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Volume 644

Reproduced in original scripts and languages

Translated, annotated and critically evaluated by
specialists of the East and the West

Founded by
Prof. RAGHUVlRA M.A., Ph.D., D.Litt. et Phil.
Continued by his son

( 'lIT@-�-'ll.-!l:lR-�-�-�-�-�--:;;fR-�-�­
�-�-wruf'>l-�-�-� �qH:F<1�1i)

""�Cf;�i flJOOt�lafli fif11fd fllfu("ll Wi:oq;q


BA (Hebrew University)
MA (Tel Aviv University)

A thesis submitted in fulfilment of the

requirements for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy


© Gidi Ifergan
First published: 2014

I SBN 978-81-7742-132-3.

Published by Aditya Prakashan, 2/18 Ansari Road, New Delhi - 110 002.

website: www .a�ityaprakashan .com

Printed at Thomson Press (India) Ltd



Abstract IX
Acknowledgements xi

Chapter 1. Introduction
Longchenpa 1
Buddhist context of the rhetoric of negation 1
Why this study? 2
Methodology of the three perspectives 4
Academic research dedicated to Longchenpa 5
Philosophical perspective 9
Historical perspective 9
Traditional perspective 10
The traditional perspective and three types of practitioners/readers 11
The critical practitioner/reader 11
The existential practitioner 12
Methodology of interpretation 13
Synopsis 16
Ch.1. Introduction 16
Ch.2. Setting the Scene: 9th to 13th Century Tibet 16
Ch.3. Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th century Tibet 16
Ch.4. From Negation to Absence 17
Ch.5. From Praxis to Absence 17
Ch.6. From Absence to Natural Awareness 18
Ch.7. From Natural Awareness to Praxis 18
Ch.8. Conclusions 19

Chapter 2. Setting the Scene: 9th to 13th century Tibet

Early cultivation of Buddhism in Tibet 20
Re-thinking Padmasambhava 24
Considering Padmasambhava's "historical" teachings 26
"Treasure" tradition and Padmasambhava 28
Samye: simultaneous and gradual praxis 29
Religious and political landscape 33
Kingdom of Guge (Gu ge) 35
The Buddhist revival 37
Nyingma state of affairs 38
The Mongols and the Sakyas 40
Vl The Man From Samye

Chapter Longchenpa's Life and Works: 14th century Tibet

Chungchup Gyaltsen 43
Canon creation 45
Longchenpa and canon creation 47
Longchenpa's position in the religious and political arena 50
Longchenpa's life and works 53
The course o f Longchenpa's life 55
With Kumaraja 57
Visionary autobiography and "treasures" 58
Longchenpa the man 60
With Gonpa Kiinrin, the patron 63
Bhutan 64
Back i n Tibet 67
Longchenpa's corpus magnum 68
The Trilogy o f Natural Freedom, A Treasure Trove o f Scriptural Transmission,
and negation 69

Chapter 4 . From Negation t o Absence

The rhetoric of negation in Tibet before Longchenpa 73
Madhusadhu 73
Nubchen Yeshe 74
Gampopa 81
Lama Zhang 85
Four Yogas, Mahamudra and Dzogchen 88
Roots of Longchenpa's negation 91
Nature of the negation 93
Affirming negation 93
Non-affirming negation 95
Negation as space of absence (med pa) 96
Non-affirming negations and praxis 97
Prasailgika-Madhyamika and Dzogchen, a point of difference 97

Chapter 5. From Praxis to Absence

Aim of negation 99
A contemporary form of negation: Georges Bataille 99
Blanchot, Foucault and Bataille on contestation 100
In the critique of praxis 101
Natural awareness is independent of views and methods 102
Critique of methods associated with monasticism and tantrism 103
In the critique of modes of meditation 106
Core reasons for the critique of methods 107
Negation of methods involving fixation 109
Bataille's method of contestation 111
Contents vii

Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation as a method of praxis 112

Negation of causality, time- and place-bound praxis 114
Repetitive negation employed by Dzogchen practitioners 115
Point of tension: negating praxis is a praxis 115
The condition of Bataille's contestee and Longchenpa's student 117
Means combined with negation in the creation of absence 118
Mirroring 11 9
Imparting instruction intensified with an exclamation 119
Paradox and dilemma combined with rhetorical question 120

Chapter 6. From Absence to Natural Awareness

Key terms concerning the experience of innate awareness 124
General remarks on Longchenpa's six methods of direct introduction 125
A dialogue in S ailkara's that points to one's true identity 126
Implicit and explicit components in Longchenpa's six methods 127
The student 128
The teacher 12 9
Materials for dramatic dialogue 130
The six ways to introduce awareness directly 135
Praxis as remedy to resistance 136
Gampopa's method of direct introduction 138
Awakened awareness as dharmakiiya 139

Chapter 7. From Natural Awareness to Praxis

Dichotomous sequence from praxis to non-duality 149
Four methods' compatibility with non-duality 152
The four methods' compatibility with the Two Truths 156
Trekcho and compatibility with non-duality 159

Chapter 8. Conclusions 162

B ibliography 16 9
Appendix A: Cartesian Graph 17 9
Appendix B: Journey to Bhutan 180
Notes 186

This study explores the largely unrecognised scholarly and pedagogical contributions of one
of Tibet's greatest thinkers, Longchen Rabjampa (kLong chen rab 'byams pa 1308-1364) within
the context of what I refer to as the "rhetoric of negation" which is the focused and intense critique
of philosophical views and spiritual practices pointing to their incapability of directly causing
liberation. It is a central theme of his key works The Natural Freedom of Reality (Tibetan title:
Chos nyid rang grol) and A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission: A Commentary on the
Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena (Tibetan title: Chos dbyings rin po che 'i
mdzod zhes bya ba 'i 'grel palung gi gter mdzod) that are considered closely in the study. Like that
of his predecessors, Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation aimed to dismantle compulsive
conceptualising mental processes, creating absence, a vacuity. But Longchenpa goes one step
further, overcoming the problem of the futility of spiritual practices in relation to liberation, by
creatively transforming his rhetoric of negation into a pedagogy that is claimed to be completely
capable of facilitating the experience of natural awareness, Buddha mind or liberation.
. Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation will be the subject of my case study, with the emphasis on
him primarily as a teacher of liberation. This is significantly different from most academic research
dedicated to Longchenpa to date, which has focused on his literary abilities, his epistemology and
logic, his doxography, his poetry, and existential interpretations of his philosophy and exegesis.1
In the process of clarifying the position of praxis that stands as a general term for spiritual
practices, in Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation, this study contextualizes Longchenpa historically
and examines macro-historical trends and developments, including textual ones, that determined his
position in Tibetan society, religion and politics. It locates Longchenpa biographically in terms of
micro-historical formative events that shaped his life in relation to the other seminal figures before
and during the 14th century. As a result, the thesis demonstrates that the location of Longchenpa
and his school, the Nyingma (rNying ma), was on the periphery of Tibetan social, 'political and
religious realities. Longchenpa was specifically conscious of this fact and in order to relocate the
school to the centre and to implement his vision of Buddhism, he adopted certain devices which
one of them was the rhetoric of negation.
The historical contextualization "humanises" Longchenpa and depicts a "realistic" portrait of
him as opposed to the "idealised" one perceived by traditional practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism,
including western Tibetan Buddhists.
Finally, the study examines Longchenpa's pedagogy, more precisely the aspect of it which he
refers to as "abiding in natural awareness", that is to say, the practice of trekcho (khregs chod), and
x The Man From Samye

shows how it transcends the means-ends dichotomy inherent in general goal-oriented practices.
The study demonstrates that Longchenpa's pedagogy, being capable of facilitating the experience
of natural awareness, is compatible with Dzogchen's notion of non-duality and with integration of
the Two Truths.

In the course of writing this dissertation I have been supported by dozens of people.
I am grateful to all who have helped me by inspiration, suggestion, guidance, hearing,
encouragement and technical assistance and I apologize to any whom I may have
omitted here.
Firstly, I am profoundly grateful to my thesis supervisors. To Dr David Templeman of
the Arts Faculty, School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies, Monash
University, who with immense generosity provided suggestions, presented provocative ideas
and shared his abundant knowledge of Tibet, books, art and life. This, and his scholarly
skills and friendly manner brought out of the quality of scholarship in the same way a theatre
director brings the role out of the actor, and carried my work to completion, and to Dr Ian
Mabbett of the Arts Faculty, School of Philosophical, Historical & International Studies,
Monash University, who generously made suggestions, added precision to my work and
shared with me his immense knowledge on Indian Buddhism, especially from his
forthcoming book about the philosophy of Nagarjuna.
I comnienced my research at the University of Queensland under the supervision of
Dr Tamara Ditrich and the late Dr Primoz Pecenko and I wish to thank them for their
assistance in initiating this study.
The staff and colleagues I have worked with at the Monash Asia Institute have provided
a friendly atmosphere, enhancing intellectual curiosity and study, and I wish to thank
especially Prof Marika Vicziany who generously assisted me with all the academic and
administrative requirements for my transfer from the University of Queensland to Monash
University. I wish to thank Dr Tikky Wattanapenpaiboon for her assistance and support in
my integration in Monash Asia Institute and Dr Andrea Di Castro, Mr Giovanni Arca,
Ms Isabella Ofner, Ms Sharmini Sherrard for the pleasant hours, endless coffees and
exchange of ideas and advice.
My thanks go also to Dr Greg Bailey and Dr Peter Friedlander of La Trobe University
and Dr Max Richer, director of Monash Asia Institute who were on the panel of my mid­
candidature review, for their valuable input and validation of my thesis.
lowe the deepest respect to the late Mrs Noa Blass, a musician, a composer, a writer and
a teacher who encouraged me to pursue academic studies in Indian philosophy and religion.
lowe the deepest respect from the depth of my heart to the contemporary Dzogchen
teacher Chogyal Namkhai Norbu who has inspired me and given me direct instructions in
xii The Man From Samye

Dzogchen. Attending his teaching retreats since 1992 allowed me to have a profound
understanding of Longchenpa the teacher and Dzogchen.
I am thankful to Ms Helen Williams for editing my work with a sensitive eye, refined
skills and a sense of commitment to the value of the text, adding to its clarity.
Moreover I thank with immense gratitude the most important people of all, my wife
Judy,whose challenging sense of honesty is a source of growth, my daughter Mia and son
Gitai whom I love so much. I have been supported by them more than words can express
and I am thankful for their support, patience and the gift of space that allowed me to
complete my work.
Finally, I am indebted to Longchenpa himself for his enriching brilliant works and for
being a source of profound inspiration.

Longchen Rabjampa (kLong chen rab 'byams pa, 1308-1364), born to a poor family of the
marginalised Nyingmapa (rNy ingmapa) in the 14th century, turned away from monastic
institutions, lived austerely in the open and exposed to the elements with his teacher, and fled to the
"demonic" land of Bhutan. In spite of his humble background and his strong tendency to criticise
the prevailing socio-religio-political structures and to negate philosophical views and spiritual
praxis, Longchenpa became one of the greatest teachers and scholars of the Great Perfection or
Dzogchen (rDzogs chen) tradition.
Seven hundred years after his death, his work is still studied by many Tibetan Buddhists,
mainly Nyingmapas and western Buddhist followers and scholars interested in the Great
Perfection, and including the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. Longchenpa is considered both a legend and
an illumined figure and his massive and encyclopaedic poetic and philosophical works are still held
in high esteem. One of the main themes in his work, and the focal point of this study, is his
intriguingly focused critique of philosophical views and spiritual practices aimed at dismantling
compulsive conceptualising mental processes, creating absence, a vacuity. This I refer to as the
rhetoric of negation. Longchenpa converted this rhetoric into a pedagogy capable of facilitating the
experience of natural awareness, Buddha mind, or liberation. This theme and these specifically
Buddhist terminologies will be discussed concisely in the introduction and at length in the body of
the current study.

Buddhist context of the rhetoric of negation

In the broad scope of Buddhism, Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation was directed to the prevailing
spiritual practices of his time concerning liberation. As introductory remarks with regards to praxis
and liberation the latter can be referred to through the following metaphor:2 Imagine a person
sleeping at night, dreaming a nightmare and reacting with fear and anxiety. A cold sweat covers
their skin. After they have lasted for a certain time in the grip of the nightmare, its intensity and
density start to decrease and the person realises to their relief that it was only a dream. They then
wake up.
Not recognizing the dream to be a dream stands for the notion of avidya in Buddhism, that is,
an a priori, false, pervasive belief system that characterises existence. Not recognising the dream to
be a nightmare - or, more precisely, wrongly perceiving the nightmare to be reality - creates
painful experience that corresponds to the notion of dulJkha (suffering) in Buddhism. DulJkha is
the first of the Four Noble Truths, the fundamental Buddhist teaching, that describes the
relationship between therapy and liberating knowledge: (1) the human condition is permeated with
2 The Man From Samye

duJ:tkha, that is to say, with pain and frustration; (2) this condition has an origin or a cause;
(3) it can be broughtto an end or cessation; (4) there is a way or means leading to this end, which
is the "Noble Eightfold Path".3
But what if liberating knowledge cannot be a direct result of any activity of praxis, as we are
advised by a few highly esteemed figures from various traditions, among them Longchenpa? This
possibility contrasts with the last of the "Four Noble Truths", which entails a practice/medicine that
claims to bring about liberation. What if liberation cannot be a result directly caused by any
spiritual practice which is performed in the present by a subject toward a goal/objective to be
achieved in the future, a goal which cannot be an object and which is always unconditioned? Such
a conclusion is confusing and devastating in its ramifications for the seeker after liberation.
This problematic conclusion is emphasised further in the first aphorism of Nagar-juna's
(Nagarjuna's) Mulamadhyamakakiirika. This ends in a paradoxical position, which Longchenpa4
Neither from itself nor from another,
Nor from both,
Nor without a c ause,
Does anything whatever, anywhere arise.5

In light of the question of the relation between spiritual practice and liberation, if we replace in the
above aphorism "thing" with "liberation", and "another" with "spiritual practice" ,6 the aphorism
would imply that liberation is nowhere and never produced by itself, nor by spiritual practice, nor
by a combination of the two, nor by any other cause. Buddhist literature is rich with discussion of
refutations of each of the four possibilities (catu�koti), including Longchenpa's, which ends in the
paradoxical puzzling conclusion that liberation is neither caused by spiritual practices nor is it not­
caused by spiritual practices. The practitioner's discomfort is amplified even more by
Longchenpa's intense statements negating praxis not only in general terms but as a repeated
specific critique of goal-oriented Buddhist methods, pointing to their futility.

Why this study?

Longchenpa's status as a major figure in Tibetan Buddhism gives such questions critical
importance, amplifies his negations, and increases the need for a thorough examination of his
rhetoric of negation, which has not been researched so far. Concerning Longchenpa's status,
David Germano has remarked:

Although at least five hundred years ( 8 00 CE- 1 300 CE) of thought, contemplation and
composition in this tradition (which may not have been a clearly self-conscious tradition in the
beginning) preceded him such that all the major themes, structures, and terminology were in
place prior to his birth, above all in the canonical S eventeen Tantras of the Great Perfection
(rgyud bcu bdun) , it was Longchenpa who systematically refined the terminology used by the
tradition: brilliantly revealed its relationships with mainstream esoteric B uddhist thought;
Introduction 3

created from it masterpieces of poetic philosophy remarkable for their aesthetic beauty and
philos ophical rigor ; and overall pinpointed the inner quinte s s ence of the tradition with
writings that not only systematized every major topic but als o creatively explained each to
render cry stal clear the unprecedented revolution in the c ontent, form , and structure of
"philosophical" thought in the Indo-Tibetan B uddhism that The Great Perfection (Dzogchen)
teaching entails . 7

Gennano's grand description of Longchenpa speaks for itself. It depicts the latter's status as a
major figure within Tibetan Buddhism, and sounds a call for thorough research in order to see
precisely Longchenpa's position on spiritual practice and liberation, in order to offer clarity for
students of Dzogchen. Confronted by Longchenpa's negation of spiritual practices, the student
faces the question of how to attain the experience of liberating knowledge that would release them
from conditioned existence. Yet the message of Buddhism, and particularly of Dzogchen, is that
one can be liberated. Thus the purpose of this study is to clarify the problem of spiritual/religious
practice in Longchenpa's non-dual philosophy. In a wider context, clarification of the tension
between praxis, liberation and non-duality might be of assistance to any student who applies any
method within any non-dual system or religion.
In particular, this study will explore the largely unrecognised scholarly and pedagogical
contributions of Longchenpa within the context of what I refer to as the "rhetoric of negation",
which is a central theme of his key works, and its conversion into a pedagogy facilitating the direct
experience of the nature of mind, which is the pre-reflective, noetic core of being.
In fact the research identifies and defines a specific hypothesis: that in order to overcome the
problem of the futility of spiritual practices in relation to liberation, Longchenpa transfonned his
rhetoric of negation into a living pedagogy. The process by which this transformation is
accomplished is the major interest of the thesis.
It is in this context that Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation will be undertaken as a case study,
with the emphasis on him as primarily a teacher of liberation. This is significantly different and
distant from most academic research that has been dedicated to Longchenpa so far, which has
focused on his literary abilities, doxography, poetry, existential philosophy and exegesis.
In the process of clarifying the position of practice in Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation this
study will aim to present a "realistic" portrait of Longchenpa as opposed to the "idealised" one
perceived by traditional practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism including western practitioners.
But how should one study Longchenpa and his position on praxis? What methodology is
suitable to invoke a closer understanding of the position on praxis within non-dual Dzogchen
philosophy of Longchenpa, a man hailed in legend as a second Buddha and certainly one of the
greatest thinkers of the Old Tradition (Nyingmapa), who lived about 700 years ago?
In studying the life and teachings of Longchenpa, it becomes evident that among academic
circles of the West his doctrine has not generated much interest. Although extensive research has
been dedicated to Buddhism and its different schools and streams, including Dzogchen, the
4 The Man From Samye

academic research dedicated to Longchenpa so far has been limited. This is surprising, considering
the significance of his contributions to Tibetan Buddhism and the way he is perceived by the
Tibetan tradition and scholars. Probably it can be explained firstly by the sheer difficulty of
translating his writings, and secondly by the possibility that other figures such as Nagarjuna,
CandrakIrti (Candrakirti), Vasubandhu and Sailkara seem more interesting for philosophers and
researchers, offering more "raw material" for research in many areas of Buddhism - language,
logic, epistemology, ontology and in comparative studies. However to Herbert Guenther, one of
the most original and highly regarded pioneers in the research of Dzogchen:
Longchen Rabjampa (Klang chen rab 'byams pa) is hailed as a second B uddha and certainly
the greatest thinker in the Old Tradition ( rnying ma pa) . . . 8 Longchen Rabjampa is concerned

with the exploration of lived-through experience , not with an intellectual p arlour game of
quantifications of fetish-words that have no longer any meaning because they have become
divorced from experience . 9
That is to say, Longchenpa, hailed as a second Buddha, is perceived by Guenther to be a thinker­
philosopher interested not in forming mere theories but in pointing to the "way to be" in the world
and integrating it with a life of realisation. Longchenpa's philosophy contains a significant
pragmatic or existential aspect, which will be taken into consideration when examining his
rhetoric of negation.

Methodology of the three perspectives

As to the question of methodology, it seems appropriate that the current study should draw on three
perspectives: the philosophical, the historical and the traditional. These methods are complementary
and compatible up to a certain point in the sense that the intersection of the three may offer greater
clarity on the problem of negation.
The methodological approach to be taken here draws to a large extent on Ingalls'10 and
Bader'sl! works on Sailkara, the Indian Vedantin of the 8th century, who was hailed as Siva
and was a key representative of his Advaita Vedanta tradition. Ingalls and Bader both claim
that in order to have a broad and precise overview of Sailkara's thought one must approach it
from three different perspectives: philosophical, historical and traditional. These are generally
not compatible because, for example, there would be incompatibility between traditional
mythical narratives and historical facts.
S ailkara's teachings are based on the unity of the atman and brahman - non-dual
brahman - and he negated goal-oriented practices as the knowledge of the real nature of
reality does not depend on the notions or activities of any individual, but only on the real
nature of reality itself i.e. Brahman itself. The similarity between Sailkara and Longchenpa as
key representative of their tradition, whose teachings are based on non-duality and negation of
goal-oriented practices justifies that the methodology outlined for the research of Sailkara is also
applicable to the study of Longchenpa. The intersections of the three perspectives will lend us a
Introduction 5

real picture, as much as possible, of Longchenpa's philosophy and spiritual practice. It will be
demonstrated in the present study that, through the application of these three methods, the rhetoric
of negation in the non-dual system of Dzogchen can be approached in an innovative way that will
shed light on Longchenpa's position. However before elaborating on this methodology of the three
perspectives, it should fIrst be justifIed within the context of the research that has been dedicated to
Longchenpa so far.

Academic research dedicated to Longchenpa

Reviewing the academic research dedicated to Longchenpa it can be noted that most work has
been carried out from the viewpoints of historical criticism, phenomenology, doxography, literary
studies of rhetoric, and philology.
The works of Guenther tend to emphasise Longchenpa's texts as phenomenological
explication to the near exclusion of anything else. In Guenther's work From Reductionism to
Creativity, for example, he argues that every word of the Great Perfection texts should be read as
an "experiential marker". This sentiment is well expressed in the following comment:
In other words, Dzogchen demands that we start learning to think. While all the grandiose
B uddhist systems of thought have, quite literally, come to an end, Dzogchen thought remains
a challenge, directing our attention to the thinking of thinking, not in a. vacuum, but in the
context of the whole. 1 2
The main focus here is "thinking of thinking" as a way of ongoing observing the operation of
one's mind, as an experience of unfoldment pointing towards the "unfamiliar" nature of mind or
core of being.
More recently, three PhD dissertations have been written which deal with Longchenpa's
works and that may serve as a platform for this study. In the first, Hillis 13 employs historical and
literary critical methods to examine the rhetorical devices in Longchenpa's text The Treasury of
Abiding Reality (gNas lugs mdzod), an exploration of Longchenpa's philosophical position on
the liberated natural state of mind. According to Hillis, the text represents an intersection of
several religious, philosophical, biographical and political discourses, as well as Longchenpa's
own experience of crisis and reflection. In his thorough analysis, identifying rhetorical devices
in the text, Hillis succeeds in intelligently exposing Longchenpa's sub-text. However, when it
comes to Longchenpa's position on methods of practice, Hillis dedicates only a few pages to
the matter. His interpretation of praxis14 emphasises Longchenpa's rhetoric of anti-method, the
negating of goal-oriented practices, without any critical attempt to challenge Longchenpa's
position. This is probably due to the fact it was out of the scope of his research as he primarily
approached Longchenpa as a writer. Nevertheless, Hillis was able to reconstruct an adequate
description of the religious, philosophical, biographical arid political map of Tibet in the 14th
century, including Longchenpa's lifetime experience .of crisis and reflection, which will be
revisited through this study.
6 The Man From Samye

The second relevant dissertation is that of Butters, 15 who studied Longchenpa's The Precious
Treasury of Spiritual Systems (Grub Mtha 'mdzod) in order to study Longchenpa's doxographic
overview of Buddhist systems. Butters states clearly that in this text Longchenpa largely ignores
issues pertaining to praxis.16 Nevertheless, he indicates that Longchenpa was able to effect
integration of Dzogchen with the other Buddhist systems through his interpretation of the Buddhist
theory of the Two Truths, the relative and ultimate levels of reality,17 more precisely his
interpretation of the Madhyamaka philosophy. This observation is significant for this study because
a clear understanding of Longchenpa's interpretation of the Two Truths will shed light on his
position regarding practice in non-dual Dzogchen. After all, practice can be regarded as an action,
taking place in the relative reality by a subject directed towards an objectified ultimate reality,
which is beyond causation. Furthermore the notion of the Two Truths gives rise to the question
that if Longchenpa recommends praxis, how compatible can it be with his philosophy of non­
duality? The compatibility of Longchenpa's perception of the Two Truths and his pedagogy of
negation will be considered in chapter 7 of this study.
The most recent dissertation is by Arguillere, who employs both philological and
philosophical methodologies in writing about Longchenpa's life and works. From the historical
perspective, Arguillere is able to increase clarity of focus regarding the course of Longchenpa's
life, the chronology and extent of his works, as well as his explication of his philosophy of
causality and the Two Truths, which are relevant to our study. Arguillere meticulously identifies
the teachers and students of Longchenpa, and provides a reconstruction of Longchenpa's catalogue
of works. Arguillere justifies the importance of his philological method through reference to the
importance of such an approach to Kapstein's intriguing conclusion that Longchenpa cited fictive
texts in the auto commentary to his Gyuma Ngalso (sGyu ma ngal gso); 18 to Achard's notion of
Longchenpa's "plagiates" of texts of the Bon tradition of Dzogchen; and to his own observation
that Longchenpa used "orphan" citations, that is to say, texts that are cited only once or twice.
As Arguillere puts it:
Further, in his seminar of 2003- 2004 in the fifth section of EPHE, Matthew Kapstein notably
demonstrated that several texts cited in [Longchenpa' s] auto commentary to the sGyu ma ngal
gsa , were in fact fictive texts . It was establi shed that the quotations were c ertainly not
' invented' by Longchenpa but were inserted in his auto commentary of the sGyu ma lam rim,
attributed to Niguma of the Shangs pa tradition and dated to the time of Khyung po mal 'byor.
Longchenpa never mentions any work relevant to the Shangs pa. This consideration might
allow us to put in its true light the case of the "plagiates de textes B on" that inspired J.L.
Achard ( 1 999: 21 5) who wrote few interesting pages [on that matter] . . .In some cases we might
observe some "orphan" citations, that is to say texts cited only once or twice in Longchenpa' s
work or citations that were repeated once and only in one passage of a text. 1 9

In using expressions such as "plagiate", "fictive" and "orphans" several times in the same page in
the short introduction to his work, Arguillere gives the impression that using others' texts without
Introduction 7

attribution was a literary trend employed by Longchenpa. Clearly this question requires
examination but it would necessarily beoutside the scope of this study. Nevertheless a preliminary
examination should be advanced that may put Arguillere's words in perspective and shed light on
the sources which Longchenpa used without attribution and on Longchenpa himself as a writer.
To start with, Matthew Kapstein's assertion, in the five-page summary of his seminar about
spiritual doctrines and disciplines of praxis in the Gyuma lam rim (sGyu ma lam rim) text of the
Shangpa (Shangs pa) tradition will be considered. When Kapstein addresses the question of the
authenticity of the text he mentions that to date there is no indication that Tibetan writers have
doubted its authenticity. He mentions that Longchenpa cited the commentary of the Gyuma lamrim
without attribution in his Gyuma Ngalso,2° in order to demonstrate that it was the only time the text
was mentioned in another school, out of the Shangpa tradition, showing the extent that the
Shangpa texts were excluded from the Tibetan canon.21 Thus, while for Kapstein Longchenpa uses
the commentary of a Kagyu text that was not incorporated in the Tibetan canon, without
attribution, for Arguillere Longchenpa was using several "fictive" texts.
Kapstein's paper was not formally and fully published. Thus, without sufficient evidence,
Arguillere's notions of "plagiate", "fictive" and "orphan" sources which Longchenpa used without
attribution could be explained in that they were old Dzogchen texts constituting a traditional
accumulated body of knowledge that Longchenpa integrated into his own works. Other
explanations are that he did not have the original texts that he cited but used secondary texts
without attribution, or that he cited from memory where the textual content was received by means
of oral transmission.
A further possible explanation might be that the Gyuma lamrim text belonged to the Shangpa
Kagyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and Longchenpa's employment of the text was the ollIy time
that the text was mentioned outside of the Shangpa tradition. Kagyu and Dzogchen share some
principal similarities in the sense that both schools constitute the "simultaneous" path to liberation
and they have similar vocabulary and ideas.22 It could be that the vocabulary and ideas were
expressed in similar ways, which might apply also to Bon Dzogchen and Nyingma Dzogchen.
It could be also that Longchenpa still wanted to use the Shangpa text for his purposes but could not
mention its attribution because it was excluded from the canon in the same manner that he did not
overtly cite even Padmasambhava's "historical" works mentioned by Guenther in chapter 2 of this
In examining Achard's notion of Longchenpa's "plagiarism" of Bon texts, it was found that
he referred to two Bon texts "borrowed" by Longchenpa. The first is Yang rtse klong chen, which
was integrated into the Nyingma tradition by Zurchen Shakya Jungne, known as Zur ston Ug pa
Lung pa (lO02-1062),who disguised his name as the text discoverer Dorje Shepa (rDorje bZhed
pa) and gave the Bon text another title, the sNyan brgyud thugs ki me longY Longchenpa
integrated a small part of this text into his work Lama Yantig (Bla ma yang tig), giving it the title
Chi rtsasgsal b 'ai sgron me. Achard applies a philological method and examined the two texts,
8 The Man From Samye

finding that although Longchenpa did not literally copy the Bon text , he changed certain verbs
and used synonyms. Because the texts seemed very similar it invokes the sentiment and the
impression that Longchenpa is trying to hide his plagiarism. The other text Achard refers to is the
Ye khri dkar po, a treasure text discovered by Lungbon Hlanyen (Lung bon lha gnyan, 1088-?),
who was a contemporary of Milarepa (1040-1123). Although the text has all the common signs of
being a treasure text , Longchenpa , three centuries later , re-titled itTshig don bcu gcig pa and
presented it as his redaction , incorporating it in his cycle the Bima Nyintig (Bima snying thig).
According to Achard , the similarities between the two texts are evident.
Although evident similarities point to a "textual borrowing" , Achard suggests several
explanations which tend to uphold the text's integrity. In my view the most reasonable one
substantiating it within the context of the course of Longchenpa life refers to Kumaraja (Kumariijii,
gZhon nu rgyal po, 1266-1343), who was Longchenpa's root teacher. As will be shown in
chapter 3, Longchenpa spent three years with Kumaraja under harsh living conditions and received
from him the teachings of the Bima snying thig cycle of Dzogchen. Thus I propose that Kumaraja ,
who had a Bonpo teacher from whom he received Dzogchen teachings25 which include the texts
discussed by Achard , transmitted these texts in tum to Longchenpa. Living with Kumaraja under
conditions of severe deprivation would have meant a shortage of the rare commodity paper , as well
as of writing materials. Given that woodblock printing had not yet been introduced into Tibet ,
Longchenpa would likely have received the· transmission orally and reconstructed it later from
memory or from concise short notes as he received them from Kumaraja. This explains why
the Bon texts that Longchenpa "borrowed" and his parallel works are not identical but share
similarities in the same way that Bon and Nyingma have parallels , which may be traced back to the
8th century.26 In any case , Achard's philological work contributes further to the understanding of
the similar background that both traditions share and solidifies it. It is suggested that the manner in
which Longchenpa cites the works he used in general and the remarkable number of texts he had
read should be identified as a pattern that characterises his way of writing , which is in contrast with
the two incidents which Achard considered acts of plagiarism.27
Above all it seems that labels such as "plagiate" , "fictive" and "orphans" are a products of
western ethical academic standards and are seen in this context as immoral or a breach of
intellectual property rights. However using texts without attribution was a common practice in
14th century Tibet and since then as well. Sometimes in doing so one was tacitly paying homage to
the text and the author and giving them a broader stage or voice. However these hypothetical
observations should be examined in the future in further research into Longchenpa's life and
Nevertheless such claims by Kapstein and Achard and the observation by Arguillere justify
the latter's employment of a historical-philological method , which he believes allows him to
reconstruct Longchenpa's life work and philosophical doctrine. Although Arguillere asserts his
intention to consider and research the theoretical aspect of texts concerning praxis , he does so in a
Introduction 9

limited manner and without treating the subject of Longchenpa's spiritual practice or his pedagogy
of negation and the subjective experience of it. Arguillere's work includes introduction to , and
translation of eight chapters of Longchenpa's The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of
Phenomena (Chos dbyings rin po che 'i mdzod ces bya ba) and four chapters of A Treasure Trove
of Scriptural Transmission: A Commentary on the Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of
Phenomena ' (Chos dbyings rin po che ' i mdzod ces bya ba ' i 'grel pa). But Longchenpa's
exposition of themes such as "direct introduction" , "meditative natural stability" and "resting in
uncontrived conduct" , which are at the core of Dzogchen practice , appear only in the ninth chapter
of the works above and thereafter. As a result , the practitioner's perspective , which is one of
the principal keys to comprehending Longchenpa's life and works as he was primarily a teacher of
liberation , is absent. This perspective might have given rise to important questions that normally a
philologist or a philosopher would not ask.

Philosophical perspective
One of the principal assumptions of Arguillere is that Longchenpa is a sensible and extremely
intelligent thinker and that it would be unlikely that Longchenpa could possibly contradict himself.
Thus approached from the philosophical perspective , Longchenpa is expected to be consistent; but
when confronted by his prescription of practice28 and his forceful negation of it ,29 the initial
reaction of the scholar/philosopher/reader would be to point out the contradiction and soundly
criticise it. The contradiction is liable to make the philosophically minded reader want to find a
logical solution , whereas Longchenpa is actually interested in something else , in liberation.
Fenner , for example , in his philosophical attempt to resolve the questionable connection
between praxis and liberation by examining Longchenpa , suggests various explanations , from
orthodox to unorthodox Buddhist points , in consideration of the theory of the Two Truths.30
However at the end of his examination he admits that the questionable connection between praxis
and liberation is unresolvedY
Contradictions naturally produce tension since they are insoluble , thus risking an indefinite
perpetuation of sterile philosophical debate but Longchenpa himself was interested in exhausting
this tension or converting it into an energetic pedagogical device , as he was first and foremost a
Dzogchen teacher interested in teaching on liberation.

Historical perspective
Another way of coming to terms with "inconsistencies" such as the "evasive turn" or "logical
failures" discussed above is to reorganise those inconsistencies into a pattern that might clarify the
development of Longchenpa's ideas.32 In fact , this is the main purpose of the historical perspective
in this study; that is , to draw a map that will show the development of the rhetoric of negation and
its historical context before Longchenpa's time. The next step is to extend the map to include
Longchenpa's own ideas as expressed in the two main works of his relevant to this study , aiming
10 The Man From Samye

to expose a pattern of development , evolution or transformation which may then resolve

contradictions and clarify ambiguities. In creating a chronological frame for Longchenpa's works
and ideas , thinkers such as Germano , Karmay , Guenther , Hillis and Arguillere lend clarity and
order to possible ambiguities that might be attributed to Longchenpa and partially clarify the
problem of negation of goal-oriented spiritual practices.
The historica l perspective is undoubtedly useful and can offer a closer look not only into the
history of ideas of negation but also a clearer view of social and cultural trends and processes that
created socio-religio-political formations over time. Identifying the state of affairs that resulted from
historical trends and processes will enable us to contextualise Longchenpa and to examine whether
he has addressed in his works certain religious , political and social factors which might explain the
course of his life , his thought and his distinctive tendency to negate and criticise others'
philosophical views and religious practices.
However , is it not often true that research into the history of ideas , intended to clarify a
contradiction , just perpetuates it , offering new angles and perspectives into the matter without any
final resolution? As long as the contradictions under inquiry represent a significant problem , the
research will be perpetuated because contradictions naturally produce tension and attract endless
attempts to clarify them.
While the philosophical and historical perspectives effectively provide us with explanations
and interpretations of Longchenpa's thoughts and ideas , they do so only partially when it comes to
the problem of the negation of goal-oriented practices. Therefore it is suggested that in order to
have a broader understanding of such a personage and his ideas we would have to consider the
traditional perspective essentially represented by the seeker after liberation.

Traditional perspective
Ingalls describes the traditional approach through the aspirants or followers who seek liberation or
knowledge of the Brahman. According to Ingalls , this is the most ancient approach , one that
Sailkara passed on to his students and expressed in his Upadesasiihasfi. 33 Ingalls34 characterises the
followers by their aspiration to liberation and by their tendencies towards detachment from worldly
matters , and while he acknowledges other characteristics , he regards these two as the most
essential. Bader agrees , saying:

In order to properly investigate S aIikara' s teachings on liberation it is necessary to take into

account the traditional approach . . . this method is suitable only for the dedicated and true
believer. Still there is no good reason for ignoring this approach in the course of one ' s study.
On th e contrary, an examination of S aIikara' s work which takes into account the perspective
of the practitioner may well cast further light on the motives underlying the formulations of
his Advaitadoctrine .35

Bader regards the "traditional perspective" held by the aspirants to be indispensable in achieving a
broad understanding of Sailkara's ideas. Research into Sailkara's philosophy about liberation
Introduction 11

through application of the "traditional perspective" will provide a deeper understanding of his
motives for articulating his Advaitic theory. What Bader and Ingalls have said in relation to the
traditional perspective in the case of SaiJ.kara is valid for Longchenpa as well , as shown earlier in
connection with the discussions of pedagogy and soteriology.

The traditional perspective and three types of practitioners/readers

However , following in the footsteps of Grinshpon ,36 it is suggested that the practitioner should be
looked at through each of the three lenses without adhering exclusively to any one of them.
Accordingly , the "traditional" practitioners/readers would seek understanding of the literal
meaning of texts , avoiding critical examination of their religious and cultural heroes and resisting
tendencies to ground interpretations in mundane human experience. They would accept the fateful
importance of the correct understanding and the intentions of the teaching. They would tend to
distance themselves from the text in order to listen to it , at the same time that "it" is an elusive
otherness , different from the world of phenomena , and accessible by the virtue of ineffable
profound compassion or grace. Their avoidance of referring to components of human conditioned
existence such as emotions , thoughts and experiences corresponds with the abysmal otherness
representing primordial natural awareness.

The critical practitioner/reader

The "historical" and "philosophical" approaches complement the traditional approach in attempting
to clarify Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation in that they are represented by the critical reader/
practitioner , who tries to neutralise as much as possible any existential motive or personal
experience , seeking to clarify the "objective" meaning in his research by scholarly means.37 In this
respect Paul Ricoeur suggests:

Not that the historian should share the faith of his heroes : in that case he would seldom write
history but rather apologetics or hagiography. He must, however, be capable of granting their
faith hypothetically, which is a way of entering into the problematic of that faith while at
the same time suspending or neutralizing it and not looking upon it as an actually professed
faith. 38
Accordingly a practitioner , when coming across textual contradictions , should distance himself
from the text and its tradition as much as possible and take on a critical approach that respects the
tradition associated with the text and assumes its validity for the purpose of inquiry but does not
embrace the traditional proposed meaning of the text. Such a practitioner would in effect adopt the
Buddha's advice that speaks for itself:
12 The Man From Samye

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything
simply becau s e it is spoken and rumoured by many . Do not believe in anything simply
because it is found written in your religious books . Do not believe in anything merely on the
authority of your teachers and elders . Do not believe in traditions because they have been
handed down for many generations . But after observation and analysis, when you find that
anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all , then
accept it and live up to it. 39

Therefore the principle that guides the critical reader/practitioner is that of coolly neutral analysis
energized by imaginatively sympathetic understanding.

The existential practitioner

However , in order to provide a wider picture of Longchenpa's rhetoric and pedagogy of negation ,
the traditional practitioner/reader perspective should also include the existential angle , allowing a
clearer understanding of the aspirant's condition. The departure point of such a reader is the
personal authentic experience of being true to one's own feelings , character and spirit despite
external pressures. Such a person attempts to make sense of being in a mundane world and of
encountering the external pressures and influences he is subject to , which is very different from ,
and other than , himself. In this respect the existential practitioner/reader attends to his own needs ,
identifications , hopes and experiences that may shape their interpretations.
According to Grinshpon , the existential practitioner/reader will tend to understand the
intentions of teachings of liberation to be fully correlated with spiritual experiences such as ones of
bliss as a symptom of contact with the ultimate reality , an experienc;e that may shape their
interpretations.40 They would be interested in the relevance of such teachings to mundane life , for
example in terms of resolving inner conflicts , ignoring religious notions such as of being reborn in
the realm of pure land , the afterworldlafter life , etc.
Within the context of our study of Longchenpa , the existential practitioner/reader might deny
the view of essential natural awareness that tongchenpa's rhetoric of negation refers to but still be
open to its power and relevance in his mundane life as means to enhanced understanding of reality ,
abandonment of false perceptions , and clarity of mind. While the traditional reader will tend to
identify fully with the text and the critical one will distance himself from the text and its tradition as
much as possible , the existential practitioner/reader will tend not to fully identify themselves with
the text but at the same time will remain an· integral part of the reading , making it a persona l one ,
grounded in experiences and meanings that occur when interacting with the text. They will assert
that the intentions of Dzogchen teachings are fully correlated with spiritual experiences in our own
age and that experiences of bliss are a symptom of contact with the ultimate reality , that of natural
awareness. For them , bliss as a symptom. of contact with the ultimate reality presupposes
connection bet,,::een the phenomenal world and natural awareness. In this respect the existential
practitioner/reader attends to their own needs , identifications , hopes and experiences that may
Introduction 13

shape their interpretations. In this sense the existential practitioner/reader regards Longchenpa as a
non-dogmatic , free thinker and as a creative teacher and scholar.
The purpose of this research is to critically read Longchenpa's texts concerning the theme of
negation and study his rhetoric of negation which imply tension between praxis and liberation ,
employing a methodology based on the three perspectives in a m anner that incorporates elements
of those three perspectives yet adheres to none. For example it will reject tradition's rigidity but at
the same time accept the idea of liberating knowledge as a force , and it will be open to both the
challenge posed by the rhetoric of negation and the findings of scholarship. The fundamental
interest of such a methodology is to enable the study of the rhetoric of negation and its
transformation into a pedagogy capable of facilitating the experience of natural awareness ,
that is , of liberating knowledge.

Methodology of interpretation
Another question concerning methodology remains : According to which principles and criteria
should one interpret and understand Longchenpa's texts , given that they were written 700 years
ago and in a distant culture? In other words , which system of hermeneutics should be employed in
approaching Longchenpa's texts in relation to the position of practice in non-dual Dzogchen?
It is suggested that the required hermeneutics should be borrowed from the field of religious
studies particularly related with two of its aspects : cosmogony and theism. This , despite the fact
that Buddhism is commonly regarded as doctrinally different from monotheistic and polytheistic
religions due to the fact that it does not accept the existence of a divine creator. Nevertheless ,
Buddhism in general contains a normative self-proclaimed discourse , rooted in a tradition ,4 1 which
deals with essential questions about the nature of reality and man , and about the meaning of life.
Dzogchen in particular has a theory concerning the coming into existence of the universe , and the
way sentient beings and what they perceive as reality came to existence. It reveals a theory of a
transcendent ground of being (gZhi), and a "process of creation" similar to the views of Advaita
Vedanta and Neo-Platonic theories of creation.42 An examination of the idea of the transcendent
ground of being will demonstrate a cosmogony that bears a "theistic" aspect in the sense that
it is associated with a certain deity , Samantabhadra. That is to say , the transcendent ground of
being - out of which a false duality of samsara (sarrzsara) and nirvana (nirvalJa) bifurcates - will
be considered in terms of its images , its mythical representation as Samantabhadra , and its
philosophical articulation. The purpose of this examination is to refer to Dzogchen and its key
theory as means for interpretation of Longchenpa's Dzogchen texts and his rhetoric of negation
which is part of the methodology for the present study.
To start with , according to Dzogchen's cosmogony , the Primordial Buddha Samantabhadra ,
ichnographic ally most often depicted as celestial blue and naked , is regarded as the supreme
embodiment of Buddhahood.43 The purpose of Samantabhadra's iconography is to symbolise
what is actually primordial , omnipresent and formless , in order give the finite intellect some
14 The Man From Samye

concrete sense of its meaning . "The myth of Samantabhadra" , according to Kapstein ,44 is a myth
with a specific philosophical purpose , pursued through inquiry into three topics : how the ground
became manifest spontaneously , how Samantabhadra was liberated , and how ignorant beings
became bewildered .
Following the custom observed in Tibetan religious texts , Longchenpa commences his texts
with a salutation , paying homage to Samantabhadra . As he writes , he does so "with fervent faith
and great devotion of body speech and mind" ,45 which signifies deep religious feelings and
intentions . The opening salutation is not a mere formality of style but is endowed with rich
meaning , embodying the most important principles of the Dzogchen view in a concise manner .
Longchenpa best summarises the myth of Samantabhadra in his work Jewel of the Supreme
Vehicle (Theg mchog rin po che 'i mdzod):

Prior to everything, s al1lsara and nirvalJa being not divided, nor dividing, nor to be divided,
S amantabhadra, the teacher whose dominion is perfect, arose from the primordial ground �
the exp an s e that i s s elf- emergent pristine gno s i s , the nucleus of the S u g ata - as the
manifestation of the ground . In the instant that he emerged from the ground, becau s e he
recognized this to be self-manifest, then owing to the three self-emergent principles he seized
his imperial realm in the spontaneously present precious enclosure, the great primordial purity
that is the original site of exhaustion, the field of the vase-body of youth . The enlightened
attributes of renunciation and realization being perfected he achieved B uddhahood in the
manner of the D h armakay a , and abides inwardly c l arifi e d . . . . S u b s equently , fro m the
expres sive play that arises from the original ground as the manifestation of the ground,
mundane creatures appeared as if bewildered without cause of bewilderment, as in a dream.
S eeing them thus disturbed, his compassionate excellence was aroused . . . 46

The ground , or basic space , is primordial in the sense that it precedes the existential split between
samsara and nirvana before the "stream of time" was divided into the three times of past , present
and future . For Longchenpa , Samantabhadra is a representation of the supreme teacher for all , the
timeless perfection of mastery and power , the sacred guide who demonstrates the spiritual path out
of his compassion . And in the context of mythical narrative Samantabhadra arose from the
primordial ground , which is pure clear noetic awareness . Recognising this as such , he
simultaneously became a sovereign of the primordial basic space of phenomena , in such a way that
he did not undergo this "existential split", the dualistic mode of existence . When Longchenpa
refers to the primordial ground as the original site of exhaustion , he expresses his view of how
Sam:antabhadra operates in the world rather than something more distant and abstract; it seems to
me that he refers to the situation that when one abides in the space of Samantabhadra , "the source
of youthful vitality" , compulsive conditioned discursive m ental processes are immediately
exhausted . Thus this primordial ground is not a passive one but is endowed with potentiality
that can manifest as anything whatsoever , including "limitless sentient beings" . As manifestations
Introduction 15

of the ground's potentiality that occur spontaneously , sentient beings appear as bewildered .
Because they do not recognise their nature of mind to be clear , noetic awareness which is identical
to the primordial ground , they ignorantly fall into this "existential split" away from the non-duality
of the primordial basic space into the duality of samsara and nirvana .
To complete the picture of Dzogchen cosmogony in the context of establishing the
methodology , it is important to note the process of evolution from the primordial ground of five
primordial wisdoms that then manifest as the five material elements that make up the subjective
world . Their essential nature manifests as the five psychophysical aggregates that constitute a
human being bearing mental afflictions . This process of evolution stems from the obscuration of
the five primordial wisdoms . Although philosophically not entirely coherent , because of the near
impossibility of proving a causative relation between sentient beings and Samantabhadra , whose
essence is still endowed with expressive power , the myth of Samantabhadra has a significant
explicatory strength in establishing a "bridge" between Samantabhadra and sentient beings . This
"bridge" is related to his compassion , which makes it possible for sentient beings to retrieve the
recognition of pure clear noetic awareness (identical with the primordial ground) .
Since the presence of pristine awareness (rig pa) or the nature of mind is none other than the
transcendent , primordially pure ground of being , a Dzogchen practitioner can re-create or re­
experience the state of Samantabhadra by means of contemplation . The practitioner may
effortlessly liberate himself from its conditioning grip if he is not caught up by , or does not follow ,
his compulsive discursive thoughts and conceptualisation processes , or does not try to suppress
them . For Longchenpa , the state of Samantabhadra is the very recognition of the basic space of
phenomena as pure , clear and composed of noetic awareness . In recognising this as such ,
Samantabhadra simultaneously was liberated and became a sovereign of this basic space , free from
the "existential split" .
So far it can be concluded that Dzogchen bears "theistic" characteristics in terms of a
cosmogony . Researchers such as Hillis , Wallace , and Dargyay47 agree that Dzogchen is a
"religious system" , that it "has so much in common with Vedanta and Neoplatonic Christianity"
and that it is , accordingly , "quasi-theistic" . This view is in contrast to that of Kapstein ,48 who thinks
"it is an error to attribute theism to Dzogchen" , because the myth of Samantabhadra is just a
metaphorical representation . However it is my view that although the Dzogchen view clearly
includes a type of theism , it does not occupy a principal position or priority in Dzogchen , because
the aim of Dzogchen is the reawakening of the individual to the natural awareness that is found in
all beings . It is about self-liberation , not about formulating metaphysical theories as such .
Methodologically speaking , the very existence of such a form of cosmogony in Longchenpa's
Dzogchen can be used as mediating factor in examining his thought , using key terms borrowed
from the field of religious studies , such as "absolute ground of Being" , approached by means of
"via negativa" , "ritual and myth" , and "soteriology" . It is a mediating factor because , despite
16 The Man From Samye

cultural differences , this methodology allows to some extent an approach to teachings transmitted
700 years ago by Longchenpa , and hence a clearer understanding of spiritual practice in the non­
dual Dzogchen system. Therefore in approaching Longchenpa from the three perspectives ,
terminology borrowed from religious studies will be employed on our way in order to show his
conversion of the rhetoric of negation into a pedagogy and , in a broader context , his position on
spiritual practice within the context of non-dual philosophy. It will also provide a more "realistic"
portrait of Longchenpa the lama , the scholar/philosopher , and the man.

This introductory presentation of the focus and purposes of the study , its hypothesis and
methodology brings us now to the next section , which is a brief synopsis of each of the chapters.

Chapter 1. Introduction
The introduction comprises the present chapter.

Chapter 2. Setting the Scene: 9th to 13th Century Tibet

Employing the historical perspective , I will trace and identify on macro level religio-socio­
political formative trends that developed from the 9th century into the reality that would consolidate
in 1 4th century Tibet. This in order contextualises and situates Longchenpa in his time. The
historical formative events , figures and teachings under examination will range from the e arly
cultivation of Buddhism in Tibet , Padmasambhava , Samye (bSam yas), simultaneous (gCig car)
and gradual praxis (Rim gyis pa), the Buddhist revival , and the state of Nyingma affairs , to the
Mongols and the Sakya (Sa skya). The findings of this inquiry show that these historical processes
would locate Longchenpa at the periphery of Tibetan reality.

Chapter 3. Longchenpa' s Life and Works : 14th century Tibet

In this chapter the historical perspective is employed too and the religio-socio-political
formative trends that occurred in the 14th century are identified as forces that located Longchenpa
at the periphery of the Tibetan reality. Being concerned to implement his vision of Buddhism in
Tibet he would employ the technique of the rhetoric of negation , the theme of this study , as one of
the main devices or means of relocating the Nyingma , the teachings of tantra , Dzogchen and
Padmasambhava , and the symbols of Tibet's glorious past in the centre of the religio-socio-political
map ' of his time. In negating others' religio-socio-political realities and ethics , he redefined
Dzogchen as a theoretical and practical system of teachings , and this assisted him to reposition the
Nyingmapa and their heritage , counterbalancing the growing power of other Tibetan Buddhist
schools , the wave of their new translations and their parallel political structures. Although the
rhetoric of negation is a philosophical device pointing to the emptiness of the transcendent ground
of being (gZhi), it served to accomplish the last two tasks , which were part of a dimension quite
Introduction 17

different from philosophy. This was because in the 14th century Tibetan social order , politics and
religion were closely linked.
The historical perspective is applied in this chapter also on micro level , in order to review
Longchenpa's life and works , giving background which will assist in clarifying his negation of
spiritual practices and his pedagogy. Formative events in his life mentioned in his biography and
hagiography are examined and the findings show Longchenpa not only as a spiritual leader,
scholar and writer but also as a man with sensitivities and vulnerabilities and with socio-economic
and political weaknesses. Until his return from exile in Bhutan , three to four years before his
passing away , he was positioned at the periphery of the religio-socio-political map. Thus in this
context too Longchenpa sought to reposition himself at the centre , in order to be recognized and
acknowledged as a spiritual leader who had visions of Padmasambhava , this in order to realise his
vision of Buddhism. Here again one of the principal means to effect the transition from the
periphery to the centre , and to create consistency between self-perception and public recognition
and what comes with it , is the rhetoric of negation. In this chapter Longchenpa's mains works
concerning the rhetoric of negation are reviewed.

Chapter 4. From Negation to Absence

This chapter begins with identifying the principle of negation within the discourses of
negation of central Tibetan Buddhist figures of different schools prior to Longchenpa. Then ,
Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation is examined from the perspectives of philosophy and practice ,
demonstrating its syllogistic Prasangika-Madhyamika roots , its characteristics and the various
modes of negation. As a result of this examination Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation is situated ,
contextualized , defined and , from this basis , clarified. The aim behind Longchenpa's employment
of negation is clearly demonstrated: to point to the absence synonymous with the empty nature of
phenomena and with the individual's non-conceptual mind , in which compulsive discursive mental
patterns are dissolved.

Chapter 5. From Praxis to Absence

The central theme in this chapter is Longchenpa's critique and negation of specific spiritual
practices and views as being insufficient to lead the practitioner to liberation , and his explanation
for their futility in relation to non-duality. It will be shown that Longchenpa's repetitious rhetoric of
negation becomes a concrete practice as by conducting a continual repetition of a series of denials
a one-pointed/single mental modification of concentration is created , which dwells on the theme of
negation (including negating negation itself). The negations are repeated until the final point is
reached , at which the practitioner abides in absence , a non-conceptual mind. Longchenpa's
negation will be contextualised more broadly in relation to contemporary forms of negation , by
considering Georges Bataille's essential method of contestation in relation to what he termed
"Inner Experience". This chapter shows that that Bataille's Inner Experience is not entirely free , as
18 The Man From Samye

he must continually hold in his hand the "sword of contestation" ready for the next object in
question while being either in a relaxed or ecstatic state of mind. But for Longchenpa this one mind
modification of absence , which is a thought about absence , or the need to keep the state of absence
that occupies the mind , will be challenged again by the pedagogy of negation. The reason for this
is that n atural awareness is never only about the absence of compulsive discursive thinking; it is
also about clarity and wisdom which find expression in the world of phenomena , and about the
integration of one's innate , natural awareness in the world.

Chapter 6. From Absence to Natural Awareness

This chapter demonstrates how Longchenpa's rhetoric of negation , examined from the point
of view of the aspirant seeking liberation , is converted into a pedagogy of negation. This system of
pedagogy includes six methods that facilitate for the student the experience of natural awareness
free of any attachments. In closely reading the six methods I will identify their subtext , referring to
the traditional , critical and existential aspects of the student , an analysis not done before in the
study of Longchenpa. This shows how the tension and stress experienced by the student , produced
by conflicting feelings , ideas and states of mind , provide the material for a potent transformative
drama. This entails the factor of timing of the imparting of the instructions to the student that drive
the dramatic interaction towards a climax or resolution: the experience of natural awareness. It will
be shown that by these means Longchenpa challenges the student's non-conceptual state , one of
absence of concepts , emotions and beliefs or the clarity of mind in which the student dwells. This
challenge leaves the student vulnerable and receptive to the direct introduction to innate natural
awareness , a liberating profound experience.

Chapter 7. From Natural Awareness to Praxis

In this chapter two themes are explored. The fIrst is the student's experience of the non-duality
of innate awareness. In order to endure his abiding in the experience of natural awareness , the
student is provided with the practice for meditative stability in which natural awareness integrated
with apparent sense-objects serves as a departure point for the aforesaid practice. The crucial point
in this practice of meditative stability is that the means as natural awareness and the end as natural
awareness are identical , therefore the dichotomy between means and ends is annihilated. In this
respect I will demonstrate how in this natural meditative stability any subject - object means -
end dichotomies cease to exist , which m akes the practice for meditative stability compatible with
Dzogchen's view of non-duality , hence a non-dual practice.
The second theme is an examination of whether Dzogchen's practice of natural meditative
stability is compatible with Dzogchen's notion of non-duality and with integration of the Two
Truths. The findings are that indeed they are compatible. It will also be shown that , in a broader
sense , the non-dval principle inherent in the Dzogchen practice of natural meditation can offer a
Introduction 19

way to transcend the dichotomy inherent in gener al goal-oriented practices found in other traditions
and religions. These findings will be converted into a chart containing a dichotomous sequence
between dualistic practices and non-dual practices. This chart reveals a clear trend in the relation of
praxis to non-duality in Dzogchen.

Chapter 8. Conclusions
This final chapter restates the main subjects and arguments presented in the thesis.
It emphasizes the essential points that in order to overcome the problem of the futility of spiritual
practices performed in a dualistic conditioned existence and directed towards liberation ,
Longchenpa transformed his rhetoric of negation into a living pedagogy of negation. This
tr ansformation culminates in the experience of natural awareness concluded in Dzogchen's practice
of trekcho (khregs chod), which is compatible with Dzogchen's philosophy of non-duality.

Longchenpa was among the most prominent figures o f his time. H e was a scholar who deeply
understood not only the Nyingma doctrines but also the doctrines of other sects. He was a prolific
writer who mastered several literary forms , a profound and disciplined yogin and a "treasure
revealer" (gter ston) who became in his own right a "treasure transmitter". In fact , tracing
Longchenpa's life and work allows one to have a deep insight into how he contained a wide range
of sometimes competing tensions and how he dealt with them. One of the main purposes of this
study is to inquire into a range of aspects of Longchenpa's life. These include the means by which
he harmonized the tensions between reforming and developing a tradition and at the same time
remaining faithful to it , his resolution of the rifts between poetry and prose , his handling of the
tensions between religious discourse and logical argumentation , his view of the complex process of
codification of texts , his opinion that it was a necessity to include the "treasure texts" (gter ma)
within the canon and , most relevant to this study , his understanding of the philosophical standpoint
between methods and anti-methods , that is to say his position on praxis and its negation in spiritual ·
Throughout his life Longchenpa had interactions with other great political and religious
figures , and experienced in person the critical events which characterized his region during the
14th century. In this period the relationship between the Sakya (Saskya pa) hierarchs and the
Mongols as their protectors formed into a hegemony that dominated Tibet from the 13th to early
14th centuries and which successfully protected Tibet from a final destructive Mongol invasion.
As a reaction to Sakya-Mongol domination , clans and hierarchs sought to maintain and protect
their political and economic interests and initiated a civil war through which Tai Situ Changchub
Gyeltsen(Ta 'i Si tu Byang chub rgyal mtshan) of the Phakmod rupa family "freed" Tibet from the
Mongol-Sakya regime in the mid-14th century. In parallel with these political events , religious
activity shifted from largely peripheral ritual practices usually conducted in remote places and
villages to more centralized scholastic institutions , which took the form of new schools of
Buddhism in Tibet. This period was characterized by an unusually large number of influential and
charismatic religious figures such as Budon Rinchen Drup (Bu ston rin chen sgrub, 1290-1364),
codifier of the Tibetan Buddhist the canon , Dolpopa Sherap Gyeltsen (Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal
mtshan, 1292-1361), founder of the Jonanag (fo nang), Longchenpa (1308-1364), principal
codifier of Dzogchen , and Tsongkapa (Tsong kha pa blo bzang grags pa, 1357-1419), founder of
the Gelug (dGe lugs pa) Schoo1.50
For Longchenpa , more than these developments , from a purely religious point of view there
remained the Nyingma vision of Buddhist enlightenment , which was rooted in what he believed
was the "glorious" monastery of Samye,5 1 associated with Tibet's imperial past and with Trisong
Setting the Scene : 9th to 13th century Tibet 21

Detsen (khri srong Ide btsan, 756-797) and Padmasambhava.52 Longchenpa sought to express and
give voice to the Nyingma vision of Buddhist enlightenment to which he was committed.
As Kapstein53 notes , this vision re-emerged in the face of a period of risky political transition as a
strong and controversial force , holding up the spiritual past of imperial Tibet against the decadence
and immorality of Longchenpa's own time.54 As will be seen in Longchenpa's biography , this
form of persistent protest and criticism became a significant motif in his life, and was explicitly and
implicitly expressed in his poetry.
Another arena where the Nyingma vision found its expression was in the pursuit of
scholasticism. As it will be shown in following sections , during this period Tibetan Buddhist
scholastic philosophy flourished. Through the activities of various charismatic religious figures ,
scholastic fermentation took place , ranging from philosophical and practical criticism , through
canon codification and the production of new texts , to the founding of monasteries. These trends
presented the Nyingmapa with the necessity of self-definition within the religious map of the
14th century; a clear response was re quired if they wanted to participate in the making of
scholasticism and to acquire religious and political presence.
The friction between the "old" (rnying ma) dispersed religious communities to the "new"
(gsar ma) centralized scholastic institutions yielded new forms of religious life and encouraged a
measure of textual fermentation as a reaction to the prevailing social structures. This had the effect
of shifting certain aspects of power from the clans to the Buddhist schools and their monasteries, all
of which had a significant influence on Longchenpa and his philosophy and practice.
Thus , before focusing my discussion on Longchenpa's pedagogy of negation , I will discuss
the early cultivation of Buddhism in Tibet and identify the political and religious events and
processes from the 9th century to the 13th centuries that consolidated the religious and political
landscape in the 14th century. In fact the purpose of this chapter is to set out the historical
framework and developments that positioned Longchenpa in the periphery of the religio-political
map. Contextualizing Longchenpa at this manner is profoundly important for understanding his
philosophical view and tendency to criticize the prevailing orthodoxy as he saw it.

Early cultivation of Buddhism in Tibet

Longchenpa's system of philosophy and practice is Dzogchen ,55 considered a unique soteriological
system within the history of Tibetan Buddhism , which has survived and continued to develop to
the present day.56 When the first Dzogchen texts appeared , in the 8th century , Tibet was a vast
empire embracing much of central Asia and parts of China. The Tibetan empire was established
by the Tibetan Ruler Songtsen Gampo (Srong btsan sgam po, 609-649), who is traditionally said
to have been the first king to sponsor and promote Buddhism in Tibet , after it was introduced to
him by his Chinese bride , the princess Wencheng (rGya mo bza ' ' Un shing kong jO).57
Before the adoption of Buddhism , Tibetan religion did not include a cognate body of doctrine ,
tradition and ritual , at least not one which fits comfortably with the notion of religion as it is
22 The Man From Samye

understood today . Rather , as Kapstein asserts , it was associated with indigenous religious practices ,
local deity cults , or beings related to a particular mountain , valley or shrine .58 These assertions
should be looked at prudently ; they are hypotheses based on later "legendary" traditional accounts
and , as such , do not contain substantial evidence which could testify to an existing pre-Buddhist
religion in Tibet . In this respect , according to Walter , the existence of a pre-Buddhist religion that
entailed indigenous religious practices , local deity cults or omnipresent beings related to a particular
mountain , valley or shrine is but an assumption held by most Tibetologists , Sinologists and
Indologists .59 It is based on the inference that the pre-Buddhist religion of the Tibetans must have
been a relatively less sophisticated religion than Buddhism because Tibetan culture was believed to
have been primitive . However , a consideration of the craftsmanship and sophisticated objects d'art
from that early period60 shows that Tibetans then were neither primitive nor unsophisticated , even
though a belief in deities in mountains , etc , might lead some people to regard Tibetans as primitive .
Furthermore , old Tibetan documents exclusively from Dunhuang include terms and concepts in
marked contrast with Buddhism which might suggest the existence of a pre-Buddhist religion or
culture . 61
Questioning the validity of such theories , Walter uses a thorough philological method to trace
key religio-political terms and concepts considered pre-Buddhist that may hint or point to pre­
Buddhist religion in Tibet . For example , such a key term is"tsuglag" (gtsug Zag): "divine
knowledge" accessed by occult talents , "statecraft", or a method to decide policy in the hands of
the sovereign .62 This term was held by Arianne MacDonald to be one that summed up in a
condensed m anner Tibet's pre-Buddhist religion . 63 Walter concludes that for Songtsen Gampo's
great-grandson , King Trisong Detsen , Buddhism was the foundation of his tsuglag in the sense that
he was guided by Buddhist principles in a selective manner in the process of establishing and
implementing his own tsuglag .64 Therefore these principles of re-shaping and re-designing of
tsuglag and appropriating it according to given circumstances was always in the hands of the
previous tsenpo (btsan po) in the same fashion that Trisong Detsen used and shaped it .65 In this
sense tsuglag was a term for dynamic adaptive knowledge in the hands of the sovereign , and not
a representation of a pre-Buddhist religion as a fixed set of rules and practices .
Although a pre-Buddhist religion or culture existed in Tibet , the tendency towards Buddhism
was solidified by the work of Trisong Detsen . This king , in addition to achieving military success ,
seems to have had the intention to turn Tibet into a Buddhist country similar to India's and China's
many countries . 66 However , his main motivation for the conversion appears likely to have been
mo re political and economic than derived from religious sentiment . A key factor that could
explicate the king's infatuation with Buddhism relates to his anti-Buddhist ministers who opposed
his coming to the throne . Thus , adopting Buddhism as the royal religion provided him with the
opportunity to dismantle his opponents' power base and to utterly marginalize them .67 There was
another motive for his infatuation with Buddhism , which is concerned with the wider political state
of affairs . During the expansion of the empire , Tibetan conquerors had become exposed to
Setting the Scene: 9th to 13th century Tibet 23

Buddhist countries such as Nepal , China, and India and absorbed important aspects of the manner
in which Buddhist monks and monasteries were managed and supported. In this respect , Gernet in
his work Buddhism in Chinese Society, an Economic History from the Fifth to the Tenth
Centuries,68 argues that religion found expression in a reorganization of the entire social domain.
Buddhism in China , for example , found expression in complex reciprocal relations between its
monasteries , and commercial activities with which the monasteries were frequently intimately
involved. The monasteries were seen by ordinary people as sanctuaries which hosted communal
festive meals and religious activities , which were cultivated into fundamental customs and building
blocks of such societies. The monasteries were also seen as bankers and loan agencies. The ruling
class supported Buddhist religious activities because they guaranteed social and political stability
that allowed them to spend , to hoard , and to fulfil their aesthetic , social and economic aspirations.
For the Tibetan imperium (650-842 AD) , governing conquered Buddhist territories in remote
regi ons could be accomplished more efficiently by using some of those same attributes of
Buddhism as a religion , such as its well-organized monasteries and the social order associated with
them. It is not unreasonable to assume that for the Tibetan king monasteries could well have served
as extended centres of governance in foreign areas , and that Buddhism served as a prevailing
mainstream orthodox culture or religion in consensus which appealed to a multiplicity of
con quered cultural groups as one with universal values; Buddhism from its beginning was
universal , designed to make sense to people in almost any situation. While the adoption of
Buddhism by Trisong Detsen and his successors can be seen as an act of international diplomacy
because Buddhism , after all , was an international religion and many other major powers of the
period - the Chinese empire , Central Asian city-states and Indian kingdoms - were Buddhist ,69 the
conversion to Buddhism was a genuine aspiration aiming to bring Buddhism to all of the Tibetan
people. The combinations of social , political , religious and economic intentions and motives that
initiated the conversion to Buddhism are examples of the forces that will be at play , although
with a different weighting of all these parameters , in the 14th century and that Longchenpa would
have to deal with. Religious life and activities , Longchenpa's main interest , cannot be separated
from the politic � , social and economical arenas.
Returning to the theme of the Tibetans' conversion to Buddhism , King Trisong Detsen70 then
invited the famous Indian Buddhist scholar Santarak�ita to found the first Tibetan Buddhist temple
and monastery , and it was Santarak�ita who ordained the fIrst seven Tibetan-Buddhist monks.
Santar�ita's disciple KamalaStla continued this process , translating Buddhists texts from Sanskrit ,

and teaching and composing his own texts such as the Stages of Meditation (Bhavanakrama).71
During the reign of Trisong Detsen , Buddhism was defInitively adopted as the religion of the
Tibetan court.72 A number of Buddhist texts were translated into Tibetan , monasteries were
established and monks were ordained.73 When Trisong Detsen sought to found the first Tibetan
Buddhist temple and monastery at the behest of Santarak �ita , the King invited Padmasambhava to
perform shamanic rites related to water divination in order to alleviate certain obstacles in the area
24 The Man From Samye

of the first Buddhist monastery at Samye. Thereafter , to an intimate audience , Padmasambhava

taught the tantric practices of transformation known as the Vajrayana , and Dzogchen.74
Padmasambhava then placed other teachings , the "treasures" , in several sites in Tibet to be
revealed by later generations , laying down by that hermeneutic device the origins of the tradition of
"treasure revealers" which would emerge in the 11th century.75 This lay tantric practitioner became
a well-known figure in Tibet , eventually to be hailed as the "second Buddha". He became the
object of many devotional and ritualistic practices and has remained so throughout the history of
Tibetan Buddhism.

Re-thinking Padmasambhava
In fact , this n arrative concerning the establishing of Buddhism in Tibet contains several legendary
characteristics , and the mythologising around Padmasambhava's biography has extended far
beyond the role and status he displayed at the time , such that we can no longer see his personage.
The figure of Padmasambh (�.va requires a closer examination because he was Longchenpa's
cultural hero and a source of the authority of Buddhist teachings and particularly of Dzogchen.76
Longchenpa had visions of Padmasambhava in which he received teachings. He derived from
those experiences a sense of validation and acknowledgment which helped to substantiate his
status as a spiritual leader and as a source of scriptural transmission. Longchenpa's visionary
autobiography will be described in more detail in the next chapter , which concerns his life and
In relation to the problem of Padmasambhava , Kapstein remarks that Padmasambhava was
"a marginal Dharma master of the 8th century ... who re-emerged two centuries later as an emblem
of Tibet's imperial greatness and a hero to a wide network of tantric cult S."77 Wangdu and
Diemberger , in their synopsis to their translation of the Testament of Ba (dBa ' bzheri) ,78 indicate
that Padmasambhava is portrayed as a mirror-diviner and a water-diviner who is able to subdue the
white nagas and other Tibetan autochthonous "spirits" , and who possessed a wealth of water
technologies which were not in common use in Tibet at that time. Associating Padmasambhava
with such technologies possibly connected him to certain Central Asian origins where such skills
concerning the divining of and the efficient transport of water over long distances were more
common. According to the Testament of Ba, after subjugating the deities and water "creatures"
hostile to Buddhism , Padmasambhava made some suggestions regarding the use of water resources
in relation to the land surrounding Samye. These included cultivating nearby sandy land into
meadows , h arnessing springs in the area of the Tsangpo River79 in the vicinity of Samye that
would allow agricultural and farming activity , and h arnessing rivers and lakes through the use of
gabions so that they could be crossed.80 It seems that Padmasambhava offered the Tibetan ministers
advanced methods of irrigation and land cultivation that were in practice in his claimed country of
origin , Oq.q.iyan{l, said to be located in the area of Swat Valley in present day Northern Pakistan.
However , Tibetan ministers perceived Padmasambhava as a political threat as well as a potential
Setting the Scene: 9th to 13th century Tibet 25

danger to their own water resources because of his ability to control water sources both
technologically and "magically". Therefore they recommended to the Tibetan king that
Padmasambhava be expelled , and after strong disagreement with the Tibetan leadership that put an
end to his activities , he was dismissed.8 l
Van Schaik adds two more reasons that led the ministers to the conclusion that
Padmasambhava was a political threat. Firstly , he was in opposition to the "anti-Buddhist"
ministers of the court; and secondly , he was a powerful foreigner ,8 2 neither Tibetan nor from
"Holy India". The notion of Padmasambhava as a foreigner has been repeated also by Guenther83
as one of the reasons that led to the exclusion of Padmasambhava's "own writings" 84 from the
Tibetan canon to the extent that these writings are in factal most never quoted by Tibetans.
Another perspective on the reasons for the resistance shown towards Padmasambhava is
provided by Karmay ,85 who writes that Padmasambhava appears only in the role of an "exorcist"
and that his contribution to the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet seems quite minor because of
the generally unfavourable attitude towards tantrism in that period.86 Accordingly , in Samye,
Padmasambhava was perceived as a political threat and as a tantric master whose methods and
mantras in general were suspicious and not accepted. In fact the mood against tantrism , which was
regarded at court (except evidently for the ruler for reasons discussed above) as an Indian poison
which would bring no good to Tibet , was extremely hostile. This accounts for the relatively few
tantric texts found among the Dunhuang documents in comparison to the large proportion of
Mahayana ones. Thus Padmasambhava's status as a powerful tantric foreigner was a good enough
reason for the Tibetan ministers in Samye , and later the canon makers in the 13th and the
14th centuries , to want to exclude and marginalize his role in the establishment of Buddhism and in
the Tibetan narratives. This can reasonably explain why Padmasambhava's profile in the various
versions of the Testament of Ba is minor and limited.
The causes of disagreement between the royal court and Padmasambhava as referred to in the
Mirror Illuminating the Royal Genealogies (rGyal rabs gsal ba 'i me long),87 a text that was
composed in 1368 by the Sakya pa Lama Sonam Gyeltsen (Sa skya pa blama bSodnams rgyal
mtshan) just five years after Longchenpa passed away , are not dissimilar from the ones mentioned
in the Testament of Ba. In Sorensen's translation of the text, the Tibetan ministers are mentioned as
being "wicked", which Sorensen interprets as "anti-Buddhist". According to such an interpretation ,
Padmasambhava's dismissal from Samye is perceived not only by Nyingmapas , but also to some
extent by Sakya circles in the 14th century , as an anti-Buddhist act.
In the same century as Longchenpa a "treasure revealer" , Urgyen Lingpa (0 rgyan gling pa,
1323-1367), rediscovered the text Padma bKa 'i thang, translated as "The scroll of the ordinance of
the lotus born" , which is referred to in one translation as The l ife and liberation of
Padmasambhava. This text tells in 108 cantos of the coming of Padmasambhava to Tibet and his
role in converting Tibet to Buddhism. According to this text the disagreement between
Padmasambhava and the king occurred largely due the former's refusal to bow to the latter.88
26 The Man From Samye

Padmasambhava perceived himself as an enlightened being who possessed the sacred Buddha
nature and who would not subordinate himself to a secular mundane king. When he was asked to
obey and bow , according to this "legendary" text Padmasambhava displayed some magical powers
and the king , in awe , bowed to him.89 It is said that thereafter Padmasambhava remained in Tibet ,
taking a major active role in the establishment of Buddhism in Tibet.
Thus Padmasambhava ' s narrative and status , based on the texts mentioned earlier , the
Testament of Ba (9th_11th centuries) , The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava and the Mirror
Illum inating the Royal Genealogies ( l 4th century ) and Guenther ' s consideration of
Padmasambhava 's "own writings" has metamorphosed from that of a marginalized persona non
grata to a mythical le gendary figure , an omniscient being who symbolizes the essence of
Buddhism as depicted in The Life and Liberation of Padmasambhava.90 This shift from "historical
facts" to hagiographical ones , from the mundane to the sacred , represents a later patron-priest type
of hierarchy of power and importance written backwards into history - more precisely , into the
time of Samye ' s construction - in which the religious is emphasized as the driving force behind
the secular. The re-written history of hierarchy , in which the religious is emphasized over the
secular , accorded Padmasambhava a central historical role which intensified the tension between
the actual exclusion of his "own writings" and his apparent "strangeness" on the one hand ,
as opposed to his status as a mythical figure and his treasure teachings , which symbolizes what he
stands for.
Guenther provides another perspective.9 1 He does not see a reason to doubt the tradition that
Padmasambhava was a foreigner from Oq.q.iyana , famed for its magicians , who stayed for
approximately two years at the court of the Tibetan King Trisong Detsen in connection with the
construction and establishment of the Monastery of Samye and then left , or was forced to leave.
Furthermore , in concluding his study of Padmasambhava ' s original , holistic and visionary
philosophy of liberation , he states that "Padmasambhava has revealed himself as an "exceptional"
personage whose vision and evolutionary thinking , which have remained unparalleled through the
history of Buddhist thought , were far ahead of his time."92 Whether the traditional account of
Padmasambhava 's grandeur is factual or legendary , historically speaking he emerged as a symbol
of the powerful and great Tibetan empire , an everlasting figure associated with Tibet 's conversion
to Buddhism. He is regarded as chief exponent of tantric and Dzogchen teachings that are
continually renewed , in various ways as appropriate to time , place , state of affairs and disciples ,
by means of treasures.

Considering Padmasambhava' s "historical" teachings

However , beside Padmasambhava ' s treasure teachings , what actually were Padmasambhava ' s
"historical" teachings and what i s known about them that could assist in viewing Longchenpa ' s
thought more Gompletely? When considering Padmasambhava ' s "own writings" Guenther
indicates that Padmasambhava , in collaboration with his Tibetan translator Kawa Paltsek (sKaba
Setting the Scene: 9th to J 3th century Tibet 27

dpal brtsegs), composed a group of texts in the form of a dialogue between a teacher and a disciple
taking place in a transcendent dimension.93 Here is an example based on Guenther's translation
from a text which refers to Padmasambhava's encrypted spyiti yoga, named also "the altogether
complete leap experience" (yongsrdzogs thodrgal) or "the altogether complete unsurpassable
pursuit" (yongsrdzogs bla med thegpa).94 According to Guenther's translation:
Spyi means to break the frame into which the spiritual pursuits (have been cast) . By ti the core
of all of them i s exposed: Yo means integrating vision with (unpremeditated) praxis . B y ga
one ' s existential authenticity is displayed at one stroke. 95
Here is presented an uncontrived form of yoga given in the symbolic condensed key term of spyiti
yoga, which stands for a discipline that is about dismantling the framework of limitations set by the
concepts of discursive thinking (that characterizes also spiritual frameworks) , exposing their empty
nature so that we see them the way as they are. Then follows a praxis , which is subsumed into a
direct perception without a reference point or mediating means , and which reveals the authentic or
natural state of being in a single moment of realization. The context of spyiti yoga' s interpretation
is praxis aimed at revealing a state of union between natural awareness , which is without any
reference point or conceptualization processes , and the world of phenomena as it is.
However there is also to be acknowledged a literal interpretation which is of equal interest.
Spyi means "generaVgeneral welfare/all inclusive"; ti' as an older word from western Tibet ,
meaning "water"; yo and ga denote the ordinary meaning of yoga which is to connect , to yoke , to
join or to bring together.96 So we can extrapolate a meaning of "water for the general good" which
is what the Testament of Ba says Padmasambhava was primarily about. The literal interpretation
can invoke also a metaphorical one which refers to water as nourishment for spiritual thirst or for
one's innermost being.
In considering the same text , the Nyizla 'i snying po, it seems that the most suitable context of
the spyiti yoga interpretation is praxis. In the text , which is not dissimilar to Dzogchen texts ,
Padmasambhava mentions the nine spiritual vehicles to liberation ranging from the Sravaka
( " Hearers") to Atiyoga , but he does so in a metaphorical sense. Guenther indicates that
Padmasambhava's "own writililgs" are hardly ever mentioned by Tibetans , even by the ones who
hold him in high esteem , because his works did not have unimpeachable Indian/Sanskrit origins. 97
An exception to this rule was The Garland of Views, an extant work of Dzogchen attributed to
Padmasambhava and composed as a commentary on Guhyagarbha Tan tra , which presents the
threefold esoteric yoga: development (bskyed rim), achievement (rdzogs rim) and Great Perfection
(rdzog chen).98
But even Longchenpa who praised Padmasambhava never quoted his major opus , the sPros
bral dong sal, but only its summary given by a certain Indian scholar (dPal ldan Sengge 'i 'odcan,
8th century).99 Thus the comprehensive Tibetan lack of recognition of Padmasambhava's "own
writings" has served to marginalize him further. At the same time it intensified the mythology
concerning Padmasambhava , making him "unattainable" or "unapproachable" and , through that
28 The Man From Samye

process , increased the value and importance of his appearance in and teaching through visions.
This was especially the case for the Nyingmapa and in particular Longchenpa , who perceived
himself as Padmasambhava's successor in the lineage of the teachings.
One could say , then , that historical facts in this case are almost insignificant when considering
the central and profound meaning that Padmasambhava possesses in the collective memory of the
Tibetans as a source of inspiration and a temporal symbol that orients life toward Buddhist truth
and toward activities , beliefs and values that bring benefit to the community and its members
according to the Buddhist Dharma. In fact The Tibetans mythologized him.

"Treasure" tradition and Padmasambhava

A similar approach towards Padmasambhava has been expressed by such highly regarded
Tibetan scholars and spiritual leaders as the Fifth Dalai Lama ( 1 6 1 7- 1 682) and Dudjom Rinpoche
( 1 9 04- 1 9 87). Both held the Testament of Ba in high esteem and regarded it as very important.
Their interpretation is that Padmasambhava significantly contributed to the establishment of
Buddhism in Tibet , despite the lack of evidence for this in the early historical manuscripts. To the
controversial claim that Padmasambhava could not have performed such a vast range of activities
because he stayed in Tibet only for a short time before he had to leave , the Fifth Dalai Lama and
Dudjom Rinpoche have responded that only those who have "impure vision" or "low intellect"
could believe this , being short-sighted concerning Padmasambhava's grandeur and "supernatural
powers". 100 From a political point of view the argument taken by the Fifth Dalai Lama and
Dudjom Rinpoche seems evasive. Avoiding the real problems raised , they have blamed the
questioner's incapacity for comprehending Padmasambhava's conduct. They have responded in
this manner because they are interested to position Padmasambhava as a prominent figure who had
a profound influence on the way Buddhism was established in Tibet and to elevate his role in its
early dissemination. This is more than likely because they too were "treasure revealers" of
Padmasambhava's Dzogchen teachings and they regarded Padmasambhava as an authority figure
whose prominence became a seal of authenticity for the Buddhist teachings imparted by them.
Furthermore , the Fifth Dalai Lama came from a Nyingma family background , which serves to
explain his commitment to and interest in that tradition. In addition , the linkage with
Padmasambhava contributed to their socio-religious power bases. Kapstein remarks that "the
treasure traditions did establish their own local hierarchies , which focused upon the figure of the
treasure-discoverer himself , who was always to be Padmasambhava's direct representative". 101
Longchenpa definitely perceived himself as the carrier of Padmasambhava's mantle. As his
representative , he was conirnitted to the realization of Padmasambhava's vision of Buddhism ,
which entailed liberation by means of tantra and Dzogchen teachings. 102
In fact for Longchenpa , Padmasambhava is a source and authority of authentic Buddhist
teaching , a role model and a figure he wishes to identify with. However Padmasambhava was also
a foreigner who had a marginal role in Tibet's conversion to Buddhism and whose texts are
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 29

excluded from the canon. In other words Padmasambhava was profoundly important as authority
and legitimator to some outlying cultural groups but not to the mainstream. By linking himself to
Padmasambhava , Longchenpa positions himself at the margins of the religio-political structure of
the 1 4th century. The implications of such a position for Longchenpa were certain difficulties in
moving from the margins to the centre , which were to hinder him in implem enting
Padmasambhava's vision of tantra and Dzogchen teachings which was identical to his own. The
strategy Longchenpa adopted in dealing with these hindrances was , on the one hand , to conform to
the exclusion of Padmasambhava's of "own writings" due to their non-Indian origin and his status
as a foreigner , and on the other , to promote Padmasambhava's teachings and reflect them in his
own writings.

Samye: simultaneous and gradual praxis

Although Longchenpa did not refer to Padmasambhava's "own writing" , in his textual works
concerning Dzogchen he referred extensively to writings that are "transcendentally authored" ,
such as the seventeen tantras found in the Nyingma collection of texts and
The One Hundred
Thousand Tantras of the Old School (rNying ma 'i rgyud 'bum). Amongst these texts the largest
and principal one is The Sovereign All- Creating Mind (Kun byed rgyal po ' i mdo) . 1 03 The
seventeen tantras consist of the base for the Mind series that include some of the principal
characteristics of Dzogchen - that is , the immediate presence of awareness or nature of mind and
the futility of goal-oriented practice as being incapable of producing the immediate presence of
awareness. This latter point is because the nature of mind is not subject to cause and effect and its
discernment cannot be a result of any action. M anuscripts found in the Central Asian monastic
library of Dunhuang confirm that the Mind series category of Dzogchen already existed in Tibet
during the 9th century. 104
Early in the 20th century , Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot discovered Buddhist cave temples in the
ancient city of Dunhuang , at the eastern end of the Taklamakan Desert in western China.
Thousands of manuscripts were discovered in various languages , chief among which were Chinese
and Tibetan. The texts were sealed in a room and had been there since the 1 1th century , which
implies that the texts were written during and before the 1 1 th century. The texts ; which included the
Annals and the Chronicles of the Tibetan monarchy , were mostly brought to Paris and London.
Dunhuang , in the period from the 7th to the 10th centuries , was an important trade city on the Silk
Road and an influential Buddhist centre. Dunhuang was taken by the Tibetan army in 7 87 and
became a Tibetan administrative hub , in addition to remaining a centre for Buddhism. Accordingly ,
the bulk of the texts that were found concerned administrative matters as well as Tibetan Buddhist
materials belonging to the sutra (sutra) system.
Of these texts , Karmay 105 was able to retrieve two works of Dzogchen which are included
among the 18 tantras of Dzogchen Semde , and which display the essence and key terms of
Dzogchen texts: The Cuckoo of the State of Presence (Rig pa ' i khu byug),106 which makes use of
30 The Man From Samye

common terms found in early Dzogchen and the Small Hidden Grain (sBas pa 'i sgum chung),
attributed to Buddhagupta , who categorized the text as belonging to the class of Atiyoga . 107
Karmay was able to establish the identity of Buddhagupta (Sang srgyas gsangba) as being
BuddhagUhya (Sangsrgyas sbaspa), an adept of yoga tantras of the "new" school of translations ,
who lived in the mid 8th century . This clearly locates the text within the time of the Tibetan
empire . 108 These findings definitely prove the existence of Dzogchen texts before the I Qth
century and provide a substantial representation of Dzogchen in the 9th and 1 0th centuries .
Karmay conclusively demonstrated that the texts in fact were taken as the basis for other texts
on Dzogchen in the sense that they were catalysts in the development of the Dzogchen
tradition .
In examining the evolution of Dzogchen from its early days , as a distinct vehicle along
with tantric practices of ritual and meditation , one can trace a fundamental problem at issue
which goes back to the so called debate of Samye . Put concisely , the problem revolves around
the relation between the means and end or result; between the methods of practice employed
on the Buddhist path and the awakened mind of the Buddha . One approach argues that the
realization of Buddha's awakened mind , which stands for the end result , is immediate and
direct and does not re quire any method of practice except for a direct insight that dawns in a
single moment . The other approach argues that Buddha mind is achieved by gradual
meditation processes consisting of means to an end , of a path enabling a gradual progression
of understanding over time and in stages . 109
The first approach is presented at Samy e's debate by Ha- Shang who was an influential
Chinese Master of Mahayana (Hoshang Mohoyen) and whose teachings in the form of Ch'an
at its formative stage l lO was one of immediate realization . Imm ediacy here refers to the
absence of mediation of any means , method s , study , meritorious actions , transcendent
religious beliefs or philosophical perspectives . The principle emphasized here is the realization
of one's Buddha nature by "non-activity . " This major issue will be analysed subsequently in
connection with Nubchen Yeshe's (gNubs chen Sangs rgyas ye shes), 9th century work , A
Lamp fo r the Eye in Contemp lation (bSam gtan m ig sg ron) . l l l The second approach ,
presented by Kamala sTIa l l2 at the same debate , and the one adopted by the Tibetan king , is
that of gradual cultivation involved with means and methods seeking to facilitate a gradual
unfolding over time towards realization of the nature of mind , or Buddha mind . Not all
scholars agree whether there was ever a debate at all . This is an important recent line of
thought , expressed for example by Walter , l l3 that amplifies the idea that Tibetans in later periods
have re-created a past which suits certain intentions and interests . However the reality is that one of
the central keys to understanding and interpreting the philosophies and praxis of Buddhism ,
relevant to this study , has been the division between the gradual and simultaneous paths to
liberation or to tpe realization of Buddha mind . This division is a central theme in the works of
contemporary scholars such as van Schaik 1 l4, lackson 1 l 5 and Ruegg 1 l6 but also in the works of
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 31

historical figures such as Nubchen Yeshe who presented this division within a broader fonn of
Buddhist doxography.
Nubchen Yeshe's A Lamp for the Eye in Contemplation is of great relev ance to this study
because it is considered the most important treatise after the Dunhuang documents concerning
Dzogchen. It was written in the late 9th or early 1 0th century and it presents a fourfold doxography
of Buddhism: (i) the approaches of the gradual path (Rim gyis pa) of Indian Buddhism represented
by KamalaSila , (ii) the simultaneous path (gCig car 'jug pa) represented by Ha- Shang the Chinese
Mahayanist , (iii) Mahayoga , and (iv) Dzogchen.
In his text , Nubchen Yeshe defines "simultaneous entry" (gCig car 'jug pa) by means of the
following metaphor:

If one climbs to the summit of a mountain, one perceives all. B y this they mean that in reality
perception and the perceived phenomena are unborn from the beginning and that this principle
c annot be sought through activity . ll 7
That is to say , realization "dawns" or "occurs" in a single apparent moment at the summit of the
mountain from where nothing remains hidden , a peak of unborn non-duality between the subject­
perceiver and the object of perception in the sense that it is primordial and therefore cannot be
fabricated by means of activity. But at the same time this metaphor of gradual ascent implies that
the "simultaneous entry" (gCig car ba) practitioner still applies an effort on his way to the "summit
of the mountain", searching for it and working to familiarize himself with the "the summit of the
mountain". Dzogchen , in contrast is said to be primarily about spontaneous realization in the sense
that it occurs in an uncontrived and unfabricated fashion , without the necessity to confonn even to
the principle of non-activity , 1 1 8 a principle which might be just another a conceptual framework that
shapes one's perception hence dictates a contrived experience.
Examining Ha-Sh ang Moheyan's own texts can lend a clearer understanding of the "non­
activity" principle in his practices associated with the "simultaneous entry". Luis Gomez was able
to put together Chinese language Dunhuang fragments of Ha- Shang Moheyan's own texts.
The text I OL Tib J 468 entails his description of meditation practice:
When you are engaged in contemplation itself, look at your own mind. Then, the lack of any
mental activity at all is non-thought. If there is movement of the conceptual mind, be aware of
it. "How should one be aware?" Do not analyze the mind which is moving in terms of any kind
of quality at all: do not analyze it as moving or not moving; do not analyze it as existing or not
existing; do not analyze it as virtuous or non-virtuous ; and do not analyze it as defiled or pure.
If you are aware of mind in this way, it is naturalness. This is the practice of the dharma path.ll9

Moheyan here equates the state of "no-thought" with absence of mental activity while the rest of
the passage is concerned with the occurrence of "undesired" mental activity and instructions for
remaining in the state of awareness by way of not engaging in any analysis. For van Schaik , 1 20
Moheyan's instruction of "not analysing" is about leaving the mental activity as it is in the context
of an awareness that does not distinguish within it dualistic extremes signified by the numerous
32 The Man From Samye

pairs of opposites that appear in the passage above . His interpretation suggests that one should be
indifferent when facing mental activity , which seems to be in line with Moheyan's intention of
"no-thought" . However Moheyan repeats five times in his short passage the instruction by way of
negation , "do not analyze" , which might suggest a course of action of avoiding or refraining from
analysis . 1 2 1 After all , in trying to refrain from discursive activity without distinguishing between the
discursive mind and nature of mind , the practitioner will end in a fixated state of mind occupied
with its modification; while in abiding in the nature of mind the practitioner will experience
openness and clarity .
Nevertheless , if one does or does not engage in any analysis stemming from an indifferent
state of mind , "no action" is involved . Then one could abide in one's awareness or natural state . In
this case Moheyan's interpretation would indicate a similarity with that of Dzogchen in the sense
that realization occurs independently of strategic or fabricated activities , without the necessity to
conform to the principle of non -activity through following bi -polar negations such as "don't
engage in action but do not avoid acting" . 1 22
In the context of Ha-Shang Mahayana and Dzogchen , Ruegg 1 23 mentions that Longchenpa
saw similarity between Ha-Shang Mahayana that represented the direct approach to the "fruit"
(Buddha nature ) and the system of Dzogchen , more precisely , the "pristine" Dzogchen
characterized by technique-free meditation and absence of ritual practice . Ruegg mentions that
Longchenpa's perspective should be looked at with some reservation as Longchenpa linked
Dzogchen with Ha-Shang Mahayana despite knowing that Dzogchen is associated with the
Mantrayana tantric system whilst Ha -Shang Mahayana is based on the system of the sutras .
However there is some evidence that might suggest that Longchenpa was aware of the A Lamp for
the Eye in Contemplation with its rhetoric of negation and its content concerning Ha- Shang
M ahayana . 1 24 Longchenpa recorded that his teacher , Kumaraja , had listened to a presentation
of the text , 1 25 therefore more than likely Longchenpa was aware of the doxographical aspects of
Ha- Shang Mahayana . According to van Schaik , Longchenpa was aware of Ha- Shang and
perceived him as one who was "in accordance with the [ultimate] truth" . 1 26 Furthermore ,
Longchenpa was aware that "s utras that were translated in China from original Sanskrit
manuscripts were burned in fire and were reconstructed by the translators such as Vairocana and
' Ba' sangs shi from the memory of the Chinese paJ:.lQit Ha-Shang Mahayana" . 127 Therefore for
Longchenpa , Ha-Shang is on the same level as the early great masters of Nyingma; Longchenpa
has high esteem for Ha-Shang's knowledge of the sutras .
The implications of the linkage between Dzogchen and Ha-Shang Mahayana and the manner
in which Longchenpa perceived Ha- Shang are clearly evident . Longchenpa and the system of
Dzogchen are associated with a doctrine and its representative that were rejected in the so called
the debate of Samye, hence regarded as inferior . It is a connection that situated Longchenpa at the
periphery of the .religio-political map of Tibet . The implications of such a position would mean
for Longchenpa certain difficulties in moving from the outskirts to the centre of the religio-political
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 33

scene of the 1 4th century that would hinder him in the implementation of his system of teachings.
Therefore , the strategy that Longchenpa would adopt in order to resolve the aforesaid hindrance
was to re-establish the similarity between "simultaneous entry" and "pristine Dzogchen" , 1 2 8
which would create a metaphorical "bridge" to Samye which for him was the heart of Tibetan
Buddhism , "the birthplace of the wholesome and good" that he longed for . 1 29 Hence , on his way to
fulfil his vision of Buddhism he consolidated not only the legitimacy and authority of his
Dzogchen teachings and treasure texts but also enhanced his own status and reputation as one who
had direct association with the symbol of power and truth of Tibetan Buddhism through his
internalization of Samye as both a personal and public icon .

Religious and political landscape

Setting up and establishing Samye was a formative event for the Tibetans and under Trisong
Detsen's greatest successor , Tritsung Detsen known as Ralpachen (Ral pa can, reigned 8 1 5-838),
Buddhism continued to develop and flourish , supported b y the royal co � . 1 30
In 821 a treaty was established between China and Tibet , inscribed on the so-called "Uncle­
Nephew Pillar" after an intense military conflict that occurred as a Tibetan response to a strategic
partnership formed between the Chinese and the Uighur Turks. The latter threatened Tibet's control
over vital posts along the Silk: Road . Wars over those strategic stations were costly for the Tibetans,
resulting in a shortage of resources. Despite the prevailing scarcity , instead of leading a regime of fiscal
restraint Ralpachen increased the level of his patronage and financial support to religious
"institutions" l3 l which seems to have led to an economic crisis . In the later years of his regime
Ralpachen's mental capacity to rule declined and the actual decision-maker was Lang Darma
(GIang dar rna), Ralpachen's brother . Ralpachen was assassinated by clan leaders who sought
a way out of the economic crisis and saw in Lang Darma a ruler suitable for their needs and
interests . Lang Darma then became the monarch and put in place an economic policy that
reduced the funding of monasteries and administration , causing for them harsh living
conditions . He continued with his previous economic policy and significantly reduced the funding for
Buddhist institutions and projects to a point where life for monks became so difficult that they had to
give up their robes and look for work that would provide them with livelihood. 132 In that state of affairs,
Darma was perceived by Buddhists to have been the direct cause of their difficulties, a situation that
motivated the abbot of Samye, Palgyi Dotje (dPal gyi rdo rje) himself to assassinate Lang Darma. 133
Reflecting on Lang Darma's assassination , Karmay 1 34 mentions that Lang Darma had
instigated an aggressive process of dismantling the monastic structure and its maintenance systems
that had been established by Trisong Detsen and later on by his successors , as a reaction to the
power and wealth the monasteries accumulated. It would appear then that the main reasons for the
assassination had more to do with the economic and political conditions of an empire at the
beginning of its decline and less to do with any anti- Buddhist sentiment as . traditional
"Buddhicised" accounts prefer to emphasize .
34 The Man From Samye

Lang Darma's assassination triggered a long period of political instability which developed
into a trend towards decentralization. This caused the kingdom to disintegrate into small estates or
districts , dominated by aristocratic clans which had representatives as close advisors to the Tsempo
which took advantage of their ministerial status under the empire.
Tibet's natural circumstances as a small population scattered over a vast geographical territory
also contributed to the political instability and decentralization. In fact at this time there was no
such entity as "Tibet" in the sense that it has reverted to clans , each with its own seat of power ,
without clear territorial borders or a common taxation system. However , this semi-fragmented state
formed the basis of the more developed entity known as "Tibet" , the consolidation of which
Longchenpa witnessed during the 1 4th century by Changchup Gyeltsen (Byang chub rgyal
mtshan) as a reaction to Mongolian power constraints.
Scholars such as Hillis 1 35 and Karmay 1 36 tend to emphasize the hastening decline of the
Tibetan empire following Lang Darma and to label the period of approximately 150 years after
Lang Darma's assassination as a "dark period", a period held to be one of cultural decline and
political instability that developed at times into open military conflict. 1 37 Although Tibet was
politically fragmented during this period , various myriarchs who saw themselves as the successors
of the royal dynasty did maintain some of its religious and cultural values. For example , Lang
Darma's son , Osung ( , Od srung), and Tri Pelkortsen (Khri dPal 'khor btsan), the latter's son , both
erected Buddhist temples in the regions of U and Tsang , supported religious activities such as
taking vows of monkhood and Buddhist teachings , and maintained the old monarchy's
commitment to Buddhism. In fact , the monks managing the temples took their vows and ordination
in Dome (mDo smad) in eastern Tibet where there was a presence of Tibetans who were devoted
supporters of Buddhism together with Chinese monks and this enabled them to kindle the
restoration of Buddhist activity in central Tibet , to which they returned. This signified the
beginning of the revival of Tibetan Buddhist monasticism within the "old Tibetan territory of
Buddhism" related to the Tibetan empire , not as an "imported" one from India. That is to say , the
beginning of the revival stemmed largely from local Tibetan Buddhist factors and not yet from
Tibetans travelling to India to study Buddhism and Sanskrit and to purchase Indian Buddhist texts
in order to revive Buddhism in Tibet. In Dome , in the east of Tibet , Buddhist communities
included Tibetans and Chinese , and were based on a model of reciprocal relations between
monasteries and commercial activities. 138 These trends continued also in western Tibet with its links
to Kashmir , the west of Nepal and central India as well as its proximity to the Silk Road located to
the north of the Mount Kailash pilgrimage routes , where commercial activity and monastic culture
fed off each other , producing an improved cultural and economic environment. 1 39
The political map of Tibet was also undergoing major changes. In the west , principalities were
established by figures such as the two sons of King Pelkortsen claiming to be descendants of the
old royal dynasty.. A similar process took place in central Tibet where leaders claimed genealogical
connection to Yumten , second son of Lang Darma. Although there is insufficient evidence to
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 35

support this claim , 140 the princes ruling in the area , especially Tsalana Yeshe Gyeltsen and his
descendants , were key figures in the restoration of Tibetan Buddhist life from the 1 0th century

Kingdom of Guge (Gu ge)

Kyide Nyimagon , descendant of the ruler Pelkortsen , founded a kingdom at Guge that would
significantly contribute to the Buddhist restoration. Two key figures who enhanced and contributed
to these developments were the religious king of Guge, Yeshe 6 (Ye shes 'ad, 959- 1 036), and
Rinchen Zangpo (Rin chen bzang po, 958- 1 055).
Yeshe 6 restored and revived the legacy of Tibetan Buddhism b y connecting the religious life
in Gug e with the symbolic codes of the old empire , such as the cosmic Buddha Vairocana.
Echoing the actions of Trisong Detsen and his descendants who revered the cosmic Buddha
Vairocana and dedicated many shrines to that deity , the king of Gug e placed the image of
Vairocana as the principal object of devotion in many of his temples.141 In emulating the admired
Trisong Detsen and his descendants he clearly indicated to the Tibetans that he was Trisong
Detsen's successor religiously and politically. Yeshe 6 also enhanced the renewal of scriptural
translation and modelled many other aspects of the structure of the new royal domain in western
Tibet on the imperium's own earlier versions.142 Yeshe 6 was a monk who was highly committed
to "genuine" Buddhism , which for him was Indian monastic M ahayana Buddhism as it was
refracted through the contemporary model of the Kadam and its ethical system. He questioned
the authenticity of the tantric practices that had flourished and overtaken the diminishing
conventional religious practices of the monasteries.
Rinchen Zangpo was reputed to be a learned master of Buddhism who translated yoga tantras ,
esoteric Buddhist texts and Indian medical texts . He produced a tremendous body of "new"
translations (gsar 'gyur) which were to become the basis of the canon systematized in the
1 4th century. He founded several temples including Guge , Toling , Tabo , Nako and Spiti , and was
also esteemed for his contribution to Tibetan painting and sculpture.
While Buddhist activities led by Yeshe 6 and Rinchen Zangpo provided the cultural
foundations for Guge's civilization , its participation in the commerce along the trade links with
south and central Asia gave Guge economic security. However it still suffered from troubling
political relations with its Turk neighbours.143 According to traditional Tibetan histories , monks
from central Tibet settled in eastern Tibet , in Amdo , taking with them their texts including those
containing the monastic code and discipline , and in this way restoring the Buddhist monastic
tradition from central Tibet.144
Therefore , although traditional Tibetan accounts and modern scholars like Hillis 145 and
K armay 146 tend to label the period after Lang Darma's assassination as a "dark period" of Buddhist
and political fragmentation that developed at times into military battles , this period in fact saw the
restoration and reformation of Tibetan Buddhism as well as cultural , economic and political power
36 The Man From Samye

in decentralized forms. The revival of Buddhism was a comprehensive one that included most of
Tibet while simultaneously local regimes were building prosperous foundations and positive
economic activities.
In the 1 0th century , as Guge became a wealthy local power politically and religiously , Yeshe
a's descendants followed in his footsteps and became royal monks. Two of them , Chungchup b
(Byang chub 'ad) and Zhiwa 6 (Zhi ba 'ad), became monks , taking upon themselves major roles.
Chungchup a initiated the respected Bengali pa1JQit Atisa's visit to Tibet in 1 042 and Zhiwa a
engaged in translation of Sanskrit Buddhist texts. In fact , Chungchup a , Rinchen Zangpo and
Atisa together led the Buddhist revival in western Tibet. 1 47 In relying on Yeshe a's tendency to
model the religious and secular life of Guge after the old empire , it is possible to conclude that he
or his successor , Chungchup a, wanted to draw a parallel 148 with the three legendary figures
Trisong Detsen , Santarak�ita and Padmasambhava - the religious king , the Buddhist scholar
and the tantric teacher respectively - who had to an extent served to institutionalize Buddhism in
Tibet and who came to symbolize the old Tibetan Buddhist empire. Chungchup a had done so in
order to perpetuate and revive the symbol of Samye, the heart of Tibetan Buddhism , linking it to
his royalty and to Buddhist teachings that would authorize and empower him as a religious ruler.
Chungchup a also contemplated renovating Samy€l49 as he sought to empower the process of
revival , the status of Buddhism and the royal regime in Tibet by appropriating Samye as a royal
dynastic site.
Certainly , seeking to be identified with the origins of Buddhism in Tibet is equivalent to
asserting one's legitimacy , authenticity and authority. Moreover , renovating Samye would be
considered a meritorious act that would point directly towards Buddhist wisdom , values , laws and
rules of conduct. Its institutions acted as cultural centres for festivals and holidays and the learning
from such centres supported a stable and united social order based on a large and unassailable
common denominator. In this sense , telling and referring to stories concerning origins and
genealogies became a religious act l50 aimed at maintaining the social and worldly order.
With regard to Ati sa , Kapstein 1 5 1 observes that he contributed to a process that was already in
motion and his activities of teaching and translation of Buddhist texts and commentaries into
Tibetan were widely accepted because by that time the Tibetan ground was already fertile and
ready for his teachings. That is to say , Atisa was a key catalyst in its development. More than likely
due to Chungchup a, who initiated Atisa's visit to Tibet in 1 042 and was critical of tantric
practices , Atisa emphasized the moral basis as a foundation for Buddhist practice , a principle that
was adopted by his student Dromt on Gyelwe Jungn e (Bram stan rgyal ba ' i 'byung gnas,
1 004- 1 064) who founded the famous Reting (Rwa greng) monastery north of Lhasa in 1 057.
Along with this principle of ethics , an order was established t o represent the lineage of Ati sa , the
Kadampa , which stands for "scripture and precepts" , a body of texts based on Mahayana traditions
that contain a practical guide for a Buddhist way of life of asceticism and morality.
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 37

The Buddhist revival

The revival of Buddhism generated more momentum , and besides the order of Kadam (bKa '
gdams pa) another order was established , that of the Sakya , which derived from Drokmi Shakya,
"the man of the grazing lands" ( 'Brog mi Shakya ye shes, 992- 1 074), a contemporary of Rinchen
Zangpo . He was a key figure in promoting the most esoteric new tantra teachings entailing the
anuttara yoga tantra , mostly related to tantra's feminine aspects , which he had learned in
VikramaSila monastery in India . His disciple , Khon Konchok Gyelpo ( 'Khon dkon mchog rgyal
po, 1 034- 1 1 02), founded the great Sakya monastery in 1 073 . This could not have happened
without the extraordinary support of the Khon ( 'khon) family of Sakya , which represented an
exceptional integration of religious and royal estates . Although in terms of genealogy the roots of
the Khon family can be traced back to the Tibetan empire and the family was committed to the old
tantric forms of ritual and teachings , the Khon family changed their approach to the new tantric
teachings of Drokmi . This signifies how dynamic the state of ferment in the religious scene in Tibet
of the 1 1 th century was , where aristocratic Buddhist feudalistic households , fortresses and
monasteries were being formed by religious communities and powerful clans .
The Kagyu (bKa ' brgyud pa) order has its origins with Marpa ( 1 0 1 2- 1 096) , who was trained
as a translator with Drokmi and then travelled to India in search of religious teachings . Kapstein
offers a glimpse into Marpa's motives in travelling to India . This was a common trend in Marpa's
time , a fact which may assist in contextualizing Longchenpa's religio-socio-political position and
the degree of "success in the competition for patronage and authority" that he experienced .
According to Kapstein:

. . . Marpa was no doubt motivated to set out for India not only to save on tuition but also to
emulate his teacher' s example. To ensure his own success in the competition for patronage and
authority in 1 1 th century Tibet, he would need to found a lineage of his own, representing the
most up to date developments in Indian Buddhist spiritual technologies . 1 52
In other words , Marpa was interested not only in Buddhism for its own sake but also in creating a
high level of socio-economic-political prestige in order to sustain a Buddhist community which
was ultimately to become focused on him . 1 53 So Marpa brought back the teachings known as
Mahfunudra , which according to traditional accounts he received from Naropa . He handed these
on to his disciple Milarepa (Mid la ras pa) . Gampopa (sGam po pa, 1 079- 1 1 53), who was a strict
Kadam monk and who became the foremost disciple of Milarepa , founded the Dakpo branch of
the Kagyu order (Dwags po bka ' brgyud), maintaining doctrinal links with the Kadam . 154 The
Kagyu and its sub-orders would become highly influential and dominant in the religious scene of
the 1 4th century , the period in which Longchenpa lived . 1 55
It can be seen from the above discussion that during this time , individuals and groups started
new lineages of transmission , new sectarian traditions were founded which fostered an "explosion"
of ideas and literature , and the rate of monastic construction increased . At the same time a process
38 The Man From Samye

of decentralization evolved as new versions of political power, in forms which became more
localized and feudal in character, were interwoven with the immense religious and cultural
developments. Tibetan clans and nobles, although not in any manner united, saw Buddhism as the
axis of the Tibetan culture and more precisely reflecting the highly revered culture of the ancient
tsenpos. Thus aristocrats, by supporting monasteries, monks and lay tantrics, imitated the model
set by Trisong Detsen and regarded themselves as following in the footsteps of their ancestors.

Nyingma state of affairs

In the midst of all this growth and development we must enquire into what the situation was for
Nyingma, the tradition to which Longchenpa belonged, and its own unique practices of tantra.
In the context of tantric practices, Yeshe 0 argued that the hidden meaning of secret mantra had
been vitiated, and had been further corrupted by the practice of rites of "sexual union",
"deliverance" and "food offering". To find out whether these practices were correct at all , Rinchen
Zangpo was sent to Kashmir.156 However Yeshe 'built a great temple at Toling, which became
his seat, where he dedicated most of his time to religious practices, translation, hosting Indian
masters and ordaining Tibetan monks.15? But the temple in Toling and the other temples under
construction needed to be decorated with Buddhist murals and it seems that despite Karmay's
assertion158 that Rinchen Zangpo was sent to Kashmir to identify and bring the appropriate tantric
texts and practices, he was also sent to Kashmir to bring artists to design and paint the murals.
After all in those days the richness and grandeur of temples signified the power and status of their
patrons and for that reason among others Rinchen Zangpo journeyed to central India and after six
years returned with thirty artists. Rinchen Zangpo also used the j ourney to central India to study
tantric texts and practices. 159 Both purposes, the "Buddhicised" rationale of establishing the correct
tantra and that of bringing artists from Kashmir who were capable of making the most sublime
objects of art, later formed into Tibetan ateliers entailing workshops and training of artists, would
only reflect glory on Yeshe 0 and reinforce his status as a localized reflection of the tsenpos of the
On his return, Rinchen Zangpo generated a new wave of translation of Indian tantric texts
which offered a symbolic or metaphorical system of interpreting tantric rituals in accordance with
Yeshe O's commitment to authentic Buddhist aims. Probably, the issue was not entirely one of
corrupted practices of tailtra, but of re-establishing linkage to the "Holy land" of India in an effort
by Yeshe -to enhance his power, influence and dominion in Guge for the sake of its ongoing
stability and order. In doing so he was repeating a pattern traced to the old empire that tantras
should be translated into Tibetan only when royal permission had been given, 160 thus establishing a
link to the "legitimizing" process so essential to the rule of the tsenpo during Tibet's glorious past.
For Tibetans, India as the "Holy land" was the idealized land of the Buddha and Buddhist
religion161 and -at the same it was the "country of opportunities". For example, as mentioned
earlier, 162 the main reason for Marpa's journey to India was to follow in the footsteps of his teacher
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 39

and to study the most up-to-date Buddhist philosophy and practice. This in turn would make him
an attractive figure within the context of competition for patronage and authority in 1 1th century
Tibet , and thereby provide him with a base of power from which to found a lineage of his own.
The wave of "new" tantric texts and practices presented "indigenous village tantrists" and
followers of older Great Perfection traditions with a direct challenge , and their response was to
label themselves as "ancient" or "Nyingma". The Nyingmapas were those who clung faithfully to
the tantric tradition which , according to their claims , commenced with Padmasambhava in the royal
period. However historically there is no evidence to substantiate that claim , and their tradition
flourished only after the assassination of Lang Darma. 163 Historically , if the Nyingmapa could have
flourished it would be in the mid eleventh century, the period when Rongzom Ch6zang (Rongzom
ChosKyi bzangpo) lived. However if they had flourished and become as dominant as they claimed
and as indicated in Dudjom Rinpoche's work The Nyingma school of Tibetan Buddhism,
Its Fundamental History, 164 how could they possibly have been so easily marginalized?
The choice of the term "Nyingma" served to represent "old and traditional" Tibetan values
and to challenge the authenticity of the "new" competing traditions with their Indo-Buddhist texts
and their many interpretational modes. Nyingma responded to the Sarma (gsar ma), the "new" or
"modem" Tibetan Buddhist schools , by means of treasures , revealed texts and "pronouncements"
(bka ' ma), apocryphal works said to have come from the Tibetan empire's early translation period.
The treasure texts belong to a category of recovered hidden sacred texts from the past which acted
as a "mythical" base for scriptural transmissions and they exerted a strong influence on the core of
Tibetan identity. In general , treasures are of two major sorts. "Earth treasures" are actual objects ,
mostly religious ones that are to be rediscovered in a concrete physical location , such as inside a
pillar of an old monastery or in a cave. The other kind are "m ental treasures" which are
"concealed" in the discoverer's mind or "buried" in his or her memory , which is said to extend
backwards over very many lifetimes. Treasure texts covered a wide range of literary genres from
history to medicine , philosophy and ritual. 165 In term of hierarchy , for the Nyingmapas the mental
treasures were far more important than the earth treasures because mental treasures involved a
direct visionary contact with the initial revealers , either the qii kinls who were entrusted by
Padmasambhava to guard the treasures or more importantly with Padmasambhava himself.
Longchenpa not only revealed "treasures already in circulation" 166 but also his own writing ,
through a visionary contact with Padmasambhava and his consort Yeshe Tsogyal ( Ye shes mtsho
rgyal) , 167 became a source of a new cycle of treasures to be discovered later on by other , later
revealers such as Jigme Lingpa ( 'Jigs med gling pa, 1 72 9- 1 7 9 8). 168
The most relevant point is that treasure texts provided the Nyingmapa not only with clearly
defined and unique characteristics which functioned as a base for self-definition but also provided
some "advantages" over the Sarma trends in terms of prestige and status. The Nyingmapa had
under their possession Buddhist texts which they claimed were retrieved from the spirit realm of
the qiikinls whilst the Indian tradition which the S arma translators relied on had lost the wondrous
40 The Man From Samye

capacity to retrieve treasures in the same manner that Nagarjuna is said to have done from the
chthonic realms . Any attempt by those of Sanna to form a realistic view regarding the treasures and
their origin would be almost impossibly difficult as on the one hand treasures , probably even
fictitious ones , could make a political currency against the Sanna . On the other hand , Tibetan
society in these medieval times was a society that believed in demons and celestial beings , wrathful
and peaceful deities , magic and mystery , omens and religious objects . Therefore , although not
provable phenomena , treasures were not foreign to the Tibetans; they were part of Tibetan life .
Moreover as the treasures were associated to a considerable degree with both royal and religious
symbols , the royal kingdom and its "mythical" individuals were regarded as being immanently
present within Tibetan culture even though it was suffering from decentralization and a period of
cultural regression . 169
The major Nyingma voice of the period was that of the charismatic scholar leader Rongzom
Ch 6zang ( 1 0 1 2- 1 08 8 ) , 170 whose approach was associated primarily with Dzogchen . 17 l Thus ,
although the Sarma movement continued to develop into a rising religious and political power , the
Nyingmapa still had the clear self-defined voice of Rongzompa , who maintained the flame of
Dzogchen's texts and teachings , which Longchenpa was later to codify , systematize and develop .
Rongzompa took a public position an d "accused" some members of the new translation
movement , stating that they were purchasing with gold , new Indian texts "whose ink was barely
dry" . 172 Ownership of new Indo-Buddhist texts became the means for establishing personal
credentials that could be extended to both lineage and monastery , avoiding any potential
confrontation with the old clan power structure . Characteristically the 1 1 th century translators
established familial lineages and their sons inherited both their buildings and their wealth . 173

The Mongols and the Sakyas

The religious , intellectual and political trends of the 1 1 th century continued to develop in the
1 2th century . New translations continued to be composed , new religious lineages continued to be
established presenting new qiikinl teachings 174 which had not been revealed before , and treasures
were discovered by Padmasambhava's followers who were mostly Nyingmapas , thereby
increasing Nyin gma's presence and status . The major difference between the trends of the
1 1 th century and those of the 1 2th century were that Tibetans had become more self-assured and
self-assertive within the wealth of texts , rituals and meditations at their disposal . This self-assurance
found expression in activities such as making catalogues , promoting charismatic individuals as
reincarnations , and cultivating a self-image as a new spiritual territory . 175
Similar processes also continued to develop into the 1 3th century . Although there was
continued growth economically and politically , along with an increase in the number of spiritual
centres , Tibet nevertheless remained politically fragmented due to the absence of a central power
which could u nite the various estates and principalities . However this situation changed
dramatically by the end of the third decade of the 1 3th century with the rise of the Mongol Empire
Setting the Scene: 9th to 1 3th century Tibet 41

whose armies surrounded Tibet and which in 1 239 invaded central Tibet and surrounded the
monastery of Reting. 1 76 The Tibetans were quick to subordinate themselves to the successor of the
world-conquering Chingiz Khan (ling gir rgyal po), Godan Khan (Go dan han), thus keeping him
at arm's length. A highly reputed Sakya Pandita, Kiinga Gyeltsen , was invited to the Mongol court
in 1 244 by Godan who was interested in bringing Tibetan Buddhism to his COurt. 1 77 His visit
initiated a Mongol preference towards the Sakya as the authority in Tibetan religious affairs.
However the Mongol alliance with the Sakya was formed only in 1 252 after the Tibetans were
faced with the threat of violence. Then the Sakya authority was extended to cover secular affairs
and Sakyapa Lama's nephew , Pakpa Lodro Gyeltsen , who spent his formative years in the
Mongolian court , was appointed in 1 264 by Godan as the effective leader of Tibet , though
executing Godan's instructions and serving his interests. 178
This type of patron-priest relationship l79 was to be of lasting significance in the relations
between Tibet and China , giving Tibetans the opportunity to manage their own affairs. 180
The patron-priest relationship included royal or princely "master of offering" and "recipient of
honour / ritual fees" relationships. These relations existed not only between the Tibetans and
the Mongols but also amongst the Tibetans themselves , a fact of lasting significance. That is to
say , Tibetan aristocrats , estate owners and even monasteries became patrons to lamas.
Understanding this type of relationship is a key to understanding Longchenpa and a means to
determine his position or status in the socio-religio political landscape. For him , to be
supported by a patron would mean having a protected life , conducive to realization , and a
position of religious leadership that would allow him to implement and spread the teachings of
Padmasambhava. Without the support of a patron or a base of wealth , as Guenther indicates ,
despite Longchenpa's intelligence and education he would be nobody. 1 8 1 The theme of patron
and priest , particularly in the context of Longchenpa , will be discussed in detail in the next
Generally the patron-priest relationship allowed the Tibetans to establish a limited form of
unification l 8 2 of politica � authority with the spiritual institution of Buddhism , including its
cosmology , rhetoric , and deities. The Mongols were not inter ested in making Tibet part of
their empire but appointed local rulers who were loyal and could keep order in the region
under their rulership. They were interested mainly in a durable source of income , specifically
Tibetan taxes , as well as in Tibetan religious knowledge especially that concerning "magical"
powers and rituals for protection against their enemies. Another burden imposed by the
Mongols was that ordinary Tibetans were forced to feed and play host to large travelling parties for
weeks. The relatively organized monasteries with their scholars , cultural administration , the broad
range of commercial skills encouraged by Tibetan Buddhism and their nature as both social and
cultural centres were means by which the Mongols , in controlling the monasteries , effectively
controlled Tibet. The Mongols' contributions to Tibet were the relative stability which saw
Buddhist monasteries and therefore life sustained , the establishment of the tax system , the message
42 The Man From Samye

relay system , as well as exposure to the ways of the Mongolian empire and the peoples under its
dominion in terms of languages , commerce , diplomacy , customs , arts , crafts , knowledge , etc.
Another of the Mongols' important contributions was an indirect one: by appointing the Sakya
leaders as representatives of their interests in Tibet they set the foundations for the political
processes that were to occur in the 14th century that would lead to the formation of one central
Tibetan authority. 1 83 Not all sects accepted the S akya dominance , especially the Kagyu monastery
of Drigung , which controlled several of the administrative districts into which the country was
organized. Consequently , the Sakyapas did not succeed in imposing their dominance either over
the monasteries associated with the Drigung's orders , or over larger political units. Although a new
centralized leadership arose in Tibet in the 1 3th century , it had significant political limitations to its
In the next chapter the historical perspective is employed again on the macro level in order to
identify religio-socio-political formative trends of the 1 4th century that became active forces that
located Longchenpa at the periphery of the Tibetan cultural scene. The historical perspective will
be applied in this chapter also on a micro level , in order to review Longchenpa's life and works ,
giving a background which will assist in clarifying his negation of spiritual practices and his
pedagogy. Formative events in his life mentioned in his biography and hagiography are examined
and the findings show Longchenpa not only as a spiritual leader , scholar and writer but also as a
m an with sensitivities and vulnerabilities and with socio-economic and political weaknesses.

The 1 4th century , the period i n which Longchenpa lived , was characterized by significant
transitions . In the political arena , the Sakya dominance had drastically diminished and one can note
the emergence of a centralized Tibetan seat of power and leadership in the person of Chungchup
Gyeltsen (Byang chub rgyal mtshan, 1302- 1 3 64). In the religious arena of monastic institutions
and sects , defining sectarian differences became increasingly less fluid or flexible , moving toward
inner consolidation , self-definition and systematization . This was achieved by the defining of the
literary canons , the concentration of economic and political power in the hands of the monastic
institutions , and the increasing influence of charismatic religious figures . The atmosphere of
competition for prestige between the institutions was also a driving force that contributed to the
process of monastic self-definition .

Chungchup Gyeltsen
In the wider scope of what was in effect an "international" state of affairs , the Mongols were more
interested in maintaining their authority in China than in Tibet . Thus , Tibetan groups saw an
opportunity to challenge and to take political control in Tibet . This gave way to the emergence of
a new tradition of kingship established by Chungchup Gyeltsen , who was a charismatic leader of
the Lang clan , and who belonged to the Phakmodru (Phag ma gru pa), a family lineage which
"managed" a Kagyu sub-tradition which had a significant impact on the course of Tibet's political
history . Chungchup Gyeltsen had been chosen by the abbot of the Phakmodru monastery and
other high officials to lead the Phakmodru myriarchy-district . 184 He was chosen for the following
main reasons: he belonged to the family that had controlled the estates of the Phakmodru clan from
the very beginning , and he was educated . Although he was not a fully-fledged monk he was able
to oversee with some authority the myriarchy's religious and secular affairs , combining the two
aspects together . 185 He received the education of a monk in a monastery which was not only a
religious institution but was also a socio-economic and political entity . Therefore besides his
education and knowledge of Buddhism he also acquired valuable skills necessary for political and
economic life .
He began a long series of legal and military conflicts with his opponents from the other Kagyu
sub-sects and the Sakyapa in order to reclaim several estates that used to belong to the Phakmodru
sect . This led to a violent civil war and conflict over the course of the next 20-3 0 years .
As Butters l 86 describes it , Chungchup Gyeltsen's heavy-handed and violent attempts to gain
territory failed miserably . During these years Chungchup Gyeltsen was able to undermine Sakya's
political power and to gain recognition of his new status from the weak Mongolian regime
who granted him the title T'ai Situ , which means "cabinet minister" .
44 The Man From Samye

In 1 350 the Lang clan from the Phakmodru sect of the Kagyu , led by Chungchup Gyeltsen ,
conquered Lhasa. The war threatened to become so extensive that major Tibetan leaders of the
various clans and sects met for peace talks intended to lead to resolution. 187
We should not imagine that Longchenpa was isolated from these climactic events , for he was
an intimate part of the tussle for power between Chungchup Gyeltsen and Gompa Kiinrin , the
leader of the Drigung ( 'Bri gung) myriarchy. The conflict between the two parties was a result of
Chungchup Gyeltsen's decision as a T'ai Situ that Kiinrin would be reduced in rank from a senior
administrator to a junior one. In reaction to Chungchup Gyeltsen's decision , the Drigung
myriarchy , led by Gompa Kiinrin pursued armed conflicts with the former. 188
Longchenpa , being a protege of Kiinrin , made an attempt to mediate between the parties
toward peace resolution and as his biographer Chiidrog Zangpo ( Chos grags bzang po) records it ,
it was at this time his master met with Chungchup Gyeltsen for the first time. 189 In any case ,
another "opponent" of Longchenpa was also there , namely Budon (Bu ston rin chen sgrub,
1 290- 1 3 64), who was a Sakya leader responsible for shaping the catalogue of the Buddhist canon
and who tended to exclude from the canon a large quantity of Nyingma tantric texts. It is within
this context that Longchenpa and Budon were regarded as " opponents". This will be discussed
later in this chapter in the section dedicated to canon creation.
However , the meeting between Chungchup Gyeltsen and Gompa Kiinrin , the leader of the
Drigung myriarchy , fell short of achieving any resolution. In 1 353 Chungchup Gyeltsen achieved
victory over the Drigung , which caused Longchenpa - known as the Drigung's main teacher and
a protege of their leader Gompa Kiinrin - to flee to Bhutan. 1 9o It is said that in that year the earth
of Tibet was shaken as the warfare was so ruthless , causing the loss of countless lives. Houses and
temples were burnt and forests were razed to the ground during the sieges. By 1 354, Chungchup
Gyeltsen's political grasp of Tibet was almost assured. In 1 357 he was able to gain recognition of
his new status from the weak Mongolian regime , which granted him the title T'ai Situ , thereby
replacing the title Ti shih which had formerly belonged to the Sakya hierarchs.
Only in 1 359- 1 360 was the conflict between Longchenpa and Chungchup Gyeltsen
reconciled , and the latter invited Longchenpa to return to Tibet. In the next chapter , concerning
Longchenpa's life and works , Longchenpa's relationship with Gompa Kiinrin and the self ­
imposed exile to Bhutan will be discussed in detail.
Chungchup Gyeltsen re-established the Tibetan capital in the Yarlung valley in central Tibet ,
which used to be the centre of the royal Tibetan kingdom. This move led to a marked rise in
romantic sentiment from Tibetans , who idealized the period between the 7th and the 9th centuries
when Tibet was a powerful empire. It seems that the romantic longing for "old strong Tibet" was
a unifying factor , a necessary ingredient for the formation of a "nation" , but it was equally a
reaction of Tibetan nationalist sentiment against foreign (Mongol) intervention in Tibetan internal
structures. Under Chungchup Gyeltsen old customs were adopted , such as traditional dress , which
was required of ministers at the festivals , taxes were restructured; and the Mongolian legal codes
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 45

were partially augmented with the ancient legal codes of the old Tibetan dynasty . Other notable
features of this period were the impositions of compulsory census data collection and that of unpaid
or free labour . In addition the thirteen myriarchies were reorganized into new administrative
districts . Chungchup Gyeltsen also made great improvements in transportation and built new
military posts to prevent road robberies . This of course improved the sense of security . The mail
service was also efficiently regularized although its financial burden fell on the loc al population . 191
The revival of nationalistic sentiment was clearly connected with the flourishing of the cult of
"treasures" , which was a phenomenon firmly related to the period between the 7th and the 9th
centuries , and which emerged strongly with the discoveries made by Urgyen Lingpa (0 rgyan
gling pa, b . 1 3 2 3 ) who is said to have discovered a treasure detailing Padmasambhava's
biography , which symbolized the "authentic" l92 Buddhism of the old empire . 1 93 Chungchup
Gyeltsen himself had a great interest in his own narrative , especially in its religious aspects . One
can find support for this viewpoint in his prolific writing , which can be characterized as both
apologetic and autobiographical . 1 94 It was very clear that Chungchup Gyeltsen was interested in
solidifying his status ideologically and politically as a dominant leader , and creating a link between
himself and the time of the royal dynasty . Thus , in creating a new tradition of kingship , he
connected himself with the powerful roy al dynasty of the pre- 1 0th century era , portraying himself
as a legitimate "successor" to that dynasty . This wave of romantic sentiment also reached other
competing clans or groups such as the Nyingmapa , who looked back rather romantically to the
times when Tibet's international, cultural, and military prestige was at its summit , and sought to re­
establish or perpetuate the strands linking them to those times . Among them Longchenpa was also
interested in evoking the symbols of the old empire . 1 95 In the next chapter , Longchenpa's life will
be reviewed and considered in light of the events that shaped Tibet in the 1 4th century , the impact
they had on him and the way he viewed these religio/secular struggles .

Canon creation
Regarding the religious ground , one of the expressions of the trend toward solidifying sectarian
self-definition was the emerging activity of creating canon of what were believed to be the
authentic Buddhist texts . By the beginning of the 1 4th century the number of Buddhist texts
which had been imported into Tibet since the 8th century was substantial , and this movement
required that these texts undergo a process of codification . After translation from Sanskrit into
Tibetan was completed , the natur al next step was the classifying of the texts according to criteria of
what were authentic Buddhist teachings and what were not . Questioning what was worthy of
inclusion in the canon and what was not is an important and on-going scholarly point . 196
Bud on ( 1 2 9 0- 1 3 64) was a 1 4th century Sakya master and Tibetan Buddhist leader who
studied with many leading scholars of his day from a range of traditions . He served as the 1 1 th
Abbot of Shalu (Zhwa lu) Monastery which was one of the great seats of learning of the Sakyapa
and the first of the major monasteries to be built by noble families of the Tsang Dynasty that was
46 The Man From Samye

an imperial dynasty of China , during the restoration of Buddhism in Tibet. Budon was not merely
a capable administrator but also phenomenal scholar and historian who wrote The History of
Dharma (bDe bar gshegs pa 'i bstan pa 'i gsal byed chos kyi 'byung gnas gsung rab rin po che 'i
mdzod) , a comprehensive history of Buddhism. 1 97 Budon classified the Kangyur , which means
"translations of the pronouncements of the Buddha" , so that it contained the texts which he felt
were directly attributable to the Buddha. This group included 1 ,046 texts in 1 04 volumes. The
Tengyur , which means "translations of treatises on the pronouncements of the Buddha", consisted
of texts attributed to subsequent learned and realized masters of Buddhism. This group included
3 ,7 8 6 texts in 1 8 5 volumes. 198 This represented a monumental accomplishment , resulting in
massive collections of tr anslated texts on an almost bewildering r ange of topics , generally accepted
by most Tibetan scholars as being the authoritative body of texts. It should be noted that Budon
did not include a large quantity of texts , most of which were Nyingma in origin. 1 99 It is within this
context that Longchenpa's position contrasts strongly with that of Budon. While Longchenpa
tends to be more textually inclusive and to take a non-sectarian approach to text classification ,
Budon tends to be more rigid and loyal to his criteria of authenticity , only including texts linked to
Sanskrit origins.2OO
The process of selection of the texts to be included in the Tibetan canon was complex and , as
Butters notes , Budon chose purposefully to exclude certain texts which had been documented and
approved by scholars before him.201 For example , Atisa had been impressed by the library of
Samy e and did not doubt its authenticity.202 Furthermore , a Sanskrit version of the
Guhyamulagarbha Tantra, attributed to Padmasambhava , which was discovered in a pillar at the
Samye monastery , was recognized by both Sakya Pal)qita and Chomden Rigpe Raldri (beom ldan
Rig pa 'i ral gri, 1 227- 1 3 05 )203 as being authentic. This I believe was the only text which S akya
Pandita authorized, probably as much due to its antiquity as to anything else. Furthermore , even
though Sakya Pal)qita copied and translated the Vajrakllaya Tantra, and Budon's own guru
verified that he had seen a Sanskrit version of this tantra when he was in Nepal, Budon chose not
to include it in the canon , although later on he would mention that he had made a mistake in
ignoring the authenticity of the Nyingma tantras which were linked to S anskrit originals. 204
To understand Budon's attitude towards the Nyingma tradition one needs to consider the
larger context of complex circumstances in central Tibet which defined his status. He was at that
time a busy public and religious figure who was very loyal to his political patron who was none
other than Chungchup Gyeltsen himself , the opponent of Kunrin Gompa , Longchenpa's patron. In
fact the compilations of the Kangyur were organized between 1 347 and 1 3 5 1 , a period when there
was tension between the two leaders. This suggests a reasonable linkage between politics and
canon creation that would have implications for Longchenpa as a Nyingma leader , for the school
in that its texts were not incorporated into the canon , and for Budon who would be subjected to the
political pressur� in the process of compiling the canon. Budon maintained close relations with
other secular leaders and since he was a famous lama he was invited by the Chinese emperor and
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 47

by the king of Nepal to visit their courts and teach. These few details signify Budon's position and
point toward the extent of his political responsibilities , his commitments , and his contacts.
However , his maintenance of his position as a middleman / mediator leads one to wonder what he
had to give up or sacrifice. Although towards the end of his life Budon claimed that he did not
belong to any school , in his earlier years he had to take a stance regarding the different religious
orders that were so closely linked with him.

Longcbenpa and canon creation

Although there is no clear evidence that substantiates that Longchenpa acted directly in response to
Budon's initiative to "close" the canon , the following passage , which is a Nyingma affidavit of
defence by Longchenpa , who in his explanations on the origins of the Vajrayana and its secret
mantras205 shows clearly that he was aware of canon creation activities and the Indian/Sanskrit
criteria used.

Those of lesser intellect, not comprehending enumerations such as this and speaking with
exaggeration and denigration, [say] ' They are not authentic tantras because they were not
famous in India, ' or ' They were made by Tibetans. ' Denigrating authentic tantras , scriptures
and sutras merely amasses the cause of remaining for a very long time in bad migrations. That
is to s ay, great mahasiddhas also brought the tantras of India from such places as Oq.q.iyana,
S ambhala and Malaya. Furthermore not all tantras were kept in India. And if, according to you
[only tantras] kept [in India] are allowed, it would not be possible to see them all by going
once. Just because one has collected many titles and outlines of s utras and tantras kept in
some minor temple s , it does not follow that others did not exist. Therefore, one should not
denigrate great teachings on the path that came earlier. Many of s utras and tantras here in
Tibet may or may not have existed in India. Many tantras only appeared after early teachers
such as Padmasambhava brought them from q.akini-realms such as Oq.q.iyana. Also in term of
sutras , of the sutras that were translated in China before [the original S anskrit manuscripts]
were burned by Nyi rna dNgos grub in fire, translations of many - the Avataqlsaka, the
NirvaI}.a, the Vinayavastu and so forth were reconstructed by the translators Vairocana and
' B a ' sangs shi from the memory of the Chinese paI} Ha Shang Mahayana. 206

For Longchenpa, those who followed the "narrow" criteria , sorting and selecting texts according to
their Indian origin , are of inferior intellect and due to their unmeritorious activities · they will
accumulate "negative karma" that will cause them to transmigrate in Sarp.sara.207 Part of this
assertion is to belittle the ones who , in the process of canon creation , follow the Sanskrit criteria
and at the same time to warn of deviation from what is authentic and to indicate the consequences
of such a drift. This motif of adopting a superior ethical position appears time and again in
Longchenpa's poetry and as a pattern in his thought and writings , as we shall see in the next
chapter discussing his life and works.
Longchenpa argues against the Indian origin of texts as the sole valid criterion and claims that ,
if any canon codifier was not aware of other Indian tantras this did not mean that such Indian
48 The Man From Samye

tantras did not exist.208 Texts of Indian origin that the canon codifier was unaware of, according to
Longchenpa, could be found in Oq.qiyana, S ambhala and Malaya. Longchenpa is pointing to
places that are ambiguous, legendary or are "pure lands" , celestial realms of the Buddha. The
precise location of Oq.q.iyana, the territory of the q.ak:inis, is difficult to establish. Following the
writing of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (Dorje U rgyan pa rin chen dpal, 1 230- 1 308/9),
who is said to have visited Oq.q.iyana in 1 26 1 , Tibetans believe that Oq.q.iyana is situated within the
area of the Swat Valley in Pakistan .209 Budhaguptanatha ( 1 6th- 17th centuries), Taranatha' s guru,
decisively located Oq.qiyana in the vicinity of Ghazni, Mghanistan.210 Further, S ambhala is said by
many to be a visionary, ethereal, mythical kingdom, as well as being geographically situated
somewhere north of Tibet; according to Childs, S ambhala is a staging point where the forces
of good overcome the forces of eviF 1 1 to the end that all its inhabitants are enlightened.
The real location of these places is very difficult to ascertain. This would offer a codifier of texts
little if any sense of certainty regarding the possible locations at which Longchenpa claimed
Indian tantras existed.
In addressing a specific "you" in the passage quoted above ("And if, according to you212 [only
tantras] kept [in India] are allowed, it would not be possible to see them all by going once"),
Longchenpa' s statement may be directed to any hypothetical canon codifier or collector of texts.
However, Longchenpa' s reference is not, as Butters has suggested, directed towards Bud6n213
because there is no record either in The Blue Annals or in Bud6n' s biography that he ever visited
India.214 Another possibility is that Longchenpa' s statement was directed to groups of Tibetan
travellers to India in the 1 1th and 1 2th centuries who were primarily interested in "collecting" Indian
Buddhist texts.215 Or it could be aimed at Bud6n inasmuch as he believed that one could not have
encountered so many texts in one visit, even though he never went there.
Longchenpa points to another possible insufficiency of the "Indian origin" criterion.
If Longchenpa addressed his statement to "you", as to the hypothetical canon codifier, then his
statement could be right, as it would be impossible for one person to travel just once to India and
be aware of all the tantras of Indian origin. But the "importation" of Indian Buddhist texts to Tibet
was a collective activity carried out by many individuals already between the 1 0th and 1 2th
centuries. Hence, Longchenpa' s assertion remains unsatisfactory and his suggestion that the criteria
should be more flexible to include "other" Indian tantras remains unsupported.
Alternatively, if Longchenpa addressed his statement concerning "you" to the Tibetan
travellers to India between the 1 1 th and 1 2th centuries then it would not matter how many groups
travelled to India and for how long, because they would almost certainly have to have missed
finding some Indian tantras and have been unaware of all the existing texts in India.216 Thus,
despite the logical doubt that Longchenpa raises here , his argument might still remain
unsatisfactory under the raw assumption that what were known as the most important and essential
tantras were likely to have been brought from India to Tibet by those travellers.

Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 49

Longchenpa, in his statement quoted above, goes further to mention Indian-origin tantra
translations such as the A vatalflsaka, the Nirvii:fJa and the Vinyavastu that were reconstructed by
the translator Vairocana and 'Ba' sangs shi from the memory of the Chinese pa1).Qit Ha-Shang
Mahayana, and Longchenpa goes on to argue that either those sutras or others that were
reconstructed in a similar fashion should be included in the canon.
It is true that such sutras were translated from Sanskrit to Chinese and became core texts of
various Chinese Buddhist schools . An example is the Avatalflsaka Sutra which Cleary, in the
introduction to his monumental work of translation, mentions as probably the most grandiose and
richest of all Buddhists scriptures, highly regarded by all schools of Buddhism.217 It had become
a core text for the Huayen school of Chinese Buddhism and the Fourth Patriarch, Chengguan
(73 8-839) wrote a commentary to the sutra, in connection with the theory of sudden awakening.218
Apparently, Moheyan ' s (Ha-Shang Mahayana) teachings bear similarities to the Avatalflsaka
Sutra.219 However, the existence of such similarities is not surprising because the sutra was in
the "public domain" accessible to the various other Buddhist schools of Mahayana Buddhism
in China.
In relation to the Avatalflsaka Sutra, Budon was aware that not all the Buddhist sutras could
be retrieved and in support of his assertion he mentioned as an example the fact that only
40 chapters out of 1 00 of the A vatalflsaka Sutra survived, and these he incorporated into the
Tibetan canon.220
Reverting back to Longchenpa' s argument, · in response to his possible complaint that the
actual A vatalflsaka was not incorporated in the canon because it was not translated directly from its
Sanskrit origin to Tibytan, we would reply that it could not have been the case because Budon
himself incorporated it into the canon. To his other possible complaint that there were other sutras
reconstructed in a similar fashion to the Avatalflsaka by the translator Vairocana and 'Ba' sangs
shi221 we would reply that his argument would be still unsatisfactory due to the fact that Budon was
truly aware of sutras of Sanskrit origin translated to Chinese then to Tibetan, and included as many
of those in the Tibetan canon as he could retrieve at that time.
But for Budon, Nyingma texts "did not represent pure tantras" despite his teacher' s assertion
that Nyingma texts were real because they had found the Indian original texts in Samye and parts
of the Vajraklla Tantra in Nepal. Nevertheless he was of the opinion that it would be better
to remain neutral and omit the texts without expres sing an opinion on their authority or
otherwise.222 The situation seems to be even more complex because a few Nyingma texts, such as
Commentary on the Guhyasamiija that contained passages from the Guhyagarbha Tantra by
Vajrahasa and "later" Samiija (Dus phyi ma) by Visvamitra, were nevertheless incorporated into
the canon.223
After consideration it seems that most of Longchenpa' s arguments mentioned earlier, being
based on "legendary" factors and on the argument "from ignorance", are ultimately unsatisfactory.
50 The Man From Samye

But the assertion of evidence made by Budon' s teachers and Budon' s incorporation of Nyingma
works into the canon, including works translated from Sanskrit to Chinese and then to Tibetan,
confirm that Longchenpa' s critique of the "Indian origin" criteria was partially justified. However,
it is definitely not a clear-cut picture and it can be seen that Budon, in the process of canon
creation, could have been motivated not only by concerns for authentic Indian textual origin but
also by other concerns such as a commitment to his patron. Nevertheless, retrospectively, the
criterion of authentic Indian textual origin was a reasonable one that stands the test of time fairly
Longchenpa himself understood that the process of canon creation not only provided distinct
religious parties with a means of self-expression and defipition, but it could also, when linked with
political interests, affect actual power and influence, as well as affecting the context of the priest -
patron form of relationship. Longchenpa saw a great danger in personal/religious/political interests
determining the criteria for including or excluding texts, and believed that it could corrupt the
authenticity of Buddhism that he associated with the teachings of Padmasambhava. But at the same
time Longchenpa seems to be motivated by his polemical agenda to include texts he believed to be
an integral part of the canon.

Longchenpa's position in the religious and political arena

The project of deciding which texts would be considered as authentic had a distinct political
outcome. The canon' s content was to invoke and reaffmn a hierarchy in which Sarma was superior
to Nyingma in the sense that Kadam, Sakya and Kagyu, that is, the Sarma schools, represented,
according to their claim, what was the "authentic Buddhism" which originated in India. To exclude
Nyingma tantras and treasure texts was to marginalize the Nyingmapa, marginalizing Longchenpa
too and situating him on the periphery of religio-political scene of his time. As a response to the
canon' s resulting hierarchy, Nyingma follow�rs found it necessary to assert themselves and
to codify their own authoritative canon, the Collected Tantras of the Ancients ( rNying ma rgyud
'bum) .224
Although it seems that the Nyingma, a loosely-knit grouping of lineages which dated back to
the imperial period suffered a decline while the new schools were establishing their identities and
consolidating their position in various ways, the 1 4th century was a time when characters like
Chungchup Gyeltsen tended to validate Nyingma materials, especially the treasure teachings and
mythology. In particular, treasure teachings and mythology could offer them a linking thread to the
royal dynasty, Padmasambhava, Avalokiteshvara, and other figures and symbols that had a
prestigious reputation and could influence the formation of new political and religious ideologies
and enhance political structure. At the same time, the voice of individual authors and "treasure
revealers" or tertons (gter stan) was becoming increasingly audible on the literary scene. These
treasure revealers included Urgyen Lingpa, the revealer of the text called Injunctions of
Padmasambhava (Pad ma 'i bka ' thang, bKa ' thang sde lnga) , which is a mythological account
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 51

o f the life of Padmasambhava. Another one was Padma Ledreltsel (Padma las 'brei rtsal,
1 29 1 - 1 3 1 5 ?) known also as Tsultrim DoIje (Tshul khrims rdo rje) of whom, hagiographically,
Longchenpa is said to be a reincarnation, a point that will be presented later on when looking
into Longchenpa' s hagiography. However for Longchenpa this recognition took place in the last
years of his life after his return to Tibet from the Bhutanese exile in 1 359.
During this turbulent period the dominant schools were the Kadam, S akya and Kagyu and
they were active in the pursuit of political and religious power in central Tibet. The Nyingmapa
did not seem to participate in the race for political power and influence.225 The question is :
Why were they uninvolved in the dramatic events that shaped the new political and religious
ground in the renewed Tibet of the 14th century? There are some possible answers to this question,
but they remain only at the level of hypotheses due to insufficient information. From a traditional
point of view, the Nyingmapas ' main interests were in practicing the Dharma in remote areas
which were more conducive for practice. These places were located away from the religio-political
scene of the monasteries and patrons and their practice was based largely in intimate, small
communities . Moreover, the importance of the treasure teachings, which are at the core of the
Nyingma understanding, provided them with a sense of identity which was the basis of their self­
sufficient intimate communities without a need for the "new" teachings to come from India.
However, bearing in mind that the purpose of this chapter is to describe the Nyingmapa
context of which Longchenpa was a part, it will be sufficient to note that, in terms of political and
institutional religious power, the Nyingmapa, the carriers of the tradition of Padmasambhava, were
at that time in a relatively underdeveloped condition, a condition that situated them on the
periphery of the Tibetan political terrain. It was not until several centuries later, in 1 676, that they
were able to establish Mindroling, their first new major monastery. Contemporary traditional
Nyingma will claim that they were not at all undeveloped and were the true bearers of the authentic
teachings traced back to Padmasambhava. They will claim that the school played a central
historical role in Tibet' s development, while a historical reconstruction tells another story, pointing
to the school' s marginal historical role. The difference between the two approaches reflects tension.
This review of the series of religious and political processes, key issues and events has
primarily been intended to set the stage for Longchenpa' s "appearance" in the 1 4th century.
Looking into these formative historical events and developments in Tibet and their implications for
Longchenpa it will be found that they determine his place on the periphery of the religio-political
map of 14th century Tibet.
Hence it can be concluded that Longchenpa was born into a religious reality where the
narrative of Padmasambhava, as associated with Tibet' s imperial past of Trisong Detsen, was
solidifying into a myth and functioning as a marker of Buddhist orientation, development and
authenticity. But the general view of the Tibetans was that Padmasambhava was a marginal tantric
teacher who was expelled from Samye, a foreigner whose "written works" and treasure teachings
were not included in the canon. For Longchenpa, Padmasambhava' s myth was a re ality as the
52 The Man From Samye

latter was his princip al source of treasures and Dzogchen teachings, which he considered to be a
symbol of "original" Buddhism and a base of religious authority. Padmasambhava was master of
many essential Great Perfection teachings and a cultural hero whom Longchenpa wished to
identify with, emulate and represent. His very association with Padmasambhava marginalized
Longchenpaaga again at the periphery of the political and religious landscape.
According to Longchenpa' s world view S amye was not only a symbol but also an
actual religious doctrinal reference point that was presented there by Ha-Shang, entailing the
teaching known as gCig car, a view of immediate realization similar in nature to Dzogchen. But
according to the common view Ha-Shang ' s gCig car system of philosophy and practice was
rej ected not only in Samye but also was irrelevant during the Sarma period, the movement of new
translations ( 1 1 th_ 1 3 th centuries) . Thu s , Longchenp a ' s Dzo gchen was associated with a
marginalized system of philosophy, placing him yet again the periphery.
In terms of the socio-political formation, Longchenpa was born into a state of affairs in which
the political reality of patron and priest had gained considerable importance. Some of this reality
was localized and feudal in character, intricately interwoven with religion and culture. The other
dominant and significant socio-politic al structure was that of the Sakya-Mongol alliance and during
Longchenpa' s life there occurred a shift away from those socio-political structures towards the
hegemony of central Tibetan power, the one exemplified by Chungchup Gyalsten. The socio­
political structures Longchenpa experienced meant that without patronage, without political
aspirations and without owning fertile land, as Marpa had, it would be difficult for him to realize
his religious agenda and ideologies in terms of religious leadership or responsibility as the carrier of
the Buddhist torch of Padmasambhava.
Longchenpa sought to relocate not only the Nyingmapa from the periphery to the centre of the
prevailing religio- socio-political structures of his time, but also himself as a spiritual
leader committed to Padmasambhava' s perception of Buddhism, he was primarily interested to
restore its former glory. That could be best implemented only by taking a central role with the
support of a patron.
It is my view that one of the major devices Longchenpa employed in order to effect the
relocation within the context of the prevailing religio-political reality was the rhetoric of negation,
or more precisely its aspect of affirming-negation that will be discussed in chapter 4. Although
there is no connection between the two personages, it seems to me that Longchenpa sought to
achieve what Cicero (43- 1 06 Be) claimed: that a successful political reality could be determined by
rhetoric that connects wisdom and speech capacities, which has an ethically pragmatic purpose,
and which establishes a consensus about the appropriate way a community should live.226
Longchenpa, in refuting and rej ecting the prevailing religio-political structure, philosophies ,
practices and moral conduct, affirmed and defmed Dzogchen, and maintained the Nyingmapa' s
status as the old and authentic tradition which was in decline in the Tibetan consciousness of his
time. He did so in order to meet the challenges posited by the Indic discourses of the gradual path
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 53

adopted by the new schools and with all the political implications which such adoption implied. He
also used the counter discourse of negation and resorted to classic Dzogchen terminology such as
those of "naturalness" and "spontaneity" or "primordiality" and "absence" . Thus his rhetoric of
negation functioned partially as a religio-politic al force of resistance against the new wave of
translations coming from India that were converted into self-definition. By means of negating other
philosophies and methods Longchenpa' s principal system of Dzogchen was actually defining and
affirming itself.
So far we have looked into Longchenpa' s figure from a macro perspective, one of general
history. In the following sections he will be examined from a micro perspective, one of biography/
hagiography as a form of personal history . This will provide a more complete historical

Longchenpa's life and works

It is essential to review Longchenpa' s life within its historical context in order to understand
his accomplishments . A consideration of repeated motifs in his works and life, his tendencies
toward Buddhist ideals, feeling of superiority and romanticism as well as how his personal agendas
and beliefs were expressed throughout his life can enhance appreciation of Longchenpa' s works.
This justifies reviewing Longchenpa' s biography, which has already been researched in detail by
Guenther, Hillis, Butters and more recently by Arguiller. Hence I have chosen to review formative
experiences and events that shaped Longchenpa' s life and works , including visions of
Padmasambhava, living and studying with his root teacher Kumaraj a, restoration of the temple of
Zhai Lhakhang (Zhwa 'i lha khang) and the exile in Bhutan. Although Longchenpa' s biography
has been researched in detail, other scholars have not attempted to depict the implications of those
formative experiences and events for his position in Tibetan social, religious and political life of the
14th century, and for the gap between his self-perception and his public status. As far as I am aware
it is a fairly innovative approach in the study of Longchenpa. Furthermore, I will follow in the
footsteps of Hillis ' attempt to sketch "psychological" characteristics of Longchenpa as interpreted
by a close reading of his poems. It is in this style of writing that he revealed moods , views,
thoughts, motives and goals. This attempt will endeavour to depict "Longchenpa the man" without
incurring the complex problems attendant on relying on western theories of psychoanalysis and
imposing them on a person who lived more than 700 years ago.
While reviewing Longchenpa' s biography certain tensions will be considered, especially in
the context of Tibetan biographical writings in which the subject is described partly in the context
of a mythological narrative which is then transformed into a more elaborated hagiographical
account. The essence of these hagiographies is to demonstrate the subject' s spiritual awakening
and the manifestation of visions, yogic attainments, and memories of any previous incarnations.
Often the core of a hagiography is a crisis of failure to find the true guru or gain the authentic
teachings and the hagiography tends to focus on such existential challenges. The resolution to such
54 The Man From Samye

crises is part of the hagiographical teaching. What are mostly absent from such accounts are human
motivations and emotions, crisis situations related with mundane life, and mundane experience
that shaped a writer' s life and works and that can hint at his agendas . In general, Tibetan
hagiographies deliberately aggrandize the subject, their spiritual accomplishments and "victories"
over their opponents . Thus they create a representation to identify with or to inspire others
on the path to liberation and religious attainment, while at the same time glorifying the subject and
rendering them into a spiritual symbol in which their individual and unique characteristics
become vague and obscured.
In most cases, a Tibetan reader of a hagiographical account will accept the legendary or
magical occurrences as an authentic part of a given biography, also because the subj ects of
hagiographies are believed to have had a type of vision probably similar to artists, that the maj ority
of people do not share. A western reader, on the other hand, might be tempted to discard the
mythical aspects of these narratives or at least to question them. I believe a balanced approach to
these hagiographies is required, one that might appropriately serve westerners by illuminating
Tibetan attitudes and purposes and enhancing understanding of the subj ect in question .
Hagiographical texts can provide significant historical-cultural data about a figure such as
Longchenpa. In addition, while these texts are written in visionary and symbolic language they
have their own "inner rationale" that serves to fulfil a certain function within a certain culture.
In identifying this "inner rationale" one can learn more about the subject of the hagiography. Thus,
from designating the purpose or function of a certain biography, one can learn about the agenda of
the "author", hence reve aling a more "realistic" portrait of the biography' s subject. Theoretic ally
speaking, for Claude Levi Strauss, who examined the nature of mythical discourse, the function of
myth is to "provide a logical model capable of overcoming a contradiction or a doubt. " 227
Therefore, a myth provides a bridging view that can clarify the tensions around the attempt to
ascertain or substantiate historical information in relation to biography/hagiography. This view will
be core to my study of Longchenpa' s life.
With regard to the sources on Longchenpa' s life, Hillis228 presents a detailed list of the
biographical and hagiographical texts, of which the most primary and authoritative source is
Meaningful to Behold: The Spiritual Biography of the Omniscient Drimay Ozer (Kun mkhyen Dri
med 'od zer gyi rnam thar mthong ba don idan) . This text, which Arguillere229 labels as "la source
des sources", was written by Ch6drak Zangpo (Chos grags bzang po) who was a direct and close
disciple of Longchenpa. What lends Meaningful to Behold a sense of a biographical credibility is
that Ch6drak Zangpo did not make any reference to hagiographical characteristics such as
Longchenpa' s reincarnation identity.230 Furthermore, Arguille e mentions that the text appears
almost without omissions within three other sources including the Bima Nyingthig (Bima snying
thig) ,23 1 hence the principal importance of Meaningful to Behold as a primary source on
Longchenpa' s life.
In his discussion of Longchenpa' s biography, Hillis mentions eight other sources including
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 55

The Blue Annals that convey a similar general picture of Longchenpa' s life. One of them, from late
1 9th century, the Entrance to the Three faiths: A Spiritual Biography of Long chen Rabjam (Klong
chen rab 'byams kyi mam thar dad pa gsum gyi jug ngogs) by Lakla Sonam Chtidrup (Glag bla
bsod nams chos 'grub) , is more self-consciously hagiographical, relating to Longchenpa' s spiritual
achievements, incarnations and prophecies.232 Other sources include fables found in his lesser
miscellaneous writings, letters to other lamas of his time, and especially poems which might offer a
window into Longchenpa as a person, as well as his feelings and emotional states.
There are other texts, such as Longchenpa' s visionary autobiography The Luminous Web of
Precious Visions, which is said in the colophon to be signed by the author himself. It is
specifically referred to as being his own composition in his own catalogue to the Seminal
Quintessence of the l)akinzs233 and provides accounts of Longchenpa' s visions and meditative
experiences in a hagiographical language along with his own perception of them. From this
range of texts that consists mainly of firsthand accounts it is possible to draw a general picture
of Longchenpa' s life.

The course of Longchenpa's life

In the following, section Longchenpa' s life course will be described with an emphasis on what
are generally considered the formative events that shaped his life, works and his rhetoric of
Longchenpa was born in 1 3 0 8 , in the village of Tad Drong (sTod grong) in central Tibet.
His birth was accompanied by strange and miraculous events, as are the births of almost every
renowned lama. These miracles are understood to have emanated from the domain of the
sacred or from the realm of the Buddhas to denote that the baby born is of special spiritual
capacity and importance in respect of the fulfilment of B uddhism' s vision in mundane life.
Longchenpa was born into an aristocratic family that enj oyed a prestigious religious heritage.
His father, Tenpa Sung (bsTan pa srung) , was a tantric yogi belonging to a lineage which
traced back to one of Padmasambhava' s twenty-five direct disciples and Tibet' s original seven
monks ordained by Santarak�ita (725-788). Longchenpa' s lineage from his mother' s side was
related to Dromtanpa who was the main disciple of Atisa and founder of the Kadam schooP34
All of these details concerning lineage origins undoubtedly link him to the very beginnings of
B uddhism in Tibet but also to the formative stages of the new Buddhist schools during the
revival of Buddhism in the early 1 0th century. These lineage affiliations would shape his self­
perception as a person of authentic Buddhist heritage and imply that his early education in
S amye, his relation to the new Buddhist schools, and later the value he would place on the
heritage of Padmasambhava, were all associated with the origins of Buddhism in Tibet.
Longchenpa learned how to write and read at the age of five. When he was seven, his father
transmitted to him several Nyingma tantras and treasure teachings. Since his father belonged to a
lineage tracing back to Padmasambhava, it is more than probable that the Mahayoga and Anuyoga
56 The Man From Samye

systems were a major part of his curriculum at that time. His father also taught him astrology and
medicine ; and at the age of nine it is said that he learned by heart (twenty thousand verse)
Prajiiiipiiramitii Sutra, after having read them one hundred times. Both of his parents died when
he was young, his mother when he was only nine years old and his father when he was eleven.
In 1 3 1 9 , at the age of twelve, Longchenpa was ordained at S amye monastery by
the abbot S amdrub Rinchen (bSam grub rin chen) and the scholar Kunga Ozer (Kun dga ' 'od zer) .
In the following years he studied not only with highly regarded teachers of the Nyingma tradition
but also with teachers from other traditions, such as the Third Karmapa, Rangjung DOIje, and with
S akyapa Lama, D ampa S onam Gyeltsen, both representing the S arma, or "new school"
translations.235 This is the extent of what we know about Longchenpa' s knowledge of the main
traditions of Tibetan Buddhism of his time.236 S amye was formative in Longchenpa' s development,
to such a degree that later in his life Longchenpa became known as "bSam yas lung mang ba "
meaning "Samye' s recipient of many scriptural transmissions."237 Longchenpa himself stated that
in works that deal primarily with provisional truth expressed by means of poetry and etymology, he
signed as S amyepa Ngagi Tshulthrim Lodro (bSam yas Ngag g i tshul khrims blo g ros ,
"Disciplined Intellect, the Lord of Speech from Samye") .238 Samye is a motif in Longchenpa' s life
that is repeated time and again, not only in his colophons but also in his poems, as a reference
point and expression of his deep longing. Samye symbolises the origins of Buddhism in Tibet, and
the residence of Padmasambhava, Longchenpa' s cultural hero and the direct teacher of his own
father' s ancestors . In referring to Samye, he presents the self-perception of an authenticator
and reviver of the origins of Buddhism in Tibet.
It was at the age of eighteen that Longchenpa entered the Sangphu Neutok (gSang phu ne 'u
thog) monastic college. Sangphu was founded in 1 073 by Ngog Lekpay Sherab (rNgog Legs pa 'i
shes rab) as a Kadam seminary, based on an Indian academic model, and it was well known for
the study of logic and epistemology. 239 In Sangphu, the focus of Longchenpa' s studies shifted from
rituals and meditations to syllogism and debate, including the study of works by Candrakirti and
the Madhyamaka philosophy. 240 He excelled in his studies and his success was marked by the
addition of his most famous name or appellation: Longchen Rabj ampa ("Infinite Great Expanse"),
a name he himself was to use as colophon for works that revealed the way of abiding in an
inconceivable expanse of space. 241 At this stage Longchenpa expanded his knowledge even
. further, benefiting from wide-ranging teachings which traversed religious and political
sectarianism. Later on when he wrote his doxography or critique of other traditions ' philosophic al
and spiritual approaches and ethics with a view to negating their practices, he did so based on a
deep study of those traditions of logic he had studied previously as well as on the knowledge of
"an insider" .242 He then used another appellation in his colophons, Kunkhyen Ngakgi Wangpo
(Kun mkhyen ngak gi dbang po, "Omniscient Lord of Speech") .243
Longchenpa left Sangphu after seven years, expressing his dissatisfaction with the unethic al
behaviour of visiting Khampa monks . This attitude was characteristic of Longchenpa, whose
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 1 4th Century Tibet 57

tendency was to criticize Buddhist figures for what he thought was improper behaviour, not in line
with Buddhist ethics and values . Longchenpa' s views and feelings were expressed in a poem
called The Thirty Letters of the Alphabet (rKyen la khams 'dus pa ka kha sum CU),244 composed in
1 334 by which each line starts with one of letters of the alphabet that strongly criticises the visiting
Khampa monks, accusing them of misconduct, describing them in harsh words such as "barley
robbers" , "arrogant" , "full of hatred and lust" , "troubled by their passions" , "beer drinkers",
"animal killers", and "violent", to mention but a few.245 This repeated motif of protest and critique
of others ' inadequate Buddhist conduct in Longchenpa' s life reveals his self-perception as a
faithful and superior protector of pure Buddhist values. Without hesitation he confronted those who
were violating Buddhist morals and was ready to pay the price of alienation and risk the livelihood
provided to him by the monastery, and as a result he was ultimately to leave the place where
Buddhist values were not respected and enter into a solitary spiritual practice. In fact, this motif
represents Longchenpa' s strong sense of freedom from limited and constricted social and political
environments and conveys his return to his "Nyingma roots", preferring them over the teachings of
the S arma.
He left Sangphu in 1 3 34 in a big gesture of protest and after five months of dark retreat in a
cave, he experienced powerful visions of both Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal, the former' s
consort and co-concealer of the treasure teachings. From them, by means of vision, he received the
name Drime Odzer (Dri med 'ad zer, "Stainless Beam of Light"),246 an appellation Longchenpa
used later on for works that treated topics such as meditational absorption and developmental
spiritu al approaches.247 However, Longchenpa was not on his own in this retreat but was with
thirty students to whom he imparted the ritual of VaITocana. 248 Clearly we can infer that at this time
his charisma as a spiritual leader had started to develop . Another motif that accompanied
Longchenpa' s life was his various visions of Padmasambhava, his cultural hero. He drew from
those visions not only authoritative Buddhist teachings and a base for his spiritual leadership but, I
believe, an expectation that he would be recognized as holder of Padmasambhava' s knowledge
and tradition to a level of identification with Padmasambhava himself. This motif will be revisited
later in this chapter when reading closely his hagiography and poems.

With Kumaraja
Inspired and motivated by these authoritative visions, in 1 3 34 Longchenpa returned to the uplands
of S amye where he studied with his root teacher Kumaraj a ( 1 266- 1 343), not in a monastery
but in a camp in the open. During 1 335 Longchenpa received an important cycle of Dzogchen
teachings, the Bima snying thig, from Kumaraja. He was greatly influenced by the way of life that
Kumaraj a and his followers exemplified, and this became a formative experience in his life. Most
biographical materials agrees that Kumaraj a and his group of disciples were a wandering
community, on the move from place to place, living austerely in temporary camps exposed to the
elements and sleeping in woollen sacks that they wore during the day. Thondup249 mentions that
58 The Man From Samye

over the duration of one spring Kumaraja' s wandering community moved through nine different
camps. Interestingly, Hillis justifiably suggests250 that this way of life was a Dzogchen teaching in
action, that is to say, the meaning of terms commonly used in Dzogchen texts, such as no
attachments, open space, no limitations, natural liberation, simplicity, spontaneity, and so forth
were transformed into a life experience. In the context of Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation, this
resonates with Nubchen Yeshe' s statement that appropriate action for a Dzogchen practitioner is
when one simply acts without attachment. 251 This is because in negating philosophical views,
spiritual practices, religious activities, contrived strategies or conceptual thinking, a space of
absence is created which is empty of attachments and aversions that could potentially cause one to
act conditionally in contrast to being free of those attachments . Therefore, the period of training
Longchenpa had with Kumaraj a can be seen as a period where Dzogchen philosophy was
transformed into life experience and the rhetoric of negation of "no attachments", "no boundaries"
and "no limitations" was converted into a living pedagogy, predominantly a physical one
integrated with life. Furthermore, Longchenpa' s formative period as a student of Kumaraj a would
definitely shape his expectations of his students and their qualifications for receiving the teaching
of Dzogchen, as evident in his pedagogy discussed in chapter 6 of this thesis .

Visionary autobiography and "treasures"

Another formative experience which left its imprint on Longchenpa' s life and works entailed the
discovery of a new set of treasure texts that he integrated with the already existing two sets of
teachings traced back to Padmasambhava treasures and Vimalamitra' s treasure teachings . The
latter' s Heart Essence (snying thig) teachings include the seventeen tantras of Dzogchen, which
according to Gyatso,252 though not considered treasures proper, are nevertheless included in the
treasure tradition as they are associated with literature first transmitted by Vimalamitra, teachings
which, as mentioned in the previous section, Longchenpa received from Kumaraj a, and which he
later collated and codified.253 In his visionary autobiography Longchenpa describes the process of
accessing not only the new revelations from Padmasambhava entitled Seminal Heart of the I)iikinls
but also how he himself became a source of a cycle of treasures entitled Seminal Quintessence of
the I)iikinls.
Longchenpa' s visionary autobiography, The Luminous Web of Precious Visions, is said to be
signed by himself in the colophon, and it is specifically referred to as being his own composition in
his catalogue to the Seminal Quintessence of the I)iikinls. 254 The text contains biographical details
that describe the sequence of events from the time Longchenpa left Kumaraja to when he began a
retreat for three years, putting Kumaraja' s Dzogchen teachings into practice. After concluding the
retreat, at the age of thirty-two, he began giving Dzogchen teachings to eight disciples, males and
females in the Chimphu (mChims phu) valley. During his performance of esoteric rituals and
meditations, visionary scenes started to occur and some of the practitioners became "possessed" by
Tibetan or Indian deities as well as by highly regarded figures such as Yeshe Tsogyal, the consort
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 59

of Padmasambhava, all of whom then communicated directly with Longchenpa.

For example, by means of such visions , Longchenpa was both reassured and criticized by the
Dzogchen guardian herself, Ekaj atI. Possessing a yogini who was one of Longchenpa' s eight
students, and making her a medium, EkajatI announced that Longchenpa was indeed ready to
teach the cycle of teachings, but commented on some imperfections related to performance of the
ritu al.255 On another occasion a yogini reported that she "saw" Padmasambhava dissolving into
Longchenpa' s body while Yeshe Tsogyal was dictating to him practical teaching instructions. 256
This meant that Longchenpa' s status as a teacher had been authorized by the highest order of
Tibetan Buddhist teachers and deities, and he was instructed and equipped with the appropriate
knowledge and skills by those from the "other world" and validated by visionary means that
conveyed his authentic connection to the Dharma and its practice.
Another way in which Longchenpa' s status as principal heir of the Dzogchen cycle of
treasure teachings, the Seminal heart of the I)akinls, was substantiated, was by establishing his
identity as the incarnation of Tsultrim Dorje (Tshul khrims rdo rje), a treasure revealer who was in
tum a reincarnation of the princess Lhachig Padmasal (Lha gcig padma gsal). According to the
legend, five centuries before the time of Longchenpa, Padmasambhava brought back to life the
princess Lhacham Padmas al after she had died, and afterwards he initiated her into the teachings of
the Seminal Heart of the I)akilJlS series.257
There are certain contradictions or chronological differences between Longchenpa' s ordinary
and his visionary autobiographies, and the major one will be briefly discussed here. Tsultrim Dorje,
Longchenpa' s predecessor, died in 1 3 15 or 1 3 17, whereas Longchenpa, who is said to have been
his incarnation, was born in 1 308. Furthermore, the prophecies in the Seminal Heart of the I)akilJlS
indicate that the reincarnation of Tsultrim Dorje would be born in Bhutan, whereas Longchenpa
was born in Southern Tibet. The dakilJl VajravarahI ( Vajra Sow) , "appearing" in his visionary
autobiography, resolves these contradictions by telling Longchenpa that before Tsultrim Dorje dies
he will spend some time in the "pure land". This would mean that the chronological time gap
existing between the incarnations is spent in a pure Buddha realm, which is out of the ordinary
dimension of time as known to us. Regarding the Bhutanese rebirth, the dakilJl mentioned that it
was "yet to come", which means that Tsultrim Dorje' s future incarnation, after Longchenpa, would
be born in Bhutan. The episode ends up with Longchenpa in a state of bliss and inspiration,
singing tantric songs about the internal reality of the Buddhas.258
From an historical point of view which must establish the truth in empirically verifiable facts,
it is clear that the contradictions remain unresolved. However, from a hagiographical point of view
the contradictions are satisfactorily resolved because for Longchenpa visionary experiences of the
dakilJls introducing him to Padmasambhava' s treasure teachings are true. The main concern of this
visionary autobiography/hagiography is to locate Longchenpa in the realm of the sacred
(Greek: hagios) . Therefore, this visionary autobiography can be regarded in a metaphorical sense,
as a source of inspiration and trust in Padmasambhava' s teachings which he received in his
60 The Man From Samye

visionary experiences. These visionary autobiographies are intended to generate confidence in the
authenticity of the visionary process of revealing the treasure-teachings, and to demonstrate that
they were retrieved by an authentic yogi. Looking at the texts Longchenpa left behind him, one
cannot but remain amazed by the inspirational quality, depth and lucidity of his works as evident in
the quotations from Longchenpa' s work presented in the subsequent section and the following chapters.

Longchenpa the man

Psycho/autobiographical materials suitable for the consideration of Longchenpa the man can be
found in his poems, which are revealing of his character and expose his feelings, thoughts and
opinions . An example is The Thirty Letters of the Alphabet, which was mentioned earlier
in connection with Longchenpa voicing his disgust with the Khampa scholars who visited
Sangphu, attacking them bitterly for their misconduct. His tendency to process his thoughts and
feelings and to give them a voice is manifested in other poems revolving around a great spiritual
figure - the poet himself - surrounded by unethical people who act in contradiction to Buddhist
values. In these works the figure is neither recognized nor acknowledged for his status or spiritual
achievements , and hence is left to live in poverty . As a result, probably out of frustration,
he expresses a heartfelt wish to retire to other environments where he can · engage in and enhance
his spiritual practice.
A poem that presents Longchenpa' s social critique and reveals his feelings and thoughts is
The Forest Delights (Nags tshal kun tu dga ' ba 'i gtam) . Longchenpa writes :

A person who handsomely embodies proper training

Having as his wings the three disciplines
And living in a pond with the lotuses
Of learning and contemplation
If he has no money, is despised and rej ected by all.
B ut the senseless crimes
Are worshipped like gods .
This is a time when fools stand in higher esteem than sages,
Having seen this present state of affairs I am off to the forest.259

Here, Longchenpa describes the "hero" of his poem as a learned sage who lives a life of
contemplation and who, although materialistically deficient, possesses the real wealth of religious
discipline, knowledge and wisdom, but who is also not acknowledged for these attributes .
Acknowledgment within the context of the 14th century may be equated with having a group of
students and/or monastery, being supported and protected by a "patron" or an important clan!
political leader. Not only is the morally blameless person in the poem unacknowledged, but he
feels that what he has to offer is not sought after and thus he feels rej ected and despised.
Longchenpa' s h€ro in the poem criticizes and protests against the existing value system of his time
that prefers and prioritizes materi al wealth over the Dharma. Hence he decides to go to the forest,
which in the Indo-Tibetan tradition symbolizes a place of retreat in the wilderness.
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 1 4th Century Tibet 61

Within the wider context of the poem, which was written as an inner di alogue in Buddhist
terms, Longchenpa identifies and describes a series of personal and social life situations that are
both painful and filled with suffering.26o Recognizing the samsaric condition of life Longchenpa
wishes to renounce and abandon it by way of discernment and set out for the unknown
wildwoods, the "remedy" being a life of contemplation.261 It is not about escaping from a dutiful
life of responsibilities but about discovering one ' s own essential mind by means of discernment. 262
For Longchenpa, the forest is a place:
Full of people delighting in solitude and pursuing knowledge, full of gods and saintly persons.
It is replete with flowers and fruits . The place where Maiij usri and AvalokiteSvara are asking
questions about life ' s meaning in VajrapiiI).l' s Castle. 263

Here Avalokitesvara who is the symbol of compassion and Maiijusn who represents wisdom
complement each other, joining compassion and discriminating wisdom as an expression of an
"intelligent way of life" or of essential mind, in the domain of Vajrapani who represents the
indestructibility of the nature of mind or of awareness and who is the master and protector of the
secret tantras.
Another poem by Longchenpa, distinctly autobiographical in a manner rarely seen before in
Tibetan religious poetry, is The Swan 's Questions and Answers (Ngang pa i dris Zan sprin gyis
nying pO).264 In this poem, Longchenpa identifies himself with the king of the swans, which in
Indo-Tibetan tradition stands for supreme beauty and intelligence. The swan is said in Indian
mythology - adopted by Tibetans - to be able to separate an equal mixture of milk and pure
water inside its beak and this is a metaphor for the separation of wisdom from ignorance, or for that
matter any other dualism.265 However, despite his intelligence, Longchenpa is poor and lives in a
society whose values are based on the hierarchies of wealth and power. In this society, an
individu al who cannot compete materially is considered an outsider. In this prevailing state of
affairs, even Samye monastery, which was associated with many famous figures in the history of
Tibetan Buddhism, no longer had anything to offer. Longchenpa is painfully aware of the tension
between materialistic/non-spiritual/unethical values and non-materialistic/spiritual/ethic al values.
Consequently, when he chooses the pursuit of meaning in life, he relies on visionary insight
which is the domain of the bodh isattvas : Maiij u sn, A valokite svara, and Vajrap aI).l. In
Longchenpa' s own words :

In such an environment, this man from S amye

Finds it hard to make a living; he is constantly scorned by all.
Those who uphold spiritual values are despised and their qualities belittled.
The crowd of vulgar people living in this country
Are never pleased and nobody can make them shape up .
Close by and far away, the incidences of violence increase .
The sincere are cursed and evil behavior is praised.
Having seen this state of affairs my mind is revolted.266
62 The Man From Samye

Longchenpa, living in the "sacred" environment of Samye, finds himself in a materially

deficient situation, rejected and scorned by the population in the district. He feels not only
unacknowledged for his spiritual values and credentials, but degraded and held in contempt.
He expresses his disgust towards violence and the corrupt value system that the people around him
were following.
These poems were composed in a time of political and social upheaval, yielding tensions
between forces that were primarily concerned with consolidating hierarchies, religious and military.
This was in contrast with representatives of other forces , Longchenpa among them, who were
more interested in evoking other hierarchies : spiritual ones based on the laws of the Dharma over
the existing religious and military ones . To effect this transformation of hierarchies Longchenpa
employs his rhetoric of negation which in the political context entails the negation of an existing
social structure in order to promote and define other desired ones, a rhetoric that will be discussed
in the following chapter.
Hillis, responding to The Swan 's Questions and Answers and other poems, embarks on what
he calls a "psychoanalytical criticism" of Longchenpa. He states in advance that this analysis is
purely speculative, and not entirely systematic in its application of a Freudian perspective.
He courageously embarks into an area of research that traditional cultures are not inclined to
pursue, and which a number of scholars of Tibetan Buddhism might prefer to ignore, favouring the
religious tradition of secrecy over either academic or non-traditional scholarship. In engaging in
"psychoanalytical criticism" of Longchenpa, Hillis comments on "Longchenpa' s tendency to feel
persecuted, his feeling of superiority, his strong connection with central Tibet and his sense of
alienation and anxiety."267 He further mentions "Longchenpa' s tendency to feel out of sync with
the social, political, religious trends and events in Tibet."268 This line of analysis will be looked at
with some reservations (see below) in light of the possibility that modern contemporary values that
stand for a "healthy mind" might have been imposed onto a period when such a definition was not
as current or as applicable.
In concluding what has been written about Longchenpa so far, it can be said that on the one
hand, he possessed extensive knowledge of the various schools in Tibet, and was connected to
Padmasambhava the founder of Samye, the very heart of Buddhism in Tibet. A connection was
established by means of lineage tradition, incarnations, visions, treasure teachings, and linked to
Indian and Tibetan deities . Longchenpa perceived himself as a living example of Dzogchen
philosophy and practice, equipped with ethics and Buddhist values such as compassion and
common good. On the other hand, he believed himself to be unacknowledged and unrecognized
for his intellectual and spiritual credentials and achievements ; he felt isolated politically, socially
and religiously; and poor, without means of livelihood and without a patron. Hence Longchenpa
experienced a gap of frustrating tension between what he regarded as his "high" prestigious
spiritual status <:J.nd his "low" socio-economic and political status, and so his teachings and
knowledge grew apart from his mundane life, and he was a charismatic teacher existing without a
patron or a monastery. The gap between his spiritual credentials and achievements and his actual
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 1 4th Century Tibet 63

mundane life of poverty reflected a self-perceived spiritual genius who was not acknowledged by
the many. LoIigchenpa did not attract Tibetan recognition as a charismatic leader who could take
the Tibetans to their spiritual liberation, beyond the prevailing social and political structures.269
Such a leader, according to Weber,270 necessitates a relationship of recognition.
This gap or conflict that Longchenpa experienced was interpreted by Hillis as causing him to
feel persecuted, superior, suffering from a sense of alienation, anxiOUS,271 and with the experience
of being an "unjustly ostracized pariah". 272 But when Longchenpa said that he was revolted by the
materialistic way of life and wanted to go to the forest he was nevertheless voicing a protest.
In The Swan 's Questions and Answers the hero for us is the swan, Longchenpa, who
expresses his feelings and thoughts, and his commitment to Buddhist moral values, to the vision
and teachings of Padmasambhava and to their practice. He also shows his commitment to Samye
and to liberation which, according to him, represents the meaning of life. This explains why
Longchenpa refers in the poem to himself as "The Man from Samye" which is the explanation
for the title of this study. His highest interest is in the Dharma. He is fIrst and foremost a Dzogchen
teacher, and his purpose in writing this poem is primarily pedagogical.
Thus, while Hillis relates to the psychological characteristics that are revealed in the way
Longchenpa tends to process his thoughts and feelings through poetry, I believe that Longchenpa
wrote this poetry mainly out of a pedagogical motive to teach about and to emphasize a way of life
oriented towards liberation. According to Guenther273 Longchenpa' s profound knowledge of
ornate poetry (kiivya) is evident in his works, including The Swan 's Questions and Answers.
Longchenpa applies kiivya rules in order to add beauty of form to a given content and thus to
create emotional effects and to point to the existence of meaning. In a certain sense this poetry
redefmes "Longchenpa the man" : although Longchenpa expresses his sentiments in his poetry it
stands primarily as a protest against the prevailing socio-religio-politic al way of life, pointing to
life oriented towards Buddha nature.
Longchenpa' s situation started to change when he was invited by Gonpa Kiinrin to restore the
monastery of Zhai lhakhang, but this new circumstance was not to last for long.

With Gonpa Kiinrin, the patron

In the years from 1 348 to 1 350, before going into exile in Bhutan, Longchenpa was given the task
of restoring the monastery of Zhai Lhakhang (Zhwa 'i lhakhang) by Gonpa Kiinrin of the Drigung
sub-sect of Kagyu. Gonpa Kiinrin' s importance for Longchenpa stems from his recognition of
Longchenpa as an incarnation of Maiijusn. In short, Longchenpa was acknowledged as a unique
religious 'scholar and spiritu al figure by Gonpa Kiinrin, who was a strong man in the Tibet of those
times , and Longchenpa was given an opportunity to implement his Buddhist interests. Gonpa
Kiinrin provided him with the necessary construction materials and later also offered him the
monastery of Grog Orgyan dgon.274
The temple of Zhai Lhakhang was of major importance for Longchenpa and Gonpa Kiinrin as
it was traditionally connected with the origins of the Tibetan empire and had been built by a
64 The Man From Samye

disciple of Vimalarnitra.275 Mter four centuries it had been abandoned. 276 The temple was located
fIfty miles northeast of Lhasa and had been founded by Ban de Myang Tin nge-dzin who was the
guardian of Trisong Detsen, a minister of state, and who had been instrumental in establishing him
on the throne. B an de Myang Tin nge-dzin was recognized by Go Lotsawa ( ' Gas Lotsaba)
as a student of Vimalarnitra and he received the Dzogchen teachings of Snying thig.277 Thus the
restoration of Zhai Lhakhang establish links between Longchenpa and the early teaching
of Dzogchen and the royalty responsible for the conversion of Tibet to Buddhism.
Gonpa Kiinrin was actually an important figure in Tibet of the 14 th century and was one of
the main opponents of Chungchup Gyeltsen, who took the central seat of power in 1 349 .
The former' s importance stemmed from his role a s leader of the Drigung, which shared the same
Kagyu tradition of teaching as Chungchup Gyeltsen, leader of the Phakmogrugpa family. These
two schools, with their wealth of land and resources, were regarded as two arms of the same body,
signifying near equality of status.
In return, according to Thondup, when Gonpa Kiinrin became his disciple Longchenpa gave
him teachings based on the view of liberation.278 Longchenpa completed the restoration by the end
1 349 and dedicated it to the "sublime man" , Gonpa Kiinrin . 279
In restoring the temple of Zhai Lhakhang, Longchenpa evoked the symbol of the old Tibetan
empire (7 th - 9th centuries) associated with "authentic" Buddhism and with the Dzogchen Snying thig
teachings. This was a re-enactment of a narrative in which a teacher is approached by an important
political figure interested to study the "real Buddhism" and to establish a temple as a religious,
social and political seat of power.
The events concerning the restoration of the temple confirm again that Longchenpa perceived
himself to be a figure of superior knowledge concerning Buddhist authentic teachings, those
associated with the old empire, who sought to implement the vision of Buddhism by using the
recognition of a powerful political fIgure. At the age of 42 his "charisma" becomes validated by
his assumption of responsibility for an important historical temple. He becomes the owner of a
monastery and is supported by a political figure, a patron. However, this was not to last long. In
1 354 he had to flee to Bhutan.

The conflict between Chungchup Gyeltsen and Gonpa Kiinrin started in 1 348 when the former
appointed the latter as a junior regent instead of a senior one, following the passing away of the
Drignng myriarch Yeshe Palpa (Ye shes dpal pa) .28 0 In 1 349 Chungchup Gyeltsen took power in
central Tibet and 1 354 marked the hegemony of Chungchup Gyeltsen and the Phakmo grugpa
over Tibet.281 Longchenpa, regarded as an ally of Gonpa Kiinrin and aware of this ongoing and
growing conflict, decided to leave a situation that was untenable militarily and politically and was
probably life-thr�atening. Gonpa Kiinrin militantly rebelled against Chungchup Gyeltsen at the end
of 1 353 and at this time Gonpa Kiinrin died.282 According to Karmay, Longchenpa fled central
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 1 4th Century Tibet 65

Tibet and exiled himself in Bhutan in 1 3 5 4.283 Other evidence confirming Longchenpa' s flight to
Bhutan in this year is found in his poem Praise to Bumthang (Bhum thang lha 'i sbas yul bid bkod
pa la bsngags pa me tog skyed tshal), written in 1 3 55 .284
Longchenpa decided in favour of Bhutan because for him it was a peaceful place for pursuing
religious activities. This obviously reflected his preference for Buddhist values and spiritual retreat
over the prevailing military and political conflicts in central Tibet. He probably also decided on
Bhutan because of the prophecies indicating his future rebirth there.
Karmay285 mentions that in spite of a Tibetan Buddhist presence in Bhutan, even in the
7th century it was known as the "unlit land" , signifying ab sence of "Buddhi st light" ,
a place of "dangerous spirits" and a place to which enemies of powerful rulers were exi1ed.286
At the same time it was source of attraction, from the 1 2th century onwards,287 for Tibetan
religious figures who perceived it as a mysterious Hidden Land, suitable for hiding sacred treasures
and suitable later for their potential discovery. According to Childs, this concept of "Hidden Land"
(sBas yul) was generated and popularised by the treasure revealer Rigdzin Godem (Rig 'dzin rGod
kyi Idem phru can, 1 3 3 7 1 4 08) .288 Unlike Childs, Aris asserts that the first to coin the term was

Padma Lingpa (Pad ma gling pa, 1450- 1521), who is considered by traditional accounts as the
Bhutanese reincarnation of Longchenpa.289
Nevertheless, according to Rigdzin Godem' s treasure,290 the Hidden Land is a place of
sanctuary and fertile landscape which, during times of political and moral degeneration, was ideal
for spiritu al retreat and for community life reconstructed in a Tibetan manner and yet away from
Tibet. Regardless of exactly when the term Hidden Land was coined in relation to Bhutan,
Longchenpa' s perception of it is not far from Rigdzin Godem' s. In his poem Praise to Bhum tang,
he mentions the religious, moral and political degeneration of Tibet, hence his departure for
Bhutan, which he considered a suitable place for spiritual retreat, undisturbed by the burden of
mundane life. This passage from Praise to Bum thang (Bhum thang lha 'i sbas yul bid bkod pa la
bsngags pa me tog skyed tshal) written in 1 355 expresses his delight with Bhutan:

The Valley of Rinchen U-ra in the southeast

Is lovely and circular like the shape of a wheel.
Its villages are well developed and its estates are many .
Jewelled streams flow gently southwest.
On its slopes are sites for attaining realizations, and
Its intermediate border areas are ringed with monasteries.
The grasses are nourishing and the cows are particularly productive.
Its trees and fruits are excellent and its forests are marvellous
In this country medicines are extremely potent and there are only few types of illness.
This land of resembles the Tibetan province of D-
In the autumn it is neither too cool nor too warm.
S ince the lineage of Tibetan religious kings and
Pure Tibetans reside there, it is especially exalted. 29 1
66 The Man From Samye

Longchenpa depicts Bhutan as ideal in almost every aspect of life, entailing physical health, food,
nourishment, favourable weather conditions, and spiritual and communal life.
As has been shown, Longchenpa' s perception of Bhutan is not far from Rigdzin Godem' s
notion of Hidden Land. Besides identifying what characterises a Hidden Land, Rigdzin Godem
mentions signs292 that indicate the right time to seek refuge in a Hidden Land. These include signs
of social decay, religious degeneration, natural disasters and political instability including invasion
by external enemies as well as the absence of a royal dynasty. These all bear notable similarity
to Longchenpa' s reasons for fleeing from Tibet.
In relation to Rigdzin Godem, Dudjom Rinpoche asserts that only in 1 366 did the former
begin to reveal treasures,293 including the one entailing the concept of Hidden Land. Therefore
Longchenpa, who died in 1 3 64, could not have been aware of the myth of the Hidden Land
proposed by Rigdzin Godem. Hence it is remarkable that in Praise to Bumthang294 Longchenpa
remarks nearly all Rigdzin Godem's signs for departure except the one of natural disaster.dIe lists :
"demon armies of foreign invaders . . . . disturbing the heart of the land" , "the Conqueror' s
teaching . . . . nearly disappearing in central Tibet" , and the "presence of barbarous people" .
This means that Rigdzin Godem' s treasure was not entirely a revelation of new information;
Longchenp a ' s behaviour shows that pursuit of Hidden L ands was already an existing
phenomenon. On the other hand, if the Hidden Land treasure is a representation of conduct
aligned with Dharma, it positions Longchenpa' s escape from Tibet as a justified one because
it is aligned with the B uddhist Dharma, and it positions Longchenpa as a religious leader
whose actions are aligned with the Buddhist religion.
In B hutan, Longchenpa continued the line of work he initiated with the restoration of the
temple of Zh ai Lhakh ang and c o n s tructed eight reli gious site s , 295 m o s tly monasti c
h ermitage s , 29 6 and al s o engaged i n teaching a n d writing Dzogchen texts a n d p o ems .
B hutanese folkloristic tales depicted him as a miraculous water source discoverer and a
subduer of demons , to list a few aspects, and these in tum seem to have reactivated the myth
of Padmasambhava who was said in the Testament of Ba to have been a water diviner and a
subduer of demons . Hence Longchenpa was regarded as his successor. It should be noted that
most of the material regarding the stay of Longchenpa in B hutan is hagiographical in nature,
and Bhutan is portrayed as a living example of a country that has kept its ancient traditions297
and which has a rich oral tradition enabling an oral construction of the folkloristic stories of
his life of exile in Bhutan.298 Those folkloristic stories not only point to the highly regarded
place he still occupies in Bhutan but also to his representation, like Padmasambhava, as a
symbol which orients Bhutanese life towards Buddhist life.

Back in Tibet
Longchenpa fin�lly returned to Tibet in 1 3 60- 1 3 6 p99 and was reconciled with Chungchup
Gyeltsen with the help of S angye Pal (Sangs rgyas dpal) , according to The Blue Annals.30o
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 67

Longchenpa even became Chungchup Gyeltsen' s teacher, while the latter offered him clothes and
other materi al gifts.301 The reconciliation was part of Chungchup Gyeltsen' s concentrated effort to
invoke nationalist consciousness and sentiment,302 to reinforce his political grasp on Tibet and to
associate himself with Tibet' s glorious past. Longchenpa' s representations of teachings,
incarnations and Nyingma origins of Tibet' s glorious past presented another suitable opportunity
for Chungchup Gyeltsen, helping to serve his plans for national unity.
Once again we see Longchenpa involved with a principal ruler, reactivating the old mythical
symbol of Tibet from the 8 th century when Padmasambhava imparted tantric Buddhist teachings
to King Trisong Detsen, and thus Longchenpa reinforces his status as a representation of
Padmasambhava and a supreme source of knowledge. This repeated motif of Longchenpa' s
association with the mythical status of Padmasambhava is a powerful expression and a pedagogical
example of one of the main tantric practices, Guru Yoga. Guru Yoga303 includes a meditation on
the mental image of one' s teacher as embodying the wisdom of the many teachers and the Buddha
of the past, with the intention of aiding one to merge with one' s guru, who is the natural and
intelligent state of being. Hence, pedagogically speaking, Longchenpa implicitly suggests that
practitioners should seek to identify themselves with their teacher in the same manner he
uncompromisingly refers to and seeks to merge with Padmasambhava.
However, after the reconciliation with Chungchup Gyalsten, Longchenpa' s reputation grew
even greater and he was followed constantly and invited to debates to prove his knowledge.
The latter years of his life, then, were divided between giving public teachings, writing, and
practicing in solitude.304
In 1 3 64, at the age of fifty-six, Longchenpa became ill and began to prepare for his death,
composing his final testaments or parting injunctions . According to Tarthang Tulku ( 1 934-),305
Longchenpa composed three testaments, the first and most accessible of which is Now that I Come
to Die (Zhal chems dri ma med pa 'i '0d) .306 This text presents the essence of Buddhism in lyric
form, using striking similes in a beseeching tone. Later on, Longchenpa had a series of visions and,
in accordance with the Tibetan literary convention, he is said to have entered a state of deep
meditation. In addition, many miraculous signs such as rainbows, showers of flowers , and
perfumed scents were said to have been manifested for twenty-five days following his .death.
Of course these, like the signs at his birth, were part of a literary convention used when writing
about eminent people. Most readers who are familiar with the biographies of Tibetan yogis might
find these miraculous signs to be not entirely unusual. Nevertheless Longchenpa' s life is held in
special esteem within the entire Tibetan tradition. He has variously been recognized as one of the
three famous incarnations of ManjusrI, an emanation of Vimalamitra (Kumiiriidza), a second lina,
the S econd Garab Dorj e (dGa ' rah rdo rje) prophesied by S akyamuni Buddha, as well as
Padmasambhava, and the second Samantabhadra. These titles in the Dzogchen tradition are not
given lightly.307 One has to fulfil certain criteria to have received such titles.308 These titles convey
useful information about his cultural context however Longchenpa' s importance should depend
68 The Man From Samye

entirely on what he was saying and writing and not on who others claimed him to be. Thus again,
it can be seen that hagiographies, although lacking in "objective truth" derived from empirically
validated factual events, cannot be dismissed. On the contrary, this particular hagiography does
tell us about the status Longchenpa occupied in Tibet.

Longchenpa's corpus magnum

Among the many Tibetan writers Longchenpa is unique. His works cover a wide range of styles,
from simple and plain language, through the poetic-metaphorical, to consistently profound and
brilliant philosophical expositions. In range, he moves freely back and forth across topics from
siitric Buddhist traditions, exoteric and esoteric Buddhist tantras, to Dzogchen. In fact, he is not
only one of the greatest scholars and yogin/practitioners that codified, collated and synthesized all
the traditions of Dzogchen but he also had a substantial knowledge of Buddhist tenet systems
which he presented in his detailed doxographic work The Precious Treasury of Systems (Grub
mtha ' mdzod) . 309
According to David Germano,31O most of his corpus on Dzogchen was faithfully preserved;
and the works that are considered to be his principal w orks form five collections :
( 1 ) The Trilogy of Dispelling Darkness (Mun sel skor gsum) (2) The Trilogy of Resting at Ease
(Ngal gso sko r gsum) ( 3 ) The Trilogy of Na tural Fre edom (Rab sgro i sko r gsum)
(4) The Seven Treasuries (mDzod bdun) (5) The Seminal Heart-Essence in Four Parts (sNying
thig ya bzhi) .
Although Germano mentions that the dates on which these works were composed are not
clear because those dates were not mentioned within the various colophons, which is extremely
unusual in Tibetan literature (not really so unusual) , Arguillere was still able to offer a not
unreasonable hypothesis regarding the dates of composition. 3 1 1 Arguillere has reached his
conclusions regarding the dates after cross checking data drawn from Longchenpa' s own
catalogue of writings and biographies,312 and from his chronological utilization of colophons
in relation to written topics and periods of his life . Arguillere 313 also tracked and considered
the complex pattern of Longchenpa' s self-quotations from his own previous works in later
works and their general characteristics314 in relation to the periods of his life .
Longchenpa was a prolific writer. The most up-to-date catalogue, that of the online
Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center, lists over 252 titles composed by Longchenpa.315 Tulku
Thondup, in his introduction to The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding,316 states that
Longchenpa composed over 250 titles . The process of extracting Longchenpa' s catalogue of
writings still continues in academic and traditional circles and recently Argui1h�re 317 was able
to identify 307 works written by Longchenpa.
His works did survive through the ages and not only due to the high importance placed
on them by his students . Their preservation was also due to the advent of printing from
woodblocks which came into use in Tibet at the beginning of the 1 5th century, and which
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 14th Century Tibet 69

greatly facilitated the distribution of Buddhist texts. Although this technique of printing has been
surpassed by modern ones, Tibetans continued to use woodblock methods until recently for
traditional as well as sentimental reasons. Only in the 20th century did they start to use modern
printing methods.318 On the one hand, the woodblock methods facilitated the establishment of the
Tibetan canon, while on the other hand, they made it difficult to introduce new or unknown
material, which signified the desire to keep the canon as authentic as possible. In fact, new
materials were incorporated by adding supplements to existing texts. Nevertheless, it seems that
woodblocks kept canons "original" not because they were designed that way but simply because
that was the nature of the technology.
Numerous writers319 have expounded extensively on the corpus of Longchenpa, but here the
main focus will be on the two works which are most relevant to this study. The first work is the
second part of The Trilogy of Natural Freedom (Rang grol skor gsum) titled The Natural Freedom
of Reality ( Chos nyid rang grol) . This has been translated twice. The first is an unpublished
translation by Peter Fenner who was assisted by Christenson and Germano, and the second is a
translation into French by Phillippe Cornu.320 The main theme in this work is Longchenpa' s
refutation of goal-oriented practices.
The second work is the sixth part of The Seven Treasuries (mDzod bdun), titled A Treasure
Trove of Scriptural Transmission: A Commentary on The Precious Treasury of the Basic Space of
Phenomena (Chos dbyings rin po che 'i mdzod zhes bya ba 'i 'grel palung gi gter mdzod) . 321
It is concerned with the Dzogchen non-dual philosophy and the practice of trekch6 (khregs chod,
cutting through solidity).
Given that the essential purpose of the study is to demonstrate that Longchenpa transformed
his rhetoric of negation into a pedagogy capable of facilitating the experience of natural awareness
these two works are of special importance for this purpose. While the main theme in The Natural
Freedom of Reality is the refutation of goal-oriented practices, the main theme in A Treasure Trove
of Scriptural Transmission is the transformation of negation into pedagogy entailing methods
capable of direct introduction to natural awareness and a non-dual practice that enables the
practitioner to sustain and to abide in that state.

The Trilogy of Natural Freedom, A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission, and negation
This section will consider the time and setting when the two works were composed in order to
contextualize Longchenpa' s critique and negation of goal-oriented practices and its development
into a pedagogy of negation.
The Trilogy of Natural Freedom consists of three texts, written in the form of verses, with
prose texts serving as a commentary. The second part of the trilogy, The Natural Freedom of
Reality, which is in the focus of this study, includes two texts . The first is a long poem in three
parts that presents the view, meditation, and fruit of Dzogchen, whereas the second contains only
essential instructions on Dzogchen practice.
70 The Man From Samye

The colophons tell us that the author was Longchenpa whose name is recorded as being
Drime Odzer (Dri med 'od zer) , and indicate the trilogy was composed at his solitary cave at
Gangri Thokar (Gangs ri thod dkar) . The name Drime Odzer was born out of a vision
Longchenpa had while living in Samye in the forest of Chimphu, after he had spent nearly three
years with his root teacher Kumaraja. It seems hard to believe that while living in rough physical
circumstances during that period of time he would be engaged in writing and producing at least
two trilogies : Natural Freedom and also Resting at Ease.
The main interest here in examining the colophons is to track the development of
Longchenpa' s ideas and his auto commentary to the colophon in his work A Treasure Trove of
Scriptural Transmission. In it Longchenpa writes :
In works that set any profound topic related to developmental spiritual approaches or that
primarily discuss meditative absorption (both the letter and the spirit of these topics), I have
signed by the name Drime Odzer. 322
That is to say, The Natural Freedom of Reality is concerned more with the different stages along
the spiritual Buddhist path and, to be more precise, with the negation of the developmental spiritual
approach to liberation. Longchenpa' s purpose in this text is to draw a precise demarcation or
discernment between the natural mind associated with Dzogchen and the conditioned mind
associated with effort and goal-oriented practices. In fact this is the meaning of the Mind series
(Sems sde) class of Dzogchen teaching323 which is about discernment between ordinary mental
process subject to the dimensions of time and caus ality, to conditioned existence, superimposition
of beliefs and judgments ; and the nature of mind (sems nyid) which is entirely free from all those
factors . It consists of a systematic sequence of explanations of how to enter into the state of
contemplation, where one abides in a natural state of mind or unconditioned awareness (rig pa).
It seems that through the composition of The Natural Freedom of Reality Longchenpa, as
Germano puts it,324 "clears his mind" of conceptual process by sharply negating a vast range of
philosophical views and spiritual practices associated with effort and go al orientation. These are
grounded within the duality of means and ends and hence are a product of a conditioned mind.
Longchenpa excludes the Priisangika -Miidhyamaka view from his general negation of
philosophical views and praxis in general, an exclusion that will be discussed when inquiring about
the roots and nature of Longchenpa' s negation of spiritual practices in the chapter 4 of the thesis.
After the dismantling process of views and practices is accomplished, only then does
Longchenpa proceed to treat and explicate the depths of Dzogchen as non-dual natural awareness.
In examining and reviewing his critique of goal-oriented practices in The Natural Freedom
of Reality, Longchenpa' s evolution of thought and practice can be understood in a more profound
sense as a conversion or transformation from a discourse of the rhetoric of negation to one of the
pedagogy of negation.
While the main theme of The Natural Freedom of Reality is the repetitious negation of the
prevailing philosophic al views and spiritual practices it is in the later work, A Treasure Trove of
Longchenpa 's Life and Works: 1 4th Century Tibet 71

Scriptural Transmission, that Longchenpa transfonns the negation into a pedagogy that may
culminate in a concrete experience of natural awarenes s . A Treasure Trove of Scriptural
Transmission is such a text, a contemplative text that, according to Longchenpa, reveals the way of
abiding in a spacious expanse.32S That is to say, it is about the practice of trekcho, which enables
capable Dzogchen practitioners to effortlessly stabilize and continue to abide in the experience of
natural awareness . It assumes that the practitioner already knows how to discern between ordinary/
discursive mind and the nature of mind, hence offers methods that enable steadfastness in the
nature of mind. Thus, the connection between the two texts is a developmental and sequential one
where negation, its pedagogy, and the experience of natural awareness fonn the red thread that
links the two texts . It represents an evolution in Longchenpa' s thought and practice, where
methods are presented on a range from the negation of "effort-full methods" to the prescription of
"effortless methods" .326 In fact these two works stand together in one continuum.
In this respect Arguillere concludes that:
Finally, The Natural Freedom of Reality and A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission are
alike in their structure and totally original, without a precedent (as far as recent research
allows to conclude) , and similar in expression of thought that could surprise the common
reader who is versed in the subtleties of the Tibetan religious and philosophical literature.327
Thus Arguillere, seeing the large common denominator of these two works expressed in
unparalleled originality and extraordinary style and thought, situates the works at the end of
Longchenpa' s life, deriving from both Bhutan and Gangri Thokar.
A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission consists of a condensed root-verse text, and a
single detailed auto commentary which "unlocks" or "unravels" the root verses, which are
supported with an extensive range of other scriptural citations. Such a text is traditionally regarded
not as a composition contrived by mundane mental concepts, but as a result of a clear natural
mind that "gives birth" to words. From a literary point of view, this work is scholastically brilliant
and constitutes a hymn to the nature of awareness.
For centuries this book remained one of the most popular meditation manuals and inspired
many Dzogchen followers . It has been held in the highest esteem by Tibetan meditators such as
Paltrul Rinpoche, a major figure of the tradition in the 1 8th century who made it the very heart of
his personal spiritual practice, and by Khenpo Ngagchung (mKhan po Ngag chung, 1 879- 1 94 1 ) ,
Nyo shul Lungtok (Nyo s h u l lung rtok, 1 8 29- 1 90 1 ) , Kyala Khenpo (Khyala mkhan p o ,
1 893- 1 9 5 7) and Dudj om Lingpa (bud 'joms gling pa, 1 83 5 - 1 904) .328 In fact it i s regarded by
many as the quintessential Nyingma text which eloquently and elegantly summarizes view,
practice and goal.
When it comes to the question of the date of the composition of A Treasure Trove of
Scriptural Transmission, various writers differ slightly in their views. According to the tradition329
as conveyed by Urgyen Tulku to David Gennano, this text was composed by Longchenpa in
Bhutan, but after losing it on his way back to Tibet he then recomposed itat Gangri Thokar.330
72 The Man From Samye

David Germano331 indicates that, according to Longchenpa' s own catalogue which was produced
while in exile Bhutan, he wrote A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission in his last days in
Bhutan. This is also evident in the way Longchenpa' s thought developed from the time he was
staying with his root teacher until later on while staying in Gangri Thokar, and then in Bhutan, as
this work is a summation of the defInitive themes of Dzogchen from the perspective of the basic
space of phenomena. Hillis states that A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission was either
composed during Longchenpa' s stay in Bhutan or shortly after his return to the region of Samye.332
Arguillere333 also mentions that it was written in 1 354- 1 355 in Bhutan.
The problem is that in the colophons of the same work Longchenpa himself states that it was
composed in Gangri Thokar.334 The various opinions and Longchenpa' s own catalogue of works
and colophons mainly point to the Bhutan period as the time which A Treasure Trove of Scriptural
Transmission was composed. It may be that Longchenpa indeed wrote the text while in Bhutan,
but later revised, edited, or compiled it in Gangri Thokar upon his return to central Tibet. An.other
possibility is a metaphorical one: in another text, The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding,
Longchenpa described Gangri Thokar as the "noble mansion of S amantabhadra" , 335 which
signifies the nature of mind in the sense that Samantabhadra is taken as being emblematic of the
pure essence of mind. Probably Longchenpa intended to assert that although he himself was
staying in Bhutan, the text stemmed from the nature of mind, the domain of Samantabhadra, which
Longchenpa related or named as Gangri Thokar. Although these explanations derived from
metaphorical interpretations are not facts, they are not umeasonable possibilities. Nevertheless
it may be concluded that the text was written in the period of time between Longchenpa' s last days
in Bhutan or upon his return to central Tibet between 1 355 to 1 3 60, at the end of the fifth decade
of his life and a few years before he passed away in 1 3 64 at the age of 56.
The translation of A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission by Lama Chokyi Nyima
(bLa ma Chos kyi Nyi ma) used for this study is a cross tracking of three different editions. The
first one was printed from woodblocks carved at the Adzom Chogar (A 'dzoms chos mgar)
printery in eastern Tibet, probably in the beginning of the 20th century. The second is a revised
edition of the fIrst source and was printed in 1 987. The third was from a photo offset of prints
made from wood blocks carved in Derge (sDe dge), published in 1 983 in Sikkim. The translation
was supervised by Chagdud Tulku (lCags mdud sprul sku) and introduced by Tulku Thondup.336

The rhetoric of negation in Tibet before Longchenpa

N ow that the works of Longchenpa to be used for the study of negation, its pedagogy and the
experience of natural awareness have been identified, the actual themes of negation and its
pedagogical method should be identified and contextualized too. An exposition of various selected
practice and teaching methods associated with the rhetoric of negation and its transmission which
existed before Longchenpa will enable us to situate Longchenpa as a teacher. This will aid in
clarifying the manner in which Longchenpa was able to overcome the tension stemming from the
paradox of goal-oriented spiritual practices and liberation. In order to execute this task, the practice
and its teaching methods, the modes of its transmission, and the pedagogy of negation between the
9th and 1 2th centuries will be explored through the life and works of Madhusadhu, Nubchen Yeshe,
Gampopa, and Lama Zhang, all great charismatic figures of their time who left an imprint on their
tradition and enriched and enhanced the development of Buddhism in Tibet.

One of the fIrst expositions of the rhetoric of negation appears in the text The Four Yogas which is
found in a Dunhuang document (IOL Tib. J 454) . Although lacking a colophon, according to van
Schaik it is attributable to Madhusadhu and is dated between the mid-9th and mid- l Oth centuries,
obviously before Gampopa ( 1 079- 1 153) fonnulated his Four Yogas of Mahamudra. 337 The text
refers to themes characteristic of Mahayoga tantras, but focuses particularly on themes such as
resting in the space of reality, the nature of mind, non-duality, sameness, and spontaneous presence
which are all consistent with Dzogchen Semde (Sems sde) literature.
The Four Yogas referred to above are ( 1 ) The Yoga of the Nature (rang bzhin gyi mal 'byor)
which refers to the nature of mind which is primordial purity and Buddhahood; (2) The Yoga of
Accomplishment which refers to being established in the nature of mind as it arises naturally (3)
The Yoga of Abiding by the Oaths while one remains and abides in natural awareness
communicating with various divinities and binding them by oath in order to complete certain tasks
(4) The Yoga for Accomplishing the Samaya which refers to keeping one' s vows or commitments
while abiding in the nature of mind, and which can be regarded as a commitment or a vow by
One of the main themes in Madhusadhu' s Four Yogas, related to practice or more precisely
"non-practice", is the accomplishment of the Four Y ogas occurring simultaneously and not as a
graduated practice. For him, practice is about effortlessly "resting in the space of reality" : Space is
the condition of arising and dissolving of all phenomena, the essential nature of reality which is
74 The Man From Samye

empty of independent existence and in which phenomena are still apparent. Cognitively
Madhusadhu refers to a direct perception that occurs before concepts and judgments are formed by
the individual when encountering any sense object, allowing a clear perception of the objects as
they are independent of the perceiver' s concepts, judgments and frames of reference. Resting
means to abide in that space without any mental activity and without fabricating the inner gesture
of rest, independently of the three times. That is to say, resting cannot be a product of a present
subject intending to abide in the space of re ality in the future because this would entail a reference
point on which resting is dependent. According to Madhusadhu , "when all internal and
external phenomena endowed with the causes and effects of sarp.sara and nirvfu;l.a are of one taste,
in understanding both to be empty of independent existence and as having ' one taste' , this is
resting in union (neljor)" in the sense that phenomena and their empty nature consist of a non­
duality.339 Although Madhusadhu doesn't explicitly express forms of negation of spiritual practices
with injunctions such as "do not" , "let go" , etc, in the manner of Longchenpa, Madhusadhu
implicitly does so by referring to characteristics of meditation in the form of unsurpassed
concentration which is unfabricated, non-fixated and non-distracted.340
It is in Nubchen Yeshe ' s A Lamp for the Eye in Contemplation (bSam gtan mig sgron), in
which according to van Schaik341 the name of Madhusadhu and similar themes are discussed, that
the explicit negations of practices are expressed within the context of Dzogchen view and practice.

Nubchen Yeshe
Nubchen Yeshe (9th century) was mentioned in chapter 2 in the context of ' S amye: simultaneous
and gradual praxis' . In his work A Lamp for the Eye in Contemplation, the chapter on Dzogchen
is endowed with detailed explanations of its teachings. For Nubchen Yeshe:
. . . the doctrine of Atiyoga is the best and utmost Yoga, the mother of all conquerors, its name
is the Great Perfection (Dzogchen) because it gives detailed teaching with a view of imparting
direct understanding of the principal of non-sought spontaneity with regard to all existential
elements . 342
Here , Nubchen Yeshe po sitions Dzogchen as the best -and utmost yoga and j ustifies the
superlatives attributed to Dzogchen because it teaches the principle of spontaneity. Here the term
spontaneity means an unpremeditated or unplanned response to an event and is about direct
perception which is experienced within self-awareness (rang rig), unmediated or conditioned by
concepts or mental constructs that occur in the mind. Obviously, this spontaneity cannot be sought,
because one' s endeavour or effort to adopt such an attitude will contaminate the freshness and
directness of one' s experience and is self-contradictory. To directly understand "non-sought
spontaneity"343 means to realize Dzogchen, which implies the negation of any act that is intended
to achieve spontaneity because such an act is futile or self-contradictory. This negation gives rise to
the cardinal question: How can one experience direct perception within self-awareness without
seeking it or by doing anything? This question leads to a series of questions that Nubchen Yeshe
From Negation to Absence 75

poses in the form of an imaginary dialogue as a means of enhancing understanding of Dzogchen.

An example of such a question is : "Is there anything to be investigated in Dzogchen?"
Nubchen Yeshe presents a strange reply, saying that the very act of questioning and its content
arise out of one ' s nescience or ignorance of "reality as it is" (tathatii) and when one abides in "non­
avoiding and non- searching" and without investigating, which is the state of spontaneity
experienced by self-awareness, the "answer" will be made clear. Nubchen Yeshe provides an
answer here by means of paradox, "Do not search but do not refrain from searching," which by
nature is self-contradictory. The inherent tension in the paradox creates discomfort and frustration
for the aspirant.
Nubchen' s series of negations leads to a circular argument: actions such as investigation,
inference, release of mind, avoidance, seeking, words and all other methods are futile. 344
They cannot lead one to the experience of the state of Dzogchen. Therefore, if there is "nothing
to be done" how can one come to the realization of the nature of mind? It is circular because
the question will be answered again negatively in terms of a paradox, which will increase the
tension for the student interested in realizing the state of Dzogchen. The student, being
unsatisfied with the answer, might raise another question such as , How one can progress
towards the Inner Experience without doing anything? Again, they will be answered by means
of a negation. The negation will perpetuate the ambiguity and increase their feelings of tension
due to their inability to resolve the self-contradictory or paradoxical nature of the answers .
If the aspirant were to avoid asking questions and decide to remain silent it would conflict
with Nubchen' s Yeshe advice of "non-avoiding" mentioned earlier. If the aspirant were to
continue and ask questions they would be unsatisfactorily answered by means of negation.
To understand the nature of the rhetoric of negation used by Nubchen Yeshe I suggest
induding most expressions of negation under a central rubric, that of "non-action," referring
to the negation of spiritual practices . After all, from the point of view of Dzogchen teachings
expressions such as searching, investigating, avoiding, releasing, thinking, visualizing and labelling
denote both mental and physical activities which are incapable of leading the practitioner to an
abiding in their essential natural awareness. Thus the focal point in the following section is the
examination of the concept of "non-action" in Nubchen Yeshe' s work and its various explanations
of what the meaning of "non-action" might be.
In the following passage Nubchen Yeshe explains what he means by the negation of activity:

Does one remain without doing anything then? The answer to this question is that meritorious
deeds and searching activities do not bring about much good. However, it would not do at all
if one abandoned them all. Why? Because in this great system, "non-activity" does not mean
that one should rej ect and abandon everything nor would one do anything purposely. One
remains effortlessly within the principle. If one understands this way, one does not stop oneself
whatever one does, nor is there any cause to be sought actively. Moreover, in this great system
of the practice of the ancients, nothing is rejected nor anything accepted. Even the sense of the
76 The Man From Samye

"non-activity" is not sought nor does one remain without sense. Those who come in the future and
who are fortunate enough to enj oy this religious tradition must know this way . It is called the
"Manner of laying down of the great principle". One sleeps in the state of Dharmadhatu without
losing the "king of intellect" . Those, whose intelligence for understanding this principle has
become submerged and who are carried away by the river of striving, are like a person born blind.
They accept the teaching of the Great Perfection and talk about "non-activity", yet inside they are
purposely striving for something. To search for the sense of "non-activity" actively is like a woman
who hopes to be favored after having danced.345

Here, the explanations of the meaning of non-activity are given by means of bi-polar negation
expressed within a paradox. That is to say, activities such as accumulating merits and searching for
one' s natural awareness are not effective as they would become a burden or an obstacle for one' s
realization of Dzogchen. However at the same time it would not be advisable to abandon those
activities. To articulate it in a paradoxical phrase, it would mean, "Give up activities as they are
hindrances on the way to liberation but do not avoid b eing involved in such activities" .
Accordingly, one may still be involved in meritorious deeds which may promote expressions
of compassion and reduce suffering in one' s community . However, as this is a paradoxical
statement both its possibilities exclude each other. There are other paradoxes that appear in the
passage expressed in a sharp and concise manner, such as : "nothing is rej ected nor anything is
accepted" , and "Even the sense of the ' non-activity ' is not sought nor does one remain
without that sense" . Even if one argues that there is nO contradiction given that both
' accepting something' and 'rej ecting something ' are designations of particular mental states or
directions of the attention; and that theoretically One can withdraw from either sort of state, yet
what would be then that actual state? Furthermore, how is one to understand such instructions
that may be perplexing for the practitioner interested in realizing the principle of Dzogchen,
one of abiding in natural awarenes s ?
Clearly, Nubchen' s definition o f "non-action" a s a n instruction is relevant only for those
who are suitable for the teachings of Dzogchen but not for other types of candidates who
"accept the teaching of the Great Perfection and talk about ' non-activity' , yet inside they are
purposely striving for something. To search for the sense of 'non-activity ' actively is like a
woman who hopes to be favoured after having danced . " Therefore , for those who have
already had the experience of natural awareness , the definition of non-action via paradox
would mean advice to act but at the same time to be deeply rooted in the experience of natural
awarenes s , that is to say , they will act in response to sense obj ects but without forming any
attachment or aversion in relation to them. In this case one acts then without having the sense
agency, intentionality or attachment to the object of reference. It is a specific type of action that
implies a presupposition,346 that entails a belief in the possibility of such freedom from the
occurrence or non-occurrence of certain conditions or events that would be absent when
From Negation to Absence 77

abiding in attachment-free natural awarenes s . However, bringing this belief to the test of
N u b c h e n ' s n o t i o n of " n o n - action" w o u l d m e an that s u c h a belief s h o u l d n o t b e
cultivated o r avoided, which signifies having a profound understanding o r experience of
that state . B ut although B uddhi sts are great adherents of personal experience they are
aware of the difficulties associated with it as means of cognition as it can be misleading
or deceptive. For example , Candrakirti asserts that experience is not a valid means of
argumentation because it can be false or illusory in the same way that a person who is ill
with j aundice c an experience the world as being yellow . 347 However, Nubchen ye she
emphasizes the capacity for discernment between distorted or clear experiences of those
who are s uitable for the teachin g s of D z o g chen , th o s e who " s leep in the s tate of
Dharmadhatu without losing the ' king of intellect' '' .
For the others, the definition expressed by way of a paradox has but a confusing meaning, and
for them to understand the correct meaning they would have to realize for themselves the
experience of natural awareness which cannot be created by any action. This would lead them to
the question, "If the nature of mind cannot be reached by means of any action, mental or physical,
how it can be accessed?" By means of the latter question they will face again the rhetoric of
negation with its pedagogical aim to contest this very compulsive and discursive manner of
thinking geared towards certainty.
Along the exhaustive circular argumentation inherent in the negation of practice, Nubchen
Yeshe, surprisingly, presents a system of methods by which, one might imagine, he might admit
that there is some practice that can lead the Dzogchen practitioner to the realization of their true
nature . According to Nubchen Yeshe, Dzogchen meditation includes two components :
( 1 ) methods regarding how to discipline the body (Ius kyi bzhag thabs) and (2) methods regarding
how to access the mind (sems kyi 'jug thabs). On the physical methods Nubchen states :

[In thi s system] there i s no [specific] bodily discipline like [that of] the lower yogas of
development, because it is free of any notion of bodily grasping or attachment. Thus, there are
no definite methods regarding how to position the body. However, if one asks, "Does one
rej ect [ all the bodily discipline , ] such as cro s s legged sitting and so forth , of the lower
[vehicles] , " [My response is that] one does not rej ect them as long as one does not grasp [or
attach oneself] to the body . Nor does one accept them intentionally. [In that way,] there is no
contradiction in sitting cross legged, lying down facing up or down, or stretching in whatever
way whatsoever. The practice of yoga itself makes anything into bliss, and laziness is [surely]
a wrong action.348

The method in question includes the employment of physical postures as part of a plan or strategy
that one might exercise as a means to enhance the state of meditation or to access one ' s natural
state. As expected, Nubchen ' s position on physical postures is expressed again by means of
negation, which can be summed up as follows : physical postures cannot be althe means to
accessing one' s natural state because it is free of any pre-meditated strategy. However at the same
78 The Man From Samye

time whatever the body posture is, that is the position of practice of stabilizing the natural state for
the one who already abides in that state. Therefore, engaging in physical postures is futile because
it cannot access the nature of mind and avoiding physical postures means laziness which is a
wrong action. As can be seen, Nubchen Yeshe ' s position on the employment of physical postures
presents a dilemma which invokes tension for the practitioner about rational choice concerning
spiritual practice and liberation.
For Nubchen the same principle of negation is applicable also for methods of engaging the
On the methods of how to engage the mind, it is an engaging without engagement. It is the
suchness of reality that does not reify anything whatsoever and that naturally illuminates the
es sence of the great non-conceptual nature or being. Consequently the realization of non­
engaging is known as engaging. 3 49
Here, from first sight, it seems a positive state of engagement of the mind is reached by "doing" its
opposite, which is non-engagement. What Nubchen is referring to here is the nature of mind, the
awakened mind which cannot be accessed by any planned action, including a mental one. In non­
engaging he means that if one can abide in a state which is unfabricated or uncontrived and which
is "arrived at" without any pre-meditated strategy, one will realize this engagement with the
suchness of reality, a realization which is equal to the nature of mind. Therefore, if one makes any
attempt to engage the nature of mind it would be fabricated, as it cannot be accessed by means of
a physic al or a mental activity. On the other hand, if one attempts to refrain from any engagement
with any mental content, the very act of such avoidance is a strategy that may be a hindrance to
engaging the nature of mind. Thus Nubchen does not provide specific instructions applicable to
body and mind practices. This situation creates tension, frustration and dissatisfaction for the
student who searches after liberation.
Nubchen ' s abstract methods of dealing with the body and mind are concerned with
implementation in accordance with the nature of reality and one' s essential mind. He suggests that:
Without c ontriving or adulterating the three doors [body, speech and mind] one sees all
phenomena with one' s awakened mind and then acts accordingly. Neither doing nor stopping
doing, one simply acts without attachment.35o
That is to say, as long as one' s acts are rooted within one' s essential mind, those actions will be
free from any attachments ; for example, to those of gain and loss, pleasure and pain, etc .
Furthermore, in the context of methods of practice for the body and mind, physical and mental
activities are performed without any attachment to the methods themselves, their outcome, loss or
gain, and pain or pleasure they might cause.
How can Nubchen' s instructions for physical and meditative practice given after the lengthy
discourse of negation be understood?
Non-action cannot refer to a total absence of action. Otherwise, how can the range of activities
from eating, travelling, teaching, writing, debating, establishing monasteries and fighting, all of
From Negation to Absence 79

which were carried out by those who realized essential mind such as Nubc:;:hen Yeshe,
Longchenpa, Padmasambhava, Gampopa and Lama Zhang, be explained? One explanation
regarding the meaning of non-action or what might be a "legitimate" action, comes from Kennard
"Non-action" is basically the discovery of freedom as something inseparable from our being; it
c annot be create d . In thi s respect, freedom i s not the oppo site of determini sm but of
compulsion, of having to act. A spontaneous, unpremeditated way of acting in which one does
not need to avoid any s itu ation as negative for ex ample is only p o s sible having some
experience of "nondoing" as meditation, which is a profound grasp of the natural condition of
the mind usually termed rigpa .351

Lipman provides here a hermeneutic device as an aid to discerning and differentiating between
spontaneous or unpremeditated and compulsive ways of acting. This reasonably explicates the
range of activities which were carried out by those who realized essential mind, because non-action
does not stand for a total absence of action. Lipman seems to use the modem term of compulsive
action in order to mediate the Dzogchen notion of non- action from the 1 4th century to
contemporary practitioners or readers on the subject. However, the modem notion of compulsive
behaviour is about being forced to act as a result of an anxiety characterized by uncontrollable,
unwanted thoughts and repetitive and ritualized behaviours . In the same manner, meditation and
certain spiritual practices can become repetitive and ritualized behaviour when carried out by
practitioners motivated by obsession, competitiveness and the like. That is to say, one is then
conditioned by negative or positive thoughts or by actions.
For Longchenpa, non-action would entail conduct which has not originated from primal
ignorance (avidya) that necessarily yields the error of ego fixation352 which in tum leads one to the
experience of being an entity separate from others . Once this du alistic structure is crystallized one
has the sense of being forced to accept and enj oy certain situations and to endure or reject other
ones and to act accordingly. This reflects a condition in which one is constantly becoming caught
up in the complexity and confusion of a personal identity that differentiates between one' s agency
and one' s actions. As a result one ' s experience of life is one of suffering (dulJkha) .
I n B uddhism, avidya is the notion o f an a priori, false, pervasive belief system that
characterises the human condition and existence. It is an inherent wrong perception, a beginning
less cosmic confusion that resides in everyone, and which perpetuates painful experience.353 The
ultimate concern in Buddhism is the cessation of suffering, or liberation from this painful
experience. Thus in Buddhism in general avidya stands for the opposite of knowledge or insight
that will ultimately bring about liberation.
The notion of dulJkha (suffering) in Buddhism does not refer only to unpleasant things and
unhappy physical and mental states that one experiences but is principally about conditioned
existence. Thus one ' s psychosomatic existence is about suffering that perpetuates itself. A desire
generates a search for its gratification, the agony of search leads to dissatisfaction and further
80 The Man From Samye

craving, and so on.354 That is to say, dul;kha denotes human existence which is essentially
unsatisfactory, a condition in which one is confronted by thoughts , feelings, sensations and
situations one would prefer not to experience; or a condition where one is confronted by separation
from one' s loved ones, and from pleasant and joyful experiences which one would prefer not to
While dul;kha is the first of the Four Noble Truths, the fundamental Buddhist teaching, the
second is the root or cause of dul;kha: craving (trrfJii) for pleasing sense objects, eternity, certainty,
and what is finite. Living a conditioned existence fuelled by craving, the individual develops a
mistaken sense of being solid and continuous, a sense of ego, although it is but a collection of
tendencies and events . These tendencies are referred to as the five aggregates (skandhas) . That is to
say, a subj ect is a psychophysical unit composed of and dependent on the five aggregates or
potentialities of material form, feeling, perception, conceptualisation and consciousness, and who is
fixated on the world of objects of desire. Thus the individual experiences the world of phenomena
as being other than himself or herself, and is preoccupied with the relation between the self and
the world of obj ects . That dichotomy or sense of separation stands for dualism or dualistic
existence , as between the dreamer and the dream in our metaphor above . In fact one ' s
mind i s the entire system of mental , emotional, and behavioural variables that, as a
product of av idyii, constructs and defends this state of separation, both at the level of
u n c o n s c i o u s p r o c e s s e s and at the l e v e l of c o n s c i o u s , flu c t u ati n g , p h e n o m e n al
experience . 355
Thus , while Lipman refers to non- action as freedom from the compulsion to act,
Longchenpa refers to non-action in a broader sense to indicate that it is freedom from the
sense of the error of ego fixation that compels one to act or to avoid acting. For him, it would
be freedom from the condition in which one erroneously identifies oneself with any obj ect of
reference such as mental, emotional and physical events . It is then possible to assert that
Longchenpa is not overly concerned with actions as such but with the dualistic perception of
reality that leads to a conditioned existence. Thus the notion of non-action does not stand for
a total absence of action but refers to ("right") actions that originate in the nature of mind
which is free from the erroneous ego fixation and the sense of being an agent or a personal
identity . One then acts without being conditioned by notions such as "I am acting" , "I should
act" or "I must refrain from acting" but instead, in an un-premeditated manner that is
appropriate to the situation, and that matches given circumstances or situations .
Philosophically speaking, an unpremeditated action is one performed without a sense of
agency, that is to say, without dichotomy between the acting agent and the act itself. The
difference between "non-dual action" and an "ordinary dualistic action" has to do with the
involvement of "personal" intention or motive. The mental process of intending to get a certain
result from an ac.tion devalues the act, which will condition one ' s view and future actions.20 But
even assuming that one could act without the involvement of intention, the desire of a practitioner
From Negation to Absence 81

to be liberated inherently accompanies one' s actions. This raises the question: "Is an action
possible at all without the presence of any intention?" The subject of intentionality in relation
to liberation is a complex one that deserves an independent study , one which I intend to
undertake in the near future. However suffice it to say that non-action does not refer to total
ab sence of action but to action that originates in natural awarenes s , a mind free from
conditioning concepts generated by erroneous ego fixation.
Nubchen Yeshe ' s presentation of paradoxical non-action Dzogchen practice within the
rhetoric of negation leaves the student of Dzogchen in a state of tension and anxiety, confronted by
the challenges created by the abstract methods and rhetoric of negation that requires them to
withdraw from their old familiar methods of practice, their values and beliefs, their systems of
thinking, into an unfamiliar condition: the domain of essential mind. It is the argument of this study
that Longchenpa converted or transformed this tension, anxiety and confusion by means of
negation, into a pedagogy that enabled the practitioner to experience an unfamiliar state of
consciousness, that of the nature of mind.

When considering Gampopa ( 1 079- 1 153), probably one of the most interesting aspects of his life
and works is his conflicting commitments to the Kadam tradition with its sutra teaching, and to
Milarepa' s (Mi La ras pa) tantric teachings . On the one hand he was committed to the Kadampa
(bKa ' gdams pa) , a tradition adverse to tantric practices, one which represented a conventional
Mahayana Buddhism introduced into Tibet by Atisa and which included both his teachings on the
enlightened attitude (bodhicitta) and Madhyamaka philosophy. These practices357 involved a step
by step cultivation of moral conduct, the performance of meritorious deeds, and philosophical
study towards Buddhahood as presented by Atisa is his work Bodhipathapradipa. On the other
hand, Gampopa was committed to tantric teachings imparted by Milarepa which included
instructions on ca1'JQii li, exercises for channels and vital energies to awaken latent energies that lead
to awareness of the essence of mind.358
Gampopa' s simultaneous commitment to the two different styles of living and teaching
yielded a tension that was expressed repeatedly in his life. Trungram359 presents an event that
embodies the tension experienced by Gampopa who, strictly observing Kadam rules, refrained
from beer drinking. When he met Milarepa he was asked to drink beer from a skull. For Gampopa,
this meant a breaking of monastic rules, and therefore an ethical conflict. However, one needs to
look carefully into the other possible meanings of drinking beer in the context of meeting an
accomplished poet-yogi such as Milarepa, who in his songs of spiritual realization uses the motif of
drinking beer symbolically and analogically.
Following Ardussi' s treatment of the subject of brewing and drinking beer in Milarepa' s
works, one observes that it can also stand for the contemplative and blissful experiences of
experiencing the clear light:
82 The Man From Samye

Oh disciples of mine, desiring to see the sight of the mountain, Grasp them as you would
with the Clear Light of the self-mind [meditation] . . . If you meditate thus you will arrive, and
reaching the mountain peak, you will see the view, and will drink the beer of this experience . . .
Though you are unable t o drink beer which is pure can you not a least drink the [material]
weak beer? Though you c annot strive for enlightenment c an you not at least strive for
superior birth?360
Milarepa goes on to differentiate between two types of disciples. One type, referred to above, has
the capacity to reach enlightenment by unifying their mind with its essence, the "Clear Light" , and
is able to drink "pure beer" employing simultaneous methods. The other type is not capable of
reaching enlightenment but still can strive for the necessary conditions for enlightenment and is
able to drink a "weak: beer" which means a cultivation step by step of various practices such as
faith, mindfulness and compassion. Although such a path will not directly lead to the experience of
the clear light it will still be conducive to positive karma. Accordingly, it seems that Milarepa' s
gesture of offering the beer in a skull to Gampopa was a teaching on the essence of awareness
displayed simultaneously at both the symbolic and at the physical levels. It was a form of negating
Gampopa' s "old" monastic rules for a "new" yogic open way of life. For Gampopa it was a
moment of inner conflict that possibly was intensified even more when afterwards, according to
Rgyal thang pa,361 Milarepa prepared tea out of Gampopa' s gift and urinated into the cup, which
Gampopa said had an excellent taste. This tea was used for the four initiations of the highest tantra.
It might be most reasonable at this point to use a symbolic interpretation of this hagiographical
episode of "urinating into the tea" to denote that Milarepa has extracted knowledge from his
"innermost being" and poured it into the teaching of highest yoga bestowed on Gampopa, which
he naturally found to be good. It should be mentioned that in the context of the 1 1 til century, urine
was considered one of the "five nectars". It was referred to by code as "great fragrance" (dri chen)
due to social sensitivities of that time and it was used in ritual practices and activities led by yogins
and yoginis as well as in processes of initiation.362 The highest tantras also prescribed the use of
substances that are usually regarded as repulsive, including urine, at least symbolically, in order to
"transform" it into a realization of non-judgmental or non-conceptual awareness, not labelled as
either attractive or repulsive, standing for an awareness of the sameness underlying all phenomena.
In his interaction with Gampopa, Milarepa proceeds then to draw a line between his own
teachings and the teachings that Gampopa had received so far from the Kadam monks .
On Gampopa' s practice of meditation Milarepa commented that it was like an attempt to squeeze
oil out of a grain of sand which was in contrast with his own practice that could lead the
practitioner to see the nature of his mind like squeezing out oil already existing in a sesame seed. In
other words, in Milarepa' s view, Gampopa' s practice was futile because his practice could not
cause or create the state of non-dual awareness. But according to Milarepa' s practice the means
and the end, t e �ause and the result, are bound together in the same way that the oil is already
contained in e sesame seed. In binding the means and the ends Milarepa' s teaching on the
From Negation to Absence 83

essence of mind could not fall under the spell of duality. In Milarepa' s practice the sesame seed
stands for the potentiality of non-dual awareness, the oil. It represents the Ca1J,q,ii li teaching which
was imparted by Tilopa,363 the founder of Milarepa' s Kagyu lineage of teachings. Tilopa was a
sesame pounder, hence his name which translates as "Sesame Oil Man". Symbolically speaking,
the method aimed at realizing the essence of mind that was handed down by Tilopa was to be
practiced time and again by "pounding" one' s mind until enlightenment dawned and remained
Gampopa364 received from Milatepa the teachings of Mahfu:nuddi concerning the profound
understanding of the uncontrived mind or original awareness. Gampopa gave these teachings later
on to those of his disciples who were fit enough to receive them. In his work Rnam rtog don dam
gyi ngo sprod 365 Gampopa concisely presents the stages of the spiritual path ranging from
refuge seeking to "yoga of non-meditation". It can be seen in the text that the terminology
employed by Gampopa such as "non-meditation" , "no-mental fabric ation" , "original
awarenes s " , "unborn yet unceasing and without interruption" , resemble the Mind series
Dzogchen terminology. For example,366 presence of awareness (rig pa) is a recurring theme
in Gamp op a ' s work s , and it is known th at he was aw are of Rongzomp a ' s works on
Dz ogchen which establi shes a link between Gampop a ' s M ahamudra to Longchenp a ' s
Dzogchen concerning negation.
In the' Rnam rtog don dam gyi ngo sprod Gampopa locates Mahamudra, which is a
"simultaneous" system, within a "gradual" path to enlightenment and places it at the end of the
ladder as the highest attainable grade. In the third section of the text he presents the concise stages
on the spiritual path, starting with taking refuge, supplications and accumulating merits, meditation
on the faults of samsara then on enlightened intent and so on, aspects that are about gradually
cultivating means and understanding.367 It is only in the end of the fifth section, the final one, that
Gampopa offers instructions concerning elaborated Mahfu:nudra associated with the yoga of
CalJt!iili and unelaborated Mahfu:nudra based on the mere instant of seeing the mind essence while
integrating with activities such as walking, sitting and so on.368 The unelaborated Mahfu:nudra is
about experiencing the essence of mind in an instant by a single means, associated with the
simultaneous approach to liberation.
In creating a sutra-Mahfu:nudra system Gampopa was able to make Mahfu:nudra available for
practitioners, avoiding the complicated rituals and preparations but that would require training
through the gradu al teachings of the M ahayana, in spite of the fact that M ahfu:nudra was originally
intended as a simultaneous teaching addressed to the superior type of student. 369 That is to say,
although Gampopa indicates a path of gradual cultivation he positions the insight into the essence
of mind of Mahfu:nudra teachings as a beacon of orientation.
While in section three of the text Rnam rtog don dam gyi ngo sprod Gampopa appears as a
"gradualist" presenting a "mainstream M ahfu:nudra", later in the text he presents the philosophic al
view of Mahamudra within the context of a "radic al Mahamudra" . He then pre sents a
84 The Man From Samye

discourse of negation which includes refutations such as "There is no-meditator, no-act of

meditation and
no-obj ect of meditation" while at the same time recognizing the characteristics of natural
awareness which are clarity and openness . Gampopa repeats these characteristics numerous
times but then in a surprising pedagogical move he asserts :
I do not accept clarity . Accepting clarity is identification. I do not accept bli s s , nor non­
conceptual [gnosis] . Bliss and non-conceptual [gnosis] are identification. No example can
illustrate me. No word can reach to the [point] . Do not fabricate me . Simply let it be P70

The pedagogical shift employed here by Gampopa "pulls the carpet" from underneath the
practitioner/reader who is seeking a reference point of conceptual certainty, safety and comfort.
Gampopa' s pedagogical move acts here as a surprising textual punch line, capable of shaking the
reader' s understanding and driving them out of their familiar attitudes in order to make them more
receptive to change and to facilitate an experience of absence of concepts. The rationale behind
such a textual expression is that the essence of mind cannot be identified with a concept or a
thought of clarity, even with bliss and non-conceptuality, because these are mere ideas that
"colour" one ' s perception of reality and such perceptions then necessarily become distorted. But
natural awareness cannot be identified by any limiting attributes or any concepts as it stands for the
infinite potentiality, before it is "translated" into the relative human condition endowed with the full
range of emotions, concepts and conditioned behaviour. In other words, trying to enter into the
state of essential mind endowed with presuppositions such as clarity and openness can impose on
the experience an undue limitation. Hence Gampopa' s final abandonment of openness and clarity
brings the practitioner to the threshold of his innate essential mind.
Gampop a ' s discourse of negation is a foundational idea, a force at the base of his
philosophical view of Mahfunudril which is able to expose or to open an empty space for the
reader/practitioner. It is a negation of one ' s conventional and familiar perceptions in favour
of establishing a connection with an unfamiliar state of emptiness which stands for freedom
from nescience and from suffering . For Gampopa this deconstructive tool is of cardinal
importance, one which comes in the form of a punch line that ends his words as presented
above but which also ends any form of dialogue because there is nothing else to argue or to
say. Furthermore, through this pedagogical move Gampopa turns philosophical reading into
actual practice.
, The timing of employing the pedagogic al tool of negation is critical. It is used when the reader
thinks they have established an understanding of openness and clarity, causing them to abandon
any familiar term, concept or idea for the possibility of discovering the nature of their own mind.
However, a deeper inquiry into the nature of deconstructive negation as a pedagogical strategy will
take place when considering Longchenpa' s negation of goal-oriented practices and their products.
Firstly, the discussion will include its essence, whether an absolute refutation or a call to abandon
From Negation to Absence 85

discursive and conceptual thinking . Secondly, the inquiry will include discussion about the
intensity of the negation, the timing for its performance, its audience and the psychological
crisis it can create for the student/practitioner.

Lama Zhang
Lama Zhang ( 1 1 22- 1 1 93), another charismatic 1 2th century figure, was the founder of the Tselpa
Kagyu (Tshal pa Bka ' brgyud) order of Tibetan Buddhism. His model of a religious order was
based primarily on his own charisma as a wandering yogin who had spent years in secluded areas
in meditation, under severe physical and environmental conditions, and who returned to the world
to establish a community that revolved around him. Lama Zhang, according to his vision of the
ideal teacher, was not solely involved in religious activities but also in political and military
aggression, and a kind of Buddhist "law enforcement". In acting as a religious, social and political
leader he was able to sustain a community. He successfully integrated the various roles, some of
them apparently contradicting the ordinances of Buddhist praxis which he had assumed.
As Yamamoto puts it:
He masters spa c e , annexing territory through magic and force , subduing enemi e s , and
offering protection from physical danger, social disorder, and spiritual malaise. He masters
tim e , linking his community , through narrative and symbol to an authoritative tradition that
lends legitimacy and s upports group i dentiti e s . And finally he masters lang ua ge and
discourse, knitting together the continuity and tradition through his command of a large array
of oral and written literary genres , employed in a remarkably self-conscious and purposeful
fashion . 37 1

Lama Zhang is in the same lineage as Gampopa.372 Like Gampopa, in his work The Path of
Ultimate Profundity (Lam zab mthar thug),373 when he initially approaches the disciples of the
simultaneous path, the disciples of Mahamudra, he uses the rhetoric of negation, in the form of
"do not" assertions such as :
Do not work on it; leave it alone. Do not rein in perceptions ; let them range freely . Do not
make plans for the future; be lackadaisical. Do not build up mental objects for meditation: let
them pass . . . Do not look for a place to settle the mind . . . Do not think about past present and
future; . . . Whether troubled thoughts multiply or not, fine. Do not meditate for their sake . . .
Along with a list of "do not dos" in which he negates certain forms of meditation states, Lama
Zhang affirms other preferable modes of inner postures, such as "let perceptions range freely", or
"be lackadaisical". At this stage his negation is not absolute but an implicative one as it affirms an
alternative for the model that had been negated. However he further instructs the disciples in
Have no thought to settle down or not settle down into meditation. Have no thought to dismiss
or not dismiss what prevents meditation. Have no thought to think or not think. 374
At this stage the pedagogical move goes further and includes the negation of not only an
86 The Man From Samye

instruction, in the form of "Do not think of X", but also "Do not think of its opposite" . That is to
say, in terms of negation there is a shift from its implicative or affirming form. Accordingly, if a
disciple was instructed earlier "Do not work on clearing the mind but leave it alone" , this implies
that they should engage in the thought: "I should now leave the mind as it is". The latter thought is
negated too and the disciple is instructed to also abandon that thought of "leaving the mind as it is".
Further, Lama Zhang proceeds to negate even that state of mind and asserts "there is no abiding in
non-thought".375 By doing so Lama Zhang uses the force or energy of negation to create an open
space where what was familiar has been negated in favour of connecting the unfamiliar,
ungraspable nature of mind.
1 have presented three pedagogical processes concerning negation that have discarded
even the finest point of reference or concept which the disciple might have relied on as
representing the nature of mind. The first was to negate certain modes of meditation while
simultaneously affirming other mental modes of release. The second was to negate even the
alternative mental modes of release in a non-affirming form of negation. The third was to
negate again what has been non-affirmingly negated and what has been affirmed or implied
by the initial negation. The pedagogical process of negation has resulted (or ended) in
creating a space of possibilities for discovering the unfamiliar nature of mind. However, the
examples taken from The Path of Ultimate Profundity do not appear as an expression of a
clear "punch line" such as in Gampopa' s textual work but rather as a repeating and recurring
pattern of negating. Reading the text in a dynamic manner could become a practice in itself
as the repeating pattern of negation woven into the text could exhaust one' s mind, leading
one to a mental "dead end" where discursive thinking can bring about a halt to the state of
the entire ab sence of concepts which may facilitate the pos sibility of experiencing the
unfamiliar natural awarenes s .
Already in his work The Path of Ultimate Profundity, Lama Zhang points to the "ultimate
goal" which is associated with "ultimate Mahfunudra" as opposed to "path Mahamudra" . Here
Lama Zhang corresponds with Gampopa and he defines "ultimate Mahamudra" as "a condition in
which there is neither acceptance nor rejection, since the Great Total of the non-duality of SalflSara
and nirvana has been realized. "376 Thus "ultimate Mahamudra" is about realization (rtogs pa)
which is neither philosophical understanding nor a meditative experience377 but is instead a state of
being in touch with the nature of mind.
Although Lama Zhang in the title of his work The Path of Ultimate Profundity points at
"ultimate Mahfunudra", when he presents the Four Y ogas of Mahfunudra he does so as if it was as
a sequential practice, "path Mahamudra" . In other words, philosophically speaking he presents
M ahamudra as a gradual path whilst emphasizing and pointing to Mahamudra as a simultaneous
path invested with absolute terminology such as "Great Total of the non-duality of salflSara and
nirvana", which seems incompatible with the relative characteristics of the gradual path. Martin378
does not provide a satisfactory explanation to this incompatibility but goes to say that Lama
From Negation to Absence 87

Zhang is "doing his best" to point out for his audience the ultimate philosophical view of his
M ahamudra teachings and the ways to realize what i s ultimately profound . However,
Yamamoto attempts to resolve this incompatibility and mentions that Lama Zhang teaches
two "types" of Mahamudra because the ultimate goal of B uddhist teachings is to guide
s entient beings to their own realization and the wide variety of doctrine s , even the
contradictory ones, address persons with different characters, temperaments , and emotional
and mental c ap acities and receptivities . Yamamoto then proceeds with his pragmatic
"res olution" to the tension found between Zhang ' s ultimate philo s ophical view of his
Mahamudra and "path Mahamudra" and states that:
The dharma is therefore something deeper than a particular arrangement of words , for many
different arrangements of words - or any other medium, for that matter - can correspond
to the true Dharma. 379
Yamamot0380 recognizes that for Zhang, teaching activities need not to be confined to verbal
teachings and that any sort of behaviour used skilfully by a realized lama can bring a disciple to
realization. Means used skilfully can include "nonsense speech", "verbal abuse", "formal poetry",
"song", "dance", "whispering" , "not talking", "no clothes", etc. Pedagogically speaking, even if a
realized teacher makes a statement which is in contrast with the Buddhist principles, such as
absence of self (anatman), as long as it facilitates for the disciple the dawning of realization then
the use of such a falsified statement is justified and it can be said that the teacher has fulfilled their
mission according to Dharma. Therefore, for Zhang, realization induced by employing appropriate
skilful means is of prime interest, more than philosophical adequacy and consistency or the making
of philosophy. It should be employed only by a realized lama. These methods are interventional in
the sense that they lead the disciple from his familiar empirical phenomenal terrain to the unfamiliar
premises of pure awareness. In other words the pedagogy of negation employed by the lama can
create an inner space for the experience of the unfamiliar to arise. So Lama Zhang sees himself as
fIrst and foremost a Dharma teacher who is supposed to lead his disciples to realization, and less as
a philosopher.
When Lama Zhang approaches disciples suitable for the "simultaneous" path he uses the
rhetoric of the ultimate point of Mahamudra which is synonymous with realization of the nature of
mind (sems nyid) . The core of this practice, which is already active in the first of the Four Y ogas of
Mahamudra, is expressed by Gampopa as follows : "Well, how would one meditate on this one ' s
own innate (gnyung may mind-nature? That means, like water i s placed in water, and butter placed
in butter, one places the [mind] in [the state of] non artifice. "381 That is to say, the core of the
practice is placing one ' s mind in the unfabricated and uncontrived mind, which is not different, and
signifies that means - meditation and goal - ultimate realization are bound and unified in one ' s
mind. In this manner Gampopa and Lama Zhang "escape" the duality or dichotomies of means and
end, subject and object, past and future, etc, by binding them together in the mind conforming to
the philosophical discourse of Mahamudra' s non-duality. But innate to any practice is the initial
88 The Man From Samye

inherent notion of "wish" for the teachings of the B uddha that can obstruct the dawn of
realiz ation which c ontrasts with non- du ality . However, I argue that a pedagogical
intervention of negation would deconstruct this very concept of contradiction and thus
would open for the practitioner an empty inner space of potentiality for realization.
However, when Lama Zhang includes the "gradual practices", he does so not only with the
pragmatic motive of applying different methods to different practitioners, but also as an expression
of his status as "Lord of the Teachings" (bstan pa 'i bdag po). The title "Lord of the Teachings" is
similar to the term "Protector of Beings" associated with the Buddha.382
Lama Zhang ' s vision of public life is to a great extent ab out acts demarc ating
territories of s acred and physical space , securing control over resources and building
monasteries and temple s , shrines , etc . The Lhas a of that time was a small place of
pilgrimage with only the remains of Songtsen Gampo ' s ancient palace on the Red Hill. It
was driven b y c onflicts b etween co mpeting group s b o th s e cular and reli gious over
power and influence , and was challenged by lawless robbers in the countryside . In order
to realize his vision Lama Zhang had to establish a military force where disciples were
al s o soldiers in order to resist encro achment by outsiders upon the religio-physical
territories he had marked out, to reinforce the law to fight enemies of the teachings and
to "source" building materials.
This means that he was not only a Dharma and tantric adept but also a political and
military figure and enforcer of law and order, uniting religious and secular roles by the
power of tantra and the authority of Buddhist tradition. In fulfilling and realizing the two
roles "Lord of the teachings" and "Protector of B eings" , Lama Zhang, similar to Marpa,
became a lama who was at the same time a patron of his own myriarchy. In other word
the two roles of a lama and a patron were integrated in one personage .

Four Y ogas, Mahamudra and Dzogchen

Finally, while historically reviewing the theme of rhetorical negation, it has been noted
that the notion of Four Y o g a s app e ared in M adhu s adhu ' s , Gamp op a ' s and L ama
Zhangs ' texts . In considering the notion o f Four Yogas in the systems of Kagyudpa and
D zogchen, van S chaik383 mentions that the Four Y ogas of Gampopa were incorporated
by Jigme Lingpa ( 1 7 3 0 - 1 7 9 8 ) , a central figure in the Nyingma S chool and a master of
Dzogchen, into the system of Dzogchen . The Four Y ogas are as follows ( 1 ) Yoga of one
pointedness (retse gcig gi mal) where one sees a glimpse of the nature of one' s mind. (2)
Yoga of simplicity (spras bral) where one establishes oneself further in the essence of mind
through the movement and the events of life without being disturbed or interrupted, and
without elaborating on those events . (3) Yoga of one taste (ra gcig) where phenomena in
their multipliGity appe ar without any differenti ati on b e c au s e they are all devoid of
independent existence . (4) Yoga of non-meditation (sgom med kyi mal) where realization
From Negation to Absence 89

dawns and there is not an obj ect to meditate on and neither is there a meditator.384 However
Narnkhai Norbu argues385 that the Four Yogas of Dzogchen Semde that are similar to those
of Gamp op a ' s M ahamudra were transmitted by Nyak Juana Kumara ( gNyags Jiiiina
Kumiira) to Aro Yeshe in the 1 0th century . The ambiguity increases when according to
Dudj om Rinpoche,386 Nyak Jiiana Kumara lived in late 8th century while the Four Yogas of
Gampopa were formulated into a teaching in 1 2th century.
Nevertheless , according to Namkhai Norbu387 the Four Yogas of Dzogchen Semde are :
( 1 ) Yoga of "c alm state" or "resting in" (gnas pa) the nature of mind by means of one-pointed
concentration; (2) Absence of thoughts or non-movement (mig gyo ba) where abiding in the nature
of mind is not disturbed by the mental movements of thoughts ; (3) Yoga of equanimity or one taste
(mnyam nyid) of calm state (gnas pa) and absence of disturbing thoughts (mig gyo ba) ; (4) The
yoga of self-perfection (lhun grub) where one abides in non-duality, fully integrated in one' s
natural condition and reality.
As we have seen earlier, the other set of Four Y ogas that has components essentially similar to
these two other sets of Four Y ogas are those of Madhusadhu from the mid-9th to mid- 1 0th
centuries, obviously before Gampopa formulated his Four Y ogas of Mahamudra.388
Although there are ambiguities regarding dates, origins and mutual influences of the Four
Yogas and although Tibetan terminology and the content of three sets of Four Yogas' components
are not always identical, the three sets of the Four Y ogas still have a comprehensive common
denominator. The departure point, the First Yoga in the three sets of Four Yogas, is abiding and
resting in the nature of mind. The rest of the yogas of the three sets are about establishing the
natural state, maturing towards full realization of sameness and non-duality where one has fully
integrated one' s natural condition and reality. The three sets of Four Y ogas continually advocate
the simultaneous discourse of practice displaying rhetoric of refutation or negation, that clearly
show various expressions of the rhetoric of negation that had existed before the time of
Furthermore, Longchenpa was definitely aware of the philosophy and praxis of the Kagyu
lineage, as he met389 with the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, head of the Kagyu school,
in 1 326- 1 3 3 2 and received Naropa' s Six Y ogas , Kalacakra, Avalokitesvara, Guhyasamaj a,
Sambhuti, Mahamaya and Yamantaka teachings from him. 390
Longchenpa wrote a letter to the Third Karmapa, in the style of questions to the master, which
reveals the intellectual ideas of young Longch�npa and the seeds of his view concerning praxis in
relation to liberation. As we look beneath the surface meaning of the text it seems less like the
simple expression of the naivety of a young student still addressing issues beyond his capacity, and
seems that the Karmapa was certainly not the target of the questions. It seems more like a piece
written with a sense of paradoxical irony questioning doctrinal weaknesses. For example:
S ince the beginningles s nature of mind i s present in all sentient beings h o w could it be
addressed as primordial?
90 The Man From Samye

But if the Buddha is other than the nature of mind is it preceded by the double provision of
[merit and wisdom] or is it not? . . . if there is a preceptor that taught him what to do regarding
the two provisions . . . it would contradict the first notion of primordiality.
Or if he did not have a teacher what is that original being who naturally becomes aware that
has to be studied and known?
If his awakening is not preceded by the two provisions how unfamiliar or foreign is such a
Buddha who is not the nature of mind and does not perfect/complete the accumulations of
merits and wisdom.
In the sutra and tantra the existence of all transmigrating sentient beings , signs, marks, light
rays, etc , Victorious Ones are taught by the example of the great silk fabric . Do they really
exist or not?
If they are not [truly existent] , then, as at the time of the base (gzhi) of clear light, sentient
beings are [already] free at the time of fruit. Despite the practice accomplished, we will be
unable to [attain the state of] Buddha:
If there i s not a pure principle there cannot be any result to purifying p ractice - hence
awakening becomes impossible .
But if all the qualities of Buddha actually exist within sentient beings , awakening could be
eternal, stable, like the Self of the Brahmins and why without any effort are we not awakened
[to our true nature] ?
This i s b e c au s e they are veiled by the defilements that w e [must] make an e ffor t . 3 9 1
(My translation)

What is interesting in the passage above are the questions of the young Longchenpa about
the connection of praxis and liberation that points at the possible condition where spiritual
practice seems futile. He mentions in the passage above ideas such as effort as hindrance to
awakening to the nature of mind, and that although practice is accomplished it is unable to
cause the awakening to the state of the Buddha, and he questions the status of purifying
practices and accumulation of merits .
These ideas will be explored further in the current chapter, in which Longchenpa' s
rhetoric of negation will be identified and examined. B efore discussing his critique of
spiritual practice a clo ser look will be given to his philosophical heritage and roots
concerning his discourse of negation. This process will reveal Longchenpa' s rhetoric of
negation in light of the negational style of Madhusadhu, Nubchen Yeshe, Gampopa and
Lama Zhang, forming a historical view of negation between the 9th and 1 4th centuries. It will
also provide a suitable base for the understating of Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation.
So far the discourse of negation has been reviewed within the context of the history of ideas,
focusing on the negation of goal-oriented spiritual practices. However, before proceeding
with an examination of Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation of spiritual practices, the nature,
From Negation to Absence 91

role and meaning o f his negations need t o b e identified. For that purpose, a closer look into the
philosophical heritage and roots of his discourse of negation is required.

Roots of Longchenpa ' s negation

Longchenpa inherited several strands of inquiry concerning the rhetoric of negation, not only
the one characteri stic of Dzogchen found in Nubchen Yeshe ' s A Lamp fo r the Eye in
Contemp lation (bSam g tan mig sgron) but also that from the syllogistic Pras atigika­
Madhyamika. According to Longchenpa, "the methods of evaluating reality that are used in
the system of natural great perfection - for example, determining it to be free of limitation
- are largely in accord with syllogistic Prasatigika approach in the middle way school"392
and "this method is the highest view of all caused-based dialectical approaches" .393 Butters
goes even further to conclude in his work The Doxographical Genius of Kun mkhyen kLong
chen rab byams pa that Longchenpa saw himself as a Prasatigika-Madhyamika.394 However
it should be emphasized that he was i dentified as a Pras atigika-Madhyamika only in
reference to the Svatantrika-Madhyamika and within the context of caused-based dialectical
appro ache s . The signifi c ance of thi s emphasis i s that Longchenp a in principle is a
philosopher and teacher of Dzogchen which for him is the superior approach to the caused­
based dialectical approaches. What explicates for him the superiority of Dzogchen is its non­
activity component that is about the actual abiding in the natural awarenes s while the
caused-based dialectical approaches accept certain views and methods obscured by hope
and reject others motivated in attempting to achieve liberation.395
Historically speaking, in 1 4th century Tibet important figures such as Rendawa Shonnu Lodra
(Red mda ' ba gZhon nu blo gros, 1 349- 1 4 1 2) the Sakyapa, and his famous disciple Tsongkapa
( 1 357- 14 1 9) , the founder of the Kadam (later, Gelug) school, viewed Candrakirti' s Prasatigika­
Madhyamaka as the only valid interpretation of Madhyamaka and as the true purport of the
Buddha' s teaching.396
Although these figures are from the second half of the 14th, century while Longchenpa lived
most of his life in the first half of the 14th century, the seeds of Candrakirti' s Prasatigika were
already deep in the Sakya tradition. Rendawa Shonnu Lodra wrote the earliest commentary on the
Four Hundred Verses of Ary adeva, who was the principal student of Nagarjuna.397 Nevertheless,
it shows that Rendawa Shonnu Lodra and Tsongkapa' s evaluation of Candrakirti' s Prasatigika
reasonably strengthens Longchenpa' s superlative evaluation of Prasatigika-Madhyamaka, which
will be discussed subsequently.
Philosophically speaking, the fundamental distinction between Prasatigika and Svatantrika
Madhyamaka is that the Prasatigika is not committed to any thesis in relation to reality whereas the
Svatantrika believed that they could put forth an argument that could withstand any analysis
and would validate the existence of things at the relative level but which would deny them
92 The Man From Samye

The Prasailgika' s aim is to reduce its opponent' s views through a process of reductio ad
absurdum in order to bring the philosophizing process to an end, and without establishing
an alternative view because emptiness cannot be grasped by means of logic , rather it needs
to be intuite d . 398 The S vatantrika ' s aim was to establish a correct relative truth that
corresponds to phenomena in the sense that it is not in contradiction with the characteristics
of a given phenomenon in terms of its mode of function.
To put it in the words of Jfianagarbha (8th century) :
. . . the S vatantrika accept things to be real in a mundane sense as they are conducive to the
acquisition of pre-requisites for the understanding of ultimate truth and are real according to
ordinary c onventional usages some of the things c ould be unreal therefore conventionally
everything is real or unreal. 399
That is to say, according to Jfianagarbha the relative truth is necessary on the way towards
understanding or knowing the absolute truth of emptiness in terms of discernment between what is
conventionally real and unre al.
Longchenpa' s position on the distinction between Prasailgika and Svatantrika Madhyamaka,
in contrast with Butter' s statement that "To be honest, Longchenpa does not compare and contrast
Prasailgika and Svatantrika over and against one other" ,40o is that of a clear refutation of the
Svatantrika position.401 Longchenpa refutes the Svatantrika position because their alleged proof
that things do not exist on the absolute level but nevertheless exist in the relative level shows that
their views subscribe to the fixated ideologies of nihilism and realism respectively. Furthermore,
any form of reasoning considered as authentic, in the sense that it can describe the true nature of
reality, cannot be valid as it is a mere conceptualization.402
Longchenpa adopted the view of the Prasailgika-Madhyamaka and its method, which
is in principle the tetra lemma method that c an be understood in various way s , such as
(a) Corresponding with the Buddha' s refusal to answer certain questions on the ground that
the discussion of them does not conduce to enlightenment. Thus, Nagarjuna' s denial of all
views does not mean that the views, or their contradictions, are specifically true or false - it
means only that to entertain them encourages obscuring preoccupation with what is not
essential to the meaning of life. The concern here is with the practical means of liberation.
Alternatively (b) Showing that affirmation and denial may be inapplicable to a problematic
status of an obj ect being ultimately non-existent or beyond conceptualization. Thus any
a s s ertion ab out such an obj ect that c annot be referred is to be negated, as nothing
meaningful can be established.
However the most suitable interpretation of the paradoxical structure of the Madhyamaka
argument of negation for this study is that of practical means of liberation which has a potential
pragmatic value. Accordingly interpretation that includes refutation or negation is aimed at
dismantling any .fixations, views or conceptualization processes that give rise to attachments and
aversions that distort one ' s perception of reality , shown to be empty of independent
From Negation to Absence 93

exi s tenc e . 403 In fact thi s method acc ording to Longchenp a is ab out cutting through
conceptual elaborations and establishing a state of mind which is empty of conceptualization
processes and leading towards the realizing of the empty nature of phenomena by means of

Nature of the negation

H o w ever, what i s the type or n ature of the negation employed by the Pdis ailgika­
Madhyamika that Longchenpa adopted and how did it serve him? Intuitively, it would be
obvious that when negating or refuting a phenomenon, at the same time one is confirming
another positive which replaces the negated one. Negating or refuting an assertion affirms its
counter thesis at the same time, a positive phenomenon, or an alternative to what has been
under negation. According to Mabbett, later scholars commonly distinguished between two
types of negation : paryudasa and prasajya. The first implies the contradiction of what it
negates. The second, associated with the sense of "absolute" negation, does not imply any
assertion of the contradiction. What characterizes Nagarj una' s negations is that they deny
any proposition without implying an alternative thesis, positive or negative.405

Affirming negation
The type of implied negation (paryudasa) referred to by Mabbett seems to characterize
Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation within the context of the prevailing religio-political reality of his
time. Longchenpa was located at the periphery in terms of power and influence of the current
political and religious realities . In refuting and rej ecting religious and political structures,
philosophies and practices he affirmed and defined Dzogchen, and maintained the Nyingma' s
status which was in decline in the Tibetan consciousness. Furthermore, adopting an affirming
method of negation (paryudasa) reflects Longchenpa' s desire to be taken more notice of
and his intention to move to the centre by means of placing the Dzogchen tradition in an
overt dialogue with classic Indian Buddhism accepted by most Tibetan Buddhist schools.
Prasailgika-Madhyamaka was especially adopted by the S akya, as in the case of Rendawa
Shonnu Lodro initiative to write the earliest commentary on Aryadeva' s Four Hundred
Verses. In other words, in order to achieve the transition from the periphery to the centre
Longchenp a connected Dz ogchen with the well- accepted and recognized Pras ailgika­
Madhyamaka, the corner-stone of the most dominant Buddhist schools of his time.
Dzogchen and Nyingma writers from the 1 0th and 1 1th centuries were compelled to meet
the challenges posed by the Indic discourses of the gradual path through using the counter
discourse of negation and resorting to terminology terms such as those of "naturalness" and
"spontaneity" or "primordiality" ;406 and the space of absence referred to by the discourse of
negation functioned partially as a religious and a political force of resistance against the new
wave of translations coming from India. This process of the Nyingma was progressively
94 The Man From Samye

converted into self-definition.407 It can be concluded that when Longchenpa employs the
rhetoric of negation within the political context of his time he uses it as an affirming negation
in order to move from the periphery to the centre. That is to say, Longchenpa criticized
prevailing dominant orthodoxies and philosophies in order to make Dzogchen seem a more
appealing alternative and to make the Tibetans take more notice of him as a religious leader
who i s a s u c c e s sor of P admas ambhav a . Furthermore , by means of negating o ther
philosophies and methods Longchenpa' s principal system of Dzogchen is actually defining
and affirming itself.
Within the context of Longchenpa' s biography it can be seen that Longchenpa' s overall
strong tone of negation, expres s ed in his dismis sive , confrontational and challenging
manner, seems to conform with "Longchenpa the person", who had the tendency to criticise
and protest against the prevailing Tibetan realities . He also saw himself as the voice of the
politically powerless Nyingma, the ancient school that carried the "authentic" Buddhist
tradition which h ad originated in S amye in the days of the Tibetan empire . Thus
Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation seemed to suit his tendencies to be highly critical, and to
protest and confront the political and religious realities that had monopolised power,
influence and wealth and who se goal- oriented methods had bec ome the fashionable
teachings overpowering authentic Buddhist leadership, the highest teachings of Dzogchen
and authentic Buddhist values . For example, while Longchenpa asserts that all phenomena
are "spontaneously equal" as they are nothing other than the scope of awareness408 he then
proceeds to establish a hierarchy in relation to the existing methods of praxis, classifying
Dzogchen as the "utmost yoga" in relation to which the other methods seem "inferior" or
''lower'' .409 Here Longchenpa is employing the discourse of negation to suit his self-perceived
historical role as the carrier of the teachings of Padmas ambhava and his tradition. He
employs the discourse of negation in order to define the status of Dzogchen as existing pre­
eminently within the norms of Buddhist thought and to ensure that the Dzogchen teachings
would not be so easily dismissed by newly emerging Tibetan Buddhist orthodoxies .
A type of implied negation (paryudiisa) seems to characterize Longchenpa' s rhetoric of
negation within the context of his biography and the reality of his time. However, in implied
negation "emptiness is never empty of concepts" . The Prasailgika-Madhyamaka defines another
type of negation which represents their doctrinal position, a non-affirming one (prasajya) which
does not imply the affirmation of a contra positive obj ect, assertion or thesis .410 This type of
negation removes a concept by negating it without positively affirming a counter concept which
would replace what had been negated. Now it avoids affirming the thesis and its anti-thesis, by the
non-affirming negation of a concept and its counter concept.

Non-affirming !legation
Prasailgika-Madhyamika' s non- affirming negation (p rasajya) , which results in a mere
From Negation to Absence 95

absence of any thesis, is the departure point of Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation. Longchenpa
clearly was aware of Prasangika-Madhyamaka forms of negation41 1 within the context of spiritual
practice because for him absence (med pa)412 is :
The ineffable [ ab sence] nature of things i s that they are empty by virtue of their very
e s s enc e .
In the vast expanse o f awakened mind, equal to space,
However things appear they are at the same time ineffable by nature.4 1 3
Longchenpa refers here to absence as lack of a substantial essence in phenomena. In his own
commentary to his own passage mentioned above, Longchenpa asserts that the essence of
awareness and all the phenomena that appear within its scope are such that they are empty and
without any self-independent identity. That is to say, Longchenpa refers to absence in terms of
non-duality of essential awareness and the various appearances that occur and dissipate within its
scope, while the common ground of essential awareness and the · apparent phenomena within its
scope are empty by nature . Emptine s s here signifies an ab sence and non-duality that
transcend the dichotomy between appe arance and e s sential awarene s s .
B eing i n line with Prasangika-Madhyamika ' s non-affirming negations , the lack o f an
inherently existent nature is neither a positive nor a negative. That is to say, it does not
refer to s omethin g which does not exist that would signify a nihilistic view nor to
something which exists that would signify an eternalist view . In both cases a concept or
a mental construct is established but the lack of an inherently existent nature does not
exist in exactly the same way that the horns of a rabbit do not exist.414 Thus, to assert the
l ac k of s elf-n ature i s to a s s ert the ab s e n c e o f any c o n c e p t that c ould refer to an
inherently existent nature, which is a non-affirming negation as it does not leave us with
any alternative concepts . However, following in the footsteps of Anne Klein absence of
self-nature does exist because non-affirming negatives are established as being imputed
by thought415 despite that "absence" which refers to a non-existent inherent independent
nature of things . In other words ab sence could be a concept and, as such , a product of
discursive mind.
Furthermore , alth ough non- affirming n e g ative s are employed in referring to a
thing' s lack of inherent existence , one is still pointing to the thing being under negation.
It s eems that for this reason Longchenpa emphasizes the empty nature of absence and
appearances altogether. For example, one could make a non-affirming negative statement, "I
do not have money" , which means that it does not imply that the same person might have
money in his pocket or in the bank as alternatives. But making such a statement can still reify
and objectify the lack of money, which could be turned into a fixation or a mental pattern.
This mental construction can be made by the person who made the statement is as long as
he is not aware of the lack of money as being empty of inherent existence. Longchenpa does
so in order to dismantle the mental construct stemming from the possibility that non-affirming
96 The Man From Samye

negation might still retain a reference, being imputed by thought. Such a reference or concept in its
tum would be shaped into a fixation on the object under negation even though it has not been
replaced by an alternative or a counter concept.
Therefore, Longchenpa continues to move away from mere non-affirming negation or
the reification of absence itself and speaks of the non-duality of things that appear and at the
same time nevertheles s are empty of independent nature that transcends the dichotomy
between appearance and absence, both being empty by nature. In this sense Longchenpa' s
absence is not nihilistic .

Negation as space of absence (med pa)

For Longchenpa the abstract principle of absence needs to be more approachable and he proceeds
to show how this principle finds its expression within the domain of the human mind:
Although phenomena appear as they do to the mind,
They are not mind, nor anything other than mind . . .
Know that all phenomena that appear to the mind
Are ineffable (med p a) 4 1 6 even as they manifest.4 1 7
Longchenpa emphasizes here the principle that phenomena are perceived within one' s mind and
although the appearances are not the awakened mind or natural awareness, nevertheless at the
same time they are inseparable. This means that appearances are integrated with one' s natural
awareness, without being perceived as a separate entity in the sense that the appearances are
neither the same as nor different from the mind to which they appear. For the student, this refers to
the manner in which communication occurs between awakened mind and the world of phenomena
that takes place on a mutual ground lacking inherent independent nature. Within that mutual empty
ground sense-objects are understood to be clearly apparent yet lacking any inherent nature. In this
manner they are perceived and reflected within one' s awakened mind although they do not belong
to nor are they subordinated to it. The principle that phenomena lack inherent independent
existence entails far-reaching implications for the "aspirant after liberation" in the sense that their
perceptions do not represent the reality the perceptions want to reflect. This is because the
aspirant' s mind is usually motivated by passions, tendencies, judgments, needs and concepts that
lack valid obj ectivity. This means that the aspirant grasps at a relative solid view of reality that
shapes their perception, which is in tension with the principle that phenomena lack inherent
independent existence. In fact, the aspirant' s relative view of the world or how things should be in
the world is in conflict with the way things are in the world and gives rise to a behaviour not
compatible with reality as it is, which in its tum causes suffering (duf;,kha) . Therefore relinquishing
attachment to concepts can bring the "aspirant after liberation" to the realization of Longchenpa' s
suggested absence, and to the understanding that absence is not nihilistic in the sense that although
appearances are .empty they still arise but in such a way that emptiness and phenomena are
From Negation to Absence 97

Non -affirming negations and praxis

While non-affirming negations result in absence or vacuity of a concept, idea or thesis ,418
when converted to praxis in a mode of analytical meditation they manipulate and mould
perception according to the strict logical patterns applied within a state of meditation.419
Given this aspect of non- affirming negation Longchenp a will part from Pras angika­
Madhyamika' s employment of such a strict logical pattern of negation aiming to mould a
certain state of mind because it is an analytical goal-oriented practice that, as we shall see in
the subsequent chapter, Longchenpa clearly negates as being insufficient to lead the aspirant
to liberation or natural awareness.
In thi s sense the Indian M adhy amaka as a sy stem, acc ording to Longchenp a, i s
definitely capable o f comprehending the idea o f independent reality but at the same time
M adhyamak a ' s meth o d i s incap able of yielding the apprehension of the idea of
independent reality. The reasons are that in the context of meditation it entailed the belief in
an independently real meditation producing independently real effects upon the mind and it
is subj ect to the means - end dichotomy while there is no action that could produce the
realization of emptines s.

Prasailgika-Madhyamika and Dzogchen, a point o f difference

In the following passage Longchenpa clearly expresses his position in relation to Prasangika­
The methods of evaluating reality that are used in the system · of the natural great perfection
- for example, determining it to be free of limitation - are largely in accord with those of
the syllogistic Prasangika approach in the Middle way S chool . B ut the Middle way school
takes as its working basis sheer emptiness that is like space, while this sy stem takes as its
basis awarenes s , pure and simple - originally pure in all its nakedness . . . so that awareness
and the phenomena that ari s e within its scope are j udged to be free of limitation, like
s p ac e . 420

Thus, in considering Longchenpa' s attraction to Prasangika-Madhyamika, it is implied that he

would adopt the philosophical view of non-affIrming negation and employ it in order to establish a
non-conceptual state of mind, one of absence or emptiness. But Longchenpa is interested in natural
awareness which is naked of any contaminating concepts, integrated with the world of phenomena,
an integration that stands for the non-duality of natural awareness and phenomena free from
limitations which is the concern of Dzogchen, the great perfection.
Longchenpa did not fully adopt the Prasangika-Madhyamika' s philosophical position. For him
the non-du ality between natural awareness and the world of phenomena is possible because of the
reflexive capacity of awareness, of being aware in the world. To state that natural awareness
has the capacity for reflection is to state that natural awareness bears the characteristic or
quality of reflection and if it bears such a characteristic it is no longer empty of inherent
98 The Man From Samye

existence. And if examined within the context of the Two Truths its conventional existence might
signify its independent inherent existence which would contrast with the Prasangika view.421 But
without accepting the existence of such reflexivity in relative reality, mental states and events
would not make any sense and relative knowledge which is compatible or in accord with the facts
and obj ects would be undermined. This opens an interesting philosophical debate around the
Prasangika critique of natural awareness ' s reflexivity within the context of the Two Truths and
other Buddhist tenets , a topic which has been examined by Paul Williams in his work The
Reflexive Nature of Awareness: A Tibetan Miidhyamaka Defence .422
Since this philosophical debate is out of the scope of the study it would be worthwhile
mentioning that Longchenp a prudently adheres to most elements of the Pras ailgika ' s
philosophical view such as the Two Truths and non-affirming negation and locates the
Prasailgika system as the highest view of all cause-based dialectical approaches.423 For him
the integration that stands as the non-duality of natural awareness and phenomena is the
principle of Dzogchen that would not be taking place without the reflexive nature of
awarene s s . To abide in that non- duality would mean for him the realiz ati on of the
transcendental ground of being (gzh i) , of original natural awarene s s that bears three
enlightened inherent qualities which do not come together or separate , and which are
spontaneously displayed. Those three are emptiness as the dharmakiiya realm, lucidity as the
sambhogakiiy a, and niriimal}akiiya as the realm of ceaseless manifestation which is reality itself.424

Aim of negation

Longchenpa' s negation aims to invoke an empty space, devoid of any conceptual doctrines.
However it paradoxically relies on those very doctrines and methods of the gradual path to define
itself, and in rej ecting their principles and methods it becomes also a way of referring to and
acknowledging them.425 Thu s , by the negation of other philo sophies and methods, Dzogchen i s
actually defining an d affirming itself and more precisely affIrming a space containing nothing a t all.
This absence according to German0426 is a "place" where tantric transformation processes might
occur (within the practitioner) , a place where the "other" Tibetan ideologies might be revisited,
appropriated and revised. At the same time this absence denotes and points to a lack (med pa) of
s eparation between subj ect and obj ect and a lack of cause and effect, virtue and vice, etc . 427 Thu s ,
within the context o f philosophical views and methods o f praxis , although Longchenpa, as an
advocate of Prasailgika-Madhyamika, employed the method of non-affirming negation, in his
hands it became a strategy of negation. Thi s was a strategy that sfill had to refer to what was to be
rej ected as concepts to be di scerned and di stinguished from absence or non-conceptu al mind as
being empty of inherent existence . At the same time it emphasized the l ack (med pa) of separation
b etween emptiness and phenomena. As long as these practices are referred to, absence or non­
conceptual mind can be discerned and recognized .

A contemporary form of negation: Georges Bataille

To draw on a contemporary form of negation which would assist in understanding Longchenpa' s

rhetoric of negation, we can make use of George s B ataille ' s428 essential method of contestation
within the c ontext of what he termed Inner Experienc e . What B atrulle understands by Inner
Experience is n aked, free from tie s , even of an origin, in which its "destination" is unknown or
unfound. It is free of the state of ec stasy and rapture because to stop at the stage of ec stasy and to
grasp at it is to define it, and such a definition will resist contestation. 429
What is interesting in B ataille ' s contestation is that he assumes both roles , the c ontestor and
the contestee, acting within a phenomenological context in an attempt to achieve knowledge by
means of experience.430 As a contestor he would put into question what is known to himself and
radically negate it. As a c ontestee what will be contested is all that he is aware and knows of, his
v alues , his authorities, beliefs and doctrines , an inner movement that will drive him to Inner
Experience , to the edge of certainty, where he will be confronted with various conditions such as
despair, anxiety, doubt or ec stasy .
1 00 The Man From Samye

As we shall see in Bataille ' s method, his contestation seems to share a similar flavour with
Longchenp a ' s rhetoric of negation, being a non- affirmin g negation or ab sence within the
Dzogchen system of non -duality which is about discovering and abiding in the nature of mind .
Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation bears some similarities to B ataille' s contestation, being a non­
positive affirmation of an empty core , not distinguished from Inner Experience which is naked and
free from ties where there is a fusion between subj ect and object. However what is most interesting
and relevant to the present study of Bataille' s work is his status as a contestee and his psychological
states of mind while going through the process of contestation. This could shed light on the
"hypothetical" student who goes under the process of Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation being
asked to "let go" of any concepts or a frame of referenc e .
Bataille ' s departure from Hegel ' s system43 1 of realizing Spirit within the domain of discourse
to his notion of Inner Experience is also the shift from Hegel ' s method of negation to his method of
contestation. For B ataille, c ontestation is the rej ection of all mean s , the perpetual calling into
question of authority and values that limit the possible. It is to put into question all that is known to
man .432 In the language of his contemporaries, Michel Foucault interprets Bataille ' s contestation
and asserts that it is not about denial of existence or of value but a gesture that sees such notions to
their limit or end where they are exhausted ; and the act of contestation is intended to arrive at an
empty core where Being reaches its abs olute limit.433 Furth ermore, Foucault defined it as a
philo sophy of non-positive affirrnation.434 Thus acc ording to B ataille, applying the method of
contestation and being stretched to the end of what is possible, an empty core with nothing at aU i s
predicated and affirmed.

Blanchot, Foucault and Bataille on contestation

For Blanchot,435 the notion of Inner Experience i s :

. . . the way that radical negation which has nothing left t o negate affirms itself but i n fact
affirms nothing. An affirmation which is not a product (the result of double negation) and thus
escapes all the movements, oppositions and reversals of dialectical reason . . .inner experience
affirms . It is pure affirmation: it does nothing but to affirm. It does not even affirm itself, for
then it would be subordinated to itself; it affirms affirmation. It is within that sense it could
contain within it the moment of authority after having devalued all possible authorities and
dissolved the very idea of authority. It is the decisive Yes .436

Further to Foucault, what is important to note here is that contestation for Blanchot is a moment
of authority arrived at after putting into question all possible authorities including its own, and
the Inner Experience is the affirmed space where and when nothing is left to be negate d .
Furthermore it i s the domain of pure affirmation that i s n o t a product or a result of bi-polar
negation. Contestation as putting into question what man know s about Being, in the words of
Blanchot, is a ra.dical negation. For him, the decision to put oneself radically into question conveys
From Praxis to Absence 101

the impossibility o f ever stopping at any point either for consolation, interests , o r beliefs . I t i s a
movement that continually renounces itselfl37 in the sense that it erases its footprints .
In the following passage Bataille lays out his rationale for his method of contestation:

The difficulty - the contestation must be done in the name of an authority - is resolved
thus : I contest in the name of contestation what experience itself is (the will to proceed to
the end of the possible ) . Experience, its authority , its method do not distinguish from
contestation . 4 38

H o w ever what i s enigmatic h ere i s that Bataill e equates , by means of a tautolo g y , Inner
Experience with c ontestation. That i s to s ay , the authority of the Inner Experience and its
metho d are not dis s imilar from contestation, which i s the authority to c ontest and to put in
q u e s t i o n w h at man d o e s kno w ab out Being . 439 Thi s is enigmatic b e c a u s e it p l a c e s the
authority to question in question and with the next obj ec t to b e contested the p aradox of
authority will rise again. In this manner contestation preoccupies the mind of the contestor and
sustains itself, aimed at affirming nothingness to the extent that the Inner Experience, defined as
naked and free from ties, is identical with contestation. But is it then completely free of tie s where
the c ontestor needs always to hold in his hand the " sword of contestation" for the next obj ect in
question, even when relaxed or ecstatic .
But for Longchenpa this one mind modification of negation will be challenged again by the
pedagogy of negation . This is because natural awarenes s is never only about absence of the ties of
compulsive discursive thinking . It is also about clarity and wisdom that are vividly manifesting and
finding expres sion in reality.

In the critique of praxis

In the c ontext of the hi s tory of the rhetoric of negation examined in the previou s chapter,
Longchenpa is s een to be more vigorous than Madhusadhu, Nubchen Yeshe, Milarepa, Gampopa
and Lama Zhang. Those figures who prior to Longchenpa textually presented their rhetoric of
negation in general philosophical terms , while Longchenpa negated specific methods of practice of
the v arious prevalent schools using strong words within inc e s s ant, razor sharp arguments .
Furthermore, Longchenpa transformed his rhetoric of negation into a practical pedagogy that
culminated in facilitating the experience of natural awarenes s .
L o n g c h enp a ' s mas s i v e , one b y one n e g ation a n d critique o f meth o d s o f Bu d dh i s t
practices is found i n his work Natural Freedom of Being which was mentioned previously as
one o f the two w orks by Longchenp a to b e used as the focus of thi s study . This w ork is
p erplexing and intere sting not only becau s e it c o ntains Longchenp a ' s dens e n e g ation of
goal -oriented methods but also due to his prescription of a set of methods to b e practiced.
Starting with the critique of methods of praxis , the most striking point for a "seeker after
liberation" in this work is the futility of the various methods of highest phase tantric practices
associated with the Guhyagarbha Tantra. Longchenpa states :
1 02 The Man From Samye

Similarly, a natural meditation does not necessitate the ph ases of creation and perfection [of
t antra] . If such methods of adoption or rejection h ave for their end the natural easement there
is no effort required ; in the opposite case, they become meaningless, like wanting to transform
coal into gold . 440 (My translation)

The conclusions which are drawn from the passage above are devastating for the aspirant.
Firstly, if the aspirant were to abide in their innate natural awareness the very application of
any method including the highest tantlic ones would become meaningless, and if they were
n o t to abide in their innate natural awaren e s s the application of methods would b e
meaningless too . Application o f methods i s meaningless because natural meditation o r the
abiding in natural awareness cannot be a result of any cause or an end to any means and the
goal of natural easement, that is to say, of relief or liberation cannot be a product of any
method or effort. That is to say , in either case application or non-application of methods of
spiritual practices is meaningless.
Secondly, the essence of tantra is dynamic transformation and here, according to Longchenpa,
tantric methods are unable to cause any transformation of ordinary mind, its desires, aversions ,
perceptions, concepts, beliefs an d discursiveness into natural awareness in the same way that there
is no technology that can transform coal to gold. In other words, the nature of mind is totally
indifferent to the application of any kind of method whether gentle or manipulative and this is a
position that requires clarification for the practitioner/reader. Therefore, Longchenpa' s negation of
methods will be traced and reviewed towards resolution or at least towards clarity and
understanding within the context of function or purpose.

Natural awareness is independent of views and methods

Longchenpa starts his series of negations with the statement that it is not possible to realize
the nature of one ' s own mind by relying on any philo sophical doctrine or meditativ e
methods :

Although you could adhere to biased philosophies

And m any are the views, meditations and their modes of action,
It is difficult to perceive the n atural essenc e of the mind .
S ravakas, Prat ekyabuddhas, Cittamatrins, and Madhyamika-Svatantrika

Analyse the absen c e of "self' in entities and phenomena ,

But a r e lost in t h e view and the meditation of t h e four permanent
. Objects, such as the sky, etc .
And countless are the beings who seem [short] to r ealize . . 44 1 (My translation)

Longchenpa considers philosophical and meditative methods not only futile and incapable
of yielding spiritual realization but also an unnecessary burden on the way to liberation .
He is aware and knowledgeable of the methods practiced within the S ravaka, Pratekyabuddha,
Cittamatra and Madhyamika-Svatantrika traditions that employ methods endowed with logic
From Praxis to Absence 1 03

and analysis entailing lengthy thinking proces ses, believing that such methods c an lead to a
liberating insight consisting of the empty nature of the one ' s self and the phenomenal world.
But h e claims that by th o s e activities the followers of th o s e traditions are just perpetuating
their own intell e c tual and phil o s ophi c al activiti e s in th e s e n s e th at " thoughts c au s e but
thoughts" . Engrossed in intellectual activity, the followers of the tradi tions mentioned in the
p as s ag e ab o v e are unable to d i s c ern the n ature of mind fro m their d i s c u r s i v e mental
activities . In the p a s s ag e , Longchenpa implicitly reins tates his adoption of the Pras ailgika­
M adhyamika viewpoint over others including that of M adhyamika-Svatantrika view based
on "autonomous" syllogistic logic .

Critique of methods associated with monasticism and tantrism

Longchenpa now proceeds from his critique of methods associated with monastic llinayana
and Mahayana traditions to negate the whole range of tantric methods for being based j ust
on the discursive mind, entangled in a continual mental activity .

The content of the tantras, Kriya, Carya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga

Have many methods of the phases of creation and perfection,
But the practitioners cannot approach the uncorrected and spontaneously present Natural mind,
While entangled in the net of mental elaboration .442 (My translation)

Here, tantric traditional methods are negated as being incap able of leading their followers to
the experience of natural mind. In order to understand what the principal views at the base
of the s e tantric methods that are under negation actually are , Longchenpa ' s view of th ese
tr a d i ti o n s will be r e v i e w e d c o n c i s e l y . In his d o x o g r ap h y The P re c io u s Tre a s u ry of
Phi losophical Systems443 Longchenpa mentions that Kriya ' s methods concern mo stly the
ritual activities of purification, offering to deities , mantra recitation and various methods of
meditation having deities for their obj ect.
Carya include s practi c e s of p urifi c ation and ritual cleanlines s , mantra recitation and
various methods of meditation, but here the deity is not visualized as a sovereign or a master
that should be s erved but is visualized as a friend or relative in front of oneself. 444
In yoga the practices are mostly internal and include vi s u alization of the deity as the
obj ect of meditation until unity or identification between the practitioner/s ubj ect and deity/
obj ect is effected in the sense that the image of the deity dis s olves into the practitioner.445 In
the highest tantra yoga level s , Mahayoga, all appearance s , sense data, aggregates , etc , are
purified by visualizing them as deities and mandalas while reciting mantras . This consists of
the creation/generation phase which is about establishing a visualization of the deity and the
mandala in a tiny drop w i th the aim to beh o l d and stabilize the v i s u al i z ation for l o n g
durations . However, this phase , according to Lochen Dharmashri,446 is striving to adopt good
conceptions and ab andon bad ones towards non - dual wi s d o m . 447
1 04 The Man From Samye

In Anuyoga' s method, beings and environments are seen to have a divine nature reached by
identification with the obj ect of meditation, and the perfection/completion stage takes place as path
to the wisdom of bli s s, clarity and non-conceptuality of the yoga of the psychic nerves , drops and
winds which lead to libetation .448 Practitioners of this method are instructed to visualize a network
of s acred anatomy that entail s psychic nerves or channels (niitfi), drops (hindu, Tib : thigle),449
energies or winds (priilJa) with the aim of ceasing the compulsive discursive train of thoughts and
emotions . Thus, by controlling the vital energies within the psychic channels , practitioners are able
to control the discursive mind. This practice facilitates fulfilment of the potential found in the
psychic nerves and the network of energies and brings about health and vitality and the clearing of
emotional , conc eptual and spiritual obstacle s . Another form o f Anuyoga includes sexual
intercourse combined with the yoga of psychic nerves or channels (niitfi) and energies (priilJa)
entailing visualization and breathing exercises .
In the pas s age above, Longchenpa continues with his critique of the tantric practitioners
who employ external and internal purification rituals, visualization, mantra recitation and
s acred anatomy with the aim of purifying the discursive mind and controlling its compUlsive
emotional and mental tendencies . Thu s , all these methods are negated becau se they entail
dichotomy of c au s e and effect. The s e methods are c ontinually originated and p erpetuated
within one ' s di s cursive mind in the sense that "mental modific ations c au s e more mental
modifi c atio n s " without any ability to acc e s s uncontrived natural aw arene s s . Longchenp a
asserts of tho s e practitioners who engage i n the tantric yoga o f sexual intercourse:

Others practice further sexual union with breath control, and say :
The natural meaning is the bliss-emptiness
Entrapped in a net of doubt between adoption and rej ection,
Those persons will never reach the essential goal .
They are all misled b y analytical doctrines,
And, chained to this existence, they will never be liberated.450 (My translation)

Practitioners who engage in the tantric yoga of sexual intercourse aim to achieve liberation
by transforming desire into bliss unified with emptines s . That i s to say, such yoga aims to achieve
a unification of bli s s which is a strong tangible sensation felt within one ' s b ody with the deep
understanding that phenomena, including the experience of bli s s , lack independent existence. Such
an understanding stands for one ' s liberation from the conditioning power of sex. In this unification
the practitioner experiences sex without any conditioning attachment to pleasure nor any aversion
whi ch might facilitate the experience of liberation. However, according to Longchenpa this
unification would be impossible because the practitioner is then focussed on lust as the obj ect of his
practice and i s preoccupied with it, which signifies that his mind i s not free of ties or naked of
concepts as the state of natural awarenes s is. In considering the enormous power and place of
sexuality in life, .this method might enhance desire and lust that could then locate the practitioner in
From Praxis to Absence 1 05

a vicious cycle that bears the danger of fixation, where the practitioner might become emotionally
attached either to their consort or to the sense of pleasure.
I n th e p a s s a g e ab o v e L o n g c h e n p a addre s s e s h i s w o r d s n o t o n l y t o t h e t a n tri c
practitioners who include sexual intercourse in their practices but al s o to tho s e who blindly
obey rigid rules that include renunciation of sexual activity and thereby lead a dogmatic way
of life . He clearly addresses the monks and nuns of his time who chose a highly constricted
and discip lined life governed by a set of rules , inj unctions and vows that laid down in great
detail how they were to live. It is a fixed way of life that accepts certain foqns of conduct and
rej ects others in a very detailed manner ; for example, what to wear and when, what and how
to eat, including ab s tinence . The purp o s e behind such a c ontrolled s y s tem of living i s to
develop resistance towards intense feelings of desire and aversion as conducive of spiritual
According to Longchenpa, living according to these disciplines, similarly to the tantric
sexual practice, bears the danger of fixation where the means, observance of rules and vows ,
i s transformed into the goal, in which the monk o r nun c an become entrapped and engaged
in the socio-political aspects of the disciplines instead of B uddha nature , the essential goal .
B y means of his critique of monastic "outer morality" Longchenpa c ontinue s to p o int to
natural awarenes s or B u ddha nature as the basic premis e of Dzogchen in which moral rules
c annot be imposed. It should be noted here that for him the critique i s not addressed to the
monastic rules as temporary mean s , but to the dis ciples ' dogmatic attachment or adherence
to them and turning of them into a goal . Otherwise how can Longchenpa' s construction of temples
and a monastery entailing a c ertain religio- socio-political order in B hutan be explicated ?45 I
However D z ogchen ' s p erceived "superiority" in negatin g moral rules as fabricated mental
constructs is an overstatement unles s the disciple abides in non-dual awarenes s . Then there would
be no meaning to the means - end dichotomy, which in fact i s true for any student of any school
of Buddhism, not only Dzogchen, when abiding in B uddha nature. Therefore the under note of
Longchenpa' s negation is directed towards any attachment and his principle would be neither to
encourage attachment to moral dogmas nor to rej ect them.
Thu s , neither the highest tantric practices entailing sexual intercourse nor a strict disciplined
life including abstinence can bring about liberation or natural awarenes s as these practices are
chained to the desirous and non-desirous discursive mind accordingly. Tantric practitioners would
argue that their core practice is to rise above such desire and simply to abide in the act itself.
To that claim Longchenpa would as sert that tantric practitioners approach their practice with
a goal in mind depending on desire in order to achieve the goal , which signifies a praxi s
dependent on an obj ect and i s therefore subj ec t to a dichotomy of means and goal . From
thi s p oint L o n g c h e n p a r e p e a t s b o l dl y th e n e g at i o n of tantr i c v i e w s and m e th o d s b u t
distinguishes the negated elements from the Dzogchen view o f reality.
1 06 The Man From Samye

To thi s point here is the e ssence of the unsurpassed adamantine :

Without mantras or tantras, without any philosophical thesis to admit,

It cannot be labelled ; it has no view, no meditation, no action and fruit .
Its state is of a unique mandala in which everything is equal and perfect .
Theories that refer t o end, views , meditations, actions and fruit as objects which are t o b e
achi eved are equal and c omplete.
Equal and perfect, Sal!1sara and Nirva1!a ar e the ext ensi o n of the absolut e reality .452 (My

From the p oint of view of absolute reality directly perceived by a naturally aware mind there is no
tantric path and its components . Instead everything i s already fulfilled and perfect as it i s which
m akes praxis irrelevant. Thus Longchenpa dis cerns h ere between the nature of mind that directly
perceives reality as it is without any conditioned proj ecti ons , concepts , wishful thinking, etc , and
the ordinary mind that employs methods in the pursuit of liberation. Alth ou gh he discriminates
between liberated mind and d i s c ursive mind as repre s entati o n s of Nirv ana and Sams ara
respectively, he asserts that they are but an extension of one absolute reality and are perfect as they
are without an intrinsic hierarchy. Therefore to prefer one over the other is to increase the sense of
nescience and to perpetuate an existence which is essentially unsatisfactory, a condition where one
is confronted by thoughts , feelings , sensations and situations one would prefer not to experience. It
is a condition in which one is confronted by separation from one' s loved ones or from pleasant and
j oyful experi e n c e s one would prefer not to experi e n c e . N e verthele s s , B uddha n ature i s
synonymous with liberation and i s one ' s inherent intelligence o r inherent c apacity to directly
perceive reality "as it is" .

In the critique of modes of meditation

If Longchenpa negates the highest tantric practice s on the ground of dis cernment between
nature of mind and ordinary mind alone, he als o negates other spiritual practices of his time
such as :

Those "purified minds"

Who say they have a view, meditation, action and fruit:
S ome of them dismiss discrimination and sensations ,
Others cut the connection that unifies the three times,
Immediately thereafter they claim that it is the awareness of the presence
That traverses all.
Others count the birth and cessation of their thoughts
And title it "real sense" that is but the wash [movement] of the waves of
Their discursive thoughts .453 (My translation)

The group of practices that Longchenp a addre s s e s i n his c ritique are v arious meth o d s of
meditation that aim to accomplish several things : to purify the mind from negative compulsive
From Praxis to Absence 1 07

mental patterns and obscuration and which clear them away, rendering them non-existent;454 to
discard and remove sensations or discrimination; to bring the practitioner to the present moment by
recognizing that thoughts occurring in one ' s mind have already ceased and passed and the thoughts
of the future have not yet arisen ; and to note the arising and dissolving of different thoughts and
feelings and sensations such as one' s breath .
Longchenpa does not sug gest that any of these methods are in themselves wrong or
misguided but emphasizes that the practices are not the goal but j ust a technique . In other
words , Longchenpa warns against turning practices into a goal . His critique here is against
getting caught up in systems of means and becoming conditioned by them to the point that it
becomes a hindrance to liberation . That is to say , methods are used in order to develop
awareness and clarity and not to increase tensions related with application of methods or to
condition and limit oneself. Furthermore, those practices are goal-oriented, relying on the
support of an obj ect in order to establish themselves as means , while liberated mind is
obviously independent .

Core reasons for the critique of methods

After mentioning the deficiencies of the various tantric and meditation methods, Longchenpa
asserts the heart of the problem which is one of the principal reasons behind his critique of
methods :

Alas ! Not recognizing the precious signs,

They rej ect the wish-fulfilling gem and appear to be searching for semi-precious stones,
Rej ecting the supreme and authentic natural mind.
They imprison themselves in a cage of artificial fantasies of
Hope and fear.
A striving mind will never be liberated !
Pursuing his search, the searcher deviates .455 (My translation)

The process that Longchenpa hints at here is the inherent assumption contained within the
methods that he has mentioned so far, which is that the practitioners lack a sense of natural
a w areness . They are unable to recognize nat ural a warenes s and hope that throu g h the
application of methods they will retrieve or realize it. In fact, those methods were created for
that purpose, as a response aimed to fulfil what practitioners lack.
For example, a practitioner of tantra who wishes to purify his mind of negative emotions
such as anger will employ a tantric method that will transform them into a feeling of
compassion that stems from awakened mind. For the practitioner the method is predicated
upon the condition that if only they would persistently recite mantras and identify themselves
with their deity then the transfonnation accessing the awakened mind will occur. This reflects
not Lon gchenpa ' s view but a common naive view of the tantric transformation process held
by traditional practitioners . The conditiouing is inherent within the aspirant after liberation
1 08 The Man From Samye

(subj ect) , who is motivated by the assumption or belief that they l ack the most precious "thing" in
the world , Buddha nature that they should strive forward full of hope to [rod and realize it (obj ect) .
The aspirant is driven by the conditioned underlying thought, "If I only use the ' right' method I
will reach natural mind sometime in the future" . But as a matter of fact natural mind is already
fulfilled and free from such imposed conditioning . The very notion of s triving is c ap able of
obscuring and diverting the practitioner from the realization of his nature of mind .
With respect to the idea of seeking and striving, B ataille equates the notion of B eing with the
persistent contestation of the evasions by which we usually escape from painful or confronting
situation avoiding their reality. For him, B eing is no longer a question of s alvation which he claims
to be the most odious of evasions.456 That is to say, the very striving for s alvation is a deviation
from what B ataille refers to as Inner Experience, as it creates a conceptual filter or a veil that
constantly occupies the naked space of Inner Experience and ties it down. In other words, B ataille
radically sees Inner Experience as a space which cannot and mus t not be polluted by such things as
effort, or ideas of s alvation or of any entity or concept whatsoever.
Writing further about the i ssue of searching and striving Longchenpa ironically asserts the
following :

If the obj ects , minds and their perceptions are presenting themselves within
The mode of emptines s ,
It is unnecessary t o destroy them b y the view that "they are empty",
And if they are not, such consideration will not turn them empty either.
All this is but tiring nonsense, what end does it serve?457 (My translation)
Longchenpa refers here to the mode of analysis employed by certain school s , p articularly by
t h e M a d h y a m i k a , a i m e d to a s c ertain t h a t a p h e n o m e n o n h a s no intri n s i c i dentity o r
independent exi stence . T h e very l ack of independent exi s tence i s the nature of phenomena
and i s termed "emptines s " . A famous illustration from the older B uddhis t text the Milinda
Panha, "The Questions of King Milinda" ,458 which clarifies further the notion of emptines s , i s
that of a chariot which , on analy s i s , turns out to b e not a single thing but a composite of
various p arts . Disas sembling it into its constituting component s , and analy sing whether the
wheel s , timber boards and the remaining components make the chariot or not, no single part
will remain that could be l abelled as "chariot" . One then realizes that for the chariot to be a
chariot depends upon its v arious comp onents being brought together in such a w ay that the
final obj ect has the function of a chariot.
Th e u s e o f such analy s i s is for r e c o gnizing mind c ontent such a s c o n c ep t s , i d e a s ,

discursive thinking , emotion s , feelings, notions of identity, attachments , etc , which "colour"
one ' s p erception of reality but which are , in themselve s , empty of independent existence .
Acc ording t o B u ddhi s t p s ychology related t o the s i x aggregates (skandhas), p articularly
related t o the aggregate of discriminating p erception (samjiiii), if an obj ec t i s perceived as
pleasant or unpleasant our mind will c ategorize it · and will tend either to accept or rej ect it
From Praxis to Absence 1 09

accordingl y . The c ategorizing mental proce s s in its turn will create an automatic emotional
reaction of desire, anger or fear respectively b ased on one ' s pre-existing p atterns of b eli ef,
thought and behaviour. Thu s , finding the empty nature of such tendencies and of the obj ects
involved without identifying oneself with them will take the steam out of automatic reactive
emotions and will allow a clear , pre-conceptual awarene s s to take plac e .
B u t here Longchenpa shows the futility o f such a method, which h e s ays COmers the one
who employs it in a "dead end" . That is to s ay, if all concepts , ideas , di scursive thinking ,
emotions, feeling s , notions of identity, attachments to tangible and intangible obj ects are
already recognized or understood to be empty of intrinsic identity, it would be p ointl e s s to
apply any mode of analysis · that would ascertain their empty nature. If they seem to have an
empty intri n s i c i d entity i t c annot be a s c ertained a s s u c h , as they are already empty of
independent existence. And if they are not empty, no analysis will render them empty either.
Therefore according to Longchenpa since any notion about reality being empty c annot be
a s certained there i s n o p oint engaging in the s e arch for emptine s s as it would be another
constricting mental construct that will distort the experience of reality .
One could argue that it is not enough to present one with the notion that obj ects , minds
and their perceptions are empty as an axiom, but one needs to realize and understand it for
oneself by w ay of insight or experience . However more than likely Longchenpa would reply
that emptines s as an experience c annot arise and c annot be ascertained through intellectual
analysis and that establi shing emptiness is still a concept, a c ontrived mental construct which
is in c ontrast with what emptiness is about. In other words the notion of emptine s s might be
c omprehended by analyti c al mean s but not intuitively apprehended. Thus the very s triving
for the empti ne s s o f obj ec t s , minds and their percepti o n s b e c omes a hindran c e for the

Negation of methods involving fixation

Central to the understanding of the negation of g o al - oriented practices are the notions of
fixation on the one hand and the non- strategic or effortless recognition of natural awarenes s
on the other.

The goalles s King recognizes phenomena without dwelling on them

B ec ause fixated concepts enchain all things .
Without planning h e recognizes awareness i n its arising .
It is the original flow empty in itself, fresh and authentic .
B e sure o f this view that releases beliefs and opinions.459 (My translation)
L o n g c h e n p a m e n ti o n s t h a t n atural a w are n e s s s p o n t a n e o u s ly r e c o g n i z e s o bj e c t s o f
p erception without applying a pruticular focus of attention o r dwelling o n j u s t one of their
many aspects . It d o e s so without b eing preoccupied by p arti cular thou ghts , feeling s and
s timul ating data received through the s en s e s , either by trying to indulge in them or by
1 10 The Man From Samye

wishing to avoid them. It does so without entering or relying on ordinary mental processes in
which sense data is sorted and organiz�d into categories , obj ects and states based on past
experience and accumulated knowledge over time. Actually, abiding in awareness cannot be
designed or premeditated because if it was part of a plan that would mean awareness is held
"locked" on a goal , which signifies ordinary perception involved with mental processes .
Furthermore if causing awareness to arise was a part of a plan we could all "push the right
buttons" and cause it to arise. Simply, natural awareness spontaneously recognizes objects of
perception without being fixated on them.
Fixation has two maj or aspects, involuntary and voluntary, in which it imposes on one ' s
mind a mode o f conceptual perception that dictates one ' s experience of reality .
In the case of involuntary fixation , the object in focus attracts and captivates one ' s attention
as if it were a magnet, leaving one without a moment of choice. One is then fascinated with
the perceived obj ect , which ignites mental process and feelings , sustaining one within the
domain of discursive mind that may lead to an action . This form of fixation resembles the
experience of falling in love, which in some ways is inevitable, uncontrollable or risky .
If fulfilled the experience is a pleasurable one and if not fulfilled it becomes a painful situation
for the one whose love is not matched. The other form of fixation is when one ' s attention is
voluntarily directed to a narro w field of interest or to a specific task to be performed. According to
one ' s tendency to sort situations into desirable and undesirable, one ' s attention becomes goal­
oriented and the more important the object of interest is the more attention, resources and energy it
will be given. Then a fixation will crystallize and develop towards obsession or addiction that
will distort perceptions of reality . This form of fixation may resemble the experience of marathon
runners who become addicted to the adrenalin level produced by their sport activity . These
examples may signify extreme situations, however they are mentioned here in order to emphasize
how one fixates on objects, how consuming the process may be, and how it keeps one in the mode
of discursive mind that shapes one ' s experience of the object . Finding oneself in fixated scenarios
one is unable to have a clear unbiased experience of reality because one ' s perception is "coloured"
by the specific relation one has with the object of perception.
Longchenpa' s systematic and persistent critique of certain methods as being incapable of
leading the aspirant to liberation has been presented. The next step will be to examine the manner
in which Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation is applied and to question whether its application is
compatible with its aim to create a space of absence . However, first B ataille' s method of
contestation should be examined.

Bataille' s method of contestation

is mostly ambiguous about the objects under contestation . or

When tracking the manner in which Bataille applies his method of contestation we can see that he
the one hand, for example, he
From Praxis to Absence 111

entirely contests methods such as that of Saint Ignatius ' spiritual exercise s . 46o He does so because
they aim to put an end to the di scursive mind by u sing the means of the di scursive mind, such as
visualizing oneself as a character in a drama, which will then stretch and enable one to let go of
one ' s will or feelings .
O n the other hand, i f contestation i s , a s Blanchot put i t , a radical negation then B ataille' s
contestatio n l e av e s s ome conc eptual residues and ambiguity . For example he claims not
without ambiguity and misrepresentation that the obj ec t of B uddhism i s to suppres s p ain46 1
but equate s s alvation in B u ddhi s m with the end of suffering . 462 To suppre s s p ain means
that p ain c ontinues to exist, which contrasts with the idea of bringing it to an end or to its
dis solution. However B ataille proceeds to contest activities that aim to suppres s pain because
e n g a g i n g i n s u c h an action repre s ents a shift o f fo c u s t o w ar d s a p o s i t i v e o bj e c t/ g o al
where o n e might cure the p ai n . H o w ever the extreme limit o f the p o s sible will n o t be
experienced.463 Nevertheles s even if we were to replace his notion of suppres sion of pain with the
more accurate Buddhist notion of dis sohring and alleviating pain it would still remain a goal­
oriented practice under contestation.
B ataille has an ambivalent approach to yoga. His knowledge of yoga was partial as it was
limited to studies with "Hindu-friendly" Europeans.464 It is clear that he used a verse from Patafij ali
(1. 2465) which entails the definiti on of yoga as the c e s s ation of inner mental activi ty , which
according to B ataille c an expose the mind in its e s s ential nakednes s . Hence he adopts thi s
definition of yoga in presenting his method of contestation on the way to Inner Experience .
A t times he perceives yoga as method of mastery o r of controlling one ' s m o s t inner and most
fine movements but notes that it i s limited in the sense that it would not be able to lead the aspirant
beyond mere hygiene and aesthetics .466 However yoga is more than hygiene and aesthetics and he
nevertheles s agrees later on that the breathing practice component of yoga could lead one to the
innermost secrets of the heart.467 In another passage he goes on to mention that reciting the mantra
ADM c an lead to a religious experience but a vague one and conditional upon naIve faith on the
side of the practitioner who believes that the mantra AUM signifies the divine.468 Although mantra
in Indian religious traditions is equated with breath control, B ataille passes over the important
connection between the mantra AUM and yogic breathing which causes him to perceive them as
different practices leading to different results and to take a position that puts into question the
quality of his contestation as a method. Further, he negates the asceticism of yoga as being a "faint
expres sion of life" and goes on to state that it is conducive to Inner Experience in achieving
detachment from obj ects of passion, which in the end leads to giving up even the utmost wish to be
omnipresent. 469
The manner in which B ataille conducts his contestation of yoga shows that he questions the
theme of yoga but does not radically negate it. Furthermore, it has been shown that his knowledge
of yoga was limited and therefore his actual contestation of yoga is necessarily limited too . That is
to s ay , in the l anguage of yoga that residual mental c onstructs (Saf!1skaras) and their implications
1 12 The Man From Samye

would still occupy his mind, which is in contrast with his notion of Inner Experience being naked
and free of ties .
B a t a i l l e i s al s o ambi g u o u s t o w ar d s B u d d h i s t tantra y o g a . On th e o n e h a n d h e
surprisingly demonstrate s the meaning of tantric s exual intercours e . H e i s aware that the
tantric practitioners do not drown in sexual lust but use it as a springboard for laying bare the
mind,470 or for acquiring mastery over inner movements .47 1 On the other hand he presents an
ambiguous understanding of tantric yoga in s aying that "Tantric yoga uses sexual pleasure
not in order to ruin oneself in it, but to detach oneself before the end from the obj ect . . . (they
av o i d t h e l a s t m o m e n t of p l e a s u r e ) . . . , the w o m an who they make u s e o f . . . I fin d i t
contemptible t o ' abus e ' a woman for means other than tho s e of their own" .472 According to
Batai l l e , although tantra accompli shes trans formation i t d o e s so without c o n s i derin g the
female partner. For that reason Bataille considered it a contemptible act to exploit a female
partner as means to achieve mastery over inner movements for a purpose other than intimate love
making . Bataille ' s approach to tantric practices i s an ambivalent one which affirms the actual
practice as conducive to Inner Experience but negates it on moral grounds . Neverthele s s , his
contestation is not the radic al negation Blanchot claimed it to be.473
Bataille ' s application o f c onte station is not entirely a radi c al negatio n , however the
actual pro c e s s of c ontestation, as will be shown further in thi s chapter, can teach us about
th e r an g e o f v u l n er ab l e p h i l o s o p h i c al a n d p s y c h o l o g i c al s t a t e s i t w o u l d e xp o s e t h e
contestee/reader to when th eir s e n s e of certainty i s challenged .

Longchenpa 's rhetoric of negation as a method of praxis

When examined, Longchenp a ' s repetitive rhetoric of negati on c an b e seen to be a concrete
practic e that c ontains two principles or factors that exi s t in mo s t meditative spiritual practice:
repetiti o n and o n e - p ointedne s s . I n the case o f L o n g c h e np a ' s rhetori c o f n e g ati o n , b y
c o n d u c t i n g a c o ntinu al repetiti o n o f a s erie s o f d e n i al s a o n e - p o i n t e d/ s i n g l e m e n t a l
modific ation of concentration i s created which dwells on t h e theme of negation (including
negating negation itself) . The negations are repeated until the final p oint is reached , at which
there is nothing to negate or to affirm, a p oint that signifi e s an unfabric ated n atural clear
awarenes s .
One-pointed concentration i s an obj ect-centred activity which holds the mind in steadiness and
Longchenpa specifies such a practice for disciples of lesser and mediocre intellect. For those
disciples it is prescdbed as a means to tame "the monkey-like wild mind which does not abide even
for a while. "474 When concentration is established then the disciple meditates on the notion of
absence of inherent and independent existence in phenomenal existence to realize the empty nature
of phenomena. For disciples of mediocre capacity one-pointed meditation is prescdbed as a means
to slow down the waves of discursive thought and once the waves of concepts sub side and
disappear, clarity of one ' s mind dawns .
From Praxis to Absence 1 13

For Longchenpa such an obj ect-centred practice is a means to accomplish tranquillity . This
tranquillity is a pre-requisite state of mind because only when the mind calms down can
thin gs be seen as they are , with c larity , in the same way only calm water can reflect
obj e c t s . If one engages in one-pointed meditation repe atedly , time and a gain, one will
perfect one ' s concentration and develop tranquillity of mind.
This one-pointed meditation is an inferior one because its frame of reference involves a
support and more precisely it is dependent on an obj ect in order to establish itself. In the case of the
rhetoric of negation it is a one-pointed meditation directed towards an obj ect of negation in order to
establish absence. This technique is about the mind focusing on various phenomena as obj ects to
be negated or rej ected, thus establishing absence of c oncepts, taking emptiness as its non­
conceptual frame of reference. This type of meditation is considered a state of mind at rest that
entails an inherent condition or hope to be reached through stabilizing the state of rest, and to bring
to an end that of non-duality. B ut Longchenpa insists that the very idea of such an end, that of non­
duality, inherently involves a subj ect focusing on an obj ect of negation.475 Thus in implementing
the rhetoric of negation as a practice, it is applied by the ordinary discursive mind in order to access
absence or non-conceptuality as a frame of reference, which signifies the means � end and subj ect
� obj ect dichotomies that have to be given up or abandoned.
The second characteristic of the rhetoric of negation as a repetitive, one-pointed meditation is
in fact a rhetorical device in action that tends to consume itself as a negation of what has been
negated, as a negation of negation. In his work Hillis476 identifies two facets of Tibetan rhetoric .
The first is persuasion, which is the "process by which interested parties use forensic, deliberative
and demonstrative strategies in order to offer their own distinctive visions of the past, how to
interpret the visions of the present and what course of action to take in the future . " The second
concerns the style used efficiently by a writer in order to draw the readers into his argument or
agenda.477 Hillis mentions various stylistic conventions relevant to our study such as apophasis and
absence which are both related to the notion of repetition, but he does not discuss the notion of
repetition independently or separately as means of persuasion. He therefore offers a profound
analysis of Longchenpa ' s rhetoric which is more static, while repetition is a movement and is a
dynamic activity. The notion of repetition in Longchenpa ' s thought is implicit but pervasive and
essentially important because it aims at familiarizing the readers/practitioners with the unfamiliar
concept of philosophical and psychological absence. The notion of absence is so unfamiliar to most
readers/practitioners who are habituated to their discursive mind that it can't be apprehended when
presented in a single sentence . Compulsive or deliberate discursive thought occupies the mind and
this is the reason why re-visitin g and fe-pointing to absence by means of n egation is a
significant activity which turns the persuasive rhetoric into a dynamic process leading to
u nfamiliar absenc e . Thus repetition is a valid means of p ersuasion throu g h which the
repetitive call is directed to the readers/practitioners to abandon c oncepts and beliefs they
hold onto which shape (and distort) their experiences of reality . The repetition of negation"
1 14 The Man From Samye

ensures that each statement, including a previously negated one , makes the one-pointed
meditation of negation an activity th at con sumes itself,478 leaving no concepts or traces
behind and thu s leading to absence. That movement leads to the pedagogy of negation
where a dialogue will take place between disciple and teacher leading to the experience of
the final point in which there is nothing to negate or to affirm, an experience of presence of
unfabricated natural clear awareness .

Negation of causality, time- and place-bound praxis

Further to Longchenpa' s repetitious critique of spiritual practices presented in The Natural

Freedom of Reality in his work the A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission, he continues
to repeat negations of goal-oriented practices, showing them to be futile. After indicating that
there is no view to cultivate in meditation, no conduct, no fruition, no paths to traverse or
levels or realizations to accomplish, no mantra recitation, no mandala visualization, etc ,
Longchenpa proceeds to substantiate the series of negations479 using two categorical terms :
causality and effort. He then reasons that because awareness is empty and without identity, it
cannot be created through the process of c au s ality or through the effect of any cause.
He provides an explanation of the notion of causality based on the following analogy: that
the essence of the sun is its natural luminosity, which cannot be a result of any production
process . It always shines through obscurity even though it may become superimposed upon
by clouds. This means that there is no action that can be initiated by any spiritual method
that can produce spiritual insight. That is to say, awareness, being unobscured and already
pure, will never require a purifying action. Thu s , nature of mind transcends any cause or
effect and any goal-oriented active effort. However, prudence is required here as although
the analogy has the ability to explain and clarify the n otion of non -causality between
spiritual practice and spiritual insight it is not a philosophical proof. 480 The philosophical
aspect of causality between practice and liberation has been dealt with in the introduction
with the treatment of causation by Nagarj una resulting in the following conclusion: liberation
is neither caused by spiritual practices nor it is not-caused by spiritual practices as there is nothing
concrete or real that can be said about causation and liberation.
Longchenpa mentions further a second aspect of transcendence, specifically time, and
he terms it "timeless awareness"481 which refers to a natural mind that it is ever present and
free from conceptual or verbal elaborations including those relating to the notion of time.
When spiritual practi ce is c o n s i dered i n the light o f "timele s s awarene s s " one c an
immediately see how limited a goal-oriented practice performed by a subj ect toward an
object in the present geared towards a result to be achieved in the future actually is. In other words
while nature of mind transcends time, goal-oriented practices negated earlier by Longchenpa are
perfonned within the limitations of time. For Longchenpa, an individual who is not able to discern
between the two has a "distorted" perception of reality.
From Praxis to Absence 1 15

Longchenpa goes further and adds a third aspect of transcendence, that of place, and asserts
that natural unfabricated awareness does not stray from the scope of the true nature of phenomena.
That is to say , natural awareness is empty yet also clear or lucid and if searched for by means of
analysis our findings w ill be empty in the sense that natural awareness cannot be located
anywhere.482 Therefore a spiritual practice aimed at an object which cannot be found anywhere is
self-defeating . The notion of transcendence and its implications in Longchenpa' s writings shows
clearly the inferiority and limitations of methods, being incapable of leading the aspirant to abiding
in a state of unfabricated awareness which is their true nature.

Repetitive negation employed by Dzogcben practitioners

Longchenpa' s repetitious rhetoric of negation was also employed by Dzogchen practitioners

who have regularly engaged in reading Longchenpa ' s texts concerning negation of spiritual
practices, views and concepts . They have especially concentrated on the first nine chapters483
of his Treasure Trove of Scriptural Phenomena concerning the view of Dzogchen where the
rhetoric of negation is a central theme . For famous Dzogchen practitioners such as Paltrul
Rinp o che ( 1 808- 1 8 87) and h i s student Noshyul Lungtok ( 1 82 9- 1 90 1 ) , Longchenpa ' s
Treasure Tro ve of Scriptura l Transmission was their main meditation manual that they
studied again and again . 484 Kyala Khenpo ( 1 893- 1 957) used to read a chapter a day and
meditate on i t every day . Tulku D orj e Dradul ( 1 89 1 - 1 959), son of the famous treasure
revealer Dudj om L ingpa ( 1 835 - 1 904), read a chapter a day declaring that it is the best
practice. It is said to be a siidhana of dharmakiiya, the ultimate body of the Buddha. 485 What
Dudj om Lingpa is pointing to is that it is the best practice for abiding in a natural meditative
stability and reali z in g natural aw arenes s because its dep arture p o int i s the decis ive
experience of . natural awareness in which the means - end dichotomy ceases to exist .

Point o f tension : negating praxis is a praxis

In considering the two elements, one-pointed concentration and repetition in Longchenpa ' s
rhetoric of negation one cannot escape the logical conclusion that Longchenpa ' s rhetoric of
negation is a practice . It seems peculiar that while negating spiritual practices as being subject
to the radical dichotomy of possessing inherently both means and ends , it forms a practice
that entails the same dichotomy that it wants to negate or rej ect . In other words implementing the
rhetoric of negation of spiritual practice implies a practice similar to the ones under negation, a
process which bears an outrageous inner contradiction for the practitioner.
An attempt to clarify the nature of the contradiction and the resultant tension that it could
produce for the aspirant/reader/practitioner is presented here by means of an imaginary dialogue I
have created. As it is a common literary trope in both the Indian and Tibetan literary traditions, an
imaginative dialogue between Longchenpa and an archetypical practitioner/reader after liberation
who is confused about the use of spiritual practices and their negation is presented as a means of
1 16 The Man From Samye

clarifying the issues. Although speculative , the dialogue below has its ground in the content and
style of Longchenpa' s work conceming the rhetoric of negation .

Practitioner : Master Longchenpa, you just gave examples of serial exhaustive negations
which pointed at the futility of practices, but while engaging in your rhetoric of negation you
created a practice identical to the ones you rejected and classified as futile. I am confused
and do not know what to do. If I p ractice I waste my time; if I engage in a series of negations
I am doing what I am asked which is to abandon and give up concepts and beliefs. What
should I do ? I do not know how to p roceed from here.

L ongchenp a : Let 's stop here and consider your condition. Can you see that by your mere
compla int you are driven by the conceptual pattern of thinking that things should be coherent,
logical and make sense ? This is a concept held by your discursive mind, a concept that you are so
attached to that it causes you much confusion and upset. So g ive up now the concept that things
should be coherent and logical! Know that it dictates and limits your perception and experience of
life. Understand that in awakened m,ind there are no contradictions! Hence as long as you engage
in the negation ofpractices and views you will perpetuate one-pointed meditation ' w hose theme is
negation, a meditation that is incapable of causing liberation but which can train your mind and
bring peace to your life. Will you now continue to engage in the practice of negation, dismantling
your compulsive conceptual thinking, or not?

One scenario is that the dialogue could end up in a silence where the student abides in a non­
conceptual state of mind without any specific thing to do or to say and without suppres sing any
urge to talk or to raise more questions.
On the o ther hand the dialogue c ould be p erpetuated by an answer entailing the choice.
That choice would be either to engage in the dialogue of negation reflecting the student ' s
desire for certainty and defined patterns which could establish a strategy to liberation ; or not
to engage in practi c e at all , reflecting the s tudent ' s urge to s e e reality a s me aningle s s ,
purp o s e l e s s and a s a random s e quence o f e v ents that might inv oke feelings o f p urp o s e ­
lessnes s , desperation and fear . Either w ay t h e desire for c ertainty and t h e h o lding onto a
celtain perception of life as meaningless will c ause suffering . Any choice expressed by the student
will tum again into an object for the rhetoric of negation pointing to absence, a space with nothing
at all.
The background of such imaginative or concrete dialogue is worth identifying as it could
expose the student' s experience of confusions, tensions and emotions. It could be that after a long
period committed to a set of practices entailing rituals and meditations, the student approached
Longchenpa in order to receive Dzogchen teachings . Longchenpa in response urged the student to
give up all spiritual practices because of their incapability to bring about liberation. Longchenpa
then would suggest that "there is nothing to do" that c an cause awakening. But it has transpired for
From Praxis to Absence 117

the student that Longchenpa has in fact constructed a practice that entails one-pointed meditation
which is to be repeated and performed time and again , similar to the ones they were urged earlier
to abandon. This situation perpetuates the tension , their sense of di scomfort, and increases their
frustration and desperation regarding spiritual practice s . Such intense reactions ari se not only
because of intense attachment and the importance placed on the rhetoric of negation as a valid
strategy which the student hopes might lead them to a spiritual insight or liberating knowledge ; but
also because they are anxious to please and to do the right thing by their teacher, in this case
Longchenpa who is h ailed as the second B uddha.486 The student, who might b e a passionate
aspirant after liberation, is intensely challenged because liberation i s dependent also on their
relationship with the teacher whom they trust as one who is c apable of bringing them to the other
bank of the river, to liberation. It is similar to a patient who is about to have surgery . They are
anxious and fearful being under the surgeon' s knife but at the s ame they trust the highly skilled
doctors to perform the operation with a high degree of success . At this stage the student is stressed
and s tuck and i s not sure how to understand Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation of spiritual
practices nor how to proceed towards the realization of natural clear awarenes s . And yet like the
surgic al patient, they have a clear sense of confidence that all will end well for them.

The condition of Bataille's contestee and Longchenpa's student

More about what might characterize the condition of the s tudent as a contestee is found in
B ataille ' s writing s when he describes the process of being under contestation as a torment.487
As result of a continual process of contestation that demands the dismantling of view s , values
and doctrines, the c ontes tee is left utterly without any frame of reference. B ataille mentions
o c c a s i o n s w h er e he fi n d s h i m s e l f in a " d e ad e n d " , t i m e s w h e n he fe e l s an e m p t y
nervou s ne s s , n o t kn o w i n g w h o and w h at h e i s . H e menti o n s time s o f d o u b t , futi l i t y ,
h e l p le s s ne s s , anxiety and d e s p ai r . Here i s an e x ample of the fe elings and thoughts h e
experienced under the process of c ontestation:

Trembling . To remain immobile, standing in a solitary darknes s , in an attitude without the

gesture of the supplicant: supplication, but without gesture and above all without hope. Lost
and pleading, blind, half dead . Like Job on the dung heap , in the darknes s of night, but
imagining nothing - defenceless, knowing that all is 10s1.488
Here i s B ataille in despair after l etting go of all frames of reference , after removing veils
which surrounded his consciousness and now leave him naked and defencele s s , in a state of
c omplete hopele s s ne s s . The cri s i s s ituati on o f Longchenp a ' s s tu dent in our imaginative
dialogue and B ataille ' s crisis s ituation as a contestee are examples of what might o ccur or
transpire for the student when confronted with a belief system which they are required to abandon
and to remain therefore without any cognitive frame of reference. Facing absence c an bring about
fear and despair for most aspirants after liberation.
In referrin g b ack to the imagin ative dialogue it should be restated that at the core of
118 The Man From Samye

L o n g c h e np a ' s r e s p o n s e is the principle of n o n - affirmin g n e g ati o n and in a s s erting h i s

rhetoric of negation h e did not intend489 t o affirm any other method, view o r concept. I t was
the student who affirmed that s omething was implied by Longchenpa' s negation of spiritual
practices . Longchenpa p oints to the attachment formed by the s tudent, who was conditioned
b y their belief that thing s should b e l o gic al and c oherent . Suc h an attachment leads the
student to form the concept of contradiction that in e s s ence l acks inherent existence . Hence
the student w ould "fixate on what i s not real as real so that it certainly seems real" and "fixate
on confusion where there i s no c onfusion so that there c ertainly seems to be confu s ion" . 49o
These typ e s of fixation are a product of superimp o sition (Sanskrit : adhyasa) which c au s e s
one to h ave wrong v i e w s a n d to increas e t h e sense of suffering . Longchenp a provides a
r e s p o n s e that amplifi e s the c onfu si o n and mirrors it to the student. He d o e s s o without
prescribing a solution for the student thereby allowing them to s ort and dis cover the state of
affairs for themselves because in providing the student with any prescription for a s olution
Longchenp a would c ondition the student ' s thought proc e s s . Therefore Longchenpa provides
the practitioner with the possibility to negate the new concept of inherent contradiction and
to create a space or a state of ab sence .
In this imaginative dialogue Longchenpa skilfully uses the principle of non-affirming negation
that lay within hi s rhetoric of negation and turn s it into a philosophy that c onsumes itself to
the extent that his rhetoric of negation is negated too . It is a philosophy that leaves no traces
behind in the same manner as a Bedouin tracker who follows a certain person or animal and
era s e s h i s own tracks . Longchenp a ' s rhetoric of negation as a philo s ophy that c o nsume s
itself leaves a space which could lead the practitioner to the final point I n which there i s
n o t h i n g t o n e g at e o r t o a ffirm . I t i s a s p a c e o f n atural c l e ar aw aren e s s t h a t c an b e
apprehe n d e d o n l y when t h e rhetoric o f n e g ati o n i s tran s formed i n t o a n actual skilfu l
pedagogy where the "last" mind modification, that o f negation, i s given up . A t this stage the
s tudent might di s c over a space in which liberating knowledge might occur. Until then the
rhetoric of negation is dependent on what is to be negated, either a philo sophical view or a
g o al - o ri e n t e d p ra c ti c e . T h i s w i l l b e s h o w n in the next c h apter , w h i c h d e al s w i th the
pedagogy of negation.

Means combined with negation in the creation of absence

The imaginative dialogue h ave a few other essential components through which vocal tones
and c ertain dynami c s are emb edded within the c ommunic ation, c omponents which , when
combined with the discourses of negation, are c ap able of invoking understanding . Likewis e
in his imaginative r e s p o n s e Longchenpa u s e s several d ev i c e s in order to cre ate a space
devoid of c oncepts .

The device of mirroring, mentioned earlier, i s u sed in the dialogue in order to reflect back to
From Praxis to Absence 1 19

the s tudent their c ompul sive tendency to l abel and c onceptualize , reflecting their need for
c ertai nt y . A mirror i s a fam o u s metap h o r in D z o g ch e n p r a c ti c e , and i s e mp l o y e d b y
Dzogchen masters t o present the natural awakened mind and i t s relationship t o the world of
phenomen a . L i ke a mirror, th e nature of mind is empty, c l ear and l i mp i d and h a s th e
c apacity to reflect things the way th ey are without being modified by th e reflecti on s . 49 1
Henc e , a s a D z o g chen mas ter, Longchenp a ' s a w arene s s functions like a mirror for h i s
student s , and this idea repeatedly finds expres sion in works where he directly addresses the
reader/student , s tarting for example with "You think . . . "492 , " Y o u p erceived . . . "493 or " Y o u
might wonder. . . ",494 reflecting for them their state o f mind as it i s . The tone of the reflection
presented in the imaginative dialogue i s empathetic and persuasive and invites one to reflect
upon one ' s thinking process . Then , facing the reflection of their own ideas , s tudents might
realize the c ompulsive manner in which they form concepts , elab orate them and act upon

Imparting instruction intensified with an exclamation

The next component evident in the imaginative dialogue is the form of commandment or more
precisely, an instruction delivered with a clear exclamation . Longchenpa throughout his auto
commentary on the precious Treasury of the Basic Space of Phenomena approaches the reader/
practitioner with a clear inj unction. Here are several example s :

Since they thus invest clearly apparent yet non-existent phenomena with ultimate meaning, it
is as though they were fixating on the images of a magical illusion as somehow truly existing.
You should understand this, "How very strange" !

Here Longchenpa urges the student that he mu st understand the mechanism of superimposition
where fictitious relative phenomena as a product of dependent origination are taken to be ultimately
In relation to trying to obtain the state of natural awareness Longchenpa communicates to the
reader/practitioner the following inj unctions :

Do not seek it; do not try to achieve it.

Completely let go of hope and fear !495

Longchenpa urges the readers/practitioners to abandon striving after liberation or natural awarenes s
and to c ompletely abandon the h o p e of gaining anything desirable including c ertainty and
liberation as well as the fear of losing all of it. This form of communication bears a forceful sharp
tone that emphasizes the importance and the necessity to act upon what has been communicated.
The inj unctions which appear in the imaginative dialogue attributed to Longchenpa, the Guru
hailed as the second B uddha, might be extremely effective in inducing within the student ' s mind an
understanding of their condition, cutting forcefully through the discursive mind entangled with the
1 20 The Man From Samye

notion of contradiction . It points clearly in the right directi on, which is opp o s e d to their
unawakened state . Longchenpa' s status as a master seen through the eyes of the practitioner who is
anxious to serve and please him definitely contributes to the amplification of the inj unctions and
their effectiveness .

Paradox and dilemma combined with rhetorical question

The next device presented within the imaginative dialogue which is characteristic of Longchenpa' s
rhetoric of negation is a p alpable paradox or a rational dilemma. The rational dilemma within the
context of imaginative dialogue is formed by the two s eemingly contradictory course s of both
action and non-action regarding liberation and they are bound up with a rhetorical question.
A rhetoric al q u e s tion496 i s a form of question p o sed for its persu asive effect without any
expectation of a reply, which Longchenpa uses in his rhetoric of negation. Here is an example
directly relevant to the matter of the negation of spiritual practice as valid means to liberation:

There is nothing to achieve or to seek within the context

In which nothing needs to be done.
Since effort and achievement are not other than their natural
State of b asic space
Whence could effort come? To what achievement could it lead?497
The question at the end of the pass age is directed to the reader/student who believes that effort
could lead to the natural state as achievement. Longchenpa negates this possibility in which "there
is nothing to do or to seek" because effort and achievement are not different from the natural state
of awarenes s , being empty yet clear. He then proceeds with the question which emphasizes the
futility of efforts in relation to the state of natural awarenes s in order to put an end to the concept
that there might a connection between efforts/means and the natural state as a goal to be achieved.
Not expected to b e answered, the rhetorical question as a punch line at the end of the passage
exhausts the student/reader/practitioner' s discursive thinking proces s , and it echoes within a still
space which is absence of concepts .
In the imaginative dialogue , the rhetorical question c an be thought to be provocative by
"locking" the student into the h e art of the matter without evasion or withdrawal and b y
pres sing them t o recognize the mechanism of superimposition and then its dismantling. If the
student answers in a manner that perpetuates the discourse by s aying, for example, that non­
practice i s still a practice, it would signify that the student is still conditioned by his discursive
mind and unable to embark into the still concept-free space which Longchenpa facilitated .
Longchenp a ' s rhetorical question i s coupled with a rational dilemma of choic e : "Will you
now c ontinue to engage i.n the practice of negation, dismantling your compulsive c onceptual
thinking, or not?" The dilemma is of a p aradoxical nature as the two choices presented by the
rhetoric al question are quite c ontradictory . It is a statement that c ontain s two c ontradictory
From Praxis to Absence 121

assertions which, being incapable o f resolution b y rational thought, produce tension for the rational
thinker. The combination of Longchenpa' s rhetorical question with a rational dilemma of choice
amplifies the exhaustion of the discursive process and facilitates a still concept-free space of mind .
At the same time it increases the stres s and tension for the student, who is required to abandon any
frame of reference .
P a r ad o x , a c c o r d i n g t o H i l l i s , i s o n e o f t h e mo s t p r e v a l e n t rhetori c al d e v i c e s
Longchenp a ' s The Precious Treasury of the Way of Abiding.498 Here i s a n example o f a
paradoxical statement by Longchenpa, one that is relevant to the main theme of the negation
of spiritual practices central to this study :

It is of no concern whether or not you meditate on the ultimate

Meaning of the nature of phenomena.
It is of no concern whether or not you engage in examination
since there is nothing to accept or rej ect. 499
In thi s pas s age Longchenpa presents a paradoxical statement within the context of "the decisive
experience" of non-dual awakened mind that is concerned neither with meditation nor with non­
meditation nor with analysis , all of which are irrelevant to the basic nature of phenomena because
their realization cannot be a product of ordinary mind ' s conceptual framew orks .
This written form of paradoxical statement was used in the imaginative dialogue and rendered
into a rational dilemma of choice, presented as a rhetorical question . Thi s paradox, or more
prec i s el y thi s dilemma of r ati onal choice and behaviour, is b a s e d on tw o c o ntradictory
approaches . One has to do with engaging in effective goal -ori ented practices invested with
effort and the other has to do with living in a less goal-oriented frame where exerting effort
in order to g ain o r achieve s ome spiritual i n s i g h t i s p erceived as being a w a s te . This
contradiction creates tension and discomfort for the aspirant, who questions which particular
approach they are to p u r s u e as a spiritual p ath . The question i s h o w are they to attain
s omething that they have alw ay s had ? How should they become what they already are ? If they do
not lack anything now is there actually a need for spiritual practice invested with effort? If they still
believe that something is mis sing in their existence how should they resolve and heal the painful
aspects of their hfe ? Longchenpa would baldly and simply state that all these questions are
irrelevant asserting that, "It is of no concern whether or not you engage in examination since there
is nothing to accept or rej ect" .
Thus , the applied stylistic devices in the imaginative dialogue include minoring, forceful
i n s tructi o n , the pro v o c ation of dilemma and rhetori c al questioning in which the reader!
practitioner is challenged. All are supportive in leading the practitioner to the state of the
absence of all conceptualization.
H o w ever a non-conceptual mind i s s till one modifi c ation that occupies the student ' s
mind. It is one of absence while natural awareness is not limite � to any mental modification

1 22 The Man From Samye

and is about the integration of natural clear awareness and the phenomenal world. How does
Longchenpa escape this self-defeating condition in which all spiritual practices and activities have
been negated and the student is engros sed in one mind modification of no-concepts ?
In the following chapter, Longchenpa' s six pedagogical methods of negation that facilitate the
dismantling of the conceptual and non-conceptual states of m.ind towards the experience of natural
awareness will be critically reviewed.

Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation was employed in order to alleviate attachments to frames

of reference that the disciple was holding onto. Such frames of reference distort the perception,
hence the experience of reality as it is. One might argue that the idea of "reality as it is" seems quite
naIve as the very act of experiencing it makes it into quite another reality which could perpetuate
the master/student dialogues and relationship. But Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation facilitates a
space where concepts and ideas as frames of reference are absent, a space supported by nothing at
all, allowing a direct perception of reality. Longchenpa concluded that absence facilitated by a
rhetoric of negation can yield a non-conceptual frame of reference and that such a lack of
conceptual framework is somehow in itself a type of meditation. To put it in his words, it is a
practice which refers to "some state with a single reference point, positing that it is essentially mind
at rest, that its purpose lies in some hoped-for goal that can be reached through stabilization, and
that its function is to arre st dualistic perception".500 This form of negation that aims at accessing
absence of object-subject dualism already involves a subject perceiving an object to be negated or
abandoned which is made into a conceptual framework.
At this point in order to overcome the dualistic goal-oriented frame of reference that is inherent
in his rhetoric of negation, Longchenpa understands that he would need to find a way to lead the
student from the domain of "absence" to the domain of "natural awareness" .
In negating fixated goal-oriented spiritual practice s geared towards the domain of
absence, Longchenpa was able to reveal the transparent manner in which such a fixation
prevents and inhibits the student' s realization. Accordingly, the student might identify so
deeply with their spiritual practice, its views and beliefs that they would not be able to see
how fixated they are. It is due to the negation that they come to recognize their attachments, as the
process of negating fixated goal-oriented spiritual practices reaches a non-conceptual state which is
also contextualized within a frame of reference. Therefore Longchenpa recognized the need for a
pedagogy that would yield the apprehension of natural awareness, which means to perceive it
directly without the mediation of any means and to emotionally accept the consequences of what
has been exposed, that is, natural awareness.
Philosophically speaking, Longchenpa' s view is largely in accord with the Pdisailgika­
Madhyamika' s , essentially with its aspect of non-affirming negation. For him this form of
negation serves as analytical tool that enables one to block possibilities of adopting any fixed
opinion about any matter under consideration and to put an end to the philosophizing process
towards comprehension of emptiness . In fact Prasailgika-Madhyamika' s non-affirming negations
result in a mere absence or vacuity of a concept or of a thesis formulation but when converted to
1 24 The Man From Samye

praxis in a mode of analytical meditation it manipulates and moulds perception. Furthermore,

perceptions then are formed and dictated by the strict patterns of logic applied within a state of
meditation while the strength of holding the state of meditation depends on the practitioner' s
consistency, intentionality and concentration. Hence, even if one applied the Prasailgika­
Madhyamika' s analytical method correctly and had come to the right conclusion, one of the empty
nature of reality, one' s understanding would be more than likely a form of comprehension which is
in contrast to intuitive apprehension. That is to say an intelligent person, not necessarily a dharma
student, could apply the tetralemma on a given thesis and finally comprehend its empty nature,
however it would not necessarily cause them to have the actu al experience of emptiness.
Thu s , in terms of praxis , given that non-affirming negation formulates an analytical
goal-oriented practice, Longchenpa would move away from Prasailgika-Madhyarnika' s analytical
method of meditation and would clearly negate it as being insufficient in leading the aspirant to
liberation. It is within the context of praxis that Longchenpa significantly adds substantial concrete
value to the philosophy of negation and offers a creative, sophisticated and explicit pedagogy of
methods, as will be shown in this chapter, that can lead the aspirant even beyond the non­
conceptual mind to a profound experience of their natural awareness integrated with the world of
The purpose of the current chapter is to show how Longchenpa transformed his rhetoric
of negation into a practical pedagogy of negation aimed at accessing the state of innate
natural awareness as an experience of intuitive apprehension as well as the process by which
this transformation is accomplished. This experience as a possible outcome of his pedagogy
of negation can be identified clearly when the student is focusing directly on awareness
which is naked of concepts and free from discursive activity which thinks in term of identity.

Key terms concerning the experience of innate awareness

The appropriate terminology that Longchenpa uses in order to reveal the experiential
encounter with one ' s inherent awarene s s includes s everal repeated key terms such as
"natural state", "awareness" and "dharmakaya" . By defining these terms the understanding of
Longchenpa' s proposed methods that expose the practitioner to his innate natural awareness will
be enhanced.
In the context of Longchenpa' s works on Dzogchen, "awareness" (rigpa; vidya) refers to
pristine cognition as the essential nature of mind. It is the self-presented principle of intelligence in
its pure and undiluted intensity' which enables perception of physical and psychic elements and
events . It is a pristine cognition of sense objects in the sense that it occurs directly, without the
mediation of concepts, language, symbols or any other means. This principle in its pure essence is
inherent within individuals as their true "nature of mind", their natural awareness or Buddha nature.
This stands in contrast with the individual' s ordinary compulsive mental processes or events of the
"ordinary mind". 501 Abiding in the undistorted nature of mind refers to the natural state.
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 25

Within the context of Dzogchen, the term dharmakaya (chos sku) literally means the "Buddha
reality body", that is to say, the world of phenomena and the existence in such a world as it is.
According to Lipman it refers to "the primordial contact with the total field of events and
meanings"502 as the essential potentiality of the world of phenomena, a time before it appears as a
solid form and before it is obj ectified and sorted out by the individual perception. This pre­
conceptual form of perception points to the prior relationship that exists between one' s essential
nature of mind and the ground of its origination as the dharmakaya and conveys an experience of
inseparability between the two. It is an experience occurring in a mind that realizes the emptiness
of "self" and phenomena as integration between the two. Thus, dharmakaya stands for the world
of phenomena as it is, before being conceptualized or labelled by the individual hence seen clearly
as it is.
Another close term is dharmata (chos nyid) which literally means "phenomena or reality
as such" and signifies the ultimate nature of phenomena as the dynamic emptiness that
permeates phenomena.503 It is the quintessential nature of the elements of existence that are
the configurations of events and meanings that one is capable of experiencing , which is
emptines s . Dharmata and dharmakaya share a common denominator504 in the sense that
they refer to the true nature of reality whether to its potential mode or to its manifested mode
as inseparable from the essential nature of mind.

General remarks on Longchenpa's six methods of direct introduction

Now that the definition of the above key terms has been established, the next step is to
examine Longchenpa' s six ways to introduce natural awareness directly. These six methods
rely on s ome key points that facilitate the identification of natural awarenes s through
concentrating on it directly without mediation of means . For Longchenpa to introduce the
nature of awareness directly means that the student would be exposed to the innate nature
of mind as a principle which has always been there without drifting to discursiveness or
contrived thinking and behaviour.
The notion of "direct introduction" (ngo sprod) in Dzogchen had been invested with a lot of
importance and significance by Dzogchen teachers. The term denotes a moment when the student
becomes intimately acquainted with the nature of mind and confident in this crucial recognition.
Most Dzogchen teachers wrote about direct introduction but what makes Longchenpa unique is
that he offered six detailed and creative ways that convert the philosophical notions and
instructions of negation into a living pedagogy that includes instructions for the teacher, as a
teaching manual on how to facilitate and expose the student to their natural awareness as being
Longchenpa' s six methods are given in six concise paragraphs that convey a formative and
significant moment in the life of a student of Dzogchen which is the pinnacle of spiritual life, the
discovery of Buddha nature. Thus a close reading into Longchenpa' s six methods will have to
1 26 The Man From Samye

refer to several aspects not mentioned explicitly in the six methods but which exist between the
lines, such as the teacher-student relationship, the drama that emerges from the interaction between
them, its intensity and impact, the student' s covert psychic condition, the choice of the right time to
impart the appropriate instruction in course of the interaction, etc. Such a close reading will depict
the subtext of the six dialogues in a manner that will expose the transformation of the rhetoric of
negation into a pedagogy designed to facilitate the experience of natural awareness . It will provide
a perspective upon Longchenpa the teacher and his creative teaching methods, which are not found
in the works of central figures in Tibetan Buddhism of his time such as Gampopa, Lama Zhang
and Nubchen Yeshe who have been discussed earlier in chapter 4. Although Longchenpa shared
with the figures mentioned above the principle of negation of views and spiritual practices he
presented new pedagogical methods such as the six methods . In fact the analysis of Longchenpa' s
creative pedagogy which is at the heart of what is discussed in this chapter will serve also as
evidence of the manner in which he differed from his predecessors . Further, portraying
Longchenpa as a teacher will in tum complete the depiction of Longchenpa, who is usually
portrayed as a scholar, writer, poet, codifier and collator of texts , great spiritual authority,
philosopher or accomplished yogin.

A dialogue in Sankara's that points to one's true identity

Here is an example of how a close reading can reveal the subtext of an interaction between
a teacher and a student, referring to what is implied in the dialogue. A reading that would
contribute to the understanding of how a rhetoric of negation is converted into a pedagogy
designed to facilitate the experience of self-knowledge similar to Dzogchen. The text is of the
Advaita Vedanta tradition from the 8th century, the Upaddasiihasrz of S ailkara 1 .25 .
The context within the text is this: S ailkara the teacher has mentioned the identity between the
Atman and Brahman (Atman and Brahman) and pointed out to the student that this identity is his
real Self, and that realizing his real identity he will become free from the necessity to perform
rituals and will be free from caste and family ties . The student replies :
I a m one and H e is another; I a m ignorant, I experience pleasure and pain, a m bound and
a transmigrator [whereas] He is e s s entially different from me . . . by worshiping him with
oblations , offering, homage and the like and through the [performance of] the actions
prescribed for [my] class and stage of life, I wish to get out of the ocean of transmigratory
existence . How am I He?505
The passage reveals that the student experiences a crisis as a reaction to the explanations given to
him previously by the teacher about the identity between the Atman and the Brahman. This crisis
stems from the friction and clash between the values of his "old world" being accustomed to
ritualistic actions, and the concepts of a "new world", that of Advaita Vedanta, which has negated
such an "old world" viewpoint. The student here is shaken by S ailkara who has challenged his
values and beliefs as not being the same thing as his real identity and who has negated his practice
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 27

of rituals, claiming that they are incapable of causing liberating knowledge. The student is
shocked by the negation of ritualistic action in the extreme because he perceived ritual activity
as his supreme obligation, his inheritance from the Brahaminic al "old world" via the religious laws
of his Brahmin caste, based on the immense difference between the Atman and the Brahman.
He then asks in despair, "How am I He?"
Only then, in the aftermath of such a psychic upheaval, can the student be mentored, when he
is receptive and open to listening to (Sravana) and assimilating the scriptures ' "great sentences",
the Mahavakyas, such as "thou art that" (tat tvam asi), and realizes the nature of the only truth, that
of the Brahman. Only then do his conventional discursive patterns collapse and expose his real

Implicit and explicit components in Longchenpa's six methods

There are other components in the passage above from the Upade.sasiihasr'i of S ailkara concerning
close reading, such as the role and status of the teacher as a guru authority and of the vulnerable
student and their existential condition, which could enhance the pedagogical process. These
components as well as others are going to be discussed further while closely reading Longchenpa' s
six methods. Thus the first step will be to review the status, qualifications and characteristics of
Dzogchen teachers and students appropriate to Longchenpa' s frame of reference and to define
Longchenpa' s archetypical student of Dzogchen and their qualifications. The next step will be to
discover who Longchenpa was as a teacher and to establish precisely what his qualifications were
and to clarify what were his experiences as a student. In answering these questions the subtext of
the interaction between Longchenpa and student will be revealed, which will shed light on
Longchenpa' s pedagogy that facilitates the experience of natural awareness.

The student
The 5th chapter of The Precious Treasury of the Way ofAbiding,506 a Dzogchen work written close
to the time when A Treasure Trove of Scriptural Transmission: A Commentary on the Precious
Basic Space of Phenomena507 was composed by Longchenpa, provides a list of qualifications that
characterize the student of Dzogchen.
Longchenpa speaks of the student of Dzogchen as "the individual to whom these teachings
may be entrusted"508 and goes on to indicate the student' s qu alifications, such as having faith and
devotion for the Guru, and regarding him as the emanation of the Buddha, the univers al guide
appearing in degenerate times.509 In fact Longchenpa' s notion of faith and trust is based also on his
own experience with his teacher Kumaraja. Longchenpa followed his teacher under difficult
conditions and moved with him from place to place, living austerely in temporary camps exposed
to the elements and sleeping in woollen sacks which he also wore during the day. This reflected
Longchenpa' s readiness to undergo and overcome enormous hardships for three years so that
Kumaraj a, traditionally considered as an emanation of Vimalamitra, would provide him with the
1 28 The Man From Samye

transmission of Dzogchen teachings. This sort of trust and devotion is what Longchenpa would
have expected and required from his students.
In addition to trust and devotion the student must have and display generosity, profound
knowledge of Buddhism, purity of character, few fixations, minimal clinging to rituals as means to
freedom, great diligence and the ability to maintain secrecy. That is to say, they must have a natural
tendency to share their knowledge and belongings with others without any vestigial sense of
attachment to possessions either spiritual or material. Further, the student must have a vast
knowledge of the path of Buddhism and be able to distinguish between the essential teachings of
Dzogchen and the other Buddhist doctrines as well as having no clinging to rituals for purifications
and other dogmatic frames of reference. One might ask how these qualifications are essentially
different from the constraints found in a Buddhist monastery, as Longchenpa' s list of student' s
qualifications could be simply just another version. However, when Longchenpa refers here to the
student as one who has but few fixations he means that the student has a healthy mind without
obsessions, compulsive behaviours, excessive anxiety addictions, and has substantial intelligence
and sense of discernment, qualifications a skilful teacher would be able to assess.
Another point that Longchenpa emphasizes is that the student should make material gifts to
the teacher and please the teacher either by making progress in religious practice or by serving him.
Although Longchenpa speaks in his actual source verses in a casual and moderate manner about
what is required from the student, he presents in his auto commentary radical prerequisites that are
expected from the student. These requirements also reveal the content and meaning behind the idea
of pleasing the Guru with gifts :
To the vajra master who confers pith instructions
One should offer one ' s uncle, one ' s father and mother,
One ' s eyes, one ' s j ewels, one' s children, and the very best of one' s possessions -
Whatever is cherished and valued . . .
In brief one should offer even one ' s body and life force . . . 5 1 0

As expressed in the passage above the student is required to sacrifice their attachment to body,
life, family, belongings in order to attain the liberating essential teachings. In other words the
student is required to give up, relinquish and abandon everything that they are attached to,
physically and mentally, and offer it to the teacher who imparts the teaching on liberation.
It defines a clear hierarchy and relationship between the teacher and the student in which the
teacher is the holder of the priceless teaching and nothing in the world could be more valuable than
it, not even the student' s own life. Whether these radical sacrifices should be taken either literarily
or metaphorically, within the context of the rhetoric of negation the sacrifices required from the
student stand for a radical negation of all of their attachments to allow the space of complete
absence to emerge. This conveys a sense of how unfamiliar and how confronting the state of
absence could be for seekers after liberation. Again, these sacrifices do not seem to be different
from those found in tantric practice. However, in the broad sense of qualifications, Longchenpa' s
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 29

student is one who has, in addition to sacrifices mentioned earlier, but few fixations and substantial
intelligence and sense of discernment.
Thus, the student who interacts and participates with Longchenpa in one of the six dialogues
that facilitate the discovery of the nature of mind is equipped with the qualifications mentioned
above, and relates to Longchenpa with awe as the representation of the Buddha, anxious to please
him and to sacrifice everything for his teachings and well-being. The emphasis here is on the trust
and anxiety to please the Guru which characterizes the student' s state of mind and which they
bring to the dialogue with Longchenpa.

The teacher
According to Longchenpa, "The Guru Who Instructs" is one who has heard many teachings,
has great compassion, has accomplished not only the ordinary disciplines of tantra but also
those of Dzogchen, who is anchored in their realization of natural awareness and is able
to free others . The teacher knows how to examine and evaluate the student' s suitability as a
candidate and grants the key teaching points gradually and not prematurely. The teacher according
to Longchenpa, as ideally expected, has no concern for material gifts and offerings but is able to
examine the student and observe their manner when the latter offers the teacher gifts, as this can
reveal the student' s motivations and intentions to reflect either basic support and gratitude or a
personal/selfish ambition to get access to the secret Dzogchen teachings. 5 1 1
Before elaborating on th e teacher' s qualifications i t i s important to mention th e ordinary
disciplines of tantra within the context of gradual and simultaneous teachings . Longchenpa
indicates that the teacher has to be accomplished in the ordinary disciplines of tantra that are
associated with gradual teachings, which may lead to the impres sion that Longchenpa is
characterizing Dzogchen as a gradual teaching . Although his descriptions of the teacher' s
qualifications entail many qualifications similar to those of a teacher of tantra, Longchenpa
intends to depict a profile of an ideal teacher that includes a deep and comprehensive
capacity to teach not only Dzogchen but also tantra in all its different phases .512
The above list of qualifications is the one a teacher brings to the dialogue with the student and
to the interaction intended to access the experience of natural awarenes s . The main points
emphasized here are those that relate to the responsibility of the teacher in assessing the student' s
motives and capacity to assimilate the teachings. The teacher has to identify the students who are
motivated for example by personal ambition, who are in pursuit of a socio-religious status or trying
to attract the teacher' s attention in order to amplify their own self-worth through the offering of
gifts or service. To them the essential teaching should be refused or delayed until they abandon
these attachments. The teacher should evaluate the students because in misjudging their receptivity,
in transmitting the teaching prematurely, it would miss its purpose and would produce future
obstacles. Therefore the notion of the appropriate timing for transmitting teachings concerning
natural awareness is of extreme importance and it should be imparted according to the
circumstances and receptivity of the students.
1 30 The Man From Samye

When the qualifications and skills and responsibility of the teacher and the qualifications,
feelings and practices of the student are brought together they create an interaction between two
hierarchical conflicting forces . One is of the student' s meditative state of mind based on
frames of reference, and the other is the teacher' s nature of mind free from all frames of
reference. The tension between the conflicting forces is not particularly radical because up to
the point of direct introduction, the student, endowed with the feeling of trust towards their
teacher and being subj ected to the process of the rhetoric of negation, has been able to
abandon attachments and to move into a meditative state of absence. However the tension
between the two forces exemplified by the teacher as the representation of absolute truth,
natural mind, and as holder of the priceless teaching on liberation in contrast with the student
as the representation of relative truth, ordinary discursive mind and inferior attachments ,
creates in the six dialogues of direct introduction a dramatic dynamic with a potential for
intense trans formative impact yielding the experience of natural awareness . It should be noted
that the tension between the two forces if maltreated can lead to a potential abuse. These dramatic
dialogues have the capacity to cause the student to forget themselves and open to the unfamiliar
natural awareness.

Materials for dramatic dialogue

The picture that emerges so far presents a student who has deep faith in their teacher and
perceives them as compassionately caring . The student believes that the teacher holds the
key for their liberation which is their most important life-interest. As a result the student feels
awe and anxiety and seeks to please their teacher and has expectations and ideas concerning
the relationship with the teacher regarding "how they should ideally be" . However the student
carries other feelings to the interaction with the teacher concerning the experience of natural
awareness usually not mentioned in Dzogchen texts . It might be that these feelings are not
usually mentioned because they are taken for granted, or because they are addressed only
within the oral tradition, or because they are in contrast to Dzogchen ' s view of natural
awareness which transcends emotions and feelings in the sense that it is unconditioned by
feelings such as fear and hope. Another possibility as to why feelings related with the
existential condition of the student of the rhetoric of negation and direct introduction are
usually not mentioned in Dzogchen is that if these feelings were mentioned they could create
expectations within the mind of the student which would bec ome another c aus e for
discursiveness and attachment turning into an obstacle.
Although feelings are not discussed explicitly in Dzogchen texts there are other sources from
other traditions that explicitly point to what might be the feelings which Longchenpa' s student
would carry to the dialogue. In order to access the existential and psychological conditions that
might characterize the student who would participate in Longchenpa' s six methods for direct
introduction, traditional and modem sources will be examined; although a range of feelings and
From A bsence to Natural Awareness 131

emotions were definitely reported in old Buddhist texts such as the Visuddhimagga (The Path of
Purification)513 including Longchenpa' s poems,514 the examination will be carried out with caution
so as not to impose on the 1 4th century student of Longchenpa any unsuitable 2 1 st century
psychological terms or descriptions.
One example that reveals a crisis situation in an interaction between a teacher and a
student, in which the former points to the latter' s true nature, appears in a non-dual doctrine of
Advaita Vedanta found in the Upadesasahasrl of S ailkara ( 1 .25) from the 8th century, which has
already been discussed in the context of close reading previously in this chapter.
Early indic ations that refer directly to the existential consequences being under a
constant negation are fairly rare. However, such situations where doctrines are denied and
which require the relinquishment of a frame of reference can be found in Aryadeva, from
the 3rd century, who was a disciple of N agarjuna and author of several important Mahayana
Madhyamaka Buddhist texts . A.ryadeva' s exclamation discloses the crisis of not knowing
how to understand and absorb the message of the doctrine of emptiness that inspires terror
which is a state of intense or violent fear of the unknown:
What are we to do? Nothing at all exists . Even the name of the doctrine [ 'Emptiness ' ] inspires
terror. 5 1 5
Aryadeva' s exclamation reveals him being perplexed and mildly confused, not knowing how to
understand the doctrine of emptiness or how to proceed. It seems that he actually experiences an
intellectual crisis in trying to make sense of emptiness and an emotional one as well, being
desperate and fearful of this insistent and obstinate denial of all, even of the most revered doctrine,
that of emptiness. The notion of fear of emptiness is clarified with the next example that reve als the
existential condition of a student being under negation, one by Chogyam Trungpa ( 1 939-1 9 87)
the modern Tibetan meditation master.
In a documented oral dialogue, asked by a student, "Why is it so hard to let go of one' s ego?"
Chogyam Trungpa responded:
People are afraid of the emptiness of space, or the ab sence of company, the absence of a
shadow. It could be a terrifying experience to have no one to relate to, nothing to relate with.
The idea of it can be extremely frightening though not the real experience. It is generally a fear
of space, a fear that we will not be able to anchor ourselves to any solid ground, that we will
lose our identity as a fixed and solid and definite thing. This could be very threatening. 5 1 6
Thus, according to Trungpa, the student carries within a primal fear of being without identity
or any other reference point. In order to emphasize the intensity and possible impact of the fear
of absence Trungpa repeats the notion of fear several times , using expressions such as "terrifying
experience " , "extremely frightening" , "fear of space" , "afraid of the emptine s s " , "very
threatening". However, Trungpa also reassures the students by letting them know that in the real
experience of emptiness one will not undergo fear or threat. That is to say, within the context of the
rhetoric of negation the student is brought by means of that same negation to a threshold where
132 The Man From Samye

they would still feel the fear of emptiness, of the unfamiliar natural awareness which is free of any
reference point. Nevertheless the student might be able to overcome this fear due to the trust and
confidence they have in their teacher and once they traverse the threshold or more precisely "leap"
over the threshold, such feelings, although still existing, will no longer condition the student' s state
of mind and shape their experiences .
Discovering the nature of mind might entail a vulnerability that requires the presence of
a responsible qualified teacher who knows how to assess the student and when to impart the
instructions . The rhetoric of negation in the hands of such a teacher threatens to strip the
stu dent from their subj ectivity or sense of identity as an "I" . Longchenpa the teacher
represents the challenge of exposure to natural awareness and the student, who might fear
being stripped of his identity, trusts that the teacher will lead him safely to the state of naked
awareness, naked of any sense of "I-ness" ,
Another interesting modem perspective is provided by Hegel ( 1 770- 1 83 1 ) , who claimed
that the road of the discourse of negation, leading towards ab solute freedom which is
consciousness ' s knowledge of itself, is a highway of despair.517 Despair involves loss of hope or of
the expectation of desire-fulfilment and is the absence of hope, of all enticement.518 For Hegel all
desires, including the desire to know one' s consciousness, establishes subjectivity by having an
object of perception as a reaction to a lack or craving which it wants to satisfy. In consuming the
desire to know one' s consciousness one recognizes one' s ego model to be false and so remains
without an object of desire to be consumed and without a frame of reference as an anchor, and so
one is left without hope, As Bataille reported, Hegel being on his own as the subject and object of
his discourse of negation, thought he was losing his sanity when experiencing despair.519 B ataille
mentions the transformative power of despair:
Despair, imp atience , horror at myself, in time delivered me - even while I was trying
sometimes to find once again the bewildering path of ecstasy, sometimes to be done with it, to
go resolutely to bed, to sleep .52o
Bataille actually asserts that to try and find ecstasy again once it has been lost is hopeless. The
experience of ecstasy cannot be retrieved because it cannot be a product of any action. Such an
action would tum any endeavour to retrieve ecstasy into a futile one and into the hopelessness that
no matter what one does, either to ignore it or to look for it, one will not achieve one ' s object of
desire. For Bataille the force of despair, the despair of not finding the desired object or evasive
ecstasy, hopelessness and surrender has delivered him into what he refers to as Inner Experience.
Alongside Hegel' s despair Bataille mentions anguish as the driving force to his ecstasy, associated
as it is with Inner Experience:
Non-knowledge communicates ecstasy. Non-knowledge is anguish. In anguish there appears a
nudity which puts one into ecstas y . Thus ec stasy only remains pos sible in the anguish of
ecstasy, in this sense that it cannot be satisfaction, grasped knowledge . . . Anguish assumes the
desire to communicate - that is, to lose myself - but not complete resolve: anguish is the
evidence of my fear of communicating, of losing myself. 52 1
From Absence to Natural Awareness 133

B ataille creates a near-equation between non-knowledge, ecstasy and anguish. Thus if ecstasy
occurs within the Inner Experience where one' s mind is naked of conceptual knowledge, the
condition in which one is stripped of conceptual knowledge is what Bataille refers to as non­
knowledge state. Non-knowledge equated with anguish, is the anxiety one feels in the fear of
losing oneself, of the absence of knowledge and certainty. In this near-equation B ataille equates
also anguish with ecstasy, as what connects the two sensations or emotions is one' s bare state of
mind. For B ataille when one is in despair or anguish one' s mind becomes naked too because
anguish or despair involves the loss of hope, and the sense that no matter what one knows or has
learned, and no matter what one does, one has no control over the situation and one gives up all
hope of control over what may take place. When one experiences the essence of not-knowing, one
experiences ecstasy in the sense of the evacuation of the subject rather than as a grasped object or
a sense of satisfaction in achievement.
In considering the notion of despair and anguish within the context of Longchenpa' s rhetoric
of negation and his interaction with his students it seems that more than likely the latter might have
experienced fear, hopelessness or despair. When Longchenpa' s student is led to the state of
absence by means of negation they are required to give up and abandon the discursive conceptual
mind. After establishing themselves in the space of absence of concepts they are required to
abandon even the non-conceptual or non-compulsive state of mind. The student then experiences a
sense of hopelessness that there is nothing they could do that would induce the experience of
liberation and that it is not under their control. Therefore hopelessness is a possible feeling the
student might carry to the interaction with Longchenpa as a skilful teacher and the tension between
the student' s feelings of awe, hopelessness and trust, on the threshold of naked and natural
awareness, constitute a potent transformative dramatic moment.
Similar to the notions of the crisis of the student of S ailkara, Aryadeva' s exclamation that the
doctrine of emptiness inspires terror, Trungpa' s expression of fear of emptiness, Hegel' s despair
and B ataille' s anguish as possible feelings that the student may carry to the dialogues with
Longchenpa, the modern French Philosopher Emmanuel Levinas ( 1 906-- 1 995) adds the expression
of horror as a response to coming face to face with it y a.
Levinas asserts that the self is ontologically independent and that such independence is
the very precondition for the participation in everyday life in the sense that the identification of
selfhood takes place through the relation with others. Selfhood is a state that one regresses to and
the accomplishment of such a regression is Levinas ' main interest, and for that he presents the
concept of it y a (there is) .522
The it y a is a primordial exi stence independent of the world of phenomena ; an
undifferentiated ground of being underlying and extending beneath and in opposition to the
phenomenal world; that transcends subjectivity and objectivity, inwardness and exteriority; but not
a pure absence or nothingness that can be grasped by one' s discursive mind as in it y a there is no
discourse. It is inextinguishable, impersonal and anonymous, and haunts the identity of the ego in
order to depersonalize it. The disappearance of all things including the ego or "I" leaves what
1 34 The Man From Samye

cannot disappear, if y a, sheer existence, with which one participates as "anonymous" . 523 An
analogy to the if y a mentioned in the Rig-Veda hymn CXXIX524 might be the "void and formless"
prevailing before the creation of the phenomenal world takes place, that refers to an apriori
chaotic state of affairs . The il y a forms the primal or nucleus identity of the embodied self that
precedes the psychologic al or social aspects of oneself, moulding one ' s contextual identity .525
As interesting and complex as Levinas ' philosophy is, the main theme of this section is to
p o int to e x i s tenti al c o n diti o n s that might o c cur w h e n meeting with the pure and
unfamiliar, whether it be pure emptiness or selfhood or, in the case of Levinas , meeting with the
il y a.
For him if y a, the notion of B eing, is an "impersonal, anonymous , yet inextinguishable
consummation of being, which murmurs in the depth of nothingness itself"526 and its dynamic
presence is always on the edge that haunts the identity of the ego and threatens to invade the
individual and deconstruct their identity.
When such an invasion takes place it is impossible to take shelter in one ' s identity or to
withdraw into one ' s shell as the invasion completely exposes one and one responds accordingly
with horror. According to Levinas, in horror a subj ect is stripped of their subj ectivity, of their
power to have a private existence as an ego either social or person al to the exclusion of their
corpore al/material identity . When participating in il y a the subj ect returns to the heart of every
negation, the depth of nothingness, with no ways through or exits . 527
Thus in their regres sion to selfhood, Levinas ' reader/student would come in contact with
il y a, which is the heart of every negation, which invokes the experience of horror, but which is
also a direct participation in B eing . However the participation is in the form of fascination, which
is not a cognitive relation but a deprivation of conceptualizing and the grasping sense obj ects .
That is to s ay , such a direct perception not mediated by mental processes takes the form of
fascination accompanied with ecstasy in which a given perceived sense obj ect affirms itself in a
presence which is foreign to the temporal present or the mundane state of affairs . It is an unfamiliar
way of being, for the subj ect who comes in contact with il y a is stripped of their personal and
social identity.528
Levinas ' notion of horror is not dissimilar to Trungpa' s notion of fear of losing one' s identity
as a fixed, solid and defInite thing or to Hegel ' s and B atai11e ' s despair in anguish and loss of hope.
Furthermore, these existential conditions of fear, despair, etc , are dynamic forces, in a sense similar
to B ataille ' s anguish that has the power of deliverance and Levinas ' violent force of horror that is
capable of leading to selfhood, fascination and ecstasy. Nevertheless, Trungpa mentions that none
of these existential conditions are present in the real experience of emptiness which signifies that
the experience of natural awareness is a remedy to these existential conditions , that is , it alleviates
In conclusion, the complex conflicting feelings that the student may experience would cause
stress and tensions . On the one hand, as established earlier by way of inference, there are the
student' s feelings of awe, hopelessness, anxiety and despair as represented in the words of the
From Absence to Natural Awareness 135

figures w e mentioned above , which may b e covert psychic forces , rooted in compulsive and
discursive mind. On the other, there are the student' s feelings of love and deep trust for their
teacher, seeing him as one who possesses skills and wisdom anchored in natural mind. Thus the
tension and stress produced by the conflicting feelings and states of mind provide the materials for
a potent transformative drama.
Another component central to almost any drama is the sense of timing that drives the
interaction towards a climax or resolution, and in the case of Longchenpa' s dialogues it relates to
knowing or having the sense when to impart instructions and to point to the nature of mind. The
student arrives with expectations as a result of their traditional role as a student, their history of
relationship with the teacher including a period of training under Longchenpa' s rhetoric of
negation as well as the potential feelings and tensions . For the teacher, the questions of when to
talk, when to remain silent, when to be assertive and loud, and when to be mellow, etc , are very
important as means to bypass the student' s expectations and feelings and to cut through them,
exposing the nature of mind and leading the student to concentrate on it directly. In this respect,
Longchenpa is a very skilful teacher who will communicate to different students in a manner that
will match their capacity and temperament. As will be shown in the following examination of the
six methods , Longchenpa at times may overwhelm and confuse the student, at times may surprise
them, and at other times he would remain casual. In this manner he would lead them to the decisive
experience of natural awareness as a means to introduce them to the nature of mind.

The six ways to introduce awareness directly

(1) Direct introduction to awareness with the mind focused: Have the student sit cross-legged,
breathing gently, with eyes wide open and mind resting without concepts . At that point have
the student disregard both the clarity and the stability that are present when one is in an
extremely clear state of mind (for these are meditative experiences) and directly introduce
naked wakefulness of awarenes s as dharmakaya.529

The above passage was written by Longchenpa as part of a manual for the Dzogchen teacher that
contains step by step instructions on how to lead the student to the point that they would recognize
their true nature in relation to the world of phenomena. In addressing Dzogchen teachers and
equipping them with such a manual Longchenpa is positioning himself as a teacher of teachers
associatively linked to the notion of "Lord of the Teachings" (bstan pa 'i bdag po) who is
obviously the B uddha. Such a linkage constitutes the authority required for a transmission of the
Dzogchen teachings . However, the unspecified "teacher" in the passage who is interacting with the
student will be taken as being Longchenpa.
Longchenpa, seeing that after the process of being under his rhetoric of negation the student
has reached a level of satisfactory maturity, would invite the student to a dialogue that entails the
crucial negation to "disregard both the clarity and the stability that are present when one is in
an extremely clear state of mind" . According to this method, Longchenpa constructs a guided
meditation entailing a contrived posture, attention to breathing and a state of mind which he
136 The Man From Samye

asks the student to assume. The student at that level of maturity would critically notice that in
prescribing a contrived posture, attention to breathing and a state of mind Longchenpa appears to
contradict himself as those exercises are in contrast with his persistent negations of philosophies
and spiritual practices. The traditional student will take such instructions literally as they would
adopt and take for granted Longchenpa' s approach that subsumes goal-oriented practices into that
moment of abiding in natural awareness .530 However, the critical practitioner might rebel and argue
that Longchenpa is contradicting himself and if it were to develop into a debate it is more than
likely that Longchenpa would respond by means of negation, in the same manner that Nubchen
Yeshe did, as has been discussed in the history of negation in chapter 4. That is to say , physical
postures cannot be a means to accessing one ' s natural state because that state is free of any pre­
meditated strategy . Moreover, at the same time whatever the body posture might be, that is the
position of practice for stabilizing the natural state. Therefore, engaging in merely physical postures
is futile because it cannot access the nature of mind, and avoiding physical postures might mean
lazines s which is also a wrong action. For the existential practitioner, as can be seen, the
employment or non-employment of physical postures presents a dilemma that may invoke tension
and confusion concerning rational choice. However, the confusion resulting from such a dilemma
might remain for the student as an inner posture or as a covertly unresolved state of mind that
leaves the student vulnerable and which would make them receptive to the teachings .

Praxis as remedy to resistance

Longchenpa recognizes a range of problematic circumstances that would lead the student away
from his course of teaching entailing the pedagogy of negation, and to handle such problematic
circumstances he prescribes instructions accordingly.
In his work The Natural Freedom of Reality531 in a section that precedes the principal practice
- the direct introduction to the nature of mind532_ he mentions various problematic circumstances
that are of disadvantage for the student and their remedies as specific practices. In this respect he
mentions for example the yoga of the mind which addresses a confused state of mind being
occupied either with an attachment or aversion. He also mentions the yoga of the guru in which the
student enhances faith, trust and devotion for his guru who is perceived as one capable of granting
liberation. The sequence of practices suggests a state of affairs in which a student who "fails" to
profoundly understand and experience natural awareness due to conflicting views is referred to
instructions such as yoga of the guru and yoga of the mind that Longchenpa considers to be
preliminary practices .533 When these sorts of practices are to be implemented the practitioner will
be liberated from the obstacles created by the problematic circumstances and become ready and
suitable for the pedagogy of negation that would lead to direct introduction to awareness .
According t o the yoga o f the guru , the practitioner i s instructed t o sit comfortably and
visualize on the top of their head a lotus seat and above it a moon disc. On this rests a Tibetan letter
From Absence to Natural Awareness 137

A H in the colour o f white radiating light that purifies all o f one ' s obscuration. Then the white AH
transforms into the student' s principal or root teacher who is inseparable from Padmasambhava,
and an entourage of other masters of the lineage and qii kinls. At that moment the student is
instructed to mentally pay homage, give offerings and confess negative thoughts, feelings and
deeds, and pray :

My precious gurus, once my karma and defilements of passions are purified please grant me
the accomplishments of b o dy speech and mind. I ask that you make the extraordinary
realization arise in my mind stream.534 (My translation)
The student is instructed to visualize being granted the accomplishments, and that they and all
beings are supplicating and concentrating in one-pointed heart-felt devotion. Then the student is
asked to visualize that the world of phenomena is but an expres sion of their guru and to unify
themselves with that visualization as the source of all spiritual inspiration. Thus, within the context
of handling obstacles and, in our case, the student' s situation of dilemma and doubts, Guru Yoga is
shown to be a practice intended to resolve a psychic burden resulting from actions contaminated
with selfish motives and emotional instability by means of visualization and deep emotional
While Longchenpa' s Guru Yoga as a remedy to problematic situations prescribes means
of visualization and deep emotional supplication, he offers another practice, the yoga of the mind,
that prescribes means of intellectual examination for identifying adoption and rej ection of whatever
arises in one ' s mind:

The arising of the various fleeting images and memories in my attentive consciousness if they
are charged with faults and negative intentions I rej ect them, and as soon as they appear to be
endowed with p o sitive qualiti e s , I accept them . . . but when I examine the identity of
app e arance s I vigorou sly establish myself in the state of rigp a , that liberate s whatever
emerges , the great omnipresence of dharmakaya535 (My translation)

The above instruction prescribes analysis of appearances and of the process by which one tends to
adopt certain views over others, or at other times to rej ect certain views in favour of others.
Obviously such analysis will find appearances in one ' s consciousness, and consciousness itself, to
be empty of independent nature either when adopted or rej ected. Therefore adopting and rej ecting
or creating new views , doubts or tensions are a product of the student' s discursive mind that veil
the innate nature of mind and produce hindrances . Accordingly, in our case, the student will
examine their claim that Longchenpa is contradicting himself in prescribing a contrived posture,
attention to breathing and a state of mind after asserting the futility of fabricated philosophies and
contrived spiritual practices . The student then will find the concept that Longchenpa contradicts
himself to be but an empty mental construct. Thus the accomplished examination for identifying
the process of adoption and rej ection of whatever arises in the student' s mind will resolve
dilemmas and doubts and make the student fit for direct introduction of natural awarenes s .
138 The Man From Samye

It would be more than likely that after performing the guru and mind yogas the student would
proceed to perform Longchenpa' s instructions as specified in the above mentioned method of
"direct introduction to awareness with the mind focused" . Reaching a stable, clear state of non­
conceptual mind the student still has a sense of having a reference point of a non-conceptuality and
that there is in fact a perceiver who perceives absence. At that point, Longchenpa firmly asks the
student to disregard the clarity and the stability that are present when in an extremely clear state of
mind, to part from that state of absence he has been fixated on and then to abide in a state of mind
without any frame of reference at all . Longchenpa justifies the negation by asserting that clarity and
stability are but meditative experiences, being a result of abstract meditation dependent on non­
conceptuality as an obj ect in order to sustain itself. Obviously a mind engrossed with stability and
clarity as expres sions of an extremely clear state of mind is still not entirely free of ties or
The student ' s condition on the edge of disregarding clarity and stability is not overtly
expressed, but being based on the notions of fear of emptiness , hopelessness and horror mentioned
earlier, it is more than likely Longchenpa' s student would feel such an unspoken angst.536 It seems
that Longchenpa would take advantage of the tension that occurs within the student, whose
relatively familiarized state of absence has been negated, leaving him vulnerable and receptive, on
the threshold of natural awarenes s , ready to discover a "referenceless" dimension of natural
awareness that was always there. Thus it is not a matter of producing the nature of mind but of
exposing and discovering it as it has always innately been within the individual. While the manner
in which Longchenpa uses here the student' s state of anxiety is implicit, later in the chapter, in the
sixth method of direct introduction he does so explicitly .
Metaphorically speaking, Longchenpa' s negation of both the clarity and the stability which
are present when the student is in an extremely clear state of mind is similar to suddenly pulling the
carpet from underneath their feet, leaving them without any firm ground to stand on, which
obviously produces a moment of fear or anxiety. The intense impact of the surprise and the fear put
a stop to and effectively arre st all mental processes instantly, and in that vacancy of mind the
subj ect becomes lucidly aware of the event before the habitual discursive mode of mind reacts to
the situation.

Gampopa's method of direct introduction

Further to the discussion so far concerning the notions of clarity and the stability of openness it
should be mentioned that Gampopa, as presented in the the rhetoric of negation in Tibet prior to
Longchenpa in chapter 4, asserted a series of negations which affirmed the characteristics of
natural awareness to be clarity and openness, similar to those mentioned in Longchenpa' s passage
above. Gampopa repeats and mentions clarity and opennes s numerous times as being desirable
characteristics to be adopted and experienced within the discourse of negation. However, in a
surprising pedagogic al move, he then asserts :
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 39

I do not accept clarity . Accepting clarity is identification. I do not accept bli s s , nor non­
conceptual gno s i s . B li s s and non-conceptu al gno s i s are identification. No example c an
illustrate me. No word can reach to the point. Do not fabricate me. Simply let it be.537

The pedagogic al procedure employed here by Gampopa "pulls the carpet" from underneath the
practitioner/reader, causing them to abandon any familiar term, concept or idea about openness and
clarity and to open up to the possibility of discovering the utterly unfamiliar nature of their own
mind. Gampopa' s assertion, "I do not accept clarity . . . I do not accept bliss, nor non-conceptual
gnosis" comes as a surprising punch line at the end of the text after clarity and openness have been
repeated many times as desirable characteristics . His statement comes with a finality that shakes the
student who has been establishing the clear and open state of mind in a fixated manner that
characterizes the practice of one-pointed meditation. Gampopa' s assertion causes the student to
lose their hold on the ground of what they thought was desirable and forces them to remain
vulnerable and receptive on the threshold of their essential mind towards its eventual discovery .
While Gampopa' s discourse of negation and the pedagogical procedure mentioned above are
textual, Longchenpa' s pedagogy of negation is textual too but is addres sed to Dzogchen teachers ,
providing them with a manual which includes specific and detailed techniques and practical
instruction s . Although Gampopa' s intention was to point in his text to the essential natural
awareness by means of negation, Longchenpa takes the philosophical and textual negations further
and converts them into a pedagogy that is capable of facilitating the experience of natural
awarenes s . However, the process disclosed by Longchenpa is a subtle one and concerns a student
who has been able to resolve most of their compulsive patterns of dualistic thought and behaviour
and has become spacious and forbearing, ready for the discovery of their own intrinsic nature as
the dharmakaya.

A wakened awareness as dharmakiiya

According to Longchenpa, dharmakaya refers to all internal and external phenomena either
samsaric or nirvanic, as they appear in a given moment prior to reification and conceptualization
and this is the moment when they can be identified with the dharmakaya.538 When Longchenpa
directly introduces naked awareness as dharmakaya he points out to the student that the nature of
their mind as the empty essence of awareness and the pre-conceptualized phenomenal world are in
the state of integration where both the nature of mind and dharmakaya constitute non-duality. In
other words all phenomena that arise or appear within the scope of awareness are nothing other
than awarenes s because both are empty concepts . Metaphorically speaking, this is the same as the
way that reflections arising on the surface of the mirror are not different from the mirror and there
is no dichotomy between the mirror and its reflections . 539
It is then for the student to realize that to be meditatively and statically fixated in absence
endowed with clarity is still a limited condition as it is disengaged and refrains from dynamic
communication with the phenomenal world . It is for the student to realize the true nature of
1 40 The Man From Samye

awarenes s that comes in contact with the dharmakiiya in a manner which is free from compulsions
and concepts , which no longer can dictate one' s perception or experience of reality .540

(2) Direct Introduction to awareness with the mind at rest : Without any focusing of his or
her mind, but when it is very present and settled in its own place, have the student let go of its
abiding quality, and directly introduce lucid wakefulness as dharmakiiya .541

Here too , Longchenpa addres ses the teacher of Dzogchen and provides them with a method
showing how to directly introduce natural awarenes s . The method includes two instructions .
The first one refers to "Without any focusing of his or her mind" that ends up in a "present and
settled mind" . The second refers to the moving away from and relinquishing of the abiding quality.
The first instruction refers to meditation without a support, that is to say, meditation which
does not require a specific obj ect in order to stabilize and to sustain itself. Such a meditation542
would be for example gazing forward into a given space without "locking" the gaze on a particular
obj ect that appears in that space. The student is required to hold the gaze steadfastly without being
seduced by a sudden surge of distractive thought or other stimulation and to slowly reduce the
intensity and the efforts involved with the maintenance of the gaze until they come to a relaxed
state of mind.
In the execution of the instruction on not focus sing the mind, the student might become
agitated as they might find it challenging to hold an alert mind at rest without any dependence on
an obj ect. Longchenpa, who is aware of this challenge, instructs the teacher to be patient with the
student and to wait until the student' s mind is present and at rest. The aim of this method is to
establish a relaxed state of mind through familiarization with the dynamic aspect of the mind,
which is the flow of discursive thinking, without being distracted by it. That is to say , in not being
able to sustain a steady gaze without an anchor as a given obj ect a practitioner can realize the
intensity of their compulsive stream of thoughts that conditionally reacts to sense-obj ects . Therefore
in being able to sustain such a gaze whatever comes to their mind, either subtle thoughts or
perceptions of various obj ects , they are neither interpreted nor j udged but allowed to remain as they
are, in a non-reactive state which means that the mind is at rest.
At the moment Longchenpa identifies that the student' s mind is at rest he asks them to let go
of the state of abiding, which constitutes the second instruction that is "when it is very present and
settled in its own place, have the student let go of its abiding quality" . 543 Metaphorically speaking,
Longchenpa' s negation of the state of abiding that occurs in meditation without relying on an
obj ect is similar to the pulling of the carpet from underneath one ' s feet, leaving the student without
any firm ground to stand on, which produces a moment of astonishment. It is like the sense of
wonderment accompanied by an inner posture of being speechless which arises when seeing, for
example, a piece of unique architecture not seen before, without any process of interpretation and
without seeking of explanations about it. This corresponds to Guenther' s544 perception of
From Absence to Natural Awareness 141

wondennent a s being not in a situation in which one feels enchanted, snared o r trapped but rather
in a situation in which one is responding to extraordinariness, perfection and beauty . Guenther' s
perception of wondennent seems to be one-sided because wondennent can be invoked when
unexpectedly facing piles of smelly rubbish, broken old buildings, and damaged people, and even
at things beyond wondennent such as bodily corruption and waste . After all, it is this state of
universal wondennent which is the experience of the entire universe, as it is, that is one of bliss .
Hence for the siddhas, graveyards were the perfect paradise realm and the most suitable place for
practice because ordinary people did not go to such places and distract them and such places were
perceived by the siddhas as identic al to a palace . It is the coming into contact with the
inexplicablenes s of what is presented. Thu s , in applying the second instruction the student
remai n s in the c entre of w h atever they experienc e , b e i n g aw are of their immediate
environment and y e t at n o moment do they l o s e thi s aw aren e s s which is fre e fro m
interpretation o r conceptualization, that i s , awareness a s dharmakiiya.
The current method obviously requires less effort or activity in comparison with the first
method in which the student was asked to sit cross-legged, breathing gently, with eyes wide open
and mind resting without concepts . Actually the main theme in this method is about discovering the
sense of what the Dzogchen tradition means by "effortlessness", in which natural awareness arises
without any deliberate activity of fIXing one ' s mind. Considering the notion of "effortlessness" it is
possible to assume that the student suitable for this method is more skilful or mature in the sense
that they need only minimal activity, that of an obj ectles s gaze, in order to get their mind at rest.
Hence the means used here by Longchenpa are executed in a mild manner.

(3) Direct Introduction to awareness by getting to the root of the matter: Have the student
direct his or her attention inwardly, examining spe.c ifically where the mind comes from or is
located. When (without anything actually found) the mind becomes lucid in all its nakedness,
have the student let go of the tendency to fall into some entirely non-conceptual state, and
directly introduce naked wakefulness, beyond label or meaning, as dharmakaya .545

Longchenpa continues to write the manual for Dzogchen teachers concerning the pedagogy of
how to directly introduce natural awarenes s to a student. This method is one of involutional546
inquiry in which movement is directed inward to the nucleus of natural awarenes s , trying to
identify and find it. The purpose behind "looking" for one ' s mind is to find the root of its
compulsive mental processes , wrong knowledge (avidyii) and the sense of identity, and to clear its
compulsive tendencies to superimpose attributes onto a given obj ect, which in reality do not
correspond to that obj ect, and that obj ect might also be the obj ectified sense of self. Finding the
answers concerning origin and location of the mind as empty signifies for the practitioner that their
compulsive mental processes are but a product of the concepts they superimpose on reality, a
re ality which is essentially empty. In other words the "unfindability" of the mind wi11 lead the
practitioner to abandon their concepts and beliefs, realizing that these stem from a fictitious sense of
identity and from such superimpositions.
1 42 The Man From Samye

However the instruction to examine the mind' s origins and location refers to a paradoxical
situation in which one' s mind is looking for one' s mind which is striving after liberation. Ironic ally,
examining where the mind comes from or is located becomes an analytical activity negated earlier
by Longchenpa, and which leads to an already known final result.
If one were to present Longchenpa with the aforesaid ironical paradox he would reply by
means of the following dilemma: If one makes any attempts to engage the nature of mind it would
be a fabricated attempt as the nature of mind cannot be accessed by means of a physical or a mental
activity ; and if one attempts to refrain from any engagement with any mental content or sense
obj ect the very act of such avoidance is fabricated as well, turning into a strategy that may be a
hindrance to engaging the nature of mind. Longchenpa' s possible response by means of a dilemma
could relocate the practitioner in a state of covert frustration and dis s atisfaction. Another
perspective regarding the paradoxical situation in which according to the method of involutional
inquiry one ' s mind is looking for one ' s mind is that the mind directs its dynamic energy of thinking
towards itself by means of its capacity to reflect. Furthermore, the mind is almost never in complete
darkness because nescience (avidya) is not an absolute ignorance. Not only that the mind is still
capable of cognition of the functional and conventional reality, also, dialectically speaking, with
ignorance comes the potential for knowledge. The mind then is still able to reflect and acquire
skilful means and knowledge that provide the current method for direct introduction with a certain
valid ground. Although the end of such an inquiry, which is emptines s , is already known, it
signifies that the process should not be an intellectual but an existential one, a living experience
which entails the acceptance of the consequences of the realized truth at the end of the inquiry .
The process of such an inquiry is still effective in bringing one by means of conceptual
activity to the threshold of natural awareness . However, being at that threshold does not mean that
the practitioner is having a complete experience of emptiness because a state of absence of
concepts still signifies a mental modification which one abides in, one of non-conceptuality . This
condition explains Longchenpa' s next instruction which is to abandon the tendency to fall into a
radical non-conceptual state so that the mind is also stripped from its non-conceptual mode, which
delivers the practitioner over the threshold towards realizing the true nature of mind.
This inquiry inward could take place either by the student conducting it for themselves or by
being guided and challenged by the teacher. In any case the origin or the cause of the mind would
be ascertained as empty. Such inquiry would have other implications, as an origin also signifies a
beginning, or the time of its creation within the axis of time, a point in time which cannot be traced.
Thus, if along the individual process of inquiry one asserts , for example, that one ' s mind was
originated at the moment of one' s birth, this assertion should be challenged - either the student or
teacher should ask what created it and what its root i s . If the student asserts that the mind has
always existed, the teacher or the student may ask where the student was before being born.
Similar inquiry could be conducted regarding whether the location of the mind is in the heart or in
the brain . From a traditional perspective, according to the contemporary Dzogchen teacher
Namkhai Norbu the answer would be that after a person dies , either clinically or finitely, "heart
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 43

dead" or "brain dead" respectively, their brain and heart are buried in the cemetery while the mind
principle continues to prevaiI.547 But given that the heart and brain are alive, asserting that the mind
does not exist in the body is not an entirely accurate statement because without heart, brain
and body as such an assertion could not be communicated. The conclusion is that there is nothing
that could be confIrmed with regard to the origins and location of the mind but one can still notice
that there is "something" which is ineffable or empty of definitions or characteristics that is present.
Only when the student establishes the "unfindability" of the mind, its origin and its location are
they then ready to let go of the tendency to fall into some entirely non-conceptual state and to be
directly introduced to the nature of mind as dharmakiiya.
In comparison with the previous methods it can be seen that this method is heavily invested
with a long and elaborate discursive activity which requires efforts that maybe accompanied with
an existential identity crisis when conducted in an experiential manner. It is geared towards the
realization of mind as empty of concepts , and usually students will wander for some time,
keeping the inquiry alive until they feel ready to present the teacher with their finding s .

(4) Direct Introduction t o awareness through elimination o f the sense that anything is real :
When the student' s mind is lost in response to sense obj ects, have the student eliminate any
sense of ordinary mind relating in some way to those objects - for example, by reducing
them to their components . When he or she is thus abiding in pristine emptiness , which is
inexpressible and in which there is no sense of either obj ects or mind, have the student let go
of that sense of abiding, in which there is no tendency whatsoever for thoughts to proliferate or
resolve, and directly introduce the quality of aw arene s s in all its pristine nakedness as
dharmakay a . 548

While the previous method concerned an involution al inquiry into the core of subjectivity, the
mind, the current method also entails an inquiry but into sense obj ects in order to establish their
nature and thereby to dismantle the subj ect - obj ect duality . Dualistic existence refers to the
fundamental pattern or mould in which the individual experiences the world of phenomena as
"other" than themselves , continually aiming to control and manipulate it in order satisfy their
temporal fundamental needs, tendencies and wishes driven by desire (trrIJii). In examining the true

nature of sense-obj ects and ascertaining it to be empty of independent existence the practitioner
will be relieved from this a priori given constricting pattern of du ality and allowed to experience
obj ects as they are. That is to say, seeing sense obj ects is then an experience which is devoid of
concepts that usually stand as a veil between a given subj ect and obj ect and distort the perception
of the obj ect. According to this method also the practitioner' s sense of subj ectivity can be put under
inquiry . A further implication of this is that the teacher themselves would be for the student an
equally legitimate object for inquiry too.
What characterizes the six methods is the pre-requisite condition of the teacher-student
relationship in which the student is emotionally attached and dependent on the teacher for
liberation. Thus, this method might aim also to enable deconstruction of the initial emotional
attachment the student has for their teacher and such deconstruction would signify that the student
1 44 The Man From Samye

has reached maturity. However in the process of such inquiry the student might experience a
certain degree of separation anxiety due to the realization that the teacher cannot achieve liberation
for them but that they have to experience it for themselves while at the same they would still have
to remain respectful and devoted to both the teacher and the teacher' s instructions.
The process of sense object examination could take place either by the student conducting it
for themselves or by being guided and challenged by the teacher. In any case it requires a process
of concentration on an object and analysis of its mode of existence by means of discursive
reasoning. For example if one inquires about the mode of existence of one' s subjectivity one might
find that it is but a union or a combination of body and its organ and limbs, mind and aggregates.
Although one relates to one ' s subjectivity as if it was an indivisible self-existing entity, the
examination would not confirm that perception. The components of this "combination" that stand
for the principle of individuality and the mere definition of "combination" of body, mind and
aggregates do not signify the existence of an indivisible entity which one habitually attributes to
oneself. Such a "combination" by definition cannot be "indivisible" . In completing this inquiry no
answer to the question of what is or who is the subject would be found, which makes the answer
empty. This inquiry could be processed when considering other objects such as a chariot,50 a table
and teachers. However when the inquiry is exhausted one reaches the state of absence of concepts,
one of emptiness, being open for the next instruction of letting go of the sense of abiding in a non­
conceptu al state of mind. In being receptive the student then would be introduced directly to the
quality of awareness in all its pristine nakedness, stripped from compulsive discursive thinking as
Similarly to the previous method, it can be seen that this method too aims at producing an
experience of absence by means of discursive reasoning which requires efforts accompanied with
an existential identity crisis if honestly conducted in an experiential manner. This form of inquiry
provides also the opportunity to deconstruct the emotional dependency the student has for the
teacher but also permits the removal of the veil of concepts that distort one' s perception of the
world of phenomena, thus establishing a state of non-duality and intimate liberating knowledge
between subject and object. In such a direct perception of the world of phenomena one still relates,
communicates and interacts with objects and subjects but without the anxious desire to be safe or to
fulfill fundamental needs, tendencies and wishes.
(5) Direct introduction to awareness in the gap between sense objects and consciousness of
them : Have the student rest contentedly while remaining conscious of a sense obj ect. Then
without directing attention outwardly to the obj ect or inwardly to the mind, he or she arrives at
a seamless state of bare perception. Have the student let go of the sense of dwelling in that
bare state, and directly introduce bare awareness vivid and lucid, as dharmakiiya .55o

This method operates on the same principle of meditation without an object or without a support
for the meditative process to sustain and establish itself, as presented in the second method. Here
the student is required to rest their mind in the gap between sense objects and the consciousness of
them in the sense of not concentrating and focusing attention either on the mind or on a particular
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 45

obj ect. It seems that if the practitioner sits in cave, a big tent, a meditation hall in a monastery or in
the open, they would choose an obj ect from the physical space they are in but would position their
concentration in what they feel is the middle distance between themselves and the chosen obj ect.
The next step would be to concentrate on that gap and to maintain the gaze on that intangible or
abstract point in space that represents the middle distance. In this way the student would neither
become fixated on a specific obj ect nor on the mind and would be able to establish a seamless state
of bare perception that is non-conceptual but which is still a contrived modification of mind that
needs to be abandoned. Therefore Longchenpa would instruct the student further to let go of the
dwelling or sense of abiding in that abstract bare state of absence and to become receptive to the
meeting with the dharmakiiya in which one maintains one ' s bare awareness that comes into
contact with the world of phenomena, and to perceive it without the distorting compulsive
discursive activity of the mind.
This method, not possessing the nature of an inquiry or being dependent on a particular object,
seems to be a minimal and effortless one, suitable for the highly skilful student as it does not offer
a tangible point of reference on which to rest the mind. It suggests that existential matters will be
less crucial for such a student during the application of Longchenpa' s instructions to establish the
meditation on the gap and to let go of it.

(6) Direct introduction to awareness by inducing distraction: Have the student spend a short
time being i dle : then deliberately c au s e him or her to bec ome di stracted by talking or
whatsoever. At that point you might say, "What does 'harasaki' [a nonsense word] mean? Tell
me ! Tell me ! " Having no idea what it means, the student will experience mild astonishment
and wonder. Then, have him or her let go of the sense of dwelling on that astonishment, and
directly introduce the lucid wakefulness that is thus exposed as dharmakiiya. Alternatively ,
you might say, "Stay put ! " when the student is on the point of going, or say, "Go away ! " only
to say, "Come back ! " once he or she has gone a short distance. Then the student lets go of
what he or she experiences in turning back - consciousne s s that is clear and involves no
proliferation of thoughts - and directly intro duce the w akefulne s s thu s expos ed as
dha rmakiiya . 5 5 1

This passage and method seem t o b e the first method in which existential states o f mind such as
astoni shment and wonder that characterize the student ' s situation are indic ated explicitly .
Here, it can be seen how Longchenpa explicitly utilizes the student' s state of confusion in a
dynamic fashion that shakes the student out of their comfort zone and which takes them by surprise
and is used to transport them over the threshold from their ordinary state of mind to a wakeful and
lucid one.
Longchenpa instructs the teacher to have the student wander aimlessly around and then to
distract them by surprising them, asking for the meaning of a nonsense word and putting them
under pressure by urging them to answer immediately. The intensity of such forceful pressure can
be identified by repeating the words "Tell me" twice with an exclamation mark which refers to an
oral exchange between teacher and student expres sed in a sharp and high volume of voice as an
1 46 The Man From Samye

imperative with the intention to create a strong sense of astonishment. The student who is trusting
and anxious to please their teacher cannot make sense of the nonsense word uttered by their
teacher and finds themselves unexpectedly in a state of astonishment or shock that cuts through the
flow of arising thoughts , suddenly startling the mind ' s discursive activity . Thu s , the habitual
experience of one ' s mental discursive activity fades away and in the gap , before the onset of
grasping, for just few moments , bare awareness free of concepts can be experienced.552 Then
Longchenpa, in negating this absence of thoughts as being still associated with the very specific
mental modification of "no thought" , instructs the student to let go of this state of wonder and takes
the opportunity to introduce natural awareness.
A similar interpretation providing another angle on the state of affairs between the student and
teacher would be that the student is trusting and anxious to please their teacher but cannot make
sense of the unexpected request from the teacher. The student then finds themselves in a state of
astonishment that stirs their anxiety about not being able to understand the teacher. B efore they are
able to make sense of the teacher' s first request the second comes as an order, firm and unexpected,
and the student again is unable t<? please or understand the teacher. As it become hopeless to
understand the teacher' s request and also to please them, the student gives up , surrenders and falls
into despair where there is nothing to do . All of these emotions of anxiety, fear, hopelessness and
despair together with the unreasonable and surprising requests , their timing and their tone create a
force that results in astonishment or a state of shock that arre sts or freezes the mind. The force is
able to cut through the flow of arising thoughts and to suddenly arrest all discursive activity and
cause it to fade away . In the gap , before the onset of grasping, for j ust a few moments , bare
awarenes s free of concepts can potentially arise and be experienced. That is to say, on ly553 in that
gap is the student openly receptive to "meet" the dharmakiiya. Then Longchenp a again, in
negating this state of non-conceptual mind or absynce of thoughts as being still associated with the
very specific mental modification of "no concept", instructs the student to let go of it and takes the
opportunity to introduce natural awareness as dharmakaya.
In the s ame passage above Longchenpa sugge sts an alternative method that uses the
momentum of astonishment and wonder, resulting in the student not being able to make any
contextual sense of, or to understand, the teacher' s requirements .
In conclusion regarding the process from absence to natural awareness it can b e seen that
Longchenpa was able to form the following unstructured pedagogy : ( 1 ) The student starts on the
spiritual Buddhist path with goal-oriented practices . 554 (2) These practices are non-affmningly
negated such that negation becomes a one-pointed and repeated practice. (3) Under the rhetoric of
negation the student cultivates the state of non-conceptual mind or a state of absence of concepts ,
that is to say, emptines s .
(4) The state of absence is negated too by means of Longchenpa' s six
methods , leaving the student receptive to the decisive experience of awarenes s . (5) The teacher
introduces natural awareness as dharmakiiya.
From Absence to Natural Awareness 1 47

In the next chapter the process by which Longchenpa transformed his rhetoric of negation into
a pedagogy that facilitates the experience of natural awareness will be reviewed within the context
of praxis and liberation in Dzogchen as a non-du al doctrine. It will be evaluated as an unstructured
technique designed to overcome the problem of the futility of spiritual practices in relation to
liberation and the problem of dualistic conditioned existence . This technique might be applicable to
any aspirant to liberation who applies any method within any non-dual system or religion.

It has been shown that Longchenpa was able to establish an unstructured pedagogy in which a
student who embarks on the quest for liberation would usually start their training by performing
goal-oriented practices considered as preliminary or preparatory practices . These practices, which
the student becomes habituated and attached to, are then negated in a non-affirming manner due to
their being incapable of causing liberation. Negation then becomes a one-pointed and repeated
practice concerning a subj ect who repeatedly negates various internal and external obj ects ,
a practice that takes place in dualistic conditioned existence. Thus the practice of negation is
applied time and again in order to dismantle fixed concepts , and it is through this process that the .
student cultivates the state of non-conceptual mind or a state of absence of concepts , that is to say,
emptines s . But even the state of absence is negated by means of Longchenpa' s six methods which
leave the student receptive to the possibility of having a profound understanding and experience of
their innate awareness, a point at which the teacher proceeds to introduce the understanding of
natural awarenes s as dharmakiiy a. This process · or state of affairs clearly shows that in order to
overcome the problem of the futility of spiritual practices in relation to liberation Longchenpa
developed his rhetoric of negation into a pragmatic pedagogy of negation that has the capacity to
induce the understanding of awareness and introduce it to the student by way of experience .
However, further to the pedagogy of negation culminating in the experience of natural
awareness , Longchenpa provides instructions concerned with developing steadfastnes s or stability
of abiding in the experience of natural awarenes s . Therefore in order to establish a broader
perspective concerning the position of spiritual practice in Longchenpa' s non-dual Dzogchen and
its implication for any student of liberation who applies any method within any non-dual system,
these spiritual practices aimed at developing stability of abiding in the experience of natural
awareness should be examined. The main theme of this inquiry will be whether spiritual practices
aimed at developing the stability of abiding in the experience of natural awarenes s are compatible
with Dzogchen ' s non-duality . In other words, it is obvious that non-duality cannot entail a
philosophical programme as it would entail intellectual propositions while an experience of natural
awareness cannot be a product of such an intellectual strategy.
The understanding of the rhetoric of negation in connection with goal-oriented spiritual
practices as being converted into a pedagogy of negation clarifies the position of practices in
non-dual philosophies . It clarifies the connection between practice and non-duality in general and
in Dzogchen' s teaching on liberation in particular, within the context of Longchenpa' s teaching of
liberation. That is to say, the pedagogy of negation entails unstructured techniques designed for
overcoming the problem of the futility of spiritual practices not only in Dzogchen. This pedagogy
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 1 49

might also be applicable to any aspirant for liberation who applies any method within any non-dual
system or religion.

Dichotomous sequence from praxis to non-duality

Speaking of the position of practices in non-dual Dzogchen implies a non-linear dichotomous
sequence in which at one end of the sequence are positioned goal-oriented spiritual practices and
at the other end of the sequence is positioned the notion of non-duality. Thus such a dichotomous
sequence displays a range of practices ranging from those performed within the dimension of
dualistic conditioned existence to those performed while abiding in the experience of non-dual
n atural awarene s s , free of attachments . Obviously , movement on the s e quence or any
transpositions that occur on the sequence are not linear as there are many variables that would
influence such transpositions, including the practitioner' s capacity and temperament, and external
conditions . The dichotomous sequence and the position of practices in Dzogchen can be presented
clearly and precisely in a diagram that reflects how Longchenpa envisaged his pedagogy :

goal-oriented practice-e----- rhetoric of negation---,a

--- bsence

pedagogy of negation


experience of awarenesss-----non-dual practicee---a

-- bsolute non-duality

S tarting with goal-oriented practice, it might be astonishing for a reader/practitioner who

incidentally comes in contact with Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation to find out that later on he
provides instructions for goal-oriented practices in his system of Dzogchen. In his work Natural
Freedom he presents an uncompromising critique negating spiritual practices but also surprisingly
dedicates a whole section to goal-oriented practice s . In his work The Essential Instructions
of Natural Liberation of Being According to the Great Perfection555 Longchenpa prescribed goal­
oriented practices such as union with one ' s spiritual teacher (Guru Yoga) , the practice of offering a
spiritual universe (the yoga of the mandala) , recitation of the 1 00 syllable mantra of Vajrasattva,
and inquiries into the mind such as examining the arising, abiding and dispersion of mental events,
investigating whether the mind has a shape, colour or characteristics , and so forth. Longchenpa
entitles these "preliminary practices" .556 He then proceeds to prescribe three different types of
elaborated practice to accommodate three different levels of student in terms of their capacity to
learn and assimilate the teachings . Longchenpa is aware of the limited potential of these practices
in terms of their capacity to lead practitioners to liberation and indicates that the purpose of these
1 50 The Man From Samye

practices is but to pacify the neurotic activity of one ' s discursive mind. In fact he j ustifies these
practices as being capable of dissolving compulsive mental habits obscuring the direct perception
of reality.
Then next theme on the dichotomous sequence to be considered is the practice of negation.
From a philosophical perspective, for the rhetoric of negation to take place it would need a
positive obj ect and, in our case, goal-oriented practices and philosophical views to be negated.
That is to say , one can negate only something that either exists or possibly exists , 557 and it should
be done out of true understanding of what works in practice for the individual and not out of
attachments to soci al, religious and politic al trends , to the authority of tradition and its dogma, texts
and teachers , or to attachments that distort one ' s perception of reality . 558 Longchenpa did not
radically negate spiritual practices , and implemented his rhetoric of negation within a certain
context to appropriately correspond with the development of the student' s skills . That is to say,
although Longchenpa' s position on practice in general is that spiritu al goal-oriented practices are
futile, he prescribed preliminary practices that have a preparatory role towards the experience of
natural awarenes s . The se practices were regarded as a fundamental necessity but they are
nevertheles s insufficient to lead the aspirant to liberation because liberation cannot be a result of
any practice.
Only when the student becomes skilful and possesses fewer "layers" of mental complexity
and compulsive tendencies are they ready for the practice of negation. In employing the latter
practice the disciple is dissolving or deconstructing conceptual thinking that distorts perception and
hence their reaction to realty . Only then can the student e stablish the space of ab sence of
non-conceptual mind in which they are still engaged in a progr ammatic practice dependent on
negation and obj ects of negation. The mind is still occupied with a mental modification, one of
being non-conceptu al, which is an extreme in itself, while in life one still skilfully or creatively
thinks and conceptu alizes , for example when one is about to perform a certain task or become
engaged in a certain debate . The next phase in the dichotomous sequence is the pedagogy
of negation which challen g e s the s tudent and makes them al s o relinquish the state of
ab senc e , leading them to the apprehension of natural awarenes s by means of experience.
Besides the pedagogy of negation Longchenpa admits559 that there are other spiritu al practices,
such as directing prana (prii1Ja) along the subtle meta-psychic channels and centres , that are
efficient methods for preparing the ground for the profound understanding of natural awareness as
an experience. To be acquainted with one ' s intrinsic natural awareness is to cross the abyss from a
familiar conditioned existence and to have the experience of unfamiliar natural awarenes s . The gap
between these two realities seems to be an abyss without a bridge. On the one hand, living in
conditioned existence one views the world of phenomena as permanent and tends to perceive one' s
self as a uniform and continuous identity and probably eternal. On the other, while abiding in
natural awareness any notion of identity is negated and relinquished, and the leap between the two
re alities is somewhat against one ' s fundamental intuition.
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 151

Philosophically speaking, these methods including the pedagogy of negation are effective in
bringing the aspirant to the threshold of the experience of natural awareness but cannot guarantee
its occurrence because the experience of natural awareness cannot be a result of any method nor a
goal to be achieved by certain means . In other words, once the student is able to abide in the state
of absence and the teacher employs the instructions for direct introduction to awareness the student
will either apprehend natural awareness or will not. To see reality as it is requires a leap over the
abys s between conditioned existence endowed with craving and frustration to a state of being
which is free from the condition of nescience, a leap that cannot be a result of a cause.
After the student is able to leap over the abyss and to experience directly (their intrinsic natural
awareness) comes the question of how to abide steadily and continually in that awarenes s .
Longchenpa' s reply i s that abiding in the experience of natural awareness is to b e implemented
through naturally settled meditative stability. 560 For him the true meditative stability is a particular
feature of the Great Perfection and he asserts that this type of meditation is as innate to natural
awareness as heat is a natural attribute of fire.
However Longchenpa admits that other forms of meditation that belong to the domain of
ordinary discursive mind, such as directing prana along the subtle meta-psychic channels and
centres,561 can also achieve various states of mind such as a non-conceptual state but this state is
dependent on physical p o s ture and other factors that are components of tho s e methods .
The principal disadvantage concerning these methods is that when the practitioner relinquishes
either physical or mental postures they also lose the non-conceptual state of mind. On the other
hand such a loss of a non-conceptual state of mind would not happen to a mature Dzogchen
practitioner because for them non-conceptual awareness is not dependent on, and has nothing to do
with, physical or mental postures .
Thus, according to Longchenpa other forms of causal meditations offer methods that can
resolve concepts that arise incidentally and make them vanish by applying a counter concept such
as "thoughts are empty of independent origin, " hence enabling the practitioner to have an
experience free of fixated concepts . However the profound understanding of the way natural
awareness and the world of phenomena are integrated into what the Dzogchen practitioner has
experienced would cut away the root of arising concepts so there would be no way for them to
arise. Thus while an ordinary practitioner still relies on counter concepts to maintain the state of
opennes s and clarity a Dzogchen practitioner j ust continues to abide in natural awareness.
Longchenpa continues to differentiate between this unique attribute of Dzogchen and other
causal practices, claiming that causal methods would entail an element of fixation. For example
a meditation required for establishing a clear and non-conceptual state of mind will depend on an
object while a Dzogchen practitioner would not need any obj ect of perception in order to establish
the quality of abiding in natural awareness.562 Clearly, for Longchenpa preliminary practices are
necessary and relevant but are not sufficient for the occurrence of the experience of natural
awarenes s . Furthermore causal methods might be effective in establishing non-conceptual mind
1 52 The Man From Samye

or the state of absence of concepts but through dependence on physical or mental posture, while
natural awarenes s is independent of such factors .
As can be seen, the causal methods are still involved with some frame of reference and are
based on obj ect- subj ect dichotomy, while the Dzogchen method of naturally settled meditative
stability means that a practitioner who had the experience of awareness is able to abide in natural
awareness integrated with phenomena without relying on advanced practices such as calm abiding
or profound insight. In this respect, the Dalai Lama has said that the uniqueness of Dzogchen is
that it is based exclusively on the fundamental innate natural awareness .563 That is to say, the
departure point of Dzogchen' s method of naturally settled meditative stability is the uncontrived or
unfabricated abiding in innate natural awareness, in order to steadily abide in awareness, which is
the result. This means that Longchenpa' s pedagogy of negation of the six methods , culminating in
the apprehension of natural awareness, is to be sustained by the Dzogchen method of naturally
settled meditative stability.
Philo s ophically speaking , the uniquenes s of Dzogchen ' s method and its principle, as
expressed in the Dalai Lama' s statement, implies that in this method the means and the end are
identical. In binding the means with the end or subsuming the means into the goal, the method
escapes the problematical dichotomies of subj ect-object, cause-effect and means-end. It is only at
this point that Dzogchen practices, specifically the one concerning resting steadfastly in natural
awarenes s , is j ustifiably termed a non-dual practice. In order to understand the status of
Dzogchen ' s method of naturally settled meditative stability as a non-dual practice or what
characterizes such a non-duality, which is the next phase of the dichotomous sequence, it is
necessary to examine what the method stands for, its components and its qualities .

Four methods' compatibility with non-duality

Longchenpa indicates that there are four methods for resting in the inherent nature of mind and
integrating with the universal principle of natural awarenes s . These will be discus sed in the
following section. He categorizes the four methods of resting to be the practice of trekcho, the
principle of which is to bring forth unobstructed bare awareness after the student has had a
profound experiential understanding of natural awarenes s . Germano translates the term trekcho as
"breakthrough" (khregs chod), which may appear to be a newly coined term in the sense that it
does not correspond to any parallel S anskrit term but in any case the term occurs in the early
s eventeen t antras of D z o g chen . 5 64 G ermano then provi d e s a p sychologically mundane
interpretation of trekcho, denoting it as unprecedented freedom, unobstructed flow of awareness
and effortlessness in the same manner that the launch of book or of a product can represent a
breakthrough in terms of innovation, or that after a long struggle a breakthrough may occur where
the exertion dis solves and things fall into place effortlessly . 565 However within the context of
Dzogchen trekcho stands for "breaking through solidity" or "cutting loose" of the coarse layers of
compulsive and discursive patterns of ordinary mind towards its essence of clarity and openness
as if moving into an abyss without any frame of reference but still abiding within the inherent
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 1 53

natural aw arene s s . Namkhai Norbu explains in a similar manner that once one arrives at
contemplation,566 a liberating non-dual state that bypasses the conceptual level of mental activity,
one has to continue in it and the working to bring forth this continuation into every event is
trekcho ,567 in which one settles naturally more and more into an enduring meditative stability.
Norbu ' s interpretation of trekcho as "cutting loose" suggests that the practitioner relaxes
completely, denoting that they rest in their innate natural awareness in the same way that a bundle
of sticks that has been tightly bound together, once the binding string has been cut, just falls loosely
on the ground.568
Concerning the notion of trekcho as "cutting loose" , Longchenpa mentions that by resting
imperturbably in the natural state the practitioner will be freed from the restrictive influence of the
afflictive emotions in the same manner as a pack load falling where it is when the pin holding
the restraining knot is pulled OUt.569 More precisely Longchenpa considers trekcho as a practice that
aims to bring forth unobstructed awareness, but its departure point is the actual experience of innate
natural awareness .

The first method is "steadfastly resting like an ocean" :

Without arising and subsiding of thoughts, there is a naturally limpid, pristine state, like the
unwavering evenness of a limpid ocean.
Free of the occurrence or involvement in thoughts, free of hope and fear, you abide within the
state of naturally occurring timeless awareness, the true nature of which is profoundly lucid. 570

The key point here is whether thoughts arise or resurface or fade away. The practitioner' s mind is
not affected by either the calm state or the dynamic state , of which the latter refers to the
perceptions of sense obj ects that arise continually within one ' s natural awarenes s . B oth states are
associated with the metaphor of ocean in which the ocean remains calm without being affected
by what is reflected in its water, as the reflections are nothing but the water itself and the water
being unstirred remains clear and limpid. Similarly, in this way the mind remains at rest without
deviating from its inherent natural pristine awareness . According to this method, whether the
student' s mind is calm or responsive to sense-obj ects , that is the inner posture of practice of abiding
steadfastly in natural awarenes s .

The second method i s "steadfastly resting i n awareness itself ' i n which Longchenpa says the

. . . rests right in actual awarenes s . While abiding within the limpid ocean of awareness you
identify its wakeful pristine quality in all its nakedness and ensure that you do not stray from
it. And so it arises as the true nature of phenomena, without any discontinuity or division
between inner and outer.57 1

That is to say after remaining, according to the first method above, in that evenness of the nature of
mind, without being affected by either its calm or dynamic aspects , the student is instructed to
assume a subtle inner posture focused directly on their innate actual awareness and to identify its
1 54 The Man From Samye

vivid quality as it is not a numbed type of introspective state . This represents a subtle shift of
emphasis towards the vivid and dynamic aspect and communicative quality of the mind.

The third method is "the immediate perception of sensory appearances" and is about realizing

All consuming thought patterns cannot be abandoned by being renounced, for they are the
dynamic energy of awareness .
Their true nature is such that there are no distinctions, nothing to differentiate or exclude, so
that nature is not ensured by achievement, but arises as basic space.
Without rej ecting S arp.s ara, you perceive it to be naturally occurring timeless awarenes s
through the pure yoga o f the dynamic energy o f the vast expanse o f being .572

Longchenpa instructs the student not to suppress or renounce patterns of thinking and behaviour as
they represent the dynamic aspect of mind which will ensure that awareness is not obscured by any
circumstances and will enrich the student' s spiritual practice. 573 S ense obj ects are empty of
independent n ature and of any di stinction . H o w ever th ey s till app e ar and ari s e . The
conditioning sense obj ects and events that the student encounters while abiding in natural
awarenes s are met without conceptualizing them as being negative and then rej ecting them.
Allowing them to settle in their place within the field of clear awareness, their ground of arising,
and seeing them as they are, they will be perceived as a friend in the sense that they assist the
practitioner to remain in innate natural awarenes s . Returning to the ocean metaphor, whatever is
reflected in the ocean is nothing other than the water and similarly any given sense obj ect reflected
in one ' s mind is not different from the essence of mind or from any other sense obj ect or event, as
they are all empty yet still making an appearance . Thu s , in perceiving an obj ect without
obj ectifying and conceptualizing it or reacting to it conditionally , the obj ect anchors and
continually grounds the student in natural awareness as they put into practice the understanding
that sense-obj ects and consciousness of them are of one taste and non-dual . However it is not a
matter of just "looking at" whatever arises nor is it some sort of "letting go . " In fact the key
principle of this method is recognizing clear awareness because it is in resting in naturally free clear
awareness that the mental ties are freed.
While awareness as such was given more of a subtle emphasis in the previous method, here in
the current one, the direct perception of the world of phenomena without the mediation of
lang� age, concepts and an alysis is emphasized.

The fourth and last method is "resting imperturbably like a mountain" :

In the timeless unity of sensory appearances and mind- - the naturally settled state that is the
true nature of phenomena - meditative absorption is experienced as an unwavering, ongoing
flOW . . . 574
Longchenpa' s choice of the mountain metaphor is intended to emphasize the lack of transition and
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 1 55

the unchangeability a yogin experiences once abiding in the essence of awareness without drifting
from that state regardless of what circumstances manifest. 575
Longchenpa' s treatment of bifurcation between methods and liberation, means and goal
r e s o n ates s omewhat with Gamp op a ' s and Nub chen Y e s h e ' s views ab out the s e s orts of
dichotomies . According to Gampopa the core of Mahfunudra' s practice, which is already evidently
active in the first of the Four Yogas of Mahfunudra, is as follows :

Well, how would one meditate on this one ' s own innate (gnyung rna) mind-nature ? That
means, like water placed in water, and butter placed in butter, one places the [mind] in [the
state of] non artifice. 576
That is to say , the core of the practice is placing the intrinsic nature of one ' s mind in the
unfabricated and uncontrived awareness. According to Gampopa, the intrinsic nature of mind and
uncontrived or unfabricated awareness are identic al, like water to water. This signifies that means/
meditation and goal/ultimate realization are bound in one ' s mind and hence they "escape" the
duality or dichotomy of means and end, subj ect and object, past and future, etc, by dissolving them
together in the mind, conforming with the philosophical discourse of Mahamudra' s non-duality.
According to Nubchen Yeshe, Dzogchen meditation includes methods to discipline the body
in relation to accessing the natural mind. On the physical methods Nubchen state s :

. . . there is no [specific] bodily discipline like that of the lower yogas of development, because
it is free of any notion of bodily grasping or attachment. Thus there are no definite methods
regarding how to p o sition the body . However, if one asks , "does one rej ect [ all bodily
discipline] , such as cross legged sitting and so forth, of the lower [vehicles]" [My response is
that] one does not rej ect them as long as one does not grasp [or attach oneself] to the body.
Nor one does accept them intentionally. [In that way,] there is no contradiction in sitting cross
legged, lying down facing up or down, or stretching in whatever way whatsoever . The
practice of yoga itself makes anything into bliss, and laziness is [surely] a wrong action.577

As expected Nubchen' s position on physical postures is expressed by means of negation in which

physical postures cannot be a means or the means to accessing one ' s natural state because the
natural state is free of any pre-meditated strategy. However at the same time the principle here is
that whatever the body posture happens to be, that is the position of practice of stabilizing the
natural state for the one who already abides in that state .
For Nubchen the same principle of negation is applicable also for methods of how to engage
the mind. He states :

. . . it i s an engaging without engagement. It i s the suchnes s of reality that does not reify
anything whatsoever and that naturally illuminates the es sence of the great non-conceptual
nature of being. Consequently the realization of non-engaging is known as engaging.578

What Nubchen is referring to here is the nature of mind, the awakened mind which cannot be
accessed by any pre-meditated planned action, including a mental one. By non-engaging he means
1 56 The Man From Samye

that if one can abide in a state which is unfabricated or uncontrived and which is "arrived at"
without any strategy, one will realize this engagement in the sense of a direct perception of reality
as it is. For Nubchen Yeshe, as long as one ' s actions are rooted within one ' s essential mind, those
actions will be free from any attachments for example, to those of gain and loss, pleasure and pain,
etc . Furthermore, in the context of methods of practice for the body and mind, physical and mental
activities are performed without any attachments to the methods themselves , their outcome, or to
loss or gain or pain or pleasure they might cause .

The four methods' compatibility with the Two Truths

This study has reached the point where Longchenpa' s pedagogy of negation, departing from the
experience of natural awareness and developing towards steadfastness in that natural awareness,
should be examined to see whether it is compatible with Longchenpa' s view of the B uddhist
theory of the Two Truths. The rationale behind this examination of the compatibility is that any
spiritual practices including Longchenpa' s suggested pedagogy of negation and trekcho are
obviously performed in the relative mundane reality, the domain of avidya, while Longchenpa' s
suggested non-dual practice supposes resolution of the obj ect-subj ect dichotomy associated with
relative existence . Thus a closely related examination is required in order to clarify the position of
trekcho as a practice of non-duality in light of the Two Truths doctrine. In essence the Two Truths
doctrine entails the relative truth which describes one ' s daily experience of the concrete world of
phenomena, and the absolute or ultimate truth, which refers to ultimate reality as empty of
independent nature and of concrete characteristics .
Longchenpa' s view o f the Two Truths is mostly modelled after the Prasailgika-Madhyamika
view of the Two Truths , expressed here in Nagarjuna' s words :

(8) The teaching of the Buddha' s doctrine is based on Two Truths: The conventional truth and
the supreme truth.
( 9) Those who do not understand the discernment between the two kinds of truth
Do not understand the profound principle of the Buddha' s teaching .
( 1 0) It is not possible to know the supreme truth without relying on the relative truth
And without having to become familiar with the supreme truth one cannot realize nirvana.57 9

According to Nagarjuna the relative truth (saftlvrti satya) is the world-ensconced truth in the sense
that it relates to the world of phenomena as a concrete one whilst its true nature is empty. However
the relative truth is a useful one (vyavahara satya) as it redirects linguistic and perceptual
conventions towards the profound understanding of the Buddhist teaching in such a way that
linguistic and perceptual conventions are not entirely relinquished. However at the same time it
does not imply that they are concrete or real . In this way one is able to know the supreme truth
relying on the relative one.
Longchenpa links the Prasailgika-Madhyamika view of the relative and ultimate truths
and makes distinctions between the two by using the respective concepts of erroneous and non­
erroneous intellect. 580 In his doxo graphy , the Grub mtha ' mdzod, Longchenp a pres ents
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 1 57

C andrakirti ' s view of non-erroneous intellect (Tibetan : blo) or unconfused and authentic
state of mind , 58 1 indic ating that for the one who has realized B uddha nature there is no
subj ec t - obj ect dichotomy and sense obj e cts are but obj ects of knowl edg e . For such an
individual at all times all the functions of mind and its mental processes are interrupted in the
s e n s e that they are arrested and s o do not ob s cure the dire ct p erc eption of obj ects of
knowledge . In such a direct p erc eption the mind take s the qu aliti e s of a given obj ect,­
knowing it in a thoroughly intimate manner. For Longchenpa this state of affairs is referred to
as the realization of the ultimate truth,582 thus in this respect the B uddhist wisdom of seeing
reality "as it is" which is ineffable is designated as the non-erroneous intellect which realizes
the dharmata or things the way they are.
Longchenp a proceeds to pres ent the Pras ailgika view of the erroneous intellect or
the confused state of mind, that of false perception, indicating that such a wrong perception is a
result of habitual patterns and fixations that stem from not recognizing natural awarenes s . This
specific view of erroneous intellect583 is linked to the relative truth which consists of data of
dualistically perceived obj ects and the mental elaborations that entails .
Thus, the conventional reality is the appearance in a form involved with mental elaboration of
obj ect and subj ect, while the absence of them enables direct perception which is free from mental
elaborative processes and stands for the absolute truth which cannot be understood by any means
other than itself.584
Longchenpa as serts that although there is no common defining basis for distinguishing
between the two realties , which is based on the discursive mind of ordinary man, the notion of
absence of independent existence can be taken as such a basis for a division between the two
realities . He substantiates his view on the following quotation from Madhyamakavatara :585

S ince both of the realities lack intrinsic reality they are not permanent and do not cease.

That is to say, emptiness is at the essence of two realities as they lack independent existence, and
although the two realities can be characterized and although they are mutually exclusive they are
inseparable because emptiness is the mode of subsistence of the conventional reality . Furthermore,
the empty nature of both realities does not signify some sort of nihilism which gives rise to the
relative truth or conventional reality which is neither permanent nor eternal.
In his Wish Fulfilling Treasury (Yid bzhin mdzod) Longchenpa formulated his perception of
the Two Truths , denoting that the conventional truth ' s frame of reference is the phenomenal world
which is not beyond conceptual thinking while the ultimate truth is re ality beyond either conceptual
thinking or tranquil mind. 586
What is most relevant to the study is the following quotation in which Longchenpa presents a
view from the Madhyamakavatara:

B ecause one sees all entities in a false or a valid way , there is the apprehension either of as
many entities as there are or their very essence. Whatever the object of authentic perception, it
is suchness: false perception is said to be relatively true.587
158 The Man From Samye

That is to say, considering given sense obj ects , what differs in their mode of perception in
relation to the Two Truths is whether sense obj ects are seen as they are or are seen by means
of obj ect-subj ect dichotomous perception involved with mental processes imposed on the
obj ect of perception. This suggests the possibility of the perception of suchness, of obj ects as
. they are, within the domain of relative reality perceived by an intellect free from obscuration.
However even false perception can be a relative truth, a valid one which corresponds to the
obj ect of perception such as heat and fire, considered as merely conventional designations
that convey meaning. Therefore , perception of suchne s s is the point where the truths are
fused and their integration occurs in the non-erroneous intellect.
B efore concluding Longchenpa' s view on the Two Truths , another criterion to be considered
and one which serves as a distinguishing factor between the Two Truths is their relation to the
frame of reference.588 In the domain of relative reality, incorrect perception will relate to sense
obj ects relying on frames of reference which will dictate the nature of perception and distort
experience. B ut any frame of reference would be absent in the ultimate truth and this would have
implications on spiritual practice in the sense that one meditates free from either proj ecting or
dissolving the mind in that experiential state of all things.589 Hence such a mind will witness sense
obj ects without superimposing on them any frame of reference.
In following the Prasailgika-Madhyamika method, which according to Longchenpa is the
absolute pinnacle of all the causal philosophical vehicles , 590 Longchenpa integrates the Two
Truths, the relative and ultimate, representing respectively the mundane reality and the ultimate
reality. For him reality is empty of independent existence yet sense obj ects are still apparent. This
principle is expressed in various ways such as , "Although it is the nature of sensory appearances to
manifest outwardly, in their very essence they are simply natural expressions of emptiness",591
or " sense obj ects are empty yet clear" . Longchenpa integrates the Two Truths because both
realities are empty and therefore it is impossible for the two not to exist together,592 and the true
nature of phenomena and mind itself are inseparable .593
Longchenpa fuses the Two Truths and presents this integration as being a non-duality which
is a central theme in his philosophy, but he does so by moving away from Candrakirti � and
Madhyamika' s central concept of emptiness towards a Dzogchenpa concept of natural awareness
(rigpa), the inherent principle of intelligence of the universe in its pure undiluted presence from
which the entire psychic and physical scope of manifestations derives . Accordingly the neurotic
activity of one ' s discursive mind is understood as a distorted derivative of awareness , where pure
awareness is present as B uddha nature or nature of mind. 594 Thus for Longchenpa the Two Truths
are integrated into one singularity in the sense that nirvaI;la and sa:q1sara are but expressions of the
one non-dual awareness.
But for Longchenpa it is not sufficient to form the understanding of the Two Truths and
therefore he emphasize the need to put this understanding into practice, and that process includes
two phases . The first is the cultivation of non-conceptual mind. Put in Nagarj una ' s words ,
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 1 59

" . . . meditate intensively on the significance of this condition, the profound state that has no frame of
reference".595 In this manner the practitioner incorporates the absolute truth into their practice. The
integration with the relative truth occurs in the second phase of post meditation when the
practitioner steps out of their meditation and, equipped with the experiential understanding that the
world of phenomena is empty of independent existence, they go back to the world. It should be
emphasized that Longchenpa' s description of this is not a typical Dzogchen practice but one which
is along the lines of the Pras'<l1'lgika-Madhyamika philosophy, accompanied with activities such as
the accumulation of merits , performance of dedication and the preparatory phase of arousing the
bodhicitta, which in the context of the Madhyamika means generating the thought about the
enlightenment of all sentient beings .596
Thus, Longchenpa' s integration of the Two Truths into a non-duality places the aforesaid
practice of trekcho as a practice of non-duality. Despite being performed in the concrete mundane
phenomenal world it is rooted in the practitioner ' s inherent natural awareness that directly
perceives things as they are, as empty of independent nature and of concrete characteristics, and yet

Trekcho and compatibility with non-duality

Philosophically speaking, the principle of binding the means and end in which awareness is natural
meditative stability, is a principle that according to Longchenpa characterizes the practice of
trekcho as opposed to meditation dependent on some physical posture, key points of subtle energy,
and mind inquiries . According to Ahmad, "Cutting through resistance is the realization of
' (intrinsic) awareness ' . . .which has nothing to do with conscious thought. There are no practices by
means of which one can acquire it. It is simply experienced" .597 Thus, in evaluating the practice of
trekcho concerning the dichotomous sequence of spiritual practices and non-du ality, it is definitely
a practice that is potent in bypassing or overcoming the obj ect-subj ect and means-end dichotomies
by abiding steadfastly in an experiential understanding of non-dual awarenes s .
I n examining the four methods o f trekcho a critical reader might get the impression that the
non-du al principle in trekcho is not entirely non-dual because it would still involve subtle inner
activities of the mind such as recognizing and wishing to sustain the quality of abiding in natural
awarenes s . In other words such a critic al reader might ask whether there is any sense of
intentionality in the practice of trekcho or not. But trekcho is not a mere practice of meditative
stability, it is a natural598 meditative stability in the sense that its awareness is settled in its own
place. In fact Longchenpa' s discussion of trekcho appears in the tenth chapter of his Treasure
Trove of Scriptural Transmission, which is entitled 'Natural Meditative S tability ' .599 The concept
of "nature" (rang bzhin) or "natural" plays a central role in Dzogchen, arising in conjunction with
" self ' (rcmg) to denote that meditative stability endures in and of itself6°o while abiding in
something which is already immanent. For Longchenpa, naturally settled meditative stability is
present in awarenes s in the same way that heat is a natural attribute of fire .601
1 60 The Man From Samye

However, once finished with a session of practice the student goes back to the mundane world
of conditioned existence, which signifies a duality between a period of engaging in meditation
practice and period of post-meditation. Thus trekcho being a "super practice" still makes it "weak
non-duality" in comparison with the "intense pristine and complete non-duality" where there is no
need to practice at all, being a Buddha. Nevertheless , the student would need to continue to
develop steadfastness in natural awareness according to the methods of trekcho until complete
realization becomes an ongoing experience.
If we were to present Longchenpa with the above mentioned evaluation of "weak non-
duality" , he would assert by means of his rhetoric of negation:

Without any realization of equality in its naturally occurring state you may obsess on the word
"non-duality" and place your confidence in some state that you speculate has no frame of
reference whatsoever. This is truly a mistaken notion - the dark realm in which awareness is
not recognized.602

Even in affirming the limitless non-duality you bind your essential awareness to a limit which
is not limited. Also in admitting the two realities you fall into an extreme and when you
confirm their union, this is not the natural mode of things as they are. Whatever is the nature
of your examination you are entrapped in the cage of attachment to another attachment. So, it
i s not only that for an eternity you have been delusional about subj ect and obj ect but
furthermore your insistent analysis chains you to intellectual structures . 603 (My translation)

Longchenpa simply warns the readers against making non-duality, a concept, into a solid mental
construct that they would rely on, fixatedly turning it into a frame of reference that would
distort their perception and experience of reality . In fact any attempt to form views or concepts
would instead lead to an attachment to liberation and in a Madhyamika fashion Longchenpa asserts
that there is neither duality nor non-duality , as these are empty concepts serving only for
conventional usage.
The discussion so far concerning trekcho practice and its compatibility with non-duality
ending with Longchenpa' s view that non-duality is itself a concept, completes the presentation of
the dichotomous sequence from goal-oriented practices to non-duality. Another expression to this
sequence is presented in Appendix A of the study which includes detailed explanations expressed
by means of the Cartesian axis system. It is important to note that the intention behind the diagram
is to show a general trend in the teachings of Longchenpa and their application. However the trend
is not linear as there are many factors in life which can influence the practitioner applying
Longchenpa' s teachings and which would make the trend to fluctuate.
It can be seen that Longchenpa' s prescribed preliminary practices , rhetoric and pedagogy of
negation, and trekcho suggest a spiritual path that is oriented towards non-dual awareness that
bypas ses the obj ect- subj ect dichotomy but which at the s ame time warns against becoming
attached to and obsessing on the notion of non-duality. The dichotomous sequence shows clearly
From Natural Awareness to Praxis 161

Longchenpa' s position o f spiritual practices in reference to non-duality and signifies that goal­
oriented practices , including the rhetoric of negation, are perfonned by the discursive mind in a
manner which is incompatible with non-duality. From the moment of direct introduction onwards
to trekcho, practice becomes self-sufficient, a "non-action" , where the practitioner by being already
rooted in natural awareness autonomously self-sustains the abiding in natural awarenes s . Thus the
practice of trekcho enables the practitioner to integrate the realities into a non-dual liberated way of
being. It can be concluded that there is a practice compatible with non-duality but its point of
departure is natural awareness and its end is natural awarenes s .
I n the next chapter, the conclusions o f this study will be presented i n relation t o the main
themes it has attempted to explore.

This thesis has clearly identified and established that in order to overcome the problem of the
futility of spiritual practices performed in a dualistic conditioned existence geared towards
achieving liberation, Longchenpa transformed his rhetoric of negation into a living pedagogy of
negation. In the course of doing this , the thesis has identified the methods of direct introduction,
and the core Dzogchen spiritual practice of trekcho as compatible with its philosophy of
non-duality . In the course of the historical contextualisation of Longchenpa and his rhetoric of
negation of spiritual practices I have been able to depict the figure of Longchenpa not only as a
reincarnated traditional teacher and brilliant scholar but also as an individual who has personal
vulnerabilities, and social and political inclinations .
In order to clarify Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation, which confronts the practitioner' s
understanding of cause and effect associated with spiritual practice, I have studied Longchenpa
from three maj or perspectives of history, philosophy and practice . In the second and third chapters
Longchenpa and his rhetoric of negation have been contextualised from the perspective of macro­
history, examining religio-socio-political processes and trends up to the 14th century, in connection
with the micro-history of Longchenpa, of his life and works . The perspectives of macro-history
and micro-history served to establish a solid background to Longchenpa' s life and teaching
including his rhetoric of negation.
From the macro-history perspective it appeared tha� historical trends and events that shaped
the 14th century could be traced back to the decline of the Tibetan empire in the 9th century, in
which Tibet had gone through a process of decentralis ation of the seat of power into local
hegemonies and myriarchs , feudal in character, intricately interwoven with religion and culture.
Those historical trends resulted in a political reality of "patron and priest" relationships between
temporal and religious authorities , which rose to considerable importance in that period and even
greater centrality during the 500 years thereafter . For Longchenpa this meant that without
patronage, without political aspirations, and without owning fertile land, like Marpa or Lama
Zhang, it would have been difficult for him to have implemented his religious agenda and
ideologies as the carrier of the Buddhist torch of Padmasambhava.
Parallel to the trends towards decentralisation, there occurred a shift of emphasis from
religious activities based mainly on ritual practices conducted in remote places and villages, to
centralised scholastic institutions forming new schools of Buddhism in Tibet. The friction between
the "old" dispersed religious communities and the "new" centralised scholastic institutions yielded
new forms of religious life and textual fermentation. This historical process resulted in a shift of
certain aspects of power from the clans to the Buddhist schools and their monasteries , all of which
Conclusions 1 63

had a significant influence on Longchenpa, his philosophy and practice. The religio-political
formation of the 14th century was that the most influential and dominant schools were the Sakya,
Kagyu and Kadam, associated with new wave of teachings and translations of Buddhist texts of
Indian origin, while the Nyingma, the school Longchenpa belonged to, became marginalised.
Another historical event was the creation of the Tibetan Buddhist canon. B y the beginning of
the 14th century the number of Buddhist texts which had been imported into Tibet since the 8th
century was substantial , and this movement required that these texts undergo a process of
codification. B udon classified the Kangyur (bka ' 'gyur) such that it contained the texts which he
felt were directly attributable to the Buddha. This represented a monumental accomplishment,
resulting in massive collections of translated texts, on an almost bewildering range of topics,
becoming generally accepted by most Tibetan scholars as the authoritative body of texts . However
Budon did leave out a large quantity of texts, most of which were Nyingma tantras and treasures ,
marginalising the Nyingma and relocating them at the periphery o f the socio-religio-political map
of 1 4th century Tibet. This was because for Budon the criteria for textual authenticity permitted
only texts linked to, or of, S anskrit origins.
Two other important themes discussed in chapter 2 are significant to the understanding of
Longchenpa' s life and works . Firstly, the narrative of Padmasambhava associated with Tibet' s
imperial past was solidifying into a myth and has since functioned as a marker of B uddhist
orientation, development and authenticity. For Longchenpa, Padmasambhava' s myth was a reality.
Furthermore Padmasambhava was Longchenpa' s principal source of treasures and Dzogchen
teachings, which he considered to be symbols of "authentic" Buddhism, a base of religious and
cultural authority with which he wished to identify himself, and which he sought to emulate and
embody . However the status of Padmasambhava, Longchenpa' s cultural hero, was that of a
marginal tantric teacher.
Secondly, for Longchenpa, born into a Nyingma family, S amye was not only a symbol but
also an actual religious doctrinal reference point: Ha-Shang (Ra Shang) Mahayana, was presented
there, entailing an approach of immediate realisation, that of chigchar (gOg car), a process and
realis ation similar to Dzogchen . In establishing a similarity between chigchar and "pristine
Dzogchen" , Longchenpa created a metaphorical "bridge" to S amye , which for him was the heart
of Tibetan Buddhism, "the birthplace of the wholesome and good" that he longed for. However
the practice of Ha-Shang Mahayana, presented in S amye to the Tibetan king in the 8th century,
bears similarity to Dzogchen in that it is considered a "simultaneous path", and was rej ected in
favour of the "gradual path" method presented by Kamalashila.
As a result of the historical trends and events mentioned above, almost everything which
Longchenpa was associated with had been relocated or situated in the periphery of the socio­
reli gio-p oliti c al map of Tibet in the 1 4th century . M arginali sed Nyingma, marginalised
Padmasambhava as a minor tantric teacher, rej ected "simultaneous" teachings , exclusion of tantra
and treasure texts from the canon, absence of patronage, absence of political aspirations or fertile
1 64 The Man From Samye

land - all these factors located Longchenpa at the periphery of the socio-religio-political scene.
Given that this was Longchenpa' s starting point it would be difficult for him to realise his agenda
of religious leadership as the carrier of the torch of Padmasambhava.
Towards 1 348, when Longchenpa was nearly 40 years old, he finally found a patron for a
period of two years . However it was a connection that placed Longchenpa in a position of political
disadvantage, and furthermore in a life threatening situation which caused him to flee to Bhutan.
He had to flee because his patron was an opponent of none other than Tai Situ Changchub
Gyeltsen of the Phakmo drup a , who "freed" Tibet fro m the Mongols and reunified the
various Tibetan hegemonies and myriarchs under his regime . The exile in B hutan would
only have increased Longchenpa' s sense of marginalization .
The historical contextualisation of Longchenpa shows that, being marginalised, he sought to
relocate not only the Nyingmapa from the periphery to the centre of the prevailing religio-socio­
politic al structures of his time but to reposition himself in the centre as one who is committed to the
implementation of Padmasambhava' s vision of Buddhism. It is my view that one of the maj or
devices Longchenpa employed in order to effect the relocation was the rhetoric of negation and
more precisely its aspect of affirming-negation, because in refuting and rej ecting the prevailing
religio-political structure, philosophies , practices and moral conduct he was able to affirm and
defme Dzogchen, and to maintain the status of Nyingma as the old and authentic tradition, which
had been in decline in the Tibetan consciousnes s of his time . He did so in order to meet the
challenges posited by the Indic discourses of the gradual path of the new schools . He used the
counter dis course of negation, resorting to terminologies such as those of "naturalnes s" and
"spontaneity" or "primordiality" and "absence" . His rhetoric of negation functioned partially as a
form of religio-political resistance against the new wave of translations coming from India. This
protest evolved into self-definition, in the sense that by negating other philosophies and methods
Longchenpa' s principal system of Dzogchen was actually defining and affirming itself.
Through the pro c e s s of c o ntextuali sing Long chenpa by means of bio graphi e s and
hagiographies outlined in chapter 3, a clear picture of him is formed . On the one hand, being
committed to ethics and Buddhist values, Longchenpa possessed wide-ranging teachings traversing
religious and political sectarianism, from rituals and meditations to syllogism and debate, including
Dharmakirti ' s works and Madhyamaka philosophy . By means of visions he received treasure
teachings from Padmasambhava and Yeshe Tsogyal. He also had visions of various Indian and
Tibetan deities . He studied with his root teacher Kumaraj a not in a monastery but in a camp in the
open, and by living austerely he converted the rhetoric of "no attachments" into a living pedagogy,
predominantly a physical one integrated with an actual Dzogchen life style . Thus he became a
living example of Dzogchen philosophy and practice, which he expres sed in an extraordinary
manner in his literary and poetic works , compiling more than 300 texts.
On the other hand, he was unacknowledged and umecognised for his intellectual and spiritual
credential s . He felt isolated politically, socially and religiously , and was without means of
Conclusions 1 65

livelihood or patronage. More than likely, the only time Longchenpa was acknowledged as a
unique religious scholar and spiritual figure and given an opportunity to implement his Buddhist
vision was when he worked under the patronage of Gonpa Ktinrin, an influential figure in the
Tibet of those times . However this period lasted only two years because of a rivalry between
Gonpa Ktinrin and Tai Situ Changchub Gyeltsen that turned Longchenpa into the enemy, forcing
him to flee to Bhutan in 1 3 54. Only upon his return from exile in 1 360-6 1 was Longchenpa
acknowledged as a unique religious scholar and spiritual figure and reconciled with Chungchup
Gyalsten with the help of S angs rgyas dpal. According to The Blue Annals,604 Longchenpa even
became Chungchup Gyelsten' s teacher. It was only then, at the end of his life, that Longchenpa
found himself in Tibet' s religio-socio-political centre.
Until his return from Bhutan, Longchenpa was frustrated by the tension of what he regarded
as his "high" spiritual status and his "low" socio-economic and political position. The dichotomy
between his spiritual credentials and his mundane life reflect a self-perceived spiritual genius who
was not acknowledged by the many to be one who could, by means of the extraordinary, lead
them to their essential mind, beyond the prevailing social and political structures . Hence his
teachings and knowledge grew separately from his mundane life - a "charismatic spiritual leader"
without patron or monastery. But such charisma necessitates recognition for its existence (in the
form of teacher-student relationships) . This conflict that Longchenpa experienced caused him
to feel at times persecuted, suffering from a sense of alienation and anxiety. But when Longchenpa
expressed this , he was also revolting against the prevailing preoccupation with materialism.
This is exemplified by a recurring theme in his poetry : taking refuge in the forest. He was
criticising a life style which preferred wealth and socio-economic status over authentic spirituality,
and although he felt condemned and anxious he mainly wanted to point to what was wholesome.
In my view his principal interest was the Dharma and his purpose was primarily pedagogical,
to teach di scernment between Dharma and not-Dharma ; between what is wholes ome and
authentic , and what presents a hindrance on the path of liberation. He sought to teach the Dharma
also by means of criticism and negation of the prevailing religio-socio-political structure associated
as it was with increased militarisation and the decline of Buddhist ethics and morality, in favour of
a structure that prevailed in the golden era of the Tibetan empire .
The above portrait of Longchenpa, as a product of critical scholarship and close reading,
releases his figure from the mythical aspects that were accorded to him by traditional accounts
without denying or devaluing his high status or credentials as a s cholar , teacher and poet
committed to Dharma. This portrait presents him in a more realistic light, showing also his human
vulnerabilities and sensitivities, and socio-economic and political weakness .
Longchenpa' s tendency to criticise and negate also targets the philosophies and spiritual
practices of the other Tibetan Buddhist schools . At this point I examined Longchenpa from the
traditional perspective of spiritual practice represented by the aspirant after liberation, and also
adopted critical and existential approaches. However, in contextualising Longchenpa' s rhetoric of
1 66 The Man From Samye

negation I was able to show that Longchenpa did not essentially differ from other Buddhist figures ,
including Nagarjuna, Candrakirti, Nubchen Yeshe, Gampopa and a few others, except for the
important and significant fact that he also converted his negation into a living pedagogy, as a
manual for the teacher of Dzogchen for introducing the student directly to their innate natural
awarenes s .
I n chapter 4, Longchenpa' s rhetoric o f negation was contextualised from the perspectives of
philosophy and practice. This revealed that Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation of goal-oriented
spiritu al practices is a non- affirming negation - a term b orrowed from the Pras ailgika­
Madhyamika philosophy that Longchenpa adopted. When he negated philosophical views and
spiritual practices he employed the non-affirming type of negation in order to assist the student in
creating a state of absence, a non-conceptual state of mind, and to prepare him for meeting face to
face his inherent natural awareness.
However, Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation turned out to be a one-pointed repetitious
practice aimed at negating and dismantling conceptual, discursive, compUlsive mental processes, a
practice that w as in fact similar to the ones he negated. Longchenpa negated this notion of
one-pointed repetitious practice too, as being but an obscuring mental construct, a concept that
stands between the student and their innate natural mind and which has to be relinquished.
It is important to note that although Longchenpa negated goal-oriented spiritual practices, he
nevertheles s recognised their value as preparatory practices due to their capacity to resolve
conditioned mental patterns, and hence he prescribed them to his students/readers . Philosophically
speaking, in displaying this approach towards spiritual practices Longchenpa ensured that his view
of spiritual practices did not fall into extremes . This makes him a Prasailgika-Madhyamika, but
with the difference that while Prasailgika-Madhyamika pointed at emptines s , Longchenpa related
to natural awarenes s , empty yet apparent.
In my attempt to c ontextu ali se Longchenp a ' s negati on more bro adly by including
contemporary forms of negation, I considered Georges B ataille ' s essential method of contestation
within the context of what he termed the Inner Experience, which is naked, free from ties , even of
an origin, and whose "destination" is unknown or unfound. Another reason for being drawn
towards B ataille was that he assumed the roles of the contester and the contestee, acting on both as
a phenomenological basi s . The manner of this attempt to achieve knowledge by means of
experience is relevant to practitioners/readers .
On the face of it B ataille ' s presentation of Inner Experience was appealing in that it has some
resemblance with Longchenpa' s teachings on the nature of mind, and B ataille ' s method of
contestation seems to share a flavour similar to Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation, being a non­
affirmin g negation. However it has been shown that B ataille was ambivalent and ambiguous about
maj or subj ects from which he wanted to draw inspiration, and at the same he wanted to put them
under his contestation. His knowledge of yoga, its related practices, and the B uddhist tantra was
limited and at times downright wrong, which made his contestation incomplete and limited. This
contrasts with his notion of contestation as a radic al negation. Thus as he was an ambiv alent
Conclusions 1 67

contestee, residual mental constructs and their implications would still pre-occupy his mind, which
is in contrast with his notion of Inner Experience as being naked and free of attachments .
B ataille also equated, by means of a tautology, Inner Experience with contestation that dictates
and constructs an ongoing one-mind modification, one of affirming nothingness to the extent that
the Inner Experience, defined as naked and free from ties, is identical to contestation. But it seems
that B ataille ' s Inner Experience is not entirely free as he must continually hold in his hand the
"sword of contestation" ready for the next obj ect in question, whether in a relaxed or ecstatic state
of mind. However Longchenpa challenged this one-mind modification of absence again by the
pedagogy of negation. This is because natural awareness is never only about absence of the ties of
compulsive discursive thinking ; it is also about clarity finding expression in reality .
In chapter 5 , Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation was examined from the point of view of the
aspirant after liberation, and was shown to be converted into a pedagogy of negation that included
methods that could induce for the student the experience of natural awarenes s , free of any
attachments , including even the need to apply any method.
These methods entail a subtext and provide the materials for a potent trans formative drama
with a sense of timing that drives the interaction towards a climax or resolution. In the case of his
six dialogues , Longchenpa the teacher knows intuitively when to impart instructions and to point to
the n ature of mind. The student arrives in the presence of Longchenpa the teacher with
expectations based on the history of their relationship as well as the potential feelings mentioned
above, but also after a period of training under Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation. The questions
of when to talk, when to remain silent, when to be assertive and loud, and when to be mellow, etc,
are very important as means to detour the student' s expectations and feelings and to cut through
them. This exposes the student to the nature of mind by concentrating on it directly without any
mediation through any means or obj ectives .
Longchenpa i s a very skilful teacher and h e communicates t o different students i n a manner
that will match their particular capacity. At onetime he may overwhelm and confuse the student, at
another time he may surprise them with a certain instruction, and at yet another he might j ust
remain casual. In this manner Longchenpa challenges the student' s non-conceptual state of absence
or clear state of mind, emotions or beliefs , leaving them vulnerable and receptive for the direct
introduction to innate natural awarenes s , the coming face-to-face with their innate natural
awareness as a liberating profound experience. In fact, this thesis has ascertained that the student' s
profound understanding and experience of their innate awareness is an experience of the non­
duality of innate awareness and apparent sense-obj ects . This serves as the departure point of
Dzogchen ' s practice of natural meditative stability in the sense that means and end are identical,
therefore any subj ect-obj ect dichotomies cease to exist.
Thus, philosophically speaking, the thesis has shown that the practice of natural meditative
stability is compatible with Dzogchen' s notion of non-duality and with the integration of the Two
Truths . In a broader sense Dzogchen' s principle offers a way to transcend the dichotomy inherent
in general goal- oriented practices that exist in other traditions and religions . Charting the
1 68 The Man From Samye

dichotomous sequence between dualistic practices and non-dual practices (chapter 7), as a road
map for the practitioner, clearly revealed the position of spiritual practices in non-duality. They
exist in dynamic movement on the axis between dualistic and non-dualistic spiritual practices .
During the research I encountered two themes among others that are worthy of exploration
and thorough study, and which would contribute further to the understanding of Longchenpa' s
philosophy and teachings and would clearly situate Dzogchen in relation to all the schools of
Tibetan B uddhism. The first theme is "non-action" and intentionality in relation to non-duality .
This raises the question of how one acts in non-duality . It is a problematic question because to act
in non-duality requires the absence of the sense of agency, that is to say, absence of the intention to
act or of any attachments that would compel one to form an intentional action coloured by a certain
motive. This domain of "unintentional action" in relation to liberation and non-duality is foreign to
the mundane way of acting and behaving hence it requires a deeper understanding and enhanced
clarity. Furthermore, notions such as "act without attachment" , "act without the sense of agency" ,
"act for the sake of what is necessary to be done" or "do for the sake of doing" that refer to
"unintentional action" should be clarified for practitioners and readers. In a broader sense this
would require an examination of karma (action) in Longchenpa' s writings to enable a further
understanding of the place of action or conduct in relation to liberation, and of praxis in relation to
non-duality . Intentionality is a theme that has been addressed also by western philosophers such as
Hussed, and reviewing their understanding of intentionality might assist in clarifying the status of
action in non-duality and the tension between mundane activities and non-duality.
The second theme worthy of exploration concerns the uniquenes s attributed to Dzogchen.
Many p ast teachers such as Longchenpa and the Fifth Dalai Lama, and contemporary teachers
such as Namkhai Norbu , Dudj om Rinpoche and the Fourteenth D alai Lama, h av e praised
Dzogchen as unique and special, valorising it as the "peak" of Buddhist teachings . In the course of
this study I have identified that Dzogchen is similar to the Mahfunudra teaching of the Kagyu ; has
similarities with Zen, Ha-Shang Mahayana and B on teachings and with some sections of the
Guhyugarbha Tantra; and draws on the philosophy of Madhyamaka, the Prajiiaparamita teachings
and mystical treasures. A critical study would historic ally and philosophic ally situate Dzogchen in
relation to the other systems mentioned above and would position Dzogchen on the Tibetan
Buddhist map in a realistic manner, reflecting the extent to which it was based on the mysticism of
treasures and "legendary figures". In other words, if there is an exaggerated enthusiasm and a
mystical aura around Dzogchen it should be pointed out, allowing practitioners and readers to
approach Dzogchen with a clear unbiased mind and with an understanding of the tension between
its historical and its mystical origins .

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y Represents the actual profound

Here Longchenp a ' s rhetoric of
negation turns into a pedagogy
experience of natural awareness
that causes the practiti o n er t o
Y axis represents the world of the practitioner, who comes
abandon any clinging t o spiritual
of phenomena or sense into contact with sense obj ects
practice or desire to practice and '
objects, or m o r e accurately It is from this point and p e rc e i v e s them directl y
to take the leap over the aby s s , Repre sents t h e aby s s f o r t h e practitioner w h o i s
the perception of sense onwards that practice i s without any di scursive activity interested t o understand intrinsic natural awarenes s .
leading to t h e experience o f
obj ects i n terms of range o f compatible with the non-dual of the mind, that is to say, the The aby s s to be cro s s e d is fro m a familiar
understanding innate natural
clarity a n d knowledge. The philosophy of Dzogchen in practiti o n er ' s i n n ate c l e ar conditioned existence to the experience of unfamiliar
aw arenes s , without a frame of
more the practitioner ascends which the means as natural natural awarenes s is integrated natural awarenes s . It is an unfamiliar experience in
referenc e .
along this axis the more they
awareness and the end as with perceived sense objects and the sense that it does not have a frame of reference.
natural awareness are seeing them "the way they are".
are able to apprehend with At this point the practitioner stands on the threshold
identical. Here the skillful
profound c l arity and of experience of natural awareness but there i s no
practitioner, due to trekcho
wisdom sense-objects under guarantee that ensures its occurrence.
practice, is able to abide for
consideration as they are.
longer periods in non-dual
natural mind.

H and beyond represent

infinite qualities of Buddhist
wisdom and clarity towards
the Buddhist mystical states
of omni-potence and omni­
science, etc. Represents the state of absence generated by the rhetoric
of negation that urges the practitioner to abandon goal-oriented
spiritual practice and attachmen to any disciplines. Although
the practitioner at that phase is highly disciplined and

H G F equipped with a great sense of clarity and understanding

of reality it is still dependent on discipline and one-pointed
type of mind modification.

� �______________J
S tands for a practitioner who has disciplined their
mind by emp l o y in g a range of go a l - orientated
practices . In employing these practices one gains
more clarity and knowledge however it i s still a
partial knowledge that is achieved by the mediation
of concepts, language, symbols and analysis, and is
dep�ndent on deliberate one-pointed concentration.

Reflects a person who is totally taken in ,

by their intense compulsive mind, and '
is in complete delusion and dissociation
from reality or any sense objects. From
the point of view of spiritual practices
this is a highly undisciplined mind.

o Represents pure emptines s and reflects a mind X axis represents the domain of avidya, of nescience and discursive mind X
empty of discursivenes s , concepts or jUdgement, either compUlsive or disciplined, the dualistic domain of existence in which . , "
whether c o m p u l s i v e or deliberate . Reflects a spiritual goal-oriented practices are employed. The movement on the axis
vacant referenceles s state of mind. towards and just before the zero point reflects a c ondition in which the
practitioner ' s c ap acity to concentrate without being distracted by any
stimulus is developing .

During May 20 1 2 I j ourneyed to Bumthang, the region of Bhutan that Longchenpa, the man
from S amye, admired in his poem as a place of material abundance, peaceful and suitable for
spiritual pursuits :

The Valley of Rinchen V -ra in the s outheast

Is lovely and circular like the shape of a wheel .
Its villages are well developed and its estates are many .
Jewelled streams flow gently southwest.
On its slopes are sites for attaining realizations ,
And its intermediate border areas are ringed with monasteries .
The grasses are nourishing and the cows are p articularly productive .
Its trees and fruits are excellent and its forests are marvellous
In this country medicines are extremely potent and there are only few types of illne s s . 605

We visited the Kagyu monastery of Ura and met with its head lama, our guide acting as
translator . Eight lings (gling means a place in terms of locality) are s aid to have been
established by Longchenpa and I asked the lama which of the eight he would recommend we
visit. He suggested Shingkhar Ling , and told us that according to tradition it was Rahula, the
deity-guardian of Dzogchen teachings , who ensured Longchenpa' s protection and his water
and food supplies , as long as Longchenpa devoted his time to teaching the Dharma and
writing his books .
Appendix B - Journey to Bhutan 181

At Shingkhar Ling, when w e entered the temple the first obj ect that attracted our attention
was a life- sized statue of Longchenpa seated in meditation posture (see photo below) .
1 82 The Man From Samye

After w e g ained an
impre s sion of the temple
we were shown two objects
s ai d to have belonged to
Longchenpa. The first was
a butter lamp (right) , which
seemed old.
The second was
a p h o t o o f a s y mb o l
resembling a geometric al
yantra (below) , believed to
h a v e b e en d e s i gn e d and
constructed on the floor of
the temple by Longchenpa
himself. According to the
photo , it appeared to be a kind of a relief sculpture in which the lines of the yantra were raised
above the surface. We could not see the actual yantra on the ground because the statue of
Longchenpa was positioned directly on top of it.
Listening to the head Lama of trra monastery, and seeing the two obj ects in Shingkhar
Ling that are said to have been Longchenpa' s , it became obvious that though the man from
S amye passed away in 1 4th century Tibet, his legacy was still present in Bhutan, where he is
revered and admired.
Appendix B - Journey to Bhutan 1 83

The next day we travelled to Tharpa Ling, about 3 ,000 metres above sea level, to another
temple attributed to Longchenpa, around which a monastery had been established. Three
hundred metres above the monastery, on top of the mountain, on giant rock is a statue of
Longchenpa sitting in meditation, gazing forward from a glass box (below) . It was on this
rock, according to traditional accounts , that the man from S amye wrote own his seven
treasures . This traditional belief enhanced our impression that Longchenpa' s legacy is alive
and present in contemporary Buddhist Bhutan.
This rock is an excellent observation post from which the valley below and the horizon
can be seen almost entirely, a scene which complements Longchenpa' s poem on Bumthang.
1 84 The Man From Samye
Appendix B - Journey to Bhutan 1 85

1 S ee the works of Germano ( 1 992), Germano and Gyatso (2000), Hillis (2003), Arguillere (2007), Butters
(2006), Guenther' s translated and annotated works of Longchenpa ( 1 975, 1 976, 1 983 , 1 989) and van der
Kuijp (2003) .
2 The metaphor of nightmare has been created and included here to conform with those common to Indian
philosophy such as the rope and the snake, or the pole and the man.
3 See presentation of the Four Noble Truths in Maha Satipatthana sutta in Ling (ed.) ( 1 98 1 :79- 8 1 )
4 Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 20-3)
5 Garfield ( 1 995 :3) . Peter Fenner has presented a detailed analysis of this aphorism and its implications on
the relation between methods and spiritual insight. See Fenner (2002 : 95- 1 00) . David Loy refers to
another sutra, Nagarjuna' s Mulamadhyamakakiirika, 2. 1 5 , which provides the definition for svabhiiva
(intrinsic nature) that is never produced nor dependent on any factor, hence the implications for the
impossible relation of spiritual practice and liberation. See Loy ( 1 98 8 : 1 28)
6 Fenner (2002:95- 1 00). The idea of substituting the general terms of self and other with liberation and
praxis respectively was presented by Peter Fenner.
7 Germano ( 1 992:3)
8 Guenther ( 1 975:xiii)
9 Guenther ( 1 975:xxiv)
10 Ingalls ( 1 952: 1 - 1 4)
11 B ader ( 1 990)
12 Guenther ( 1 975 : 248)
13 Hillis (2003)
14 Hillis (2003 : 267-27 1 )
15 Butters (2006)
16 B utters (2006: 1 93)
17 Butters (2006: 173)
18 The texts appear in part 3 , 'Wonderment' , from The Trilogy of Finding Comfort and Ease (Ngal gsa skor
gsum) translated and annotated by Guenther. See Guenther ( 1 976)
19 Arguillere (2007 : 8 )
De, dans s o n seminaire d e 2003 -2004 a la V section d l ' EPHE, Matthew Kapstein a notamment
demontree que plusieurs textes cites dans l' auto-commentair<:: du sGyu ma ngal gsa etaient en fait des
textes fictifs . Comme il l ' a etablis d' une maniere certaine, les citations ne certes pas inventees par
Longchen Rabjam mais demarquees de l' auto-commentaire du sGyu ma lam rim, apocryphe Tibetain
attribue a Niguma dans la tradition Shang spa depuis Khyung po mal 'byor . . . .il ne fait jamais mention,
pas plus d' aucune reuvre relevant du courant Shangs pa. Cette consideration permettrait peut-etre de
remettre dans son vrai j our I ' affaires des « plagiats de textes B on » qui a inspire J.-L. Achard ( 1 999) des
pages si interessantes . . . . Nous avons observe quelque cas de citations « orphelines » , c ' est-a-dire, de
textes cites seulement une fois ou deux dans l' reuvre de Longchen Rabjam, ou bien de citations repetees
d ' un seul et meme passage d ' un texte.
20 In the summary of Kapstein' s seminar the notion "without attribution" appears in parentheses which
might imply the marginality of the theme of citing without attribution, as in the 1 4th century it was a
common practice. See Kapstein (2003 : 94)
21 Kapstein (2003 : 94)
Notes 1 87

22 Davidson discusses Gampopa' s attraction to Dzogchen and says that he used the central Dzogchen term
rigpa extensively, for example see Davidson (2008 :288).
23 See Guenther ( 1 996:6.n. 1 3 )
24 Achard ( 1 999: 2 1 6)
25 Karmay (2007 :2 1 1 )
26 Karmay (2007 : 2 1 6 , 2 1 9)
27 See in Chagdud and B arron ( 1 99 8 : 2 8 1 -2 84) , B arron (200 1 : 49 1 -4 9 8 ) and Chagdud and B arron
(2007 :483 -527). In the last work Longchenpa refers to nearly 700 texts.
28 Longchenpa i n Cornu ( 1 994:285-8)
29 Longchenpa in Cornu ( 1 994: 265)
30 Fenner (2002 : 1 03 - 1 1 0)
31 Fenner (2002: 1 1 1 )
32 B ader ( 1 990:2). B ader' s approach to the research of S ailkara applies to the research o f Longchenpa.
33 Mayeda ( 1 992)
34 Ingalls ( 1 952:4)
35 B ader ( 1 990: 14-5)
36 Grinshpon (2003 :4)
37 Grinshpon (2003 : 6)
38 Ricoeur (2007 : 29)
39 Hare ( 1 995-96 : 1 88- 1 93)
40 Grinshpon (2093 :5)
41 Cabez6n (2003 : 25)
42 Wallace ( 1 999 : 1 )
43 Kapstein (2000: 1 63)
44 Kapstein (2000: 1 63)
45 Longchenpa in Fenner (2002:7)
46 Longchenpa in Kapstein (2000: 1 68-9)
47 See in Hillis (2003 : 1 5 1 -5), Wallace ( 1 999: 1 ) and Dargyay ( 1 985 :283-293)
48 Kapstein (2000:267-8 n. 1 9)
49 Fenner (2002:7 1 ) . Anti-method is a term coined by Fenner to denote refutation of methods of spiritual
practices as futile and as ineffective in producing spiritual insight or natural awareness.
50 Hillis (2003 :3)
51 Guenther ( 1 983 : 2)
52 Later i n the chapter it will b e demonstrated that for Longchenpa, Samye was invoked as a synonym for
Tibet' s glorious past and this past involved Longchenpa' s spiritual and cultural hero, Padmasambhava.
53 Kapstein (2000: 1 65)
54 Guenther ( 1 983 :4-5-6) Longchenpa in his poem, Looking Deeper: A Swan 's Questions and Answers.
Longchenpa uses the following partial list of expressions in order to denote the prevailing decadence
and immorality of his own time: "counterfeits", "degenerate age", "low-class persons", "monks who are
mentally householders", "fraudulent meditation", "hypocrisy", "those who pose as spiritual teachers
. . . who deceive the common people . . . who grasp not learning but young women . . . gather around the rich",
"compassion and faith has dried up", etc. These expre ssions point according to Longchenpa at the
corruption and decline of Buddhist spiritual teachings and ethics driven by greed, lust, pride and
55 It is called Dzogchen however this is a term of convenience rather than a strict description of what he
56 Germano ( 1 992:viii)
57 Kapstein (2000: xvii)
1 88 The Man From Samye

58 Kapstein (2006:46)
59 Walter (2009 :7)
60 Heller ( 1 999:8- 1 1 )
61 Walter (2009:7)
62 Walter (2009:269)
63 Walter (2009:225)
64 Walter (2009:226)
65 Walter (2009 :227)
66 van Schaik (2003 : 3 -4)
67 van Schaik (20 1 1 : 3 1 )
68 Gernet ( 1 995 : xvi). This recalls Alexander Mocdon and the creation of Hellenism as means to govern his
empire through a unified and inclusive cultural base.
69 van Schaik http://earlytibet.coml2009/07/0 1Jbuddhism-and-empire-iv-converting-tibet!
70 See in http://earlytibet.coml2009/07/0 1Jbuddhism-and-empire-iv-converting-tibet! based on a text from
779, Trisong Detsen ' s own account of how he was converted to Buddhism.
71 van Schaik (2003 : 3 -4)
72 Kapstein (2006: 66)
73 Besides Samye, the temples Khri rtse, mChims phu, Kwa chu, sKar chung and others in central and border
regions of Tibet were built in the 8th century as confirmed by a stone edict placed by the king
Khri.lde. srong.btsan in the sKar chung temple. See Vitali ( 1 990: 1 ) . The texts were of the Yogadira­
Madhyamalka tradition of India introduced by Santaraksita and KamalSTIa. Ruegg ( 1 989:56)
74 Reynolds ( 1 989:2) . See also Gyurme DOlje ' s monumental work of translation ( 1 987) the Guhyagarbha
Tantra (The Tantra o/ the Secret Quintessence, rGyud thams cad kyi rgyal po dpal sgyu 'phrul rtsa ba 'i
rgyud gsang ba snying po) and its 14th century commentary by Longchenpa Dispelling Darkness in the
Ten Directions (dPal gsang ba snying po de kho na nyid nges pa 'i rgyud kyi grel ba phyogs bcu 'i mun
sel). At the fIrst verse of chapter 13 Longchenpa interprets the Guhyagarbha Tantra from a Dzogchen
point of view, stating that when the components of the tantra such as creation stage, the perfection stage,
all ma.J:lqalas (mar!4alas) are subsumed within the unsurpassed moment of pristine cognition which is
Dzogchen because there is no perception in terms of personal identity or sense object identity and no
afflictive emotions involved Longchenpa in his commentary emphasizes the idea that contrasting
concepts, images and ideas such as samsara and nirvana are subsumed, coalescent or condensed, and are
spontaneously present in the primordial Great Perfection. (Gyurme DOlje, 1 98 7 : 987) . The thirteenth
chapter of the Guhyagarbha Tantra is considered as one of the most important of the tantras mainly
because the Quintessential Instruction Garland of View (Man ngag Ita ba 'i phreng ba) which is an extant
work of Dzogchen that is attributed to Padmasambhava and is found in the Tangyur. In this chapter we
find a clear reference to the term Dzogchen, one of four references found in the Guhyagarbha Tantra,
which states: "Then all the maJ.lqalas of the adamantine body, speech and mind of the Buddhas from
throughout the ten directions and four times became condensed in one. Thus the great Joyous one
entered equipoise within the contemplation of the cloud-array of intensely secret commitment' s nucleus
i . e . that all phenomena are primordially spontaneously present with the Great Perfection." Germano
( 1 994:2 1 4) Here the practitioner unifies the various ma.J:lqalas of the divinities and enlightened beings,
reab sorbs and condenses them into one and enters into an experiential realization that worldly and
transcendental phenomena are not entirely different in the sense that they are empty of independent
existence, without any beginning, and have been always present as the ma.J:lqala of body, speech and
mind. Germano ( 1 994:205) suggests that Dzogchen Semde originated from Buddhist Tantra, especially
that of the Mahayoga tantras, through a process of dialogue between the two systems that started in the
9th century and culminated in the works of Longchenpa in the 1 4th century. Although Germano asserts
( 1 994: 2 1 5) that Dzogchen stemmed from Buddhist tantras he then argues that Dzogchen defines itself by
rej ecting all constituent categories of tantric B uddhism and later on presents an hypothesis that
Notes 1 89

Dzogchen Semde (sems sde) and Mahayoga are distinct strands : "The contention is that the Mind series
may have constituted a separate and independent movement of unspecified origins that transformed into
the Great Perfection in Tibet through merging with a separate development flowing out of Mahayoga
perfection phase theory and practices." (Germano 1 994: 2 1 5) As support for his hypothesis regarding the
"merge of the two distinct strands" he refers to the passages in one of the most important texts of
Mahayoga, the Guhyagarbha Tantra where the term Dzogchen appears four times indicating what might
appear as characteristic terms of Dzogchen literature and philosophy such as "spontaneous primordial
presence" "enlightenment" and "sameness". Although Karmay was able to demonstrate that there was a
recognizable form of independent Dzogchen associated with the Semde through his treatment of two
Dunhuang texts of S elT]de literature, he asserted that the Dzogchen sy stem was born out of the
Guhyagarbha Tantra tinged with ideas originating in Semde. (Karmay 1 98 8 : 1 52) Karmay supports his
conclusion on the text The Garland of Views (Man ngag Ita ba 'i phreng ba) which was an extant work
of Dzogchen attributed to Padmasambhava which presents the esoteric Yoga as being threefold:
development (bskyed rim), achievement (rdzogs rim) and Great Perfection (rdzogs chen). This work was
the subject of a PhD thesis in Germany in 1 989 written by Ulrich Loseries, University of Bonn. The path
entails gradual creation of the maDqala mentally by means of meditation. Then by beholding the
maDqala and divinities steadily in one' s mind and attaining complete identity with the maDqala and
divinities, they all are reabsorbed in one' s mind and one realizes that they are devoid of self-origination
and cessation and conceptual thoughts. Lastly, as for the mode of Great Perfection the practitioner at that
moment realizes that worldly and transcendental phenomena are not different in the sense that they are
phenomena which are empty of independent existence and that they are without any beginning and that
they have been always present as the maDqala of body speech and mind. However The Garland of Views
further elaborates, stating in terms similar to independent Dzogchen texts that: "All existence is void by
nature, it is all primordially pure from the very beginning, it is totally luminescent, it abides in the
nirvaDic state, it is manifestly enlightened". (Karmay 1 98 8 : 1 3 8 - 1 39)
75 Kapstein (2000: 1 57) Kapstein used for his study a version which is attributed to the 1 4th century or
slightly earlier. For a discussion regarding the versions of the Testament of Ba (dBa ' bzhed), see Kapstein
(2000: 2 1 3 n. l l ) and Wangdu and Diemberger (2000: 1 - 1 4)
76 Karmay ( 1 988: 1 3 8) mentions the text The Garland of Views (Man ngag Ita ba 'i phreng ba) which was an
extant work of Dzogchen attributed to Padmasambhava which is found in the Tangyur. The source of the
Man ngag Ita ba' i phreng ba is the gSang ba snying po. This point when compared with other types of
evidence found in Tibetan literature demonstrates that Padmasambhava was a source of Dzogchen
77 Kapstein (2000: 1 59). Kapstein based his conclusion on a version of the Testament of Ba from the 14th
century and on a Dunhung manuscript PT 44 concerning the ritual traditions of Vajrakila.
78 Wangdu and Diemberger (2000: 1 7- 1 8) . The Testament of Ba, a text claimed to b e dated to the 9th
century or even a century before that, constitutes the narrative account of the long reign of Trisong
Detsen. Editions of the text are available today and dated back to the 1 1 th century and after.
79 It is known a s the Brahmaputra in India.
80 Wangdu and Diemberger (2000: 57)
81 Wangdu and Diemberger (2000:58)
82 van Schaik (20 1 1 : 35)
83 Guenther ( 1 99 6 : 7 .n. 1 4) . See discussion regarding Guenther' s view o f Padmasambhava which i s
presented i n the subsequent section o f the current chapter under the sub-heading: Considering
Padmasambhava' s "historical" teachings .
84 Guenther ( 1 99 6 : 6 .n . 1 3 ) . Here Guenther mentions five works attributed to Padmas ambhav a .
H e substantiates th e identification o f Padmasambhava' s work based o n three factors : ( 1 ) Colophons that
were added in the 1 3th century that indicated Padmasmbhava' s authorship (2) The philosophical links
found in Padmasambhava' s texts between him and the teachings of the early Gnostic religious teacher
1 90 The Man From Samye

B asilides from Alexandria, Egypt. His philosophical doctrine found its way in the Hellenistic period to
the unique Greek city Ai-khanoum in northern Afghanistan, located 300 km from the Swat Valley, the
place which is believed to be Padamsambhava' s origin according to G Tucci and or distant from Urgyan,
the place that the tradition believes to be the origin of Padamsambhava (3) Padamsambhava co-worked
with the translators Vairocana and sKa-ba dpal brestegs.
85 Karmay (2007 :6). Karmay in his study refers to the version o f the Testament of B a attributed to the 1 4th
century and provides support from Stein ' s translation from 1 96 1 .
86 This opposition to tantrism was not only Indian in character but Tibetan too . It was because tantrists
blurred the lines which delineated "high" from "low" people, engaged in acts with "polluting" people
and materials and broke most of the normative laws of Tibetan society.
87 Per K Sorensen ( 1 994:369)
88 Yeshe Tsogyal, translated by Douglas and Bays (2007 : 377). It i s somewhat difficult to ascertain whether
this is a reference to an actual incident or being a 1 4th century text - it reflects the 1 4th century
" attempt" to reinstate that even in the imperium' s own history, the religious prelate always has
precedence over the secular ruler.
89 Yeshe Tsogyal ( Ye shes mtsho rgyaT), translated b y Douglas and Bays (2007 : 383)
90 Other milestones that point to the manner i n which the myth o f Padmasambhava developed i n th e 1 2th
century and 1 3 th century include revealed "treasures" (gter ma) discovered by Nyangrel Nyima Ozer
(Nyang ral nyi ma 'od zer, 1 1 24- 1 1 92) and his successor Guru Chewang (Gu ru chos kyi dbang phyug,
1 2 1 2- 1 270) . See Kapstein M (2000 : 1 55 ) and Jacob Dalton ' s study ' The early development of the
Padmasambhava legend in Tibet: a study of IOL Tib J 644 and Pelliot tibetain' 307 (2004:759-772)
91 Guenther ( 1 996: 1 )
92 Guenther ( 1 996: 38)
93 Guenther ( 1 996: 6)
94 Guenther ( 1 996:6, n. 1 3)
95 Guenther ( 1 996: 1 2)
96 The literal translation was suggested to m e b y David Templeman.
97 Guenther ( 1 996:7, n. 1 3)
98 Karmay ( 1 98 8 : 1 37- 1 3 8)
99 Guenther ( 1 996: 5 , n. l l )
1 00 Dewitt (2004: 1 92)
101 Kapstein (2000: 1 6 1 )
1 02 Padmasambhava' s vision of Buddhism is based on "material treasure" teachings in the form of texts,
images and ritual artefacts and "mental treasures" in the form of teaching received in lucid dreams,
deep meditations and visions. For an actual example of his teaching see the discussion regarding spyi ti
yoga for liberation in the previous section. According to Longchenpa this vision of Buddhism includes
a favourable spiritual environment quite opposite to the prevailing decadence and immorality of his
own time mentioned in his poem, Looking Deeper: A Swan 's Questions and Answers . See Guenther
( 1 9 8 3 : 4- 1 0) .
1 03 Neumaier-Dargyay ( 1 992). According to Germano (2005 : 1 1 ) , those texts had been transmitted in Tibet
during the second half of the 8th century and traditionally attributed to Indian figures from that period
such as Garab Dorje (7th century?), SnsiIhha (8th century) and Vimalamitra (8th-9th centuries). The
maj ority of these texts were rediscovered as treasures between the 1 1 th and 1 3th centuries (Hillis
2003 : 1 42). While these teachers are mentioned as authors, translators or editors of the Semde texts,
Padmasambhava' s name is absent (Germano 2005 : 1 1 ) .
1 04 van Schaik (2004:4,8)
1 05 Karmay (2007 : 4 1 )
1 06 Karmay (2007: 4 1 ) IOL 647
1 07 Karmay (2007 :59-60) IOL 594
Notes 191

1 08 Karmay (2007 : 62). Karmay notes that according to a letter Buddhaguhya sent the king, he was invited by
the latter to visit Central Tibet, an invitation that Buddhaguhya declined.
1 09 Ruegg ( 1 989:6)
1 10 Gomez in Gimello and Gregory ( 1 983 : 69)
111 Karmay (2007 : 1 1 5 )
1 12 Dargyay ( 1 988:7) KamalaSila was Santarak�ita' s principal disciple and a proponent of the Madhyamaka
School. His teachings included the ten rules of conduct of Buddhist ethics (Sila) , canonic Siitras of the
Mahayana, as well as the six piiramitas.
1 13 Walter (2009:52)
1 14 van Schaik (2003 : 1 1 -20, 49- 1 06)
1 15 Jackson ( 1 994)
1 16 Ruegg ( 1 98 9 : 5 6-92)
1 17 Nubchen Yeshe in Karmay (2007 : 1 04)
1 18 Karmay (2007 : 1 20)
1 19 Hashang Moheyan in Gomez ( 1 98 3 : 393-434)
1 20 van Schaik (2008: website 5/tibetan-chan-ii-the-teachings-of-heshang­
121 At this stage we can point to an inconsistency in which abiding continually -in such an unfamiliar state
of not engaging in any discursive thinking could be impossible for some disciples who lack the capacity
to remain in such a meditation. To them, Moheyan prescribed following the perfection of morality and
cultivating a meritorious behaviour, to hear the sutras and listen to teachers, etc, as long as they unable
to maintain a non-discursive mind. This approach of Moheyan clearly locates his chigchar approach
within a gradual one. See Gomez ( 1 98 3 : 96)
1 22 Karmay (2007 : 1 20)
1 23 Ruegg ( 1 98 9 : 1 3 6)
1 24 The term "rhetoric of negation" has already been presented in the introduction to the thesis and will be
defined and discussed at length in the last section of the fourth and fifth chapters .
1 25 Karmay (2007 : 1 02)
1 26 van Schaik http://earlytibet. com/about/hashang/
1 27 Longchenpa in Butters (2006: 1 28)
128 van Schaik van Schaik' s article contains several direct references
taken from Longchenpa' s texts that indicate the linkage between Dzogchen and Ha-Shang Mahayana
and the manner in which Longchenpa perceived Ha-Shang.
1 29 Guenther ( 1 98 3 : 2)
1 30 For example the court, or at least the ruler, the tsenpo, Ralpachen, supported the compilation of the
Tibetan-Sanskrit dictionary, the Mahiivyutpatti. According to van Schaik, Ralpachen was responsible for
the building of many monasteries and ordered the production of many books including the Ten Buddhist
Virtues (dge ba bcu) and hundreds of copies of the Perfection of Wisdom texts. See van Schaik (20 1 1 :44)
131 van Schaik (20 1 1 :44-45)
1 32 van Schaik (20 1 1 :46)
133 van Schaik (20 1 1 :46-7)
1 34 Karmay (2007 : 9)
135 Hillis (2003 : 66)
1 36 Karmay (2007 : 9)
1 37 The evidence that supports the extent of military conflicts to the degree of a civil war, as Hillis and
Karmay point out, is limited. In fact there was never anything even approaching a civil war. However
there were many conflicts of a more minor variety. The desecration of the Yarlung royal tombs occurred
at the close of the 9th century as part of one rebellion of the three rebellions mentioned by Hillis. See
Hillis (2003 : 66-67). Van Schaik also mentions a civil war that took place in the Gansu region, near the
1 92 The Man From Samye

border with China, which was related to an aristocrat from the Ba clan called Khozher. However this
rebellion is one of a very local and limited few and certainly they were mostly local reactions against
particular hegemons and little more. Van Schaik (20 1 1 :46-7)
138 See discussion in the section Early Cultivation of Buddhism in Tibetan in the present chapter.
139 Kapstein (2008 : 89)
1 40 Kapstein (2008: 90)
141 Vairocana i s the celestial Buddha, the central deity of the Mahiivairocana AbhisaT(lbodhi Tantra, a
seminal work that is the product of the early tantric phase of Buddhism and which was composed in
India, 640 CE. It was translated into Chinese in 673 CE by Yi-Jing, who visited Nalanda at that time. In
the text, Vairocana starts as a bodhisattva who gradually overcomes all his obstacles and achieves
enlightenment to spontaneously manifest all qualities intrinsically inherent in the mal).Qala. See Hodges
(2003 : 1 0, 1 1 , 29, and 3 3 ) . Thus for the of king of Guge, Vairocana is associated with original Indian
Buddhist tantra brought to Tibet during Trisong Detsen' s times and annotated by the 8th century master
B uddhaguhya. This tantra to a larger extent served as a common denominator with the original
Buddhism of "Holy India" and Chinese Buddhism with its institutions. Thus Yeshe 0 does not use
Vairocana as "symbolic code", just as a link, a reminder, of that past period, but recreates that past with
himself in the midst of it as a religious sovereign.
1 42 Kapstein (2008 : 90- 1 )
1 43 Kapstein (2008 :92-3)
1 44 van Schaik website http://earlytibet.coml2009!0 1I09/the-decline-of-buddhism-i v -keepers-of-the-flame!.
145 Hillis (2003 : 66)
146 Karmay (2007:9)
1 47 Kapstein (2008 : 96)
148 Yeshe 0 a s primal religious king of Guge in parallel to Trisong Detsen; Rinchen Zangpo a s the tantric
adept in parallel to Padmasambhava ; and Atisha as the Indian teacher and scholar in parallel to
S antarak�ita.
1 49 Davidson (2006: 108)
150 Stein in Gyatso ( 1 99 8 : 1 1 7)
151 Kapstein (2008 :96)
152 Kapstein (2008 : 1 03-4)
153 An example of such a transition that represents the increasingly prevailing hegemonic development is
that of Marpa' s fortress which was built for the purpose of protection as well as to reflect Marpa' s
increasing strength. According to traditional accounts the fortress was built by his disciple Milarepa, who
had been put through many trials in order to atone for his sins and was encouraged to bring his sorcery
powers to bear against Marpa' s enemies. See Kapstein (2000: 1 05). In fact Marpa had accumulated a great
deal of wealth as fees for performing rites and became a powerful and wealthy land owner (Wylie
1 964 : 2 8 ) .
He sought t o construct a fortress for protection o f h i s livestock, fertile valleys and the main river
downstream despite his neighbours ' general decision that no one should have a strategic fortress
dominating the fertile valleys and water (Wylie 1 964:285). Marpa then used Milarepa' s discipleship for
tactical purposes and ordered him to build towers' in several unimportant locations and to demolish the
half-finished structures. This confused his neighbours and reduced their alertnes s . By the time they
realized that Marpa had tricked them it was too late as Milarepa was able to complete seven levels of the
fortress and as a result Marpa was strategically in control of the valley. His neighbours then became his
subj ects and paid him tribute, taxes or corvee levied on their passage through his lands . See Wylie
( 1 964:286). Marpa and his cherished land holdings are an example of such a transition.
However, Marpa' s initiative should be looked at not only in terms of ensuring his ongoing safety and
economic prosperity but in terms of keeping the treasured texts and teachings he had brought back from
India protected and alive. Moreover, to have under his possession Buddhist texts of Sanskrit origin was
Notes 1 93

to possess something of the authority and authenticity of the teachings given by their original Indian
siddha owner. Thus Marpa' s local hegemony was, in a way, a curious combination of power, religion and
personal ambition and it is reflected in several other of his contemporary secular/religious leaders as shall
be noted below.
1 54 Stein ( 1 972:74)
155 Bessenger (20 10: 1 8)
156 Karmay ( 1 979: 1 5 1 )
1 57 Engaging in these activities he sought to imitate the old role of Tibetan tsenpo. In reinforcing Buddhism
as the royal religion and encouraging his people to follow the Buddhist rules and virtues, he aimed to
secure his kingly role.
158 Karmay ( 1 979: 1 5 1 )
159 van Schaik (20 1 1 : 56)
1 60 Karmay ( 1 979: 1 5 1 )
161 Huber (2008:40)
1 62 See n. 1 52
1 63 Karmay (2007 : 1 3)
1 64 Dudj om ( 1 99 1 )
1 65 Although the common classification of treasures relates to two main categories, earth and mental
treasures, it should be noted that treasure revealers such as Guru Ch6wang ( 1 2 1 2- 1 279) and Nyangral
Nyima OZer ( 1 1 24- 1 1 92) presented a more elaborated classificatory list of treasures . Nyima Ozer, for
example, included subcategories such as "life force treasures", "black magic treasures" and "handicraft
treasures". See Doctor (2005 :23)
1 66 Doctor (2005 : 23)
1 67 Doctor (2005 : 23)
168 van Schaik (2004: 34-5) . More about Longchenpa as a treasure revealer will be discussed while reviewing
his life in terms of autobiography and hagiography in the next chapter.
1 69 Davidson (2006:23 1 )
1 70 Davidson (2006: 232)
171 Wangchuk (2004: 1 74)
172 Davidson (2006: 234)
1 73 Davidson (2006:245)
1 74 Diikinzs are said to be female "celestial entities" that are bearers of wisdom transmitted to revealers by
means of symbols such as maQQ.alas, gestures, icons, etc. Only those familiar with ejiikinz language are
able to decode the symbols and understand and transmit them. According to Longchenpa, ejiikinzs are
entrusted with the teachings, to guard them until the time has come for their revelation (Doctor 2005 : 1 9) .
A further elaboration o n ejiikinzs ' other functions will b e discussed within the context o f Longchenpa as
a treasure revealer and the visionary communication he had with them as part of his visionary
175 Davidson (2006: 278)
l76 Kapstein (2006: 1 1 0)
1 77 Kapstein (2006: 1 1 1 )
l78 Kapstein (2006: 1 1 1 -2)
179 The "patron and priest" relationship requires closer examination because from a historical and cultural
perspective the relationship between a lama as revered receiver of donation (mchod gnas) and a royal
donor (yon bdag) is a key for studying later spiritual and temporal orders in Tibet. Although this type of
relationship is essentially religious and to a lesser extent official or institutional, a possible implication
of such a relationship could be that the donor would often perceive the priest as a protege and an
executor of their instructions and the donee sometimes would perceive the donor as a mere
"unenlightened lay person" incapable of proper action without their spiritual counsel. However, a
1 94 The Man From Samye

religious donee is not a "priest" and the notion of "patronage" creates a hierarchy where the religious
domain is subordinated to the temporal one which does not fit with the fundamental traditional place of
the donor in relation to the donee (Ruegg 1 997 : 863). It must be stated that in most thangkas, or Tibetan
religious paintings, the spiritual figures are situated higher and above the "patrons", which signifies the
Buddhist teaching' s priority over kingship, the sacred over the mundane. As Ruegg mentions, this type
of relationship entails an inherent conflict of interests between secularization and strict Buddhist
religious observance or commitment. For example, Biidon ( 1 290- 1 364) declined an invitation to the
Mongol court in Dadu (Beijing), avoiding an externally "secularized" patronage relationship with the
Mongols in favour of continuing to devote himself to his scholarly activities under internal, religiously
oriented patronage with the Sku zhang of the Zhalu myriarchy. Thus, this type of relationship between a
royal or princely "master of offering" and the "recipient of honour I ritual fees" existed in two major
forms, the first between the Tibetans and the Mongols and the second among the Tibetans themselves.
That is to say, Tibetan aristocrats, estate owners and even monasteries became patrons to Tibetan lamas
or to visionaries .
1 80 Richardson (2003 : 1 66)
181 Klong-chen rab-' byams-pa in Guenther ( 1 98 3 : ix)
1 82 Hillis (2003 :72)
183 van Schaik (20 1 1 : 83-4)
1 84 The thirteen-myriarchy structure of Tibet was established in 1 26 8 . A myriarchy (khri sde) is a grouping
of l O ,OOO houses. This was the basic taxation unit of Tibet imposed by the Mongol invaders in the 1 3th
century. These were administered by appointed officials whose title was "khri sde dpon", the "myriarch" .
See Historical Dictionary of Tibet, Powers and Templeman (20 1 2: 368)
1 85 van der Kuijp (2003 :426)
1 86 Butters (2006:42)
1 87 Butters (2006:43)
1 88 Hillis (2003 : 1 28)
1 89 Butters (2006:43-44)
1 90 More about the implications of Jangchup Gyaltsen' s victory over the Drigung for Longchenpa will be
discussed within the review of formative events in his biography in the next chapter.
191 Butters (2006:44)
1 92 The word "authentic" has been used above out of convenience rather than as a term that signifies some
specific meaning. "Authenticity" here has a relative sense according to whether the user acts as a treasure
revealer or as a member of the Kadam order.
193 Hillis (2003 :79). See also n.53 in p. 1 05 .
1 94 van der Kuijp (2003 :427)
1 95 Hillis (2003 :78)
196 For recent works which have dealt with the canon and its transmission, see Schaeffer (2009) and Eimer
(2000) .
1 97 Powers and Templeman (20 1 2 : 1 20- 1 2 1 )
198 Tibetan and Himalayan Digital Library (THDL):
http ://
199 Butters (2006: l O4)
200 Butters (2006: l O4)
20 1 Butters (2006: l O8)
202 Butters (2006: l O8)
203 Butters (2006 : l O3 ) . Chomden Rigpa-reldri (beom ldan Rig pa ' i ral gri) attempted to classify texts
translated into Tibetan and to arrange them into a canonical collection.
204 Butters (2006: 1 08)
205 In B arron (2007:255-7)
Notes 1 95

206 In Butters (2006: 1 28) .

207 For Longchenpa, these people will go through rebirth after rebirth in "fictitious" existence due to
ignorance and attachment which constitutes a "vicious cycle" that can be broken only through reliance
on a spiritual path. See Gennano ( 1 992: 862)
208 However, here Longchenpa takes the argument "from ignorance" and imposes it on the codifier of the
canon in order to cast doubt on the idea of Indian origin as the sole criterion because the Indian origin
criterion, being restricted geographically, involves doubt. From a critical point of view, as shown above,
the evidence that Longchenpa presents, that is to say, Indian tantras that existed already in places such
as OQ.4iyana, Sambala and Malaya, is insufficient.
209 Templeman (2008: 1 37)
210 Templeman (2008 : 1 37)
21 1 See Childs ( 1 999: 1 28)
212 My emphasis.
213 Butters (2006 : 1 28)
214 Ruegg ( 1 966)
215 For those travellers, "Holy" India was the idealized land of the Buddha and Buddhist religion and at the
same time it was the "country of opportunities". The motives of such travellers have been discussed
earlier in the case of Marpa.
216 Here, Longchenpa again uses the argument "from ignorance" .
217 Cleary ( 1 993 : 1 )
218 Ying (20 1 0: 1 03 , n.39)
219 Ying (20 1 0: 2 1 2, n.65)
220 Hamar (2007 : 1 55)
22 1 In their article 'Fragments of the Testament of Ba from Dunhuang' , van Schaik and Iwao show that
B asang shi ( 'Ba ' sangs shi) was a figure who was mentioned in the Testament of Ba as one of three
ministers who were involved in the process of Tibet' s conversion to Buddhism in connection to
Santaraksita in Samye. See van Schaik and Iwao (200 8 :4) . On the other hand Vairocana, the second
figure whom Longchenpa mentions in his argument against the canon codifier, was a legendary figure
"of whom practically nothing is known historically." See Karmay (2007 : 1 8) .
222 The Blue Annals, Go ( 1 976: 1 02, n. l )
223 The Blue Annals, Go ( 1 976: 1 03)
224 Hillis (2003 : 8 8)
225 In her discussion of the significant religious movements of 1 4th century Tibet, Bessenger does not
mention the Nyingmapa even once. See Bessenger (20 1 0 : 1 7-9). This reinforces the notion of Nyingma
marginality within Tibetan religious society of the 1 4th century.
226 Cicero (2004:5) and (2004 : 60- 1 )
227 Levy-Strauss ( 1 968:229)
228 Hillis (2003 : 1 1 2-5)
229 Arguillere (2007 : 1 4)
230 Hillis (2003 : 1 1 9)
23 1 Arguillere (2007 : 1 4) . A transmission lineage of Dzogchen teachings that goes back to Vimalamitra, who
according to Nyingma tradition lived in the 8th century . This lineage that has been passed on orally
throughout the ages and is of special importance for Longchenpa because according to tradition
Kumaraja, Longchenpa' s root teacher, is considered a reincarnation of Vimalamitra.
232 Hillis (2003 : 1 1 3)
233 Germano and Gyatso (2000 :250) . This text i s actually classified a s visionary autobiography, and
expresses an individual odyssey to revelation in the sense that the author draws upon his past life
experiences and meditative stasis accessible by metaphysical means. These visionary autobiographies
are intended to generate confidence in the authenticity of the visionary process of revealing the treasure­
teachings and they are retrieved by an authentic yogi.
1 96 The Man From Samye

234 Guenther ( 1 975:xiii)

235 Guenther ( 1 975:xiv)
236 Arguillere dedicates a detailed discussion to the various teachers with whom Longchenpa studied a wide
range of subjects, including sutra, tantra, Dzogchen and Doha. Arguillere (2007 : 23-93).
237 Hillis (2003 : 1 2 1 )
238 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :437)
239 Hillis (2003 : 1 2 1 )
240 Hillis (2003 : 1 2 1 )
24 1 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :437)
242 What is meant here by "an insider" is that Longchenpa received first-hand teachings from teachers that
belonged to the philosophical, spiritual approaches and ethics of various traditions including those of
243 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 :437)
244 Literally it translates as "The field of causality in thirty letters of the alphabet".
245 Aguillere (2007 : 8 3 -4)
246 Butters (2006: 27)
247 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :437)
248 Aguillere (2007 : 86)
249 Longchenpa in Thondup ( 1 996: 1 50)
250 Hillis (2003 : 1 22)
25 1 Nubchen Yeshe in Ying (20 10:286)
252 Gyatso ( 1 998 : 1 53)
253 According to Dudjom Rinpoche ( 1 99 1 : 582) Kumaraja was an incarnation o f Vimalarnitra, so i t is a s if
Longchenpa received the Heart Essence (snying thig) teaching from Vimalarnitra. Dudj om Rinpoche' s
notion is based o n self-referential hagiographical assertions . However i t is a means to show the
significance of direct transmission which generates confidence in the authenticity and mastery of the
specific lineage of teachings .
254 Germano and Gyatso (2000:250). See n.23 1 of the study.
255 Germano and Gyatso (2000:25 1 -2)
256 Germano and Gyatso (2000:262)
257 Germano and Gyatso (2000:246)
258 Germano and Gyatso (2000:247)
259 Longchenpa in Guenther ( 1 98 3 : 3 8 :n.9)
260 Guenther ( 1 989: 1 )
26 1 Guenther ( 1 989: 1 )
262 Guenther ( 1 989:3)
263 Longchenpa in Guenther ( 1 983 : 1 0)
264 Guenther ( 1 983 : 1 3 )
265 Templeman mentioned the above i n a conversation with the writer o f this study.
266 Longchenpa in Guenther ( 1 983 : 1 3)
267 Hillis (2003 : 1 26)
268 Hillis (2003: 1 22)
269 Oakes (20 1 0 : 208)
270 Oakes (20 1 0 : 2 1 0)
27 1 Hillis (2003 : 1 26)
272 Hillis (2003 : 1 24)
273 Guenther ( 1 983:xi-xii)
274 Aguillere (2007 : 1 07)
275 Aguillere (2007 : 1 08)
Notes 1 97

27 6 Aguillere (2007 : 1 1 3)
277 Richardson ( 1 985 :43)
27 8 Thondup ( 1 996: 1 60)
27 9 Aguillere (2007 : 1 20)
280 Hillis (2003 : 1 28)
28 1 Aguillere (2007 : 1 2 1 )
282 Hillis (2003 : 1 29)
283 Aguillere (2007 : 1 20)
284 Aguillere (2007: 1 2 1 )
285 Karmay (2000: 1 9)
286 Templeman, D, mentioned i n conversation.
287 Aris ( 1 979: 1 53 ) . Aris mentions that already i n the 1 2th century there was a presence o f Nyingma and
Dzogchen figures in Bhutan engaged in religious activities but without any reference to, or notion of, its
existence as a Hidden Land.
288 Childs ( 1 999: 1 27)
289 Aris ( 1 979: 60)
290 Childs ( 1 999 : 1 28). In May 20 1 2 I visited two lings in Bumthang, Bhutan: Tharpaling and Shingkhar.
Longchenpa is said to have been responsible for their construction. In each of those two active temples,
there are impressive statues of Longchenpa that serve as objects of worship, which in a sense shows that
Longchenpa is still "!i1ive" in Bhutan. However the caretakers of those two temples and lamas in these
places mentioned that according to their tradition Padma Lingpa is the reincarnation of Longchenpa.
29 1 Longchenpa in Hillis (2003 : 1 25)
292 Childs ( 1 999: 1 32)
293 Dudj om (2002: 7 80)
294 Hillis (2003 : 1 24-5)
295 Aris ( 1 979: 1 55)
296 Thondup ( 1 996: 1 6 1 )
297 Karmay (2000: 1 9)
29 8 Penjore (2005 : 60). For example, during a visit to the monastery at Ura in B umthang I heard from the head
of the monastery a story about Rahula, a celestial guardian figure who provided Longchenpa with food
and water and relieved him from those concerns so that he would be able to engage in religious activities
and write his seven treasures.
299 Aguillere (2007 : 1 26)
300 Roerich ( 1 98 8 :202)
301 Hillis (2003 : 1 29)
302 Butters (2006:45-6)
303 Gyatso (2000 : 1 88)
304 Butters (2006: 34)
305 Tarthang (2007:4 1 )
306 According to David Templeman the "translation" (Now That. . . ) does not i n any manner serve a s an
accurate rendering of the Tibetan, which would be: The Final Testament (which is like) Stainless Light or
The Testament of Stainless Light.
307 Butters (2006:35)
308 For categories and qualifications o f a master see Jamgong ( 1 999:49)
309 Longchenpa in Barron (2007)
310 Germano ( 1 992: 1 0)
31 1 Aguillere (2007 : 1 56)
312 Aguillere (2007 : 1 44)
313 Aguillere (2007 : 1 46)
198 The Man From Samye

3 14 Aguillere (2007 : 1 54)

315 The Tibetan Buddhist Resource Center
316 In Chagdud and Barron ( 1 998:xvi)
317 Aguillere (2007: 1 54)
318 Hillis (2003 : 89)
319 Thondup ( 1 996: 1 55-8); Hillis (2003 : 1 44-7); Germano ( 1 992 : 1 0- 3 8 ) ; Butters (2006:54-63); Guenther
( 1 97 5 : xiii-xxv)
320 Cornu ( 1 994)
321 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 )
322 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :437)
323 Germano ( 1 992: 1 5)
3 24 Germano ( 1 992: 1 4)
325 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :437).
326 The negation o f "effort-full methods" or goal-oriented spiritual practices will be discussed i n the
subsequent chapter (4), which will examine the rhetoric of negation from a historical point of view, and
in the chapter 5, which is about the negation of goal-oriented practices . The notion of "effortless
methods" will be discussed in chapter 6. A dichotomous sequence between goal-oriented practices and
effortless methods of practices will be discussed at length and clarified in chapter 7 .
However i t will sufficient t o provide a t this stage a preliminary explanation of the notion of
effortlessness, which means that there is no point in applying any effort in order to achieve the state of
natural awareness because one already possesses it. See Karmay (2007 :53)
327 Aguillere (2007 : 1 56)
328 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : xii) , I n h i s introduction t o Longchenpa' s book, Tulku
Thondup mentions a list of traditional teachers to show the importance attributed this work.
329 During my travels in Bhutan in May 20 1 2 I visited Tharpaling, Bumthang, which was established by
Longchenpa. At the distance of 3 00m up the mountain from Tharpaling there is a gigantic rock
overlooking the valley and on that rock there is a statue of Longchenpa in a position of meditation,
gazing into the vast space overlooking the valley. According to the head lamas of Tharpaling and Ura
monasteries in Bumthang it was on this rock that Longchenpa composed his seven treasures.
330 Germano ( 1 992:23)
33 1 Germano ( 1 992:23)
332 Hillis (2003 : 1 40)
333 Arguillere (2007 : 1 57)
334 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :440)
335 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and Barron ( 1 99 8 : 268)
336 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :xix)
337 van Schaik (2008 : 8)
338 van Schaik (2008 :26)
339 van Schaik (2008 :26-7)
340 These forms of negation will be discussed later in this chapter on Longchenpa' s negation.
34 1 van Schaik (2008 :8)
342 Nubchen Yeshe in Karmay (2007 : 1 07)
343 The notion of seeking liberation as a deviation is discussed in the subsequent chapter on Longchenpa' s
negation of spiritual practices.
344 Nubchen Yeshe in Karmay (2007 : 1 1 3)
345 Nubchen Yeshe in Karmay (2007 : 1 1 6)
346 Potter ( 1 963:49)
347 In Halbfass ( 1 98 8 :393)
348 Nubchen Yeshe in Ying (20 10:284)
Notes 1 99

349 Nubchen Yeshe in Ying (20 1 0:285)

350 Nubchen Yeshe i n Ying (20 1 0 : 286) . The principle o f acting without attachment had already been
expres sed in the Bhagavad Gzta 1 3 . 9 but in the context of actions that stem from requirements
determined by one ' s duties and responsibilities such as those found in the old Indian caste system or in
other social units like family. Non attachment in the Bhagavad wta 1 3 .9 is related to the results of one ' s
actions. That i s to say, one ' s duty dictates one' s actions and the non attachment i s from the results of
those actions, while in the case of Nubchen Yeshe actions are not attached to one ' s sense of duty or the
result of any action.
351 Lipman ' s commentary in Maiijusnmitra (200 1 :32)
352 Cornu ( 1 994:258)
353 Matilal (2008 : 3 3 1 ) . From a conventional perspective this knowledge i s not entirely wrong but partial
because there is still the relative truth which has validity when it comes to correct notions that
correspond with and are in accordance with a given obj ect.
354 M atilal (200 8 : 347 - 8 ) . Matilal grounds h i s interpretation of dulJkha o n the manner i n which i t i s
presented in the Visuddhimagga.
355 Studstill (2003 : 323)
356 Loy ( 1 997 :96)
357 Trungram (2004:9)
358 Trungram (2004: 54) Cary!aTi i s referred to as a yogic practice aimed at generating "mystic heat". When
the heat is kindled, ignorance is dispelled and knowledge shines forth. According to the oral instructions
of the Six Yogas by Tilopa (Mullin 2006:27) the body is regarded as being composed of a collection of
coarse/physical and subtle/metaphysiological channels or nerves that is to be brought under control by
means of yogic physical postures, breathing exercises, visualization, and so on. Of the system of subtle/
metaphysiological channels, three are considered as the main ones: two are located to the sides of the
central channel (located in proximity to the spine), termed avadhuti. When performing a specific
breathing exercise, the air inhaled through the nostrils connected with the two channels that are to the
sides of the avadhti, and the vital energy generated with the breathing is "forced" into the middle
channel (which is close and in parallel to the spine) rising upward and igniting the heat in the region of
navel that initiates an experience of bliss unified with clarity.
359 Trungram (2004: 84)
360 Milarepa i n Ardussi ( 1 977: 1 1 8-9)
361 In Trungram (2004:53)
362 Dewitt (2004:50)
363 Taranatha ( 1 983 :45)
3 64 Trungram (2004: 1 3 1 )
365 Trungram (2004:243)
366 Davidson (2006:288)
3 67 Gampopa in Trungram (2004:243-259)
368 Gampopa in Trungram (2004:289)
369 Jackson ( 1 994: 1 5-6)
370 Gampopa i n Trungram (2004:27 1 )
37 1 Yamamoto (2009:viii)
372 His most important teacher was Tsultrim Nyingpo (Sgom pa Tshul khrims snying of Dwags po, 1 1 1 6-
1 1 69) who was the eldest son of Gampopa' s older brother Gyapase (rGya pa se) and a direct disciple of
Gampopa. Tsultrim Nyingpo was a founder of a monastery, a political and religious leader, and an adept
of the Mahamudra that he had learned directly from Gampopa. It was from Tsultrim Nyingpo that Zhang
inherited Gampopa' s form of Mahamudra, the principle factor of which is that realization is synonymous
with recognizing the nature of mind.
373 Lama Zhang i n Martin ( 1 992: 267)
200 The Man From Samye

374 Lama Zhang in Martin ( 1 992:269)

375 Martin ( 1 992:273)
376 Martin ( 1 992:245)
377 Martin ( 1 992:245)
378 Martin ( 1 992:248 )
379 Yamamoto (2009 : 1 56)
380 Yamamoto (2009: 1 64-5)
381 Ganpopa in Trungram (2004:253)
382 Yamamoto (2009: 3 34)
383 van Schaik (2003 : 1 06-7)
3 84 Trungram (2004:253-257)
385 Norbu and Clemente ( 1 999:273 :n. 1 29)
386 Dudj om ( 1 99 1 : 397 , 5 99-606) . Dudj om Rinpoche indicates that Jfiana Kumara lived i n the late 8th
century and presents his hagiography.
387 Norbu ( 1 993 : 80- 1 )
388 van Schaik (2008 : 8)
389 Arguillere argues that the period when the meeting could have occurred was when Longchenpa left
Sangphu as a result of a conflict he had with some visiting monks from Kham. He concludes (Arguillere
2007 : 5 1 ) that Longchenpa could have met the Third Karmapa through his association with Drakpa
Sengge (Grags pa seng ge, 1 283- 1 349), the first Shamarpa (Zhwa dmar pa), who was a close disciple of
the Third Karmapa and who presented him with a red ceremonial crown and gave him the title of Red Hat
Lama. (Powers and Templeman 20 1 2 : 26 8 ) . Arguillere seems to make the hypothetical connection
between Longchenpa and Drakpa Sengge based on a notion in The Blue Annals (Roerich 1976:529) that
Drakpa Sengge performed a rite together with Tsultrim Lodro (Tshul khrims blo gros), which was the
abbreviated name of the young Longchenpa (tshul Khrims blo gros), see Longchenpa in Chagdud and
Barron (200 1 :437). Tsultrim Lodro is the name found in the colophon of the letter Longchenpa wrote to
the Third Karmapa, see Arguillere (2007 : 52). Ruth Gamble, who currently is in the process of writing her
PhD thesis about the Third Karmapa at ANU, Canberra, asserts that the later versions of the Third
Karmapa' s biographies say that he met Longchenpa, but not between 1 326 and 1 3 32, although such a
date does not seem impossi�le. She mentioned in conversation that he spent 1 327 in Tsurphu (mTshur
phu), 1 328 at Karma Goon in Kham and somewhere near there making a bridge, and 1 329- 1 33 1 in retreat
in Nakphu (Nags phu) (on the border of Kongpo and Kham). Then, in 1 33 1 , he came back to Lhasa to
resolve a conflict between Khampas and people from Tshalpa. Then at the beginning of 1 332 he left for
China/Mongolia. It seems possible that he met Longchenpa in his soj ourns in Lhasa, but the biographies,
which do mention their meeting locate it in 1 3 35- 1 33 6 with his return from China/Mongolia and six
months' stay at Chimphu in Samye.
Therefore it would be reasonable enough to suggest that Longchenpa could have met the Third Karmapa
towards 1 332.
390 Arguillere (2007 :50)
391 Arguillere (2007 :54-6). The passage was translated from French and verified by Dr David Templeman' s
reading of the Tibetan source which appears in parallel to the French translation provided by Arguillere.
3 �2 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 1 63)
393 Grub mtha 'mdzod (The Precious Treasury of Spiritual Systems), Longchenpa in Barron (2007 : 1 26).
394 Butters (2006: 1 57).
395 Longchenpa in Barron (2007 : 302)
396 McClintock and Dreyfus (2002: 296-7) . Cabezon i n his article 'The Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction:
two views in the 1 4th century' includes the views of Rendawa Shonnu Lodro and his famous disciple
Tsongkapa but does not refer to Longchenpa' s doxography The Precious Treasury of Spiritual Systems.
In his doxography Longchenpa presents clearly his understanding of the S v atantrika-Prasangika
Notes 20 1

distinction which could be a substantial contribution to Cabezon' s article and provide a broader and
more precise picture of the Svatantrika-Prasangika distinction in the 1 4th century.
397 http : //www . b erzinarchive s . com/web/en/archives/sutra/leve16_study_maj octexts/chatuhshatakal
398 Relinquishing views without being committed to a thesis is an important component i n Nagarjuna' s
pragmatic approach. This is expressed in his work the Vigrahavyavartani ("Dispeller of Disputes") in
verse 29, which will be the context for the following concise review of Prasangika-Madhyamaka and the
way in which it was accepted in Tibet.
One interpretation might argue that NagaIjuna used language to show that language itself is empty of
any definitive meaning, producing an inevitable "logical failure" . When confronted by his opponents
with this "logical failure", NagaIjuna strikingly replied: "If I had any thesis, that fault would apply to me.
But I do not have any thesis so there is indeed no fault for me. " See verse 29 in Westerhoff (20 1 0 : 29).
Along the same lines, NagaIjuna' s disciple Aryadeva in his Four Hundred Verses (Catul;1sataka) mentions
the same theme of disowning any position or thesis, claiming that it is not possible to level a criticism
against one who doesn' t have any position of asserting that something exists or doesn ' t exist. See in
Ruegg ( 1 986:230) .
These statements by Nagarjuna and A.ryadeva reflect the idea that a true Madhyamika must abandon or
disown any thesis. For Nagarjuna, concepts are empty of independent existence, therefore there is no way
in which one can know whether those concepts are reliable representations of a given reality or not.
Therefore concepts can delineate reality but not describe it. That is to say, without any concrete ground
of reality that has a solid frame of reference, any argument concerning this absence would be wrong. It is
in this sense that Nagarjuna believed he was not forming any argument, hence for him there was nothing
wrong in his statement. His interest was to point to the empty nature of the world of phenomena without
saying anything; without forming a new concept; without offering an alternative "right" way to perceive
reality; and without subscribing to any theory, including one about emptiness, because any view that
one would want to adopt as a representation of realty will be empty - including one ' s own view that there
is no view that accurately corresponds to reality.
In considering NagaIjuna' s statement "I have no thesis (pratijfia)", if Nagarjuna were to reply and agree
with his opponent that his statement is empty it would mean that sunyata would be nihilistic, and if
Nagarjuna were to reply and disagree with his opponent, saying that his statement is not empty, it would
mean that sunyata would be eternalist. But for Nagarj una, sunyata is neither nihilistic nor eternalist.
In this respect, Ruegg argues that (a) NagaIjuna' s statement "I have no thesis (pratijfia)" does not imply
that that he has nothing of philosophical meaning to say nor that he rej ects all the philosophical
meanings of the sutra teachings he wrote and commented on, and (b) Nagarj una' s aim is to "reduce" his
opponent' s views through a process of reductio ad absurdum that brings the philosophizing to an end,
and by which he tries to escape from any commitment to a clear answer to his opponent. See in Ruegg
( 1 9 8 6 : 232).
This recalls Sailkara' s answer to the question raised by his opponent in Brahma-Sutras 4. 1 .3 : "Whose is
Avidya?" The term avidya implies the following logical dilemma: According to Sankara there is only
one true reality, namely Brahman; if avidya belongs to Brahman, then the monism of Sankara loses its
validity; yet if avidya belongs to the individual subject, then that subject can never be released from it.
Sankara answers : "Avidya is yours since you asked about it." That is, avidya belongs to the one who
posed the question as it occurred in their discursive mind. Ingalls argues that in his reply Sailkara avoids
giving a clear answer and in fact avoids the difficulty raised by the dilemma (Ingalls 1 953).
Returning to Nagarj una' s statement "1 have no thesis (pratijfia)", in conversation Ian Mabbett has
expres sed the view that Nagarjuna is actually saying, "I am not the one advancing the assertion in
question (pratijfia)" , which happens to entail the attribution of substantial reality to things. The outcome
of these interpretations including Ruegg' s is that they reject the common idea that NagaJjuna claimed
not to be asserting anything.
202 The Man From Samye

According to Ruegg, CandrakIrti (7th century), a Prasangika-Madhyarnika, has commented on the first
verse of NagaIjuna' s Miilamadhyamakakiirika (see note 5 of this thesis): "Neither from itself nor from
another, Nor from both, Nor without a cause, Does anything whatever, anywhere arise" . Candraklrti
explicitly presents these four points in the form of theses but these assertions never entail the existence
of anything which has independent self-nature. This is evident in CandrakIrti ' s paraphrasing of the first
verse of NagaIjuna' s Miilamadhyamakakiirika:
Nothing can arise from itself, yet how [can it arise] from another? It does not [arise] from both [itself
and another] , nor could it be without a cause? There is no point to a thing arising from itself.
Moreover, it is wrong for that which is already produced to be produced y et again. (Fenner
1 990:227)
It can be seen clearly that while NagaIjuna employs a radical style of negation, CandrakIrti in a certain
way is willing to assume that something is already produced.
Ruegg goes on to mentions that CandrakIrti, as a Prasangika-Madhyamika, employs the assertion of
theses of a certain kind unlike those of Bhavaviveka (6th century), a Svatantrika-Madhyamika who
employed constructive independent references in order to establish the Madhyamaka doctrines. That is,
Bhavaviveka put forth an argument that can withstand any analysis and would validate the existence of
things at the relative level but which would deny them ultimately.
As the question of whether a Madhyamika should hold a thesis or a philosophical view is not entirely
resolved, Ruegg suggests that the resolution can be found in the Tibetan sources. Relevant to study in
this regard is 1 4th century Tibet, in which important figures such as Rendawa Shonnu Lodr6 (Red mda'
ba gZhon nu blo gros, 1 349- 1 4 1 2) the Sakyapa, who wrote the earliest commentary on the Four Hundred
Verses of Aryadeva, and his famous disciple Tsongkapa ( 1 357- 1 4 1 9), the founder of the Kadam (later,
Gelug) school, viewed Candrakirti ' s Prasailgika-Madhyamaka as the only v alid interpretation
of Madhyamaka (McClintock and Dreyfus 2002:295) . For Tsongkapa, according to Ruegg, the question
of asserting a thesis or a philosophical view is not mainly a logical or methodological problem but a
matter of epistemological importance, connected to the non-substantiality and empty nature of things
(Ruegg 1 986:234) .
To conclude regarding the views of NagaIjuna, CandrakIrti and Tsongkapa, it appears that the phrase
"not having any thesis to admit" refers to a more specific and focussed meaning and merely concerns not
having a particular thesis, rather than a total or radical negation of any philosophical theses.
It appears that the use of the commonly distinguished two types of negation - paryudasa, implied
negation, and prasajya, not-implied or non-affirming negation - as hermeneutical keys can provide a
strong explicatory component to NagaIjuna' s reply in the sense that his negations aimed at denying any
proposition without implying an alternative thesis, positive or negative. The notion of paryudasa had
already appeared in some of NagaIjuna' s works such as the Yukti�a�tika, which asks, "How could there
be another' s position for those who have no position?" That is to say, if there is an assertion then
implicitly there is a counter-assertion. The appearance of absolute negation is expressed in the first verse
of Nagarj una' s Miilamadhyamakakiirika, which states that the thing is neither produced from itself
nor from another. This is an absolute negation, prasajya, in the sense that the statement regarding
production from self, for example, does not commit one to the affirmation of a sentence stating
production from another and vice versa. Candrakirti' s interpretation of the first verse of NagaIjuna' s
Miilamadhyamakakiirika clearly indicates that the doctrinal position of Prasangika-Madhyamaka is that
of non-affirming negation in the form of neither p nor not-p (Candrakirti in Sprung 1 979:36).
Using the philosophical lens, one might argue in a similar manner to Ingalls with regard to Sailkara, and
to Ruegg with regard to NagaIjuna, that Nagarjuna' s response, "I have no thesis (pratijiia)", was an
attempt to escape from any commitment to a clear answer and thereby to avoid the difficulty of the
dilemma produced in relation to the status of language. However, NagaIjuna was not merely interested
philosophical discussions but had a soteriological intention (Jones 1 97 8 : 4 8 5 ) with pedagogical
therapeutic aims, and used language in a performative manner rather than an argumentative one, pointing
Notes 203

to the empty road of discursive thinking. His response was a preventive act against falling under the grip
of confusion or wrong cognition, allowing release from the compulsive search for certainty.
Turning back to the case of Sailkara, Ingalls is an example of a researcher who sees S ailkara as a
philosopher and therefore expects his philosophical arguments to be clear and consistent. But Sailkara, in
his reply, "Avidya is yours since you asked about it", had a pedagogical intention to shock his opponent,
to cause his opponent an emotional insecurity and to challenge the discursive process by which they set
up their perception, which characterizes conditioned existence in avidya. By means of his striking,
perplexing reply, Sallkara directs his opponent to the one and only reality, that of Brahman. That is, the
pedagogical move employed by Sailkara is an acaryian means (an acarya is one who guides students
towards liberation) which aims to remove his opponent' s wrong knowledge, guiding them towards the
realization of liberation (mok�a) .
The unflagging attempts of Ingalls and other researchers to point out logical failures in the philosophy of
S ailkara, and to question the consistency in his thought, indicate that they perceive S ailkara as a
philosopher and commentator only , while S ailkara is s imultaneously "teacher-guru " , and his
philosophical statements are pedagogically motivated, pointing towards Brahman.
Approaching Nagatjuna in a similar manner, his MUlamadhyamakakarika 25.24 (Shulman 20 1 0: 1 5 8)
shows clearly that his interest was to bring about the cessation of conceptual discursive proliferation and
intense projections, including the concept that the Buddha thought the Dharma somewhere to someone.
The peaceful mind, at rest, empty of concepts regarding real entities or their. absence, is associated with
the state of Nirvfu).a. In this vein, according to Jones ( 1 986:486), Nagatjuna' s method is not to advance
a thesis �ut to show that no other position can be maintained.
Nagatjuna has been interpreted and criticised in a number of ways. To list a few : (a) His tetralemma,
based on binary mode of thinking, has been criticised as not representing reality, which is endowed with
"grey areas", and hence incomplete (Scharfstein 1 995 : 1 45 -2) (b) Jones argues Nagarj una did not
differentiate between physical and conceptual dependence ( 1 986:498). (c) Ruegg claims that in replying,
"I have no thesis (pratijiia)", Nagatjuna tried to escape from any commitment to a clear answer to his
opponent ( 1 986:232). (d) Mabbett, in considering the reply, "I have no thesis (pratijiia)", rej ects the
c o mmon i d e a that Nagarj una c l aimed not to be a s s erting anything . Notwithstanding the s e
interpretations , Nagatj una' s principal motive w a s a pedagogical one, which was t o remove wrong
Longchenpa followed in the footsteps of the Prasailgika-Madhyarnika thinkers, and referred extensively
to the works of Candrakirti and Nagatjuna, taking them as the base of his rhetoric of negation.
399 Eckel ( 1 987:36)
400 Butters (2006 : 1 59)
40 1 Longchenpa in Barron (2007 : 1 1 1 )
402 Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 1 1 -2)
403 Avi Sion presents Nagatjuna' s tetra lemma as a derivative of the Aristotelian three laws of logic. He
interestingly asserts that while the Aristotelian three laws of logic serve to distinguish between true and
false judgments Nagatjuna' s tetra lemma intends the death of Logic. S ee http://www.thelogician.netl
3b_buddhisCillogic/3b_chaptecO l .htm . For another interesting discussion of Nagatjuna' s tetra lemma
see B en-Ami Scharfstein' s work In Judgement of Buddhism in which he also asserts that Nagmj una
borrowed from everywhere in order to kill logic and the natural or intuitive view that whatever might be
perceived by the senses is real. According to Scharfstein, in reference to Greek philosophy, he uses the
Aristotelian laws of contradiction and those of the excluded middle to exhaust all logical possibilities
and adds arguments similar to Greek scepticism against the possibility of proving nothing. Further, in his
In Judgement of Buddhism Scharfstein provides a critique of the tetra lemma showing its areas of
deficiency as a logical tool that could access a real representation of reality. However the principal point
here is that Nagatjuna intended to kill logic in order to show that philosophy is empty of independent
nature hence inefficient in providing perception of reality as it is.
204 The Man From Samye

404 Longchenpa in Barron (2007 : 1 20).

405 Mabbett (forthcoming: 1 74) . For other works refering to paryudasa and prasajya see Matilal ( 1 97 1 : 37-8)
406 Hillis (2003 :252-3)
407 Details about the "new wave of translations" in relation to Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation have
already been discussed in chapter 2, Setting the Scene and chapter 3, Longchenpa' s Life and Works.
408 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 8-9)
409 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :95)
410 Fenner ( 1 990: 1 43)
41 1 B utters (2006 : 398). Here, Longchenpa clearly mentions affirming negation (ma yin dgag) and non­
affirming negation (med dgag) and makes use of these forms of negation in analysis of the view that
multiplicity in a single entity accepts illusion as an ultimate reality. Although the notion of prasajya as
mere absence can be debatable as somebody may reject the truth of 'I have stopped beating my wife' can
assert a thesis asserting 'I have never started beating my wife' . But what is then the motivation of making
such a non affirming negation to start with?
412 Tsepak ( 1 986: 320). Tsepak, in his dictionary of Buddhist terminology, explains absence (Tibetan: meds
pa) to be a non-affirming negative and a non-existent (Sanskrit: asat) which according to Bhattacharya' s
glossary of Indian religious terms and concepts refers also to what is unmanifested. See Bhattacharya
( 1 990 : 24) .
413 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron ( 1 998 : 8 1 )
414 Klein ( 1 986: 1 77)
415 Klein ( 1 986: 1 77)
416 Although med pa i s translated here as ineffability, as quoted from Richard B arron' s translation of
Longchenpa' s text, its meaning as absence is more accurate. It is because ineffability refers primarily to
an indescribable positive while absence refers to being a non-affirming negation, which corresponds with
Longchenpa' s intention in his rhetoric of negation.
417 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron ( 1 998: 84)
418 Fenner ( 1 990: 1 44)
419 Fenner (2002: 30)
420 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 83)
42 1 Here I refer to the Prasailgika view as understood by Longchenpa, although there may be significant
differences between various Prasailgika thinkers , e . g . Candrakirti and Nagarj una himself, whether
acknowledged by them or not.
422 Williams ( 1 998)
423 Longchenpa in Barron (2007 : 1 26)
424 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 6 1 -2)
425 Hillis (2003 :252)
426 Germano ( 1 994:209)
427 Hillis (2003: 1 83)
428 Bataille was born in France in 1 897 to a syphilis-infested and blind father and a mother of questionable
sanity. His family was non-religious and he was not schooled within any religious tradition. In the First
World War B ataille and his mother evacuated their home, leaving his father behind because he was
incapable of travelling. His father died a year later, raving and delirious, refusing ministration from a
priest. An indelible imprint was left on B ataille by these events. Soon afterwards B ataille had a mystical
experience leading him to undertake religious studies at the seminary of Saint Fleur with the intention of
becoming a monk. After five years he broke away from C�ri stian faith but he never tired of inserting
Christian notions into his writing in order to subvert them.
In 1 920 Bataille was awarded a scholarship to study in Madrid. During this period he began an intensive
study of foreign languages including Tibetan, familiarized himself with "lamaism" and dreamed of
travelling to Tibet. The term "lamaism" was coined more than likely by Laurence Austine Waddell
Notes 205

( 1 854- 1 938) in the later part the 1 9th century. It referred to what is currently known as the Mahayana
Buddhism of Tibet. It was also referring in particular to the cult of 'priestcraft' in which the lama took
over all ritual control over people and controlled their lives even after death. It was largely a derogatory
version of what non-Catholics called 'popery . '
Although i n h i s early life h e was concerned with the formation o f societies and movements , at the
coming of the Second World War he took an "inward turn", focusing on interior or mystical states that
led him to the writing of his work Inner Experience in 1 940. He had recurring bouts of tuberculosis for
the remainder of his life, and was discharged from the French army. Perhaps this malady contributed to
his "inward turn" and his interest in yoga.
In 1 934 he suffered a severe psychological crisis followed a by separation from his wife and in 1 938 his
passionate love, Collette Peignot, passed away. In 1 940 he started writing Inner Experience and in 1 942
became very ill with and had to leave his work at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris.
His early encounter with disease and death marked him with the necessity to tum inward and write in
order to survive or even to delay his own death. Writing was his means of communication, of creativity
and of having his own personal Inner Experience. He died in July 1 962. See Jones ( 1 98 8 : 1 7-8).
429 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 3)
430 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 8)
43 1 A contemporary consideration of the place and role of negation in philosophical inquiries is presented in
Raphael Foshay ' s work (2002) 'Tarrying with the negative: Bataille and Derrida' s reading of negation in
Hegel' s phenomenology' .
Hegel positions the spirit (Geist) at the heart of his discourse and the role of negation is the engine
behind the discourse. In Hegel ' s discourse, negation is a tool that is defined by its contradictory character
as an existing "nothing", which exists only through contradiction. That is to say, negation of something
might have a positive meaning as an assertion or understanding regarding the central topic, Geist in
Hegel' s Phenomenology, which he treats from the point of view of relating to it by means of experience.
Here spirit is taken as one ' s spirit, consciousness, and mind, or more precisely as one ' s "experiential
understanding" .
Hegel' s point of departure is the human condition of experiencing life through habits, striving to make
everyday life familiar and safe, and observing the world of phenomena in order to identify patterns,
which renders experience predictable and safe. If one wants to know the world of phenomena one needs
to inquire and consider phenomena' s representations and descriptions in one ' s mind, and analyse one' s
thoughts towards dissolution of relative meanings and concretene s s of mental content into their
component aspects. This analysis allows discernment between the representations of the empirical world
and the understanding principle itself. In Hegel' s words:
The activity of dissolution or analysis is the power and work of the understanding, the most
astonishing and mightiest of all powers , or rather the absolute power. The circle that remains
enclosed, and like substance holds its moments together, is an immediate relationship . . . which has
nothing astonishing about it. But that an accident as such detached from what circumscribes it, what
is bound and is actual only in its context to others, should attain an existence of its own and a
separate freedom - this is the tremendous power of the negative; it is the energy of the pure ' 1 ' . (See
Foshay 2002:297)
For Hegel the analysis that looks into dis s olving mental constructs entail s habitual subj ective
representations and descriptions of given phenomena. It is an absolute power that can lead towards
experiential, living understanding, not only in terms of comprehension but in terms of apprehension of
pure "I", self-knowledge. The move from the familiar world as known to us towards freedom is a move
towards the unfamiliar, which is possible only due to the power of negation, and experiencing the
unfamiliar is like a shock caused by an accident taking place within the familiar closed-circle dimension
of life. For Hegel the power of negation is an astounding power which has the capacity to dissolve
perceptions and their equivalent concepts into their elements. The power of negation is so tremendous
206 The Man From Samye

because it is capable of active experiential discernment between the familiar and the unfamiliar
dimensions of life. The understanding is negative because it negates the familiar context of practical
experience and by creating a contradiction triggers tension between the static world of objects and the
dynamic subject who dissolves by means of analysis not only phenomena but also themselves as thought
into the most fundamental and fine elements. Therefore within this process of understanding, Geist is
experienced as consciousness. The contrast between B ataille and Hegel is of interest in that B ataille
displaces the premises of Hegel ' s system (see 'Bataille 1 988:x) and exposes an internal space, naked and
free of ties, a sovereign one in the sense that it is not subordinated or revealed by a discourse, while
Hegel seeks to reveal Geist experienced as consciousness by means of a gradual discourse of negation.
Roughly, in terms of the Tibetan controversy between the gradual and simultaneous paths, B ataille
would be a simultaneist and Hegel a gradualist.
432 Bataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 2)
433 Minkkinen (2005 : 252)
434 Holland (2004:27)
435 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 7 , 1 2, 1 02) While developing his method o f contestation B ataille had two meetings with
Maurice Blanchot in which he discussed with him the theme of contestation. Blachot insisted that
contestation is a principal foundation of spiritual life.
436 Holland (2004:28)
437 Minkkinen (2005 : 254)
438 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 2)
439 B ataille ( 1 988 :4)
440 Longchenpa in Cornu ( 1 994:265).
De meme, une meditation naturelle ne necessite pas de phases de creation et de perfection.
Si de telles methods d' adoption et de rejet on pour finalite l ' aise naturelle,
n n ' y a pas d' effort a fournir;
Dans Ie cas contraire, elles n' ont plus de sens, comme vouloir transformer du charbon en or.
44 1 Cornu ( 1 994:263). I have added in squared parenthesis words based on Fenner' s translation that are in
accordance with the context of the passage and its poetic form. The ending of the passage with three
points is as in Cornu ' s translation.
442 Cornu ( 1 994:263)
Le contenu des tantras, Kriya, Ciirya, Yoga and Anuttarayoga comportre les nombreux artifices des
phases de creation et de perfection,
Mais les pratiquants n'y approchent pas Ie cours naturel de l ' espritnnon corrige et spontanement preset,
Empetres qu' ils sont dans les filets de l ' elaboration mentale.
443 In Butters (2006:298-707).
444 Butters (2006: 602) .
445 Butters (2006: 603) .
446 Lochen Dharmashri: in Dewitt (2004: 1 05-6)
447 Butters (2006: 606) .
448 Butters (2006: 608-9).
449 Drops are considered as 'nucleus ' , 'core' or essence either of the five elements, masculine principle as a
white drop that represents male semen, feminine principle as a red drop that represents the menstrual
blood of the woman or of the Buddha as dark blue drop surrounded with rainbow colours that represent
all the appearances in their purified and natural condition in a single seminal point. See in Ahmad
(2007 : 1 7 1 , 1 9 1 )
450 Cornu ( 1 994:264).
D ' autres encore pratiquent l ' union en contr6lant les souffles, et disant:
« Le sens naturel reside dans la felicite-vacuite » ;
Pris dans Ie filet OU ils hesitent entre adoption et rejet.
Notes 207

Jamais ces gens-Ia ne verront Ie but essentiel.

Tout sont trompes par des doctrines de l' analyse,
Et, enchaines a cette existence, ils n' ont pas l' occasion de s' en liberer.
45 1 For Longchenpa' s activities in his exile in Bhutan, see in chapter 3 .
452 Cornu ( 1 994:265)
A present, voici ce qu' est I ' essence adamantine insurpassable:
Sans mantras, ni tantras, sans these philosophique a admettre,
Elle n' est pas etiquetable, n ' a ni vue, ni meditation, ni actions ni fruit.
Etat du maJ'.l4ala unique ou tout et egal et parfait.
Les theories y prennent fin, vue, meditations, actions et fruit s ' y parachevent,
Egaux et parfait, samsara et nirvana sont l' extention de la realite absolut.
45 3 Cornu ( 1 994:264)
Se disent des � esprits purifies -ceux qui ont une vue, une meditation, une action et un fruit:
Certains d' entre eux ecartent la discrimination et les sensations,
D ' autres tranchent Ie lien quis unit les trois temps,
Apres quoi ils proclament :�C' est la conscience du present qui traverse tout.
Les autres comptabilisent les naissances et les cessations des pensees et appellent � sans reel ce qui
n' est que
Le remous des vagues des pensees discursives.
454 Dalai Lama (2007 : 1 09). In this work, the Dalai Lama offers his commentary to Longchenpa' s trilogy
Finding Comfort and Ease in Meditation on the Great Perfection (NgaZgso skor gsum) .
455 Cornu ( 1 994: 264)
Helas ! Ne reconnaissant pas les signes precieux.
lIs rejettent leurs vUux et semblent a la recherche de breloques ;
Rejetant la supreme et authentique nature d e l ' esprit,
lIs s ' enchainent dans la cage des fantomes artificiels de I' espoire et de la crainte.
Un esprit qui s ' efforce j amais ne se liberera !
Poursuivant sa recherche, Ie chercheur s ' avilit.
456 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 2)
457 Cornu ( 1 994:264-5)
Si les objets, l ' esprit et ses perceptions se presentent sous Ie mode de la vacuite,
II est inutile de les detruire par l' opinion � c ' est vide ! ,-
Et S ' ils ne Ie sont pas, une telle consideration ne les rendra pas vides.
Toute cette fatigue insensee, pour quoi faire ?
45 8 In Stryk ( 1 968:9 1 -4)
459 Cornu ( 1 994:266)
Le roi sans but reconnait (les phenomens) sans si attarder
Car ce sont les conceptions deterrninantes qui enchlnent toutes choses.
Sans rien concevoir, il reconalt la S agesse dans Ce qui s ' eleve:
C' est Ie flot originel, vide en lui-meme, fraise et authentique
Soyez sur de cette vue debarrasses des croyances et des opinions !
460 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 3-4)
46 1 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 7 )
462 Bataille ( 1 98 8 : 22)
463 For Bataille the extreme limit of the possible represents a space where all knowledge is contested and
exhausted, a thre shold where all discursive knowledge including the wish to b e everything or
omnipotent ceases and non-knowledge begins, leading to the Inner Experience.
464 Most of his knowledge on yoga he draws from Vivekananda' s Raja Yoga. In his work Vivekananda
( 1 863- 1 902) translated and interpreted the yoga sutras of Patafijali according to the principles of Advaita
208 The Man From Samye

Vedanta to suit his socio-political ideas and agenda. Vivekananda, who was a student of Ramakrishna,
became one of the influential leading figures who shaped modem Indian thought and the Neo-Hindu
spirit, the reviver of the Vedanta who believed in its potential to lead to a cultural integration, to
establish the Hindu national identity and to bring about hannony between the various world religions.
He was interested to present the non-dual Vedanta as a religious universalism originated in India and his
ideas draw interest in Europe and prominent scholars such as Max Muller. Paul Deussen, Schopenhauer' s
student, made Advaita Vedanta and S ankara, the focal point of their research. They all "used" the
metaphysical option of Sailkara' s monism for expressing their worldview, deriving from diverse motives
such as Muller ' s romanticism that saw roots of European culture in its "Indian childhood" and Deussen' s
notion of metaphysical essence, "the voice of the One nature" . Thus the main source of B ataille is
Vivekananda' s Raja Yoga, which translated and interpreted the yoga sutras of Patafij ali according to the
principles of Aadvaita Vedanta while being based on a dual philosophy, one of pralqti, the essence of
matter and puru�a, the essence of awareness or spirit. To understand in depth the yoga sutras of Patafijali
one needs to refer to classical interpreters such as Vyasa (4th or 5th century) or Vacaspati Misra
( 1 0th century) or modem ones such as Hariharananda Aranya ( 1 869- 1 947) who lived in the time that
B ataille lived.
B ataille also relies on Schopenhauer who, according to Halbfass ( 1 990: 1 22), perceived himself as the
successor of Kant and who researched Advaita Vedanta in order to substantiate his philosophical ideas.
That is to say, Schopenhauer too "used" the metaphysical option of Sankara' s monism for expressing his
worldview. B ataille may have received some of his ideas regarding Buddhism from Schopenhauer,
"whose thought, partly under Indian influence, exhibits numerous, and almost miraculous, coincidences
with the basic tenets of Buddhist philosophy" . See in Foljambe (2008 : 1 23).
Other sources Bataille relied on in his work were Alexandra David-Neel, whose works would be classified
as 'popular with a degree of core knowledge' , and Mircea Eliade' s accounts of mystical practice amongst
the Tibetans, which are classified as ' scholarly' works that as Ninian Smart puts it (see in Rennie 1 996:5),
are shrouded in ambiguities in general and entail in particular the inaccurate observation that Tibetan
Buddhist practices affected Siberian shamanism while jn reality Siberian shamanism influenced Tibetan
Buddhist practices . See Foljambe (2008 : 1 5 8). Bataille also relied on conversations he had with Eliade in
which he expressed the view that the most lucid exposition of Tantrism was in Eliade' s work on yoga
from 1936. See Foljambe (2008 : 1 7 1 ) .
B ataille' s knowledge of yoga and Buddhism was also based on Romain Rolland' s popular biographies of
Ramakrishna and Vivekananda and encyclopaedic works such as Histoire de L 'Asie, Les Religions de
L 'Inde, Mystiques et Magiciens du Thibet, and Les Civilisations de L ' Orient. See Foljambe (2008 : 1 50).
Hence B ataille ' s knowledge of yoga and B uddhi sm was drawn mo stly from popular work s ,
encyclopaedic literature and limited scholarly works despite the fact that between 1 900 and the 1 940s
there were many Indologists and Tibetologists whose scholarly works and translations are profound and
critical, but which he did not consider. To list a few such authors : Tucci ( 1 894- 1 9 84); Thomas
( 1 867- 1 956); Dennison-Ross ( 1 87 1 - 1 940) ; Theodore Ippolitovich Stcherbatsky ( 1 866- 1 942) ; Waddell
( 1 854- 1 93 8 ) ; Franz Anton Schiefner ( 1 8 1 7- 1 879); and the brothers Adolph ( 1 829- 1 8 57), Hermann
( 1 826- 1 882) and Robert ( 1 83 3 - 1 885) Schlagintweit.
B ataille' s critique of yoga and Buddhism is accordingly limited. He actually contested methods that
were partially known to him, mostly from intellectual activity and limited practice, a product of a
combination of curiosity, idealization and eclectic auto didacticism.
465 Vivekananda ( 1 953 : 625) . "Yoga is the restraining o f the mind-stuff from taking various fonns. "
466 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 5)
467 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 6) . Bataille substantiates his assertion regarding the breathing practice component of
yoga, the control of prana (pranayama) based on Vivekananda' s Raja Yoga that included three detailed
chapters on prana, the vital force in every sentient being, and psychic prana, that is the vital energy in
meta-physiological nerves of beings and its mastery. According to Vivekananda, controlling the prana
and conducting it through the body and meta-physiological nerves culminates in objectless perception
Notes 209

in which then the principle of awareness or spirit (puru�a) is separated from its entanglement with the
principle of matter in the universe (prakrti), rest in its true nature, as expressed in the yoga sutras of
Pataiij ali 1 . 3 . See in Vivekananda ( 1 95 3 : 592-6 1 1 ),
468 B ataille ( 1 9 8 8 : 1 7)
469 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 2 1 -22)
470 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 7)
47 1 B ataille ( 1 9 8 8 : 1 83)
472 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 83 )
473 H e developed methods o f meditation o n photographs o f torture that bear similarity t o the techniques
used in the Tibetan chad (gcod) rite, with which he was familiar from having read the work of Alexandra
David-Neel. See in Foljambe (2008: 1 76). In both of these practices, the deconstruction of the body
and its sensations is seen as a means of releasing attachments to the sense of self or agency and its
In B ataille' s case, his need for a drama in order to "get out of himself' drove him to fixate on a
photograph entailing a Chinese man who found his death in torture, concentrating on his dismembered
parts, blood and its horror. B ataille reports that the tortured figure communicated his pain to him and it
was precisely that which he was seeking, not so as to take pleasure in it, but in order to dismantle in
himself that which is opposed to destruction, that is to say, in order to contest and deconstruct the sense
of aversion that occupied his mind and that was an obstacle to Inner Experience. See in B ataille
( 1 988 : 1 1 9) . The practitioner of chad seeks to effect interconnectedness with the ground of being from
which they have borrowed their body, by offering it in return. The ritual of offering is done for the sake
of release from c.onstant identifications with the notion of self and attachments to the sense of agency,
and for the sake of the common good of all sentient beings, including demons and horrifying deities.
In both practices meditation is involved, where B ataille' s entail concentration on an external object and
chad includes visualization and recitation of mantras and prayers.
474 Thondup ( 1 996: 284)
475 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :220-22 1 )
476 Hillis (2003 :42)
477 Hillis (2003 :44)
478 Visvader ( 1 97 8 :455-6). John Visvader used the term "uroboric" t o designate philosophies that refute
themselves, in accordance with a similar symbol used by the Gnostics and the medieval alchemists which
depicts a serpent, Uroboros, bent in a circle and swallowing its own tail. Sometimes Uroboros is shown
transforming itself into a salamander. The swallowing of one ' s tail represents the erasing of one ' s
footprints, and transforming oneself into a salamander represents the transformation from discursive mind
to clear natural awareness, from ignorance to wisdom. The salamander is said to be a lizard which can
survive fire and become increasingly more powerful because of it. It is therefore a commonly used
metaphor for the mind which becomes stronger, more flexible (or whatever) through adversity and
through philosophical exercises such as dealing with emptiness.
479 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 9 1 )
480 A story I heard from David Templeman, shows that a metaphor i s not always a substitute for a valid proof:
A young ten-year-old boy, at the beginning of the 20th century, who was later to become a great
mathematician, was talking with a priest about proof of god ' s existence. The priest said, "You can ' t see
God but you can feel him." He said, "It' s like flying a kite on a cloudy day . . . . you can ' t see the kite
because of clouds but can see the string going into the clouds and can feel it pulling." The priest said,
"There must be something you can ' t see but know the existence of .. .like God." The boy said, "If it was a
cloudy day there would be almost no chance of there being enough wind to fly the kite", and at ten years
of age he utterly abandoned any chance of possessing a belief in religion.
The story comes from a novel about the real life mathematician G.H. Hardy who was the boy. It deals with
his homo-erotic relationship with the real life Indian mathematician Srinivasa Ramanuj an. The novel
(based on facts) is called The Indian Clerk and is by David Leavitt, and was published by Bloomsbury,
210 The Man From Samye

2007 .
48 1 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 0 1 )
482 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 04)
483 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : xii) . Longchenp a ' s A Treasure Trove of Scriptu ral
Transmission contains thirteen chapters. The ftrst nine chapters teach the view of Dzogchen, the tenth
teaches meditation, the eleventh conduct, the twelfth the immediate results on the path, and the
thirteenth the fruit.
484 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 :xii-xiii)
485 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 :xiv)
486 I t might b e important to remind the reader that Longchenpa' s texts concerning the rhetoric o f negation
were written at the end of his life when he was already recognized for his mastery of Dzogchen and was
famous as treasure revealer.
487 See part 2 in Bataille ( 1 988 : 3 1 )
488 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 35)
489 S e e Fenner ( 1 990: 145). I n his analysis o f PrasaiJ.gika-Madhyamika' s non-affirming negation Fenner
states that it is a statement of intention not to afftrm any view or concept, and not something intrinsic to
their style of logic.
490 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 5 8 )
49 1 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 63)
492 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 9)
493 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 65)
494 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 65)
495 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 144)
496 Longchenpa' s use of the literary device of the rhetorical question was characteristic of The Precious
Treasury of the Way of Abiding. See Hillis (2003 : 2 1 3) .
497 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 29)
498 Hillis (2003 : 2 1 0)
499 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 99)
5 00 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 22 1 )
501 Germano ( 1 996-829)
5 02 Lipman in Maiiju§nmitra (200 1 : 1 52)
503 Germano ( 1 996-9 1 8)
5 04 Lipman in Maiiju§rlmitra (200 1 : 1 52)
5 05 Mayeda ( 1 992: 9 1 )
506 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron ( 1 998)
507 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 )
508 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron ( 1 99 8 : 235)
509 Longchenpa in Garry ( 1 999: 68)
510 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron ( 1 99 8 : 240)
511 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron ( 1 998 : 24 1 -2)
5 12 See Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron ( 1 99 8 : 24 1 )
513 See in Buddhaghosa (20 1 0: 5 1 0- 1 7)
5 14 See in Guenther ( 1 98 3 : ix) . In his introduction to Longchenpa' s poem Looking Deeper: A Swan 's
Questions and Answers, states that "never has the world been different" pointing to the state of socio­
religio-political affairs and human conditions in 1 4th century Tibet that essentially were riot dissirnlar
either to the times before or after the 1 4th century.
515 Stcherbatsky ( 1 968: 54f.) citing aryadeva, Catu!.tsataka, Karikas 1 84, 289.
516 Trungpa ( 1 987:22)
5 17 Hegel in Miller ( 1 977 :49)
518 B ataille ( 1 9 8 8 : 3 8)
Notes 21 1

519 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 1 0)
520 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 1 27)
521 B ataille ( 1 98 8 : 52-3)
522 Fagenblat (2005 : 5 84)
523 Levinas (200 1 : 52-53)
524 Griffith ( 1 896)
525 Fagenblat (2005 : 5 85)
526 Levinas (200 1 : 52)
527 Levinas (200 1 : 56)
528 Bruns ( 1 997: 60;n.9). Stanley Cavell' s definition o f horror reveals the violent dynamiques and horrific
quality of it y a (there is) : "Horror is of the human as it approaches and exceeds its limits, as it becomes
excessive, no longer human to the degree that it becomes inhuman, monstrous. Horror is the title I am
giving to the perception of the precariousness of human identity, to the perception that it may be lost or
invaded, that we may be, or may become, something other than who we are, or take ourselves for". See in
Bruns ( 1 997:29 1 ,n.9)
529 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 77)
530 Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 353)
531 For details about this work and its significant relevance to this study, see the section Longchenpa' s
Corpus Magnum in chapter 3 .
532 Cornu ( 1 996:288)
533 Cornu ( 1 996:283)
534 Longchenpa i n Cornu ( 1 996:283)
Maitres tres precious, une fois mon karma et 1es obscurcissements des passions purifies, puissiez
m ' accorder les accomplisements du Corps, du Verbe et de l ' espritje vous prie de faire naitre en mon
esprit la realization speciale.
535 Longchenpa i n Cornu ( 1 996:288)
Ce qui emerge it chaque instantsous des formes variees dans rna conscience attentive, tantot
se presente charge de fautes et de noires intentions, et je Ie rejette, tantot aparai't plein de qualites
positi ves, et j e I' adopt. . . quand j ' examine l' essence et I' identitede ce qui se presente ainsi, j e
m ' etablis fermement dans rigpa qui libere ce qui emerge, grande omnipresence du Corp s
d' apprition.
536 In the case of Longchenpa I refer to angst as a condition in which although one experiences i t one
continues despite that anxiety to participate in a certain situation. By analogy, a patient may feel anxiety
on the way to surgical theatre but still would proceed to the operation, having to trust the surgeons and
the health system that the procedure will be appropriately accomplished.
537 Trungram (2004:27 1 )
538 van Schaik (2004:68)
539 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 5 1 ). David Templeman brought to my attention that science
demonstrates that an image exists in a mirror at a distance, equally behind the mirror as the object is in
front of it. So in a way there is a "created" pseudo image, almost a sort of alchemy that reinforces the
mirror as a metaphor for the non-duality of the nature of mind, and the empty yet apparent phenomenal
540 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 5)
54 1 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 77)
542 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 70- 1 7 1 )
543 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 77)
544 Guenther ( 1 976: 32)
545 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (2001 : 1 77)
546 The opposite of "evolutional" in the sense that "something" turns, rolls or curls in upon itself, but not in
the sense of degeneration or retrograde movement.
212 The Man From Samye

547 In scientific terms, to establish whether one is clinically dead requires a neurological scan. Those who
have such memories of "being dead" are in 99 per cent of cases "heart dead" but not "brain dead" . When
brain death occurs it is impossible for anybody to come back and to report about their memories of
"being dead" . So the question remains : What is there that continues after brain death?
548 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 1 77)
549 S ee earlier discussion of the chariot simile in page 108 of the study.
550 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 1 77 -8)
551 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 178)
552 Dalai Lama (2000: 67)
553 My emphasis
554 For a list of goal-oriented practices prescribed by Longchenpa that include practices such as Guru Yoga,
the yoga of ;;, recitation of the mantra of 1 00 syllables, see Cornu ( 1 994:283-299).
555 Cornu ( 1 994:28 1 )
556 Cornu ( 1 994 : 283)
557 S charfstein ( 1 993 : 92-93 ) . Only something that either exists o r possibly exists can b e negated, and
something which is non-existent cannot be negated. According to Anne Klein, in principle, non­
affirming negatives exist because they are imputed by thought. But because they do exist they have to be
distinguished from non-existents such as the horns of the rabbit. This observation refers to the point that
emptiness or absence, such as non-affirming negatives that are imputed by thought, are but different from
non-affirming negatives of non-existents such as the horns of a rabbit, which is a mere conceptual
fabrication (Klein 1 986: 1 77). The implication for Longchenpa' s rhetoric of negation is that it could be
applied to also negate the state of mind, one of absence of conceptual thinking.
558 It is appropriate to bring forth the following quotation of the Buddha that demonstrates the contour and
the principle of sincere understanding at the base of negation:
Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything
simply because it is spoken and rumoured by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it
is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your
teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many
generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason
and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it (Hare 1 995-
96: 1 88- 1 93).
559 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :22 1 )
560 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 2 1 9)
561 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :22 1 )
562 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :222-3)
563 Dalai Lama (2007 : 80). The context of the Dalai Lama' s statement is that it was said in relation to the
other vehicles and methods of the Nyingmapa.
564 Germano ( 1 992: 842). Germano provides his translation and interpretation of trekcho after a review of the
different interpretations by various modem teachers and scholars .
565 Germano (1 992: 842)
566 Norbu ( 1 986:77)
567 Norbu ( 1 986: 1 1 0)
568 Norbu ( 1 986: 1 0 1 )
569 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :298)
570 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :226)
57 1 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :229)
572 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :230)
573 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 :23 1 )
574 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 235)
Notes 213

575 Norbu ( 1 986: 80). Norbu presents a slightly different interpretation o f the four methods. For example,
the method of the mountain relates according to Norbu to the physical body, which holds a steady
posture like a mountain in the sense that whatever the position of the body, that is the position of
practice. In this manner, abiding in awareness becomes a pervasive ongoing practice, not limited to a
physical position. Another example is the method of the ocean, which according to Norbu is related to
the gaze of the eyes, in which no particular gaze is required for the practice but whatever the position of
the eyes, that is the position of practice.
576 Gampopa i n Trugram (2004:253)
577 NUbchen Yeshe i n Ying (20 1 0 :284)
578 Nubchen Yeshe in Ying (20 1 0: 285)
579 Shulmann (20 1 0: 1 42-3). Nagrujuna' s Mulamadhyamakakiirikii 24.8- 1 0.
580 Butters (2006 : 4 1 1 )
581 "Non-erroneous intellect" (Tibetan: blo) i s as translated by Butters (see in Butters 2006 : 4 1 1 ) and the
"unconfused and authentic state of mind" is as translated by Richard B arron in Chagdud (2007 : 1 1 2) .
5 82 Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 1 2)
583 There i s another aspect to the notion of erroneous intellect that refers to a wrong evaluation of sense data
on the relative level due to flawed sense faculties. Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 14)
5 84 Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 15)
585 A text b y Candakirti (7th century) which i s a commentary on Nagrujuna' s Mulamadhyamakakiirikii, in
B utters (2006 : 4 1 3 ) .
586 Phuntsho (2005 : 1 1 8) . Longchenpa' s view i s implicit in Mipham' s presentation of the Two Truths.
587 In Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 1 6)
588 B utters (2006 : 4 1 8 )
589 B utters (2006 : 4 1 9)
590 B utters (2006:425)
591 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 58)
592 B utters (2006:417)
593 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 1 7 1 )
594 Germano ( 1 992: 829)
595 . In Longchenpa in B arron (2007 : 1 1 9) . Here Longchenpa quotes from Nagarj una, Sixty verses on
Reasoning (Yukti�a�tikii), V.1.
596 Longchenpa i n B arron (2007 : 1 1 9)
597 Ahmad (2007 : 1 9 1 )
598 My emphasis.
599 Longchenpa i n Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 2 1 9)
600 Germano ( 1 994:932)
60 1 Longchenpa in Chagdud and B arron (200 1 : 22 1 )
602 Longchenpa in Chagdud and Barron (200 1 : 1 70)
603 Cornu ( 1 994:267-8)
Meme en affirmantpartout la non-dualite denuee de limites,
Vous ligotez la nature de votre esprit essential aux limites dy sans-limites .
. Meme en admettant les deux verites, vous chutez dans les extremes ;
E t quand vous affrnnez leur union, c e n' est p a I ii I e mode naturel (authentique).
Quelle que soit la nat;ure de votre examen, vous vous piegez
Dans la cage de l ' attachement ii l ' attachement.
Ainsi, il ne vous suffit pas d' etre illusionne par Ie sujet et
L' objet depuis une eternite,
Mais en plus vos analyses insistantes vous enchament aus scMmas intellectuelles.
604 Roerich ( 1 98 8 : 202)
605 Longchenpa in Hillis (2003 : 1 25)