of existence.
Since the cause of cyclic existence is ignorance, we might think
that it had some fixed point of beginning and some point where it
might end. But really, it's not that way; it's just like a dream, in that
things in a dream really have no beginning, middle, or end.
The next verse reads:
Without core, like a banana tree.
'Like an unreal city in the sky,
The suffering world - the lands of confusion -
Manifests in this way- like an illusion. (27)
This verse starts out by saying that cyclic existence is without core,
like a banana tree. When you peel a banana tree, you peel it and
peel it and it has more and more peels to it. You look at this thing
and it looks like something really solid and truly existent, but if you
take off all the layers, there's no core. That's it, there's nothing left.
In India the example of a banana tree was used to show that cyclic
existence is without any core. It has no essence.
Then the cycle of existence is compared to an unreal city in the
sky. This is a reference to the city of the gandharvas. The literal
translation of their name is "smell eaters," which they are called
because [Rinpoche laughs] they are formless beings who subsist by
eating odors. The Buddha talked ab<!mt them, otherwise we
wouldn't know too much about them, because most people can't see
them [more laughter]. But some people can see them, and what
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they see is a big city where all these smell eaters live. They live just
as we do and they do all different kinds of things. But even if you
could ever see this place, if you could be there, you wouldn't be able
to use anything there, because it's just like a phantom place. You
could see many different things, but you couldn't make use of any-
thing, or take part in anything, or talk to anybody, because gandhar-
vas are just like phantoms. This is another example illustrating the
true nature of cyclic existence.
The verse goes on to say that this is the suffering world. These
are the lands of confusion, and the beings in this world suffer. Why?
We suffer because we take things to be truly existent because we are
confused about the nature of these appearances. We think these
appearances are something real. But they are really not. Therefore,
we suffer. And yet, all of this suffering in cyclic existence, what is it
like? It's just an illusion. The suffering in cyclic existence appears,
and all the beings in this world appear, simply because of the coming
together of causes and conditions, which produce their appearance.
And yet all the beings in this world and everything in cyclic exist-
ence is merely inseparable appearance and emptiness. It is appear-
ance that has no substantial nature.
None of us seems to have had any experience with this city of
the smell eaters, though it is said that, in past lives, we too were
smell eaters. But we don't really remember that [Rinpoche laughs],
so it doesn't do us too much good to think about it. But what we can
relate to, in terms of our own experience, are examples like dreams
and dream cities. In dreams we can experience appearances of very
large and busy cities. There is not one thing that exists really in
those cities; they are mere appearance. We can go to a movie and in
the movie see a very big city with all types of things happening in it.
But again that's just a mere appearance. There's nothing real to it.
The next verse suggests a stage-by-stage approach to gaining an
understanding of emptiness, or true nature:
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To those students in search of suchness
At first teachers should say, "Everything exists."
Then after they realize the meaning of this and aban-
don desire,
They will gain perfect transcendence. (30)
How should beginning students of the dharma - students in search
of suchness, who want to realize the true nature - be introduced to
things? First, teachers should say that things exist. They should
explain things in terms of existence, which means that they should
talk about past lives and future lives as being existent. And why?
Because they are an integral aspect of the principle of cause and
effect, of. the law of karma which is that good actions lead to happi-
ness, and bad or harmful actions, negative actions towards other
sentient beings, lead to suffering. This is an important principle, and
we should be taught that it is true and potent, so that we will have
faith in it and live by it.
We should also be taught that the three jewels really exist, that
there is the Buddha, the Buddha's teachings called the dharma, and
the community of dharma practitioners called the sa righa. The
three jewels can provide us with a genuine refuge from cyclic exist-
ence and can lead us out of it. We should also be taught to be wary
of cyclic existence, to feel disgust for it, because it is of the nature of
suffering :-- especially the lower realms like the hell realms, where
beings go who commit the most negative actions. We should be
taught about all these things at first as being things which are real.
As a result, we will, if we understand the meaning of this, abandon
desire. If we understand the meaning of all of this, we will no longer
seek happiness from cyclic existence. We will no longer seek happi-
ness by trying to fulfill the needs of this "1," by trying to make this
"I" happy. And so we will no longer be caught in thinking that
somewhere out there there can be something that can bring happi-
ness. We won't have any more desire for anything in the cycle of
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existence, and what that will lead to is an understanding of empti-
ness, which is here described as perfect transcendence.
The next verse reads:
Those who realize that all entities are dependently
arisen,
And just like a moon that appears in a pool of water,
Are neither true nor false,
Are not carried away by philosophical dogmas. (45)
Beings who with their intelligence understand dependent arising
will understand that all phenomena are just like a moon that
appears in a pool of water. That moon is something that is neither
truly substantially existent, nor is it something completely nonexist-
ent. There is an appearance of it, and that is also the nature of all
phenomena. By realizing this, one will not be carried away by beliefs
in extreme views or extreme types of philosophical dogmas.
This verse teaches that the true nature of everything in cyclic
existence and of cyclic existence itself transcends both being true
and being false. They are neither true nor false, just like the moon
that appears in a pool of water. When you look at the moon that
appears in a pool of water, there's absolutely no way to tell that it's
not a real moon. If there's a moon and it's a clear night, and the
water is not moving, and you look down and you see the moon
there, what is to say that it is not the moon? There is a mere appear-
ance of a moon, and yet there's absolutely nothing substantial to it.
Once you put your hand in the water, then you realize that the
moon you have been seeing is absolutely insubstantial. That's the
way it really is with all phenomena. If you analyze carefully, even the
tiniest particle can be shown not to exist, because even the tiniest
particle has parts that it's made of. There really is no such thing as a
truly existent piece of matter. And by the extension of that analysis
we learn that all phenomena that we see, all appearances, are of this
nature. They have no true existence.
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They have no substance, and yet they can not be said to be
nonexistent either. You cannot say that everything is nothing or
everything is fake. Because if you say that everything is fake or false,
then that turns falsity into something truly existent. That reifies fal-
sity' into something substantial.
Furthermore, if there is really nothing true, then there can't be
anything really false. There can be no falsity, because the concept of
falsity is dependent on the concept of truth. First you have to have
truth in order to be able to have falsity, because false means not
true. So if there is no "true," then you cannot have "not true."
These are just ideas that are dependently existent on each other.
Knowing this helps us to understand how it is that the true nature
of cyclic existence all these different kinds of ideas.
We live on this planet. On this planet there's no up and down.
This planet is suspended in space which has neither center nor
edge, neither a middle point nor boundaries. And our existence
transcends ideas of true and false. This Earth is neither true nor
false, but like the moon that appears in a pool of water, and the
many different sentient beings going about their business on it are
also neither true nor false. We are all just mere appearances, just
like the moon that appears in a pool of water.
So how is it that we take things to be real? The next verse reads:
Children are tricked by reflections
Because they take them to be real.
In the very same way, because of their ignorance,
Beings are imprisoned in the cages of their [conceptual]
objects. (53)
Children can be tricked by a reflection in a mirror or by a magic
trick, or by something in a movie, and they think that all of those
things are real and actually have some real ability to do things.
Everybody else knows that there is nothing real there. But we who
are still ignorant are in the exact same situation. Because of igno-
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ranee, we are imprisoned in a cage made up of all of the objects
which we conceptualize to be real. So we are imprisoned by that.
And we are blocked from realizing our true potential because we
take all of these things to be real, because we conceptualize these
things to be real when really they are not, when really they are just
like reflections or magic tricks that can fool children.
The next verse reads:
The great ones, who with the eyes of primordial aware-
ness
See that entities are just like reflections,
Do not get caught in the mire
Of so-called "objects." (54)
The great and noble bodhisattvas, who have realized the truth of
emptiness, who, with the eyes of primordial awareness, see that
entities are just like reflections, do not get caught in the mire of so-
called objects. Great ones refers to noble bodhisattvas. With the eyes
of primordial awareness means awareness that has really been present
from the beginning, which is inherent in the true nature of mind.
You could also say, with the eyes of their wisdom. They see that all of
the entities within the cycle of existence are just like reflections in a
pool of water, or just like reflections in a mirror, that they are mere
appearances without any substantial existence. They see that enti-
ties don't truly exist, and, because of that, they don't get caught in
the mud and mire as everybody else does, which is the mire of tak-
ing all of this to be true. Taking everything to be true is like a trap, of
which they, are free.
There is a story about the great bodhisattva-yogin! of Tibet, Machig
Lapdron. Machig Lapdron had the incredible ability to read the
siitras at a very, very fast rate. Once, during an entire month, she
read all twelve volumes of the one hundred thousand line version of
the Sutra of Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom every day. Every day
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she read all twelve volumes. In those sutras it talks about how form
has no color -it's neither yellow nor red nor white nor blue. Nor
does it have any shape- it's not round orrectangular. Nor is it hard
or soft. None of these characteristics, or any other characteristics,
truly exists.
By reading that sutra every day, at the end of a month Machig
Lapdron had directly realized emptiness. As a result of that she was
able to see that all phenomena are just mere appearances, are just
like reflections, and so she did not get caught in the mire of clinging
to objects as being true.
Machig Lapdron was quite special. Most siddhas, most great
spiritual masters of Tibet and India, attained realization through the
practice of vajrayana, through the practice of tantra. Machig Lap-
dron, on the other hand, attained realization through studying, con-
templating, and meditating on the teachings of the second turning
of the wheel of dharma, the Prajiiaparamitii sutras, the sutras of The
Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom. When she passed into nirval).a,
they built a funeral pyre for her. When it was burning, her son, who
was also a great master, named Gyalwa Dondrup, sang praises to her
at each door of her cremation shrine. In one of these praises he
sang, "Mother, you are the great Prajiiiipiiramitii siddha. You are the
great master of The Transcendent Perfection of Wisdom."
It is important for us to realize how profound and how impor-
tant this view being taught here in texts like Nagarjuna's Sixty Stan-
zas of Reasoning is, because, if you know this view well, if you
understand emptiness through this view, then you also can attain
the great powers of realization.
The next verse reads:
The immature are attached to form.
The moderate are free from attachment to [the sense
objects],
And those endowed with supreme intelligence
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Know the true nature of form and [by so knowing] are
liberated. (55)
The immature here refers to those who are not bodhisattvas, who are
still in cyclic existence. And the reason that they are still in cyclic
existence is that they are still attached to form as being something
real. As a consequence, they still have desire for certain kinds of
forms and aversion for other kinds of forms, and this keeps them
going around in the cycle of existence.
The moderate are free from attachment to sense object s; this refers
to beings in the formless gods' realms of the cycle of existence, who
have dispensed with the kind of attachment and clinging to objects
of form that we have but are still attached to a sort of blank medita-
tion state. Even though they are free of attachment to sense objects,
they are not completely free from the cycle of existence. Who is free
from the cycle of existence? Those endowed with the supreme intel-
ligence that knows the true nature of form, who know form to be
empty, who know form to be nothing more than inseparable appear-
ance and emptiness. By knowing that, they are liberated.
The next verse reads:
The awful ocean of existence
Is filled with the tormenting snakes of the afflictions.
But those whose minds are not moved even by
thoughts of voidness
Have safely crossed over [its dangers]. (59)
What is the method by which we can attain the transcendence of
suffering, by which we can attain nirvar:ta? It is by our minds' not
being moved even by thoughts of voidness. What this means is that,
even though thinking that everything is empty is quite a subtle
thought, still, if we are attached to that thought, then we are reify-
ing emptiness into something real. We are attached to emptiness as
being something truly existent, and that's still not quite realizing the
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true nature of reality, which is beyond all conceptions about what it
might be. But those whose minds are not moved even by thoughts
of emptiness have safely crossed over the dangers of the awful ocean
of existence, which is filled with the tormenting snakes of all of the
afflictive mental states. These afflictive mental states constantly
plague all those who are still going around in cyclic existence. Those
whose minds are not moved even by thoughts of emptiness have
crossed over this ocean of suffering and have attained nirval).a, the
transcendence of suffering.
The last verse is the dedication of merit:
By this virtue
May a!l beings perfect the accumulations of merit and
wisdom,
And achieve the two genuine k y ~ s
Arising from merit and wisdom. (60)
This is the dedication that Nagarjuna wrote. When he talks about
the power of the virtue performed here, he is talking about the
power of his virtue accumulated by writing this text. But for us, it's
the power of the virtue of listening to and thinking about the expla-
nations of the text. By that virtue, we should think, may all beings
perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom. Merit and wisdom
are the two causes of enlightenment. The perfection of the accumu-
lation of merit is essentially the perfection of doing good for others
in terms of apparent reality. The accumulation of wisdom is the per-
fection of realizing the true nature, which is beyond all conception.
From this merit and wisdom, may sentient beings attain the twin
dimensions of genuine enlightenment, which refers to the two
kayas, the dharmakaya and the r iipakaya, sometimes translated as
the truth body and the form body. The truth body refers to the
actual mind of the buddha, the pure awareness of the buddha, and
that body is the result of the perfection of the accumulation of wis-
dom of the true nature of reality.
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The form body of the buddha is what everybody can see, and
what benefits beings. It is the result of the perfection of the accumu-
lation of merit. So by the power of the virtue performed here, may
all beings perfect the accumulations of merit and wisdom. And from
this merit and wisdom, may they attain the twin dimensions of gen-
uine enlightenment.
This has been a brief explanation of some very important verses
from Nagarjuna's Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning. In this day and age, we
all have a lot of work to do and we have a lot of other things to
study, so we don't have time to study the entire text in all of its
detail. Since that is the case, then it's very good to look at the
important verses and understand their meaning. That is something
that we can do in a brief period of time, so that's why we have
explained it in this fashion.
This is a good selection of verses because at the beginning there
is the homage, and at the end there is the dedication of merit,
which rounds everything out. In between are the important verses,
so it's a good collection of verses to have;
When we are meditating on emptiness, if we pick one verse and
recite it, think about it, and meditate on its meaning, and then
move to another verse, recite it, think about it, and meditate on its
meaning, and continue on in that vein, then that's a very good way
to meditate.
If you are curious why we recite these verses with even timing
and in a level tone of voice, the idea is to let the mind rest in a
peaceful way. But of course, when you are by yourself, you may say it
any way with which you feel comfortable.
Question: [unintelligible, but probably:] Why does the accumula-
tion of merit lead to a form body, and the accumulation of wisdom
lead to the truth body?
Rinpoche: The form body is all of the great qualities of the buddha,
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like the protrusion on the head, the radiant body, and things like
that, including the thirty-two major and eighty minor signs of physi-
cal perfection. Why does the accumulation of merit lead to the
attainment of such a body? This actual body of the buddha is what
we as deluded sentient beings can see and what helps beings. From
that standpoint, it is something existent. The accumulation of merit
is actually helping beings and doing good things for beings in terms
of the existent. And so this is something, from that standpoint of
being existent, that has a result which is also something existent.
If we take this house as an example, the walls and the paint and
the colors are things that we can see, so they are all existent things,
and they have existent causes. The space inside of the house is
something nonexistent that has causes which are also nonexistent.
So it's like that.
So just as the space inside of this house is something nonexist-
ent and, therefore, can't have an existent cause, similarly the truth
body or dharmakaya, which is the complete freedom from all elabo-
rations, also requires as its cause the meditation on emptiness,
which is also free from all elaboration.
Question: [Questioner seems to ask about nirma l).akaya and sa rp-
bhogakaya.]
Rinpoche: The sarpbhogakaya or the enjoyment body is also a form
body. It is of the nature of light - that's how it's described. It
includes, for example, Vajrasattva, or the five buddhas of the five
buddha families. These are forms which ordinary beings can not
perceive. Only bodhisattvas can perceive them. In short, the sa rp-
bhogakaya is the enjoyment body which is enjoyed by all bodhisa-
ttvas.
The emanation body, the nirmal).akaya, on the other hand, is
made of flesh and blood, is born from a womb, and can be seen by
all ordinary beings. It's not really of the nature of flesh and blood,
but that's how it appears to us.
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Question: Why are the form and truth body referred to as "twin"
bodies?
Translator: It's twin meaning two, not twin like twins, but twin like
two. I just thought it sounded nice. [laughter]
Question: Could Rinpoche explain the extremes of earlier and later
again?
Rinpoche: Earlier and later refer to past and future lives. In Bud-
dhism it is taught that there are past and future lives. As for past
lives, there was never a first one, for there is no beginning to the
succession of them. As for future lives, so long as we are ignorant,
then there will be no end to them. If we think that these lives are
things that are truly existent, that they have some substantial exist-
ence, then we fall into the extreme of permanence, of eternalism.
And if we believe, on the other hand, that there is absolutely no
such thing whatsoever, that there are not even the mere appear-
ances of past and future lives, then we fall into the extreme of nihil-
ism. But if we realize that this existence is like a mirage and an
illusion, in the sense that it is something that appears but has no
true existence, then we won't fall into either of these extremes.
So it's good if we understand what is a mirage and an illusion.
All of our suffering is just a mirage and an illusion. All of our afflic-
tive mental states are just mirages and illusions. And all the difficult
and adverse circumstances that we run into are just mirages and
illusions. They are just mere appearances without any substantial
nature.
We should think about the suffering in a dream. If we dream of
bad things happening which entail suffering, and if we don't know
that we are dreaming, then there is absolutely no difference
between the suffering we experience in the dream and the suffering
we have during the day. Absolutely no difference. Now from the
perspective of the waking state, there is nothing really happening in
a dream. It is a mere appearance. There is no reason to suffer. The
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only reason that we suffer is that we take these dream appearances
to be true. It is only because we are obscured by our ignorance that
we think these dreams are real, and we suffer as a result of it.
What is the true nature of a dream? It is just openness and spa-
ciousness. What we need to do to be liberated from suffering is to
realize that all appearances are of the same nature. We need to real-
ize that our suffering does not come from these appearances, but
from our taking these appearances to be real. If we realize this, then
we will experience the true nature of everything that is, which is
openness and spaciousness also.
When we first learn about emptiness, it appears that emptiness
has to do with outer phenomena, that outer phenomena are empty
of true existence. But really and truly, true emptiness, the true
nature of reality, is the true nature of our mind, the true nature of
this very present and ever present mind. And the true nature of this
very present mind is openness, spaciousness, complete freedom from
all thoughts, complete freedom from all ideas about the way things
are or are not. Openness, spaciousness, and relaxedness.
Question: You were talking about the extremes of earlier and later,
past and future lives, permanence versus nihilism. I guess I'm get-
ting confused about how you equate these. I've heard existence ver-
sus nihilism, but how can you say that existence is permanent?
Maybe in that moment that I'm totally caught in something I think
it's permanent, but if I step back I realize it's not permanent. But I
still think it exists. So even though I don't think it's permanent, I
still think it exists.
Translator: Permanence is a literal translation of the word in
Tibetan, takba, but I can ask Rinpoche to ~ x p l i n it a little bit more.
Rinpoche: There are lots of different extremes of view that we can
fall into. The point is not to think about just being free from the
view of permanence, but also from the extremes of thinking either
that things exist or thinking that things do not exist; of thinking
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that things are permanent or thinking that they are impermanent,
of thinking that they appear or thinking that they do not appear, of
thinking that they are empty or thinking that they are not empty -
all of these sets of extremes are thoughts, are different concepts that
we impute to reality. But the true nature of reality is beyond all
extremes of thought, beyond all the different kinds of thoughts that
we have about it. That's the point of teaching about these extremes.
It's just to show us that these are different ideas and thoughts that
we can have about how things are.
The Consequence Middle Way school, the Prasari.gika
Madhyamika, doesn't make any assertions about anything. They
have no views, because any view is regarded as an extreme. Any
view is a superimposition onto the true nature of reality. And so
they don't have anything to say about the nature of reality except to
refute other people's views.
In order to understand this, the best thing to do in the begin-
ning is to think about dreams. You can't say that dream appear-
ances, the things in a dream, are existent, but you can't say that
they're completely nonexistent. You can't say that they fall into the
extreme of permanence, but you can't say that they fall into the
extreme of nihilism either. You can't say that they are entities, but
you can't say that they're not entities. You can't say really anything
about them. Nothing really can accurately describe what they are.
Thinking in this way we can understand the true nature of reality.
In the Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way, Nagarjuna wrote
a verse which says, "Permanence, impermanence, and so forth,
these four, where are they in the expanse of peace?" Permanence,
impermanence, both permanence and impermanence, neither per-
manence nor impermanence - any kind of idea you want to make
up - where is it in the expanse of the true nature of reality? Where
is it in the expanse of peace? You can't find it, because the true
nature is beyond all of these concepts.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
We will now discuss a song by a great Kagyli yogi, Gyalwa Gotsangpa
called Eight Flashing Lances, which is very good for us to read.
Gyalwa Gotsangpa was born in southern Tibet. He traveled to
central Tibet, where he met his lama and received instructions.
Then he went to northern Tibet and meditated for many years in a
cave near a very big lake. Then he went to western Tibet, to Mount
Kailash and meditated near Mount Kailash for a while. Then he
went to India where he went to a sacred place called J aulindata.
Then he went to Nepal and from there back to Tibet. In all of his
great and miraculous life, he never stayed in meditation in the same
place twice. He never visited the same place twice. He was con-
stantly going from one cave to another, and when he passed into
nirval).a, he was still living in a cave. His is a really miraculous story.
Something quite wonderful about Gotsangpa's story is that he was
very sick a lot of the time that he was meditating. He was quite ill,
and the illness caused him a lot of pain. But he took his 'illness to
the path, and his illness became the means by which he realized the
true nature. Later he sang many songs about how he did that.
The metaphor of flourishing a lance in space is used because,
when one flourishes a lance or a sword in space, there is no obstruc-
tion, there is no hindrance to it. It moves very freely. It does riot
move once and then run into something. It is never hindered by
anything. This is an example of what the true nature is like, and
what realization of the true nature is like; it is completely unhin-
dered. It is open, spacious, and relaxed.
This song is very much in accord with the meaning of the verses
we have studied from the Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning, because the
Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning talks about the true nature, which is the
complete freedom from any ideas about it, which nature is also com-
pletely open, spacious, and relaxed.
The view is without any focus or object. The meditation is with-
out any grasping. The conduct is without any type of attachment or
bias. These three describe the true nature. Both teachings are talk-
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ing about ~ h same state of openness and spaciousness.
So now we will meditate, and the way we will meditate is that
we will read one verse at a time, and then meditate on the meaning
of that verse. We will read the verse, then think about the meaning
a little bit, and then finally rest without any type of grasping or
thinking about anything at all.
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THE LOGIC THAT REFUTES THE IDEA
THAT ANYTHING Is TRULY EXISTENT
Rinpoche wishes everybody tashi delek this evening, and makes the
aspiration that all of us will develop ultimate awakening mind, which
is the bodhicitta that understands the ultimate truth. It is by virtue
of not understanding the ultimate truth that we are trapped in
cyclic existence, which is marked by confusion and ignorance.
Rinpoche also makes the aspiration that our relative awakening
mind will also increase and increase. Relative awakening mind, rela-
tive bodhicitta, is loving kindness and compassion for all sentient
beings. By developing relative bodhicitta, we prevent ourselves from
falling into the extreme of becoming attached to isolation, one-
sided peace, or cessation.
By developing these two types of awakening mind, we will
attain the precious state ofbuddhahood, which falls neither into the
extreme of existence, nor into the extreme of one-sided peace, and
we will be able to perform the benefit of countless living beings.
Please give rise to the precious attitude of bodhicitta, the ,awakening
mind, which is the essential aspiration of the great vehicle, the
mahayana.
Tonight, Rinpoche will explain some verses from the protector
Nagarjuna's text, Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness.
The first verse reads:
Entities do not exist
In their causes, in their cemditions,
In aggregations of many things, or in individual things.
Therefore, all entities are empty. (3)
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Entities are, by nature, empty of any type of substantial existence;
therefore, they cannot be found to exist in their causes and condi-
tions or in the coming together of their causes and conditions. They
cannot be found to exist in the coming together of many things, nor
can they be found to exist in individual things. They cannot be
found to exist in any one cause or any one condition. And if we
examine very subtly, we see that even these causes and conditions
do not have any true existence. It is impossible to find an entity that
truly exists in any of these possibilities; therefore, entities are empty
of inherent existence.
As an example, we can apply this logic to the suffering we expe-
rience as a result of thinking about the future. As a result of think-
ing about the future, we experience a lot of worry and anxiety,
which is suffering. However, if we examine its nature, we will find
that it doesn't really exist. It doesn't exist either in the coming
together of all or any number of its causes and conditions, or in any
one particular cause or condition that we might isolate.
What is the main cause of suffering in thinking about the
future? It is the future! Let us think about that. The future is some-
thing which does not exist. You can't find it anywhere. The future is
something that is not here at all. Since the cause doesn't exist, the
suffering doesn't exist either.
The next verse reads:
Because it already exists, that which exists does not
arise.
Because it does not exist, that which does not exist
does not arise.
Because they contradict each other, existence and non-
existence do not [arise] together
Since there is no arising, there is no remaining or cessa-
tion either. (4)
We can develop a reasoning using this logic. We can say that suffer-
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ing is not something that ever arises. Why? Because, it doesn't arise
from being existent when its cause is present. And it doesn't arise
from being nonexistent when its cause is present. And it doesn't
arise from being both existent and nonexistent when its cause is
present. And it doesn't arise from some other possibility. Let's look
at these four.
If you say that something arises, then it either has to exist at the
time of its cause or not exist at the time of its cause. Those are the
only two possibilities. If something exists at the time of its cause,
then it doesn't need to arise. It doesn't make any sense that it would
arise when it already exists. How could it exist at the time of its
cause? If it existed at the time of its cause, then one would not be
producing the other; the result would not rely on the cause to exist.
It would already be there, so arising would be something nonsensi-
cal.
The next possibility is that the thing does not exist at the time
of its cause. If that were true, then what you would be saying is that
the cause does not have power to do anything, because, by the time
the result comes around, the cause is gone. There would be no con-
nection between the two. So we would see all kinds of things arising
without cause, like flowers arising in space, because causes would
have no power to do anything.
A thing does not arise from being both existent and nonexistent
at the time the cause is present. That doesn't make any sense. That
has all the faults of the previous two reasonings. And, there is no
other possible way for a thing to arise. Therefore, suffering is not
something that arises. And if it does not arise, then suffering is not
something that truly exists.
Nagarjuna had five main types of reasonings with which he
demonstrated that phenomena do not truly exist. One of them was
this, to examine whether or not, at the time of the cause, the result
either existed or did not exist.
For example, suffering in a dream is not something that arises
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from being existent at the time of its cause, from being nonexistent
at the time of its cause, from being both existent and nonexistent at
the time of its cause, or from being neither existent nor nonexistent
at the time of its cause. Suffering in a dream is something that never
really happens. It is just a mere appearance. If we think about, this
type of example, it will help us to understand. To understand that
phenomena never really arise, or never come into being, is difficult.
But if we think about a dream it will become easier, because in
dreams we have all types of appearances that never really happen,
that never really come into being.
Another one ofNagarjuna's reasonings is to examine a h ~
nomenon to determine whether it exists as something that is one or
many. This next verse shows how these ideas of one and many are
really just dependently arisen and, therefore, not truly existent:
Without one there are not many, and
Without many there is not one.
Therefore, dependently arisen entities [like these]
Have no characteristics. (7)
A dependently arisen entity, anything that has arisen in dependence
on other things, has no characteristics, which means that it has no
substantial essence. It is not something that truly exists because it is
neith.er <me unitary thing nor is it the coming together of many
things.
We can take this flower as an example of something that is n i ~
ther one nor many, like all phenomena. This flower is clearly not
one, unitary, indivisible thing, because it has many parts. On the
other hand it is not many indivisible things because each of these
parts in tum has many parts. Since it is not one, unitary, substantial,
indivisible thing and since it is also not many unitary, substantial,
indivisible things, it does not truly exist.
All dependently occurring appearances have no substantial
essences because they are beyond being either one indivisible thing
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or many indivisible things. For examples we have the dependently
occurring appearances that we see in dreams. All of the things that
we see in dreams are appearances. At the time we are dreaming,
they look real, but in fact they have no substantial essence. They
have no inherent nature, because they are neither one thing, nor
are they many.
We might think that the afflictions, the afflicted mental states,
are things that are real, that the klesas are things that have sub-
stance to them. We might think that, because there are mistaken
views, wrong ways of seeing things, which then give rise to emo-
tional afflictions in our minds. But these wrong views do not really
exist either. There is really no such thing as a wrong view. Mistaken
views, which appear in our minds, are just mere appearances. That
is demonstrated in the next verse:
[In the true nature] there is neither permanence nor
impermanence,
Neither self nor nonself, neither clean nor unclean
And neither happiness nor suffering.
Therefore, the [four] mistaken views do not exist. (9)
All of these mistaken views, these thoughts of permanence and
impermanence, self and nonself, clean and unclean, etc., are depen-
dently existent thoughts. They depend on the existence of correct
views. To have an idea of a mistaken view, you have to have an idea
of what a correct view is. So there is nothing that is inherently mis-
taken. Things can only be mistaken in dependence on something
that is correct. Therefore, a mistaken view is onlydependently arisen,
and never truly arises. It is not something that ever truly happens.
Moreover, if we examine these thoughts of mistaken views to deter-
mine whether or not they are some kind of entity, then we must
conclude that these thoughts individually are neither one thing nor
the coming together of many things. Therefore they have no
essence. Wrong views or thoughts of wrong views are things that
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never truly arise and which have no substantial essence.
Four basic types of mistaken views are described. One of them is
to take what is impermanent to be permanent. But if we look at
impermanence and permanence we can see that both of them are
only dependent ideas. There is no way that anything can be perma-
nent without one's having some idea of what impermanence is. Sim-
ilarly, if you were to say that something is impermanent,
impermanence is not something that is truly existent because that
depends on permanence. So neither of these inherently exists.
The next type of wrong view is to take that which is clean to be
unclean. But again, what is clean? Clean means that which is not
unclean. And unclean is that which is not clean. So you can never
find out what either of these things is. It just goes back and forth.
They don't truly exist. The third mistaken view is to take that which
is not a self to be aself. Again, what is nonself? It is that which is not
a self. Well, what is a self? It is that whiCh is not a nonself. You can-
not figure it out. You cannot find out what these things inherently
are.
The fourth mistaken view is to take that which is unhappiness
to be happiness. Well then, what is happiness? It is that which is not
unhappiness. What is unhappiness? It is that which is not happi-
ness.
And so again these things are just dependently existent. They
;1re not truly existent. They are not inherently existent. They exist
only from the perspective of our thoughts, which bring along with
them the concepts of their opposites. When we see something that
is clean or dirty, it is just as when we see something clean or dirty in
a dream. You see something and you say, "Oh, this is dean." But you
can only say that because you have some idea of what dirty is. You
see something that is dirty and you say, "Oh, this is dirty." But you
can only say that because you have some idea of what clean is.
Nothing is inherently clean or dirty. Just as when you see something
clean or dirty in a dream.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Since these four mistaken views do not really exist, that which
arises from them - the three main afflictions: ignorance, desire-
attachment, and aversion - also do not really exist. They have no
substantial essence. They are unborn. They never really arise.
We might think that the twelve links of cyclic existence really
exist, that dependent arising is something real, that there really are
things that are produced by other things. And we might think that
there are things that are produced by that which produces them:
Without a father there is no son, and without a son
there is no father.
These two do not exist without depending on each
other.
Neither do they exist simultaneously.
The twelve links are exactly the same. (13)
Normally, the way that the twelve links of dependent arising is tra-
ditionally explained is that from the earlier ones come the later
ones. First there is ignorance. Then there is action taken in igno-
rance. Then, as a result of that action, there is a consciousness
which is born in a womb somewhere in cyclic existence. And on and
on, like that. So the later ones depend on the earlier ones. But actu-
ally, the earlier ones are just as dependent on the later ones as the
later ones are on the earlier ones. Really you can't say which one
produces the other one. So ignorance is just as dependent on action
taken in ignorance as this action is dependent on the ignorance. If
we go all the way to the end then we would say that birth is just as
dependent on aging and death as aging and death are dependent on
birth.
How can we demonstrate this to be true? In worldly life, take
the example of a father and son. Normally we say that the father
produces the son and that the son is produced by the father. But if
you think about it, then there is no way that you could ever have a
father without there being a son. No one is ever called father before
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
there is a son, before there is a child. The father is just as dependent
on the son as the son is dependent on the father. So which one is
the producer and which one is the produced? You can't really say.
You can make the same analysis with a mother and daughter. It is
the same exact thing.
We can also think about how the eye perceives form in a dream.
No form in a dream exists before you see it. And similarly, the eye
that sees does not exist before the form that is seen is there. These
two are equally dependent on each other. They are only existent in
the sense that they are mutually dependent, and neither of them
exists in any independent way.
Because the Buddha taught that composite phenomena, which
come into being as a result of different things coming together, do
not truly exist, we might then be inclined to think that uncomposite
phenomena truly exist, but they don't. This is taught in the next
verse which says:
Composite and uncomposite [phenomena]
Are not many, are not one,
Are not existent, are not nonexistent, [and] are not
both existent and nonexistent.
These words apply to all phenomena [without excep-
tion]. (32)
If we made a reasoning out of this, we would say that no composite
phenomenon has any substantial existence because composite phe-
nomena are neither one thing nor the coming together of many
things. They neither exist, nor do they not exist.
The last line says that these words apply to all phenomena with-
out exception, which means that the reasonings in this verse may be
applied to anything. For example, we can say that all of the mental
states which afflict us, all of the klesas, have no substantial essence
because they are neither one thing nor the coming together of many
things. Therefore, they are beyond either existence or nonexistence.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
We could say that all of the difficult times that we meet in this life
have no substantial existence. They don't really exist, because they
are neither one thing nor the coming together of many things. And
therefore they transcend both existence and nonexistence. For
example, the suffering, the hard times, the difficult experiences that
we have in a dream don't really exist. But we think that they do. So
we are tricked. We are confused into thinking that they truly exist,
so we suffer. When we consider the suffering we experience from
difficult circumstances during the day, there is no difference. We
know that once we wake up from a dream, we will realize that these
difficult experiences were really nonexistent. The suffering that we
experience during the day is of the same nature. It is only because
we think that these appearances of suffering are real that we suffer;
we don't suffer as a result of the appearances themselves.
We might think that the cycle of existence is real, that existence
is real because the body seems something real. We might think that
the actions that the body takes are real and that the afflictive men-
tal states which propel those actions are real.
The next verse refutes these notions:
[Defiled] actions have afflictions as their cause,
And the afflictions themselves arise due to [defiled]
actions.
The body [also] has [defiled] actions as its cause,
So all three are empty of essence. (3 7)
The karma that we accumulate, the actions which are defiled by our
afflicted mental states of either desire or anger or indifference/apa-
thy, don't truly or inherently exist because they depend on afflictive
mental states to occur. They are completely dependent on some-
thing else for their existence. They are not inherently existent or
independently existent in any way. Similarly, afflictive mental states
rely on actions as their cause. When you take an action out of desire
or anger or indifference, what does it produce? It produces more
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
desire or more anger or more indifference.
Similarly, another way to think about this is that the result of
these actions is some sentient being, some consciousness some-
where. And if there were no sentient being, how could there be any
afflictions? How could there be any afflicted mental states? In that
way too, the afflictions arise as a result of actions. So the afflictions
are not something inherently existent. They are completely depen-
dent on something else.
And the body, is that something real? Is that something inde-
pendently existent? No, it exists as a result of actions. The body is
the fruit, the ripened result, of taking certain actions in the past.
Based on whatever actions you take in the past, you wind up with
some kind of body. So this body is not something i!"lherently or inde-
pendently existent either.
Therefore, since these three - afflictions, actions, and the body
- are dependently existent, what does that say? It says that really
they don't truly exist. They don't exist in the ultimate sense. They
don't have any substantial essence. In terms of what is true reality,
they don't exist.
It is like the body you have within a dream.You dream and you
have different types of things running around in your mind. You
dream that, because of whatever is going on in your mind, you do all
types. of different things. All of these doings are just mere appear-
ances. They have no substance. They are not real.
To illustrate how it is that phenomena are mere appearances
due to the coming together of causes and conditions while having
no material substance, many different examples are given in the
next verse. It says:
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All formations are like unreal cities in the sky,
Illusions, mirages, falling hairs,
Foam, bubbles, phantoms,
Dreams and wheels of fire -
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
They have absolutely no core or substance to
them.(66)
All formations are lacking inherent substance, because they are just
mere appearances that arise due to the coming together of causes
and conditions. They are like unreal cities in the sky, like illusions,
like mirages, like falling hairs that one sees when one has an eye dis-
ease, like foam and bubbles, like phantoms and appearances in
dreams; and like wheels of fire, which one sees when a torch is spun
around in space at night and produces the appearance of a wheel
that really isn't there.
The next verse reads:
The unequaled Thus Gone One
Explicitly taught that
Since all entities are empty of any inherent nature,
All phenomena are dependently arisen. (68)
Why is it that the Buddha taught that phenomena are dependently
arisen? It is because they are empty of any inherent nature. Since
they are empty of any inherent nature, the Buddha taught that they
are dependently arisen.
If phenomena were truly existent, what would that mean? It
would mean that they existed independently of any causes and con-
ditions. It would mean that they existed in a permanent fashion that
didn't depend on anything else. If phenomena were really like that,
there would be no reason to teach about dependent arising, because
nothing would need to arise in dependence on anything else. It is
because phenomena do not have any inherent essence of their own,
that they are not independent and, therefore, have no other way to
exist but dependently, that the Buddha taught dependent arising.
The Buddha taught that they rely on different causes and condi-
tions for their appearance.
The last verse talks about the advantages of understanding this
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
truth of dependent arising. It says:
When one understands that "this arose from those con-
ditions,"
The net of wrong views is lifted.
One abandons desire, ignorance and aversion,
And attains the undefiled state of nirval).a. (73)
When you understand dependent arising, you are no longer
ensnared in the net of wrong views, which entail either thinking
that things are really substantially existent or that there is just noth-
ing at all. Sa rp.saric beings cling to one or the other of these
thoughts. Dependent arising shows that none of the things that you
might think of are substantially existent. So, you are led to an
understanding of the true reality, which is freedom from all of these
different types of ideas. When that happens, you naturally abandon
desire, ignorance, and aversion. You abandon all of the mental
afflictions and attain the state of nirvaQ.a, which is not stained by
any of them.
This has been a brief explanation of some important verses from
Nagarjuna's Seventy Stanzas on Emptines s. What we need to do is
compare the reasonings used in these verses with the reasonings
used .in the verses from the Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning. If we do that,
then understanding both of them will become easier. This is also
connected with what is expressed by Gotsangpa, the great yogi, in
his song The Eight Flashing Lances.
[Next Rinpoche gives the transmission for Gotsangpa's song:
Melody of the Eight Types of Non-Duality.]
This song takes eight pairs of opposites and shows that in the
true nature of things, these opposites do not truly exist. The nonex-
istence of these opposites is described by the terms duality and
equality, equality in the sense that all things are in their true sense
equal. This is taught in both the great vehicle, mahayana, and in
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
the tantric vehicle, vajrayana. It is taught in both vehicles that, in
terms of true reality, nirvat).a and sarpsara are indistinguishable, uni-
dentifiable, and inseparable. This is easy to understand if we think
about a dream. We may think things appearing in a dream to be very
contradictory to each other, but in reality these things dQ not exist.
Therefore, there is no difference among them.
For example, if we dream of being bound up in iron chains, and
then of being set free, these two events appear to be opposite to
each other, but in reality there were no such occurrences. None of it
ever really happened. In terms of true reality, neither state - being
bound or being unbound - had any substance, so there was no
essential difference between them. You might also dream of seeing
something that seems very clean and pure, and in the same dream
of seeing an appearance that looks completely disgusting and very
dirty. But these are just appearances; there is no substance to them.
It is only from the perspective of our thoughts that there is clean
and dirty - from the perspective of true reality there is no such dis-
tinction. That is why true reality is said to be devoid of two because
none of these distinctions actually exists. It is also said to be the
equality of all the mental distinctions which are made in thought
but which are not real.
It is taught that sarpsara and nirval).a are indistinguishable, that
they are not separable in any way. If we think about the nature of a
dream, we will understand what the root of our confusion is. All of
the appearances in a dream are appearance and emptiness insepara-
ble. They appear but they are empty of any substance at the same
time. Yet we take them to be true and real, because we are not
aware of their true nature. We have a dream and we think that
everything in that dream is real. We interact with it as though it
were real and so we suffer as a result. If, on the other hand, we have
a dream, and at the same time we know that it is just a dream, then
whatever happens is not a problem. Whatever happens we know to
be merely a dream appearance. Whatever it is an appearance of, we
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
know that it is merely appearance and emptiness inseparable. None
of the distinctions that we see and hear in the, dream really exist.
Then, what is the true nature? The true reality is beyond there
being any distinction or not being any distinction. The true reality is
beyond any of these thoughts that we might have about it.
Question: Can you say something more about the term that is trans-
lated' as "characteristics?" And also the term that is translated as
"substantiality?"
Rinpoche: Characteristics are basically what defines things. For
example, if you have a dream of something clean, what tells you
that it is clean? These are its characteristics. These are things which
are imputed by thought. Nothing in the appearance itself is clean
from its own perspective, but it is b e ~ u s e of A, B, and C that it is
thought to be something clean. The A, B, and C are its characteris-
tics, the characteristics of cleanliness. Similarly, we can dream of
something and say, "Oh, this is dirty." From its own perspective it is
neither clean nor dirty, but, because of A, B, and C, we say that it is
dirty. A, B, and C are the characteristics that we say dirtiness has.
That is what characteristics means.
Then the term substantial, as in substantially existent, is a
translation of the Tibetan word rang bzhin, which means "by its
nature;'' or "by its essence." When we say that something is substan-
tially existent or naturally existent, essentially existent, what we
mean is that it does not exist in dependence on anything else. It
exists from its own side. It exists without depending on other causes
and conditions.
For example, if a dream fire were really existent or substantially
existent, then it would have to bum something. It would have to
perform the function of burning something. But it doesn't. It is just a
mere appearance. It is not something real or substantially existent.
Also, if we think about self and other, if self and other were substan-
tially or inherently existent, then they would exist without depend-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
ing on each other. But we can see that self and other are just
dependently arisen concepts. They don't exist independently or
inherently. We can see quite easily that nothing is inherently self
and nothing is inherently other. These are merely dependent con-
cepts that arise because we think about things in relation to our-
selves. When we think about this [Rinpoche points to himself] it is
"1." Somebody else looks at this [still pointing to himself] and it is
"you"] it is "other." I look at this and I say "I." You look at this and
you say "you." So what is this? Sometimes it is "I." From my perspec-
tive it is "I." From your perspective it is "other." From my perspec-
tive that [Rinpoche points at another person] is "other." From his
perspective it is "1." So what is it? It is neither. These concepts are
only dependently existent. Self and other are not inherently or inde-
pendently existent.
From understanding this, we will understand the true equality
of self and other, that in the true nature there is no such distinction.
A great siddha named Dombe Heruka sang a verse in which he said,
"From the dharmakaya, where self and other are of the nature of
equality, I have compassion for all beings who still cling to ideas of
good and bad." Dharmakaya is true reality. It is the expanse of true
reality. What is that? It is the equality of, or the lack of any distinc-
tion between, self and other. Having realized that, Dombe Heruka
feels compassion for all beings who are still confused and still think
that self and other really exist and, therefore, cling to ideas of some
things being good and some things being bad.
The characteristics which tell us that this is "I," and the charac-
teristics which tell somebody else that this is "other," do not truly
exist. They exist only in dependence on something else. It is like
that.
Question: Would Rinpoche kindly comment on how we may under-
stand compassion in light of these teachings on emptiness? Is com-
passion something that is truly existent, or is it also only
dependently existent?
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Rinpoche: Yes, compassion .does not inherently exist; it is depen-
dently arisen. Compassion, first of all, depends on there being other
sentient beings for whom we may feel compassion. When we gener-
ate compassion, we think about how all sentient beings, in our past
lives, have been our parents and so have been very kind to us. As a
result of feeling gratitude for that kindness, we feel compassion
towards them, we feel that we want to help them. This compassion
depends on t ~ m and it depends on our own thinking and our own
process of cultiyating compassion and remembering it and being
mindful of wanting to be compassionate towards others.
Question: Rinpoche mentioned five types of reasonings that Nagar-
juna used to demonstrate the truth of emptiness. He explained two
of them. Could he describe what the other three are?
Rinpoche: Last night and tonight, we have actually gone over a few
of these different reasonings. The first one is dependent arising.
Phenomena do not truly exist because they are dependently arisen.
The second one is that phenomena do not truly exist because they
are neither one nor many. The third is to analyze the cause to see
whether or not the result exists at the time of the cause or does not
exist at the time of the cause.
The fourth way to demonstrate emptiness is to look at arising
itself. This one is called the Vajra Thunderbolt Reasoning. It says
that phenomena do not truly arise because they are never really
born. We can say that they are never born because we can demon-
strate that they are not born from any of the four possibilities. They
do not arise from themselves. They do not arise from something dif-
ferent from themselves. They do not arise both from themselves and
from something different fro,m themselves. And they don't arise
from something that is neither themselves nor different from them-
selves -in other words, they don't arise without any cause. That's
the fourth possibility.
The fifth reasoning is called the examination of cause and effect
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
together, and it is also called the reasoning that looks at the four
possibilities. But, these are four different possibilities [from those
discussed above]. By examination it demonstrates that one result
does not arise from one cause or many causes and that many results
do not arise from one cause or many causes. That's what the five
reasonings are.
If we consider these five reasonings in terms of stages, they
would be in this order. First, you would use the reasoning that exam-
ines the essence, or the substance, of phenomena- which is the one
that sees that they are neither one nor many. Then you would look
at the cause and see that phenomena neither exist at the time of
their cause nor do they not exist at the time of their cause. Then
you would look at the cause and result together, which is the exami-
nation of those last four possibilities. Then you would look at aris-
ing, the Vajra Thunderbolt Reasoning, and see that phenomena do
not ever really arise, because they do not arise from any of the first
set of four possibilities that we mentioned. And finally, you would
understand that phenomena are just mere appearances because
they are dependently arisen.
These five reasonings are the root of all the reasonings in the six
collections of reasonings ofNagarjuna. [Nagarjuna wrote six differ-
ent texts in which he expounded the view of the middle way.] There
are many different branches of these reasonings, and many different
ways you could use them, but they all stem from these five.
Question: What is the reason why the father and the son cannot
exist simultaneously? If you see them side by side, they seem to exist
simultaneously.
Rinpoche: The reason that they cannot exist simultaneously is that
they no longer have the relationship of produced and producer. It is
in that context that they don't exist simultaneously. If you are trying
to say that one is the producer of the other, and then you find that
you can't say that, then you might say that maybe they exist simulta-
U5
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
neously. But you can't say that because then how could they be
cause and result? Two things that exist at the same time don't have
the relationship of cause and result. The cause has to come before
the result. If they both exist at the same time, then they cannot be
cause and result.
When we say that, the world's response would be, "Of course,
the father exists before the son! It would be dumb to say that he
didn't." But then the world is making the mistake of thinking that
one's mental continuum viewed over time is one thing. What you
are saying is that what existed before the son was born, and then the
father that exists after the son is born, are the same thing. You are
saying that the person as he was before the son was born and the
person as he is after the son is born are exactly the same thing. But,
of course, that is not the case. The way that phenomena are is just
like in a movie. Movies are a very good example. We watch a movie
and we see a person and we say, an hour later, that that person has
shown up on the screen again and looks like the same person. And
so we say, "There is that person again." But really, a movie is just a
series of frames. There is just one frame after another, and there is
no connection between any of the frames. Really there is absolutely
nothing that is the same between one frame and another frame that
appears an hour later, but we think that there is. We confuse these
different things to be the same thing.
Another example would be going to a river and losing our hat.
Our hat flows away down this river. Then, we come back a year later
and we say, "I lost my hat in this river." But, all the water from then
is completely gone. That is the mistake of taking many things and
confusing them to be one. Or we can look at this butter lamp. We
can light the lamp and then come back in a few hours and say, "Oh,
the lamp is still lit." But really, the flame that was there when we
first lit the lamp disappeared immediately and was replaced by
another flame. Here is a completely different flame. Again, that is
what is called mistaking things in a continuum to be the same thing.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Really there is no such thing as a continuum, because a continuum
presupposes that something carries over from one moment to the
next. But nothing, absolutely nothing, carries over from one
moment to the next. It is just like a number of finger snaps in a row.
Here is a continuum of finger snaps, but each snap is completely dif-
ferent from the last. Similarly, each moment relies on its own causes
and conditions to come about and is replaced by something else
which relies on completely different causes and conditions. For this
reason, we can understand that things can exist neither as one thing
nor as many things. That their true nature is beyond both one and
many. So they are empty of any true existence.
In a dream, we have appearances of many difference things. We
have appearances of things which look like they are one thing and
we have appearances of things that look like they are many things.
For example, we can see mountains or people or all different kinds
of things. Some things look like they are one, some things look like
they are many. But really, none of these things are either one or
many.
Question: If nothing carries over from one moment to the next,
then how can there be a concept or memory of a continuum?
Translator: What I asked Rinpoche I broke down into two parts. I
said, "If there is no such thing as a continuum and there is really
nothing that carries over, then, first, how do we remember past
things? And, second, why do we have the thought that there is a
continuum?"
Rinpoche: In Buddhism there are different explanations of memory,
depending on which philosophical school a person belongs to. One
philosophical tradition is called the Mind Only school (Cittamatra).
What they say is that there are two aspects to any experience. One
is an outward facing aspect which experiences all the different
things that are perceived, and one is an inward facing aspect whieh
is called self-awareness, which means that the mind is aware of its
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own experience. The mind is aware of its experiences, and so it can
remember the past.
But according to the middle way, there is no assertion that there
is self-awareness of the mind. What the middle way says is that
memory, just like everything else, is merely the coming together of
causes and conditions. It is the mere coming together of causes and
conditions, just as, if you had a mirror and you had the proper
causes and conditions, then a reflection would arise in the mirror.
Everything is just like that. It is the mere coming together of causes
and conditions. Things do not need a basis of any kind or some kind
of foundation. Causes and conditions just come together in one
moment, and then different ones come together in another
moment, and that's how all phenomena are.
The second part of the question was, "Why is it that we think
that there is a continuum, if there really isn't one?" We think that
there is such a continuum because the moments of the past and the
future look alike; they are similar. For example, this butter lamp
looked the same five minutes ago as it does now. Because things
look the same, we think that they are, in fact, the same thing. Even
though absolutely nothing carries over from one moment to the
next, because one moment lool<:s similar to the next, then we con-
fuse it to be exactly the same as the former one. It's like that.
Question: I want to ask a question about energy. We have been
thinking about appearances, such as a flame, and how we perceive
them. But what about the concept of the transfer of energy, or the
conservation of matter and energy, and the fact that energy is nei-
ther gained nor lost. We know about that. Wouldn't that be a con-
tinuum?
Translator: The way I have phrased the question was: These days
scientists talk about energy or power, and believe that power is
something that doesn't diminish. For example, the power that pro-
pels a rocket, which is thought not be expended but converted into
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something else. I don't know how else to describe it. But what I
have emphasized is that power or energy is thought to be something
that is neither lost nor diminished.
Rinpoche: Maybe we could relate that to the power that exists
within the expanse of equality for all different kinds of appearances
to arise. All different kinds of appearances can arise. Appearances
of being clean and appearances of being dirty. Appearances of all
different kinds of things. They can all arise because of this power
which is inherent in the true nature.
Questioner: I was thinking, would this be the same? I was thinking
that mind equals energy, since energy equals power, as far as the
translation. Is that correct?
Translator: Energy is power. Correct.
Questioner: And energy is also mind?
Rinpoche: The greatest power, according to the mahayana, which is
the great vehicle, is the [power that is inherent in the] true nature
of mind, which is of the nature of clear light. Of the true nature of
mind there are many different explanations. The true nature of
mind is said to be that which pervades all things and, yet, is beyond
all things. It pervades all things and, yet, is beyond there being any-
thing there to pervade or there being anything that pervades. In the
mahamudra and dzogchen teachings, there are also many different
explanations. In the vajrayana there is also the explanation of the
true nature as being bliss and emptiness inseparable. If we analyze
the question according ~ the middle turning of the wheel of
dharma, according to the middle way, then power or energy is,
again, just another concept. It is just a thought. Its true natureis
beyond any ideas of whether it exists or doesn't exist or is both exis-
tent and nonexistent, or neither existent nor nonexistent Its true
nature is beyond all of these different kinds of things. Thoughts
about power are simply dependently existent. To say that there is
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energy that always exists, how could that be true? Thoughts about
j:he existence of anything, energy and power included, depend on
there being some idea of nonexistence. Such a thought can not
describe true reality. Similarly, if you say that energy is something
that is nonexistent, that depends on an idea of something being
existent. No thought, one way or the other, can describe the true
nature.
For example, we could have a dream of there being energy that
was either existent or nonexistent. We could have a dream of energy
being great or small. But in the true nature, what is really there?
None of these things. So it is like that.
In the vajrayana, there are explanations of the great power of
the inseparable bliss emptiness of the true nature. That is an expla-
nation from the perspective of talking about and establishing things
as existent. But this explanation is according to the middle way. In
the highest school of the middle way, the Consequence Middle Way
school (the Prasangika), everything is refuted. The reason that they
are able to refute everything, from their way of thinking, is that
everything is just a thought. Everything is just an idea. Even to say
that there is nothing is still just an idea. To say that there is great
energy is one idea. To say that there is no such thing is another idea.
The point of all of this, from the standpoint of the middle way, is to
get p.ast all conceptualizing about the way things are.
For example, in the song, Melody of the Eight Types of Nonduality,
the second verse is about visions of yidam deities on the one hand
and very fearsome appearances of bad demons on the other hand.
Apparently these are both powerful things in different directions.
But neither of them truly exists. So let's sing this song again!
[Melody of the Eight Types of N onduality].
Now we will meditate according to the way we did yesterday,
which is to recite the verses one by one, and then meditate a bit on
their meaning, one at a time, and then rest in a state that is free
from any thoughts at all.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
[Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness/Meditation].
This is a mode of meditation that is called analytical medita-
tion. First we recite a verse. Then we think about the meaning of
that verse until we have gained a degree of certainty about it. Then
we rest the mind evenly in that certainty. Now, in order to dedicate
the merit of the virtue we have accumulated by teaching, listening
to, and reciting the teachings, let us recite the last verse from the
Sixty Stanzas of Reasoning three times.
[Sixty Stanzas of Reasonings, last verse].
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
EVERYTHING Is }UST APPEARANCE AND
EMPTINESS lNSEP ARABLE
Rinpoche wishes everyone tashi delek this evening, and makes the
aspiration that we realize the ultimate truth, which is pure being
free from all concepts about what that might be, that we realize also
that the mode of appearances is that everything appears, but does
not truly exist - like illusions, and dreams - and that, as a result of
realizing these two, we help limitless sentient beings.
We will begin by reciting ~ e Sixty Stanzas of Reasonings, and
then Melody of the Eight Types of Nonduality.
[Recitation]
As before, please give rise in your hearts to the precious attitude
of the great vehicle, mahayana, which is bodhicitta, the awakening
mind. Tonight, from all of the topics that comprise the genuine
dharma, we will explain some selected verses from Nagarjuna's The
Refutation of Criticism. It is one of the six collections of reasonings by
Nagarjuna.
The first verse reads:
Dependently arisen entities
Are called "emptiness,"
[For] that which is dependently arisen
Is that which has no inherent nature. (22)
All entities that are arisen from causes and conditions are called
emptiness; they are of the nature of emptiness. That which is
dependently arisen, that which arises due to causes and conditions,
has no inherent nature of its own. It has no independent nature.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
'"t'his verse demonstrates that whatever dependently arises is neces-
sarily empty of true existence. Everything that is dependently arisen
is pervaded by emptiness. There is nothing that is dependently
arisen which is somehow outside of the scope of emptiness. Also,
within the expanse of emptiness all different types of things arise
due to the coming together of various causes and conditions.
For example, when we have a dream all of the different appear-
ances that we see in a dream arise due to various causes and condi-
tions. All of these appearances are empty. There is not one of these
appearances which has any substance or any reality to it. Yet, within
this emptiness, all of these appearances arise due to these various
causes and conditions. Similarly, all of the appearances of this life,
whatever they may be, arise due to the coming together of various
causes and conditions. Therefore, all of the appearances of this life
are pervaded by emptiness of any inherent or substantial existence.
Yet, within the expanse that is emptiness all of these various appear-
ances arise due to the coming together of different causes and con-
ditions.
Similarly, after we pass away from this life and before we take
birth in the next life, we experience the intermediate state, the
bardo, and in that state all different kinds of appearances arise. All
of these appearances arise due to the coming together of causes and
cond.itions. None of them have any inherent or independent exist-
ence. Therefore, they are all pervaded by emptiness. Within empti-
ness all these appearances appear and arise due to the coming
together of causes and conditions. That is why it is said in the great
vehicle, the mahayana, that the and everything in the
ten directions are just one immense buddha field of infinite extent.
Why? Because everything in the ten directions is pervaded by emp-
tiness, and within this expanse of emptiness, all of the various
appearances arise due to the coming together of various different
causes and conditions. These appearances are all just empty forms-
they are inseparable form and emptiness.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
In the same way, all appearances - what happened in past lives
and what may happen in future lives, all appearances of actions and
the effects.of actions - appear due to the coming together of various
different causes and conditions. They are pervaded by emptiness,
and within emptiness they all arise.
Those who believed that things really exist said to people who
espoused the middle way, like Nagarjuna, "You say that all phenom-
ena are empty. And if that is true, then your words are also empty.
And all your reasonings are empty. How can your reasonings do
anything? If your words and your reasonings are empty of any sub-
stance, then how do they have the power to refute the ideas of oth-
ers? How do they have the power to describe what is the.correct
view?" The answer that Nagarjuna gave to them is in this next
verse, which says:
One magical creation halts another,
One illusory being puts an end to
The wrong views of his illusory opponent.
When I refute the arguments of others, that is exactly
what is happening. {23)
It is as if you had one being who is a sort of magical creation, some-
thing which is just an appearance. This being is going around and
looking at all these other magical creations and thinking that they
are real. Then, another magical creation comes along and says,
"Oh, really! This stuff is not real; it is all just a bunch of magical
tricks. It doesn't have any substance to it at all." Then the first mag-
ical creation says, "Oh, you're right, that's right." So, that is what
this is like. None of these creations and none of these events have
to be real in any way for this scenario to occur.
In the other example that is given, you have one illusory being,
and it is looking at all this illusion, and it thinks that it is real. So, it
has all kinds of problems because of that. Then another illusory
being comes along and says, "This is really not real. This is all illu-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
sion. And here's why, for this, this, and this reason." Then, the first
illusory being says, "Oh, that's right." And it realizes that everything
is an illusion. And then its problems go away. That's all it is.
We can think of the example of the dream. We dream and in
this dream we are confronted with all kinds of perils, like the threat
of being burned by fire, or being drowned in water, or being chased
by big fearsome tigers and lions. So we get very frightened because
we don't know that we are dreaming. Then, along comes someone
in the dream who says, "You're dreaming, don't be afraid, you're just
dreaming. It's not a problem." So then we think that everything is
okay. "I don't have to worry about this. I am just dreaming. Thanks
to this nice person who told me all of this."
There is no real problem because the problem was that one was
taking these appearances to be real. First of all, there is really not
anything happening in this dream. Second, the person who comes
along and tells us that all of this stuff is not real but just a dream is
also just part of the dream. Their words are just part of the dream.
All of the reasons for the fear are just part of the dream. And then
when we change our mind, when our mind is relieved, that is also
part of the dream. None of it has to bereaUy happening for it to hap-
pen. It is just an illusory series of appearances .. In the same way, all
of the appearances in the cycle of existence, all of the appearances
in the three realms of existence, are just like an illusion and like a
dream. They are mere appearances that are empty of any substantial
existence or any inherent nature. Because we take thee appear-
ances to be true, we suffer. That is the problem. But there is an anti-
dote for that problem, and that antidote is the practice of the
dharma. The dharma reverses our attachment to these appearances
as being real. The crux of our problem is that we take these appear-
ances to be real. That does not mean that the dharma itself, in order
to serve as an effective antidote, has to be something real, either.
The reasonings of the dharma do not have to be something real,
because they are all equally illusory, equally mere appearance.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
Let's recite this verse three times: [Recitation of preceding
verse].
In case we don't understand it yet, we get another example:
Another example: suppose a man falls in love with an
illusory woman,
Then another illusion comes along
And shows the man what a fool he has been-
That's my work. (27)
Here is another example of looking at an illusion and thinking that
it is something real. Here the example is an illusory woman. Some-
one sees an illusion of a beautiful woman created by a magician and
thinks that it is real, causing all types of things to arise in their mind
as a result of that. Then, the example shows another illusion created
by a magician that comes along and points to this illusory woman
and says that this is just an illusion. This is not something real and
you are making a mistake to think that it is. But just because the
illusory being who comes along and is able to show this person that
the woman is not a real woman - that she is just an illusion -does
not mean that the illusion doing the explaining is something real, or
that the words that this second illusion speaks are something real.
They are just as illusory as the woman. But they still have the ability
to reverse this person's thought that this illusory woman is some-
thing real.
According to the prajfi.aparamita s\ltras, which are the sutras of
the transcendent perfection of wisdom, sa rpsara, the cycle of exist-
ence, is empty of any inherent or substantial existence. Nirvat).a, the
transcendence of suffering, is also empty of any inherent existence.
Sarpsara, the cycle of existence, is just appearance and emptiness
inseparable. Nirvat).a is just appearance and emptiness inseparable.
None of the sentient beings, none of us have any substance. We are
just appearance and emptiness inseparable. The buddhas are just
appearance and emptiness inseparable. Everything is just appear-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
ance and emptiness inseparable. And yet, when a suitable person
hears the words of the dharma, then they can reverse their clinging
to all of these things, ourselves included, as being real. They can
understand that it is all just like illusions - that it is all just appear-
ance and emptiness inseparable.
Then the opponents ofNagarjuna said to him, "Nagarjuna, you
go around refuting everyone else's view. What about your view? You
have a view. You talk about emptiness as being the ultimate truth.
That view also has a flaw, because, as it is a view, it can also be
refuted."
Nagarjuna responded with a verse which states that if he had a
position, then he would have a flaw:
If I took a position,
Then I would have a flaw.
Since I take no position,
I have no flaw at all. (29)
Nagarjuna said that when he taught about the ultimate truth being
empty of all elaborations and of all the different thoughts about
what it might be, he was refuting everyone else's ideas, but that he
had no ideas to posit himself. If he had some description of what the
ultimate truth was, he said, "Then I would have a flaw. I would have
a concept about what ultimate truth is. But I don't have any con-
cepts of what ultimate truth is because it is beyond concepts. I don't
have any view."
Nagarjuna refutes all propositions. He refutes all ideas, and he
cuts through all objects of focus. These three things. IfNagarjuna
had some view or some proposition, then he would have a flaw. But
he doesn't. If he had some idea, then he would have a flaw, but he
doesn't. If he had any object of focus- in terms of the ultimate truth
being this or that - then he would have a flaw. But he doesn't.
Therefore, he has no flaw.
In the tradition of Nagarjuna, all views, all propositions are
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
refuted, but nothing is proposed in their place. All ideas are refuted,
but nothing is thought of in their place. All objects, that could be
focused on are cut through, but nothing is focused on in their place.
Nagarjuna refutes the idea that things truly exist, but he does not
say anything else. That is the end of the The reason
Nagarjuna does things in this way is that the ultimate truth is some-
thing in which there are no names at all. So there is nothing that
can be said about it. The ultimate truth transcends all convention,
all concepts, all terms. And so no term can be applied to it. That is
why Nagarjuna, once he refutes the views of others, does not pro-
pose anything himself.
There were those who believed that things truly exist because
they thought there were really causes and there were really results;
there were things that did the producing, and that there were things
that were produced. The next verse is a response to that type of
view. It says:
If the son is produced by the father,
But the father is also produced by that very son,
Then will you please tell me,
Which one is the true "cause" and which the true
"result?" (49)
Normally, we would think that the father produces the son. We
would say that the father is the producer, and the son is the pro-
duced. But if we think about it, then there is no father before there
is the son. Because there is a son, then we call somebody father. And
so the son is the cause of this conventional term of father being
applied. Therefore, if you try to say that there really is a producer
and there really is a produced - well, which one is it? Which one is
the producer, which one is the produced? You really can't say. Either
way, if you look at it in another way, then you are wrong. This is
Nagarjuna's response to this type of belief.
If we look at this question in terms of a gross view, in terms of a
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
continuum, then we say that the father produces the son. But if we
analyze that continuum in terms of the individual moments, which
are completely distinct, and then try to find the exact point at
which the producer produces and what is produced is produced,
then we will see that there is no way that one can come before the
other. They exist only in dependence upon each other. Therefore,
one cannot exist before the other one does. Therefore, it is nonsen-
sical to speak of one of them being the producer. If the producer
does not exist before the produced, then how can it be the producer
of the produced?
Another criticism that was brought against the followers of the
middle way, and against Nagarjuna in particular, by other Buddhist
and by non-Buddhists alike, was that, if phenomena were really
empty, if there were nothing that was truly existent, then that would
mean that there would be no such thing as cause and effect, there
would be no such things as past and future lives, there would be no
such thing as the three jewels, there would be no such thing as
attaining buddhahood.
In response to that, Nagarjuna composed this verse:
If emptiness is. possible,
Then all objects are possible, all levels attainable.
If emptiness is impossible,
Then everything else is [impossible] as well. (70)
Here Nagarjuna argues that the actual situation is just the reverse of
what these people claimed. Only because phenomena are empty of
true existence can all of these different kinds of appearances mani-
fest. If phenomena were truly existent, solid, and unchanging, then
there could not be a cause and a result with respect to these phe-
nomena, because nothing would ever change. You could not possi-
bly attain buddhahood or any other level of realization, as nothing
would ever change. Everything would be independently existent -
not affected by causes and conditions. And therefore no change
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would be possible.
If we think about this in terms of past and future lives, .we can
understand that it is only because they are empty of true existence
that there can be past and future lives. It is dependent upon there
being this life that we can have any idea of a past life and a future
life. This life is now and the past life is before now, and the future
life is after now. If there were no now, then how could the past
before now and the future after now exist? It is only because these
things are dependently existent that we can have any concept of
them as having any existence at all.
And similarly, this present life depends just as much on the past
and the future. For if there were no idea of past and future, you
would have no idea of what now was - as now is something which is
not the past and not the future. It is now. Now, this life, is just as
dependent on past lives and future lives, as past and future lives are
dependent on this one.
Similarly, virtue is dependent upon nonvirtue; nonvirtue is
dependent on virtue. Happiness is dependent upon unhappiness;
and unhappiness is dependent on happiness. Therefore, we can
have ideas, we can have concepts of cause and effect, we can have
the result of performing virtuous actions being happiness; and the
result of negative actions being suffering. And also, because
nomena do not truly exist, we can practice the dharma, and the
dharma can be a remedy for suffering and the afflictions. The
tive mental states are only the result of certain causes and
tions. Suffering is the result of certain causes and conditions.
Therefore, the dharma, which is also just the result of certain causes
and conditions, and therefore also a mere illusion, is able to alter
the causes and conditions that are the cause of the afflictive mental
states and suffering. It can change them, eliminate them, be a
cessful antidote for them. It is only because these things are the
results of causes and conditions that all of this is possible - that it is
possible for the dharma to be an effective antidote.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
The last verse reads:
I prostrate to the Awakened One, the Buddha,
Who taught that dependent arising and emptiness have
the same meaning,
And that this is the middle way path.
Your words are supreme, their meaning unsurpassed.
(Concluding homage)
This is a prostration to the Buddha, because the Buddha taught
dependent arising. That is the reason why Nagarjuna prostrates to
the Buddha. Also, Nagarjuna points out to us that dependent aris-
ing, emptiness, and the middle way path, which is free from all
extremes, have the exact same meaning. They are the same teach-
ing. The teaching of the middle way, the teaching on emptiness, and
the teaching on dependent arising, all have the same import and the
same meaning. Because the Buddha taught this, the Buddha's words
are supreme, and the meaning of the Buddha's words is unsur-
passed. For this reason, Nagarjuna prostrates to the Buddha.
The Buddha taught that dependent arising and emptiness have
the same meaning and are inseparable. This is not something that
can be harmed or refuted by reasoning. Because the Buddha's teach-
ings about dependent arising and emptiness cannot be defeated by
reasdning, Nagarjuna prostrates to the Buddha. This is the manner
in which homage is paid in a tradition grounded in reasoning. The
one to whom we prostrate is the one who speaks words which can-
nor be refuted. We test these words and find them to be completely
valid and irrefutable by any type of argument. For that reason we
prostrate to that person - not for any other reason.
The Buddha Sakyamuni himself said that nobody should accept
anything as true before they had analyzed it themselves. He said,
"You should only accept what I say, based on your own analysis of it,
not out of respect for me." He compared the situation to a merchant
buying gold. A merchant buying gold would never accept the gold
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just on faith, but would test it by their own means to see if it were
real. And if it were real, they would buy it, and if it were not real,
they would not buy it.
If, on the other hand, it is a tradition in which you believe what
the teacher says - because you have faith in that teacher, and faith
in that teacher as being great, then you believe what the teacher
says on faith- then that is a tradition that is based on faith.
[Recitation of Seven Delights.]
This song is very much in accord with the view ofNagarjuna as
expressed in the texts we have studied the last two nights and in the
text, The Refutation of Criticism, that we have studied tonight. The
first verse talks about whether or not there are thoughts arising. The
truth is that whether or not there are thoughts arising, in the ulti-
mate truth; in actual reality, there is no difference. In the ultimate
truth there is no distinction between thoughts arising and not aris-
ing. Thoughts arising is just emptiness and appearance inseparable,
and thoughts not-arising is also appearance and emptiness insepara-
ble. They are both just dependently existent ideas. Whether or not
they happen does not make any difference once you have realized
the ultimate truth.
The reason why we can be happy if klesas arise, if afflictive
mental states arise, is that klesas themselves are empty of any sub-
stance. They are just mere appearance. And any antidote we might
try to apply to remove afflictive mental states would also be just a
mere appearance and not real. The true nature is of the nature of
equality of both the afflictions and of any antidote we might apply.
This true nature is the true nature of mind; it is clear light- and the
realization of that is sheer delight. Why is it that we can be happy, in
fact, have sheer delight, when obstacles arise? It is because, whether
obstacles arise or they don't arise, neither is a real or inherently exis-
tent state. They are just dependently existent. When obstacles arise
that depends upon some idea of there not being any obstacles; and
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
there not being any obstacles depends on some idea of when there
are obstacles. So they are just dependently existent ideas. And that
is to say that they are not existent. To say that they are not existent
is to say that they are of the nature of equality; and to say that they
are of the nature of equality, is to say that they are of the nature of
clear light. Whether or not they arise - if one says that one is facing
obstacles, or that one has no obstacles - these are just dependently
arisen ideas, not real. When you realize that, then that is an experi-
ence of sheer delight.
Why is it an experience of sheer delight when we are suffering
in the pits of sarp.sara? The reason is that the pits of sarp.sara and the
pinnacle of nirvaQ.a are just dependently existent. To say that they
are dependently existent is to say that one exists only in dependence
on the other and vice versa. And that is to say that they really do
not exist. They are of the nature of equality. It is the same with hap-
piness and unhappiness. Happiness and suffering exist only in
dependence on each other. To say, "this is suffering," depends on
some idea of what happiness is. To say, "this is happiness," does not
truly exist because that depends on having some idea of what suffer-
ing is. To say that they are dependently existent is to say that they
are really not existent. They are like happiness and suffering in a
dream.
We can have different kinds of happiness and different kinds of
suffering in a dream. But these experiences are not truly existent.
Therefore the last line says: When karmic consequences bloom, delight.
Well, karmic consequences blooming means the results of actions we
have taken in the past, particularly the bad ones that result in suf-
fering. Whether they happen or they do not happen, they do not
truly happen, because whether they do or they do not is again just
dependently existent - and not truly existent. In terms of relative
truth we can be happy when we have suffering because that experi-
ence is the cleansing or the purifying of the seed of o r n bad action
which we have sown in the past. Once we experience its result we
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will never have to experience it again. We can hqve that attitude
towards suffering in terms of its mode of appearance. In terms of the
ultimate truth we know it to be not truly existent. Then when it
happens it is an experience of delight.
Suffering from illness is, again, the result of some negative
actions taken in the past. So the result we experience now is illness,
sickness. And again, we can experience delight when illness comes
because we know that that is the purification of those negative
actions. We won't have to experience the ripening of that particular
karma again. The suffering of illness also gives us the opportunity to
practice tonglen, the practice of taking and sending, which is a very
important practice in the mahayana. When you experience the suf-
fering of illness, in the practice oftonglen you pray that all the suffer-
ing of illness of all sentient beings ripens in you at that moment. You
take in all the suffering of others and you send out your own happi-
ness, your own joy, and you imagine that others experience that
happiness and joy. When we suffer sickness we have the experience
of empathy with others, so it is a very good time to practice tonglen.
In terms of understanding its ultimate nature we understand that
whether sickness arises or does not arise, it is just a dependent con-
cept. It depends on our thoughts. When we have an idea that we
are sick, it depends on a thought of not being sick; and when we
have an idea of not being sick, it depends on some idea of what sick-
ness is like. Realizing the true nature of suffering from sickness to be
equality is also an occasion for delight.
When Gotsangpa sings about illness, he is singing from his own
experience. Gotsangpa became quite painfully sick for long periods
of time when he was practicing in retreat. But he never left his
retreat to go see a doctor or to go to a hospital. Since there were no
doctors where he was meditating high up in the rocks, he did not
rely on doctors or medicine to try to get well. Instead he took his ill-
ness to the path. Since he brought his illness to the path, the illness,
in fact, became a catalyst for his realization. Eventually, when he
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became realized, his illness completely went away of its own accord.
So this verse is something from Gotsangpa's own experience.
There are a couple of reasons why Tibetan yogis and yogin'is do
not go to see doctors. One reason is that, when they get sick, then
that experience provides a good opportunity to realize the true
nature. And that is an experience of delight. Moreover, should they
happen to die while they are in retreat, since that is the best way to
die, why would they ever want to go to a doctor? [laughter]
Milarepa sang a song called, How all my wishes can come true. One
verse of that song says, "If I die in this retreat, all alone, then this
yogi's wish will come true." Milarepa sang his song before he passed
away in a cave. This shows the extent of his commitment. Even
when he was dying, he still stayed in a cave. Tibetan caves are quite
nice and dry, so you can stay there both in the summertime and the
wintertime.
Why can we have sheer delight at the point of death? Because it
is an extraordinary opportunity to realize the true nature of mind,
which is clear light. What happens when you die is that all thoughts
dissolve into clear light. If you meditate on the clear light nature of
mind at that time, then it is like uniting with your mind's own clear
light nature because your thoughts naturally do that at the point of
death. And then all thoughts of birth and death- for example: "I'm
going to die, I'm going to die," those kinds of thoughts- are self-lib-
erated in the expanse of dharmakaya. So, dead, and not dead, are
just two notions that are dependent upon each other. If you have
the idea, "I am not dead," it depends on some idea that "I am dead,"
and vice versa. For that reason they are just dependently existent;
and to say that they are dependently existent is to say that they are
nonexistent.
Another way to think about this is to think about how people
die. They have a thought, "Oh I'm dying, I'm dying," and then they
are dead; So where is death? There is no actual point of death.
Between that thought, "I'm dying, I'm dying," and being dead there
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is nothing. Therefore, there is no death. Death has no es.sence. If we
realize that- that there is no death, that death has no essence -at
the point of death, then thoughts of death are said to be liberated
into the dharmakaya.
Why is it that we can experience sheer delight when bad cir-
cumstances happen? In terms of the relative truth, the truth of
appearances, when bad things happen, we practice the dharma
more. [laughter] That is a good reason to be happy when we are in
bad circumstances, because we practice more. We remember to
practice the dharma. In terms of the ultimate nature of bad circum-
stances, then again, bad circumstances are just dependent for their
existence on some idea of what good circumstances are, and vice
versa. And so, to say that they are dependently existent is to say
that they are not existent. To say that they are not existent is to say
that their nature is clear light. To say that their nature is clear light,
to realize their true nature of being, is to experience sheer delight.
If we are experiencing a time in our lives when everything is
going great, and we have a great job, a lot of money, different kinds
of things, and we are surrounded by all our friends all the time and
never encounter anyone whom we don't like, then what happens is
that our pride increases. We become arrogant about our condition
and about how everything is going so great for us. Having more
pride leads to more jealousy, because somebody might look better
than we, and we might become jealous of them. Also, when every-
thing is going great for us, we get distracted. Why should we want to
practice the dharma? We think, "I don't have to practice right now."
So we get distracted. These are all bad things, and they all come
from having good circumstances. On the other hand, when we have
bad circumstances, when things are tough, we have no reason to
feel proud. Our pride diminishes, and correspondingly jealousy
diminishes, and then we practice the dharma. For this reason
dharma practitioners think that bad circumstances are much better
than good ones. It is like that.
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When we recite from Gotsangpa, we should know that this is a
song sung from his own experience. We should have the exact same
delight as he did, the same type of delight that he had toward all of
these things. This is quite difficult, but it is important for us to know
what realization is like, what the experience of realization is like
when you realize that all appearances are just like illusions, just
appearance and emptiness inseparable. The ultimate truth is the
true nature of mind, which is clear light. We should know what that
realization is like and how Gotsangpa experienced it.
[Recitation of Seven Delights]
Now what questions are there? If there are questions about the
Refutation of Criticism, or about the Seven Delights, please ask.
Question: Rinpoche, dependent arising is often used to show that
an entity's true nature is emptiness. Yet cause and effect is proven
not to occur as in the argument about arising. Are not dependent
arising and cause and effect basically the same thing? And if so, how
can both arguments be used? In Western philosophy this sort of
sounds like circular reasoning, which is rejected as false reasoning.
So if it is true, how, coming from the standpoint of Western philoso-
phy, can I better understand?
Rinpoche: Nagarjuna refutes the true existence of cause and effect,
that cause and effect is something real. He refutes dependent exist-
ence as being something real, but he does not attempt to deny that
there is the mere appearance of things arising due to merely appar-
ent causes and merely apparent conditions, just like what happens
in a dream.
Dependent existence is like the moon that appears in a pool of
water. First you have the moon in the sky, then you have a cloudless
night, and you have a clear pool of water on the ground. Dependent
on that, you have an appearance ofthe moon in the water, which is
just a mere appearance, just a reflection.
Dependent existence is like the eye that sees and the form that
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is seen in a dream. Dependent existence is like bondage and libera-
tion in a dream. Dependent existence is like clean and unclean in a
dream.
What these examples are trying to point us to is the under-
standing that all phenomena are just appearance and emptiness
inseparable. There are many different examples given of empty
forms, forms which appear but have no substantial or true existence.
The ultimate truth is equality, the complete freedom from all of
these elaborations of causes and conditions and all of those different
kinds of things. These refutations that Nagarjuna addresses to his
opponents are also appearance and emptiness inseparable, just like
illusions and just like magical creations, which are taught in this
text.
Question: Could you please say some more words about how to take
illness to the path?
Rinpoche: First we start out by understanding that thoughts like, "I
am really sick," or "I am just a little sick," or "I am sick," or "1 am
not sick," are all just dependently arisen; they exist only in depen-
dence on each other. Which is to say that they don't really exist. So
it is like having experiences in a dream. You can have a dream and
think, "Wow, I am really sick," or "I am just a little sick," or "I am
not sick," or "I am just sick," or "I am a sick," or whatever, but all of
these thoughts in the dream are just dependently existent, which is
to say that they are not truly existent. Sickness is not something
that truly exists, it exists only in dependence upon our thoughts.
So we need to realize that, and this is part of the process of gain-
ing certainty about the view. Because the view is that appearances
are just illusions. They are just appearance and emptiness insepara-
ble, just like the appearances that arise in dreams. Different things
can appear in dreams; none of them have any reality. They are just
appearance and emptiness inseparable. Gaining certainty in the
view means gaining certainty about this understanding of the mode
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of appearance. In terms of the mode of ultimate reality, the mode of
ultimate reality is the equality of all these different kinds of things,
which is emptiness. So we gain certainty about that, and then we
rest in meditation. We rest the mind in meditative equipoise within
this emptiness, within the emptiness of all these different kinds of
ideas. That is how to take illness to the path.
So the yogis in Tibet have a saying, "My body is not sick, my
thoughts are sick." The body is not really sick, our thoughts are sick.
So when you think about it, think about a dream. Think about
when you have a dream of being sick. Your body has no sickness;
your thoughts are the ones that are sick. And so that helps us realize
that sickness is only something that exists in cmr thoughts. It's really
not something truly existent.
According to the middle way of approaching this, we use our
intelligence. We use our intelligence to analyze what is the ultimate
truth. We ask the question: What is actually happening here? What
is the mode of appearance, and what is the mode of true reality?
And so what we find is that true reality is free from all of these dif-
ferent thoughts. None of these thoughts can express the true reality
because all of these thoughts are just dependent on something else.
So they can't be really true. What is true reality? It just depends on
how you look at it - the reality that your thoughts create depends
on how you are looking at it. You can't describe true reality. And so
in the middle way, what we do is we use our intelligence to under-
stand that and to gain certainty about it, and then, once we have
gained certainty about it, we remember it again and again. And
then, when we meditate, we rest the mind evenly without any
thoughts at all.
One way to do this is to meditate right upon the very feeling of
sickness. When we have a feeling of sickness, we use our intelli-
gence, which tries to determine what is really the truth, to see that
this sickness has no essence. And then we rest in that, in true reality
which is free from thoughts about the sickness. If we have an espe-
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dally strong, intense feeling of sickness, then, when the thought
stops, there is an experience of great power. The stronger the feeling
is, when the thought that takes it to be real stops, the stronger and
more powerful the realization is.
One way we can analyze is to base our reasoning on the fact
that there is no "I," that there is no truly existent self of the individ-
ual. When we are sick, and we have the thought of "Oh, I'm sick,"
we can say, "Well, who is sick?" Find this "1." The individual or the
"I" is the name that we throw onto the five aggregates, but try to
find this truly existent "I" amongst these five aggregates - the one
aggregate of the body and the four of the mind. Where is this "I"?
Where is it? If you do that, you will realize you cannot find it. You
cannot find the "I" anywhere. And so, if there is no "I," if there is
nobody to get sick, then sickness can't exist. There is nobody to get
sick.
This is a method that again is based on reasoning, on using your
intelligence. You use your intelligence to figure out what is the
truth, and once you've done that, then you just rest in that. In this
instance, you look for the "I" until you realize you cannot find it,
and then you rest in not being able to find it.
So, we have to think about how it is in a dream, and why, in a
dream, we suffer as a result of illness. We suffer when we have a
dream of being sick because we think in this dream that we are real.
That is the mistake of clinging to an "I" where there is no "1." We
think the. sickness is something real. That is making the mistake of
thinking that a phenomenon which doesn't have any substance, has
substance, that it exists. Because of these two mistakes - even
though, because it is just a dream, there is no "I" and no sickness -
we suffer. If we think about that, we can apply that in the daytime
when we feel sickness. And that will help our view. It will be an aid
to gaining the correct view.
It is just like the suffering we experience as a result of thinking
about the future. We think about the future a lot, and as a result of
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that we suffer a lot. We have thoughts about the future like, "Oh,
I'm going to get old, and when I'm old, who's going to take care of
me?" We suffer as a result of thoughts like that. But really, there is
no "1." We think that there is an "I" in the future, and as a result of
that first mistake we suffer. And then we take the future to be some-
thing real. But where is the future? The future is nowhere. You can't
find it anywhere. It is not really existent. The future is nowhere to
be found. That is called the mistake of taking phenomena which are
not truly existent to be truly existent. Based on these two mistakes
we suffer, whereas, if we realize that we are making these mistakes,
then we won't suffer anymore as a result.
So in short, this has been an explanation of how to take sick-
ness to the path, and to sum it all up, first you remember the view.
You think about the view. Once you have gained certainty in the
view, you rest the mind in meditation. Just rest it evenly. And the
more you get accustomed to this and the more you meditate on this,
the easier and easier it will be to take sickness to the path. In the
Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, the bodhisattva Santideva says
that once you start to meditate, whatever happens, it is easy. It is
like that.
So tonight we have explained in briefNagarjuna's text called The
Refutation of Criticism and the song of Gotsangpa called Seven
Delights. If we think about these again and again, if we meditate on
these again and again in connection with each other, then that
would be very good. So now we have studied Sixty Stanzas of Reason-
ings, Seventy Stanzas on Emptiness, and The Refutation of Criticism, all
by Nagarjuna, and Gyalwa Gotsangpa's songs, Eight Flashing Lances,
Melody of the Eight Types of Nonduality, and Seven Delights. These are
the words of the great scholar and of a great siddha, a great medita-
tion master, and, if we think about these in connection with each
other, then that is very good. Sometimes if you all, on a weekend,
can get together and recite some verses and sing some songs
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together and meditate on them, then that would be very good. If
you recite the words and meditate on the words, then the words
have great power. So now let's recite the verses from The Refutation
of Criticism, ohe by one, and meditate in between.
[Recitation of The Refutation of Criticism]
In the madhyamika tradition there are two types of meditation.
Once you have determined that all phenomena are empty, one tra-
dition is to rest in that emptiness which is like space. And the sec-
ond type is just to rest the mind completely free of any type of idea
or concept at all. The meditation on emptiness which is like space,
the complete absence of any phenomena, is the meditation that is
taught by the Autonomy Middle Way school, the Sv atantrika
Madhyamika. And the meditation in which thoughts even of empti-
ness cease, and there is absolutely no thought of anything whatso-
ever, that is the meditation taught by the Consequence Middle Way
school, the Prasangika Madhyamika.
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PART THREE:
COMMENTARY ON "IN PRAISE OF
THE DHARMADHATU" BY ARYA
NAGARJUNA
BY
KHENPO TSOLTRIM GYAMTSO RINPOCHE
TRANSLATED BY ARI GOLDFIELD
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
HOW DIFFERENT NAMES ARE GIVEN TO
DIFFERENT MODES OF COMPLETELY
FALSE APPEARANCE
Not leaving out any beings that we may not like, please aspire to
attain the state of perfect and complete buddhahood for the benefit
of all sentient beings. In order to do that, we must listen to, reflect
on, and meditate on the teachings of the noble protector Nagar-
juna's text, Praise of the dharrnadhatu, with great enthusiasm in our
hearts. This is the precious attitude of bodhicitta. Please give rise to
it and listen.
We are on verse number 36, which begins the section that
teaches why the dharmadhatu, primordial awareness, is called by
different names at different stages:
Just as water, during the summertime,
Is spoken of as being something warm,
And the very same water, throughout the winter sea-
son,
Is spoken of as being something cold, (36)
Those ensnared in the net of the afflictions
Are referred to by the label, "sentient beings";
The very same when freed of states afflicted
As "buddhas" are revered. (3 7)
Depending upon the season and the state that the water is in, dur-
ing the wintertime it can be called cold water, during the summer-
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time warm water. Similarly, the dharmadhatu, primordial awareness,
is given the name sentient being when an individual is still afflicted
by klesas, when klesas still obscure the dharmadhatu from their
vision. However, when the kle8as and the cognitive obscurations are
all completely cleared away and primordial awareness manifests
openly, unobstructedly, when primordial awareness is directly and
perfectly realized, then the dharmadhatu is called buddhahood.
What name is given to the dharmadhatu, either sentient being or
buddha, depends on the state of this individual.
If it is true that the essential nature of all phenomena is the
dharmadhatu, then, when they reappear to be the twelve ayatanas
or the twelve sources of consciousness, is not the appearance of
these phenomena some type of contradiction? On the one hand
they are said to be all of the same nature, yet they appear to be dif-
ferent types of phenomena. How can it be said that their nature is
all essentially the dharmadhatu, that they all have the same nature?
Well, there is no contradiction here, and this is explained in the fol-
lowing verses.
What is explained here is how different names or different con-
ventional terms are given to different modes of completely false
appearance- the appearances of things which do not truly exist, but
appear to exist to the confused mind. The first one involves the eye
and what appears to it:
When eye and form assume their right relation,
Appearances appear without a blur.
Since these neither arise nor cease,
They are the dharmadhatu, though they are imagined
to be otherwise. (38)
Form and the other five outer sources of consciousness, making six
altogether, do not appear to conceptual consciousness as they really
exist. If we examine the outer sources of consciousness down to the
smallest atom, we cannot find anything. For example, if we examine
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an eye in very fine detail, in atomic and subatomic detail, we cannot
find even an atom that truly exists. The eye that perceives is not
made of anything; it is just a mere appearance. Similarly, the form
that appears to the eye sense consciousness is also not made out of
any [truly existent] atoms; there is nothing substantially there at all.
When these two things which are not composed of anything, which
are just mere appearances, come together, then the eye sense con-
sciousness that perceives form does so in a way that is nonconcep-
tual. When the eye sense consciousness perceives a form, it is an
experience of perfect clarity that is unmediated by concepts, that is
not polluted by any concepts about what is there; it is just a pure
experience of clarity, of vision. At thanime, the appearance is not
arisen truly, nor does it ever cease, and this appearance-emptiness,
this appearance which is empty of arising and empty of ceasing,
which is empty of any existent matter at all, this appearance-empti-
ness undifferentiable is the dharmadhatu. Later, when thoughts
arise, we think, "Oh, this is form; and this is a nice looking form or
this is an unpleasant looking form," or whatever thought might
want to impute to the nature of that form. But its actual nature is
appearance- emptiness.
To put this in the form of a logical reasoning, we would say that
the eye sense faculty, the form it perceives, and the eye sense con-
sciousness, these three are the dharmadhatu, because the form and
the sense faculty are empty of atoms - they are not made of any-
thing substantial - and the consciousness that perceives is
unstained by conceptuality. It is the undifferentiability of clarity and
emptiness. The example that illustrates this is the example of the
meeting of the sense faculty, the form, and the consciousness in a
dream.
So let's recite this verse three times.
[Students recite.]
In connection with this, Guru Rinpoche composed seven sup-
plications to himself for his students and later disciples to recite.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
One of these is called the SuppLication that the Host of Thoughts be
Self-liberated. The first verse of this supplication is very much in har-
mony with this particular verse from Nagarjuna's text:
All these forms that appear to eyes that see,
All things on the outside and the inside,
The environment and its inhabitants,
Appear, but let them rest where no selfs found.
Perceiver and perceived, when purified,
Are the body of the deity, clear emptiness.
To the guru for whom desire frees itself,
To Orgyen Perna Jungne I supplicate.
Nagarjuna's next verse reads:
When sound and ear assume their right relation,
A consciousness free of thought occurs.
These three are in essence the dharmadhatu, free of
other characteristics,
But they become "hearing" when thought of conceptu-
ally. (39)
Based on the coming together of sound and the ear, an experience
of c_onsciousness that is mere clarity, that is the mere experience of
hearing the sound, occurs. This consciousness is pure. The reason
why it is pure is that there is no conceptuality, there are no thoughts
happening, and so the consciousness is pure. In the Tibetan it liter-
ally says it is pure of thoughts. So it is pure because there are no
thoughts happening. It is a pure experience. At that time, this con-
sciousness, to which this appearance is appearing so clearly, together
with its object, are only the dharmadhatu and nothing else. They
have no other characteristics; they have only the characteristics of
awareness and emptiness undifferentiable, because no other charac-
teristics exist. Later, when the thought process kicks in, we can
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
think, "Oh, I just heard a sound." But that only comes after the
actual experience and is not connected with it. It is only a label that
thoughts put on it after it happens.
The sound, which is not composed of any atoms, is not made of
anything. The ear sense faculty is not composed of any "truly exis-
tent" atoms. And the ear sense consciousness is mere clarity that is
not corrupted by any thoughts; it is not stained by any thoughts.
And the coming together of these three is just like their coming
together in a dream. There is no difference. Their nature is the
dharmadhatu. They have no characteristics [that exist] from their
own side [independent of conditions from the "other" side]. They
have only the characteristics of the dharmadhatu. But because we
do not recognize what the dharmadhatu is, then thoughts arise and
we think, "Oh, that was a sound." So thoughts prevent us from
knowing what the true nature of that experience was. Our obscur-
ing thoughts prevent us from seeing that it is actually the dhar-
madhatu and confuse us by labeling it as a sound, and then further
labeling it is a "good" sound, a "bad" sound, or whatever.
When we hear something in a dream - before we conceptualize
what it is that we are hearing- the sound and the sense faculty that
perceives the sound are appearance and emptiness undifferentiable
from each other. The sense consciousness that perceives it is clarity-
emptiness undifferentiable, and it is all just the dharmadhatu. But
then, because we do not recognize the dharmadhatu, we have a
thought, "Oh, that is a sound"; and then we think, just as we do
during the daytime, "That was a good sound, that was a bad sound,"
and we start to take action in response to that [conceptualized ver-
sion of the] sound. We either try to do something to get more of
that type of sound or to avoid that type of sound, all based upon this
conceptual confusion.
In the Supplication to Guru Rinpoche it says,
All these sounds that appear for ears that hear,
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Taken as agreeable or not,
Let them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness,
Past all thought, beyond imagination.
Sounds are empty, unarisen, and unceasing;
These are what make up the Victor's teaching.
To the teachings of the Victor, sound and emptiness,
To Orgyen Perna Jungne I supplicate.
And the 39th verse ofNagarjuna's text reads:
When sound and ear assume their right relation,
A pure consciousness free of thought occurs.
These three are in essence the dharmadhatu, free of
any other characteristics.
But they become "hearing" when thought of conceptu-
ally. (39)
So we will recite this together three times.
[Students recite.]
The essence of any experience of perception is the dhar-
madhatu. It is appearance-emptiness, clarity-emptiness. When we
have a thought that this experience of dharmadhatu is a sound, and
take that sound to be real, then that is saf!1sara.
The next verse reads:
Dependent upon the nose and an odor, one smells.
And as with the example of form there is neither arising
nor cessation,
But in dependence upon the nose-consciousness's
experience,
The dharmadhatu is thought to be smell. (40)
The commentary reads, "In dependence upon the nose and an odor,
there is smell; but in this appearance of form, there is neither any
arising, there is neither anything happening, nor is there any ceasing
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of anything happening. And so the smell has no essence. But based
on the experience of the nose consciousness, one thinks, 'I smelled
something,' and the dharmadhatu is conceptualized to be odor."
Again, the dream is a very useful example for us to think about.
In a dream, the experience of nose consciousness's perceiving odor
is, from the perspective of consciousness, the
odor is emptiness. It is the dharmadhatu, but we do not
recognize the dharmadhatu, so even though it is just a dream, we
think that we smelled something. We are confused in the same way
we are during the daytime. We think that the smell is either good or
bad and that we have to take some kind of action of adopting or
rejecting in response to it. We confuse the dharmadhatu to be smell.
So now we will recite this verse three times.
[Students recite.]
The next two verses teach about the tongue consciousness
(taste consciousness) and the tactile consciousness of the body.
The first one reads:
The tongue's nature is emptiness.
The sphere of taste is voidness as well.
These are in essence the dharmadhatu
And are not the causes of the taste consciousness. (41)
The commentary: "The tongue's nature is empty of essence. It has
no existent essence. The sphere or the element of taste- that which
is being tasted - also is void; it also has no truly existing essence.
Both of these, the tongue and what is tasted, are of the essence of
the dharmadhatu. And therefore they are not the cause of the taste
consciousness. It is only that thoughts think that they are." We
think that there is a tongue and that there is something that the
tongue tastes, and as a result we experience taste, the sensation of
taste, in our minds. But this is only our conceptual mind at work.
This demonstrates how conceptual mind clings to things which are
truly nonexistent as being the cause of an experience that, in turn,
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is also entirely conceptual.
The tongue itself is not composed of any existent atoms. If you
look to see what the atoms in that tongue are made of, you cannot
find anything. So it is empty of essence. It has no existent essence.
Similarly, taste is of the nature of voidness or emptiness. We could
think that we taste something and it tastes good or it tastes bad, but
the same experience of taste can be thought of in different ways, in
completely opposite ways, by different beings. Some beings taste one
thing and it tastes very good, other beings taste the exact same
thing and they experience it as a very bad taste. So what this taste is
is not definite. It is of the nature of emptiness. And it is the dhar-
madhatu. When we are confused, we take the dharmadhatu to be
something truly existent and call it taste.
[Students recite verse.]
The tongue has two functions. It functions both as the faculty
of the taste consciousness and as a faculty of the tactile conscious-
ness. The middle part of your tongue feels form, experiences tactile
sensation. The edges of it experience taste. It is important to know
that our tongue has two functions.
However, these appearances - of a taste sense faculty and of a
tactile sense faculty - are completely false appearances; neither of
them truly exists. They are in essence the dharmadhatu.
The next verse is about the tactile consciousness, the body con-
sciousness:
The pure body's essence,
The characteristics of the object touched,
The tactile consciousness free of conditions -
These are called the dharmadhatu. (42)
If one investigates, one finds that the body is pure (empty) of atoms.
It is pure because it is not made of anything; there are no atoms
there. The characteristics of the object that is touched are pure in a
similar way because there are no atoms there either. And therefore
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the tactile consciousness - or literally the body consciousness - is
liberated or free of conditions, the conditions that bring it about.
Here, the two conditions referred to are called the focal condition
and the empowering condition. The focal condition here is the
object of touch, what the consciousness is focused on, and the
empowering condition is the sense faculty, which is the body itself.
Since these two conditions do not exist, the consciousness does not
really exist either. Therefore, all three are the openness and spa-
ciousness of the dharmadhatu, and nothing other than that.
So the body, the tactile sense faculty, and the form that is
touched or felt, these are appearance-emptiness. The consciousness
is clarity-emptiness. All are the dharmadhatu. But since we do not
realize that, after the experience of touching something happens, we
conceptualize it to be touch, and then we engage in all different
kinds of activity, trying to get more of that type of feeling or trying
to push away that type of feeling to get less of it, and that is sa111sara.
The actual experience of touch is the dharmadhatu, because
the body is the dharmadhatu, that which is touched is the dhar-
madhatu, and the consciousness experiencing it is the dhar-
madhatu. But an instant later our thoughts arise and identify it and
reify it as an experience of touching something, and these thoughts
are like iron chains that shackle us. The more we think about it, the
more we get wrapped up and tangled up in it. That is the way it is
most of the time. If somebody is tied up and they try to move
around, they just get more and more tangled I.Ip. That is what hap-
pens when we do not realize the basic openness and spaciousness of
the experience, when we do not realize the dharmadhatu.
It is just like an insect caught in a spider's web. First, it is not
caught very much, just a little bit; but as it tries to escape and strug-
gles, then the web wraps tighter and tighter around it, and it is
much worse off.
In short, what binds us are our thoughts that the dharmadhatu
is something real. There is nothing else that binds us. If we can
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understand what the essence of these thoughts really is, then they
will be self-liberated.
[Students recite verse.]
The next verse reads:
The phenomena that appear to the mental conscious-
ness, the chief of them all,
Are conceptualized and then superimposed.
When this activity is abandoned, phenomena's lack of
self-essence is known.
Knowing this, meditate on the dharmadhatu. (43)
The commentary on the first two lines reads, "The completely false
appearance of the mind and the phenomena that appear to the
mind are what cause the mental consciousness to come into being.
But the phenomena appearing to this mental consciousness are
merely conceptualized, and once conceptualized are superimposed
onto genuine reality as being existent, and are given whatever name
we might choose to give them." First we imagine the existence of a
phenomenon, then we superimpose that onto reality, and then we
give it a name. But, as the final line of the commentary reads, "As it
is superimposed, it does not exist." It does not exist as it is believed
to.
In the Supplication to Guru Rinpoche, it says,
166
All these movements of mind towards its objects,
These thoughts that make five poisons and afflictions,
Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances.
Do not review the past nor guess the future.
If you let such movement rest in its own place,
It liberates into the dharmakaya.
To the guru for whom awareness frees itself,
To Orgyen Perna Jungne I supplicate.
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
If we connect Praise of the Dharmadhatu with the songs of Milarepa,
we are joining Praise of the Dharmadhatu with the explanations of
mahamudra. If we connect Praise of the Dharmadhatu with Guru
Rinpoche's supplication, then we join Praise of the Dharmadhatu
with the explanations of dzogchen.
Now we will sing Auspiciousness that Lights up the Universe.
[Students sing.]
Sarva Mangalam.
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AT THE MEETING OF THE
CONSCIOUSNESS WITH ITS OBJECT,
THERE Is No REAL ARISING
Sarva Mangalam. Alia la ho. We will begin by singing the Supplica-
tion to Guru Rinpoche.
[Students sing.]
Now we will sing a verse from a song by Milarepa, the lord of
yogis. This verse also describes how the six consciousnesses are self-
liberated. So you should write this verse down on a piece of paper. It
goes like this:
The meeting of appearances of the six kinds of con-
sciousness,
This is the guide that turns adverse conditions into a
path.
Is there anyone here who is able to keep to this path
and follow it through?
The one for whom desire and craving have been con-
sumed is happy.
The rope that ties perceiver and perceived, when cut, is
EMAHO!
[Students sing.]
Praise of the dharrnadhatu teaches how the meeting of the sense
faculty, the object of the senses, and the sense consciousness,
whichever particular sense it might be, is an experience that is self ,
liberated, meaning that it is free by its very nature. This same point
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-that the six consciousnesses are self-liberated or self-liberating- is
also taught in the Supplication to Guru Rinpoche. We supplicate Guru
Rinpoche by singing,
Grant your blessing that purifies appearance
Of objects perceived as being outside;
Grant your blessing that liberates perceiving mind,
The mental operation seeming inside;
Grant your blessing that between the two of these,
Clear light will come to recognize its own face.
In your compassion, sugatas of all three times,
Please bless me that a mind like mine be freed.
And again, Milarepa sings of how the meeting of objects and their
consciousnesses is also the dharmadhatu; it is self-liberated. So
Nagarjuna, Guru Rinpoche, and Milarepa are teaching us the same
essential point, which is profound and wonderful.
The meeting of the sense consciousness, the sense faculty, and
the sense object in the waking state is just as it is in a dream. When
there is no conceptual consciousness thinking about what is going
on, then the nature of this meeting is the dharmadhatu, and it is
therefore said to be self-liberated, meaning that nothing needs to be
done to change or alter whatever the experience is. It is free in and
of itself. This experience is also said to be liberated through mindful-
ness. It is liberated through mindfulness because we tend automati-
cally to have a thought about the experience following the
nonconceptual experience. This conceptual thought is that some-
thing just happened. I saw something, I heard something, I touched
something, and so forth. But if, at that point, we remember the
dharmadhatu, we remember the natural state of this experience,
then it is liberated through our mindfulness of it. When we think
about experience, then this conceptuality is what binds us. But if we
then look at the essence of that conceptuality, if we remember that
the nature of the experience is that it is self-liberated, then we are
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liberated through this mindfulness of what the experience really is.
So now we will recite SelectedVerses from Nagarjuna's Praise of
the dharmadhatu.
[Students recite.]
From among the six types of consciousness, the five sense con-
sciousnesses are always nonconceptual in the way they perceive
their objects. They merely perceive them and do not conceptualize
what they are perceiving. The mental consciousness has both a non-
conceptual and a conceptual aspect to it. Mter the first moment of
direct sense perception of any object there is a moment of direct
nonconceptual perception of the same object by the mental sense
consciousness. But then after that moment, the conceptual aspect
of the mental consciousness arises and begins conceptualizing about
the object that is perceived. And these three instants of mind - an
initial instant of nonconceptual direct sense perception, an instant
of nonconceptual direct perception by the mental consciousness,
and then an instant of conceptual mental consciousness - continue
to follow one after the other vvith such speed that the experience
becomes blurred and mixed together. So, for example, when we per-
ceive an object before our eyes, the aspect of our mind that is the
eye sense consciousness is perceiving it nonconceptually. Then
instantly thereafter, each moment of nonconceptual perception by
the sense consciousness is followed by a moment of nonconceptual
perception by the mental consciousness; and then, immediately
thereafter, the mental consciousness is thinking. And all of this is
happening extremely fast to the point of being unnoticeable.
An example that shows that the five sense consciousnesses are
nonconceptual in the way that they perceive is how our eye sense
consciousness perceives all the people in this room. When we look
at this room, then we can see everybody at once, and everybody
appears very distinctly and individually. What appears are the
uniquely characterized objects, the forms and the colors. But when
our conceptual consciousness starts to work, then we can only
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remember one person's name at a time. We could never think of
everybody's name at once. This shows how these two aspects of
consciousness work differently. Eyes can perceive everything
together very clearly, perfectly clearly, perfectly distinctly, but the
conceptual consciousness can only have one thought at a time.
When the eye consciousness perceives, it is not obscured by
conceptuality, by conceptual mental activity, so its vision is perfectly
and exquisitely clear. It is an experience of exquisite clarity that is
unmitigated by concepts.
As soon as we start to think about the objects - give them
names, assign terms to' describe them- then we no longer are seeing
clearly, we are no longer seeing with clarity. The mind cannot per,
ceive concepts clearly in the same way that it perceives directly,
because as soon as conceptual mental activity starts to happen, that
begins to obscure the mind's natural clarity.
Among the sense faculties, the mental sense faculty is not a
physically existent object as are the other five sense faculties. What
it is is the very ceasing of the moment of sense consciousness that
preceded it. It is not the sense consciousness before it stops, it is not
the absence of anything that is happening after the sense conscious,
ness stops; it is the very ceasing of the sense consciousness. So for
example, if we were falling asleep, and as we were falling asleep we
were. to hear a loud noise, then there would be a moment of ear
sense consciousness; then that would cease, and the very ceasing of
that would allow for a moment of mental consciousness to perceive
that sound directly and nonconceptually.
The mental sense faculty, and then the subsequent moment of
direct nonconceptual perception by the mental consciousness, is
what allows for the mental consciousness to then start to think
about the object that is heard. So if we are just falling asleep, and
everything is very peaceful and still, and there is no activity of any
of the consciousnesses, and then if all of a sudden we hear a very
loud bang, first we perceive that sound directly with our ear sense
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
consciousness. Then the mental consciousness also h < ~ s a moment
of direct perception of that object without concepts. And then,
based on that perception, the mental consciousness can start to
conceptualize about that object and think, "Oh, what kind of noise
was that? Maybe they are starting a war out there or something."
And then all of our coarse conceptual activity begins.
The object of the mental consciousness that is perceiving
directly and the object of the conceptualizing mental consciousness
may seem the same, but what the direct valid cognition of the men-
tal consciousness perceives is the uniquely characterized object
itself. What the conceptual mental consciousness perceives is only
an abstract image; it is the object connected with a name, with a
term that describes it, some abstract general image of what it is. But
the problem is that these moments follow each other very quickly.
So there is a very brief moment of direct perception, and then a
brief moment of conceptual activity, and then another brief
moment of direct perception, then another moment of conceptual
activity, and the whole thing just runs together.
This process is happening so fast that we confuse the uniquely
characterized object to be the same as the object of our conceptual
mind, the object that we are thinking about. But they are not the
same. We do not realize that there are different stages of perception.
There first has to be a moment of nonconceptual perception in
order to have an object to start to think about. But because these
things happen so fast, we unknowingly blend the whole thing
together, and we think that the object we are thinking about is the
same as the object that is really out there that is being perceived.
But it is not; it is completely different.
According to the tradition of the Sautr antika, the sutra School
(Do Depa in Tibetan), this moment that is the ceasing of the sense
consciousness, that is also the mental sense faculty, is extremely hid-
den, meaning that it is impossible for an ordinary being, an ordinary
individual who is not anarya, who is not realized, to experience thfs,
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
to see it happen. It is impossible because it happens so fast.
In the traditions that posit the existence of self-awareness, the
mind experiences both the conceptual activity and the nonconcep-
tual activity itself. In other words, there is a self-experience; the
mind is aware of its own experience. And so, along with this con-
ceptual and nonconceptual activity, there is also the experience of
the awareness of that activity, the mind being aware of its own
activity.
For example, if you eat a piece of candy, then one aspect of the
mind is focused on the candy, is focused on perceiving the taste and
the tactile sensation that the candy produces. But one aspect of the
mind is also facing inward and is experiencing that experience itself,
which is the aspect of the mind that is self-aware, that is aware of
what is happening. So one aspect is facing outward and experienc-
ing the object; the other aspect is facing inward and experiencing
itself.
When our bodies touch any given object, we experience it
either as being something soft or as being something coarse and
rough. Some sentient beings like the experience of soft, and others-
elephants, oxen, pigs - like to feel very rough things against their
skin. But whatever it is that we are experiencing, there are two
aspects to the mind that experiences them. One aspect experiences
the object itself and the other is facing inward; it is the mere clarity
and the mere awareness aspect of the experience that is the mind
experiencing itself.
So for those traditions that assert the existence of this self-
awareness, then, for any moment of mind there is an aspect that is
focused outward and an aspect that is focused inward and is aware
of itself. But we should also understand that in essence these two
aspects are not different from each other. They are the same in
essence.
This way of explaining things is according to the tradition of the
science of valid cognition, the tradition of Dignaga and Dhar-
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
makirti. And the reasonings used in this tradition are incredibly dif-
ficult to understand. They are quite complicated and require a lot of
analysis.
In the tradition of valid cognition, what is discussed is how
these consciousnesses arise; how does consciousness happen, and
how does it work? It is not looking into whether or not the con-
sciousness exists, whether or not it is absent of any truly existent
essence, as Praise of the dharmadhatu is teaching. Praise of the dhar-
madhatu is teaching that at the very moment of the meeting of the
consciousness with its object, these things are not really happening;
there is no real arising. These phenomena have no existent essence.
But our conceptuality blocks our view of that; it blocks our view of
the fact that these events are really just manifestations of the dhar-
madhatu. They are nothing other than the dharmadhatu, the
unborn, unceasing dharmadhatu.
When Milarepa sings of the meeting of the s!x kinds of con-
sciousness, he is also singing that, when the consciousness and the
sense faculty and the object all meet, experience itself never really
happens. It is unarisen. It does not remain, it does not cease. It is
the dharmadhatu. But our conceptual mind, which thinks there is
something happening, prevents us from understanding that. How-
ever, if we realize the nature of this experience, we can meditate on
the essence of conceptuality; we can look straight at the essence of
this conceptuality, this thought, which is also the dharmadhatu. In
that way our thoughts are self-liberated, and since the experience of
the consciousness's perceptions are also self-liberated, are also the
dharmadhatu, then whatever bad thing happens, whatever adverse
condition happens, it does not matter. Whatever suffering we expe-
rience, it does not matter. Whatever adversity we run into, it does
not matter.
The Supplication to Guru Rinpoche also teaches how the six con-
sciousnesses are self-liberated, are the dharmadh atu; and it com-
bines that teaching with a supplication to the lama, and so it is quite
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
wonderful.
So now we will begin by reciting the SelectedVerses from Praise
of the dharmadhatu, then we will sing Milarepa's verse, and then we
will sing the Supplication to Guru Rinpoche.
[Students sing].
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
APPENDICES
177
178
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n







MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
SELECfED VERSES FROM NAGAR.IUNA'S
SIX1Y STANZAS OF REAsONINGS
Homage
I prostrate to the Mighty One
Who has taught about dependent arising,
The principle by which
Arising and disintegration are abandoned.
1.
Those whose intelligence has gone beyond existence
and nonexistence
And who do not abide [in any extremes]
Have realized the meaning of dependent arising,
The profound and unobservable [truth of emptiness].
17.
By understanding arising, disintegration is understood.
By understanding disintegration, impermanence is un-
derstood.
By understanding impermanence
The truth of the genuine dharma is realized.
179
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS




11

MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
22.
Those who see with their intelligence
That existence is like a mirage and an illusion
Are not corrupted by believing in
The extremes of earlier and later.
26.
Without a stable focus or location,
Not remaining and without root,
Arisen totally as a result of ignorance,
Without beginning, middle, or end ...
27.
Without core, like a banana tree.
Like an unreal city in the sky,
The suffering world - the lands of confusion -
Manifests in this way - like an illusion.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
30.
To those students in search of suchness
At first teachers should say, "Everything exists."
Then after they realize the meaning of this and aban-
don desire,
They will gain perfect transcendence.
45.
Those who realize that all entities are dependently
arisen,
And just like a moon that appears in a pool of water,
Are neither true nor false,
Are not carried away by philosophical dogmas.
53.
Children are tricked by reflections
Because they take them to be real.
In the very same way, because of their ignorance,
Beings are imprisoned in the cages of their [conceptual]
objects.
183
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS







1
1
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
54.
The great ones, who with the eyes of primordial aware-
ness
See that entities are just Hke reflections,
Do not get caught in the mire
Of so-called "objects."
55.
The immature are attached to form.
The moderate are free from attachment to [the sense
objects],
And those endowed with supreme intelligence
Know the true nature of form and [by so knowing] are
liberated.
59.
The awful ocean of existence
Is filled with the tormenting snakes of the afflictions.
But those whose minds are not moved even by
thoughts of voidness
Have safely crossed over [its dangers].
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1:\ 1:\- -

...



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... 11
ll
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
60.
By this virtue
May all beings perfect the accumulations of merit and
wisdom,
And achieve the two genuine kayas
Arising from merit and wisdom.
SONYATASAPTATI: SELECfED VERSES FROM NAGAR]UNA'S SEV-
ENTY STANZAS ON EMPTINESS
3.
Entities do not exist
In their causes, in their conditions,
In aggregations of many things, or in individual things.
Therefore, all entities are empty.
4.
Because it already exists, that which exists does not
arise.
Because it does not exist, that which does not exist
does not arise.
Because they contradict each other, existence and non-
existence do not [arise] together.
Since there is no arising, there is no remaining or cessa-
tion either.
187
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11

11


11








n
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
7.
Without one there are not many, and
Without many there is not one.
Therefore, dependently arisen entities [like these]
Have no characteristics.
9.
[In the true nature] there is neither permanence nor
impermanence,
Neither self nor nonself, neither clean nor unclean
And neither happiness nor suffering.
Therefore, the [four] mistaken views do not exist.
13.
Without a father there is no son, and without a son
there is no father.
These two do not exist without depending on each
other.
Neither do they exist simultaneously.
The twelve links are exactly the same.
32.
Composite and uncomposite [phenomena]
Are not many, are not one,
Are not existent, are not nonexistent, [and] are not
both existent and nonexistent.
These words apply to all phenomena [without excep-
tion].
189
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n
11


-- "'
11
MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
37.
[Defiled] actions have afflictions as their cause,
And the afflictions themselves arise due to [defiled]
actions.
The body [also] has [defiled] actions as its cause,
So all three are empty of essence.
66.
All formations are like unreal cities in the sky,
Illusions, mirages, failing hairs,
Foam, bubbles, phantoms,
Dreams and wheels of fire -
They have absolutely no core or substance to them.
68.
The unequaled Thus Gone One
Explicitly taught that
Since all entities are empty of any inherent nature,
All phenomena are dependently arisen.
191
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS


- -- "'"'

- -
" " TTT:ITr"""'""'
1'11JOidCfii





MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
73.
When one understands that "this arose from those o n ~
ditions,"
The net of wrong views is lifted.
One abandons desire, ignorance and aversion,
And attains the undefiled state of nirval).a.
V!GRAHAVYAVARTANi: SELECfED VERSES fROM NAGARJUNA'S
REFUTATION OF CRITICS
22.
Dependently arisen entities
Are called "emptiness,"
[For] that which is dependently arisen
Is that which has no inherent nature.
23.
One magical creation halts another,
One illusory being puts an end to
The wrong views of his illusory opponent.
When I refute the arguments of others, that is exactly
what is happening.
193
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
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n


1'

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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
27.
Another example: suppose a man falls in love with an
illusory woman,
Then another illusion comes along
And shows the man what a fool he has been-
That's my work.
29.
If I took a position,
Then I would have a flaw.
Since I take no position,
I have no flaw at all.
49.
If the son is produced by the father,
But the father is also produced by that very son,
Then will you please tell me,
Which one is the true "cause" and which the true
"result?"
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n
11
11

1



....... (.;( &'\ ....... &'\
11
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
70.
If emptiness is possible,
Then all objects are possible, all levels attainable.
If emptiness is impossible,
Then everything else is [impossible] as well.
Concluding homage
I prostrate to the Awakened One, the Buddh<'l,
Who taught that dependent arising and emptiness have
the same meaning,
And that this is the middle way path.
Your words are supreme, their meaning unsurpassed.
DHARMADHATUSTAVA: SEIECfED VERSES FROM NAGAR.JUNA'S IN PRAISE OF
THE DHARMADHATU
36.
Just as water, during the summertime,
Is spoken of as being something warm,
And the very same water, throughout the winter sea-
son,
Is spoken of as being something cold,
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..,-' C'\ C'\ ..,-' ......


MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
37.
Those ensnared in the net of the afflictions
Are referred to by the label, "sentient beings";
The very same when freed of states afflicted
As "buddhas" are revered.
38.
When eye and form assume their right relation,
Appearances appear without a blur.
Since these neither arise nor cease,
They are the dharmadhatu, though they are imagined
to be otherwise.
39.
When sound and ear assume their rigl}t relation,
A consciousness free of thought occurs.
These three are in essence the dharmadhatu, free of
other characteristics,
But they become "hearing" when thought of conceptu-
ally.
40.
Dependent upon the nose and an odor, one smells.
And as with the example of form there is neither arising
nor cessation,
But in dependence upon the nose-consciousness's
experience,
The dharmadhatu is thought to be smell.
199
200
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- C\ C\..,...,.,"'
1l
11

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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
41.
The tongue's nature is emptiness.
The sphere of taste is voidness as well.
These are in essence the dharmadhatu
And are not the causes of the taste consciousness.
42.
The pure body's essence,
The characteristics of the object touched,
The tactile consciousness free of conditions-
These are called the dharmadhatu.
43.
The phenomena that appear to the mental conscious-
ness, the chief of them all,
Are conceptualized and then superimposed.
When this activity is abandoned, phenomena's lack of
self-essence is known.
Knowing this, meditate on the dharmadhatu.
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MEDITATION ON EMPTINESS
202