With commentary by Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche

 

Given at the Centre d’Etudes de Chanteloube

Dordogne, France

1996, 1998, 1999, 2000

 

Arranged according to Gorampa’s commentary

Edited by Alex Trisoglio

© 2003 by Khyentse Foundation

 

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any

form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying,

recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without

permission in writing from the Khyentse Foundation

Publication of this text has been sponsored by the Khyentse Foundation

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Foreword

 

FOREWORD

 

The view of Madhyamika in Buddhism

 

In Buddhism, the view is essential for both theory and practice. All the various Buddhist schools

and paths have been established based on the right view, and the result of the Buddhist path –

enlightenment – is none other than the complete understanding or realisation of the view. The

view is indispensable for all kinds of Buddhist practice, from the simple and seemingly mundane

acts of a Theravadin monk shaving his head and not eating after midday, to the Mahayana

practitioner abandoning meat, offering butterlamps and circumambulating, to more complicated

and exotic paths such as building monasteries or practicing kundalini yoga. The view not only

gives us the reason to practice; it is also the result we seek to attain through practice.

Furthermore, the view is also a safety railing that prevents us from going astray on the path.

Without the view, the whole aim and purpose of Buddhism is lost. If we wish to reach a

destination, it is fruitless to proceed aimlessly on the journey if we have not established our

direction and destination. Likewise, meditation and action will not bear fruit unless we have

established the view.

For example, when teaching the Four Noble Truths, Buddha taught that the fundamental truth –

the view – is that we are not suffering; we merely have suffering. Therefore, by knowing the

nature and cause of suffering, we can follow the path to liberate ourselves from suffering.

Nevertheless, although many of us are eager to follow the path to liberate ourselves from

suffering, and we may even understand what our suffering is caused by, few of us pay attention

to the view: the fact that we are not suffering, we just have suffering. Because we do not

understand the view, we still cling to primordial suffering. Therefore, no matter how much we

practice and seek to apply methods to end our suffering, our path is not a middle path – a

Madhyamika path, a path beyond conceptual clinging. Instead, it ends up becoming an extreme

path – a path of concepts, which will not liberate us from suffering.

Another example is the concept of renunciation mind, and the familiar images of monks with

begging bowls, shaved heads on so on. When the Buddhist path teaches us to develop

renunciation mind, we might think that we are being asked to renounce samsara with the attitude

that it is imperfect, full of pain and endless futility – i.e. to recognise that samsara is suffering.

Most of us find such renunciation difficult, as we feel we’re missing out on the good things – we

long for the pleasant and beautiful aspects of samsara, which we still believe truly exist out there.

But it is something quite different to renounce samsara based on the view – the view of

emptiness – which holds that both the desirable and futile aspects of samsara are just fabrications

of mind. With the view of emptiness, we can see that renouncing samsaric life is not something

painful. It’s not really a penance or sacrifice, because we realise that there is, in reality, nothing

to sacrifice.

This text, the Madhyamakavatara, is an indispensable text that is widely studied both in Buddhist

philosophical schools and Buddhist meditative schools, and Chandrakirti’s method of

establishing the view in this work has been one of the most venerated throughout the ages. Now

that Buddhism is taking root in the West, I feel it is important for at least some of us to pay

attention to the study of the view and how it is to be established. Unfortunately, our human

tendency is to be much more attracted to the methods of doing something, rather than why we are

doing it. The study of the view appears to be very dry, boring and long-winded, whereas anyone

can just buy a cushion, sit on it, and after a few minutes feel satisfied that they have sat and

meditated. In this age of materialism, people suffer from alienation and lack of purpose, and

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Foreword

many people are seeking for something more. When there is so much seeking, there is a danger

that a path specially designed to relieve temporal pain might come to overshadow the real path

that uproots suffering, the true path to enlightenment. Interest in dharma is scarce to begin with,

and even then, such interest is very fickle. And if we were to encounter a path that did not have

the view, we would become even more disillusioned. This would be very sad, because there is

genuine seeking. Without the view, the whole purpose of Buddhism is lost. It is then no longer

Buddhism – a path to enlightenment – but merely a method for temporal healing. So, even for

the sake of insurance, at least some of us should pay some attention to establishing the view.

I would like to stress that this work is not meant to be final and complete, but I believe it can be a

start, a basis for us to work on and improve. The subject itself is very complex, and when I

taught this text in France from 1996-2000, it was decades after I studied it myself. Moreover,

even as I was teaching this, I never felt satisfied at my ability to express what I wanted to

express, primarily due to my lack of language skills in English. Also, because the audience was

mixed, you will find some very general teachings as well, and because it was taught over several

years, you will find lots of repetition.

I must acknowledge the success of the teaching itself to the persistence of Tulku Pema Wangyal,

and a lot of assistance from his disciples, to name a few: John Canti, Wulstan Fletcher, Helena

Blankleder, and Patrick Carré, and my own inscrutable friend Jakob Leschly. This particular

transcript and editing was done diligently and meticulously by Alex Trisoglio, who I hope will

continue working to improve it. I don’t believe there is any merit in this kind of work, but if

there is any, let us dedicate it to the further understanding of the Madhyamika, through which we

can topple the kingdom of extremism

Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Editor’s Introduction

Editor’s Introduction

This document contains a transcript of Dzongsar Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche’s teachings on

Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, ‘Introduction to the Middle Way’, which were given during

the summers of 1996, 1998, 1999 and 2000 at the Centre d’Etudes de Chanteloube in Dordogne.

The teachings have been lightly edited to improve readability, while keeping to the original style

and vocabulary of the teachings as far as possible. In addition to Rinpoche’s teachings, this

document also contains the slokas (verses) of the root text, the Madhyamakavatara, which are

indented and appear in italics.

Structural outline and logic trees

In his teachings, Rinpoche followed various commentaries, principally the one by Gorampa, a

15th century Sakya master, and also that of Shenga Rinpoche, a 19th century Dzogchen master.

The root text, Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, does not have any kind of table of contents,

outline or headings, but each commentator creates a sabche (structural outline) that presents the

contents and arguments in a structured framework. The sabche is in fact the commentary itself

in its most essential form. It is common practice for Tibetan scholars to memorise the entire

sabche when studying a text, and the master will often stop to ensure the students understand

where they are in the outline, a tradition that Rinpoche has continued in these teachings. In this

case, the teachings and headings are organised according to Gorampa’s structural outline (which

appears in full after this introduction). However, although this outline is logically structured, it

is quite difficult to present graphically due to its complexity (for example, at one point in this

outline the headings run 28 levels deep!)

So, rather than numbering each heading completely in all its levels (e.g. 2.i.a.ii.b.i.a… etc.) and

indenting each level, an alternative approach is used here. Each heading is marked in the margin

by the letter ‘H’ followed by a number to indicate the level of the heading (where H1 is the topmost

level, H2 is the second level, and so on until H28 – the 28th and lowest level). Successive

headings at the same level are numbered (a, b, c…) or (i, ii, iii…), although this numbering has

been added to facilitate comprehension; it does not appear in the Tibetan original of the structural

outline. In addition to the headings from the structural outline, the text contains another set of

headings that have been added during editing to aid comprehension. These headings do not have

the letter ‘H’ or any numbering, and they are not part of the structural outline.

For an overview of the outline and structure of the arguments in the Madhyamakavatara, readers

may find it helpful to consult the logic trees at the end of this text, which present the structural

outline (in an abbreviated form) in a set of tree-structured diagrams.

Margin notes

In order to improve readability, to help locate information and to increase the overall usefulness

of this document, margin notes have been provided. These notes, which aim to highlight

important points from Rinpoche’s teachings, were added during editing, and Rinpoche has not

checked them. They are not part of the structural outline or Chandrakirti’s text.

Tibetan words and phrases

The first appearance of a Tibetan word or phrase in the teachings will include its pronunciation,

transliteration (according to the Wylie system), and English translation. In subsequent

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Editor’s Introduction

appearances, the word will typically only be referred to by its pronunciation, e.g. tsendzin. Some

of the more common Tibetan vocabulary is included in an appendix. For example:

tsendzin 02,-73†,- (mtshan ’dzin) = fixation on characteristics

Following the convention of T.R.V. Murti and Padmakara, the word ‘Madhyamika’ is used to

refer both to the Madhyamika philosophy and to a student/practitioner following this philosophy.

A list of some of the more important and more commonly used Tibetan words and phrases from

the Madhyamakavatara is included as an appendix.

Index and Frequently-Asked Questions

An index and a list of frequently-asked questions may be found at the end of the document, as

well as a bibliography and references.

Hyperlinks

For ease of navigation, the electronic version of this document contains hyperlinks for each

heading from its location in the structural outline to where it appears in the text. .

Acknowledgements

The rough translation of the root text of the Madhyamakavatara was prepared by Jakob Leschly,

and the commentary and teachings by Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche were transcribed and edited

by Alex Trisoglio. The editor would like to thank all those who provided comments, suggestions

and inputs to this document as it has developed, particularly Jakob Leschly and Steven Goodman

for their help with the Tibetan. Every effort has been made to faithfully reproduce the words and

meaning of Rinpoche’s teachings, and any remaining errors are the editor’s responsibility.

We would like to thank everyone at the Centre d’Etudes de Chanteloube for hosting these

teachings, especially Pema Wangyal Rinpoche and Jigme Khyentse Rinpoche. John Canti and

Wulstan Fletcher of the Padmakara Translation Group ran revision sessions each year to help

prepare students for the teachings, Patrick Carré provided French translation, and Khenpo

Jamyang Ösel from Dzongsar Institute taught and answered questions in 1999.

Most especially, we would like to thank Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche, whose extraordinary

blessings, inspiration and patient explanation made this work possible. May his aspirations be

fulfilled! We dedicate our efforts so that all may realise the wisdom that is the ultimate

Madhyamika, and to the long life and work of the masters who uphold these teachings.

Contact

If you have any feedback or comments on how this document could be improved, or questions

about the teachings, please write to: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Ackowledgments

The publication of this Madhyamakavatara text has been sponsored by the Khyentse Foundation, a nonprofit

charitable organization established in the United States in November 2001 under the direction of

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche. The ultimate mission of the Khyentse Foundation is to support the

international community of dharma students and practitioners.

Publication of precious texts, such as this original Madhyamakavatara commentary by Dzongsar Khyentse

Rinpoche, is of primary interest to the Khyentse Foundation. In addition to providing study materials to

assist dharma students around the world, the Foundation hopes to sponsor the following publication projects

as soon as funding becomes available:

• Printing of the Longchen Nyingtik Ngöndro practice manuscript, another work based on

transcriptions of Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche’s teachings.

• Restoration of the Khyentse Library in Dzongsar Institute in Tibet, which was destroyed during

the Chinese Cultural Revolution of the 1960s.

• Translation of teachings by four great Longchen Nyingtik lineage masters: Longchenpa, Jigme

Lingpa, Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamyang Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö.

• Publication of an introduction to Buddhism to be distributed free to hotels, schools, libraries, etc.

Besides these publication projects, the Foundation will also establish an Endowment Fund for Monastic

Education and a Scholarship Fund to assist those who wish to pursue further studies or spend time in retreat,

but lack the necessary means. Another Foundation priority is to set up and Education Fund which will

endow a Chair or Professorship in Buddhist studies in a major university, and establish a Buddhist school

for western children.

The Khyentse Foundation depends entirely on the generosity of private donors to fund its wide range of

projects envisioned and prioritized by Khyentse Rinpoche. As a 501c3 tax exempt organization, all

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Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - i

STRUCTURAL OUTLINE

ACCORDING TO GORAMPA’S COMMENTARY

(Go Rabjampa Sönam Senge, 1429-1489, a great scholar of the Sakya tradition)

dbu ma la ’jug pa’i dkyus kyi sa bcad pa dang gzhung so so’i dka ba’i gnas la dpyad pa

lta ba ngan sel

- Numbers in (brackets and italics): Page number in Gorampa’s commentary (Tibetan text)

- Numbers in boldface: Chapter, verse, and line number in root text.

- Numbers at right hand margin: Page number in this transcript of Rinpoche’s teachings

[H1] THE TITLE..........................................................................................................................................5

[H1] THE TRANSLATOR’S HOMAGE.....................................................................................................9

[H1] THE MAIN BODY OF THE TEXT..................................................................................................11

[H1] THE CONCLUSION (749).............................................................................................................409

[H1] THE TITLE..........................................................................................................................................5

[H2] 1. Which Madhyamika is introduced ...................................................................................................5

[H2] 2. How it is introduced .........................................................................................................................6

[H1] THE TRANSLATOR’S HOMAGE ....................................................................................................9

[H1] THE MAIN BODY OF THE TEXT..................................................................................................11

[H2] A. Explaining the introductory branches, the expression of offering .............................................11

[H2] B. Explaining the actual meaning of the main body of the text, that which is introduced (534)...24

[H2] C. Explaining the closing sections of the text (744).....................................................................407

[H2] A. Explaining the introductory branches, the expression of offering .............................................11

[H3] 1. Explaining the reasons for praising compassion (515) ..............................................................11

[H3] 2. The actual praise based on these reasons (530) .........................................................................19

[H3] 1. Explaining the reasons for praising compassion........................................................................11

[H4] a) Of the four kinds of [enlightened] individual, praising bodhisattvas above all (515) .......11

[H5] (1) How shravakas and pratyekabuddhas are born from buddhas (515), 1:1.1 ..............11

[H6] (a) How they are so born...........................................................................................11

[H6] (b) Examining doubts about that being so (516).......................................................12

[H6] (c) Definitions and etymology of the terms shravaka and pratyekabuddha ..............12

[H5] (2) How buddhas are born from bodhisattvas (519), 1:1.2.............................................13

[H5] (3) Therefore bodhisattvas are worthy of praise (520) ...................................................13

[H4] b) Explaining the three causes from which bodhisattvas are born (521), 1:1.3-4..................14

[H5] (1) Identifying these three causes ...................................................................................14

[H5] (2) The sequence of these three causes (522) .................................................................14

[H5] (3) Identifying the bodhisattva born from these three causes (523) ...............................15

[H4] c) Showing how compassion is the most important of these three (529), 1:2 .......................16

[H3] 2. The actual praise based on these reasons (530), 1:3.1 - 4.2.......................................................19

[H4] a) Other ways of explaining the three types of compassion ..................................................19

[H4] b) This extraordinary way of explaining the three types of compassion (531)......................19

[H5] (1) Explaining them in terms of their different objects ..................................................19

[H6] (a) The meaning of the simile of the irrigation wheel...............................................20

[H6] (b) The first meaning of the simile of the moon’s reflection in water (532).............21

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - ii

[H6] (c) The second meaning of the simile of the moon’s reflection in water (533) ........22

[H5] (2) Explaining that their form is common (533).............................................................23

[H5] (3) Summarizing the meaning of this important point (533) ..........................................23

[H2] B. Explaining the actual meaning of the main body of the text, that which is introduced .............24

[H3] I. Explaining the bodhisattva levels (bhumi) which are the cause (534) ..............................24

[H3] II. Explaining the level of buddhahood which is the result (721)

[H3] I. Explaining the bodhisattva levels (bhumi) which are the cause ................................................24

[H4] A. Showing their nature in general in terms of the union of means (compassion) and

wisdom..............................................................................................................................24

[H4] B. Explaining the nature of each in terms of the paramita emphasized (535)........................25

[H4] C. Explaining the qualities of each in terms of the special enumerated features (720)........365

[H4] A. Their nature in general in terms of the union of means (compassion) and wisdom...................24

[H4] B. Explaining the nature of each in terms of the paramita emphasized..........................................25

[H5] 1. The first bhumi, Complete Joy..........................................................................................26

[H5] 2. The second bhumi, Without Stain (564)............................................................................50

[H5] 3. The third bhumi, Giving Out Light (568)..........................................................................56

[H5] 4. The fourth bhumi, Dazzling With Light (572) ..................................................................62

[H5] 5. The fifth bhumi, Difficult to Overcome / Practise (573) ...................................................63

[H5] 6. The sixth bhumi, Advancing / Knowing Clearly (574) .....................................................64

[H5] 7. The seventh bhumi, Gone Far (711)................................................................................341

[H5] 8. The eighth bhumi, Immovable (712)...............................................................................349

[H5] 9. The ninth bhumi, Perfect Intelligence (719)....................................................................358

[H5] 10. The tenth bhumi, Cloud of Dharma (719) .......................................................................360

[H5] 1. The first bhumi, Complete Joy (535) ........................................................................26

[H6] a) Immaculate wisdom as the first, Complete Joy .........................................................................26

[H6] b) Detailed explanation of the qualities of this Complete Joy........................................................27

[H6] c) Concise summary of its qualities by means of similes (564).....................................................49

[H6] a) Immaculate wisdom as the first, Complete Joy, 1:4.3-5.2.........................................................26

[H6] b) Detailed explanation of the qualities of Complete Joy ..............................................................27

[H7] (1) Expressing praise of those on this bhumi.............................................................................27

[H7] (2) Expressing the qualities of the paramita emphasized (558) .................................................44

[H7] (1) Expressing praise of those on this bhumi ..................................................................................27

[H8] (a) The quality that is transferred, the name, 1:5.3-4..............................................................27

[H9] (i) Defining the term Bodhisattva by action (practice)......................................................28

[H9] (ii) Defining the term Bodhisattva by view (realization)...................................................28

[H8] (b) The qualities that are obtained, the meaning (537) ...........................................................29

[H9] (i) The quality of being born into the family, 1:6.1...........................................................29

[H9] (ii) The quality of the ability to discard and to realize, 1:6.2-4.........................................29

[H9] (iii) The quality of pressing on further (spontaneous progress), 1:7.1 ..............................31

[H9] (iv) The quality of passing beyond lower levels, 1:7.2-3 ..................................................31

[H8] (c) The qualities taught by analogy, 1:7.4.......................................................................................32

[H8] (d) The quality of outshining others ................................................................................................33

[H9] (i) Outshining others by the strength of merit on this bhumi, 1:8.1-3 .......................................34

[H9] (ii) Outshining others by the strength of understanding on later bhumis, 1:8.4.........................34

[H9] (ii) Outshining others by the strength of understanding on later bhumis, 1:8.4 .................................34

[H10] (a) Outshining as implicitly stated in the sutra (539)..............................................................34

[H10] (b) The actual meaning stated in that quote (540)...................................................................35

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - iii

[H11] (i) The sutra’s statement that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas understand phenomena

to have no true nature ..................................................................................................35

[H11] (ii) What the other traditions state about this quote...........................................................36

[H12] What the two traditions state.....................................................................................36

[H12] What three quotes state .............................................................................................36

[H13] The first quote...........................................................................................................36

[H13] The second quote ......................................................................................................36

[H13] The third quote..........................................................................................................36

[H11] (iii) Introducing the Master Nagarjuna’s understanding of this point (542)......................36

[H10] (c) Disposing of disputes on that question (542) ....................................................................38

[H10] (d) Negating explanations based on conceptual analysis (545) ..............................................41

[H7] (2) Expressing the qualities of the paramita emphasized (558).......................................................44

[H8] (a) Showing that the paramita of generosity is the principal one, 1:9 ....................................45

[H8] (b) Praising other kinds of generosity (559) ...........................................................................46

[H9] (i) As what causes beings to escape from suffering, 1:10-11............................................46

[H9] (ii) As what also causes lasting happiness, 1:12 ...............................................................47

[H8] (c) Praising the bodhisattva’s generosity ................................................................................47

[H9] (i) The result obtained, manifest joy, 1:13.1-2..................................................................47

[H9] (ii) This generosity is therefore of foremost importance, 1:13.3-4 ...................................48

[H9] (iii) It is much greater than a particular analogous kind of joy, 1:14 ................................48

[H9] (iv) Disposing of disputes about how this joy is obtained, 1:15........................................48

[H8] (d) Categorization of this paramita (560), 1:16.......................................................................49

[H9] (i) Explaining the meaning of the word paramita (561) ....................................................49

[H9] (ii) That which can truly be given this name .....................................................................49

[H9] (iii) That which can be given this name by association.....................................................49

[H6] c) Concise summary of its qualities by means of similes (564), 1:17............................................49

[H5] 2. The second bhumi, Without Stain ...........................................................................50

[H6] a) Detailed explanation of the qualities of the paramita emphasized.............................................50

[H6] b) Summary of its qualities in words of certainty (568).................................................................55

[H6] a) Detailed explanation of the qualities of the paramita emphasized.............................................50

[H7] (1) The features of discipline, the paramita emphasized .................................................................50

[H8] (a) Attaining perfect discipline, 2:1.1-2..................................................................................50

[H9] (i) Its definition .................................................................................................................50

[H9] (ii) Its nature......................................................................................................................51

[H9] (iii) The measure of its perfection .....................................................................................51

[H8] (b) Accumulating the ten positive actions, 2:1.3-2.2.................................................................52

[H8] (c) Making the bodhisattva beautiful, 2:2.3-4............................................................................52

[H8] (d) Being free of dualistic attachment to subject, object and action, 2:3...................................52

[H7] (2) In praise of other types of discipline (566)...................................................................................52

[H8] (a) The penalties of contravening discipline, 2:4-5 ................................................................53

[H8] (b) Keeping discipline as an antidote to these, 2:6.1-2 ...........................................................53

[H8] (c) Discipline as the basis of all good qualities, 2:6.3-4.........................................................53

[H8] (d) Discipline as the cause of higher rebirth and certain excellence, 2:7................................54

[H7] (3) Analogy for perfectly pure discipline (568), 2:8 .......................................................................55

[H7] (4) The divisions of this paramita, 2:9 ............................................................................................55

[H6] b) Summary of its qualities in words of certainty (568), 2:10 .......................................................55

[H5] 3. The third bhumi, Giving Out Light (568)..................................................................56

[H6] a) The nature of this bhumi in words of certainty (569), 3:1.........................................................56

[H6] b) Detailed explanation of the qualities of the paramita emphasized.............................................56

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - iv

[H7] (1) The paramita emphasized, patience...................................................................................56

[H8] (a) Patience mainly through compassion (569), 3:2..........................................................56

[H8] (b) Patience mainly through the view (569), 3:3...............................................................57

[H7] (2) The penalties of lacking patience ......................................................................................57

[H8] (a) It produces an unpleasant karmic result, 3:4-5 ............................................................57

[H8] (b) It diminishes merit already accumulated (570), 3:6 ....................................................57

[H8] (c) Its penalties are visible and invisible, 3:7 ....................................................................58

[H7] (3) The excellence of the qualities of patience (570), 3:8.......................................................59

[H7] (4) The importance of therefore practising patience (570), 3:9 ..............................................59

[H7] (5) The divisions of this paramita (571), 3:10 ........................................................................59

[H6] c) How other qualities are also attained on this bhumi (571), 3:11 ...............................................60

[H6] d) Explanation of the three general practices, generosity and so forth (572), 3:12........................60

[H6] e) The qualities of this bhumi: concise concluding summary (572), 3:13.....................................61

[H5] 4. The fourth bhumi, Dazzling With Light (572) ........................................................62

[H6] a) The great qualities of diligence itself, 4:1.1-2 ...........................................................................62

[H6] b) The nature of this bhumi, which emphasizes diligence, 4:1.3-4................................................62

[H6] c) Words of certainty concerning this bhumi in terms of meditation experience, 4:2.1-3.............62

[H6] d) Leaving behind what is specifically abandoned on this bhumi, 4:2.4 .......................................62

[H5] 5. The fifth bhumi, Difficult to Overcome / Practise (573)..................................63

[H6] a) Words of certainty concerning this bhumi, 5:1.1-2 ...................................................................63

[H6] b) The paramita emphasized, 5:1.3-3ó..........................................................................................63

[H6] c) Other qualities, 5:1.3ó-4...........................................................................................................63

[H5] 6. The sixth bhumi, Advancing / Knowing Clearly (574) ......................................64

[H6] a) Attaining cessation by emphasizing the paramita of wisdom....................................................64

[H6] b) To those who are blind, the greatness of the paramita of wisdom itself (575) ..........................65

[H6] c) Establishing the way in which this paramita of wisdom is introduced (575).............................66

[H6] d) Summary of the qualities attained in this way

[H6] a) Attaining cessation by emphasizing the paramita of wisdom, 6:1.............................................64

[H6] b) To those who are blind, the greatness of the paramita of wisdom itself (575), 6:2 ...................65

[H6] c) Establishing the way in which this paramita of wisdom is introduced (575).............................66

[H7] (1) The basis according to which this teaching is here explained, 6:3....................................66

[H7] (2) To whom this teaching is to be explained (578) ..................................................................66

[H8] (a) The recipient who is to be taught, 6:4..........................................................................66

[H9] (i) Those who believe in philosophies that speak of an outer or inner reality...........67

[H9] (ii) Beginners ............................................................................................................68

[H9] (iii) Those who have already awakened into the family of the Mahayana................68

[H8] (b) The benefits derived from being so taught, 6:5.1-7.1..................................................68

[H8] (c) The importance of therefore listening to what is taught, 6:7.2-4 .................................68

[H7] (3) Establishing emptiness, the subject to be explained (580) ................................................72

[H8] (a) Explaining emptiness as it is to be realized by all vehicles..........................................72

[H8] (b) Explaining emptiness as it is to be realized by the Mahayana...................................296

[H8] (a) Explaining emptiness as it is to be realized by all vehicles .......................................................72

[H9] (i) Explaining interdependent arising by means of the absence of any self in phenomena ............73

[H9] (ii) Explaining interdependent arising by means of the absence of any self in one’s person (677)246

[H9] (i) Explaining interdependent arising by means of the absence of any self in phenomena ............73

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - v

[H10] (a) As ascertained from the scriptures (sutras) on suchness ...................................................73

[H10] (b) As established in the shastras (582) ..................................................................................74

[H10] (c) As determined in this text by means of logical reasoning (598) .......................................88

[H10] (a) As ascertained from the scriptures (sutras) on suchness (581) .................................................73

The 10 kinds of equality (strictly speaking part of the text rather than part of the

structure, but included here for reference)

1. The equality of having no characteristics

2. The equality of having no defining characteristic

3. The equality of the primordial absence of birth (from any of the four extremes)

4. The equality of being unborn

5. The equality of absence

6. The equality of total purity

7. The equality of having no elaborations

8. The equality of having no acceptance or rejection

9. The equality of being (illusory) like a dream, an optical illusion, the reflection of

the moon in water or a mirage

10. The equality of being neither real nor unreal

[H10] (b) As established in the shastras (582) ..........................................................................................74

[H11] (i) Identifying the differences between the Prasangika and the Svatantrika (582) .........................76

[H12] (a) [In general] (582) ...............................................................................................................76

[H12] (b) Differences in the reasoning by which they determine absolute truth (589).......................76

[H13] (i) Subject ......................................................................................................................77

[H13] (ii) Predicate ...................................................................................................................77

[H13] (iii) Thesis / Proposition ..................................................................................................78

[H13] (iv) Reason ......................................................................................................................78

[H13] (v) Example ....................................................................................................................79

[H13] (vi) Syllogism..................................................................................................................79

[H12] (c) Differences in the way they set out the conventions of relative truth (592) ........................81

[H13] (i) Ground ......................................................................................................................81

[H13] (ii) Path ...........................................................................................................................81

[H13] (iii) Fruit ..........................................................................................................................82

[H11] (ii) Refuting the Svatantrika way (593) ...........................................................................................82

[H11] (iii) Detailed explanation of how the Prasangika determine the truth (594).....................................82

[H12] (a) Setting out the Prasangika view...................................................................................................82

[H13] (i) Establishing the view on one’s own part ..................................................................................82

[H14] (a) What is to be established (594)................................................................................................82

[H15] (i) That relative truth is like an illusion..................................................................................82

[H15] (ii) That absolute truth is free from any elaborations ..............................................................82

[H15] (iii) That in terms of both there is no truth in appearances.......................................................82

[H14] (b) How it is established (595) ......................................................................................................83

[H15] (i) By quoting the sutras dealing with certain truth................................................................83

[H15] (ii) By using consequentialist arguments ................................................................................83

[H13] (ii) Refuting wrong views on the part of others ............................................................................83

[H14] (a) Identifying what is to be refuted ..............................................................................................83

[H15] (i) By means of the path............................................................................................................83

[H16] (a) All delusory appearances ............................................................................................83

[H15] (ii) But here, by means of the Buddha’s word and logic ..........................................................83

[H16] (b) The object ...................................................................................................................83

[H17] (i) Labelling created by the ignorance of imputation ...................................................84

[H18] (a) Exaggeration, the extreme of existence ..............................................................84

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - vi

[H19] (i) Self of person.................................................................................................84

[H19] (ii) Self of phenomena.........................................................................................84

[H18] (b) Underestimation, the extreme of non-existence .................................................84

[H17] (ii) Labelling created by innate ignorance....................................................................84

[H16] (c) The subject..................................................................................................................84

[H14] (b) Explaining the reasoning by which it is refuted ..........................................................................85

[H15] (i) Pointing out contradictions (consequentialist argument) .................................................85

[H15] (ii) Using the opponent’s inferential logic ..............................................................................85

[H15] (iii) Reductio ad absurdum.......................................................................................................85

[H15] (iv) Pointing out circular arguments that prove nothing.........................................................85

[H13] (iii) Being rid of any faults for one’s own part (596) ....................................................................85

[H14] (a) Being rid of faults from a relative point of view.................................................................85

[H14] (b) Being rid of faults from an absolute point of view..............................................................85

[H15] (i) By making no propositions .......................................................................................85

[H15] (ii) By not having any arguments (of one’s own) ..........................................................85

[H12] (b) Refuting objections to the Prasangika view (598) .......................................................................85

[H10] (c) As determined in this text by means of logical reasoning (598)................................................88

[H11] (i) The use of reasoning to refute the four extreme theories of genesis .................................89

[H11] (ii) Disposing of objections from those who believe in (genesis from) self and/or other .....216

[H11] (i) The use of reasoning to refute the four extreme theories of genesis (598) ...............................89

[H12] (a) Explaining the truth of interdependent arising by refuting (the four extreme theories

of) genesis....................................................................................................................89

[H13] (i) The proposition (of Nagarjuna) in brief, 6:8.1-2 ......................................................89

[H13] (ii) Detailed explanation of the reasoning (599) .............................................................89

[H14] (a) Autogenesis (Self-Arising).............................................................................................89

[H15] (i) Reasoning from the commentary (Madhyamakavatara) ..........................................................90

[H16] (a) Autogenesis refuted by suchness.........................................................................................90

[H17] (i) Untenable consequences explicit in the opponent’s statement ....................................90

[H18] (a) Such genesis would be meaningless (Buddhapalita’s refutation), 6:8.3-4 .........91

[H18] (b) No genesis would ever actually occur (Chandrakirti’s refutation), 6:9.1-2 .......91

[H17] (ii) Conflicting consequences implicit in the opponent’s statement.................................92

[H18] (a) Such genesis would be endless, 6:9.3-4 .............................................................92

[H18] (b) The nature of cause and effect would be mixed up, 6:10.1-2.............................92

[H18] (c) Cause and effect would have to be both different and the same, 6:10.3-11 .......92

[H16] (b) Autogenesis refuted by ordinary conventional experience, 6:12.1-2..................................93

[H16] (c) Concluding summary of these two, 6:12.3-4 ......................................................................93

[H15] (ii) Reasoning from the shastra (Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamaka-karikas), 6:13..........................93

[H14] (b) Genesis from other (Other-Arising) (600)...............................................................103

[H15] (i) Statement of that view................................................................................................................103

[H15] (ii) Explanation of the refutation.....................................................................................................104

[H16] (a) Refutation of genesis from other from the point of view of the two truths............................104

[H17] (i) Refutation from an absolute standpoint .............................................................................104

[H18] (a) Exposing fallacious reasoning (601) .......................................................................................104

[H19] (i) Exposing some extremely fallacious implications................................................................104

[H20] (a) Things could arise from things of a different type, 6:14.1-2.............................................104

[H20] (b) Things would arise without any predictability ..................................................................104

[H21] (i) The refutation, 6:14.3-4..........................................................................................104

[H21] (ii) Disposing of objections to it ...................................................................................105

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - vii

[H22] (a) The objection, 6:15...........................................................................................105

[H22] (b) The reply, 6:16.................................................................................................105

[H19] (ii) Refutation of genesis from other in terms of time...............................................................107

[H20] (a) If they do not coexist, a difference between cause and effect cannot be proved ...............107

[H21] (i) Refutation, 6:17 ......................................................................................................107

[H21] (ii) Disposing of objections to it ...................................................................................108

[H22] (a) Objection raised in other texts, 6:18.1-3 ..........................................................109

[H22] (b) Explanation of how this objection is countered, 6:18.4-6:19...........................109

[H20] (b) If they do coexist, cause cannot be said to give rise to effect, 6:20 ..................................111

[H19] (iii) Refutation of genesis from other in terms of the fourfold classification, 6:21 .................112

[H18] (b) Disposing of objections based on ordinary experience.........................................................120

[H19] (i) As expressed in other texts, 6:22 ...............................................................................................120

[H19] (ii) Explanation of the reasoning used to counter the objection...................................................120

[H20] (a) The validity of ordinary experience refuted by differentiation into the two truths and their

subdivisions (603)....................................................................................................................121

[H21] (i) General introduction and definitions, 6:23 .......................................................................121

[H21] (ii) Explanation of each individually (605).............................................................................126

[H22] (a) Relative truth explained in terms of its subdivisions ................................................126

[H23] (i) Subdivided according to ordinary beings’ minds..............................................126

[H24] (a) Classifying deceptive seeing on the part of the subject into two, 6:24 ....126

[H24] (b) Accordingly establishing two kinds of wrongly perceived object, too

(606), 6:25 ................................................................................................127

[H24] (c) Showing that even in ordinary experience the second is not so (607),

6:26...........................................................................................................128

[H24] (d) Applying an analogy (610), 6:27.............................................................129

[H23] (ii) Subdivided according to ordinary vs. sublime beings (relative truth and

merely relative), 6:28 .....................................................................................133

[H22] (b) Absolute truth explained in terms of an analogy (612), 6:29 ...................................134

[H20] (b) Therefore, this (Madhyamika) viewpoint is not contradicted by ordinary experience

(613), 6:30-31.2.......................................................................................................................138

[H20] (c) Explanation of what is specifically contradicted by ordinary experience, 6:31.3-4 ..............139

[H17] (iii) Refutation from a relative standpoint, 6:32..............................................................................141

[H16] (b) The two benefits of these refutations (614)............................................................................142

[H17] (i) The benefit that they free one from eternalism and nihilism............................................142

[H18] (a) How one is free from eternalism and nihilism, 6:33 .........................................................143

[H19] (i) How one is free from them .....................................................................................143

[H19] (ii) Establishing this with quotes from the sutras (615) ...............................................143

[H19] (iii) Dispelling other wrong notions...............................................................................143

[H18] (b) Detailed explanation of what allows this (616).................................................................143

[H19] (i) Ultimately they have no true nature, 6:34...............................................................143

[H20] (a) Refuting genesis from other as absolute truth.......................................................143

[H20] (b) Applying quotes from the sutras...........................................................................144

[H20] (c) Thus dispelling the idea that emptiness is established as the truth........................144

[H19] (ii) Conventionally they have no true nature (619).......................................................144

[H20] (a) If thoroughly analysed, conventional truth is destroyed, 6:35 ..............................144

[H20] (b) Thorough analysis shows that it is the same even for conventional truth, 6:36....145

[H20] (c) Using analogies to illustrate genesis non-analytically, 6:37-38.2.........................145

[H18] (c) Concise conclusion, 6:38.3-4 ............................................................................................146

[H17] (ii) The benefit that they allow for the effects of actions (620) ..................................................149

[H18] (a) Although there is no Ground of All, the effects of actions are not lost .............................149

[H19] (i) The main subject, 6:39 ..............................................................................................149

[H20] (a) The main explanation of how connection between action and effect is allowed

for ...................................................................................................................150

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - viii

[H20] (b) Applying quotes from the sutras (623) .................................................................150

[H20] (c) Dispelling new false notions (624) .......................................................................150

[H21] (i) Expressing that new notion ............................................................................150

[H21] (ii) Dispelling it (626) .........................................................................................150

[H19] (ii) Explaining with an analogy (633), 6:40......................................................................150

[H18] (b) Rejecting two extreme consequences................................................................................152

[H19] (i) The consequence that maturation would be endless, 6:41 ..........................................152

[H19] (ii) The consequence that maturation would be uncertain, 6:42 .......................................152

[H18] (c) The Ground of All was taught as expedient truth (634), 6:43...........................................153

[H19] (i) The need for refutation.................................................................................................153

[H19] (ii) Explaining how this is done........................................................................................153

[H20] (a) The Ground of All is an expedient teaching.....................................................154

[H20] (b) Individual and skandhas are expedient teaching ..............................................154

[H20] (c) That the material world has a true nature is expedient teaching.......................154

[H20] (d) Of the expedient teachings, distinguishing what should and should not be

accepted as conventional truth........................................................................154

[H16] (c) Refutation of the Cittamatra viewpoint that upholds genesis from other (642).................155

[H17] (i) Expressing that viewpoint according to its texts...................................................................155

[H18] (a) Realizing (on 6th bhumi) that the nature of things is the mind alone, 6:45........................159

[H18] (b) From the mind alone, arise subject and object (643), 6:46 ...............................................159

[H18] (c) The definition of the mind alone, 6:47..............................................................................159

[H17] (ii) Explaining what refutes it ....................................................................................................162

[H18] (a) The logical reasoning that refutes the Cittamatra ..............................................................162

[H19] (i) Showing that it contravenes the two truths................................................................162

[H20] (a) Refuting that there can be mind alone without an object .................................162

[H21] (i) Detailed explanation....................................................................................162

[H22] (a) Its impossibility seen using the analogy of deluded mental consciousness (dream) ...........162

[H23] (i) Refuting the proposition, 6:48 ...........................................................................................162

[H23] (ii) Refuting what is used to support it.....................................................................................162

[H24] (a) Refuting that it exists because it is imputed by memory, 6:49......................................162

[H24] (b) Refuting that it exists because it is a dream (644).........................................................163

[H25] (i) What (the Cittamatra) would say, 6:50......................................................................163

[H25] (ii) Refuting that .............................................................................................................163

[H26] (a) There is no truth in the cognition of the dream object, 6:51-52.1.........................164

[H26] (b) There is no truth in the cognition of the waking object (647), 6:52.2-4 ...............164

[H26] (c) In terms of their existence (mind, object, etc.) are therefore similar (648), 6:53..165

[H22] (b) Its impossibility seen using the analogy of deluded sense consciousness ............................165

[H23] (i) In both (deluded and undeluded) cases the object-less consciousness and what is seen

are similar (in either existing or not), 6:54.........................................................................165

[H23] (ii) Untenable consequences of holding that object-less consciousness could arise ...............165

[H24] (a) Untenable consequences, 6:55 ......................................................................................165

[H24] (b) Refutation of the (Cittamatrin’s) counter-argument (649) ............................................171

[H25] (i) The counter-argument, 6:56.1-3................................................................................171

[H25] (ii) Refutation of it..........................................................................................................172

[H26] (a) Overall refutation, 6:56.4......................................................................................172

[H26] (b) Refuting in turn each of its aspects .......................................................................172

[H27] (i) Refuting present potential, 6:57.1.....................................................................172

[H27] (ii) Refuting future potential, 6:57.2-58.................................................................172

[H27] (iii) Refuting past potential ....................................................................................176

[H28] (a) The consequence that arising would occur without any coherence, 6:59.....176

[H28] (b) The counter-argument is the same as the thesis to be proved (circular

argument), 6:60 ...........................................................................................177

[H28] (c) What is other cannot share a single continuity, 6:61....................................177

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - ix

[H23] (iii) Refuting a re-statement in terms of support and object...................................................178

[H24] (a) The statement according to their texts (650), 6:62-64...................................................178

[H24] (b) How this is to be countered...........................................................................................179

[H25] (i) A challenge using their very reasons, 6:65................................................................179

[H25] (ii) Disposing of their statement with the reasoning they used in their previous

counter-argument, 6:66-67 ........................................................................................179

[H25] (iii) All the proofs they use are the same as the thesis to be proved, 6:68.1-3ó ............180

[H25] (iv) There is no scriptural authority for their position (651), 6:68.3ó-4........................180

[H22] (c) Its impossibility seen using the analogy of a deluded experience arising in meditation,

6:69-70 ....................................................................................................................................183

[H22] (d) Its impossibility seen using the analogy of deluded visual perception (652), 6:71.1-2 .......185

[H23] (i) Our (Prasangika) approach to this, easy to understand and of great meaning....................185

[H24] (a) The absurdity of that imputation.............................................................................185

[H24] (b) How it is turned back on them................................................................................185

[H23] (ii) Refuting (another) extremely conceptual view of it (654) ...............................................185

[H24] (a) What they believe ...................................................................................................185

[H24] (b) Refuting that (656) .................................................................................................185

[H23] (iii) What was taught were points appropriate to different times and places (660) ...............185

[H21] (ii) Summary (661), 6:71.3-4 ..........................................................................................................187

[H20] (b) Refuting that the doubly empty dependent nature exists as substance ......................................188

[H21] (i) There is nothing to prove that the dependent nature exists, 6:72.......................................188

[H21] (ii) Examining and refuting self-awareness as a proof............................................................188

[H22] (a) Refutation of self-awareness as having any true nature of its own (662), 6:73.1 ...188

[H22] (b) Refutation of memory as proving that self-awareness exists, 6:73.2-74 ................189

[H22] (c) How we understand memory conforms to experience (663), 6:75 .........................190

[H22] (d) Summary, refuting how they understand it (666), 6:76 ..........................................190

[H21] (iii) Refuting its existence even in the absence of proof, 6:77................................................191

[H20] (c) Refuting the notion of a cause imputed as being material, 6:78................................................191

[H19] (ii) The erroneous consequences of contravening the two truths (667), 6:79-80............................191

[H19] (iii) Rejecting its similarity to relative truth....................................................................................193

[H20] (a) A substantial dependent nature and relative truth cannot be the same, 6:81-82................193

[H20] (b) Denials of relative truth would be contradicted by ordinary people’s experience, 6:83 ...193

[H18] (b) Explaining the need for the Cittamatra view to have been taught ......................................196

[H19] (i) To refute other (religions’) ideas of a Creator (668)..........................................................196

[H20] (a) The principal purpose of this scriptural quote, 6:84 ...............................................196

[H20] (b) What was established by other scriptures, 6:85......................................................196

[H20] (c) The purpose of those scriptures, 6:86 .....................................................................197

[H19] (ii) To establish the importance of the mind alone .................................................................197

[H20] (a) The purpose of scriptures on the importance of the mind alone, 6:87....................197

[H20] (b) To think otherwise is in contravention to the scriptures (669), 6:88 ......................197

[H20] (c) Setting out what establishes (the mind alone) as important, 6:89...........................197

[H20] (d) Explaining what is to be refuted if the word “only” is omitted, 6:90 .....................198

[H19] (iii) Thinking otherwise is contradicted by both scriptural authority and reasoning ..............198

[H20] (a) Contradicted by reasoning, 6:91.............................................................................198

[H20] (b) Contradicted by scriptural authority, 6:92 ..............................................................198

[H19] (iv) Therefore acceptance and rejection of the extremes of existence are advised, 6:93........202

[H18] (c) The other scriptural authorities that support it come from teaching of expedient

meaning 202

[H19] (i) Other scriptures in which (the Buddha) spoke of mind alone are of expedient

meaning, 6:94..................................................................................................................202

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - x

[H19] (ii) Setting out proof for that by both reasoning and scriptural authority (670)......................203

[H20] (a) Scriptural proof, 6:95................................................................................................203

[H20] (b) Reasoning (672), 6:96 ..............................................................................................207

[H19] (iii) How this distinction into certain and expedient applies to all the Buddha’s teachings,

6:97 .................................................................................................................................207

[H14] (c) Genesis from both self and other ............................................................................211

[H15] (i) What earlier adherents of this view believe............................................................................211

[H15] (ii) Refuting that view (673)........................................................................................................211

[H16] (a) Disposing of it with reasoning already used....................................................................211

[H17] (i) Disposing of it with reasoning in terms of the two types of genesis, 6:98.1-2 .......211

[H17] (ii) Disposing of it with reasoning in terms of the two truths, 6:98.3...........................211

[H16] (b) Disposing of it with further reasoning, 6:98.4 ................................................................211

[H14] (d) Genesis without any cause ........................................................................................212

[H15] (i) What earlier adherents of this view believe............................................................................212

[H15] (ii) Refuting that view.................................................................................................................212

[H16] (a) Refutation of genesis from a very essence .......................................................................212

[H17] (i) It would contravene reasoning (674), 6:99.1-2.......................................................212

[H17] (ii) It would contravene what can be seen, 6:99.3-100.................................................212

[H16] (b) Refutation of genesis from an elemental cause ...............................................................213

[H17] (i) Such views demonstrate an inability to understand anything beyond this world,

6:101.......................................................................................................................213

[H17] (ii) A logical proof that this view is mistaken, 6:102 ...................................................215

[H17] (iii) Disposing of an objection raised against an analogy of that logical proof,

6:103.1....................................................................................................................215

[H13] (iii) The meaning of what is determined in this way (675), 6:103.2-4............................................215

[H12] [Note: Two further subheadings that the commentary initially lists as belonging to this

section (i), “The Use of Reasoning to Refute the Four Extreme Theories of Genesis”, are

omitted here but appear below, after (ii)]

[H11] (ii) Disposing of objections from those who believe in (genesis from) self and/or other..............216

[H12] (a) Rejecting that (the non-existence of such genesis) is repudiated by what ordinary beings

see, 6:104-106 .........................................................................................................................216

[H12] (b) Rejecting the consequences of holding that (such genesis) does not exist even in

conventional truth (676) ..........................................................................................................218

[H13] (i) The objection, 6:107 ..........................................................................................................218

[H13] (ii) Dealing with it ..................................................................................................................218

[H14] (a) The consequence, which applies to false relative truth, is not definitive, 6:108-110 ..218

[H14] (b) Their proposition is disproved by both logic and scriptural authority, 6:111-112 ......219

[H14] (c) Their thesis is contradicted by their own analogy, 6:113 ............................................227

[H12] [Second subheading of (i)]

(b) Explaining genesis on the basis of interdependent arising, 6:114........................................227

[H12] [Third subheading of (i)]

(c) The benefits of understanding how interdependent arising disposes of the two extremes...228

[H13] (i) The reasoning of interdependent arising cuts through the net of false views (677), 6:115 ........228

[H13] (ii) The realization of interdependent arising counteracts all conceptual notions, 6:116................229

[H13] (iii) The result of investigation is that all conceptual notions are (seen to be) wrong, 6:117-118 ..229

[H13] (iv) Therefore one is advised to abandon attachment and aversion and to investigate, 6:119 ........230

[H9] (ii) Explaining interdependent arising by means of the absence of any

self in one’s person (677) .............................................................................................246

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - xi

[H10] (a) The need to refute what is grasped at by views that hold there to be a self (677), 6:120 ........246

[H10] (b) Explanation of the reasoning of refutations that meet that need (678) ....................................246

[H11] (i) Use of reasoning to analyse and refute the idea that the person is something

substantial........................................................................................................................248

[H11] (ii) Presentation of the person as dependently imputed (694) ..............................................278

[H11] (iii) Using that same logic to expose all existing things (699) ...............................................286

[H11] (i) Use of reasoning to analyse and refute the idea that the person is something substantial .........248

[H12] (a) Refuting the idea that the person exists with five aspects......................................................248

[H13] (i) Detailed explanation of the reasoning used for this refutation...........................................248

[H14] (a) Refuting the idea that the self and the aggregates are different things...............................248

[H15] (i) What those with this view believe, 6:121...............................................................................249

[H15] (ii) Explaining what is wrong with that.......................................................................................253

[H16] (a) Refutation by examining the nature and particularities of that difference.........................253

[H17] (i) Refuting its nature, 6:122.............................................................................................253

[H17] (ii) Refuting its particularities, 6:123................................................................................255

[H16] (b) Refutation by examining the absence of any difference from the aggregates,

6:124.1-2.................................................................................................................255

[H16] (c) Refutation of the idea of such a focus for the “I” and brief conclusion, 6:124.3-125 .......256

[H14] (b) Refuting the idea that the self and the aggregates are the same thing ................................257

[H15] (i) What those with this view believe, 6:126...............................................................................257

[H15] (ii) Explaining what is wrong with that (684) .............................................................................257

[H16] (a) Using reasoning to contradict what is meant by self and aggregates being the same........257

[H17] (i) Refutation by analysing what is grasped at, the self and the aggregates ...................257

[H18] (a) Contradicting it with seven extremely fallacious implications, 6:127-128 ....257

[H18] (b) Rejecting the counter-argument and brief conclusion (685), 6:129.1-3.........259

[H17] (ii) Refutation by the fact that its results, the end of the world etc., do not hold

(686), 6:129.4 .........................................................................................................259

[H17] (iii) Refutation from the subjective standpoint of the yogi.............................................259

[H18] (a) The consequence that when the absence of self was realized, the aggregates

would disappear, 6:130 ..................................................................................259

[H18] (b) The consequence that when the absence of self was realized, desire would

(still) arise, 6:131 ...........................................................................................260

[H16] (b) The absence of any scriptural reference to self and aggregates being the same thing.......262

[H17] (i) The absence of any scriptural reference to the aggregates explained as being the

self, 6:132-133........................................................................................................262

[H17] (ii) If there were such scriptural references, they would be contradicted by both

scriptural authority and logic (687).........................................................................262

[H18] (a) Contradiction by scriptural authority, 6:134 ....................................................262

[H18] (b) Contradiction by logic (688) ............................................................................263

[H19] (i) If they are just a coming together of things, it is like the example of

the chariot, 6:135 ...................................................................................263

[H19] (ii) If the skandhas have shape, they cannot be mind (688), 6:136..............264

[H19] (iii) The implication would be that action and agent are both the same

thing, 6:137............................................................................................264

[H17] (iii) Summary of what has previously been established based on scriptural authority,

6:138-139................................................................................................................264

[H16] (c) If self and aggregates were the same thing, what is to be refuted is confused with what

is to be upheld (689), 6:140-141 .....................................................................................268

[H14] (c) Refuting the idea that they exist as support and something supported, 6:142 ...................275

[H14] (d) Refuting the idea of the self as possessing the aggregates (691), 6:143 ...............................275

[H13] (ii) Summarizing and how this view is taught about in terms of expedient and definitive truth,

6:144-145..............................................................................................................................275

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - xii

[H12] (b) Refuting the existence of the individual as something indescribable (694)...............................276

[H13] (i) Statement of that view, 6:146 .............................................................................................276

[H13] (ii) Explaining what is wrong with it ......................................................................................276

[H14] (a) If it was indescribable, it could not substantially exist, 6:147 ..................................277

[H14] (b) If it was indescribable, (holders of this view themselves) say that it could only

exist as an imputation, 6:148 ..................................................................................277

[H14] (c) Since it is not a real phenomenon, it cannot be proved to be real, 6:149..................277

[H11] (ii) Presentation of the person as dependently imputed ..........................................................278

[H12] (a) Using previously explained reasoning to establish that it is imputed, 6:150 .........................278

[H12] (b) Applying the simile of the chariot (696)................................................................................279

[H13] (i) Summary, 6:151.................................................................................................................280

[H13] (ii) Detailed explanation .........................................................................................................280

[H14] (a) Establishing the simile....................................................................................................280

[H15] (i) If it is analysed with the sevenfold reasoning it has no substantial existence............281

[H16] (a) The mere collection of parts is not a chariot, 6:152.1-2........................................281

[H16] (b) The collection of parts and shape are not a chariot...............................................281

[H17] (i) Without the parts, the collection and shape are not the chariot, 6:152.3-4 ........281

[H17] (ii) Nor is the shape of the individual parts the chariot (697), 6:153-154..............281

[H17] (iii) Nor is the shape of the assembled parts the chariot, 6:155-156......................282

[H17] (iv) Using the same proof for other related (examples), 6:157..............................282

[H15] (ii) The chariot exists for ordinary people without analysis ...........................................283

[H16] (a) When dependently imputed, the chariot exists in conventional truth, 6:158 ........283

[H16] (b) In the same way, things with parts etc. exist in conventional truth, 6:159 ...........283

[H15] (iii) The benefits of analysis with the sevenfold reasoning ............................................284

[H16] (a) It introduces the true nature of things, 6:160 .......................................................284

[H16] (b) It refutes (notions about) things with parts, 6:161 ...............................................284

[H14] (b) Applying (the simile) to the subject under discussion (699).........................................284

[H15] (i) At the time of dependent imputation, a proprietor and so on exist, 6:162.................284

[H15] (ii) At the time of thorough analysis, all elaborations without exception are stopped,

6:163.......................................................................................................................285

[H15] (iii) The focus of belief in an “I” is set up by the power of ignorance, 6:164 ................285

[H15] (iv) Refuting ideas of “mine” in the same way, 6:165.1-2.............................................285

[H12] (c) The result of that analysis, 6:165.3-4.....................................................................................285

[H11] (iii) Using that same logic to expose all existing things ..............................................................286

[H12] (a) Exposing all existing things that are dependently imputed (700), 6:166...............................286

[H12] (b) Exposing in particular all existing things that are actions, 6:167 ..........................................286

[H12] (c) Exposing all existing things that are causes and effects.........................................................286

[H13] (i) According to reasoning already explained, causes and effects have no true nature,

6:168 ...............................................................................................................................286

[H13] (ii) When analysed in terms of whether or not there is contact between them, they have

no true nature, 6:169-170................................................................................................287

[H13] (iii) Rejecting two objections, such as the similarity (in consequences) claimed to apply

to our own argument .......................................................................................................287

[H14] (a) The opponent’s objection, 6:171-172 .......................................................................287

[H14] (b) What is wrong with it (701)......................................................................................288

[H15] (i) Dispelling the objection by having no position .....................................................288

[H16] (a) Our argument does not have the same flaw because we do not take the

position of true existence, 6:173 ....................................................................288

[H16] (b) An example of an action that is valid as long as there is no analysis ...............288

[H17] (i) A valid example that refutes the objection, 6:174 ....................................288

[H17] (ii) A valid example that proves the point (702), 6:175 ................................289

[H16] (c) Flaws in the analysis only point out that the opponent is at fault (703), 6:176 295

[H16] (d) There is no need to prove any true existence, 6:177 ........................................295

[H15] (ii) Dispelling arguments using the rest of the refutations, 6:178 ..................................295

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - xiii

[H8] (b) Explaining emptiness as it is to be realized by the Mahayana (705) .................................296

[H9] (i) How (the Buddha) gave detailed explanations in terms of (beings’) needs, 6:179 .........296

[H9] (ii) Showing what is to be realized through the Mahayana (706), 6:180 ..............................296

[H9] (iii) Detailed explanation in terms of the attributes of the ground of emptiness ....................297

[H10] (a) Explanation of the detailed classification into sixteen ...............................................297

[H11] i) Emptiness of inner, 6:181-182 ............................................................................297

[H11] ii) Emptiness of outer (708), 6:183-184.2...............................................................297

[H11] iii) Emptiness of both outer and inner, 6:184.3-4 ...................................................298

[H11] iv) Emptiness of emptiness, 6:185-186...................................................................298

[H11] v) Emptiness of vastness, 6:187-188 ......................................................................298

[H11] vi) Emptiness of the ultimate, 6:189-190................................................................298

[H11] vii) Emptiness of the compounded, 6:191 ..............................................................299

[H11] viii) Emptiness of the uncompounded, 6:192 .........................................................299

[H11] ix) Emptiness of the limitless, 6:193 ......................................................................300

[H11] x) Emptiness of that without beginning or end, 6:194-195.....................................300

[H11] xi) Emptiness of non-discarding, 6:196-197...........................................................300

[H11] xii) Emptiness of true nature, 6:198-199 ................................................................308

[H11] xiii) Emptiness of all phenomena, 6:200-201.2......................................................308

[H11] xiv) Emptiness of characteristics, 6:201.3-215.......................................................309

[H11] xv) Emptiness of the non-apprehended (710), 6:216-217.......................................312

[H11] xvi) Emptiness of the nature without substantial existence, 6:218 .........................313

[H10] (b) Explanation of the condensed classification into four ...............................................322

[H11] i) Emptiness of things, 6:219..................................................................................322

[H11] ii) Emptiness of absence of things, 6:220...............................................................322

[H11] iii) Emptiness of own nature, 6:221........................................................................323

[H11] iv) Emptiness of other nature, 6:222-223.2 ............................................................323

[H9] (iv) Brief conclusion mentioning the scriptural source, 6:223.3-4 ........................................323

[H6] d) Summary of the qualities attained in this way (711)................................................................324

[H7] (1) The qualities of realizing the absolute, 6:224..................................................................324

[H7] (2) The qualities of realizing the relative, 6:225...................................................................324

[H7] (3) The qualities united, 6:226..............................................................................................325

[H5] 7. The seventh bhumi, Gone Far..................................................................................341

[H6] a) The quality of the meditation, 7:1.1-2 .....................................................................................341

[H6] b) The quality of the paramita, 7:1.3............................................................................................341

[H5] 8. The eighth bhumi, Immovable (712) .......................................................................349

[H6] a) The quality of increasing previous virtue, 8:1.1-3 ...................................................................349

[H6] b) The qualities of what is abandoned and what is realized on this bhumi ..................................350

[H7] (1) The special qualities of the paramita, 8:1.4.....................................................................350

[H7] (2) The special qualities of what is realized (713), 8:1.5......................................................350

[H8] (a) What is set out in the sutra......................................................................................350

[H8] (b) Explaining the meaning of the sutra (714) .............................................................350

[H9] (i) Identifying cessation ..........................................................................................350

[H9] (ii) The extent of the need to arise from it ..............................................................350

[H9] (iii) The need to arise from it (716) .......................................................................350

[H9] (iv) The defects of not arising from it .....................................................................350

[H7] (3) The special qualities of what is abandoned (717), 8:2 ....................................................351

[H6] c) The qualities that will be perfected on the subsequent bhumis, 8:3 ........................................351

[H5] 9. The ninth bhumi, Perfect Intelligence (719).......................................................358

[H6] a) The special quality of the paramita, 9:1.1................................................................................358

[H6] b) How other qualities are also attained, 9:1.2.............................................................................358

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - xiv

[H5] 10. The tenth bhumi, Cloud of Dharma.......................................................................360

[H6] a) Empowerment as the Buddhas’ representative, 10:1.1-2.......................................................360

[H6] b) The special quality of the paramita, 10:1.2............................................................................360

[H6] c) Explanation of the name of this paramita, 10:1.3-4.................................................................360

[H4] C. Explaining the qualities of each in terms of the special enumerated features (720) ................365

[H5] 1. The qualities of the first seven bhumis set out in terms of numbers........................................365

[H6] a) Explanation of the twelve hundred-fold qualities of the first bhumi, 11:1-3 ..................365

[H6] b) The qualities of the second to seventh bhumis set out in terms of how many times

they are multiplied, 11:4-5......................................................................................367

[H5] 2. The qualities of the last three bhumis set out in terms of particles of dust (721).....................367

[H6] a) The qualities of the eighth bhumi, 11:6...........................................................................367

[H6] b) The qualities of the ninth bhumi, 11:7 ............................................................................368

[H6] c) The qualities of the tenth bhumi......................................................................................368

[H7] (1) The qualities set out in terms of numbers, 11:8.........................................................368

[H7] (2) The quality of manifesting, 11:9................................................................................368

[H3] II. Explaining the level of buddhahood which is the result ...........................369

[H4] A. General explanation (721) .......................................................................................................369

[H5] 1. Refuting the idea that the Buddha has no wisdom ..........................................................369

[H5] 2. Refuting the idea that he has dualistic perception (723) .................................................369

[H5] 3. Setting out our own reasoned opinion (727) ..................................................................369

[H5] 4. Explaining that the kayas are extraordinary (730) ..........................................................369

[H4] B. What is taught in the text (731) ...............................................................................................369

[H5] 1. How the Buddha attained enlightenment.................................................................................369

[H6] a) The explanation itself ......................................................................................................369

[H7] (1) The time, 11:10.1-2 ...................................................................................................369

[H7] (2) The place (732), 11:10.3-4 ........................................................................................369

[H7] (3) How he attained wisdom, 11:11 ................................................................................369

[H6] b) Disposing of an objection................................................................................................370

[H7] (1) The objection, 11:12..................................................................................................370

[H7] (2) The answer to it .........................................................................................................373

[H8] (a) Although it is uncreated, reasoning is valid, 11:13 ...........................................373

[H8] (b) Although it is uncreated, to say he taught is valid (734) ...................................374

[H9] (i) Although it is uncreated, cognisance of Dharma can arise (735), 11:14............374

[H9] (ii) A simile showing that it is valid to say he taught the Dharma even

without discursive thought, 11:15-16 ..................................................................374

[H5] 2. Explaining the kayas that are attained .....................................................................................377

[H6] a) Explaining the three kayas and their qualities .................................................................377

[H7] (1) The three kayas which are the support....................................................................377

[H8] (a) The dharmakaya in which concepts are completely pacified, 11:17 .................377

[H8] (b) The sambhogakaya in which merit is spread, 11:18 .........................................378

[H8] (c) How both of these can display things consistent with illusions.........................379

[H9] (i) Displaying transformations in a single rupakaya (736) ...........................................................379

[H10] (a) Displaying conduct in samsara, 11:19-20ó .......................................................................379

[H10] (b) Displaying conduct such as generosity etc., 11:20ó-21ó .................................................379

[H9] (ii) Displaying the lives of himself and others within every pore of his body...............................379

[H10] (a) Displaying his own conduct, 11:21ó-22............................................................................379

[H10] (b) Displaying others’ conduct ................................................................................................380

[H11] i) Displaying the noble conduct of the Buddhas, 11:23-24........................................380

[H11] ii) Displaying the conduct of the lesser noble ones, 11:25.1-3ó.................................380

[H11] iii) Displaying the conduct of ordinary beings, 11:25.3ó-4.........................................381

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara Structural Outline (according to Gorampa) - xv

[H9] (iii) Displaying mastery of other transformations simply at his will ..............................................381

[H10] (a) Mastery of transforming objects, 11:26 .............................................................................381

[H10] (b) Mastery of transforming time, 11:27 .................................................................................381

[H7] (2) The qualities that are supported..................................................................................................385

[H8] (a) Dividing them briefly into ten kinds........................................................................................385

[H9] (i) Summary, 11:28-30.........................................................................................................385

[H9] (ii) Detailed explanation........................................................................................................385

[H10] (1) The power of knowing what is something’s basis and what is not, 11:31.................385

[H10] (2) The power of knowing the fruition of all actions, 11:32 ...........................................386

[H10] (3) The power of knowing beings’ various aspirations (737), 11:33 ..............................386

[H10] (4) The power of knowing all the various constituents of things, 11:34 .........................387

[H10] (5) The power of knowing whether faculties are supreme or not supreme, 11:35 ..........388

[H10] (6) The power of knowing the paths followed by all, 11:36 ...........................................388

[H10] (7) The power of knowing both affliction and perfection (738), 11:37 ..........................389

[H10] (8) The power of knowing and remembering (all beings’) past lives, 11:38 ..................389

[H10] (9) The power of knowing (all beings’) deaths and transmigrations, 11:39....................389

[H10] (10) The power of knowing how to exhaust all defilements, 11:40 ................................390

[H8] (b) The author’s inability to express a clear categorization of them, 11:41 ..................................390

[H8] (c) He has here described them according to someone else’s explanation, 11:42.........................390

[H7] (3) Summary of both together, 11:43...............................................................................................396

[H6] b) Explaining the nirmanakaya and its activity............................................................................396

[H7] (1) The nirmanakaya provisionally taught the three vehicles, 11:44 ....................................396

[H7] (2) Ultimately there is only one vehicle, 11:45.....................................................................396

[H7] (3) He taught three vehicles as his wisdom intent, 11:46-47 ................................................397

[H5] 3. Extolling the Buddha as supreme, according to time (741) .....................................................397

[H6] a) At the beginning, when he attains sacred enlightenment, 11:48..............................................397

[H6] b) At the end, when he remains in order to benefit beings (744) .................................................398

[H7] (1) He remains forever out of supreme wisdom and compassion, 11:49..............................398

[H7] (2) Explanation of the nature of the compassion with which he acts....................................398

[H8] (a) Remaining forever because he is without compare, 11:50 .....................................398

[H8] (b) Remaining forever because the goal is not exhausted, 11:51 .................................399

[H2] C. Explaining the closing sections of the text .................................................................................407

[H3] 1. The way in which he has expressed the teachings (745), 11:52 ..............................................407

[H3] 2. Showing that the subject-matter expressed is not ordinary, 11:53 ..........................................408

[H3] 3. Explaining the need to have written such an expression of it ..................................................408

[H4] a) He has written a treatise to teach about suchness, 11:54.................................................408

[H4] b) He therefore advises us to give up (studying) other traditions’ texts (749), 11:55..........408

[H3] 4. Dedicating the merits of having written the text to the supreme goal, 11:56 ..........................409

[H1] THE CONCLUSION.......................................................................................................................409

[H2] 1. The author of the text, colophon..............................................................................................409

[H2] 2. The translators .........................................................................................................................409

Tibetan Words & Phrases...................................................................................................................413

Logic Trees for Structural Outline .................................................................................................431

Chandrakirti’s Opponents - A review of some Indian philosophical schools........... 443

References & Bibliography .....................................................................................................448

Frequently-Asked Questions............................................................................................................. 450

Index..............................................................................................................................................................451

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 1

INTRODUCTION AND PRELIMINARIES

The importance of the view

Now that the period of Buddhism’s introduction in the West is almost over, we need to establish

the proper study and practice of Buddhism. Up to now, we have tended to emphasise the

methods, things like meditation and gurus, but we have tended to forget the view. The study of

Madhyamika is important because it has vast and intensive analyses and methods to establish the

view. Having the right view is like knowing the direction to Paris. Suppose that you are

travelling to Paris with a guide who says that he knows the road, and then suddenly your guide

takes out a guidebook and starts to act a little strangely. If you know the direction to Paris, then

whether the guide is leading you along the highway or through the bush does not matter. As long

as he is heading in the right direction, it does not even matter if he acts nervously, because you

know and trust the direction.

Nowadays, it seems that people do not care much about the direction, but instead the car inspires

them – the Vajrayana vehicle, the Mahayana vehicle and so on. Even worse than that, they find

inspiration in the guide. With this approach, unless you have so much merit that you accidentally

find success, it is quite difficult to attain the result. We hear teachings like “rest in the nature of

the mind”, which are very intoxicating and nice to hear, but we have no fundamental

understanding of the view. We have to establish that there is a mind that rests, that there is a socalled

rest, and that it is actually possible to rest: to do this, we need to have a view.

I hope that these teachings will broaden our understanding of the view. I place great emphasis on

establishing the view, because when we establish the view we then gain trust and confidence in

the path. Then it will not matter if along the path you encounter all sorts of circumstance, like

your guru acting strangely, because you will still have confidence in him or her.

There is also another reason. Nowadays the spiritual market is quite popular. I do not know so

much about business, but I imagine that in much of business, you have to invent a certain idea

and tell people that they lack something. Then after establishing this, you tell them “what you do

not have, I have”! I have read many books and listened to many teachings, and I can see

wonderful methods like aromatherapy, incense and the sounds of waves and birds. There are so

many wonderful methods, and we should use them rather then negate them, but on their own,

they lack a view, or at least an ultimate view. This is because most of these methods aim for

temporal relief.

If your motivation to study or practice Buddhism is for temporal relief, it may work to a certain

extent, but that is not the real aim of Buddhism. It was never an aim of the great scholars like

Chandrakirti. You will see in this text, and in Vasubandhu’s Abhidharma, that the way they

analyse and approach reality is very subtle and sharp. Sometimes I think they should have

written drama and fiction, then they would have become popular and more people would learn

Buddhism! But they did not do that, so they are forgotten, whereas people like Shakespeare and

Dickens are well known. These Buddhist scholars know that everybody wants happiness, but

they also recognise that the only way actually to reach true and never-ending happiness is to get

rid of your ignorance. By contrast, methods like poetry and literature can only provide

temporary relief from suffering, so Buddhist scholars do not place much emphasis on writing

poetry and stories. In fact, they think that any path, any book or idea, is only useful if it helps a

sentient being to obtain permanent happiness. For example, one Hindu school emphasised the

analysis of external phenomena, and its followers even wrote a book analysing whether or not

If you do not know the

direction to your goal,

you will only reach it by

accident

Establishing the view

brings confidence in the

path

There are many

wonderful methods, but

on their own, they lack a

view

With Madhyamika, we

can establish the view;

having the right view is

like knowing the direction

to Paris

The only way to attain

true happiness is by

eliminating ignorance

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 2

crows have teeth! From Chandrakirti’s point of view, this kind of thing is useless. What if we

find whether a crow has a tooth, or not – so what? It does not serve any purpose!

So as we talk about establishing the view, please remember that the philosophy of Madhyamika

is not just an idea, but is also something very practical. Although at times you will wonder

whether these arguments between philosophical schools are of any practical value, they can

actually be very helpful if you think of Chandrakirti’s opponents as representing your own

emotions, rather than philosophical schools. If you then read their arguments, the sharpness of

your own ignorance will amaze you!

In many Indian philosophies, including Buddhist philosophy, in order for the teacher to establish

the view for the student, it is often necessary to introduce an opponent to have a debate with. I

was wondering if I should leave out all the technical words, the names of the different texts and

views, and the seemingly boring arguments in these debates. But even though you may not

understand it now, you will get used to it. There will be some kind of imprint in your head, and

there will be a side benefit that you will realise that Buddhism is not just about love, compassion

and resting in the nature of the mind! I want the style of these teachings to be as close as

possible to the shedras or Buddhist schools in Tibet. I think that one of the reasons why

Madhyamika is usually taught first among the five different subjects of Buddhist philosophy is

that you first have to establish the view, and then logic and metaphysics can follow.

On a more personal note, this is a Mahayana teaching and not a Vajrayana teaching. I am just

teaching you in my capacity as someone who has more information on the Madhyamika than you

do, so there is no threat of Vajrayana samayas or the automatic development of the guru-disciple

bond. Please do not have any emotional expectations, as I am only here to explain what is

written in the text as best as I can. I am not here to touch your forehead with my finger and

dissolve all your problems!

Some advice on how to study Madhyamika

I would like to give you some advice on how to listen to or study this teaching. I think we will

have many problems with the definition of terms, for example, when I say ‘suffering’, then you

have an idea of what is meant by that, and I have an idea. So when I talk about it based on my

idea and you listen based on your idea, problems can occur. In everyday life, we often do not

entirely mean what we are saying, but now we are studying philosophy, so we need to mean what

we say! We must be disciplined when we use words like suffering, and not take their meaning

for granted.

I think that different definitions of words are one of the root problems between a teacher and

student, especially an eastern teacher teaching western students. So, although we are not going

to study it here, let me introduce some Buddhist logic here, as it will help you. When we talk of

definitions, we have to establish what the definition of a ‘definition’ is. Until we can agree upon

this, we will create a lot of loopholes, and we do not want any loopholes when we study.

Dharmakirti’s definition of a ‘definition’ is that it is free from the three kinds of fault of being

too all encompassing, not all-encompassing enough, and not possible.

You can see that Buddhist scholars do not just teach, “Rest in the nature of the mind” – they go

through all sorts of small details! Now, what is the definition of this pink flower that I have just

picked up? You have to really listen to me very carefully, as you are a philosopher. Can you

create a definition of this particular flower free from the three faults? You can see that the

definition has to include me, for example my hand, since I am holding the flower. If you say the

flower is pink, it is not specific enough, as there are many other pink things in this room. If you

say the flower is round, that is not sufficiently all encompassing, as there are also many other

Our philosophical

opponents in this text

represent our emotions

Meaning what we say:

precise definitions are

important

Dharmakirti’s definition

of a ‘definition’

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 3

shapes in this flower. An impossible definition is easy, for example if you say that the flower

talks.

The point of this example is that when we use big words like ‘emptiness’, or small words like

‘suffering’, all these words need a good definition. This is why when Buddhist masters talk

about suffering, as in ‘samsara is full of suffering’, people cannot understand. For many people,

the definition of suffering is something that is painful. So, they say, “No, I am having a nice

time here right now. It is not true that whole world is full of suffering”. Whereas from a

Buddhist point of view, even getting a suntan while having a nice time on the beach is a form of

suffering, because your body is getting roasted and more wrinkled, and the clock is ticking all the

time.

I am giving you an idea of the importance of definitions when you study. Later on we will talk a

lot about things that are ‘truly existent’, and to understand this, you will need the right definition

of what is meant by ‘truly existent’. Many Buddhists take this for granted, and say that

everything does not exist, and some careful Buddhists say everything does not truly exist. But

even this raises questions, because if you say that everything does not truly exist, then that

implies it should exist in a relative way. In fact, the definition of ‘truly’ is the reason why many

of the Madhyamika philosophers cannot accept the idea of truly existing phenomena, as we shall

see later.

One other important piece of advice is that you should not think about or approach Madhyamika

in a complicated way. There is actually something very simple underlying it, but sometimes we

approach it in a complicated way. Now on top of all these, we need wisdom. That seems to be

the key. Wisdom can be attained in only two ways: devotion, in this case to guru Manjushri, and

compassion towards sentient beings. Somehow, compassion towards sentient beings is difficult,

but devotion to some figure is perhaps possible, as we have the habit of looking to heroes. Now,

there may be many different types of obstacles interfering with our wisdom and merit. In order

to dispel these obstacles, and to accumulate some merit, we will begin every morning with the

Heart Sutra, as it is done in the shedras, and we will pray to Manjushri and Chandrakirti.

Before we start, let us generate the bodhicitta mind, the intention of studying this Madhyamika

philosophy for the sake of enlightening all the sentient beings. At the same time, also develop

joy at the opportunity to hear, contemplate, discuss and maybe even gradually practice the

essence of the Buddha’s teaching, which is emptiness.

The nine qualities of the Buddha’s teachings

The Dharma can be classified into two aspects, the scriptural Dharma or Dharma of transmission,

and the Dharma of realisation, that which arises in the mind of the practitioner along the path.

The Dharma of transmission includes the Buddha’s own words, the sutras, and the shastras,

which are the commentaries on the sutras.

The Dharma of transmission has five qualities:

• Virtuous in the beginning: hearing and studying these scriptures invokes trust and

devotion by convincing you of the ground, path and fruit.

• Virtuous in the middle: as you contemplate on what you have heard, then you will be

able to convince yourself that the result can be obtained.

• Virtuous at the end: as you meditate on it, simultaneously your wisdom will grow.

• Excellent meaning: it consists of teachings on both relative and ultimate truth.

• Excellent words: Buddha’s teachings use ordinary language, something that is known in

the ordinary world.

The importance of

defining ‘truly existent’

Do not think about the

Madhyamika in a

complicated way

The Dharma of

transmission and the

Dharma of realisation

The five qualities of the

Dharma of transmission

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 4

In order to understand these qualities, it is important to talk about what the teachings are being

compared to. There are teachings or paths that have only relative truth or ultimate truth, or

perhaps neither, whereas the teachings of the Buddha comprise both. You can say that it does

not abandon either of the two truths. This is a very important remark because, for example,

shastras like those analysing the tooth of the crow have teachings on neither relative truth nor

ultimate truth. I think we can see many similar examples in bookshops these days. The quality

of using ordinary language is also quite important if you know the history of Buddhism. Some

Hindu schools use only Vedic words, so that in order to practice those methods you almost have

to learn a completely new holy language. This may be why many Theravadin scholars believe

that the Buddha’s teachings were written in Pali rather than Sanskrit, because Sanskrit is a very

Vedic language. I am saying this to show that what I am reciting is not just something poetic,

but that every word has its purpose. These are the five qualities of the Dharma of transmission,

which is like a medium for transmission.

The actual Dharma, which is the Dharma of realisation, has four kinds of qualities:

• Not mixed up, madrepa (ma dres pa): this has nothing to do with the style of the

teaching; it is contrasting Buddhism with Hinduism again. When Atisha Dipamkara

was in Tibet, he heard that Maitripa had died in India, and he was very sad. He

mourned deeply for several days, and later his disciple Dromtönpa asked him why he

was especially sad this time, given that he had heard a lot of other bad news in the past.

Atisha replied that only two scholars in India could differentiate between Hinduism and

Buddhism, Maitripa and himself. Since Atisha was now in Tibet, there was almost

nobody in India who could differentiate between Hinduism and Buddhism. This tells us

that people like us can be easily be attracted to some of the Hindu teachings on nonduality,

such as those taught by Shankara, but that they are not really the same as

Buddhist teachings on non-duality, although they are very similar. Thus ‘not mixed up’

means that the realisation taught by the Buddha is not mixed up with the kind of

realisation taught by Hinduism. This aims directly at the result of shamatha and the

result of vipashyana.

• Complete, yongsu dzogpa (yongs su rdzogs pa): It has a compete method to dispel the

defilements.

• Pure, dakpa (dag pa): It is pure from the beginning. Here we are talking about the

Buddha nature.

• Purifying, jangwa (sbyang ba): It can purify the temporal defilements.

These are the nine qualities of the Dharma of transmission and the Dharma of realisation. The

purpose of this list is to verify the authenticity of the text we are studying. The words of the

Buddha (lung) make up the sutras, but here we are not studying sutra; we are studying shastra,

which is the commentary. The authority of the sutras comes from the fact that they are Buddha’s

own words, while the authority of the commentaries comes from reasoning rigpa (rigs pa).

Strictly, from the point of view of Buddhist logic, reasoning is even more important than the

Buddha’s words, because the Buddha’s words are open to interpretation. And although some

kinds of reasoning can also be interpreted, when we reason that fire can burn you because fire is

hot – that is reality. The Buddha might say that fire is cold and cannot burn you, and you might

also find reasons why fire cannot be hot, but fire will still burn you. This logic cannot be

interpreted!

When you are studying this kind of text, there will be many quotations from the Buddha,

especially in the commentaries. You quote the Buddha’s words mainly when your opponent is a

Buddhist, but if your opposition is non-Buddhist, then the Buddha’s words are useless. For

almost every commentary, like the Madhyamakavatara we are studying here, there will always

be one, two or more supporting sutras. In the case of the Madhyamakavatara, the principal

supporting sutra is the Dashabhumika Sutra (do sde sa chu pa), the Ten Bhumi Sutra.

The four qualities of the

Dharma of realisation

Sources of a text’s

authority: the Buddha’s

words and reasoning

This text’s principal

supporting sutra is the

Dashabhumika Sutra

Non-duality means

different things in

Buddhism and Hinduism

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 5

Keep this in mind when we debate with the Cittamatrin school. We have said that the

Dashabhumika Sutra is our supporting sutra, but the Cittamatrin school, which is probably the

principal opponent of the Madhyamakavatara, will also quote from this sutra and use it to

contradict the Madhyamika school. This is because this sutra contains phrases like

“Bodhisattvas, all these three realms are nothing but mind”. And in the ensuing debate, you will

be able to see how Chandrakirti tries to escape from this kind of negation.

[H1] THE TITLE

The title starts with “gya gar skad du” (in the language of India), which is considered a seal of

authenticity. The commentary on the title is in two parts: which Madhyamika, or Middle Way, is

being introduced, and how it is introduced.

[H2] Which Madhyamika is being introduced?

In the title “Introduction to the Middle Way”, the title could be referring to two possible Middle

Ways. It could be the absolute Madhyamika, the Dharmakaya, which is the absolute nature free

of all conceptual extremes. Or it could be the scriptural teachings on Madhyamika, the texts that

refer to the absolute Madhyamika. There are two categories of these texts: firstly, the Buddha’s

words, particularly the Prajñaparamita sutras, which are the teachings on transcendental

wisdom; and secondly, the shastras.

In this case the title refers to the scriptural Middle Way, and among the commentaries, it refers

particularly to Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, which is often called the root text of the

Madhyamika. We know this because Chandrakirti also wrote a commentary on his own

commentary, in which he said he would explain the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas. However, this

autocommentary does not go through Nagarjuna’s text verse by verse, and it introduces some

quite different subjects, so not all Tibetan scholars agree that Chandrakirti is referring to

Nagarjuna’s text.

Nagarjuna – a historical note

Not much is known about Nagarjuna, although he is the man often referred to as the father of

Buddhist philosophy. He lived in India in the 1st to 2nd centuries AD, about four hundred years

after the Buddha, who had predicted that “After I die, in the place of Beti there will be a great

monk, and part of his name will be Naga. He will destroy both existence and non-existence”.

Among Nagarjuna’s many works, some of the best known include:

• Mulamadhyamaka-karikas (rtsa ba shes rab): The Root Commentary on the Middle

Way, which he wrote to defeat Hindus and other Buddhists.

• Yukti-sastika (rigs pa drug bcu pa): Sixty Verses on Logic, which he wrote to defeat

Buddhists.

• Vigraha-vyavartani (rtsod ldog): Refutation of Wrong Views, which he wrote in reply to

questions raised about his other books.

• Sunyata-saptati (stong nyid bdun bcu pa): Seventy Verses on Emptiness, where he

expounds on why compounded things are impermanent.

• Vaidalya Sutra (zhib mo rnam thag): The Grinding Machine, which was written to

defeat various sorts of logic.

• Ratnavali (rin chen phreng ba): Garland of Jewels.

Some of Nagarjuna’s

most important works

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 6

The Mulamadhyamaka-karikas has some twenty-one or twenty-two chapters, the first of which

deals with causation and the classification of phenomena. Phenomena can be compounded or

uncompounded. There is no third type of phenomenon that is both compounded and

uncompounded, or neither. The general Buddhist definition of a compounded phenomenon is

kyene jiksum (skye gnas ’jig gsum): birth, remaining and death. As long as a phenomenon has a

beginning/arising, a remaining and an end/cessation, then it is a compounded phenomenon. Of

these three, Buddhist philosophers think that birth is the most important for ordinary people. We

ask questions like “how did we get here?” and in response, philosophers and ideologists invent

all sorts of answers. Some say God, some say atman, some say atoms and others say there is no

cause. In the first chapter of the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, Nagarjuna deals with all the

conditions and the so-called causes of the universe and the self. Later, he expanded this first

chapter into the Vigraha-vyavartani, the Refutation of Wrong Views.

There is also a chapter in the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas that analyses compounding, which

Nagarjuna later expanded into the Sunyata-saptati, the Seventy Verses on Emptiness, which has

also been translated into English. Then there was an attack from a school that argued that it was

wrong to say that phenomena do not exist inherently, because inherent existence can be proved

with logic. For example, in the Gelugpa tradition, two kinds of existence are distinguished:

denpa drubpa (bden par grub pa) is inherent existence, and tsemé drubpa (tshad mas grub pa) is

logical existence. I think this is a very smart classification, because they then say that belief in

inherent existence is the defilement that needs to be purified by meditation, and belief in logical

existence is the defilement that needs to be purified by reasoning.

Anyway, what you need to understand here is that one philosophical school believes that inherent

existence can be proved by logic. In reply to this, Nagarjuna wrote the Vaidalya Sutra, in which

he completely dismantles the whole system of ordinary so-called logic. He shows that logic

exists only to a certain extent, and that belief in logic as something truly existent is a mistake.

Then there was another attack from certain schools that said that if things are inherently nonexistent,

then all things become like the horn of the rabbit, which has no substance whatsoever.

Do not think this is just a school – we also think like that! And in reply, Nagarjuna wrote

another text called Vyavahara siddha, “Existence from the conventional point of view”.

In the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, the primary emphasis is on wisdom, and there is no direct

mention of methods. In order to explain the methods more directly, Nagarjuna wrote the

Ratnavali, “Garland of Jewels”. In addition to these texts, which are part of his ‘Collection of

Logic’ (rigs tshogs), Nagarjuna also wrote a “Collection of Praises” (bstod tshogs), where he

praises Dharmakaya and the Buddhas’ wisdom, and a “Collection of Miscellaneous Sayings”

(gtams tshogs).

[H2] How it is introduced

In Tibetan, the title is literally translated as “Entering the Middle Way”. Here Chandrakirti is

entering the Middle Way of Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamaka-karikas as a whole, rather than the

individual chapters. And the way that he does this, as we will find in the sixth chapter of the

Madhyamakavatara, is by refuting arguments that say that things have true existence, or ultimate

origin, kyéwa (skye ba). This is why the philosophy of Abhidharma, the teachings on the

emptiness or egolessness of self and phenomena, is not simply an idea. It is also very important

for practice, since it sets out the Middle Way between the extremes of eternalism and nihilism.

When we study dualism and non-dualism, you will hear the terms ‘eternalism’, takpé ta (rtag

pa’i mtha’) and ‘nihilism’, chepé ta (chad pa’i mtha’). You might think that these are just

philosophical views, but we regularly engage in both these views, cheta nyi (chad rtag gnyis) in

everyday life. We are eternalist whenever we think that things will last forever or remain solid.

The importance of birth,

or arising

Nagarjuna’s refutation of

the true existence of logic

Chandrakirti enters

Nagarjuna’s Middle Way

by refuting that

phenomena have ultimate

origins

Eternalism and nihilism

in everyday life

Inherent existence and

logical existence in the

Gelugpa tradition

The Buddhist definition of

a compounded

phenomenon

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 7

For example, if I make an appointment to meet you tomorrow in a certain restaurant, then by

thinking that the restaurant will still be there tomorrow, you are in some way a victim of

eternalism. And we are nihilists when we think that things are not worth it, or that they have no

ultimate meaning or result. For instance, if have been trying to cure your alcoholic husband for

many years without success, and then finally you give up and decide you cannot help him any

more, then you are a victim of nihilism.

Generally, we say that ignorance and dualistic mind are the same, although we will later meet

concepts like tsendzin (mtshan ’dzin), ‘fixation towards characteristics’, which is not dualistic

mind but is still a type of ignorance. We know that dualism is the cause of all the pain and

suffering in samsara, and the purpose of Madhyamika, the middle way, is not to fall into these

extremes of eternalism and nihilism. And although for the sake of communication we have to

say ‘Middle Path’ or ‘Middle Way’, as Nagarjuna said, “A learned one must not even remain in

the middle”. As long as you have not understood Madhyamika, you are an extremist, and you

become a terrorist. If you want to be sober, you have to study Madhyamika.

We spoke yesterday of the words of the Buddha, and the shastras or commentaries on the

Buddha’s words. At this point, we are studying Madhyamika philosophy, so our heroes are

people like Nagarjuna. But you shouldn’t think that he is the only scholar within Buddhism. If

you look at Buddhist metaphysics or Buddhist logic, other figures are probably as great as

Nagarjuna. Nevertheless, Nagarjuna became very popular in India because of his strong

emphasis on the non-dualistic view. Even Hindu philosophy changed a little bit after Nagarjuna

and his followers defeated it, because of non-dualism.

The commentaries on the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas

That middle way of no extremes is what we are trying to enter here, and trying to study. Our

direct object is the scriptures on Madhyamika, especially the shastra written by Nagarjuna.

Nagarjuna wrote many books, but here we are trying to study the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas.

How do we enter and study Madhyamika? We study the commentaries, and examine how the

commentators are commenting, as each of these scholars has a different way of approaching his

commentary. Eight Indian panditas wrote commentaries on the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas and,

including Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara, the ones that are best known are:

• Akutobhaya by Nagarjuna or Aryadeva (2nd century)

• “Torch to the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas” by Buddhapalita (end 4th/early 5th century)

• Prajñapradipa, “Torch of Wisdom” by Bhavaviveka (early 5th century)

• Commentary by Gunamati

• Commentary by Sthiramati

• Prasannapada and Madhyamakavatara (dbu ma la ’jug pa) by Chandrakirti (6th

century)

• Sitabhyudaya by Devasarman

• Commentary by Gunasri

One of Nagarjuna’s disciples, Aryadeva, wrote the 400 Stanzas of Madhyamika, and in that book,

both view and action are taught equally. He also wrote the “Quintessence Extracted from the

Essence of Wisdom”, which is principally concerned with the view, and an autocommentary.

Actually, Chandrakirti was not a direct disciple of Nagarjuna, but of Buddhapalita. Buddhapalita

and Bhavaviveka were both disciples of Nagarjuna, and their commentaries are very special,

because the debates that arose because of their commentaries played an important role in the

development of the schools of Buddhist philosophical interpretation:

• Madhyamika-Svatantrika (rang rgyud pa) Bhavaviveka

If you have not

understood the

Madhyamika, you are an

extremist

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 8

• Madhyamika-Prasangika (thal ’gyur pa) Buddhapalita, Chandrakirti

• Cittamatra (sems tsam pa) Asanga, Vasubandhu

The two subdivisions of the Madhyamika became distinct in the 5th century with a debate

between Buddhapalita, who founded Madhyamika-Prasangika, and Bhavaviveka, who founded

Madhyamika-Svatantrika. Prasangikas like Buddhapalita do not have any theories of their own.

Instead, they use the method of prasanga, or reductio ad absurdum, to demolish their opponents’

views by showing that they lead to absurd consequences. Bhavaviveka, however, disagreed with

this approach, and said that it is not enough to destroy the views of others, but that we should

also provide counter-arguments. His approach later became the Svatantrika, which should not be

confused with the Hinayana school of Sautrantika (mdo de pa).

For both the Svatantrika and the Prasangika schools, the ultimate truth is the same, but they use

different methods to establish it. However, there are subtle differences between their

understandings of relative truth. In brief, the Prasangikas think that more things are relative than

the Svatantrikas. The differences between Svatantrikas and Prasangikas should not be seen just

as historical arguments, as they concern our own ways of seeing things. So, the Prasangikas are

being very compassionate when they destroy others’ views. It is not just a game.

Chandrakirti was Buddhapalita’s disciple, and he wrote two main commentaries on the

Mulamadhyamaka-karikas in reply to the arguments that Bhavaviveka made against

Buddhapalita. In addition to the Madhyamakavatara, which is more of a commentary on the

meaning, he also wrote the Prasannapada (uma tshig gsal), the Clear Words.

In the 8th century, Shantarakshita went to Tibet and founded the monastery at Samyé. He was

not a direct disciple of Bhavaviveka, but the disciple of one of his disciples. He combined the

Madhyamika-Svatantrika and Cittamatra schools, and created a new school of Madhyamika

called Svatantrika-Yogachara-Madhyamika. His disciple Kamalashila, who wrote The Stages of

Meditation upon Madhyamika (uma’i sgom rim), developed his ideas further, and together they

were very influential in Tibet. Tibetan scholars wrote many commentaries on both Nagarjuna’s

Mulamadhyamaka-karikas and Chandrakirti’s Madhyamakavatara. The best-known

commentaries on the Madhyamakavatara include those by:

• Rendawa who was Tsong Khapa’s teacher (14th century)

• Tsong Khapa, the founder of the Gelug school (14th/15th century)

• Gorampa, a great Sakya master (15th century)

• The 8th Karmapa, Mikyö Dorjé (16th century)

• Mipham Rinpoche (19th century)

The Tibetan texts are popular because they are easy to understand and nicely structured, whereas

some of the Indian commentaries are very flowery and difficult to understand, but when we study

in the shedra, the Indian texts are much more useful.

I will teach this text with a lot of influence from Shenga Rinpoche (gzhan dga’ – gzhan phan

chos kyi snang ba, 1871-1927), a Dzogchen master, and we will principally follow the outline

and commentary by Gorampa. Shenga Rinpoche says that according to Jayananda both the

Madhyamakavatara and Mulamadhyamaka-karikas have explanations of the relative and

ultimate truth, but Chandrakirti has emphasised the relative truth. Some of you may think that in

coming here to study Madhyamika, you will be studying ultimate truth, but according to

Jayananda, the main subject of this text is relative truth. The text talks a lot about the ten or

eleven bhumis and the six paramitas, all of which are relative truth. You will also find that in the

later parts that Chandrakirti repeatedly says that without the relative truth you will never

understand the ultimate truth. He gives the analogy of a swan, that without the right wing of

relative truth, one cannot understand the ultimate truth, and one will not fly towards the other

The debate between

Buddhapalita and

Bhavaviveka led to the

two schools of

Madhyamika

The Svatantrika and

Prasangika schools agree

on the ultimate truth, but

not on the relative

The development of the

Madhyamika in Tibet

Well-known Tibetan

commentaries on the

Madhyamakavatara

The main subject of this

text is relative truth, not

ultimate truth

We will primarily follow

Gorampa’s commentary

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 9

shore. I want to emphasise this, because we often take the relative truth for granted, thinking that

it is easy to know, when in fact it is not.

Jayananda was an Indian scholar who went to Tibet, where he met and debated with the great

translator Ngok Lotsawa (rngog lo ts’a ba legs pa’i shes rab, 1059? – Lekpé Sherab, Atisha’s

translator and disciple). Jayananda lost the debate, which was a bit of an insult for an Indian

scholar, and he returned very discouraged to India, where he engaged in a practice of Manjushri

for many years. Eventually Manjushri appeared to him in a vision, and he became a great

scholar. He went back to debate with Ngok Lotsawa again, but by that time, he had died.

Subsequently, Jayananda also wrote a big commentary on the Madhyamakavatara (dbu ma ’jug

pa’i ’grel bshad).

[H1] THE TRANSLATOR'S HOMAGE

After the title comes the line “Homage to Manjushri Kumara”. These are not yet Chandrakirti’s

own words, which only begin only after this. The translators wrote this homage, for blessings

that they would translate successfully, completely and properly. The tradition of paying homage

to Manjushri originated with the last important king of Tibet, Tri Ralpachen, who was a great

benefactor of the Dharma in Tibet. He sponsored many Dharma works and translations, and for

easier identification of texts, he requested that translators should add a particular homage

according to which the section of the Tripitaka each text belonged:

• For texts from the vinaya, which cover ethics, morality and discipline, the translators

should pay homage to the all-knowing Buddha.

• For texts from the sutra, which contain instruction on meditation, or the results of

meditation, they should pay homage to the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas.

• For texts from the abhidharma, since they talk about emptiness, non-duality and similar

difficult subjects, the translators should pay homage to Manjushri.

The four necessary things that need to be told before starting

This is traditionally taught in Buddhist schools as an introduction at the beginning of a teaching,

to build a structure. It is ‘necessary’ because it creates four necessary doubts, and dispels the

four unnecessary doubts. If a text does not have these four qualities, there is no reason to study

and practise the text:

• Subject: vakya shes bya

• Purpose: prayojana dgos pa

• Ultimate purpose: paramartha nying dgos

• Link: sambhanda ’brel ba

If a person asks for a glass of water, water is the subject. The purpose is that by uttering these

words, you will get the other person to understand what you want. The ultimate purpose is to

actually get a glass of water, and there should be a link between subject and purpose; purpose

and ultimate purpose; and ultimate purpose and subject.

How does this dispel the four kinds of unnecessary doubts? There are certain texts or words that

do not have a subject, for example whether a crow has teeth or not. This is because no birds have

teeth anyway. Remember that these examples were written in the 6th century, so you have to

think the way they did! Some texts, such as texts on how to marry your mother, do not have a

purpose. Some texts have no ultimate purpose, such as texts explaining how to steal the crown

jewels of the king of the nagas. Finally, there are texts that have no link. I think this is aiming at

How to identify a text by

the translator’s homage

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Introduction – 10

the first chapter of the Upanishads, which says that if you kill animals for sacrifice, you will

attain heaven. If you go to a bookshop nowadays, you will find plenty of books that fall into

these categories!

When Asanga wanted to inspire his younger brother Vasubandhu, who was a hard-line

Vaibhashika scholar, he asked two monks to read two Mahayana sutras – the Dashabhumika

Sutra and another – beside Vasubandhu’s room. As the monks read the sutras aloud, pretending

to learn them by heart, Vasubandhu listened despite himself. He initially thought that the

Mahayana was not a complete teaching because it did not speak of a result. However, in the

afternoon when the two monks read the other text, he realised that the Mahayana also has a great

result. This story illustrates the purpose of knowing these four. So, for the Madhyamakavatara:

• The subject is the eleven bhumis, and the three causes of the Bodhisattva.

• The purpose is that by hearing this, we will gain confidence that such an extraordinary

result can be obtained.

• The ultimate purpose is to go from the 1st bhumi to the eleventh bhumi.

How Asanga inspired

Vasubandhu to study the

Mahayana

The subject, purpose, and

ultimate purpose of the

Madhyamakavatara

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 11

[H1] THE MAIN BODY OF THE TEXT

[H2] A. Explaining the introductory branches, the expression of offering

[H3] 1. Explaining the reasons for praising compassion

1:1 Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas are born from the Muni king;

Buddhas are born from bodhisattvas;

And, from the mind of compassion, non-duality and

Bodhicitta is born the bodhisattva.

We start the main body of the text with another homage, but this time it is the author’s homage.

Nowadays, many writers just try to fill the pages so that they have a book thick enough to sell,

but here we will see how authors like Chandrakirti can say so much in just a few words. For

example, at the same time that he pays homage, he also teaches us the three causes of a

bodhisattva. This text is special, because Chandrakirti does not pay homage to a particular

person, as buddhists normally do, but to compassion. He also makes some other quite unusual

and daring remarks.

[H4] a) Of the four kinds of enlightened individual, praising the

bodhisattvas above all (515)

In the first two lines, Chandrakirti praises the bodhisattvas. Among all the types of sublime

beings – shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, buddhas and bodhisattvas – he praises the bodhisattvas

most highly, saying they are the most important. It might appear that he is breaking the habit of

praising the Buddha, dharma and sangha, but he is not saying this just to be different! Being

controversial seems to be quite valued these days, and people can gain a lot from it. But

Chandrakirti is not trying to do that, as he has a good reason why the bodhisattvas are supreme

among the four beings.

[H5] (1) How Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas are born from buddhas (515),

1:1.1

[H6] (a) How they are so born

There are three states of enlightenment: shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and buddhas. Both

shravakas and pratyekabuddhas are born from the Buddha’s speech, meaning they have listened

to the teaching of the Buddha and then practised it. According to the Mahayana, the satsam (sa

thsams) or boundary that defines the state of enlightenment is whether a person has destroyed

ego, the root of samsara. And according to the Mahayana, shravakas and pratyekabuddhas have

both destroyed the root of samsara.

Pratyekabuddhas are sometimes called ‘middle buddhas’, because they have purified more

defilements than the shravakas but much less than bodhisattvas. Similarly, shravakas are

sometimes called ‘small buddhas’. So, we can see that the word ‘buddha’ is not necessarily

reserved for completely enlightened beings. As long as someone has destroyed ego, the root of

The three types of

enlightened beings

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 12

samsara, they can be referred to as an “awakened one”. Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas have

awakened from samsara, and they will not go back to samsara. However, the bodhisattvas want

something more. After they have destroyed the root of samsara, they are not satisfied merely

with not returning to samsara; they also wish to gain omniscience. Furthermore, unlike the

shravakas, bodhisattvas also distinguish between two types of obscurations. The only defilement

recognised by shravakas is ego in the sense of attachment to self. However, bodhisattvas also

identify another defilement that needs to be purified: the self of phenomena. Things are a little

more complicated for pratyekabuddhas, as we will see shortly.

I am sure that many of us think that beings become shravakas and pratyekabuddhas because of

practising Hinayana, and that they become bodhisattvas and Buddhas because of practising

Mahayana. However, Chandrakirti says that not even the states of shravaka and pratyekabuddha

can be attained without passing through the Madhyamika; according to him, they all have to

study the Prajñaparamita.

[H6] (b) Examining doubts about this being so (516)

[H6] (c) Definitions and etymology of the terms shravaka and

pratyekabuddha

The Tibetan for shravaka is nyentö (nyan thos), which means both ‘hearer’ and ‘proclaimer’,

someone that makes another person hear. The shravakas hear teachings from the Buddha, such

as those on the Four Noble Truths or the twelve links of interdependent origination, and then tell

others about them. How do they do that? They practise the teachings they have heard, and when

they reach the state of shravaka, they proclaim this to others. Almost out of joy, they say things

like ditar jawa cheso (’di ltar bya ba byas so), which means, “I have done what I need to do”.

By saying this, they encourage other sentient beings to follow the path as well. When they

proclaim, “I have done what I need to do”, they are saying that they have understood the truth of

suffering and abandoned the cause of the suffering, as taught by the Four Noble Truths. They

also say things like “I will not know any more becoming; I will not know any existence beyond

this one”. For them, after they have managed to destroy the cause of suffering, they say there is

nothing more.

Because of our petty Mahayana influence, I am sure that many of us look down on the shravakas,

but we should not even attempt to do this! For example, there is a Mahayana story that when the

five hundred shravakas heard teachings on the great emptiness, they had a heart attack. Pettyminded

people like us might use these stories to boost our ego because we follow the Mahayana,

but this would be a mistake, as the story is actually praising the shravakas! Their shock means

that at least they understand something, whereas we are so dumb that it does not touch us.

There is another way of explaining shravakas. When they hear teachings from the Buddha, they

do not only hear the Four Noble Truths and other Theravada teachings, but also Mahayana

teachings. For example, the Heart Sutra that we read this morning is a discussion between

Shariputra, one of the greatest shravakas, and Avalokiteshvara. But although the shravakas hear

Mahayana teachings, they do not practise the path of the Mahayana, because their aim is simply

to get enlightenment for themselves. Nevertheless, some of them, like Shariputra, Ananda and

Subhuti, teach the Mahayana path to others. The Pundarika Sutra (dam chos pad ma dkar po’i

mdo – the Lotus Sutra) says, “Today we have become shravakas. We will announce the

Mahayana path to those sentient beings who are interested”. You might wonder why they do

this; it is simply a service to the Buddha, their teacher.

You might ask why bodhisattvas are not called shravakas, since they also hear the teachings and

give the teachings. The difference is their aim. The shravakas aim to let people hear. The

The shravaka is a nyentö,

“hearer”, and

“proclaimer”

Followers of the

Mahayana should not

look down on shravakas

Shravakas also hear

Mahayana teachings and

tell them to others, but

they do not practise them

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 13

bodhisattvas do not only aim to let people hear. Their aim and practice is also to let other people

follow the path.

The pratyekabuddha, or solitary realiser, is another state of enlightenment. Pratyekabuddhas

have also destroyed the root of samsara. There are two kinds of solitary realisers: those who live

in communities, and those who live alone, like rhinoceroses. How can solitary realisers, who are

born in a kalpa in which no buddha teaches, nevertheless be born from the Muni King? First,

they hear the teachings of the Buddha. They study and reflect upon the twelve links of

interdependent origination, and they accumulate merit for a hundred kalpas. They pray to be

reborn at a time and in a place when there is no buddha, and they become self-realised at that

time. They usually teach visually rather than verbally. For example, they display miracles such

as when the upper part of their body becomes fire, and the lower part becomes water.

They are considered a higher form of enlightenment than the shravakas for two reasons: their

accumulation of merit, and their accumulation of wisdom. The fastest shravakas usually

accumulate merit for three lifetimes, whereas pratyekabuddhas accumulate merit for a hundred

aeons. In their accumulation of wisdom, shravakas only realise one type of selflessness – the

selflessness of the ego – whereas pratyekabuddhas also realise half of the selflessness of

phenomena.

For the same reasons, pratyekabuddhas are considered less enlightened than bodhisattvas. A

bodhisattva accumulates merit for three countless aeons and fully realises both types of

selflessness, so he has two kinds of wisdom: wisdom that knows nature as it is, and wisdom that

knows nature as it appears, in its multiplicity. Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas may have the

wisdom that knows how it is, but they do not have complete wisdom of how it appears. We will

come to this when we discuss the 11th bhumi, so do not worry too much about it now. These are

only very general differences; there are many others. For example, the bodhisattva practice of

exchanging oneself for others does not exist for the shravakas or pratyekabuddhas.

[H5] (2) How Buddhas are born from bodhisattvas (519), 1:1.2

The next question is, where does a buddha come from. You might think that he comes from

bodhicitta, but in fact, he comes from a bodhisattva, a person. There are two reasons for this:

First, any buddha was previously a bodhisattva, and the first instance of a buddha comes right

after the last instance of a tenth bhumi bodhisattva, so the cause of the buddha is a bodhisattva.

Second, bodhisattvas like Vajrapani and Manjushri act as teachers or reminders to many

bodhisattvas. For example, the Mahayana view is that when Siddhartha was enjoying life in the

palace, Manjushri and Vajrapani manifested birth, old age, sickness and death for him.

[H5] (3) Therefore, bodhisattvas are worthy of praise (520)

We are not paying homage to the bodhisattva yet; we are just saying that he is a greater being.

Before we go on to discuss the three causes of a bodhisattva, let us have some questions.

[Q]: Chandrakirti says that the realisation of the arhats depends on their realisation of

Prajñaparamita. Would the Nyingmapas have a slightly different approach here?

[A]: A little, but the Nyingmapas still have to explain one sloka later. Mipham Rinpoche says

that with the Abhidharma Kosha you can actually attain enlightenment, although

Abhidharma is known as a subject of the lower vehicle. There are certain scholars who

believe that the Abhidharma Kosha alone is not a complete path, while others disagree. I

think that the Abhidharma Kosha can be seen as part of the Madhyamika, as it was written

Pratyekabuddhas

Why pratyekabuddhas are

considered higher than

shravakas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 14

after Vasubandhu was inspired by Asanga reading all those books [see p.10]. Since the

Abhidharma is sarcastic about the shravaka path, we can say that Vasubandhu is more of a

Madhyamika. Furthermore, if we hold strictly to the Madhyamakavatara point of view,

even the Svatantrika-Madhyamika does not have a complete path. This is a bit shocking,

especially for those who belong to Shantarakshita’s lineage, which includes all of us! But

Chandrakirti has a good reason. Many people think that if the ultimate truth of a path is

perfect, that alone will be enough to lead us to enlightenment, even if its relative truth is

imperfect. But according to Chandrakirti, if even the relative truth is degenerate, then you

do not have a complete path.

[Q]: When you talked about the relationship of the Abhidharma Kosha and the Madhyamika, did

you mean it can be seen as part of the Mahayana?

[A]: Yes – the Mahayana Madhyamika. There are two kinds of Mahayana and Hinayana. Each

has both a theoretical or doctrinal aspect, and a practical aspect. Mahayana theory talks

about both Mahayana and Hinayana practice and the Hinayana theory presents its own

understanding of both Mahayana and Hinayana. Naturally, the Hinayana claims that it is

Mahayana. After all, who does not want to be greater?

[H4] b) Explaining the three causes from which bodhisattvas are

born (521), 1:1.3-4

[H5] (1) Identifying these three causes

Now that we have established that the bodhisattva is worthy of praise, the next question is where

does a bodhisattva come from. Here, Chandrakirti presents the three causes of a bodhisattva:

• Mind of compassion nyinjé sem (snying rje’i sems)

• Non-duality nyisu me lo (gnyis su med blo)

• Bodhicitta changchubkyi sem (byang chub sems)

[H5] (2) The sequence of these three causes (522)

We will spend quite a lot of time in these four slokas, as you can almost say that they reveal the

complete path of the Mahayana. For example, if somebody asks you how a person becomes

enlightened, all you need to do is read them the first sloka or even just the last two lines: mind of

compassion, non-duality and bodhicitta. But here we have to study it academically, so we will

go through these three causes in more detail.

First, why do the three causes come in this order, rather than with bodhicitta first? The reason is

not that Chandrakirti was composing a letter and certain words did not fit on the line, so he had

to put them in this order. It is not that at all! Actually, if you read some other Mahayana sutras,

the order may be different. The main reason here is that compassion is the cause of the other

causes of bodhicitta, so it comes first. There is a good explanation in the commentary by

Rendawa, but briefly, we can say that from the mind of compassion comes non-duality and

bodhicitta, and from these two together with compassion comes the bodhisattva. This is just a

different way of reading the last two lines. Next, we will go through both compassion and nonduality

in brief, and then we will discuss compassion in more detail.

As we will see in a moment, the second sloka explains why compassion is the most important of

these three. It is like a seed, like water, and like ripening. Therefore, compassion comes first.

Although we translate the Tibetan word nyinjé (snying rje) as compassion, it does not necessarily

mean ‘mind of sympathy’. Nor does it mean ‘to suffer with’. Here, it is important that

compassion has the connotation of understanding. We have this in our ordinary language, when

The meaning of

compassion

Why does compassion

come before non-duality

and bodhicitta?

The three causes of a

bodhisattva

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 15

we say things like “you are not in his shoes”, or “if only you were in his shoes, you would know

how he feels”. It does not mean that you also have to suffer, but rather that you know or

understand.

I personally think there is an important reason why compassion comes first here. This is a little

bit touchy-feely, but it does not matter. We have buddha nature, and as Sakya Pandita said, you

can tell that there is a fire in a stove, if you touch the surface and you feel the warmth. Even if

you are a deluded and aggressive being, some of the qualities of buddha nature can be perceived

within you, and one of these is the ability to understand or identify with other people.

For example, if an aggressive person does something very nasty towards someone else, like

beating them, they understand that by through their actions they will create pain, or at least they

understand what pain is. This is very subtle. If a tree branch falls on your head, the branch does

not know that this will hurt your head. But when we hurt someone, we know that our actions

will create pain. There is a mutual understanding of the pain, between the pain creator and the

pain receiver. And based on that understanding, we can develop compassion. If you do not have

that understanding, then you cannot develop compassion, because you do not know about the

pain. The phenomenon of the pain would not even exist for you. So, here you need to know that

compassion is not only sympathy, but that it must also have a lot of understanding.

Second in order comes non-duality. We can also use words like “great mind”, or “great heart” as

His Holiness the Dalai Lama does. Non-duality is simply realising the meaning of the

Madhyamika, and thus being free from extremes like existence and non-existence, eternalism and

nihilism, and so on. If a person has compassion but does not understand non-duality, then this

person can become the victim of their compassion. Suppose that your wife or husband is an

alcoholic, or has a certain addiction. You may have compassion for them, but if you do not

understand non-duality, then you will become fixated towards and cling to the goal of being able

to cure them or help them. Someone who understands non-duality has no such fixation on socalled

goals, which is why bodhisattvas can continue to help sentient beings year after year, life

after life. Since they are not goal-oriented, they do not give up. They do not say things like “I

can never cure all sentient beings, so I will not try”.

If you do not cling to the goal of managing to help, your actions to help sentient beings will not

stop. Even better, when you understand non-duality, your compassion becomes even stronger.

Let us suppose that all of us in this tent are dreaming. We are all having a nightmare that we

have a fatal disease, but somehow one of us knows that this is a dream, a nightmare. This person

tries to tell his fellow dreamers, “Hey look, this is just a nightmare”, but they do not listen to

him. They still believe that this is true and real. Can you imagine? The person who knows it is

a dream may not have woken up. He just knows that it is a dream. But he feels a great

responsibility to tell everyone else, and as he slowly reaches towards bodhicitta, he is determined

to wake up, for example with a bucket of water.

Now we can see why the order is compassion first, then non-duality and then bodhicitta.

However, we should know that the order could be different. Here we are following Chandrakirti,

and his Madhyamakavatara text, which is meant for a general audience. Certain bodhisattvas

may understand non-duality first, and then through that they may develop compassion towards

other sentient beings that do not have that understanding.

[H5] (3) Identifying the bodhisattva born from these three causes (523)

Now, it gets a little complicated! Here we are still on the last line of first sloka, which talks

about the causes of the bodhisattva. Now there is a question – when we say bodhisattva, what

type of bodhisattva are we talking about? How do we define the boundary? The question arises

because Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara says that those who have the wish to enlighten all

What type of bodhisattva

are we talking about?

Non-duality

Compassion without

fixation upon goals

Telling other dreamers

that they are having a

nightmare

Sakya Pandita’s image of

fire in the stove

Compassion is based on

understanding

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 16

beings automatically change their name to ‘bodhisattva’, and they then become objects of refuge

by gods and humans. According to Shantideva’s approach, almost all of us are this kind of

bodhisattva from time to time. But is Chandrakirti talking about the same type of bodhisattva?

In general, we speak of two kinds of bodhicitta mind: relative and ultimate, and we classify

beings that have this bodhicitta mind into three groups: worldly beings, bodhisattvas and

buddhas. Unlike Shantideva, Chandrakirti is referring to the type of bodhisattva that has ultimate

bodhicitta mind, which is the direct experience of emptiness. We know this because the fifth

sloka says, “With this attainment, from now on he is known as a bodhisattva”, and in his

autocommentary, Chandrakirti explains that he is discussing someone on the first bhumi

bodhisattva level and beyond.

If you are a Prasangika-Madhyamika student, you do not want two of your great lineage scholars

like Shantideva and Chandrakirti contradicting each other. However, compassion and relative

bodhicitta can also exist within ordinary beings, which is what Shantideva is referring to when he

says that a person with bodhicitta mind will automatically become a bodhisattva. Shantideva

says that someone who merely has the wish to enlighten all sentient beings, which is relative

bodhicitta, can obtain the name of bodhisattva. But here, when Chandrakirti talks of a

bodhisattva, he is not talking about that.

There is another good reason. Chandrakirti has said that the bodhisattva is born from the mind of

compassion, non-duality and bodhicitta. Here, you have to highlight the word ‘born’ in your

text. It is a very important word here, because someone who is born from non-duality has to be a

non-samsaric bodhisattva. Worldly bodhisattvas follow the paths of accumulation and

application, and although they practice compassion and non-duality, they are not yet born as

bodhisattvas. The word ‘born’ is important because we are talking about a result – being born,

already having taken birth. The result that comes from understanding compassion, bodhicitta

and especially non-duality has to be a non-samsaric bodhisattva.

We can also make some other remarks here. For example, by praising the bodhisattva as being

supreme among the four kinds of being, we are also paying indirect homage to the Buddha,

because by praising the seed we also praise the result. Anyway, in summary, the last two lines of

first sloka are a general outline of the three causes of the bodhisattva, which are compassion,

non-duality and bodhicitta. We deal with compassion first, which takes us to the second sloka.

[H4] c) Showing how compassion is the most important of these three

(529), 1:2

1:2 Compassion alone is first seed for the abundant harvest of buddhahood;

Then water for its growth,

And finally, what matures as a state of lasting enjoyment –

Therefore, first I praise compassion.

If you want to know about compassion, this sloka will tell you. Three analogies are given here:

seed, water and ripening. The fist analogy of a seed, makye pa kye (ma skyed pa skyes) tells us

that compassion is like the seed that gives birth to all of the Buddha’s qualities. You did not

have these qualities before, but if you have compassion, then you can obtain them. If you do not

have a fruit, but only a seed, then you can plant the seed and expect the results. Compassion is

like that seed.

The second analogy is that compassion is like water. One could also say it is like the earth, like

ploughing, or like taking care of the seed. Compassion acts like the water or the earth, always

taking care of this seed, encouraging and nourishing it. With compassion, a bodhisattva remains

determined to enlighten sentient beings, even for three countless aeons. Without compassion,

The three analogies for

compassion: seed, water,

and ripening

Relative and ultimate

bodhicitta

The bodhisattva is born

from non-duality

Chandrakirti and

Shantideva are referring

to different kinds of

bodhisattva

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 17

then even if a bodhisattva has quite a good understanding of non-duality, he will have no means

of encouragement. Although it’s very unlikely, this kind of bodhisattva could conceivably

become discouraged or tired on the path, because the path is difficult, and he might end up

wanting to rest as a shravaka or a pratyekabuddha. So, compassion acts as a companion to

encourage the bodhisattva as he proceeds along the path.

Finally, you reach enlightenment, and still compassion is necessary even when the flower has

bloomed and the fruit has ripened. The ripening of the fruit is important, because without

ripening there is no continuum of the seed. When you plant rice, rice grows, and then with this

rice you can plant more. But the seed is important – it has to be perfect, because if it is rotten or

broken, then it will not produce a good result. Compassion seems to be the only perfect seed.

Chandrakirti is telling us that compassion is present at the beginning, in the middle and even at

the end. He uses the analogy of ripening in the third line when he says, “finally what matures as

a state of lasting enjoyment”. This “lasting enjoyment” is important, as it refers to infinite and

never-ending buddha activity. There is no such thing as a buddha benefiting a certain number of

sentient beings and then going on holiday, or something like that. The buddhas’ activity for the

benefit of sentient beings is endless, because of compassion. At the end, during the result, if

there is no compassion, there is no act of ripening. And if there is no act of ripening, no more

seed is produced.

We need to clarify a potential doubt here, about whether the Buddha has compassion. And if he

does, is he motivated to help beings? The problem is that if we say that a buddha has motivation,

it can disturb our fundamental view. Buddhas do not have subject and object, and all our

dualistic clinging. Therefore, they cannot have the kind of motivation that sees the needs of a

particular sentient being in France, and then decides to go there and manifest particular acts. So,

does a buddha have compassion?

There are two answers. First, when the buddhas were bodhisattvas they made many prayers and

wishes, and because of these prayers, they have obtained the three kayas. In particular, they

obtained the Rupakaya, which is the Nirmanakaya, although Nirmanakaya is a Vajrayana term,

and the Mahayana does not really talk about it so much. The way they benefit beings, as

Shantideva said, is like the sun or a wish-fulfilling tree. The sun does not have a wish to

illuminate certain parts of the earth and not shine in other parts. Instead, as the sun comes out,

then whoever wishes to have sun and has merit or good karma, then they will receive sunshine.

The sun does not have the wish to send its rays. The Buddhas manifest in the same way as this,

without the subject and object kind of motivation.

The other way of clarifying this is that the compassion of the Buddha is seen from the point of

view of sentient beings. For someone who has devotion and merit, from his or her point of view

the Buddha’s compassion is there.

Here you need to understand that compassion is necessary in the beginning, in the middle, and

even after you get enlightened. Therefore, we pay our first homage to compassion. We will next

come to the different three types of compassion. Maybe you can ask some questions first.

[Q]: Why don’t we speak of buddha nature as the seed of buddhahood?

[A]: Well, this can be argued. As I was saying earlier, compassion is like the rays of the buddha

nature. I referred to Sakya Pandita’s analogy of the fire inside the stove. You can tell

whether there is fire by touching the stove, and if you feel warmth, you know there is

something like fire inside. Buddha nature does not really manifest. So, although you can

see a person going through emotions like devotion and anger, we do not say, “he’s going

through buddha nature”. But compassion, especially understanding, is one of the qualities

of buddha nature. So, in this case you can say that the first line of the second sloka talks

about buddha nature.

Does the Buddha have

compassion?

Compassion is present at

the beginning, the middle,

and the end

Buddhas benefit beings

without dualistic

motivation

Compassion of buddhas

is seen from the point of

view of sentient beings

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 18

[Q]: In the first explanation of the Buddha’s compassion, you said that the Buddha does not have

the subject and object kind of motivation, but that he benefits like the rays of the sun. This

explains how the Buddha benefits beings, but I do not understand how it shows that the

Buddha has compassion.

[A]: Before they become buddhas, when they are bodhisattvas, the buddhas make many prayers.

They even make specific prayers, such as who will be there when they become enlightened,

how many disciples they will have and even what kinds of flowers will grow in that place.

They benefit beings by the power of this compassion. It is still compassion continuing.

[Q]: It is past compassion.

[A]: But it is still there. You cannot really separate the seed, shoot and result. They are not

really the same, but they are also not separate. Compassion works like this.

[Q]: You said that compassion includes understanding. But if this understanding is about the

suffering of beings, it cannot fit with the idea of no subject and no object.

[A]: This is why there is a clarification and a second answer. If you pray to the Buddha, “please

look upon me, I am suffering here, know me”, and suddenly your problem dissolves, then

you will thank him. You almost create the Buddha who knows your suffering and then

actually helps you, but it is your point of view of his compassion.

This discussion is good! This is how you should study this subject, always trying to find a

contradiction in what I am saying. As I was saying earlier, we are only talking about the author’s

homage here. Just in the homage, Chandrakirti has already explained many things, and I am not

even doing it justice here! I am only explaining one thousandth of what is there! Tulku Jigme

Rinpoche was just saying that when this text was taught by Khenpo Rinchen, another of my

teachers, we spent two weeks just on the first four slokas. There are so many things to talk

about! For example, we talked about shravakas in terms of one who hears and one who makes

others hear. This leads to an immediate doubt – what happens if the shravaka is in the formless

realm, as then he does not make any sound, so he cannot make other people hear! There are so

many things like that, which I have skipped.

[Q]: I did not understand the link between non-duality and compassion, how non-duality comes

about after compassion.

[A]: First, you dream that you have a fatal disease, although you do not yet realise that it is a

dream. But as a greater being, you understand and have compassion towards your fellow

dreamers. Then suddenly you realise you are dreaming, and you understand non-duality.

But because you know that other people do not know this, you also want them to know that

this is a dream. This is bodhicitta. It is that simple.

[Q]: Your second answer does not answer the question about whether the Buddha has

compassion. Does the Buddha have it or not?

[A]: I am saying that the Buddha has it from our point of view. We have to be careful, as after

all, his very existence might just be our point of view too!

[Q]: I am not happy with the first explanation. When we say the bodhisattva made many wishes,

and this motivation is continued in buddhahood, it seems to me that wishes are relative, and

must be exhausted at some point. They cannot go on continuously, endlessly.

[A]: The result is still there, and that is because of compassion. The first answer is that there is a

continuum of compassion, and the second is that we see it from our point of view. The

example works well. A flower has a particular seed, and then with water it grows, and then

produces more seeds. Your argument is good, as you can indeed say that is finished now.

Dharmakirti said that the entire path is gone, that the boat has to be abandoned.

Nevertheless, this seed produces the next flower, so the benefit is there. But we still need

the ripening. Let us suppose that if, despite seed and water, the flower does not grow. Then

it will be the end of the lineage of this flower! This is what we are talking about. This

analogy is so good: seed, water and ripening.

[Q]: Doesn’t sympathy already contain the idea of understanding within it?

[A]: There is no problem if sympathy has the connotation of understanding. But I thought

sympathy can mean just feeling sorry for someone, and that may not work. Let us imagine

a very vicious sentient being that does not have any sympathy at all. If we say that

The difference between

sympathy and compassion

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 19

sympathy is the ultimate compassion, then we must say that this being does not have

compassion, and there is a danger that we might say they do not have buddha nature. But as

a buddhist, no matter how bad someone is, you have to say they have buddha nature. It is

the basis for them to develop all enlightened qualities. My viewpoint is that compassion

seems to be the most evidently manifest quality of the buddha nature.

[Q]: When a flower produces a seed, the seed produces another flower. When you have

aspirations while you are on the path, how can this produce something as different as

buddhahood? How can a seed, which is dualistic, produce a fruit that is not dualistic?

[A]: Because the essence is non-dualistic. The Nyingmapas talk in terms of lhündrup kyi

nangcha (lhun grub kyi snang cha), ‘the spontaneous aspect of appearance’, which refers to

the Buddha nature’s inherent capacity for manifestation.

[Q]: Isn’t this like the argument against the Hindus, that the cause and the fruit are the same

thing?

[A]: They do not even call it a cause and fruit – but then we are climbing to another stage, and

we are not talking about Madhyamika any more. Here we believe in Buddhahood, or at

least in a bodhisattva, and we believe that the three causes of the bodhisattva are

compassion, non-duality and bodhicitta. Is your question about the type of compassion that

bodhisattvas have?

[Q]: My understanding is that the relative bodhicitta that abides in worldly bodhisattvas is

dualistic bodhicitta. But the relative bodhicitta that abides within other types of bodhisattva

may not necessarily be dualistic – can bodhicitta be relative but non-dualistic?

[A]: Here we need to distinguish the meditation and post meditation time of a bodhisattva. That

is why we mentioned tsendzin (mtshan ’dzin), fixation towards characteristics, at the

beginning. A bodhisattva on the first bhumi has relative bodhicitta that has fixation towards

characteristics during the post meditation time, but not during the meditation time. You

could say that dualism, nyidzin (gnyis ’dzin) is ignorance; and fixation towards

characteristics is something like ignorance. However, fixation towards characteristics is not

necessarily dualism, it is tsendzin.

[Q]: Can you have duality without conceiving of the characteristics of things?

[A]: Yes, this is why I am not so sure that ‘dualism’ is the right word for nyidzin. We will talk

more about nyidzin and tsendzin later. When we study defilements and ignorance, we talk

of dualistic mind. A dualistic mind is one that has grasping towards dualistic phenomena,

as a subject and object. A bodhisattva from the first bhumi onwards does not have this, but

he does have fixation towards characteristics. This is not dualistic grasping, but seeing

dualistic appearance – things like colour or shape.

[H3] 2) The actual praise based on these reasons (530), 1:3.1–4.2

[H4] a) Other ways of explaining the three types of compassion

[H4] b) This extraordinary way of explaining the three types of

compassion (531)

1:3 Initially fixating on this so-called ‘I’ as an [existing] self,

‘Mine’ gives rise to grasping.

Helpless beings, driven as an irrigation wheel,

To compassion for these, I bow down.

[H5] (1) Explaining them in terms of their different objects

Can relative bodhicitta be

non-dualistic?

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 20

In this sloka, Chandrakirti gives the second homage, and introduces us to the three types of

compassion. Many scholars agree that these three types of compassion are not distinguished by

their form or aspect, but because of their three kinds of objects:

• Sentient beings that have two kinds of suffering – the suffering of suffering and the

suffering of change: According to Madhyamika, compassion is the wish to protect or

free sentient beings from suffering. So, the first type of compassion is the wish to free

sentient beings from these two kinds of suffering.

• Sentient beings that are tormented by the suffering of compounding: duché (’dus

byas). Simply speaking, using touchy-feely language, we could say it is aimed at beings

tormented by the suffering of impermanence, but it would be much better to use the

word ‘compounding’.

• Sentient beings that do not know that all phenomena lack inherent existence: In

touchy-feely language, we could say it is aimed at those who do not understand

emptiness. Do not worry – more detail on this is coming!

The 3rd sloka covers the first of these three types of compassion.

[H6] (a) The meaning of the simile of the irrigation wheel

Now we will discuss what makes an object of the first type of compassion in more detail.

Initially, although there is no concrete object, simply no object, you have this delusion of ‘I’.

From there comes the idea of ‘mine’, which gives rise to grasping towards all sorts of objects.

Chandrakirti compares sentient beings that suffer in this way to an irrigation wheel or

waterwheel. There were no irrigation wheels in Tibet, but he is referring to the kind of irrigation

wheel that was used in India, where several cups are attached to a wooden wheel. He gives six

reasons why these sentient beings are like an irrigation wheel:

1. An irrigation wheel is tightened or held in place by ropes, nails and so on. Similarly,

sentient beings are bound by karma and afflictive emotions, such as ignorance.

2. An irrigation wheel does not just rotate by itself. It must have a driver or operator. For

sentient beings, this operator is consciousness, and the notions of ‘I’, ‘me’, ‘mine’ or ‘I

am’.

3. An irrigation wheel brings water from the well, and pours it onto the field that is to be

irrigated. I think this is referring to the highest realm of samsara, which, according to

buddhism, many Hindus mistakenly consider nirvana. Although you may reach the

highest level of samsara, you will still come down, just as the water will drain away

from the field. You might find these analogies difficult, but remember that they were

written in India.

4. A waterwheel has to be pulled up with a lot of strength, but going down is easy.

Similarly, it is difficult to go up to higher birth, but to go down to the lower realms is

easy.

5. The fifth similarity concerns the twelve links of interdependent origination. These are

ignorance, perception, consciousness, name and form, the six senses, contact, feelings

or sensation, desire, grasping, coming into being, birth, and old age and death. If you

cannot remember all twelve, you can abbreviate them into three: emotion, action or

karma, and birth. Whether you are talking in terms of three or twelve, the point is that

you cannot really say which one comes first. Similarly, with an irrigation wheel, you

cannot say which of the cups that is attached to the wheel comes first.

6. If you live next to a waterwheel, and you watch it, you will see that it does the same

thing every day. It does not change direction, rest a while or engage in other activities

like dancing – it just does the same thing repeatedly. Samsaric beings are the same – it

The six reasons why

sentient beings are like an

irrigation wheel

There are three types of

compassion, and they

have three different

objects

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 21

is breakfast, lunch and dinner repeatedly. But to see that, you need to stay and watch

for a while.

So sentient beings are like a waterwheel, going round and round. The first kind of compassion is

to want to free sentient beings from this kind of suffering. Many scholars call this kind of

compassion ‘common compassion’, because Hindus also have it. The Sakyapa scholar Shakya

Chokden says that we pay homage to this type of compassion because of the value of the object.

However, for the other two types of compassion, Chandrakirti pays homage not only because of

the value of the object, but also because of the form of the compassion.

Now we need to ask who are included as objects of this first kind of compassion. All samsaric

sentient beings that suffer from the two types of suffering are included, and also shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas who are still on the path. In brief, the object of the first type of compassion is

someone born in samsara without his own choice, someone that is reborn in samsara due to the

power of karma and emotion, rather than his own will.

[H6] (b) The first meaning of the simile of the moon’s reflection in water

(532)

1:4.1-2 Sentient beings are as the moon’s reflection in moving water.

Seeing them as empty in their change and in their nature,

The next half-sloka, the first two lines of the fourth sloka, covers the two other types of

compassion. Here, only one analogy is given – the reflection of the moon in water that is slightly

rippling, stirred by a gentle wind – but the same analogy is used twice, to explain both the second

and third types of compassion.

The object of the second type of compassion is beings that suffer from the compounded nature of

phenomena, i.e. impermanence. In general, compassion is the mind that wishes beings to be free

from suffering. Here, the suffering is the all-pervasive suffering inherent to all compounded

phenomena.

A compounded phenomenon always has a beginning. If there is no beginning, there is no act of

compounding. Then there must be a state of dwelling or remaining; otherwise, again there is no

compounding. Finally, there must be an end to the act of compounding. Even if I drink a cup of

tea, there is a beginning, middle and end. For example, if there is no end to the act of drinking,

there can be no concept of drinking a cup of tea, because you are always drinking, you are stuck

there! So there is a beginning of the beginning, a middle of the beginning and an end of the

beginning. You can say that the end of the beginning is the birth of the remaining, and the death

of remaining is the birth of the death. The death of the death is the birth of the birth. Even if you

have nothing, then there has to be a beginning of the nothingness – there is no space. As I drink

a glass of water, it is the beginning of the emptiness of the glass. Then there will be a remaining

of the emptiness, and soon the death of emptiness and the beginning of filling with coffee! It is

also the beginning of going to pee!

Many people say buddhists are always talking about negative or sad things, like death, dying or

impermanence. But these are not necessarily sad; they are just the nature of phenomena.

Without an end, there is no beginning. I do not have a Ferrari car right now, but if I buy one, that

is also impermanence. I have changed from having no car, to having a car! As long as

compounded phenomena exist, there will be objects of this second type of compassion.

Chandrakirti explains this with the line “Sentient beings are as the moon’s reflection in moving

water”. Here we should underline the word ‘moving’. The water is moving because there is a

wind. The lake is like samsara, and the wind is like karma, emotion and ego.

The objects of the first

kind of compassion

All compounded

phenomena have a

beginning, middle, and

end

We pay homage to

common compassion

because of the value of

the object

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 22

Again, there is something very special here. As long as a phenomenon is impermanent, it can be

harmed. It can be manipulated, interfered with, obstructed or changed. This is also related to the

Buddhist idea of permanence. To our ordinary mind, the sun is permanent. The ordinary mind

equates permanence with something that continues for a long time. But here our definition of

permanence is something that has no birth, no remaining and no end. It cannot have a beginning,

because as long as there is a beginning, there is time, and so there is impermanence.

As long as something is impermanent, it can be harmed, manipulated or obstructed. Nagarjuna

said gang la gnod yod de bde min, “Where there is a possibility of harm, or even actual harm,

there is not happiness”. Maybe there is no harm right now, but harm is waiting there, and one of

these days it will come. Therefore, as Nagarjuna said, something that can be harmed is not

happiness.

In the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, Nagarjuna also said ’dus byas tham chad slu'i chö ’di na de

dag rdzun pa yin, “Therefore all compounded things are illusions”. For example, if you go to a

river this year and next year you go to the same river you might say “I saw this same river last

year”. But that is an illusion – it is not true! The river you saw last year is gone, dried up, drunk

by the whales and sharks! So Nagarjuna says that all compounded phenomena are illusions –

this is incredible! So the conclusion is that as long as there is impermanence, there is suffering.

This is a special assertion of the Mahayana. In the Vaibhashika and lower schools, they believe

that something can change every instant yet not be suffering. We will talk about this later.

So, all these sentient beings are like a reflection of the moon in water that is being moved by the

wind. And in the second line, “seeing them as empty in their change”, you need to underline the

word ‘change’. In Tibetan, the same word is used for ‘change’ and ‘movement’. You also need

to add the last sentence of the third sloka: “to compassion for these, I bow down”. This is the

commentator’s wish. Chandrakirti does not want to waste space, as I said before – he includes

everything, but he writes in a concise and condensed way.

So, who is included as objects of this second kind of compassion? Included are all the objects of

the first type of compassion, and the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, not only those who are on

the path but also those who have already attained the result. I am surprised that you are not

shocked! These are enlightened beings, yet they are the objects of compassion! On top of that

are included all bodhisattvas, from the first to the tenth bhumi, during their post-meditation time.

All are within the law of impermanence.

This compassion is also called common compassion, because it is also common to shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas. They share this kind of compassion towards objects that are compounded and

impermanent, but they do not include the post-meditation state of bodhisattvas from the first to

tenth bhumis. They also do not include shravakas and pratyekabuddhas who have obtained the

result of their path.

[Q]: How does this impermanence manifest, given that the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas have

obtained the fruit of their path?

[A]: There is cessation, and there is awakening from the cessation. That is the impermanence.

[Q]: Why isn’t the Buddha also impermanent, as he is born and so on?

[A]: The Buddha is a body of apparition – he does all these things because we think he does all

these things. It is Nirmanakaya.

[H6] (c) The second meaning of the simile of the moon’s reflection in water

(533)

Nagarjuna’s statement:

all compounded

phenomena are illusions

The objects of the second

kind of compassion

As long as a phenomenon

is impermanent, it can be

harmed or changed

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 23

For the third type of compassion, read the same two lines, but emphasise ‘reflection’ and

‘empty’. Again, here we add the last line of the third sloka “to compassion for these, I bow

down”.

[Q]: The word “reflection” is not in the Tibetan?

[A]: The Tibetan is chu yi nang gi da wa tar (chu’i nang gi zla ba ltar) – ‘moon that is in the

water’ – everyone knows that the moon has not fallen into the water!

The object of the third type of compassion is all those who have not understood that all

phenomena do not have intrinsic existence. There is a story about a monkey who went to drink

some water near a lake one evening. He saw the reflection of the moon, and thought that the

moon had fallen into the lake. He went to report this to the king of the monkeys, who was not

only stupid but also ambitious, so he thought, “Ah, now there’s a good chance for me to be

famous and heroic, if we could save this moon!” So, he summoned all the five hundred monkeys

and went to the lake. There was a tree branch hanging over the lake, so all the monkeys held

each other from the branch and tried to take the moon out of the lake. Finally, the weight of so

many monkeys broke the branch, and they all fell onto the moon! They did not understand that it

is an illusion. This is the suffering, and we are no different from these monkeys.

We say that all phenomena lack inherent existence, that they are tsam, mere appearance. This

word ‘just’ or ‘mere’ is very important here. They are just appearance, just sound, and just this

experience. But when these experiences occur, we do not understand their lack of inherent

existence. For example, when you have a small wound and say, “it is just a small thing”, or

when we say it is “just” an appearance, it means a lot. We are not negating the appearance. We

are negating the idea of inherent existence, like moon’s reflection in water – like the monkeys.

Nobody is going to tell these monkeys that there is no reflection of the moon in the water! In

fact, if they were clever monkeys, they could sit next to the reflection of the moon and enjoy all

sorts of romance! We are saying that this moon is not real, but they do not know this. The

bodhisattvas want them to know that and be free from this kind of suffering.

The first two kinds of compassion are called chöpé kün ne longwé nyingjé (spyod pas kun nas

slong ba’i snying rje), ‘compassion inspired by action’. This third type is tawé künn. longwé

nyingjé (lta bas kun nas slong ba’i rnying rje), ‘compassion inspired by the view’. It is

uncommon compassion, because it involves understanding both of the selflessness of phenomena

and the selflessness of ego. The object of this third type of compassion includes all the objects

we mentioned earlier, and on top of that, even the meditation time of the tenth bhumi

bodhisattva. This is because even during their meditation time, tenth bhumi bodhisattvas have

not completely realised emptiness. In summary, the third kind of object is anyone who has not

completely or totally realised emptiness.

[H5] (2) Explaining that their form is common (533)

[H5] (3) Summarising the meaning of this important point (533)

In summary, the object of the first type of compassion is someone born in samsara without any

choice, helplessly. We say helplessly if your birth is dependent on conditions rather than

yourself, wherever your karma throws you. For example, your karma might decide that you

should be born as a dog, a rich person’s pet. Or your karma might decide you should be born as

a very healthy human being, but born in war zone like Bosnia. You have no choice. Well

indirectly, you had a choice, but you did not choose! You could always have refrained from

certain things you should not have done, but you did not!

Now, there is one clarification. I was telling you earlier that the nature of compassion is one of

understanding, rather than sympathy. When we talk about compassion towards the meditation

The story of the monkeys

and the moon in the lake

Mere appearance

The first compassion is

towards those reborn in

samsara without choice

The objects of the third

kind of compassion

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 24

state of the tenth bhumi bodhisattva, if compassion meant sympathy, it would not really be

suitable here. You cannot have sympathy towards a tenth bhumi bodhisattva’s meditation time,

but you can have understanding.

I think we have finished with compassion now, although I did not do it much justice. If you want

to study compassion, read this. Now we have finished the homage, and we can finally begin the

main text, which starts on the third line of the fourth sloka.

[H2] B. EXPLAINING THE ACTUAL MEANING OF THE MAIN BODY OF

THE TEXT, THAT WHICH IS INTRODUCED

[H3] I. Explaining the bodhisattva levels (bhumi) which are the cause (534)

[H4] A) Showing their nature in general in terms of the union of means

(compassion) and wisdom

Now we have to talk about the eleven bhumis. Before we talk about them individually, we need

to talk about what a bhumi is in general. What makes a bhumi? Simply, it is a combination of

wisdom and method. In Sanskrit, bhumi literally means earth, land or country – it can refer to

many things. For example, in Indonesia, the language has a lot of Sanskrit influence. In their

official forms, they use words like ‘bhumiputra’ when they talk of citizenship. We use the name

‘bhumi’ for the combination of wisdom and method because the ground or earth acts like a

container for all things to function. For example, you can hoist this tent because of the ground.

Likewise, all the enlightened qualities can grow on the base of the combination of wisdom and

method.

This combination is essential. If there is only wisdom but no method, then it will become like

shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. If there is only method but no wisdom, the state will become

completely ordinary, like us – we have plenty of methods but no wisdom. The combination of

wisdom and method makes the bhumi. Now, for a bodhisattva during the state of meditation,

you cannot classify which bhumi he is in. There is none, because this kind of fabrication does

not exist within their state of meditation. So, on what basis do we differentiate the first to tenth

bhumis? Is it because they have attended certain universities and obtained certain diplomas, or

did national service so they were awarded various medals?

The whole idea of enlightenment is this: if your shirt is dirty, you wash and clean it. Becoming

clean is the result, but it is a result of the absence of dirt. It is not that when you put your shirt

into the washing machine it has somehow become new, or clean. The term ‘result of absence’,

which is dreldré (bral ’bras) in Tibetan, is important to know. The extent of absence is different

for each bodhisattva, and according to the amount of absence, you can say that this bodhisattva is

on the first bhumi, that bodhisattva is on the second bhumi, and so on.

However, in their meditative state there is no classification or difference between the first ten

bhumis. So, who can make this classification? Let us say that a first bhumi bodhisattva is

meditating, and there is another in the same room. From his omniscience, he knows that the

other one is a first bhumi bodhisattva, or whatever. You asked yesterday what is meant by

fixation on characteristics: this is an example. During the post-meditation time, a first bhumi

bodhisattva can know that he is on the first bhumi, but he cannot necessarily recognise the level

of a bodhisattva higher than his own.

In the post-meditation time, a bodhisattva can be recognised by the number of his qualities. For

example, a first bhumi bodhisattva has 1,200 qualities of the path, and a second bhumi

What is a bhumi?

Enlightenment as a

“result of absence”

The qualities of the

bodhisattva in postmeditation

time

The bhumi as a

combination of wisdom

and compassion

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 25

bodhisattva has 12,000 qualities of the path. They can also be identified by what is absent. In

the first bhumi, there is the absence of tongpang (mthong spang), the defilement that can be

abandoned through seeing. On the second bhumi, there is the absence of gom pang (sgom

spang), that which can be abandoned through meditation. We will talk about these types of

defilement later. Each stage of the bodhisattva path emphasises a particular paramita, and in

addition, the bodhisattva usually takes a particular form at each level. For example, a first bhumi

bodhisattva generally takes a royal form, of a king or queen. To be precise, as the

Dashabhumika Sutra (do sde sa chu pa) says, “When a bird flies in the sky, we cannot indicate

the traces of his flight. How can we even talk about it? Likewise, we cannot express the

qualities of the bodhisattvas, so how can you even listen?” Now that we have introduced the

general idea of the bhumis, we can begin with the first bhumi.

[H4] B. Explaining the nature of each in terms of the paramita

emphasised

[Note: the description of the first bhumi begins on the next page]

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 26

[H5] 1. The First Bhumi, Complete Joy

[H6] a) Immaculate wisdom as the first, Complete Joy [1:4.3-5.2]

1:4.3-4 The victorious one’s son, possessing such understanding,

And overcome by compassion, wishes to completely liberate all beings.

1:5.1-2 Fully dedicated as in the Aspirations of Samantabhadra,

His joy is complete. This is known as the first.

The third and fourth lines of the fourth sloka express the meditation time of the bodhisattva.

When Chandrakirti says, “possessing such understanding”, he is referring to a bodhisattva with

an understanding, or wisdom, that is free from all concepts. This refers to wisdom, and

“overcome by compassion” refers to the method. One should never separate wisdom and

compassion, and you can see they are together here: the third line talks of wisdom, the fourth of

compassion.

The important words here are: “possessing such understanding”. This is talking about the

wisdom that is the second of the Seven Auxiliaries to Enlightenment (byang chub yan lag bdun):

1. Pure memory dran pa yang dag

2. Fully discerning phenomena chos rab tu rnam ’byed

3. Pure perseverance brtson ’grus yang dag

4. Pure state of gladness dga’ ba yang dag

5. Pure ecstasy shin tu sbyangs pa yang dag

6. Samadhi ting nge ’dzin

7. Pure state of equanimity btang snyoms

This wisdom is the ability to distinguish, to not remain in samsara because of wisdom and to not

remain in nirvana because of compassion. This is an important quality of bodhisattvas, and

although even the first bhumi bodhisattva has all seven of these qualities, we know from

Chandrakirti’s autocommentary on the Madhyamakavatara that here he is talking about the

second.

In the next two lines, we are talking of the bodhisattva’s post-meditation time. During his

meditation time, he has wisdom and compassion. During his post-meditation, he does prayers

and he has the joy of reaching this state. This is an important state because for aeon after aeon,

he has gone through the path of accumulation and the path of application, and the last limit of the

path of application is just finished. He then enters the state of meditation that is the tonglam

(mthong lam), the path of seeing, where he abandons the defilement that needs to be abandoned

by the path of seeing.

During the meditation state, it is inexpressible, but when he rises from this mediation and enters

the post-meditation, a sort of ‘waking up’, he realises that he has crossed samsara. He realises

that there has been earthquake, a hundred universes have been moved and a hundred buddhas

have come and anointed him. He knows that he will never go back to samsara again, samsara is

gone and he has crossed the border. There is tremendous joy at that time; hence, that is the name

of the first bhumi. That’s it! Now maybe we can have some questions.

The Seven Auxiliaries to

Enlightenment

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 27

[Q]: Is the bodhisattva’s wisdom free from thoughts or free from concepts? I heard you use both

words.

[A]: Either is fine.

[Q]: I have a question about permanence and impermanence. First, you said that impermanence

has birth, remaining and death. Then you said that to be permanent, something must have

no birth, no remaining and no death. So, can there be phenomena that have no birth and no

death, but have a remaining?

[A]: That is not possible. As long as there is remaining, there must be a beginning of the

remaining.

[Q]: So isn’t there a problem with Buddhahood?

[A]: A Buddha does not have a beginning, end or middle. But ignorance has a beginning, end

and middle. So, the end of ignorance is called “Buddha”. But that is not a phenomenon.

[Q]: Isn’t the end of ignorance the beginning of Buddha?

[A]: It is all that I can say now. We cannot point towards Buddhahood with a finger. We can

only say that when ignorance is dispelled, then Buddhahood is there. It is like washing

clothes. The difficulty here is that there the result and the ignorance are closely related in

one way, but in another way, they are totally separate – like the dirt on the shirt. When you

buy the shirt, you do not buy it together with the dirt! They are separate. However, if you

think that the shirt needs to be washed, you are already accepting that it is dirty.

[Q]: You said that we can talk about the end of samsara, but we cannot talk about the beginning

of buddhahood. But if you can talk about the end of samsara, then you have something that

has no beginning, but has an end.

[A]: Yes, but that is something very individual, and all that is path language. During the time

when we talk about the path, you can say you have a path, you have ignorance, and that you

can ‘attain’ buddhahood or ‘achieve’ enlightenment. All this is what we call ‘path

language’, which is used in order to encourage practitioners like us. But now that we are

studying Madhyamika, we are establishing the view, so we need to use some different

language. For example, when we talk about denpa nyi (bden pa gnyis) the two truths, this is

very much ‘ground language’. The two kinds of accumulation are ‘path language’, and the

two kinds of kayas are ‘result language’.

[Q]: Can I ask about meaning of jinyépé kyenpa (ji snyed pa’i mkhyen pa). I understand that the

jitawé kyenpa (ji lta ba’i mkhyen pa) is the understanding of things as they are, namely that

they are empty. Is jinyépé kyenpa the understanding of things as they appear?

[A]: Jinyépé kyenpa is not only the understanding of ‘how it appears’, but it also involves many

other types of omniscience. For example, although Maudgalyana was a shravaka, he did

not know where his mother was. He understood phenomena as they are, which is the

egolessness, which is why he was a shravaka. But he still did not have jinyépé kyenpa,

which is more than simply “how it appears”, and so he did not know where his mother was.

There is another story of when a layman came to Shariputra to be ordained as a monk. To

be ordained, you need to have a seed of some kind of virtuous deed, but although Shariputra

looked for one, he could find anything. He told the old man that he had no seed, so could

not become a monk. The old man was very sad, and went to visit the Buddha, who saw that

there was a seed, because millions of lifetimes ago this old man had been a pig, and he had

accidentally run round a stupa!

[H6] b) Detailed explanation of the qualities of Complete Joy

[H7] (1) Expressing praise of those on this bhumi

[H8] (a) The quality that is transferred, the name, 1:5.3-4

1:5.3-4 With this attainment, from now on

He is known as a bodhisattva

Does Buddhahood have a

beginning?

Egolessness is not the

same as omniscience, as

illustrated by stories

about the shravakas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 28

We have talked about the introduction to the first bhumi. This is important, because as a

buddhist, you will often say that someone is a bodhisattva. When you say that, what are you

saying? In these two lines, you will find out. We touched on this in the homage, where we

talked about shravakas, pratyekabuddhas, bodhisattvas and buddhas, and the boundary that

defines when one becomes a bodhisattva. With this sloka, we now know that Chandrakirti is

referring to the first bhumi bodhisattva onwards.

Generally, the name bodhisattva can be given in two ways. One way is from the perspective of a

bodhisattva’s action. The second is from the perspective of the bodhisattva’s view, meaning his

realisation of the view of emptiness.

[H9] (i) Defining the term ‘bodhisattva’ by action (practice)

In the Bodhicharyavatara, Shantideva teaches the first way of obtaining the name bodhisattva,

which is from the point of view of action. From the moment that a person has the wish to

enlighten all sentient beings, he is then qualified to be referred to as a bodhisattva, and he will

then be the object of prostration and homage by gods and humans. This is a bodhisattva from the

point of view of action.

We need a slight clarification, though. Someone might have this enlightened thought for just a

moment; for example, “I wish I can enlighten all sentient beings”. That state is only one of

having bodhicitta, rather than being a bodhisattva. Even the Bodhicharyavatara distinguishes

between a “wishing” bodhicitta and an “entering” bodhicitta. A person might wish to enlighten

all sentient beings for a day or only a minute, but they do not qualify to be called a bodhisattva

just because they have this wish for a couple of minutes.

But someone who has entering bodhicitta has committed that from now on, everything he does

will be for the sake of all sentient beings. For example, he will drink a cup of tea for the sake of

all sentient beings, or go from here to there for the sake of all sentient beings. Someone who has

taken this kind of vow and made this kind of commitment can be called a bodhisattva.

These two, wishing and entering enlightened thought, are what we call relative bodhicitta.

Someone who has both wishing and entering enlightened thought is called a bodhisattva, but this

name is given from the point of view of action. For example, it could be people like us. From

time to time, unexpectedly, you must all have the wish to enlighten all sentient beings. I had it

once, just once! However, when you take initiations or do sadhanas or light butterlamps, if you

really commit yourself, saying “from now on, may all my action be turned into something

beneficial for the enlightenment of sentient beings”, then you become a bodhisattva.

So your question is, does that mean ordinary people like us, in everything we do, always have to

think that we are doing it for the sake of sentient beings? Because there are times when we do

not even think about what we are doing, when we do not even have thoughts – like sleeping. So

the question is, while we are asleep, do we then become a non-bodhisattva, and only become a

bodhisattva again once we wake up and think of doing something for all sentient beings? No,

that is not it. It is written in the Bodhicharyavatara that once you commit, once you have taken

the vow, then even if you are sleeping or in a coma, you are still a bodhisattva and your merit

grows all the time.

[H9] (ii) Defining the term ‘bodhisattva’ by view (realisation)

Here, the words “from now on he is known as a bodhisattva” refer to someone who has ultimate

bodhicitta. He has obtained the name ‘bodhisattva’ from the point of view of realisation of the

The definition of a

bodhisattva in

Shantideva’s

Bodhicharyavatara

Aspiring and entering

bodhicitta

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 29

view. He has a direct experience of emptiness, or direct seeing, which is why we say he is on the

‘path of seeing’. We know that Chandrakirti is referring to ultimate bodhicitta here, because he

states this in his autocommentary, quoting from the 2,500 Verses Sutra.

[H8] (b) The qualities that are obtained, the meaning (537)

So, with this we have been introduced to the quality of this being that has the special name ‘first

bhumi bodhisattva', this mingpoy yönten (ming po’i yon tan). The fifth sloka tells us that he has

obtained this name or title of bodhisattva, and in the following slokas, we are going to talk about

several qualities of the first bhumi bodhisattva that he has obtained. The first quality is having

obtained the name bodhisattva; he is not just an ordinary bodhisattva, but also an ultimate

bodhisattva, a bodhisattva from the point of view of the view. It is like a soldier in an army, who

after several years obtains the name or rank of ‘general’. As well as his name, the bodhisattva

has obtained four qualities:

1. Race, or family, rik (rigs)

2. Purification, accumulation and ability.

3. The ability to improve himself very quickly, reaching the next step easily. It is like

walking up a staircase: after you have stepped with your left foot, your right foot

automatically goes onto the next step. A bodhisattva has this kind of ability to go

higher, whereas people like us may get some good qualities unexpectedly, and hopefully

remain there for ten years, if we don’t lose them beforehand.

4. He excels over lower levels.

[H9] (i) The quality of being born into the family, 1:6.1

1:6.1 Now born into the family of the Tathagatas

The first quality is revealed in the first line of the 6th sloka. We know that he is definitely not a

worldly being, and the opposite of an ordinary being is an enlightened being. There are three

types of enlightened beings: shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and buddhas. The first bhumi

bodhisattva is neither a shravaka nor a pratyekabuddha, so what is he? By way of illustration,

when you cross the Channel Tunnel, as soon as you reach France, you are no longer in England.

You may only be at the border, but you have reached France. Similarly, a bodhisattva is sure to

become a buddha. There are no sidetracks for him: there is just one track. This is why poets

refer to bodhisattvas as gyalse (rgyal sras), ‘prince’, or ‘victorious one’s son’ or daughter. A

bodhisattva is sure to become a buddha, so he belongs to the race or family of the buddhas. The

word ‘Tathagata’, which means buddha, literally means ‘one who has followed the right path’.

There is a travel agent in Bodh Gaya called Tathagata travel agency – I think it is a nice name!

[H9] (ii) The quality of the ability to discard and to realise, 1:6.2-4

1:6.2-4 Completely abandoning the three constant fetters,

The bodhisattva possesses supreme delight

And is able to stir a hundred worlds.

The second quality is küntü jorwa sum (kun tu sbyor ba gsum), which has been translated here as

‘fetters’. In Tibetan, it means something that not only holds you in samsara, but also pulls you

down into samsara. There are three of these fetters, or causes that draw us into samsara and hold

us there:

Holding a certain view as supreme (lta ba mchog ’dzin). This has three subcategories:

The four qualities

obtained by the

bodhisattva

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 30

1. Thinking that the five aggregates are supreme, jigtsok (’jigs tshogs). We think that I,

me and mine are supreme. We hold this view as supreme – we think ‘I am supreme’ –

that is why we are here, and why we return repeatedly.

2. Thinking Nirvana is supreme, tar ta (mthar lta), such as wanting to be reborn in heaven,

thinking that heaven is supreme or that enlightenment is supreme.

3. Thinking that a wrong view is the supreme view, logta (log lta). For example, some

people have an inferiority complex, and think that they are useless or worthless. This is

a wrong view, but you think it is a supreme view. You are addicted to it – you love to

think that you are bad or worthless. Another example is thinking that ignorance is

something inherent that cannot be destroyed.

Thinking that your discipline or ethic is supreme, tülshukgi chogzin (brtul zhugs gi mchog

’dzin). For example, thinking that being a vegetarian is supreme, or that being non-vegetarian

like the Vajrayana is supreme. It is when people think things like “this is the Vajrayana – we can

eat meat, drink alcohol, and have women”, when they think that this is the great ‘openness’ of the

Vajrayana. It is as simple as being proud of being a buddhist, or a Mahayana practitioner, or a

Dzogchen practitioner. This only leads to rebirth in samsara, so be careful! Monks and nuns are

also arrogant, and can go around holding up their sharp noses and thinking, “I am a monk”, or

holding out their big chests thinking, “I am a nun”. Lord Maitreya said that the essence of ethics

is that you have no pride, no arrogance.

Doubt, té tsom (the tshoms): This doubt is one of the biggest problems for a practitioner, in the

sense of not being able to decide what the right path is. It can become a big hindrance to

enlightenment, and it can be the perfect cause for rebirth in samsara.

Suppose that Gérard Godet asks me the way to the toilet. His bladder is full. I tell him to take

this road, turn right, turn left; I give him all the instructions. I say, “You will come to a door

marked ‘men’. This is your toilet – turn the knob and go in. These are my instructions”. He can

follow all these instructions, and actually reach the last stage when he is about to open the door.

But then he looks at the sign ‘MEN’ and has all sorts of doubts. Is this really it? Perhaps the

letters ‘WO’ fell off!

If he has these doubts, it is a hindrance. He has wasted time, and his urine should have come

faster, but it has been postponed several minutes. That is a big obstacle! And on top of that, he

does not know the Vajrayana method of pissing in your pants. What he really needs is the

courage to make a mistake. It does not matter. If he opens the door and finds Ani Jimpa there,

he can close it again! That courage is necessary, and the lack of it is té tsom.

If someone asks you what makes you reborn in samsara and dwell in samsara, the touchy-feely

answer is to say ‘ignorance’. Instead, all you need to do is recite these three causes, which are

what the bodhisattva has abandoned.

The quality of accumulation is taught here on the third line “The bodhisattva possesses supreme

delight”. He has no insecurity about not attaining enlightenment. He is sure. As I said, he is

already there – he is already in France, and it is only a matter of time until he reaches Paris. He

has understood both the selflessness of the person and the selflessness of phenomena.

The fourth line “And is able to stir a hundred worlds”, talks about his ability. Perhaps the word

‘move’ or ‘shake’ would be better than ‘stir’. Every second, he can move the world if he wants

to. He does not have to do it all the time, but he has the ability. Consider someone like

Gorbachev, for example. When he became President of the USSR, all the stock markets went up

and so on – somehow there was a feeling that the world was shaken.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 31

[H9] (iii) The quality of pressing on further (spontaneous progress), 1:7.1

1:7.1 Joyfully progressing from bhumi to bhumi

Khenpo Kunga Wangchuk, one of my masters, said that when vultures begin to fly, they have

some difficulty, but once they are up high, they occasionally move their wings a little, but they

just stay in the sky. Likewise, the bodhisattva on the first bhumi will have no difficulties at all in

progressing and reaching the second, third and fourth bhumis, and so on. Unless he decides out

of compassion to remain as a first bhumi bodhisattva, he can progress any time he likes. This is

because he has power, or control, over his diligence to engage himself in accumulating merit and

wisdom.

For us, even though we may wish to attain enlightenment, when we actually engage in

accumulating merit and wisdom, and purifying defilements, there are a lot of difficulties. There

are many unfavourable circumstances for accumulating merit and wisdom, and favourable

circumstances for accumulating defilements. This is expressed here in the first line of the 7th

sloka.

[H9] (iv) The quality of passing beyond lower levels, 1:7.2-3

1:7.2-3 The various paths to the lower realms have ended;

The levels of ordinary existence are exhausted.

The fourth quality corresponds to the second and third lines of the 7th sloka. The first of these

two says that he has blocked all the lower realms, which refers to the Path of Application, jorlam

menché (sbyor lam sman chad) and below. There are two paths, the paths of accumulation and

application, and then there are all the samsaric realms. He has blocked these paths, which means

he will never be forced to go down them by power of karma and emotion. But he can choose to

go to these lower realms out of compassion.

[Q]: Earlier, you said that a bodhisattva might become discouraged, and then deviate towards the

paths of the shravaka and pratyekabuddha.

[A]: This is not really going down to the lower realms. Without sufficient compassion, a

bodhisattva might become so tired that he is attracted by the stage of shravaka or

pratyekabuddha, but this is in order to seek a short cut to enlightenment – it is not really a

lower realm. However, your question comes at exactly the right time, because the next line

deals with this point, “The levels of ordinary existence are exhausted”.

You might think that Chandrakirti is repeating himself in the third line, but great scholars like

him never repeat themselves. It might look like repetition, but there is always a new and

different aspect. Here, for instance, right after mentioning that the paths to the lower realms have

ended, he says that the levels of ordinary existence are exhausted. This phrase is a little sarcastic

towards the Hindu doctrines, which teach that one attains the summit of existence through

shamatha, the pacification of the mind. They think that this realm, the highest of the worlds of

the gods, is enlightenment.

In Chandrakirti’s time, Hinduism was the main opponent or alternative to buddhism, but in

general, we can say that other religions seem to have three kinds of aim:

• The highest existence (srid rtse): In some religions, this is heaven. In Hinduism, it is

the peak of existence. This highest state of existence has no perception; therefore, much

of this gross dualism does not exist. Because of this, unless you are an expert, you can

easily mistake it for the real thing. It is like designer watches. The genuine article is

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 32

made in Switzerland, but you can buy an identical fake in Thailand, and unless you are

an expert, you cannot tell the difference.

• To be reborn in Northern Continent. According to buddhist cosmology, we are now in

the southern continent. In the northern continent, people live for a thousand years, and

each of their years is a million of ours. They have wish-fulfilling cows, and enjoy great

pleasure and wealth. In many religions, including the Hindu and Vedic religions, the

aim is to be reborn in this northern continent. It is like a heaven. You do not need to

worry about this one too much, but I have to mention it, because it is in the

commentary. And it is good to know about – perhaps you will end up there, and you

will realise that this is what we were talking about!

• The state of Brahma. This is direct sarcasm. For a bodhisattva, such states are all

exhausted, as he has gone beyond them, and they are not even attractive or interesting to

him. Heaven and the state of Brahma do not tempt him. He may even have revulsion

towards them, because bodhisattvas consider that in these places, too much idealism is

practised but no responsibility is taken. All the schools there are Rudolf Steiner

oriented, no examinations are required, and there is no need to work and social security

is good. But somebody still has to pay the bill!

The main reason why bodhisattvas are not interested in going to these three realms or stages is

that they have so many ‘ripening obscurations’. There are two kinds of ripening obscuration:

• You accumulate merit by doing shamatha meditation, and then you reach that state.

You think that this is final, so you do not wish to advance any further.

• While you are there enjoying yourself, your karmic bank balance is slowly running out,

and one day you realise there are only a few cents left. You have to spend even those,

and then you go back down again. Because of that, you do not even hear the Dharma,

which is one of the freedoms and advantages of a precious human birth.

This can even happen in our day-to-day life. If we are too happy, we do not remember the

Dharma. So, when you are very happy for five minutes, remember that for five minutes you

have been reborn in a realm of long-living gods. But you do not necessarily have to be attached

to that.

[H8] (c) The qualities taught by analogy, 1:7.4

1:7.4 This is taught to be like the eighth sublime level.

The last line of the 7th sloka gives an analogy. When a samsaric being destroys the root of

samsara, he becomes an arya, which means a supreme, or non-samsaric, being. There is a

Hinayana argument that the Mahayana path has an instantaneous progression from the path of

seeing to the path of no more learning. So, they say that the Mahayana path cannot have an arya,

a non-samsaric being who is still on the path, such as the first bhumi. So, some Hinayana people

argue that the Mahayana does not have a gradual path, as they do not have non-samsaric beings

still on the path. That is an important attack, because if you do not have a gradual path, then you

do not have a path at all. And if there is no path, then there is no antidote to the defilements.

That is what they are trying to get at.

Someone on the Hinayana path who has entered the stage of stream-winner is already an arya, a

non-samsaric being. The next stage on the path is the once-returner, and then the never-returner

and then the foe-destroyer, so there are stages of non-samsaric beings on the path. Some

The Hinayana argument

that the Mahayana does

not have a gradual path

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 33

Hinayana people say that Mahayana does not have that, because as soon as you are on the path of

seeing, you instantly become a foe-destroyer.

So, the purpose of this line is to tell Hinayana people that the first bhumi bodhisattva is like the

eighth aryan level. So how do we count to the eighth? There has been a lot of debate in Tibet

about which is the eighth level.

Let me remind you that Chandrakirti is a Prasangika Madhyamika scholar, a consequentialist.

Members of this school always use an analogy that is already accepted within their opponent’s

view. So, here he is using the view of his Hinayana opponent. At this point, you should write a

big question mark in your notebook, because I spent two hours yesterday listening to teachings of

khenpos and reading many commentaries, but I am still not clear as to how they count the eighth

level. They definitely do not count downwards. There are two kinds of stream-winner: the

enterer and the abiders. Then we have the enterer once-returner, the abider once-returner and so

on. We will count upwards, in reverse order, which means that the eighth is the enterer streamwinner.

But I am still not sure whether the eighth level is the enterer stream-winner or the abider

stream-winner.

The Five Paths is more a Mahayana term. These are the path of accumulation, path of

application, path of seeing, path of meditation, and path of no more learning. The first bhumi

bodhisattva is on the path of seeing, so the borderline between samsara and nirvana is just before

the path of seeing. According to Chandrakirti, the stream-winner is the same as the path of

seeing. It is just a difference of language between Hinayana and Mahayana. All these are the

fruit; they are already nirvana.

It is a big thing to be a stream-winner, because it means you have become a non-samsaric being.

Those who are stream-winners receive great respect and devotion from other people. During the

Buddha’s time, some naughty monks wanted to impress the lay people. They were not streamwinners,

and could not really lie about that. So as lay disciples were passing by, they went into a

river and shouted, “Hey, I’ve just entered the stream”, hoping that the onlookers would

misunderstand!

[H8] (d) The quality of outshining others, 1:8

1:8 Striving for enlightenment, even when remaining on the first level,

He defeats those born from the speech of the Sage King, including solitary

realisers.

And, through ever-increasing merit,

On “Far Gone”, his understanding also becomes greater.

We have seen how one obtains the name and the four kinds of qualities of a bodhisattva. We

have just finished talking about how the first bhumi bodhisattva is equal to the stream-winner, by

using an analogy. Now we will look at another of his qualities, the quality of outshining others,

which is the subject of the 8th sloka.

All the shedras and khenpos spend a lot of time on this sloka, because here we need to talk about

the Hinayana, the Mahayana and many other things. The last line in particular is very famous,

and people like Khenpo Rinchen would spend two or three weeks just on that line!

You need to underline the word ‘even’ in the first line, and ‘also’ in the fourth line. Just this

word ‘also’ has been the subject of much discussion, as there is so much meaning behind it.

Sometimes institutes like shedras would invite khenpos just to talk about this!

The importance of the 8th

sloka, and the last line in

particular

How to count the eighth

aryan level

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 34

[H9] (i) Outshining others by the strength of merit on this bhumi, 1:8.1-3

Imagine that there is a king sitting on his throne, surrounded by majestic generals, ministers,

members of parliament, representatives of the citizens, and so on. Then suddenly the queen

comes in, holding the newly born price. Although he is tiny, the prince already outshines the

ministers with his merit, as he is going to become king. No matter how great or clever the

ministers, how long their beards, how much knowledge they have, or how majestic they are, they

will never become king. They will only ever be ministers and generals.

The first bhumi bodhisattva is like a baby crown prince, very small in front of these wise,

majestic and mature shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. But it does not matter, because just as the

prince is going to become king, the bodhisattva will become a Buddha, and not these others.

Another example is given in the Biography of Lord Maitreya Sutra. There is a big tree with a

garuda’s nest, which is surrounded by vultures, owls, hawks, eagles and so on. There is a small

recently born baby garuda, that does not even have hair on its wings, but it can still outshine the

others. Hawks can fly better than the baby garuda, but the garuda is still the king of the birds.

The word ‘even’ in the first line tells us that if the first bhumi bodhisattva outshines the

shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, then bodhisattvas from the second bhumi onwards will

definitely outshine them. Why can bodhisattvas outshine the others? They do so because of

their compassion, and because of the merit that they have accumulated over countless aeons.

[Q]: You said yesterday that the shravakas also have compassion?

[A]: Yes, but a shravaka’s compassion is like a drop of water, whereas a bodhisattva’s

compassion is like the four oceans combined. But our compassion is like dew in the grass,

and compared to us, the compassion of the shravakas is like the four oceans.

[Q]: You said that the bodhisattva is free from three fetters of clinging to a view, or ethics, or

having doubt. Is it that they never have even a temporary stage of doubt, meaning the

thought does not arise in their mind, or is it that it cannot affect them?

[A]: They do not have any doubt. It does not exist for them any more.

[Q]: The analogy says that the bodhisattva outshines others because he will be king in future, but

we are all potential Buddhas.

[A]: Your answer is on the first line of 6th sloka. The bodhisattva is born into the family of the

Tathagatas, so he is sure to become a Buddha. The shravakas and pratyekabuddhas are still

in England, but he is already at the border of France.

[Q]: But what is important is where he is today, rather than that he will be in Paris next year.

Perhaps the one who is in England today might reach Paris before the person at the French

border?

[A]: When all the conditions are there, and there is no antidote or obstacle, then you can be sure

the result will follow. The person in England does not have this. It’s a bit like when

someone says, “I want that”, and another person says, “You’ve got it!” You do not actually

have it, but you are sure it will be given.

[H9] (ii) Outshining others by the strength of understanding on later

bhumis, 1:8.4

[H10] (a) Outshining as implicitly stated in the sutra (539)

The last line of the 8th sloka says, “On “Far Gone”, his understanding also becomes greater”.

In the Dashabhumika Sutra, which is our main supporting sutra, the Buddha says that a newly

born prince will outshine all the mature and learned ministers and generals with his merit. When

this prince grows up and is old enough to actually rule the country, then he will also outshine the

ministers with his intelligence. The sutra continues, “Likewise, sons and daughters of the

The image of the baby

garuda

The image of the newly

born crown prince,

ministers, and generals

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 35

victorious ones, as soon as a bodhisattva obtains ultimate bodhicitta, he will outshine the

shravakas and pratyekabuddhas with the power of his noble aspiration”. In fact, ‘noble

aspiration’ is a good phrase for compassion.

The Buddha goes on to say that when the bodhisattva reaches “Far Gone”, which is the name of

the seventh bhumi, he will outshine the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas even with the ‘superior

understanding of his own object’, rangi yül shepé chewa (rang gi yul shes pa’i che ba). It says

the same thing here on this line: not only his merit, but also his understanding – his superior

understanding of his own object – is greater. We will talk about what this means in more detail.

As you read this, you can sometimes almost feel that Chandrakirti is so taken with the Mahayana

path that he just keeps praising bodhisattvas. In the first three lines, he says that a first bhumi

bodhisattva can outshine shravakas and pratyekabuddhas with his merit, and in the last line, he

says that a seventh bhumi bodhisattva can outshine them with his wisdom. There are no negative

words here, like “he can only outshine them with his merit”. He is always praising the

bodhisattva, and a Hinayana reader might interpret this as sarcasm.

Chandrakirti could have said that the first bhumi bodhisattva is only able to outshine shravakas

and pratyekabuddhas with merit, but not with wisdom. But instead of saying that, he

immediately goes on to say that when this bodhisattva reaches the seventh bhumi, he will also

outshine them with wisdom. But Khenpo Rinchen, one of my teachers, says the word “also” is

actually one of Chandrakirti’s greatest praises of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. Chandrakirti

is very clever. While he praises the bodhisattvas, he also praises the shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas, by saying “also”. This is indirect praise, because it tells us that shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas have a lot of intelligence – so much that even the sixth bhumi bodhisattva

cannot outshine them.

[H10] (b) The actual meaning stated in that quote (540)

[H11] (i) The sutra’s statement that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas

understand phenomena to have no true nature

Generally, the view that needs to be realised by the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas

is identical. But their realisation is not the same, as is illustrated by an image. Sometimes a tiny

insect eats away the inside of a mustard seed, and creates a space inside the seed. The realisation

of emptiness of the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas is as big as that space inside the mustard

seed. Notice that I did not say ‘as small as’ – it is a big place! By contrast, the bodhisattva’s

understanding of emptiness is as big as the sky, or perhaps I should say as small as the sky. Here

we are talking about the intelligence of the bodhisattva. Even the first bhumi bodhisattva’s

understanding of emptiness is greater that that of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, so the question

is, why does he not outshine them even on the first bhumi?

From the first to the sixth bhumis, a bodhisattva cannot irreversibly remove his tsendzin (mtshan

’dzin), what we are calling ‘fixation towards characteristics’. It continues to grow, and he cannot

block it so that it will not return. Here we need to distinguish two types of defilement:

• Dendzin (bden ’dzin): When you look at this pen, you cling to it as a truly existent pen.

If someone says it is spaghetti, you will say, “No, it is a pen”. This is dendzin.

• Tsendzin (mtshan ’dzin) is fixation towards characteristics. As long as there is an object

and a subject, there is tsendzin. There are no details like whether it is truly existing or

not. But this is a very rough explanation.

Two types of defilement:

dendzin and tsendzin

The shravakas’

realisation of emptiness:

the analogy of the space

inside the mustard seed

Indirect praise for

shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 36

Let me give you a bad example. If you are dreaming about a cup of coffee, and in the dream,

somebody asks you if you are drinking coffee, then if you do not know that you are dreaming,

you will say, “Yes, I am drinking coffee”. If they ask if you are sure, you will say, “Yes,

definitely, I’m sure”. And if they ask whether your coffee is satisfying you, you will say that it

is. Then when you wake up and someone asks whether the coffee you drank really existed, you

will say, “No, it was just a dream”. It was not a truly existent cup of coffee.

For now, for simplicity, you can say that dendzin, the belief in things being truly existent, is the

cause of samsara. Shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and first bhumi bodhisattvas have already

abandoned this belief. And, as I just said, the understanding of emptiness of shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas is as big as the space inside a mustard seed, whereas the bodhisattvas’

understanding is like the sky. So, why can’t the first bhumi bodhisattva outshine the shravakas,

given that he has a greater understanding? It is because none of the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas

or bodhisattvas has managed to make their fixation towards characteristics irreversible. Here we

are talking about their progress in term of dreldré, the result of absence.

Let us say that Gérard and I are both looking at that mountain. Gérard is a few feet closer, so he

has a better view; but both Gérard and I have a problem with our eyes, so we are equal to each

other in that sense. Likewise, shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and first to sixth bhumi bodhisattvas

are all equal. One equal cannot outshine another equal, as you have to be greater than another

person in order to outshine them. Therefore, the bodhisattvas cannot outshine the shravakas with

their understanding.

As we have seen, the two ways in which a bodhisattva can outshine shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas are his noble aspiration and his superior understanding of his own object. The

noble aspiration is compassion, which creates merit and makes the first bhumi bodhisattva

outshine the shravakas, whereas the superior understanding of his own object is what the

bodhisattva has on the seventh bhumi ‘Far Gone’.

[H11] (ii) What the other traditions state about this quote

[Editor’s note: Rinpoche did not teach anything under this heading]

[H11] (iii) Introducing the Master Nagarjuna’s understanding of this point (542)

When we talk about the ‘superior understanding of his own object’, rangi yül shepé chewa, there

are three subjects to discuss:

1. Superior

2. Understanding

3. His own object

We will start with the third, ‘his own object’. We need to start by introducing the four extremes,

which are illustrated in the box below. According to Nagarjuna, all phenomena can be included

within these four zones. If you come up with a fifth, I will give you a Manjushri pill! When we

talk about existence, we are not differentiating between inherent or non-inherent or conventional,

we are just talking about everyday existence in the world. For example, do you have a car? Yes,

I have a car – this is existence. The example of neither existence nor non-existence is the

sharpness of the horn on Gérard’s nose – because the horn does not even exist, you cannot talk

about its sharpness.

Why the first bhumi

bodhisattva cannot

outshine the shravakas

The two ways in which a

bodhisattva outshines

shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 37

Existence

Example: a spoon

Cf. Christianity and some types of Hinduism

Non-existence

Example: a rabbit’s horn, or the horn on Gérard’s nose

Cf. existentialism

Both Existence and Nonexistence

Example: the reflection of your face in a mirror

Cf. New Age

Neither Existence nor Nonexistence

Example: the sharpness of the horn on Gérard’s nose

Cf. Taoism

These are the four extremes. If you fall into one or more of these, you are an extremist, and you

do not have the right view of the middle way. Then you do not have ‘the view that is free from

the extremes’. In the first zone, ‘existence’, we can find Christianity. I feel that when buddhists

meditate on emptiness, many of them just delete the first one, ‘existence’, and dwell on the

second, ‘non-existence’. The third one is New Age, where everything is all right, existence or

non-existence. The fourth is Taoism. It is very close to buddhism, and many people think that

‘neither existence nor non-existence’ must be the Middle Way. But this is not so, according to

Chandrakirti. We will come to this in the sixth chapter.

Roughly, one can say that if you just wish to destroy the root of samsara, you can destroy the

first of the four extremes, existence. However, the view that a bodhisattva tries to meditate on is

beyond all four of these zones. That is what we call ‘great emptiness’. So, emptiness is not the

same as non-existence. Many people say that emptiness is something like a void, blank space or

non-existence of this and that – but that is not true. Many people’s emptiness falls into the

second extreme, the second trap.

Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas care more about the first extreme, existence. They emphasise

the understanding of the non-existence of existence. However, a bodhisattva has to understand

the non-existence of existence and the non-existence of non-existence. When you think, “I am”,

that is clinging to existence. Then with some meditation, you can realise the emptiness of self,

but sometimes a person can also have clinging or attachment to this non-existence. From the

Mahayana point of view, that is also a type of defilement.

When the Mahayana says a flower does not exist, it actually means that the flower is free from

the four extremes: it is not existent, nor is it non-existent, nor both existent and non-existent, and

not neither existent nor non-existent. If you understand this, you will not ask questions like “how

can the Mahayana say this tent does not exist? I can see it”. Chandrakirti will say it is not

existent but also not non-existent. To our normal mind, ‘not non-existent’ means that it is sort of

existent, but then Chandrakirti tells us that’s not it either. Whichever side you go to,

Chandrakirti is there, saying, “No, this isn’t it!” That is why it is called the Middle Way. And

after all this, Nagarjuna says that a learned one should not even remain in the Middle Way!

[Q]: When one visualises a yidam, for example, first you make it existent, then you dissolve it so

then it is non-existent.

[A]: Yes that is true. In the sixth chapter, Chandrakirti says that all meditations and

visualisations are part of relative truth. Chandrakirti is not saying that you cannot have

existence and non-existence in the relative truth. Remember, as I said on the first day, here

we are establishing the ultimate truth, the view of emptiness.

I cannot talk much about freedom from all these extremes. If you really want to understand this,

understanding only comes from contemplation and meditation. Talking about it just makes it

worse and worse. The more we talk, the worse it gets! But just from hearing the teaching and

The four extremes

Examples of how various

religious views fall into

the four extremes

The great emptiness is not

the same as non-existence

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 38

studying it, a general idea of the view can occur during the Path of Accumulation. It could

happen to us!

And then you meditate on this general idea of the view, and during the Path of Application, a

nyam (nyams) or experience, of freedom from the extremes can occur. The actual understanding

starts at the first bhumi. This explains the analogy of the space inside the mustard seed and the

sky. Even on the first bhumi, a bodhisattva has the beginning of actual understanding of freedom

from all four of the extremes. This is a greater understanding than that of shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas, who only understand the first extreme, and part of the second.

Returning to ‘superior understanding of his own object’, we will now explain the word

‘superior’, and discuss what makes a 7th bhumi bodhisattva superior to shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas. When a bodhisattva reaches the 7th bhumi, during his post-meditation time, he

can make his freedom from tsendzin, fixation towards characteristics, irreversible. This means

that until the 7th bhumi, a bodhisattva still cannot manage to make his fixation towards

characteristics irreversible, which is also the case with shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. This is

why the first bhumi bodhisattva cannot outshine them with his intelligence.

It does not mean that a 7th bhumi bodhisattva is totally free from fixation towards characteristics

from that point on. He still has tsendzin, but does not generate any more tsendzin. The seed has

been planted and the flower is grown, but he is not planting any more seeds. We could say that

he has made the seed sterile, as he no longer accumulates further causes of fixation towards

characteristics. But that does not mean that he no longer has fixation towards characteristics,

because then he would jump to the 10th bhumi or buddhahood! There is still more to purify on

the 8th and 9th bhumis! This tells us that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas still have fixation

towards characteristics, which is why they are equal to bodhisattvas on the first to sixth bhumis.

Now the real problem starts, because our quotations from the Dashabhumika Sutra and the

Biography of Lord Maitreya Sutra give rise to another question. From both quotations, we now

know that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas do have a realisation of the selflessness of phenomena,

and not just the selflessness of the person. If this were not so, a bodhisattva on the first bhumi

could easily outshine them even with his intelligence. However, because shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas have an understanding of the emptiness of phenomena, the bodhisattva does not

outshine them until the 7th bhumi.

We are talking about two things here: realisation, and purification of defilements. The

superiority of a bodhisattva does not relate to things like his physical size or his colour, but lies

in these two aspects: his noble aspiration, and his understanding of emptiness, which is much

vaster than that of the shravakas. We used the example of the space inside the mustard seed to

compare their realisation of emptiness. So, why doesn’t Chandrakirti say that the bodhisattvas

have totally outshone the shravakas? Because although they have superiority in terms of their

realisation of the view, the way they perceive phenomena, they are not superior in terms of their

purification of defilements. To use an analogy, if a shravaka and a bodhisattva are both washing

dirty clothes, neither has reached the point where their clothes will never get dirty again

The quotation from the Dashabhumika Sutra tells us that the baby prince does not outshine the

ministers with his knowledge, which means that the ministers also have some knowledge. We

also know that shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas have all understood the selflessness

of the person, as they are all non-samsaric beings. So, this quotation tells us that a first bhumi

bodhisattva will not outshine shravakas with his intelligence, which means that shravakas must

have some understanding of selflessness of phenomena.

[H10] (c) Disposing of disputes on that question (542)

The 7th bhumi

bodhisattva’s superior

understanding of his own

object

Shravakas must also

understand emptiness of

phenomena

Why shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas have

some understanding of

selflessness of phenomena

Why do bodhisattvas not

completely outshine

shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas?

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 39

We now have to talk about the understanding of the selflessness of phenomena by shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas. You may wonder why I am emphasising this so much. The reason is that if

we make even a slight mistake, we could end up with the consequence that shravakas are already

practising the selflessness of phenomena, and so there is no point even teaching the Mahayana.

In particular, Bhavaviveka said that shravakas and pratyekabuddhas only understand the

selflessness of a person, not of phenomena. Here he is raising an objection, and Chandrakirti

responds by explaining the consequences that Bhavaviveka will have because of saying this. Be

patient here, because we need to go through this. If we have even a small problem here, it will

lead to big problems with the rest of the Madhyamika.

If we look at the framework for the whole of the Madhyamika, there are two things to be

realised:

• Absence of existence of the individual self: gang zag gi bdag med

• Absence of existence of phenomena: chos kyi bdag med

And there are two defilements to be eliminated:

• Clinging to/belief in the individual self bdag ’dzin

• Clinging to/belief in existence of phenomena chos kyi bdag ’dzin

If you want to talk about ignorance, defilements and obstructions to enlightenment, all these are

included in the bottom two. The top two, understanding the absence of existence of the

individual self and of phenomena, are wisdom. When we talk in terms of what has to be

eliminated, we talk about the two types of clinging, and when we talk of what is to be realised,

we talk about the two types of wisdom.

You might ask how these two defilements could be separate. This is a good question. It depends

on your interest. If you want enlightenment, moksha, liberation, then you should get rid of the

first. Once you have done that, that’s it – you are in moksha! That is what shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas want, so that is what they do. As we saw in the homage, in the 3rd sloka, this

defilement is “initially fixating on this so-called ‘I’ as an existing self, ‘Mine’ gives rise to

grasping”. Here we are talking about the ego. It is the first defilement, and it is the cause of the

other eleven links of interdependent origination. But how can these two defilements be separate

things? After all, there can be no notion of ‘I’ or self without the five aggregates. And the five

aggregates belong to the second defilement. This is the problem.

According to Bhavaviveka, shravakas are only interested in getting enlightenment, so they are

only interested in getting rid of the first obscuration, which is ego. That is fine. But then

Bhavaviveka says that the method of realising the emptiness of phenomena is exclusive to the

Mahayana. This is his mistake, according to Chandrakirti. This tells us that shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas must also have knowledge of the emptiness of phenomena. If they did not, they

would not understand the emptiness aspect of the five aggregates. Now, when the causes and

conditions are there, and there is no antidote, the result will follow. Here, the result would be

clinging to ‘I’. If they did not understand the emptiness aspect of the five aggregates, ego could

come automatically. There have been many different ways of thinking about this, not only in

India but also in Tibet. For example, Mipham Rinpoche, Gorampa and Tsong Khapa all had

their own ideas, but I am not going to explain them here.

Now we will talk about bdag ’dzin (chos kyi bdag ’dzin) and bden ’dzin.

Dagdzin (bdag ’dzin) means clinging to the self, which also includes clinging to the self of

phenomena. The characteristics of a phenomenon are the things that can be perceived by the six

senses. The self is also included there. Chos means phenomena, and bdag means something like

How can the two

defilements be separate?

Dagdzin: Clinging to the

self

Bhavaviveka’s objection:

shravakas only

understand the

selflessness of a person

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 40

identity or true self, the thing that identifies something, or makes something what it is. For

example, when we identify something, as in “this is a glass of water” or “this is a piece of apple”,

that is bdag.

[Q]: In western philosophy, we make a distinction between what is perceived, and the underlying

thing that causes those sensations to happen. We do not perceive what is underlying. We

only perceive the sensations. But people believe that there is something underlying that

causes those sensations. That is what we call substance. Is bdag that substance?

[A]: When I say ‘I’ or ‘me’, it is a name, identification, a certain habitual pattern and a

confirmation. Similarly, saying that this is a tent – this is also identification, a hallucination,

a concept and a self. Bdag is ‘true self’, as when English people say ‘itself’, as in ‘by

itself’.

[Q]: When you talk of the thing ‘in itself’ are you talking about something completely separate

from us, which exists in its own right, and which causes our sensations of that thing? If

there is no perceiver, does that thing still have a self?

[A]: No, because then it does not become a chos (dharma), or phenomenon. If none of the six

senses are there to perceive it, then there is no phenomenon.

[Q]: You cannot perceive the underlying substance of something directly, but only through your

senses. You can perceive things like its colour, its hardness or its shape, but you cannot get

beyond your senses. Someone who was not a buddhist would say, “Yes, it’s really there”.

[A]: When we say “this is a cup”, you are asking whether beyond ‘cup’ there is something that

we can then refer to as a cup. According to Chandrakirti, that is zhi mé (gzhi med), there is

no such thing. It is a complete hallucination. There is no base, but you take it as a base and

think ‘this is me’. Here we come to the seven-point analysis of the chariot, in which

Chandrakirti tells us that there is no base, but we hallucinate that there is a base and say,

“this is a chariot”. Similarly, when we say, “this is a tent”, what are we referring to? Is it

this iron beam, or this piece of fabric? If we cut one piece and then another, we will not

find the tent. There is no base, but we still have an idea that this is a tent, and we cling to it.

That is dagdzin.

Similarly, when Jakob thinks his girlfriend is beautiful, that is also dagdzin. When he is very

much in love, he thinks her smell is good, her looks are good, her taste is good – all of that. But

this is baseless, because if there were a truly existent base, then he should always think she

smells good and so on. But one day, when he hates her, her smell is bad and she is no longer

beautiful! This shows that there is no base to her beauty – it is a ‘baseless assumption’.

Then we come to dendzin (bden ’dzin), thinking that something is truly existent. This is a more

gross defilement, because something can be dagdzin without necessarily also being dendzin.

This is because tsendzin, fixation towards characteristics, is chos kyi bdag ’dzin, but it is not

dendzin.

We have seen that, in order to understand the selflessness of the person, shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas must understand the selflessness, or non-substantiality, of the five aggregates.

Indeed, the Buddha taught them about the second selflessness, the selflessness of phenomena, as

we can see from the following quotation. He said that “form is like a bubble and feeling is like a

bubble”, meaning they are essenceless, that they have no substantial existence. There is no true

existence, no reality in there. The Buddha also said that “perception is like a mirage, and karmic

formation is like a banana tree”. A banana tree has many layers, and when you look at it from

outside, it looks very solid. But it is all just layers of skin. As you peel layer after layer of skin,

you end up finding that there is nothing inside. There is no real solid substance, as it is all made

out of skin. This quotation also says that consciousness is like a magical illusion.

So, why is the Mahayana taught, and what makes the Mahayana special? This challenge comes

from Bhavaviveka, who thinks that the teachings on the selflessness of phenomena are exclusive

to the Mahayana. He says that if this subject were also taught to the shravakas, then there would

Bhavaviveka’s challenge:

Why is the Mahayana

taught?

Dendzin: thinking

something is truly existent

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 41

be nothing special about the Mahayana, so there would be no reason or benefit in teaching it

again.

Chandrakirti says that the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas must understand the selflessness of

phenomena, because if they did not understand that, they could not understand the selflessness of

the person. And if you do not understand the selflessness of the person, then you are in samsara.

So, in response to Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti asks him two questions. Is Bhavaviveka saying

that the teachings of the Mahayana in general are irrelevant? Or is it just that the Mahayana

teachings on the selflessness of phenomena are irrelevant?

The first objection is definitely invalid, since the Mahayana not only has teachings about the

selflessness of a person and of phenomena, but it also has teachings on the paramitas, prayers,

compassion, dedication, and so on. And the aim of the Mahayana is not just to go beyond one

extreme, but also to go beyond all four extremes.

Now we will respond to the second objection, that the Mahayana teachings on the selflessness of

phenomena are irrelevant. Here we are still talking about the ‘superior understanding of one’s

own object’, and we have already discussed ‘superior’ and ‘one’s own object’, so now we come

to ‘understanding’.

[H10] (d) Negating Explanations Based on Conceptual Analysis (545)

Although shravakas and pratyekabuddhas do practise the selflessness of phenomena, there are

three reasons why the Mahayana teaching on this subject is greater:

1. It is clearer

2. It is vaster

3. It is complete

How is it clearer? To the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, the Buddha only said that form is like

a bubble, perception is like a mirage, and so on. He did not clarify this. But in the Mahayana, he

said that form is emptiness, and emptiness is form. This is much more clear and direct.

Although the Buddha said this to Shariputra, as in the Heart Sutra, Shariputra does not practice

it. He just repeats it, which is why he is nyentö (shravaka).

How is it vaster? When the Buddha teaches shravakas and pratyekabuddhas the selflessness of

phenomena and of the person, he only negates one aspect: existence. But in the Mahayana, he

not only negates the first aspect, existence, but also the other three: non-existence, existence and

non-existence, and neither existence nor non-existence. There is a classification of either 16 or

20 types of emptiness, which we will come to when we discuss the 6th bhumi. When we say

‘vaster’, it refers to the quantity of emptiness. For shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, only one type

is taught, but in the Mahayana, all 20 types are taught.

Why is it complete? Shravakas and pratyekabuddhas only understand the first of the four

extremes and a little of the second. In the Mahayana, all four extremes are taught – it is

complete.

There are several different explanations here. Although I will skip over the debates here, they

are good. Nobody is wrong; all are great. The debates are not about winning. If there is

anything to gain, it is wisdom.

In particular, Tsong Khapa says that from the first to the seventh bhumis, a bodhisattva still has

to purify the first defilement, which is tsendzin (fixation towards characteristics), although his

purification of dagdzin (clinging to the self) is finished. Remember that we were talking about

The three reasons why the

Mahayana teaching on

the selflessness of

phenomena is greater

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 42

two kinds of defilements – clinging to the self and clinging to phenomena. The bodhisattva

needs to purify clinging to the existence of phenomena, not just for enlightenment, but also for

omniscience. The selflessness of phenomena is divided into nine parts, and these nine are the

obstacles that need to be purified by the nine stages of the bodhisattva.

When a bodhisattva manages to destroy clinging to the self of the person, he attains the first

bhumi. One can almost say that this first stage of the buddha is just an instant. The tonglam, the

path of seeing, occurs as soon as you see the emptiness. That’s it! But as Tulku Jigme Rinpoche

was saying, for them one minute and one hundred years are identical.

So today, we have completed the line “On ‘Far Gone’, his understanding also becomes

greater”. This usually takes ten or twenty days to teach. Do not tell Tibetans that I taught it in

one day. They would never believe it! I would become an outcast!

[Q]: Is the path of seeing free from the four extremes?

[A]: Not completely. This is why bodhisattvas on the path of seeing are still on the path.

[Q]: Isn’t it true that if shravakas and pratyekabuddhas understand the selflessness of

phenomena, compassion will arise out of this understanding, and they will then become

Mahayana?

[A]: Yes, they certainly have a lot of compassion, but it is tiny when compared to the Mahayana.

[Q]: Why are selflessness of phenomena and the person treated separately?

[A]: It is a question of what different people are interested in. Some only want enlightenment, so

they need to abandon clinging to the self of the person, which is what binds them to

samsara. Others want to go further, and gain omniscience, so they need to abandon clinging

to the self of phenomena, which is what binds them to nirvana.

[Q]: The ‘I’ can only perceive phenomena through itself, so I cannot see any real difference. It

also seems that the ‘I’ can perceive itself through phenomena.

[A]: You still have that, even if you have abandoned clinging to the self of the person. You only

abandon the clinging to the person; you do not abandon the person.

[Q]: So can we say that the ego transforms during this journey?

[A]: Yes, it looks like that. But strictly, you should say speak in terms of the dag, the baseless

assumption towards something that does not have any base. We will come to this in detail

later. For example, although there is no basis for thinking so, you think this is a tent. That

is similar to clinging to the self of a phenomenon. On top of that, you think that this is a

truly existent tent, which bodhisattvas do not. It is stupid to try to speak on behalf of the

bodhisattvas, but I am guessing that they have an idea of a tent, and the one that perceives

the tent – subject and object – but not the clinging. These two are not truly separate. It is

like a large staircase that goes up to the first and second floors of a house. You can leave

the stairs at the first floor if you are happy with that. But if you want to go further, you

continue on the same staircase until the second floor. It is the same staircase, but you could

divide it into two by saying that one set of stairs goes to the first floor, and another set of

stairs goes to the second floor. In summary, although there is no basis to the idea of a tent,

an ordinary person will think this is a tent, and believe that it is truly existent. Bodhisattvas

do not believe it is truly existent, but they still have the idea of subject and object, although

without clinging.

We talked earlier of dreldré, the result of absence. In fact, the word buddha, or in Tibetan

sangyé (sang rgyas) especially sang (which means ‘purified’) is very much this dreldré, this

result of absence. When we praise the Buddha, we say, ‘awakened one’. That is the supreme

praise, rather than ‘great one’, ‘powerful one’, or ‘beautiful one’. His greatest quality, being

awakened, is a result of absence: the absence of sleep, the absence of ignorance, and so on. We

should take the meaning for granted, as there is a lot to think about here. In Sanskrit, ‘ignorance’

is avidya, and in Tibetan, it is marigpa.

The problem is that in English, ignorance means ‘not knowing’. This implies that there is

something to know that you do not know, but that is not good here, because the word avidya

The meaning of “absence

of ignorance”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 43

connotes just the opposite. It is not that you do not know something that you should know, it is

that you know something where there is nothing to know! There is no base; there is nothing

there in reality. But you create something and then ‘know’ that. That is avidya, that is the not

knowing – not knowing the reality. Of course, misunderstanding is also included within

ignorance. If somebody thinks this teabag is a fish, it is also ignorance. But here we are talking

about the situation where there is nothing solidly existent in reality, but your mind thinks there is

something. That is avidya. And that something is dag, and clinging to it is dzin. Dag is almost

like a self. For example, Jakob thinks his girlfriend is beautiful. Here, ‘beautiful’ is the dag.

And when others are near her, Jakob is jealous: this attachment, this clinging, is the dzin.

So, in buddhism, ignorance has nothing to do with evil or misunderstanding. It is a

hallucination, a mirage. People think that dualism refers to bad/good, ugly/beautiful and so on.

Yes, these are also dualism. But there are no separate solid entities such as subject and object –

they are one. When you do not know that, and you divorce subject and object, then it becomes

dualism. Dualism is also ignorance. When we look at this teabag, our habitual mind thinks that

this is a solidly existent external phenomenon. We think there really is a teabag there, which is

separate from my mind that thinks, “This is a teabag”. But according to buddhism, especially the

Mahayana, there is no teabag if there is no knower, one who gives this type of label. So this is

why, if I ask you whether you see the cup of tea that I see, you would normally say yes, but in

fact you never see my idea of this cup of tea – you only see your idea of this cup of tea.

Although there is just one type of ignorance, it is classified into two types according to its object

of focus: clinging to the self of the person, and clinging to the self of phenomena. The second

one includes the first, but the first is focussed mainly on the self, such as when you think, ‘I am’.

When you think, ‘he is’, that is a phenomenon. The self of a person refers to your own person,

whereas a phenomenon, like a tent, is something that is not you. You can abandon the first type

of clinging and still be stuck with the second. Let us suppose you are washing clothes because

you see them as dirty. It takes half an hour to remove all the dirt, but some people just want to

wash the clothes for fifteen minutes, and then they’re happy. They do not see the rest of the dirt

as dirt, whereas true hygiene fanatics really wash it properly. The way that ignorance works, the

way it obscures, is also categorised into two:

• Apprehending things as truly existent

• Apprehending things as mere appearance

The first is thinking things like “I think I am truly existent”. Do not worry about whether you

have the second kind of ignorance, because for us this dirt would be an attainment rather than an

obscuration! To show these ideas, we can draw a diagram (see illustration on next page). The

triangle in the diagram above represents ignorance. It is drawn without a break to represent that

there is just a single continuity. The beginning of the path is the point at which you take refuge,

or when you accept the four mudras or the four seals, which are:

1. All compounded things are impermanent.

2. All emotions are suffering.

3. All phenomena are without truly existing characteristics, without a truly existing ‘self’.

4. Nirvana is beyond the extremes (nirvana is peace).

If you have taken refuge, then these four mudras are included when you take refuge in the

Dharma.

Ignorance is classified

into two: clinging to the

self of a person and the

self of phenomena

Ignorance is not a

misunderstanding or evil.

It is a mirage, a

hallucination.

The Four Great Seals

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 44

When you cross the border between samsara and nirvana, you become a first bhumi bodhisattva.

According to the Hinayana, you would be called an Enterer Stream-Winner. Upon reaching the

first bhumi, the bodhisattva has abandoned clinging to the self of the person and dendzin, the

type of clinging that we have called ‘apprehending things as truly existent’.

The tenth bhumi is the borderline between the path and no more path. Enlightenment has two

meanings: no more returning to samsara, and omniscience. You could also call the 1st bhumi

enlightenment, since there is no more returning to samsara. But at the bottom of the diagram, is

complete omniscience, dzokpé sangyé (rdzogs pa’i sang rgyas).

There is another borderline at the 7th bhumi. As we discussed earlier, the first bhumi bodhisattva

can outshine shravakas and pratyekabuddhas with his merit, but not with his intelligence.

Bodhisattvas have a greater view, a superior understanding of their own object, because they are

looking at all four extremes, whereas shravakas and pratyekabuddhas are only looking at one and

a half. But 1st to 6th bhumi bodhisattvas cannot outshine them with intelligence, because they

still create the causes of tsendzin, ‘apprehending things as mere appearance’. The 7th bhumi

bodhisattva outshines shravakas and pratyekabuddhas, as he no longer creates the causes of

apprehension of mere appearance. But until he has omniscience, he is still suffering because of

his apprehension of mere appearance, so he is still an object of compassion. This is the third type

of compassion that we talked about earlier (on p. 19).

This is why Chandrakirti refers to the shravaka and pratyekabuddha states as ‘island

enlightenment’. In ancient times, Indian adventurers made voyages to the middle of the ocean to

look for jewels. Sometimes, after months of seeing only the sky and the ocean, they would get

tired. And if they came across a small island, they felt happy and wanted to settle down there for

a while. But according to the Mahayana point of view, eventually they will all have to continue

on their journey.

[H7] (2) Expressing the Qualities of the Paramita emphasised (558)

The 7th bhumi bodhisattva

no longer creates the

causes of tsendzin

The 1st bhumi bodhisattva

has crossed the border

between samsara and

nirvana

Shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas as

“island enlightenment”

The 10th bhumi is the

borderline between path

and no more path

OBSCURATIONS

- Clinging to both ideas of self

- No more clinging to self of person

- No more dendzin (solid belief in true

existence of phenomena)

- Still create causes of tsendzin

- Still cling to self of phenomena

- tsendzin still present

- 7th to 10th bhumi bodhisattvas no

longer create causes of tsendzin

- No more clinging to self of

phenomena

- Path of Accumulation

- Path of Joining

- 1st to 6th bhumis (for

bodhisattva path)

- 7th to 10th bhumis

Enterer Stream- Winner

(for shravaka/

pratyekabuddha path)

TAKING

REFUGE

SAMSARA

NIRVANA

ENLIGHTENMENT

Ordinary Beings

Beings on the

Path

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 45

[H8] (a) Showing that the paramita of generosity is the principal one, 1:9

1:9 Here, the first cause for perfect enlightenment,

Generosity, is the most important.

Giving his flesh with enthusiasm,

Infers what is not seen.

Here we are talking about the qualities the bodhisattva seeks to cultivate during his postmeditation

time, and in particular, the paramita that is most important on this bhumi. On the first

bhumi, the most important paramita during the bodhisattva’s post-meditation time is generosity.

There are three types of generosity:

• Material generosity;

• Protection;

• Dharma.

Although the bodhisattva practices all of them, the emphasis here is on material generosity.

There are two types of material generosity: outer (giving flowers, water, incense, elephants,

peacocks, and palaces), and inner (giving up one’s wife, son, or daughter). There are many

examples of material generosity in the stories of the bodhisattvas’ past lives.

When Shakyamuni was a king in a previous life, he gave up his whole family for a single word

of Dharma. As an Indian king, he had all the material wealth imaginable, but still he was not

satisfied with life. He declared that if someone could give him wisdom, he could give up

anything. Lord Indra transformed himself into a Brahmin, and said he would give Shakyamuni a

word of wisdom if he would give him all his queens. And Shakyamuni gave them up.

Actually, the love for wisdom of the Indian kings was amazing. It was perhaps the greatest in

human history. It was only after the Moghul invasion of India that the kings became intoxicated

with women, wine and expansion of the kingdom. Hari Chandra, one of the Rajput kings, lost

his entire kingdom because his favourite pastime was debating with his fifty buddhist scholars

and fifty Hindu scholars. Although his ministers informed him that the Moghul invaders were

right at his walls, he wanted to finish the debate! The ancient kings’ love of wisdom was also

reflected in their architecture. Instead of building ornate palaces, they would just have four

pillars and a ceiling. They did not even have walls. But Ani Jimpa is complaining that this is a

sidetrack, so we should return to the text!

There should be the word ‘even’ at the start of the third line: his act of generosity is the most

important, so that “even giving his own flesh with enthusiasm infers what is not seen”. For

example, when Shakyamuni was a prince called ‘Courageous One’, he was walking in a forest

and he gave up his body to a hungry tiger. The last line is important, because how can an

ordinary person judge whether someone is already on the first bhumi or not? You cannot see,

smell or taste such qualities. But if someone has the courage to give up his own flesh, this tells

us that he has inner qualities that we cannot see, and that he is on the first bhumi. However, until

they reach the path of seeing, bodhisattvas are instructed not to give up their flesh or their life,

with the exception of donating organs after death.

The hard-line Hindu master Ashvaghosha did this. He debated with Aryadeva, the disciple of

Nagarjuna, and their bet was that the loser would join the winner’s religion. Ashvaghosha lost

three times, but his dislike of buddhism was so great that he decided to jump into the Ganges.

Aryadeva sent a monk from Nalanda University to catch him and then lock him in Nalanda

library for seven days. There was nothing there for Ashvaghosha to do except read books, and

he found a passage where Buddha Shakyamuni had predicted him, and predicted that he would

be the first person to narrate the life of the Buddha. During those seven days, he remembered all

The story of the debate

between Aryadeva and

Ashvaghosha

The story of how

Shakyamuni gave up his

family for a word of

Dharma

The courage to give up

your own body

The three types of

generosity

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 46

his previous lives as a bodhisattva, and attained great devotion to the Buddha, Dharma and

sangha.

He became one of the greatest poets in India, and wrote the Buddhacarita, which is the story of

the Buddha. For example, Ashvaghosha narrates the scene of prince Siddhartha’s night time

escape from the palace very beautifully. He describes all the sleeping courtesans, including one

who has been playing the tambourah and has now fallen asleep holding it as if it were her lover.

It is so beautifully written.

One day Ashvaghosha was travelling through a forest, and he met a tiger. The tiger ate his

limbs, but not completely, and Ashvaghosha continued to crawl along although he was losing

blood and dying. Every time he saw a stone, he wrote a poem, and after seventy verses, he died.

This poem is called Seventy Aspirations, and they are prayers you can recite.

[H8] (b) Praising other kinds of generosity (559)

[H9] (i) As what causes beings to escape from suffering, 1:10-11

1:10 Ordinary individuals, craving happiness,

Cannot live without comfort.

Recognising that comfort comes from generosity,

It was this the Muni spoke of first.

The 10th to 12th slokas praise acts of generosity in general, not specifically those of a first bhumi

bodhisattva. In this sloka, Chandrakirti says that as long as a person is materially poor, generally

this person is considered unhappy, although we should emphasise the word ‘generally’ so there

won’t be questions like “Isn’t Milarepa happy”. Material wealth cannot occur without causes

and conditions. These are of two kinds:

• The knowledge and the ability to accumulate wealth, such as knowledge of business

strategy, patience, cleverness and putting an emphasis there. But these are just

conditions, not the main cause, as one can see that many people with a business degree

are still poor and starving.

• The real underlying cause is acts of generosity in past lives or at the beginning of this

life. The Buddha knows the good qualities of having generosity and the downfalls of

not having it, which is why he taught generosity as the first of the paramitas.

In general, we say there are three stages to the Buddha’s teaching on this earth, each of which is

to overcome something. First, in order to overcome non-virtuous deeds, he taught cause and

effect, reincarnation, karma, and similar things. The second stage is in order to overcome

clinging to the self, and the third is to overcome clinging to all types of view. The third is

exclusive to the Mahayana, the second is common to both Mahayana and Theravada and the first

is the most common. Since generosity is an act of karma, it is taught in the first stage.

1:11 Uncompassionate, extremely insensitive,

Striving solely for personal benefit –

Even such individuals will obtain comforts,

And have all sufferings pacified, through generosity.

In this sloka, being ‘extremely insensitive’ also includes those with ridiculous ‘courage’ to ignore

the suffering of all other sentient beings, which refers slightly to shravakas and pratyekabuddhas.

The three stages of

Buddha’s teachings

The causes and

conditions of material

wealth

The story of Ashvaghosha

and the tiger

Why generosity was

taught first

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 47

[H9] (ii) As what also causes lasting happiness, 1:12

1:12 Furthermore, practising generosity,

They will swiftly meet with a superior,

Completely cutting the stream of samsara.

Having such a cause, they proceed to the yield of peace.

Normally, people perform acts of generosity for worldly gains rather than for enlightenment. But

here Chandrakirti says that even if people do not have this greater kind of motivation and if they

practice generosity only with worldly motivations such as becoming richer, as long as they keep

on practising generosity, then eventually they will meet a superior being. This also comes from a

sutra, which says that aryas, which are non-samsaric beings such as bodhisattvas, are bound to

go to generous people. They are attracted to them. For example, the Buddha’s begging bowl

represents that he goes to town to beg alms.

Once there was a small tear in Buddha’s robe. Ananda offered to repair it, but Buddha declined

his offer, put on his robe, and went to a nearby village to beg alms, as he usually did. He met a

poor girl with nothing to wear who came and sewed this tear up with grass. At that moment

Shariputra laughed, and when he was later asked why, he said that at that very moment in the

Heaven of the Thirty-Three, Lord Indra ordered Vishwakarma, the god of architectural design

and engineering, to measure the palace for her when she would take rebirth there.

But she did not want that, as her aim was enlightenment. I think she became the nun Utpalmo,

named thus because she was as beautiful as the utpala flower. Although she was a nun, she was

so beautiful that a local prince chased her. After many days she stopped and asked him which

part of her body he liked most. By this time, she was already a Foe-Destroyer. The prince was

stunned, and did not know how to reply, so he said he liked her eyes. Then she took out both of

her eyes and gave them to him. At that moment, the prince realised the truth of phenomena,

understanding that beauty is only a compounded thing, just an idea.

If a person keeps on engaging in generosity, one day he will meet a superior being. Then he will

hear the teachings, cut the stream of samsara and reach nirvana.

[H8] (c) Praising the bodhisattva’s generosity

[H9] (i) The result obtained, manifest joy, 1:13.1-2

1:13.1-2 Those pledged to others’ welfare,

Will soon gain happiness through generosity.

Now we turn to the generosity of a bodhisattva. For us, the result of our generosity, which may

be future wealth or happiness, may come in ten years or even in the next life. It is neither

obvious nor quick, which may explain why people are not generous. But bodhisattvas are not

seeking to become rich and powerful; they have pledged to other people’s welfare, and their aim

is to make others happy. So, as soon as they give, they know the other person is happy, and this

is why the bodhisattvas gain happiness. For us, the motivation behind our generosity is that we

can gain happiness. For a bodhisattva, the motivation is that others can become happy, so

naturally he gains his result more quickly.

The story of the nun

Utpalmo and the prince

The story of the poor girl

who repaired the tear in

the Buddha’s robe

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 48

[H9] (ii) This generosity is therefore of foremost importance, 1:13.3-4

1:13.3-4 Hence, for those with compassion and those without

The importance of generosity is stressed.

Therefore, the happiness of all beings relies solely on generosity, whether they have compassion,

like the bodhisattvas, or not, like shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and people like us. This is why the

importance of generosity is stressed.

[Q]: We say we are generous in order to gain happiness, but isn’t that also the case for

bodhisattvas? Surely, it also makes them happy to give?

[A]: It makes them happy, but the difference is that it makes them happy to have the other person

happy. For us, the result just makes us happy.

[Q]: Do bodhisattvas intend to make themselves happy?

[A]: No, they do not. This is actually quite an important thing for Mahayana buddhists to know.

If, for example, you are supposed to build a temple for your teacher, then as soon as you

have the intention to build it, that pure intention, then it is already a success. Success does

not depend on actually managing to build the temple and having a consecration ceremony.

As soon as you have that motivation, it is the end of an act. But this does not mean that you

should just be happy with it. Of course, you can accumulate more actions that are positive.

But if the temple were to be destroyed by wind or an earthquake, a bodhisattva would have

no regrets. Instead of giving up, he would build it again.

[H9] (iii) It is much greater than a particular analogous kind of joy, 1:14

1:14 When hearing or thinking of “give!”

The pleasure of a bodhisattva

Exceeds the pleasure of the arhat’s nirvana,

Not to mention [the joy of] giving everything.

Again, we are talking about bodhisattva’s act of generosity. Even the happiness of shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas cannot exceed the simple happiness of a bodhisattva when he hears the word

‘give’. Chandrakirti is not just saying this to be poetic or nice to bodhisattvas. It is logically

true, because the aim of shravakas and pratyekabuddhas is to reach enlightenment, whereas the

aim of bodhisattvas is to make other people happy. We do not even need to mention whether a

bodhisattva actually gives anything, since just hearing the word ‘give’ makes him so happy. The

Sanskrit word danaparamita, ‘give’, has many other meanings as well. It connotes

impermanence, death, reincarnation, past life and next life. It also connotes the chance to

accumulate merit. This is another reason why bodhisattvas are happy when someone says

“give”. It not only creates the chance for them to give, but also reminds them of many teachings.

[H9] (iv) Disposing of disputes about how this joy is obtained, 1:15

1:15 Suffering when cutting and giving his body,

He realises the pain

Others endure in the hells and so forth.

He thus endeavours in eradicating suffering.

When a bodhisattva gives his own limbs or flesh, he feels great pain as he cuts his body, because

he still has tsendzin, clinging to mere appearance. Because of this hardship, an ordinary person

would refrain from continuing, but a bodhisattva will feel the sufferings of the hell and hungry

ghost realms in his own body, and it will remind him of his responsibility to end the suffering of

all beings. So, instead of stopping, he will complete these acts even more quickly.

Pure intention is central

in the Mahayana

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 1 – 49

[H8] (d) Categorisation of this paramita (560), 1:16

1:16 Giving, which is empty of giver, gift and receiver –

Is known as transcendent paramita.

Attachment to these three

Is taught as being ordinary paramita.

[H9] (i) Explaining the meaning of the word paramita (561)

Now we are talking about two kinds of paramitas here. The real paramita does not yet exist on

the first bhumi. ‘Paramita’ means ‘gone beyond’, and a first bhumi bodhisattva has not yet gone

beyond. He has something almost authentic, but it is not complete.

[H9] (ii) That which can truly be given this name

When there is no clinging whatsoever to the self of the giver, or the thing that you are giving,

such as a flower, or the receiver – then the generosity it is called ‘beyond worldly paramita’.

[H9] (iii) That which can be given this name by association

Although a bodhisattva can have attachment to these three, not as being truly existing but just as

mere appearance, if he dedicates his act of generosity for the sake of the enlightenment of all

sentient beings, then it is called “worldly paramita”.

To illustrate this, suppose that I want to give this spoon to Gérard Godet. I give it to Gérard, and

then he says, “I do not have my bag with me, so please can you look after it for me”, and he

gives it back to me. Now, although the spoon is in my hand, it is no longer mine. It has already

been dedicated. Although it was my gift, if I run away with the spoon, I will be stealing from

him. Likewise, although a bodhisattva still has clinging, if he dedicates his act of generosity to

enlightenment, then it becomes a worldly paramita. This is what is called ‘giving the name of

result to the cause’. It is like the sun penetrating our tent.

[H6] c) Concise summary of its qualities by means of similes (564), 1:17

1:17 The bodhisattva, firmly established in such mind,

Has become a holy being, ravishing and radiant with joy,

Which, as the water crystal jewel,

Perfectly vanquishes dense darkness.

So, the bodhisattva remains firmly in such a mind of understanding his own object. And as he

remains in that state, a radiant joy comes from his realisation that he has reached the first bhumi.

This joy is like a water crystal jewel, which is an Indian name for the moon, and it will vanquish

all the dense darkness of clinging to the self of a person and clinging to phenomena as truly

existent.

Here ends the first enlightened aspiration of “The Philosophy of the Middle Way”.

Giving the name of result

to the cause

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 2 – 50

[H5] 2. The Second Bhumi, Without Stain

[H6] a) Detailed explanation of the qualities of the paramita

emphasised

[H7] (1) The features of Discipline, the paramita emphasised

[H8] (a) Attaining perfect discipline, 2:1.1-2

2:1.1-2 Here, because he possesses perfect discipline

He abandons the stains of faulty ethics, even in dreams.

[H9] (i) Its definition

The second bhumi bodhisattva emphasises ethics, so we need to start by discussing ethics a little.

When they talk about discipline, buddhists talk about ‘downfalls’ or tung wa (ltung ba),

including ‘natural downfalls’ and ‘downfalls depending on breaking the precepts’. In buddhism,

it is important to know that it is not a superior being, such as the Buddha, who determines things

like bad karma or unwholesome deeds. You decide them. For example, suppose you are very

angry with a particular person such as Gérard. You want him to have unhappiness and to be

separated from happiness. Now, if you have recently arrived on Earth, you may not know what

makes people happy and unhappy, so you may actually do the reverse.

But you are not like that. You have been in samsara for millions of lifetimes. That is, of course,

if you believe in reincarnation. If not, at least you have been here a few years, meaning that you

have an education here. We know that, in general, stroking someone gently produces happiness

and punching him or her on the nose causes unhappiness. You have a reference, because

someone once punched you and you felt pain. And now you are using that reference in order to

cause him pain.

But let us suppose that Gérard Godet has come from Jupiter, and that he has a strange nose and

ears. For him, punching someone on the nose is actually a greeting. But because I do not know

this, I still have bad karma when I punch him, because I think that it will give him pain. It all

depends on my motivation. If I know that he loves to be punched on his nose, some sort of kinky

stuff like that, and then I do it as a greeting, it is different.

When we shake hands, I do not think we are creating good karma, but if we do it with a certain

sort of motivation, it can also create good merit. If you do that, this is what we call a ‘natural

downfall’. When we speak of “good karma” and “bad karma”, the words good and bad are just

to distinguish the result. We call it bad karma because the result is painful and good karma

because the result is not painful. That’s all. You can change it if you like.

Now, we turn to “downfalls depending on breaking the precepts”. The Buddha said to the monks

that they should not cut trees. If you are a follower of the Buddha and you disobey that, you are

breaking a vow. It does not have much connection with ‘natural downfalls’, but it is something

that you promised to do and you broke it. For example, in the Vajrayana, if your teacher tells

you never to tell anyone that there is a sun and a moon in the sky, you should never say it,

In buddhism, bad deeds

are defined by your

motivation, not divine

judgement

Two types of downfalls

Downfalls depending on

breaking the precepts

Natural downfalls

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 2 – 51

although you know that the whole world knows. You should still keep it secret. You should not

even think of saying to your teacher that everybody knows this, as perhaps you may miss an

important opportunity to receive a teaching. But anyway, let us forget this Vajrayana touchyfeely

stuff.

[H9] (ii) Its nature

According to the Theravada, many vows are actually a form. Usually, the Theravada speaks of

two kinds of form. One is something that you can see and feel with your senses. The other you

cannot perceive, but these imperceptible forms are still dependent on elements. For example,

when a person takes a monk’s vow, that vow is a form, and is it dependent on the elements of

this person’s body, his aggregates. Therefore, when a person dies, his monk’s vow also exhausts.

Of course, the result of the vow, which is the merit, continues. But the vow exhausts, which is

why, if the person is reborn as a bird, for example, he will not be a bird monk.

This is why, when a person is about to become a monk, there are many questions, like “do you

have a secret organ”. This is because if you do not have a secret organ, you cannot take a

Theravada vow, and you cannot become a monk or a nun. There are intensive studies of things

like this in the Vinaya. People think the Vinaya is just ‘the Buddha said do this, and do not do

that’. But, for example, it contains a detailed discussion about what happens if a person who is a

hermaphrodite takes a monk’s vow, and after a few months, his secret organ changes.

In the Mahayana, the bodhisattva vow is not a form vow. A bodhisattva can take a bodhisattva

vow from now until enlightenment. In between, he might be reborn as a snake, a bird or human

being, but he is still a bodhisattva. This does not mean that if a Mahayana bodhisattva took a

monk’s vow that he will go on being a monk, because the authority on monastic comes from the

Theravada sutras. It is important to know that when a follower of the Mahayana takes a monk’s

vow, they are always taking it from the point of view of the Theravada. This is very important to

know.

In the second line of the first sloka, we should highlight the word ‘even’. The first sloka

introduces us to the second bhumi bodhisattva, and his post-meditation time qualities of ethics or

discipline. We need to clarify ‘the stains of faulty ethics’. Here we are talking about having no

guilt. As long as you feel guilty about breaking a vow or a rule, it shows that you have not yet

perfected discipline. I am currently explaining the difference between regret and guilt as follows.

When you feel regret, you have more power to not repeat the action. But with guilt, although

you know that it is not the right thing to do and you might whine about it, but you still do it. A

bodhisattva on the path may feel a lot of regret and guilt at breaking rules and vows, but the

second bhumi bodhisattva is free from both of these.

[H9] (iii) The measure of its perfection

But this does not mean that a first bhumi bodhisattva has faulty ethics. Chandrakirti is saying

that the second bhumi bodhisattva stresses this method of discipline more, not only in his real

life, but also in his dreams. This is because his deeds of body, speech and mind are pure. They

are pure because he has completely abandoned harming other beings, and on top of that, he has

pledged to help other beings.

In the Mahayana, vows

do not have a form

The difference between

regret and guilt

In the Theravada, vows

have a physical form

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 2 – 52

[H8] (b) Accumulating the ten positive actions, 2:1.3-2.2

2:1.3-4 Because deeds of body, speech and mind are pure,

He accumulates the ten-fold aspect of the sacred path

2:2.1-2 On this tenfold path of virtue,

As he progresses, it becomes exceedingly pure.

Because of that, he accumulates the ten-fold aspects of the sacred path. The ten-fold aspects of

the sacred path are three of body, four of speech and three of mind:

• Body: refraining from killing, sexual misconduct and stealing.

• Speech: refraining from lies, gossip, harsh words and divisive speech.

• Mind: refraining from covetousness, harmful intentions and wrong views.

When Chandrakirti says, “it becomes exceedingly pure”, he is not saying that the first bhumi

bodhisattva does not have these ten-fold aspects of the sacred path, but that on second bhumi, it

will be even more exceedingly pure.

[H8] (c) Making the bodhisattva beautiful, 2:2.3-4

2:2.3-4 As the autumn moon, ever immaculate [discipline]

Is ravishing in its soothing light.

The third and fourth lines talk about one of the qualities of discipline, which makes the

bodhisattva immaculate, beautiful and pure. The analogy is that of an autumn moon. Generally,

the moon is clear and white, but in India, the autumn moon is considered especially bright, as

there is less haze and mist in the sky during that season. Likewise, the second bhumi bodhisattva

is free from all the downfalls of body, speech and mind.

[H8] (d) Being free of dualistic attachment to subject, object and action,

2:3

2:3 Dwelling on the purity of his own discipline,

Is not pure discipline.

Thus in regard to its three [aspects], at all times

He is perfectly free of the engagements of dualistic mind.

This sloka talks about a special quality of the bodhisattva’s discipline: not clinging to the three

faults of object, subject and action. There should be the word ‘if’ somewhere in this English

translation. Although it is not possible, if a bodhisattva were to have pride (one of the three

fetters, see p. 29) at being a very well disciplined person, then he would no longer have pure

discipline. Therefore, the second bhumi bodhisattva is always perfectly free from dualistic mind

becoming engaged in the discipline that has to be kept, the action of keeping, or the bodhisattva

who is the keeper of the discipline.

[H7] (2) In praise of other types of discipline (566)

The ten positive actions

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 2 – 53

[H8] (a) The penalties of contravening discipline, 2:4-5

2:4 Having comforts through generosity, yet miserable,

This arises from breaking the limb of discipline.

Having exhausted all your investments,

Later these will not yield much comfort.

Now we are praising discipline and ethics in general, rather than the bodhisattva’s discipline in

particular. Perhaps the translation should have ‘wealth’ rather than ‘comforts’ in the first line, as

it is the result of generosity. A person may engage in acts of generosity and become comfortable

with all sorts of worldly wealth, but despite their comfort, we can still see beings in this world in

a miserable situation. An example is becoming king of the nagas, who are supposedly very rich.

Some people are wealthy because of their generosity in past lives, but they may now be so stingy

that they do not share their wealth with others or even spend it on themselves.

From the perspective of the Dharma, being fortunate or not is usually judged according to

whether a person can understand the Dharma or not. From this point of view, when a person is

born into a very wealthy family, but as their pet or a horse or something like that, it is because

they have broken the limb of discipline. When a person is reborn into such situations, he will

exhaust all his good karmic investments. Since such a being is using up all causes for wealth,

and not creating more causes for wealth, later this being will not enjoy worldly wealth. This is

one aspect of the fault of not having discipline.

2:5 Dwelling independently in an agreeable place,

One may still not be able to stay,

Falling into an abyss and losing one’s independence,

How will one get out later on?

The fifth sloka gives us advice on why a person should have discipline. When a courageous

warrior is free, healthy and in good circumstances, he should take advantage of this opportunity,

and advance – perhaps to conquer more of the enemy, or gain greater victory. If such a warrior

is trapped by enemies, then bound and imprisoned by them, then no matter how courageous he is,

he cannot move. He cannot do anything. If you are dwelling independently in a good and

agreeable place, you may nevertheless not be able to stay. In other words, if you do not take

advantage of that good circumstance, then when you fall into some kind of abyss and become

dependent upon others, how will you get out? Therefore, discipline is necessary, to be free.

[H8] (b) Keeping discipline as an antidote to these, 2:6.1-2

2:6.1-2 For this reason, having spoken of generosity,

The Buddha spoke of discipline.

Because there are many faults if you lose discipline or ethics, as stated in the two preceding

slokas, the lord Buddha therefore spoke of discipline right after he spoke of generosity.

[H8] (c) Discipline as the basis for all good qualities, 2:6.3-4

2:6.3-4 Qualities grown in the pasture of discipline,

Yield unending fruits of enjoyment.

If you have a good pasture of discipline, then all the enlightened qualities will grow without any

ending.

A person is fortunate to

the extent that they can

understand the Dharma

We should have discipline

in order to make the most

of our good

circumstances

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 2 – 54

[H8] (d) Discipline as the cause for higher rebirth and certain excellence,

2:7

2:7 Ordinary individuals, speech-born,

Those certainly possessing enlightenment for themselves,

And bodhisattvas, all attain certain excellence and

Higher rebirth solely from discipline.

When you study these Indian texts, instead of looking at lots of commentaries, the way you read

them can also clarify things. For example, all you need to do is read the seventh sloka as

follows:

For those ordinary individuals who attain a higher rebirth, the sole cause of their

higher rebirth is discipline. Discipline is also the sole cause of the speech-born, which

are the shravakas, attaining excellence. This is also the case for the self-buddhas,

meaning the pratyekabuddhas, and the bodhisattvas. Here we are speaking of two

kinds of result: certain excellence, which is nirvana, and a higher rebirth.

[Q]: When we say, “born from speech”, does that include both shravakas and pratyekabuddhas?

[A]: Yes, but usually, pratyekabuddhas are not referred to as nyentö, which means those born

from speech. Here, we are referring specifically to shravakas.

When you perform a non-virtuous deed, one of the ten non-virtuous actions, if it is very strong,

then it will cause rebirth in the hell-realm. If it is less strong, it will cause rebirth in the animal

realm, and least strong will cause rebirth in the hungry ghost realm. If there is still some karmic

power remaining, then although you may be reborn in the human realm, there will be other

effects. In general,

• If you have killed in your past life, you will have sickness and a short life.

• If you stole a lot in your past life, you will lack wealth or you will have to share your

wealth with others.

• If you engaged in sexual misconduct, you will have untrustworthy friends, or a spouse

who will somehow always create many enemies.

• If you told many lies, you will be subject to scandal and being cheated.

• The result of slander is that you always end up in situations of conflict and you cannot

resolve the conflict. You will also have bad mannered companions.

• If you have spoken harsh words, you will be prone to bad news. And no matter what

you say, your words will always become a cause for a big argument or some kind of

disaster.

• If you have gossiped, then nobody can really make any sense out of what you say. You

will also have unsteady courage. For example, when you go shopping, you need

courage to make decisions like whether you should buy a red T-shirt. But some people

do not have this. They hesitate and wonder whether to buy a red one or a blue one.

• Covetousness creates constant dissatisfaction, and desire for all sorts of materialistic

things.

• Harmful thoughts will always make you want to search for something, and what you

search for will always be harmful to you. Others will also harm you.

• If you had wrong views, then no matter how clever or sceptical you normally are, if

somebody tells you something incredibly stupid, you will believe it. An example is Cat

Stevens. You will also become very critical, always going around looking for faults. It

becomes a habit. All journalists are born in this category.

All these results occur within the basic philosophy of karma I told you before. It is not as if there

is a buddhist police force that determines the appropriate punishment for your crime! The reason

Some common karmic

results of negative actions

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 2 – 55

I am explaining this is so you can see that the result is a continuum of the cause. If you kill

someone, you will have a shorter life. If you plant rice, it grows into rice, not into a horse!

[H7] (3) Analogy for perfectly pure discipline (568), 2:8

2:8 Just as a corpse and the ocean,

And auspiciousness and misfortune [cannot] co-exist,

So a great sovereign applying himself to discipline,

Cannot live with carelessness.

This is very Indian. In India, they used to throw dead bodies into the ocean, but in the morning,

the ocean would always throw them back. This sloka says that just as the ocean and corpse do

not remain together, auspiciousness and misfortune cannot coexist. Similarly, the second bhumi

bodhisattva is overpowered by discipline, and so he cannot live with carelessness.

[H7] (4) The divisions of this paramita, 2:9

2:9 Who abandons, what is abandoned, and for whom –

Discipline with these three points of reference,

Is taught to be ordinary paramita;

Absence of clinging to these three, transcendent.

There are three points. The one who abandons (such as the second bhumi bodhisattva); what is

abandoned (such as killing); and for whom (such as animals or British cows). If a bodhisattva

has an attachment or clinging to these three, this is taught to be worldly paramita. But one

should still dedicate the action. However, if there is no clinging then, as with the first paramita,

the action is a beyond-worldly, or transcendental, paramita.

[H6] b) Summary of its qualities in words of certainty (568), 2:10

2:10 The moon-like bodhisattva while non-worldly,

Is the glory of this world.

Like the radiance of the autumn moon – the Stainless –

His stainlessness soothes the anguish of sentient beings.

The bodhisattva on the second stage is not worldly, yet he is the glory of this world, because he

can give protection to worldly beings. He is called stainless, because he has no downfalls of

discipline. Like the autumn moon in India that cools people who are suffering from heat, the

second bhumi bodhisattva soothes the anguish of all sentient beings. The second chapter is

finished now, and we will try to go to the fifth chapter today. It is usually done this way in the

shedras, where the second to the fifth chapters are taught in one day. This is like a Sunday

holiday for students – it is less difficult to study, and this is when the students wash their clothes.

But this is it! There are a few more slokas like this at the beginning of the sixth chapter, but from

then they are like diamonds – they are so tough!

Here ends the second enlightened aspiration of “The Philosophy of the Middle Way”.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 3 – 56

[H5] 3. The Third Bhumi, The Luminous (Giving out

Light)

[H6] a) The nature of this bhumi in words of certainty (569), 3:1

3:1 Because the wisdom-fire, burning the firewood of all phenomena,

Blazes, so the third bhumi

[Is called] ‘Luminous’. Here as the son of the Sugata

Radiates like the sun’s copper light.

Here, phenomena are compared to firewood, and wisdom is compared to fire. So, the first line

tells us that the wisdom fire burns the firewood of all phenomena, burning all clinging to notions

of phenomena as truly existent.

I do not know if there are such concepts in the West, but in India, many stages of dawn are

distinguished before the sun actually rises – there is a first dawn, a second dawn, and so on. Just

after the last dawn, a reddish-purple coloured light appears in the sky. Here we are trying to

explain that final, complete enlightenment is like the complete existence of the sun in the sky.

But the copper-coloured light appears first thing in the morning. Likewise, although a third

bhumi bodhisattva is not yet on the final stage, he will have a complete nyam (nyams), or

experience, which is compared to that purple light of dawn. This does not mean that he sees a

purple light, but that the first indication of complete enlightenment is shown at this stage, which

is why this bhumi is called ‘the creator of the luminous’. During his post-meditation time, the

bodhisattva’s practice on this bhumi is patience.

[H6] b) Detailed explanation of the qualities of the paramita

emphasised

[H7] (1) The paramita emphasised, Patience

[H8] (a) Patience mainly through compassion (569), 3:2

3:2 Although he is innocent, aggressive individuals may

Carve from his flesh and bones,

Slowly, measure by measure,

Yet, such dissection merely makes his patience grow.

Innocent is not the right word. A bodhisattva cannot be an object of aggression, as he is so

gentle and kind that he does not provoke any aggression. Someone like this may be so innocent

that he does not deserve to be an object of your aggression. But some people are so selfish and

aggressive that they can cut a bodhisattva’s body, wait a while, and then cut some more. They

cut him apart gradually, measure by measure. This is based on a story.

But even in this kind of situation, instead of getting angry towards such people, the third bhumi

bodhisattva will have great compassion and patience towards the creator of his pain. This sloka

tells us about the power of his patience motivated by compassion.

The various colours of the

dawn as an analogy for

the stages of

enlightenment

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 3 – 57

[H8] (b) Patience mainly through the view (569), 3:3

3:3 Because for the bodhisattva who sees selflessness

Victim, perpetrator, moment, manner,

Purpose – are all seen as a reflection,

[He attains] patience.

The third sloka tells us about the power of his compassion due to his understanding of reality, of

emptiness. A bodhisattva on the third stage has seen the selflessness of a person completely. He

has also realised the selflessness of phenomena, and abandoned clinging to phenomena as being

truly existent. At this point, the bodhisattva sees all phenomena as a reflection in a mirror, and

for him there is no longer a victim, perpetrator or action. Through his understanding of the truth,

he will obtain patience.

[H7] (2) The penalties of lacking patience

[H8] (a) It produces an unpleasant karmic result, 3:4-5

3:4 If you take revenge upon having been harmed,

How can this reverse the harm done?

Accordingly, revenge is useless for this life,

And counterproductive with regard to the next.

Now we will talk more about general things, such as the faults of lacking patience. If someone

has harmed you and you wish to take revenge on this person, will taking revenge return you to

the initial state before the other person harmed you? In other words, will it solve the real

problem? In the 4th sloka, the first two lines ask this question, and the answer given in the next

two lines says it will not.

That is why it is not necessary to take revenge and lose patience in this life, as it is something

that will also produce bad effects in future lives. As Aryadeva said, “if someone criticises you,

you should check whether what he said is true or not. If it is true, then you should not get angry

or impatient, because it is true. If it is not true, again you should not get angry or impatient,

because it is not true”.

3:5 The result of earlier non-virtuous action,

Is regarded as having been called purification [by the Buddha].

[Yet] you harm the other. The suffering from that anger,

Is what you now proceed to sow.

Here we are still talking about the faults of not having patience. When one goes through pain or

suffering caused by someone else, one should regard this as the exhaustion of a past life’s karma.

If instead we are motivated to harm others and actually take revenge, it is a cause of suffering.

So how could one lead oneself to such suffering?

[H8] (b) It diminishes merit already accumulated (570), 3:6

3:6 Because getting angry at a bodhisattva,

One hundred kalpas’ virtue accumulated through generosity and discipline,

Is destroyed in an instant.

Therefore, an evil worse than anger does not exist.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 3 – 58

If one gets angry towards a bodhisattva, the merit that one has accumulated for one hundred

kalpas through generosity and discipline will all be destroyed in one instant. Therefore, among

the evil deeds that destroy virtuous actions, anger is the most powerful.

There are several categories of non-virtuous actions, which have different effects of destroying or

ripening. For example, a non-virtuous action that has the greatest result, or ripening, is killing

one’s own father. This is one of the five limitless non-virtuous actions. Of all the actions that

destroy virtuous action, anger is the worst.

There are two points to be clarified here. Firstly, in the Bodhicharyavatara, Shantideva says that

anger can destroy the virtuous deeds of a thousand kalpas, but in the Madhyamakavatara, we

have seen that it is one hundred kalpas. Since Chandrakirti and Shantideva are both Prasangika-

Madhyamika, how can they have a different view? However, there is no contradiction here,

because they are commentating on two different Mahayana sutras. Shantideva is explaining the

Sutra of the Heap of Jewels, Ratnakuta Sutra (dkon mchog brtsegs pa), and Chandrakirti is

explaining the Sutra of the Display of Manjushri. The first sutra, the Ratnakuta Sutra, talks

about a lower bodhisattva such one on the path of accumulation, becoming angry towards a

higher bodhisattva such one on the path of seeing. However, the Sutra of the Display of

Manjushri talks about a higher bodhisattva, such as one on the path of application, losing

patience with one on the path of accumulation. The point here is that both sutras are talking

about bodhisattvas losing patience and getting angry, not ordinary people. If an ordinary person

gets angry with a bodhisattva, we would not even measure the result in terms of one hundred or

one thousand kalpas!

The second clarification concerns the word “destroyed”. How strong is Chandrakirti’s meaning?

Does it mean that if an ordinary person gets angry, it completely destroys his merit and makes it

non-existent? This is an example of how the great saints and scholars use emphasis when they

write. Here Chandrakirti really wants us to have patience and abandon anger, so he prefers to

use strong words like ‘destroy’.

In the Flower Ornament Sutra, the Avatamsaka Sutra, Buddha says that an action can never be

destroyed by anything else unless it has ripened. There would be another problem here, which is

that a bodhisattva in the path of accumulation could never ever reach enlightenment. They will

always be angry at times, and each time one hundred kalpas’ or one thousand kalpas’ merit

would be gone. So, here the actual meaning of the ‘destroyed’ is ‘postponed’. Anger will

postpone the ripening of the merit that is the result of generosity and discipline.

[H8] (c) Its penalties are visible and invisible, 3:7

3:7 It creates an ugly body and leads to the unholy,

Robbed of discriminating mind,

Impatience will hurl you into the lower realms –

Patience remedies the above and develops qualities.

Here again we are talking about the general downfalls of lacking patience or having anger. The

first two first lines of the 7th sloka are obvious downfalls, and the third line talks about a downfall

that is not obvious. The first line says that the moment a person is angry, it creates an ugly body.

It shakes them, and it makes them ugly. That’s it.

Even if someone is normally very holy, gentle, sober and wholesome, when they get angry, it

leads them downwards. It makes them lose their wholesomeness, gentleness and good character.

They become so involved with their anger that it robs all their intelligence and discernment of

right and wrong. If you check this, it is very true. We make most of our mistakes when we are

angry, like driving too quickly and missing the red light. The third line talks about how

Of all the actions that

destroy virtuous deeds,

anger is the worst

What is the meaning of an

action being “destroyed”

by anger?

Shantideva and

Chandrakirti say different

things, but they do not

contradict each other

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 3 – 59

impatience or anger will also lead you to the lower realms, such as animal, hungry ghost or hell

realms. The last line talks about the quality of patience, saying that it has the opposite effects to

impatience.

[H7] (3) The excellence of the qualities of patience (570), 3:8

3:8 Through patience [you will be] beautiful;

Adored by holy beings; skilful in

Discerning right and wrong; and thereafter

Born as a human or god, you will exhaust evil.

Continuing from the 7th sloka, the 8th sloka says that patience creates a beautiful body; leads to

the holy; promotes a discriminating mind; and raises us to the higher realms. These are opposite

to the faults of anger.

[H7] (4) The importance of therefore practising patience (570), 3:9

3:9 Ordinary individuals and bodhisattvas,

Knowing the defects and qualities of anger and patience,

Abandon impatience and rely on

Patience as praised by Superiors.

To understand this sloka, you just have to change the order of the words. Knowing that ordinary

individuals have the defects of anger, you should abandon impatience and rely on patience.

Knowing that bodhisattvas have the enlightened qualities of patience, you should abandon

impatience and rely on patience as praised by the superiors.

[H7] (5) The divisions of this paramita (571), 3:10

3:10 Dedicating to perfect enlightened buddhahood,

With threefold reference is ordinary paramita.

If non-referential, the Buddha

Taught this to be transcendent paramita.

This sloka talks about the different kinds of patience. As with the other paramitas, although you

may have dedicated your patience, if you have the threefold reference, then your patience will be

referred to as worldly paramita. If there is no clinging, it is taught by the Buddha to be beyondworldly

paramita. If you want to know more about patience and the faults of anger, read

Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara, as it includes very elaborate methods, such as the twenty-four

types of patience, and so on. Here, I will briefly explain the four types of patience, which are

having patience towards:

• Unfavourable circumstances for oneself and one’s own friends and relatives.

• Obstacles to favourable circumstances for oneself.

• Favourable circumstances for one’s enemies.

• Obstacles to unfavourable circumstances for one’s enemies.

These include all types of patience. The first two are easy to understand. The third is that we do

not like it when our enemies have a nice time, and the fourth is that we do not like it if somebody

is about to intervene and solve our enemies’ problems.

The four types of patience

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 3 – 60

[H6] c) How other qualities are also attained on this bhumi (571), 3:11

3:11 On this bhumi the bodhisattva [attains] samadhi and foreknowledge,

Exhausting entirely desire and anger.

And is always able to overcome

This world’s gross attachment to desire.

On the third bhumi, the bodhisattva has all the attainments of samadhi. There are four samadhis,

but first I will tell you the six types of clairvoyance or foreknowledge:

• Divine eye

• Divine ear

• Remembering past lives

• Knowing other people’s minds

• Knowing things through miraculous powers

• Knowing things without emotion

The third bhumi bodhisattva does now have the fifth and sixth of these. Do not worry too much

about these; I am just reciting the names for your information. The four concentrations of the

form realm, the four meditative absorptions, are the result of shamatha meditation. In buddhist

terminology, it is called shinjong (zhin sbyong), the mind becoming supple.

The first two lines of this sloka talk about the bodhisattva’s own qualities. The first line talks

about what he has obtained and the second talks about what he has purified. We need to clarify

the words “exhausting entirely desire and anger”; we may think that this was already done on the

first bhumi. By the first bhumi, the view of desire and anger as being dendzin, or truly existent,

is destroyed. But the tsendzin, or apprehension of mere appearance, is divided into nine

categories. There are nine defilements, which means that every bhumi apart from the first has its

own share of defilements. The second line is saying that the third bhumi bodhisattva has

abandoned his share of defilements.

So, the two first lines talk about his quality of obtaining purification, and the two last lines talk

about what he can do for others, although I am not sure that this translation will work. We are

saying that the third bhumi bodhisattva has not only managed to overcome desire, which is the

cause of the desiring realms, for himself. He can also overcome this in others.

[H6] d) Explanation of the three general practices, generosity and so forth

(572), 3:12

3:12 These general practices – generosity and so forth –

The Sugata advocated for householders.

[These] known as the accumulations of merit,

Are seeds of the body, containing the Buddha’s form.

This sloka is almost a conclusion, almost. The three practices of generosity, discipline and

patience are praised as the ideal practice for bodhisattvas that are householders. In the

Mahayana, we talk of two kinds of accumulation, of merit and wisdom. If someone asks you

about merit, it is explained in the third line of this sloka. Similarly, if someone asks you about

the causes of Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya, the Buddha’s form, the answer is given in the

fourth line. Actually, Nirmanakaya and Sambhogakaya are not really Mahayana terms; there we

talk of the Rupakaya, the form body.

The six types of

clairvoyance

There are nine types of

tsendzin, which are

abandoned on different

bhumis

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 3 – 61

[H6] e) The qualities of this bhumi: concise concluding summary (572), 3:13

3:13 The bodhisattva who is the radiance of the sun,

First completely dispels his own darkness,

He then wishes to dispel the darkness of sentient beings.

On this bhumi, though very sharp, he knows no aggression.

The third bhumi bodhisattva is the creator of the luminous, or light. While he is obtaining the

wisdom of the third bhumi, he dispels his own share of darkness, which is the tsendzin or

apprehension of mere appearance. In doing that, he dispels the darkness of others, and he is then

very sharp at dispelling his own downfalls and those of others.

Now we come to an important statement of the Mahayana. Although he is very sharp, he does

not have aggression towards someone who has faults. Ordinary beings are not like this. Perhaps

some of us can solve our own problems, but when we manage to do this, we become proud and

this pride leads us to aggression. Pride is always based on some kind of comparison. You look

at someone who has a fault, and you think that they have a fault that you had before, so there is

pride and aggression. But when a bodhisattva sees a fault in someone, he sees their complete

ability to solve the problem on their own. For instance, if we wake up from a nightmare and we

see someone else still having a nightmare, we do not boast about how we managed to wake from

a nightmare, as it is such a small thing to do.

Here ends the third enlightened aspiration of “The Philosophy of the Middle Way”.

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 4 – 62

[H5] 4. The Fourth Bhumi, Dazzling with Light

[H6] a) The great qualities of diligence itself, 4:1.1-2

4:1.1-2 All qualities depend on diligence –

Cause of the two accumulations of merit and wisdom.

All the post-meditation enlightened qualities depend on diligence. Diligence is a cause for both

kinds of accumulation, merit and wisdom.

[H6] b) The nature of this bhumi, which emphasises diligence, 4:1.3-4

4:1.3-4 Blazing with diligence,

The fourth bhumi is known as Radiant.

In this 4th bhumi, diligence will blaze. When there is blazing diligence, it is referred to as the 4th

bhumi, which is known as the ‘Radiant One’.

[H6] c) Words of certainty concerning this bhumi in terms of meditation

experience, 4:2.1-3

4:2.1-3 Here the bodhisattva’s radiance

From thoroughly meditating on the aspects of buddhahood,

Shines brighter than copper.

The purple colour that we were talking about before has now become much redder. On the 4th

bhumi, the bodhisattva has extra qualities of all the 37 limbs or wings of enlightenment. He had

them all on the 1st bhumi, but now his power of these limbs is greater – here there are extra

qualities. For your information, I will read them:

• Four contemplations

• Four perfect abandonments

• Four limbs of miracles

• Five powers

• Five forces

• Seven limbs of enlightenment

• Eight noble paths

[H6] d) Leaving behind what is specifically abandoned on this bhumi, 4:2.4

4:2.4 Belief in self and its effects are exhausted.

On this line, we are again stressing that he abandons his own share of defilements.

Here ends the fourth enlightened aspiration of “The Philosophy of the Middle Way”.

The 37 limbs of

enlightenment

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 5 – 63

[H5] 5. The Fifth Bhumi, Difficult to Overcome/Practice

[H6] a) Words of certainty concerning this bhumi, 5:1.1-2

5:1 All the demons of self-importance,

Cannot defeat the [bodhisattva] on the bhumi Difficult to Overcome:

Meditation is excellent, mind is good, the nature of truth

Is thoroughly realised, thus he becomes skilful.

This great being on the 5th stage cannot be defeated by all the demons of self-importance,

including the four kinds of physical demons such as maras or yakshasas. This bodhisattva

cannot be overthrown from the stage called “Difficult to Overcome”, which is now his name.

[H6] b) The paramita emphasised, 5:1.3-3ó

Here even during the post-meditation time, he stresses meditation, like shamatha.

[H6] c) Other qualities, 5:1.3ó-4

The translation here on the third line is not so good. He will have a greater understanding of the

subtle meaning of the Four Noble Truths. For example, the Four Noble Truths can be condensed

into the two truths, but the two truths cannot be contained within the Four Noble Truths. For

example, Sukhavati, the realm of Amitabha, is relative truth. But if you talk in terms of the Four

Noble Truths, this realm is not suffering, nor emotion, nor path, nor cessation. So, the pure

realms have to be relative truth. The fifth bhumi bodhisattva understands things like that.

[Q]: When we talked of a moment of anger that can destroy kalpas of merit, you distinguished

between a bodhisattva and an ordinary being. But I thought that once someone takes the

bodhisattva vow, the power of his or her action increases. So, the anger of a bodhisattva is

even worse than the anger of an ordinary being, and therefore more negative.

[A]: The bodhisattva’s vow is like a golden pot, which can be repaired. The Theravada vow is

like a clay pot that, once broken, will always be broken.

[Q]: But ordinary beings have no pot!

[A]: If there is no pot, it is good, because we can start to have a pot. This is all touchy-feely, but

a virtuous action is always more powerful than a non-virtuous action and it is actually easier

to create than a non-virtuous action, because negative actions involve lots of sweat. There

is also a good logical reason. If a dirty shirt is washed, then it is easier to make it clean.

But it is impossible to make the shirt dirty. There may be a stain on the shirt, but it is

impossible to unite the shirt and the dirt.

[Q]: But there are many more beings in the lower realms than in the higher realms.

[A]: I am giving you the theory and logic behind it. I am not denying that there are many dirty

shirts, but in reality, the dirt and the shirt cannot be made inseparable. You can unmask a

mask, but you cannot unmask where there is no mask.

Here ends the fifth enlightened aspiration of “The Philosophy of the Middle Way”.

Virtuous actions are more

powerful and easier to

create than non-virtuous

actions

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 64

[H5] 6. The Sixth Bhumi, Advancing / Knowing Clearly

[H6] a) Attaining cessation by emphasising the paramita of wisdom, 6:1

6:1 In ‘Advancing’ his mind dwells in meditation,

Advancing towards the dharma of perfect buddhahood.

Seeing the suchness of dependent arising,

[The bodhisattva] dwells in wisdom, thereby reaching cessation.

In the first sloka, the first two lines talk about the sixth bhumi bodhisattva’s quality of shamatha,

and the last two lines talk about the qualities of his vipashyana. When he was on the fifth bhumi,

this bodhisattva placed great emphasis on samadhi, meditation. Because of that, now that he has

reached the sixth bhumi, he is advancing towards the unique qualities of the Buddha, such as the

ten powers. Do not forget that here we are talking about the bodhisattva’s qualities during postmeditation

time. But as you can see, on the sixth bhumi, his post-meditation qualities now

resemble meditation qualities.

By the power of his vipashyana, he sees the reality of dependent arising, and with this wisdom,

he attains cessation. In this case, cessation is not nirvana, but cessation of the four extremes. He

understands everything as illusion, much more completely than on the five previous bhumis. For

example, his understanding of the third noble truth, the truth of path, is much more pure and

perfect.

Here I want to stress something important. All bodhisattvas are looking at the same object,

wisdom, but even during their meditation, there is a difference of distance. The tenth bhumi

bodhisattva is much closer than the first. A bodhisattva can see no difference between his

wisdom and the wisdom of a higher bodhisattva. However, a bodhisattva on a higher bhumi,

using his clairvoyance, can see differences during the meditation time between his wisdom and

that of a lower bhumi bodhisattva.

However, although bodhisattvas can remain in meditation for a long time, they cannot remain

there forever. The strength of their meditation exhausts, and they have to rise from their

meditation state. Then they enter what we call post-meditation time. During this post-meditation

time, bodhisattvas see things and discriminate between them, for example between man and

woman, or black and blue. This is what we call tsendzin, the apprehension of mere appearance.

I will now add another defilement to our list, which is part of tsendzin. The first seven bhumis

are referred to as the ‘impure seven bhumis of the bodhisattva path’, and the three last bhumis are

referred to as the pure stages of the bodhisattva. The last three bhumis are very special stages.

From a very ordinary point of view like ours, we cannot tell the difference between such

bodhisattvas and the Buddha. From the eighth bhumi onwards, bodhisattvas do not receive

teachings from the Nirmanakaya any more. But they have still a defilement, which is part of the

tsendzin, called nyinang (gnyis snang) ‘mere apprehension’. There is no more appearance, no

more perception. I think that this is probably why only these bodhisattvas have access to the

Sambhogakaya. We will go through this later, but I am introducing the name now so you will be

prepared (for a discussion of tsendzin, dendzin and dagdzin, see diagram below, and p.44)

The qualities of the sixth

bhumi bodhisattva

All bodhisattvas look at

the same object, wisdom,

but see it differently even

in their meditation

Bodhisattvas have

tsendzin during their

post-meditation time

He attains cessation of

the four extremes, and

understands that

everything is illusion

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 65

[H6] b) To those who are blind, the greatness of the paramita of wisdom

itself (575), 6:2

6:2 As an entire crowd of blind people

Can easily be led to their desired destination

By a seeing individual, likewise intelligence

Can lead the blind qualities to victory.

The 1st sloka is a summary of the 6th bhumi. The second sloka is a summary in praise of wisdom.

If five or ten blind people, or even a thousand, are travelling through a strange place where they

have never been before, they only need one person who is not blind to lead them to their

destination. Here, Chandrakirti is saying that without wisdom, all the other enlightened qualities

such as generosity, discipline, patience and meditation are all blind. But wisdom will lead all the

other qualities that do not have the wisdom eye or nyam, to the victorious place. The 3rd and 4th

lines of the 1st sloka state that “seeing the suchness of dependent arising, the sixth-bhumi

bodhisattva dwells in wisdom, thereby reaching cessation”. This gives rise to two questions.

• What do we mean by dependent arising?

• What do we mean by a bodhisattva dwelling in the kind of wisdom that knows

dependent arising?

Defilements on the

bodhisattva path

The two main questions

answered in the sixth

chapter

dendzin (bden ‘dzin)

Solid belief in true

existence of

phenomena

Ordinary samsaric

beings have this

defilement, but

shravakas,

pratyekabuddhas and

1st bhumi bodhisattvas

have abandoned it

dagdzin (bdag

‘dzin)

Clinging to

the self of the

person

Shravakas,

pratyekabuddhas

and 1st bhumi

bodhisattvas no

longer have

clinging to the

self of the person

choki dagdzin (chos kyi

bdag ‘dzin)

Clinging to the self of

phenomena

Remains until attainment of

buddhahood

tsendzin (msthan ‘dzin)

Apprehension of mere

appearance

Bodhisattvas on the 1st to 6th

bhumis still create the causes of

tsendzin, but no longer do so

from the 7th bhumi

nyinang (gnyis snang)

Mere apprehension

The part of tsendzin that

remains on the 8th to 10th bhumis

dagdzin (bdag ‘dzin)

Clinging to / belief in self

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 66

The rest of this chapter answers these two questions: What is dependent arising? And what is the

wisdom that knows dependent arising? In his self-commentary, rangdrel (rang ’grel),

Chandrakirti says these questions should only be asked of high aryas or non-samsaric beings like

sixth-bhumi bodhisattvas, not someone like him. This tells us that a person should have reached

at least the first bhumi if they are to answer such questions properly. So directly, he is being

very humble here by saying that he is not yet on the first bhumi. And indirectly, he is warning

future writers not to claim that they are higher beings and able to make commentaries on the

Buddha’s words.

Then our imaginary opponent asks us why we cannot use sutras like the Dashabhumika Sutra

and some of the Prajñaparamita Sutras as the basis for our explanation. Chandrakirti’s answer

is that you cannot even interpret the Buddha’s words unless you are on the first bhumi. In that

case, our opponent asks, how are you going to explain this to us? You cannot do it directly

yourself, and you cannot make commentaries on the Buddha’s words, so how are you going to

explain this? This brings us to the third sloka.

[H6] c) Establishing the way in which this paramita of wisdom is

introduced

[H7] (1) The basis according to which this teaching is here explained, 6:3

6:3 The one who realised the profound dharma of this [bhumi],

Through the scriptures as well as through reasoning

Was Arya Nagarjuna. Based on his scriptural tradition,

I shall explain this tradition, as it exists today.

Here Chandrakirti is saying that the great qualities of sixth bhumi bodhisattvas are taught in

“absolute” sutras, those that do not require interpretation, and also by direct cognition and

indirectly through logic. He is simply saying that he cannot teach this subject himself, but that

he will explain it in the way that Nagarjuna taught it. This sloka tells us something important

about what makes a shastra authentic.

So, Chandrakirti is going to explain these teachings according to Nagarjuna’s tradition, but this

leads us to ask how do we know that Nagarjuna is at least on the first bhumi? His coming as

someone who has already reached the first bhumi was predicted in two sutras, the Lankavatara

Sutra and the Sutra of Twelve Thousand Clouds. We previously talked about being able to tell

whether someone is on the first bhumi by whether he could give up his or her own limbs. At the

end of his life, Nagarjuna gave up his head to a prince.

[H7] (2) To whom this teaching is to be explained (578)

[H8] (a) The recipient who is to be taught, 6:4

Now we are going to talk about the qualities or characteristics of a listener of these teachings. To

what kind of person should we answer these two questions? Or more directly, to whom should

we teach Nagarjuna’s words?

6:4 Even an ordinary being may, when hearing of emptiness,

Repeatedly feel immense joy surging within,

Bringing forth tears that moisten his eyes,

And making the hairs on his body quiver.

Only someone who has

reached the first bhumi

can answer them

Chandrakirti will teach

according to Nagarjuna’s

tradition

How do we know that

Nagarjuna has reached

the first bhumi?

What are the three types

of people to whom

Madhyamika may be

taught?

So how will Chandrakirti

answer?

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 67

6:5 He has the seed for the mind of perfect enlightenment

And is a perfect recipient for instruction,

He must be taught the ultimate truth.

So the resulting qualities will arise.

6:6 Applying at all times perfect discipline, he comes to abide therein.

Giving with generosity, adhering to compassion,

And meditating on patience,

He completely dedicates his virtue to beings' enlightenment.

6:7.1 Devoted to the perfect bodhisattvas,

The answer is given in the 4th to 6th slokas, and the first line of the 7th sloka. How do we know

whether a person has the qualities of a listener? Even an ordinary being may have repeated joy

upon hearing the teachings on emptiness. The sign of such joy is that it will bring forth tears that

moisten his eyes, and make the hairs on his body quiver. This kind of person has the seed for

enlightenment, and can receive instructions on both the selflessness of phenomena and the

selflessness of the person. And then, the following enlightened qualities will slowly arise in him:

• He will appreciate the preciousness of these teachings on emptiness, and that they can

only be obtained and understood with a precious human birth. Therefore, he will ensure

that he does not violate the codes of discipline and ethics, so he will be reborn in a

higher realm.

• He will know that in order to receive such teachings, one has to have favourable

circumstances, so he will plant the cause for these by engaging in generosity.

• He will meditate on compassion, knowing that if he does not have compassion, he may

become satisfied with the first type of freedom from extremes, and then not go forwards

to understand the other kinds of freedom from extremes.

• He will understand that if he has strong anger or aggression, he will not be able to

discern the right path from the wrong path, so he will practice patience.

• In order for his merit not to be wasted, he will dedicate it all to the enlightenment of all

sentient beings.

• He will know that the only person who can actually guide him on the path and in his

practice is a bodhisattva. Therefore, he will have devotion towards the perfect

bodhisattvas.

This list is like a summary. Now I will explain in more detail the three kinds of people to whom

one can teach the Madhyamika:

[H9] (i) Those who believe in philosophies that speak of an outer or inner

reality

The first kind of person is someone who already has an established philosophy, such as

Hinduism or buddhism. This is why it is much easier to teach a hard-line Moslem or Christian,

because at least they have a view, and then we can debate. It is so difficult to teach New Age

people, because they are like honey. They paste things from here and there, they do not know

what they are talking about and we do not know where we should be directing our arguments.

There is a big difference between rimé (ris med) non-sectarian, and New Age. Rimé always tries

to be as authentic as possible, and to have pure vision, whereas New Age people are always

diluting everything, from classical music to Dharma.

For the kind of person who already has a philosophy, we can teach Madhyamika with all the

Prasangika-Madhyamika arguments and logic. An example of this kind of person is a follower

The enlightened qualities

that will arise upon

hearing the teachings on

emptiness

One can teach a person

with a clear philosophy,

but it is hard to teach a

New Age person

To a person with an

established philosophy,

we teach Madhyamika

with all its logic

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 68

of the Samkhya school, a Hindu philosophy that believes in self-born entities, which will be our

opponent for the next few days.

[H9] (ii) Beginners

The second kind of person that we are supposed to teach is someone completely new, who has no

philosophical background. However, according to Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo, such a person

has to have one quality: shame and embarrassment. This is very important, so listen carefully. If

you encounter someone who does not believe in anything, it is almost impossible to teach him

something. Therefore, you have to find a cause to begin with. You have to find shame and

embarrassment in him, and you will find it easily. As long as a person has ego, he has shame and

embarrassment.

For example, if I ask Gérard to lift his skirt because I am not sure about his sex, he will be

embarrassed. Why? He might not believe in reincarnation or karma, but his embarrassment

shows that he has a philosophy of some sort. Then we can start our discussion of Dharma! He

may not have this kind of philosophy, but why is he embarrassed? He has some kind of theory.

Here we are talking about shame and embarrassment, about hang-ups. Whether they have

cultural hang-ups or ego hang-ups, as long as a person has hang-ups, then from an academic

point of view, they have some kind of doctrine or theory. Based on that, we can develop a

dialogue.

For someone like this who has no religious or philosophical background, we should begin with

mind training. We should teach them things like the faults of samsara, the effects of karma, the

preciousness of a human body, shamatha meditation and different meditations on bodhicitta. We

should teach a gradual path, and then we can introduce the Madhyamika. Because according to

the Mahayana sutras, if a person does not have a good foundation of mind training and practice,

it is considered a violation of the bodhisattva vow to teach them the Madhyamika. It could

destroy them. In the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, it is said that teaching emptiness directly to

someone who is not qualified is like someone without any experience holding a poisonous snake.

[H9] (iii) Those who have already awakened into the family of the Mahayana

The third kind of listener, who is described here in the fourth sloka, is someone that you can

teach directly. He does not need to be convinced with logic, and he does not need any kind of

foundational teachings.

[H8] (b) The benefits derived from being so taught, 6:5.1-7.1

[H8] (c) The importance of therefore listening to what is taught, 6:7.2-4

6:7.2-4 Skilled in the ways of the profound and the vast,

He will gradually attain the bhumi of Extremely Joyful.

Therefore, those aspiring thus should hear of this path.

In the last three lines of the 7th sloka, Chandrakirti is requesting us to listen. “Skilled in the ways

of the profound” refers to emptiness, and “vast” refers to the ten bhumis. Since the first bhumi

will be attained gradually, those who want to attain it should listen to this. It is like a request.

One may not understand the meaning of the great emptiness completely or even a little, but just

hearing the words and phrases that talk about the great shunyata can be of great benefit in this

life and the next. The story of Sthiramati is an example.

To teach a beginner, they

must have some hangups:

some shame and

embarrassment

For a beginner, we first

teach a gradual path of

mind training, and later

teach Madhyamika

The benefits of hearing

teachings on emptiness

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 69

Vasubandhu had four disciples, all of whom were greater scholars than him. When he taught

buddhist logic to Dignaga, Dignaga became a greater scholar on the subject of buddhist logic

than he was. Another of his disciples was Sthiramati (Lodrötenpa), and on the subject of

Prajñaparamita, he was considered greater than Vasubandhu himself.

In his past life, Sthiramati had been a pigeon. For almost all his life as a pigeon, his home was

near a cave where Vasubandhu lived, and he heard Vasubandhu reading the Prajñaparamita of

8000 Verses every morning as his daily practice. When the pigeon died, it seems that his

previous karmic deeds were not good, because even after a life as a pigeon, he was reborn as an

outcast, a sudra (dmangs rigs), the lowest Indian case. He was born as a son in a very poor

family of beggars. In India, it was usual for children, especially the sons, to beg for their parents

and the rest of the family. But this boy always got into trouble with his family, because he

brought home so little from his begging.

Close to his home, there was a statue of Tara, and every time that the boy begged some food, he

would first bring it to this statue and offer it to Tara. He would put food on her hand, and it

would always fall down, but because he considered that the fallen food now belonged to Tara, he

did not bring it home. So, what was left was very small, and his family would beat him. One

day, after begging for a whole day, he had seven beans. He put them on Tara’s hand, and they all

fell. Now he was very afraid to go back to his family, as he knew what would happen, so he

talked to the statue. He asked her how she could do this, as she did not accept anything he

offered, and he had nothing left to take home. He started to cry in front of the statue, and his

devotion was so strong that the statue came alive and held him. His family decided that this boy

was a little abnormal, so they brought him to Vasubandhu. He became Vasubandhu’s attendant,

and later became a very great scholar.

Most of the Indian scholars, such as Sthiramati, Chandrakirti, Asanga and Vasubandhu, practised

Manjushri, Arya Tara, and Achala (Miyowa) as their deities. These three are called the scholar’s

deities. Achala is wrathful form of Vajrapani, also sometimes considered a wrathful form of

Manjushri, with his left knee bent down.

Accumulating merit

At this point, after the 7th sloka, it is traditional to have a ceremony. With the 8th sloka, we are

going to start the meat of the Madhyamakavatara. The Madhyamika is so difficult that our

human wisdom and intelligence is not enough to understand it, so we need merit and blessings.

This is why we have a ceremony. The drubchen will finish tomorrow, and it is a very good

coincidence that we will start the selflessness of phenomena.

The way that Chandrakirti establishes the view is called a great ‘lion’s roar’. He will roar from

tomorrow onwards, and hopefully remain roaring in your mind and in your heart for the rest of

your life. Because if the lion roars all the time in your heart, then wrong views, incomplete

views, and touchy-feely views, which are like foxes and hyenas, will never even dare to come

near you. So, for those of you who are seriously listening to this, it would be good if tomorrow

you could offer some candles, incense and flowers to the shrine. I will also do this, because I

also need blessings, perhaps more than you do, so that my mouth will work and my mind will be

clear! It is also a big responsibility for me to teach you the right view of the Madhyamika.

Traditional ceremony to

create merit after

finishing the 7th sloka

The story of Sthiramati

and his past lives as a

pigeon and a beggar

The scholar’s deities

Chandrakirti’s view is a

lion’s roar that will

protect you from wrong

and incomplete views

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 70

The Madhyamika can be very difficult at times, but you should not be discouraged. The study of

buddhist philosophy is not the same as studying some other things. For example, if you want to

understand relativity, you cannot really visualise Einstein in the sky in front of you and receive

blessings from him. But you can here. And in a way, you already have the complete knowledge

of what you are studying here. Other studies are of things you do not have, so you have to start

somewhere. But here you are studying yourself; once your mind ‘clicks’, everything will

become easy. This is all a study of how your mind works – things like how you cling to things,

how the clinging creates problems, what happens if you get rid of that clinging, and so on. This

is why even the highest teachings in the Nyingma tradition, such as Dzogchen, will always praise

Madhyamika, Mahamudra and Mahasandhi as inseparable.

If you are unable to engage in any other methods to accumulate merit, you should rejoice that we

have the opportunity to be together here to talk about a great subject like this, as it shows that we

have accumulated merit in the past. And while we are hearing the Madhyamika we are also

accumulating a lot of merit, and by rejoicing, we will create even more merit.

When we talk about merit, it is not something touchy-feely. We are talking about causes and

conditions. Let us imagine that we are all watching a movie, but that you do not know that what

is happening right in front of us is a movie. You think that the events in the movie are really

happening, and so you become very involved with the story. If something sad happens, you cry.

You get excited, or if we are watching a horror movie, you will are scared. The person who is

sitting next to you knows that you are suffering, and he wants to tell you to relax, as this is just a

movie.

Although he might want to say this to you, if you have no merit then he may have a sore throat at

that time. Or perhaps he does not have a sore throat and he is telling you clearly, but at that

moment, somebody behind you coughs loudly so you miss what he is saying. Even if those

things do not happen, you still may not hear it properly. And even if you hear him clearly when

he says that the movie is not the real thing, you might interpret him to mean that reality is even

worse than the movie. So having merit is so important.

Having merit makes you a good listener. Having merit also makes a person a good speaker,

although in these teachings you do not seem to have the merit to be listening to someone who

speaks well! So, create merit. It can be as simple as offering a biscuit to a child. And if you do

not have a biscuit right next to you, you can just rejoice.

Avoiding a narrow view of the Madhyamika

It is such a shame that a great idea like Madhyamika philosophy has to be taught by people who

have a religious appearance. It automatically limits the whole idea of Madhyamika philosophy.

The listener or the reader of the Madhyamika philosophy will automatically make it into

something very narrow, such as a buddhist thing to do, or a religious thing to do, which is such a

shame. To be honest, it is a great shame even to have to use words or language, because it limits

the understanding and study of Madhyamika so much. Every time I speak, every time I give you

a new name, you are creating a phenomenon inside your head, and I am quite sure that it is a

limited phenomenon. But unfortunately, this is the only way that we can communicate.

Like any other ideas, like science, economics and politics, Madhyamika philosophy is trying to

build a better society, very simply speaking. In fact, if possible, the Madhyamika aims to create

We should rejoice that we

are hearing teachings on

Madhyamika

The importance of merit

We often develop a very

narrow understanding of

the Madhyamika

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 71

an enlightened society. In the Madhyamika, we are studying the cause that makes a society

dysfunctional. Why is our society not good? What is it that makes everybody go through

endless pain? Economists talk of business recessions and failures in economic policy as the

cause. Here in the Madhyamika we are also trying to understand what makes this society not

function properly, both temporally and permanently.

The Madhyamika finds that the problem is ignorance, the ego, clinging to the self as truly

existent. Simply speaking, this selfishness is the problem. Then it embarks on a thorough study

of where this selfishness comes from. Can we actually overcome it? Can we overcome it

permanently, or just for a few years? Is it really something that we can purify? For questions

like this, there are studies, meditations and contemplations. And based on these, all sorts of

religious-sounding terms and techniques came, such as the notions of guru, discipline, ethics,

generosity, and so on.

Sadly, because our mind is so small, we somehow get lost with these terms, and we think that

Madhyamika is a religion, because of all these small techniques. Sometimes I think that instead

of saying meditation on Madhyamika, we should say research on Madhyamika. And, for

example, the drubchen that is going on now, instead of calling it a drubchen, we should call it a

conference. It is the same. It is just a big gathering where we are trying to solve the problem.

When we go through seemingly complex philosophical debates, we should remember what these

people are trying to tell us. It actually very simple – they are trying to tell us that we should

understand what is reality. That is all. But then again, sometimes it is too simple, so is may

seem difficult. We are more used to fiction and to fakes than we are to reality. This alone tells

us that the Buddha has such great compassion. He almost has to surrender himself to our minds

that love fiction and fakes. He almost has to adopt that, and then devise an entire path that is also

a fiction. That is the only way that he can teach us. It is like the story of the person who dreamt

that a big monster was attacking him, and he was so frightened that he did not know what to do.

So, he asked the monster, “What can I do”? The monster replied, “I don’t know, this is your

dream”.

Let us suppose that you want to wake a person who is dreaming. You do not have a bucket of

water with you, or perhaps there is a bucket of water right in front of you, but your hands and

feet are tied, so you cannot use it. The only thing you can do is to tell them, “Hey look, you are

dreaming”. But if you say that, the other person may simply not listen. Worse than that, when

you meet this kind of person, you might try to tell them once or twice that they are dreaming, and

then you give up. This means that you have no compassion! If you are really a compassionate

person, then you really have to be skilful here. You almost have to go along with him, and say

“yes, that’s true”, this shows you have some kind of compassion. The Buddha’s teachings are

like this.

Before we start the 8th sloka, I have several more things to tell you. I looked at four

commentaries, and between them, I counted 428 pages of preparatory discussion preceding the

8th sloka. There is a lot of material, so I think we will find it helpful to follow where we are by

using the structural outline. I will be using the outline by Gorampa, but you could also use

Mipham’s if you like. At times, when the subject gets really difficult, you should exercise your

mind a little bit by doing everything the opposite way round. This is my personal advice to you.

For example, when you wake in the morning, think that you are now going to sleep. Say good

night to everyone, and think that when you are walking around, you are dreaming. And then,

when you go to bed, say hello and good morning to everyone. It might also help if you put on

Our selfishness, our ego

clinging is the problem

The aim of the teachings

is to help us distinguish

what is a fake and what is

reality

Madhyamika is trying to

build a better society by

studying what makes it

dysfunctional

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 72

your suit, shirt and tie when you sleep! Or you could wear your jacket like a pair of trousers

sometimes, and put your legs in the sleeves. You can do things like this, just to break your

normal habits a little bit. But I am just joking here, so do not take it seriously.

[H7] (3) Establishing emptiness, the subject to be explained (580)

From the structural outline, you will see that emptiness is to be taught in two ways:

1. Explaining emptiness as it is to be realised by all vehicles. This refers to the three

vehicles of the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas.

2. Explaining emptiness as it is to be realised by the Mahayana.

We will come to the second one later, perhaps in the third year. The first one is very important,

because we are going to talk in detail about the two truths and the two kinds of selflessness. This

alone tells us that the shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas are all looking at one object,

the same emptiness. The only difference is the size of what they see.

[H8] (a) Establishing emptiness as it is to be realised by all vehicles

When we talk about path and fruit, lam dang drébu (lam dang ’bras bu), we also talk in terms of

the three vehicles: shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas. And theories or philosophical

tenets, drumta (grub ’tha), are divided into Mahayana and Hinayana. When we talk about a

philosophy, we are talking about a philosophy that includes path and fruit. Buddhism has four

main philosophical schools: Madhyamika, Cittamatra, Sautrantika and Vaibhashika. The first

two are Mahayana schools, and the other two are Hinayana:

Madhyamika Mahayana (bodhisattvas)

Cittamatra

Sautrantika Hinayana (shravakas and pratyekabuddhas)

Vaibhashika

This is very important, so please pay attention, as I know you will ask questions about this

repeatedly for the next few years. All four schools talk about the result of the path: shravakas,

pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas. They all have their own view of these three results. All four

schools also talk about the path. In fact, the three other schools also call themselves

Madhyamika. Everybody wants to be a follower of the middle way! In India, even for Hindus,

following the middle way is supposedly a very prestigious philosophy, so each school tries to

prove that their way is the middle way. When we talk about the Madhyamika, we adopt this

name for ourselves. But the other schools refer to the Madhyamika as ‘Nisvabhava’, which

means emptiness-talker or nothingness-sayer.

When the structural outline talks about “establishing emptiness as it is to be realised by all

vehicles”, it is not referring to the philosophical Hinayana and Mahayana, but to the path and

fruit of shravakas, pratyekabuddhas and bodhisattvas. It is very important that you understand

this. I sometimes hear Mahayana people looking down at the Hinayana, and when you listen

carefully, they are putting down the path and fruit of the shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. This is

an incredibly bad mistake, and will bring incredibly bad karma. We can look down on the

Sautrantika and Vaibhashika schools during the philosophical argument, but we should never

look down on shravakas and pratyekabuddhas. How can we? They are great people. Nyoshul

Khen Rinpoche has a beautiful term for the Hinayana. He says that instead of calling it the

Hinayana, we should call it the ‘Root Yana’. This tells us that the Mahayana and Vajrayana

cannot exist without the Hinayana. The path and the philosophy are two different things. But

The two ways in which

emptiness will be taught

The four philosophical

schools in buddhism

We can look down on the

philosophy of the

Hinayana, but never its

path or fruit

All four schools talk

about the path and the

result (shravakas,

pratyekabuddhas, and

bodhisattvas)

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 73

without a philosophy, there is no dialogue to establish the path. There is no means or medium.

So, somebody has to talk about it; somebody has to prove it.

[Q]: When we say ‘lesser vehicle’, we seem to be criticising the Hinayana motivation, as we are

referring to the motivation to liberate just yourself rather than all beings.

[A]: It is not really a criticism, although you might read it as a criticism. It is like saying that a

Land Rover is better than a Peugeot. That is not really a criticism is it? If you want to go to

Scotland or Africa, you take a Land Rover. But if you want to go to big cities like

Montignac, then you drive your Peugeot.

At this point, we are starting to explain the emptiness that needs to be realised by all the vehicles.

Chandrakirti is very clever here, because he alternates the word ‘emptiness’ and the word

‘dependent arising’. Sometimes he will use the term dependent arising, and at other times, he

will use the word emptiness. By changing the words, he is letting us know that they mean the

same thing. Later on, you will realise that this is a great tactic of his. We will be using this term

‘dependent arising’ repeatedly.

[H9] (i) Establishing interdependent arising by means of the absence of

any self in phenomena

In order to establish the first kind of emptiness, which is the emptiness to be realised by all

vehicles, we will proceed in two ways. First, Chandrakirti explains dependent arising by means

of the selflessness of phenomena, and secondly, he explains it by means of the selflessness of the

person. In brief, it is a teaching on the selflessness of phenomena and the selflessness of the

person. The first of these has three subcategories:

(a) As ascertained from the sutras on suchness.

(b) As established in the shastras.

(c) As determined in this text by means of logical reasoning.

[H10] (A) As ascertained from the sutras on suchness (581)

According to the Dashabhumika Sutra, which is our supporting sutra, the Buddha said, “Oh,

bodhisattvas, a bodhisattva who has just crossed beyond the path of ‘Difficult to Overcome’

(meaning the fifth bhumi) will enter the sixth bhumi in ten different ways”. The name of the

sixth bhumi is ‘Advancing’, so you can say that a bodhisattva will advance to the sixth bhumi in

ten different ways at the same time. These ten methods are called the ten equalities, nyampanyi

chu (mnyam pa nyid bcu). They are:

• The equality of having no truly existing characteristics. In other words, all phenomena

are equal in the sense that they do not have any truly existing characteristics, tsenma

mépa (mtshan ma med pa). Similarly, we have:

• The equality of having no defining characteristic or definition, tsennyi mepa (mtshan

nyid med pa).

• The equality of the primordial absence of birth from any of the four extremes, togmar

kyéwa mepa (thog mar skye ba med pa).

• The equality of being unborn, makyépa (ma skye pa).

• The equality of absence, wenpa (dben pa).

• The equality of total purity, takpa (dak pa).

• The equality of having no elaborations or extremes, tröpa mepa (spros pa med pa).

• The equality of being beyond acceptance or rejection from the point of view of the

ultimate truth, langdor mepa (blang ’dor med pa).

For Chandrakirti,

dependent arising means

the same as emptiness

The Ten Equalities

Path and philosophy are

different, but we need a

philosophy to establish a

path

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 74

• The equality of being illusory like a dream, a mirage, a scarecrow, an echo, reflection of

moon in water, reflection of oneself in the mirror, and a magic manifestation, gyuma

(sgyu ma).

• The equality of being neither real nor unreal, ngöpo dang ngö mepa (dngos po dang

dngos med pa), equal in the non-differentiation of entity and non-entity;

The first eight of these are spoken from the point of ultimate truth. It is not important for us to

spend too much time on these ten equalities, because the Madhyamakavatara is only concerned

with one of these ten, and by teaching one, it covers all of the others. You might ask, why then

does he tell us this? It is good for you to hear the names, and it is good for you to realise how

little you have heard before. You may have received many teachings, and you may have heard a

lot about things like freedom from elaboration or extremes, which is the seventh equality. But

we have not really touched the others. This is just to tell you that study is vast.

[H10] (B) As established in the shastras (582)

The shastra we are referring to here is the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas. As I just mentioned, we

are only going to talk about one of the ten equalities: skye ba mepa, namely, that there is no such

thing as the arising or production of phenomena. Most shastras use the fourth equality to explain

emptiness. We are going to talk about this for a few years, so do not get too excited! We have

enough time to talk about this.

Buddhists says that all phenomena can be classified into two groups: compounded and

uncompounded, or we can say composite and non-composite. It is important for us to agree on

this classification before we embark on the rest of our studies. Can you find a phenomenon that

is neither of these? There is only one possible exception, which is the state of enlightenment.

But we have already discussed this (on p.27). Some scholars say that enlightenment is not a

compounded phenomenon, some say that it is. The Nyingmapas may say it is not even a

phenomenon, so you cannot even begin to classify it into one of these two. So, do you agree

with this classification of composite and non-composite phenomena?

[Q]: Can these two categories be explained in more detail?

[A]: When we talk about things being composite, we need to agree upon the definition of

composite. Strictly, from the buddhist point of view, we define a phenomenon as being

composite if it has the three aspects or characteristics of birth, remaining and cessation.

[Q]: Can’t we say that a composite phenomenon is a gathering of causes and conditions?

[A]: If we say that its characteristic, or definition, is that it is a gathering of causes and

conditions, it will not be pervasive enough. Remember when we talked about the definition

of ‘definition’ (on p.2 in the introduction), that a definition has to be free from three kinds

of fault? The gathering of causes and condition may be a definition of something specific,

but may not cover the general case. For example, if might help with the definition of a

‘sandalwood tree’, but it might not be general enough for the definition of a ‘tree’. We can

always have a debate about this. I can see there is some point to your question, as someone

could argue that the gathering of causes and condition must be the definition of composite

phenomena. But someone could also negate this by saying that the very fact of no gathering

of causes and conditions is also a composite phenomenon. Sometimes the causes and

conditions do not gather, but that very act of not gathering is also a composite phenomenon.

But then, he can extend his argument, saying that in order not to gather, there must be a

cause and condition for the not gathering. It can go round and round, and so I would say

that it is dangerous to definite composite in terms of causes and conditions. I cannot delete

it, but if you were debating in front of monks from Sera University, you would have to be

careful!

[Q]: Can’t the word composite mean that something can be analysed or cut into parts?

We will only talk about

one of the ten equalities:

the absence of birth

The definition of a

composite (or

compounded)

phenomenon: it has birth,

remaining, and cessation

The classification of all

phenomena as composite

(or compounded) or noncomposite

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 75

[A]: Yes that is also fine. In fact, that is the definition made by the Vaibhashika school. This

will come! I am always excited when I talk about the Vaibhashika school, because the way

they define ultimate truth and relative truth is incredibly smart. I think it is especially

relevant nowadays when you face the scientific world and their definition of ultimate truth.

But this is not the time – we will talk about this later.

[Q]: How can non-existent phenomena be composite?

[A]: That’s a very tricky question. Yesterday is not existent today, but it is nevertheless a

composite phenomenon. You might talk about a non-existent phenomenon like the horn of

a rabbit, but if I am a clever debater, I will ask you a question. When you talk about the

horn of a rabbit, I am imagining a horn of a rabbit, although I may attempt to say that there

is no such thing. I have to be careful! Philosophical debate is like a courtroom, and you

have to be very careful about what you say.

[Q]: When we talk about these three aspects of birth, remaining and cessation, it seems as though

we are talking about the categories of space and time.

[A]: Yes. That is very good. We are talking about space and time here, but more about time.

Buddhists do not talk much about space, but if you want to know about how they negate the

notion of space, read Aryadeva’s 400 Stanzas of Madhyamika, which has a thorough

investigation of so-called space.

This is good, because when we talk about time, this brings us back to the definition of a

composite phenomenon. The idea is this. If there is no cessation, then there must be either a

continuum of birth or a continuum of remaining. This leads to a complication. For example, if

there is no cessation of today, then tomorrow will never come. If the cessation of today is nonexistent,

then the remaining of today is always there.

We also talked about whether birth, remaining or death is the most important issue for our

ordinary minds, and we concluded that is birth. Of course, people sometimes think about death

or about living, but these are occasional thoughts. In our day-to-day life, and in many different

philosophies, we are always asking about origins. What is the origin of this? What is the cause

of this? How? Why? That is our habit, which is why it is important. So, here we will deal with

all these questions about birth. In the shastra, the Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, right after

Nagarjuna pays homage, he writes:

All these phenomena have never been born from, grown or produced by self.

They have never been born from or produced by other.

They have never been born from or produced by both,

And they have never been born from or produced by neither (i.e. with no cause).

This sloka is not really a thesis, as we have to remind ourselves that the Madhyamika do not have

theses, but for the time being, we will call it a statement. Nagarjuna made these four major

statements in his Mulamadhyamaka-karikas, and as we study each of these, we will meet all sorts

of sophisticated opponents. For example, in the first of these four, production from self, our

opponent is the Samkhya school. We will have to argue with many very well established and

very intelligent schools, and this will give rise to many difficulties as we study. Debating

production from other is much more difficult than production from self, because our opponents

are not only Hindus, but also include the highest school in Mahayana buddhism apart from

Madhyamika, the Cittamatra. They are also opponents of Madhyamika philosophy here. The

greater that our opponent is, the greater the difficulty that we will have when we study.

It is even more important for you to know that each of these schools represents your emotions,

the way that you think. For example, if I ask Gérard where he was yesterday, he might say that

he was in Montignac having a nice time with Ani Jimpa. And then if I ask him where he was this

morning, perhaps he will say he was with Adrienne. Now, he thinks that the macho man who

was with Ani Jimpa last night is the same as the man who was with Adrian this morning. This is

belief in being born from the self. He will say that he is the same guy. And when he goes back

to Ani Jimpa tonight, he will say that he is still the same guy. But because of his guilty

Can a non-existent

phenomenon be

composite?

How buddhists negate the

notion of space

In ordinary life, we

always ask about origins

and causes

Nagarjuna’s four

statements

These schools represent

our emotions, the way we

think

We will encounter

different opponents as we

go through these

statements

The Vaibhashika

definition of a composite

phenomenon

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 76

conscience, he will act a little differently, which Ani Jimpa will notice. She will say that he is

behaving slightly strangely today, but he will say, “No, I am the same person”. That is belief in

being born from the self.

When the Buddha taught, in order for him to teach, he had to have Brahma and Indra. We should

really thank some of the characters here – like Gérard Godet, Ani Jimpa, Jakob and Adrian –

because without using them as our examples, we cannot teach this. It is a bit like the rabbit’s

horn that was a favourite example of the ancient scholars.

[H11] (i) Identifying the differences between the Prasangika and the

Svatantrika (582)

[H12] (a) In general

We come to a difficulty here. There are two different ways of explaining the four statements

made in this single sloka written by Nagarjuna, which led to two schools of Madhyamika

philosophy in India. These two schools are called the Prasangika-Madhyamika and the

Svatantrika-Madhyamika. Bhavaviveka founded the Svatantrika, and Buddhapalita founded the

Prasangika (See also Introduction, p.8).

The two schools of Madhyamika have many similarities. They both believe that the cause of

samsara is attachment to the self, or ego, as truly existent. And both agree that production from

the four extremes has to be refuted in order to destroy the mind that clings to the truly existent

self of phenomena and the person. If we refer back to the root classification of existence, nonexistence,

both and neither, then production from the four extremes of self, other, both and

neither are all a subdivision of the first extreme, existence. Of course, only something that exists

can have a so-called birth. So, both schools also agree that all these four extremes have to be

refuted. So, the question is how are the two schools different. They are very different in the way

they establish the ultimate view, and in the way that they accept conventional truth.

[H12] (b) Differences in the reasoning by which they determine absolute

truth (589)

There are six major differences in the way that they establish the ultimate view, which

correspond to the six elements of a buddhist syllogism. The six elements of a syllogism are

illustrated by the example below:

The predicate is the thing that you are trying to prove. For example, if you say, “she is

beautiful”, then ‘she’ is the subject and ‘beautiful’ is the predicate. Taking the subject and the

predicate together forms the thesis or proposition; i.e. “she is beautiful”.

The origins of the two

Madhyamika schools:

Prasangika and

Svatantrika

The similarities between

the two schools

The six elements of a

buddhist syllogism

Mental formations are not born from self because they exist like a vase

(1) Subject (2) Predicate (4) Reasoning (5) Example

(3) Proposition = (1)+ (2)

(6) Syllogism = whole phrase, (1) to (5)

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 77

Next, in order to establish that she is beautiful, you give some reasoning, such as “she is

beautiful because she has two noses and four eyes”. Then you give an example, such as “like

Ani Jimpa”. The whole phrase taken together is what we call a syllogism. For example, “she is

beautiful because she has two noses and four eyes like Ani Jimpa”.

You might think that these six things are very plain words, but they are not. If you want to know

the difference between Svatantrika and Prasangika Madhyamika, they all matter. The way we

say things matters a lot. For example, there is a big difference between saying that “the cup is

empty” and that “there is no water in the cup”. Many problems in the world start from when we

take the meaning for granted. For example, if I say, “the cup is empty”, I might expect that you

hear “there is no water in the cup”.

[H13] (i) Subject (chos)

Svatantrika: For the Svatantrikas, the subject is usually very specific, such as ‘mental

formations’. This is due to historical reasons, because many of these Madhyamika scholars

previously belonged to another buddhist school, such as Cittamatra, Sautrantika or Vaibhashika;

they might even have been Hindus. And they would always bring some of their influences from

the past, such as, in this case, having a very specific subject. Returning to our example of a

syllogism:

“Mental formations are not born from self because they exist, like a vase”

This is what the Svatantrikas are trying to say here. Keep in mind that we are going to base our

explanation on the four affirmations of Nagarjuna. Nagarjuna said that things are not born from

the self, and now the Svatantrikas are giving a good reason why.

Mental formations 1 Subject chöchen (chos can)

are not born from self 2 Predicate drubjé chö (bsgrub bya’i chos)

{1 + 2} 3 Proposition/Thesis drubja (bsgrub bya)

because they exist 4 Reasoning tak (rtags)

like a vase 5 Example pé (dpe)

{whole phrase} 6 Syllogism jorwa (sbyor ba)

They are saying that mental formations are not born from self, because they are existent. For

example, like a vase. It is an incredible logic. In order for something to be born from the self, it

must be there before. If it is already there, why are we saying is it born? The logic is so simple,

so incredible, that it might even cause a heart attack! The logic is very simple: because it is

existent. But it has so much meaning! In this way, they conclude that mental formations are not

self-produced.

Prasangika: Although the Svatantrikas will always bring a specific subject such as mental

formations, the Prasangikas do not. Instead, they will add the word “etc.”, and say, “mental

formations etc. are not born from self”. They always prefer to include all phenomena, but the

Svatantrikas do not do this. This is a very big difference. As we will see later, the Svatantrikas

actually have a thesis during the relative truth, so they do not like to say “all phenomena”. They

prefer to make it specific.

[H13] (ii) Predicate (bsgrub bya’i chos)

Svatantrika: The Svatantrikas say “mental formations are not born from themselves in the

ultimate truth”. They would add the words “in the ultimate truth”. They say things like, “in the

ultimate truth, things are not born from themselves or from others”.

It is important not to take

the meaning of words for

granted

Svatantrikas will have a

specific subject, but the

Prasangikas prefer to

include all phenomena

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 78

Prasangika: Now, the Prasangikas do not accept this. They will just say that mental formations

are not born from themselves. Because according to the Prasangikas, even in the relative truth,

things are not born from themselves, from other, from both or from neither. This is another

lion’s roar.

In particular, Chandrakirti belongs to the school that is called ‘Prasangika-Madhyamikas that

accept ordinary experience’. He would definitely not add “in the ultimate truth”. He says that if

in the relative truth you ask a cowherd, where does cow dung come from, they will not talk in

terms of it coming from self, other, both and neither – they will just say it comes from a cow!

Chandrakirti says that this is relative truth, and you do not talk about it any more than that. We

will come to this later. The Svatantrikas accept the distinction between:

• Truly existent den drup (bden grub)

• Existence logically established tsedrup (tshad grub)

The Svatantrikas do not say that things truly exist, because if they said that, then the whole

Madhyamika philosophy would collapse. However, they do accept that in the relative truth,

some things are logically existent. This is why they accept that some things are born from other

in the relative truth, which is why they need to add the words “in the ultimate truth”. In this way,

the Svatantrikas indicate that they accept this in the relative truth. But the Prasangikas do not.

[H13] (iii) Thesis / Predicate (bsgrub bya)

Svatantrika: For the Svatantrikas, both the proponent and opponent must agree that the subject,

in this case “mental formations”, is logically existent. And then, after the subject has been

mutually agreed as logically established, they establish the thesis (in this example, “are not born

from themselves in the ultimate truth”). In other words, they actually have a thesis, which in this

case is that things are not born from the self in the ultimate truth.

Prasangika: For the Prasangikas, firstly the subject does not have to be logically established.

And secondly, the subject does not have to be mutually agreed upon. As long as your opponent

accepts it, it is fine. You, the proponent, do not need to accept it. For example, if you and I are

debating about this conch, if I am a Svatantrika then we must have a mutual agreement that this

is a conch. But if I am a Prasangika, I do not care, because I am a consequentialist. As long as

you think it is a conch, it does not matter whether or not I think it is a conch.

If we ask the Prasangikas, do you have a thesis, they will say, “No, not for myself”. So, we ask

them, why do they say that things are not born from themselves. And they will answer, “We say

this only to clarify your own ignorance. We are not saying it for ourselves, we are saying it for

you”. If a Prasangika says that you are dreaming, they do not have any thesis in there, for

example about themselves not dreaming, or about the non-dreaming of phenomena. They can be

very irritating, because we know they are right, but they have no thesis themselves. You will see

this often later on. An important difference between the Svatantrika and Prasangika methods is

that the Svatantrikas will destroy their opponent’s position by proposing a contrary view, while

the Prasangikas will destroy it by demonstrating that it is incoherent, that it collapses by itself.

[H13] (iv) Reasoning (rtags)

Svatantrika: Here the reasoning is “because they exist”. As with the subject, there must be

mutual acceptance of the reasoning by the opponent and the proponent. In this case, both must

accept that “they exist”, and then using that as a logic, the Svatantrikas will defeat their

opponent. Let us suppose that there is smoke on the hill. A Svatantrika would say, on that hill,

where there is smoke, there is fire because there is smoke. We are talking to someone who sees

The Prasangikas say

things are not born in the

relative truth as well as in

the ultimate truth

Den drup and tse drup:

Two kinds of existence

Chandrakirti relies on the

cowherd to tell us about

relative truth

The Svatantrikas accept

birth in the relative truth

For the Svatantrikas, the

subject must be logically

established and mutually

agreed

The Prasangikas do not

require this

For the Svatantrikas, the

reasoning must also be

mutually accepted

Prasangikas have no

theses. Their method is to

demonstrate that their

opponent’s thesis is

incoherent

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 79

the smoke, who does not really know whether there is a fire or not, and we are trying to convince

him that there is a fire because there is smoke. That’s it; it is simple.

There needs to be mutual agreement on the subject and the reasoning, but not the thesis. The

thesis is what you put in their mind. Both people need to have eyes, and they both need to be

able to see smoke in the distance. They must also know what smoke is, and that smoke comes

from fire, because if you are talking to someone who has never seen smoke or fire, then the logic

will not work.

[Q]: But this does not make sense, as you said that both must logically agree the subject. So if I

see smoke, I must immediately know that there is fire, since I accept that smoke comes from

fire.

[A]: It could be something like this. Perhaps until now you did not see the fire, and while you

are turning away, I suddenly see the smoke, and I say, “Hey, Dominique, there must be a

fire on that hill, because there is smoke”.

Prasangika: Again, for the Prasangikas, this is not necessary. As long as the opponent accepts

the reason, that is fine. If the other person sees smoke, and yet he does not believe there is a fire,

the Prasangikas would say, “Well, in that case, they there should not be any smoke if there is no

fire”. Of course, the Prasangikas must also know that the other person accepts that smoke comes

from fire.

The Svatantrikas say, “There must be fire because there is smoke”. The Prasangikas say, “There

cannot be any smoke because there is no fire”. It is as simple as that. The Prasangikas are more

on the attack, nastier, so to speak. They would say that you will end up with the consequence

that there should not be any smoke, as you say there is no fire but you can see the smoke! You

cannot deny that, so there must be fire.

[H13] (v) Example (dpe)

It is the same here. The Svatantrikas require the example to be mutually agreed by opponent and

proponent, and the Prasangikas accept an example that only the opponent accepts.

[H13] (vi) Syllogism (sbyor ba)

Overall, the Prasangikas do not accept the syllogism for themselves. They do not have their own

so-called inferential logic. Instead, they use only their opponent’s inferential logic to defeat

them. They do not believe in things like “there must be fire because there is smoke”. But

because they know that you believe in this logic, although they do not believe it themselves, they

will use your logic and defeat you. So, these six differences in reasoning make up one of the

essential differences between the two schools. This is another lion’s roar of Nagarjuna:

“I have no thesis, therefore I am innocent. I am free from all faults”.

[Q]: Do the Prasangikas accept logic as a criterion of truth?

[A]: They accept it just to clarify the other person’s doubt. This is a good question, because

many of the Svatantrikas are ex-Sautrantika or ex-Cittamatra. Those two schools are very

logic oriented, and they believe in the so-called undeceiving nature of logic, which the

Prasangikas do not accept. They only accept it for the sake of communication.

[Q]: Do the Prasangikas have a view, given that they have no theses?

[A]: They do not have a view in the ultimate truth, and they do not even have a view in the

relative truth. This is their beauty!

For the Prasangikas, it is

sufficient if the opponent

accepts the reasoning

The Prasangikas do not

accept the syllogism

themselves

Another lion’s roar of

Nagarjuna: “I have no

thesis, therefore I am

innocent”

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 80

I am sure that many people take the approach that in the ultimate truth, such things do not exist;

but in the relative truth, buddhists always go a little bit weak. They say that such things may

work in the relative truth. That is good during the path, but in the theory, when we are

establishing the view, you cannot do that.

At the end of the sixth chapter, our opponent asks, if you do not have a view, why are you doing

this? The Prasangika answer is that it is out of our great compassion, because we know you have

so many problems, and we cannot resist telling you that you have these problems! Therefore, we

have come here to destroy all your views. Whenever His Holiness the Dalai Lama teaches, even

when he was about to receive the Nobel peace price, he chants the following sloka, which

essentially means, “To the lord Buddha, who has no view, I prostrate”:

To the lord Buddha,

Who taught us the view-less teaching,

In order to destroy all views,

I prostrate.

This is actually the aim of the Prasangika Madhyamika, to destroy all views.

[Q]: What about the Four Noble Truths? Surely, they are also a view?

[A]: Yes. The Prasangikas accept all that, but only for the sake of others. But you might ask

them, how could you say that you are debating with your opponents out of your compassion

for them? If you do not have a view, then why do you say that you have compassion?

Their answer is that they are not saying that they have established their compassion as

logically or truly existing. They know very well that compassion is illusion. Yet, the

Prasangikas talk about compassion the most; all is for the sake of other beings. And the fact

that we cannot accept that they do not have a view tells us how strong our emotions are

towards having a view.

[Q]: But it is normal for us to talk of view, meditation and action, so the view is there.

[A]: I have some good advice for you: do not mix these. When we talk of view, meditation and

action, we are talking about the path. Even if you are a Prasangika, you have to teach a

path. And during the path, we talk about view, meditation and action. But right now, we

are establishing the view. The Prasangikas are establishing the view that there is no view,

so for them, establishing the view them means destroying others’ views.

[Q]: What about ground, path and fruition? Doesn’t a view have to include these three?

[A]: Even ground, path and fruition are also path language. If you attain enlightenment now, you

have not studied Madhyamika before, because there is no such thing as ‘before’. There is

no view. Therefore, the fruit is not a result of a certain practice.

[Q]: In the Bodhicharyavatara by Shantideva, who is Madhyamika Prasangika, he says that you

can only have perfect compassion when you have no view. Why is it only then that one can

have perfect compassion? Is what holds back the other views that their compassion is not

perfect?

[A]: I would not put it like that. I am so Sautrantika oriented, and if you put down the

Cittamatrins, I get even angrier!

[Q]: Why is their compassion not perfect?

[A]: I think it is because of this view. When you have grasping, you have no view. But most

people interpret this to mean that you should only have no grasping in the ultimate truth.

But for the Prasangikas, it also applies to the relative truth. This is incredible! This is what

they call the lion’s roar. We will come to this again.

[Q]: When one attains enlightenment, there is no path, so what is more important? It is the path

or enlightenment?

[A]: The path. Without the path, enlightenment is boring! The path is what makes it exciting.

There are three stages of attachment on the path: the first stage is you think you are not

perfect. The second stage of attachment is that you want to be perfect. And the third stage

of attachment is following a path to perfection. One mahasiddha said that our first mistake

is to think that we need a path.

If the Prasangikas have

no view, why do they

teach?

The Prasangikas aim to

destroy all views

The Prasangikas have

compassion without a

view

It is important not to mix

path language and view

language

If you have grasping, you

have no view

The three stages of

attachment on the path

To establish the view that

there is no view, the

Prasangikas must destroy

all views

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 81

With this, we have very briefly finished looking at the differences between Prasangikas and

Svatantrikas based on their approach to the ultimate truth.

[H12] (c) Differences in the way they set out the conventions of relative

truth (592)

In the structural outline, the differences between Prasangikas and Svatantrikas are discussed in

two parts: (a) in the way they establish the view; (b) in the way they accept conventional truth.

We have now come to the second part, which has three points: ground, path and fruit (or result).

[H13] (i) Ground

The Svatantrikas accept that in the relative truth, in the conventional truth, seed and shoot are

different. Therefore, from a seed that is different from the shoot comes a shoot that is different

from the seed. But the Prasangikas do not accept that. There will be a detailed explanation later.

Also, for the Svatantrikas, there is a common ground between composite phenomena and

undeceiving phenomena. In other words, a phenomenon can be both composite and undeceiving.

For the Prasangikas, all composite phenomena are fake or deceiving. No phenomenon is both

composite and undeceiving. This is important if you are studying buddhist logic, but it is not

important here.

The Svatantrikas also say that a valid cognition, such as when you see a fire, is undeceiving. But

for the Prasangikas, a valid cognition can also be deceiving. When the Svatantrikas talk about

valid cognition, they talk about two kinds of cognition – direct and indirect. Therefore, there are

two types of logic system:

• Direct cognition (mngon sum tshad ma). For example, this is a microphone, because

you see it.

• Inferential logic (rjes dpag tshad ma). You do not see the fire, but you see the smoke –

indirect cognition. The existence of fire has been proved with indirect cognition logic.

You will study this further if you study buddhist pramana, logic. The Svatantrikas say that there

are only these two classifications, but the Prasangikas add two more.

• A special example.

• The Buddha’s word, which they say cannot really be classified within direct or indirect

cognition logic.

The next one is important. We normally talk about two kinds of relative truth – valid and invalid

relative truth. According to the Svatantrikas, the classification of valid and invalid relative truth

is only made based on the object. But for the Prasangikas, the classification of valid and invalid

relative truth is made on both subject and object. This is important, and the explanation will

come. So, we have finished the ground, briefly.

[H13] (ii) Path

There are also differences during the path. The Svatantrikas do not accept that shravakas and

pratyekabuddhas understand the selflessness of phenomena, but the Prasangikas say that they do

understand this. If they did not, they could not understand the selflessness of a person. We have

already talked about this (see chapter 1, p.38). According to the Svatantrikas, there is perception

Can a phenomenon be

both composite and

undeceiving?

Can a valid cognition be

undeceiving?

Is the distinction between

valid and invalid relative

truth made only on the

object or the subject as

well?

The Prasangikas have

four types of logic

Are seed and shoot

different in the

conventional truth?

Do shravakas understand

the selflessness of

phenomena?

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 82

of appearance during the meditation time of an arya, a non-samsaric being. But according to the

Prasangikas, there is no perception of appearance.

[H13] (iii) Fruit

The Svatantrikas say that there is a difference between the post-meditation time and meditation

time of a buddha, but the Prasangikas say that there is no difference.

[H11] (ii) Refuting the Svatantrika way (593)

[H11] (iii) Detailed explanation of how the Prasangikas determine the truth

(594)

Now, I want to make a special introduction to the Prasangika Madhyamika before we return to

the text. There is a good key for this, which is the distinction between truly established dendrup

(bden grub), and logically established tsédrup (mtshad grub).

I have already said that both the Prasangikas and the Svatantrikas try to purify the defilement of

considering things to be truly established. This automatically tells us that the Prasangikas have a

path, because the defilement that needs to be purified by the path is this clinging to things as

truly established. The Prasangikas accept that sentient beings are ignorant, which is why they

teach them. But they are not saying that they are logically ignorant. They do not accept things

that are logically established. However, all the views and ideas that have been founded by other

schools are the conclusions of a certain system of logic; this is why the Prasangikas do not accept

these kinds of view.

As a student of Madhyamika philosophy, you should be developing certain habits about how you

say things. While establishing the view, the Prasangikas do not have any assertions. While

establishing the path, such as practising meditation, of course there is ground, a path, a result and

all of that. But if somebody asks if any of these are existent, then this question is coming from

the other department – the department of establishing the view. Questions like “do they truly

exist” or “do they not exist” are part of establishing the view. However, questions like “how can

I have devotion to guru” and “how should I abandon defilements”, are questions related to the

path. These are two different kinds of questions.

It is very simple. Suppose that you ask Chandrakirti whether he has some drinking water in his

house. If you are thirsty, and you really want to drink some water, he will say yes. But if you

are a logician, and you are there to debate with him, then he will be careful and ask you what you

are talking about. There is always a difference between the path, and establishing the view.

[H12] (a) Setting out the Prasangika view

We study this under three categories: (a) establishing the view on one’s own part, (b) refuting

wrong views on the part of others, and (c) refuting objections to the Prasangika view.

[H13] (i) Establishing the view on one’s own part

[H14] (a) What is to be established (594)

• That relative truth is like an illusion

The Prasangikas do not

accept things that are

logically established

Both schools seek to

purify the defilement of

‘truly established’

The difference between

questions related to the

path and the view

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 83

• That absolute truth is free from any elaborations

• That in terms of both there is no truth in appearances

When establishing the view, the Prasangikas are trying to establish two principal things. In

relative truth, that everything is like an illusion, and in the ultimate truth, that everything is free

from extremes.

As you can see, the Prasangikas are not going to say it is only in the ultimate that nothing exists,

but that relatively everything exists. You might almost think that saying everything is an illusion

is actually an ultimate view. And for both, whether you are trying to establish that relatively

everything is like an illusion, or the view that everything is free from extremes, first you have to

negate this clinging to appearance as truly existent. This is very important! You are trying to

establish a relative view, which is illusion, and you are trying to establish an ultimate view,

which is free from extremes. For both, you need to negate clinging to all appearances as

something truly existent. This is why from now on, you will repeatedly hear the word denmé

(bden med), which means “not truly existent”, as it is of primary importance.

[H14] (b) How it is established (595)

In order to establish this, there are two proofs. For those who can accept them, the Prasangikas

will bring quotations from the ngé dön (nges don) sutras, the absolute sutras (or sutras of certain

meaning), not the drang dön (drang don) relative sutras (or sutras of provisional meaning). The

second proof is through the special consequentialist logic of the Prasangikas, which says things

like “you will end up with these consequences if you accept this”.

[H13] (ii) Refuting wrong views on the part of others

[H14] (a) Identifying what is to be refuted

[H15] (i) By means of the path

[H16] (a) All delusory appearances

What needs to be refuted by the path is all the delusions, such as anger, which are to be refuted

by love, compassion, non-duality, bodhicitta, generosity, discipline, and so on.

[H15] (ii) But here, by means of the Buddha's words and logic

Something more needs to be refuted, this time, by the Buddha’s words and logic. So, we need to

talk about the objects of this second kind of refutation. Two things need to be eliminated or

refuted: one based on the object, one based on the subject.

[H16] (a) The object

There are two things to be eliminated or refuted. We cannot say ‘defilements’ here, as that is

path language. Defilements are things like anger, jealousy, and pride, which need to be purified

by the Vajrasattva mantra. But all that is path language, so here we talk about the two things that

need to be refuted.

• The first is labelling created by imputation-ignorance, küntak marigpa (kun brtag ma

rig pa). Please do not get stuck here, because I will explain this later! As Longchen

The Prasangika view:

Relatively, all is illusory.

Ultimately, all is free

from the four extremes

The two types of labelling

that are to be refuted

Negating clinging to

appearances as truly

existing

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 84

Rabjam said, if you want to see the whole view, it is good not to become stuck on the

path. You should go right to the top and then look down.

• The second is labelling created by innate ignorance, lhenkyé marigpa (lhan skye ma rig

pa). Perhaps some of you who have been to a few Dzogchen teachings are familiar with

the words. There are two kinds of ignorance, labelling and innate. Here it is almost the

same, but there is a slight difference. The difference here is that both are labelling.

Imputation is labelling, and innate ignorance is labelling.

[H17] (i) Labelling created by the ignorance of imputation

This first object of refutation includes all the conclusions of all the theoretical schools except the

Prasangika Madhyamika. From now on, we will refer to all other schools of buddhism or

Hinduism apart from the Prasangikas as substantialists, because they believe in substance. Now,

labelling created by the imputation-ignorance (i.e. the kind of ignorance that is imputation) has

two subcategories: exaggeration and underestimation.

[H18] Exaggeration: the extreme of existence

This is also divided into two:

[H19] Self of a person

The self of a person refers to all ideas of self that are established by buddhists and Hindus. Here

we are talking about the label of ‘I’ and ‘me’ that are given by theoreticians. We are not talking

about the idea of self that you create yourself, as in the 3rd sloka of chapter 1: “Initially fixating

on this so-called ‘I’ as an existing self, ‘Mine’ gives rise to grasping”. We are not talking about

that here.

[H19] Self of phenomena

The self of phenomena again refers to all the assertions or labelling by all the Buddhist and

Hindu philosophers, this time about phenomena.

[H18] Underestimation: the extreme of non-existence

The second subcategory is underestimation, which is another type of labelling made by

imputation. Here we are referring to schools like the Charvakas (not to be confused with

shravakas!), and probably the existentialists as well. They do not believe in past lives, cause and

effect, and so on, but only in coincidence. Do not worry that you have to know all this right

away. We have to start somewhere: do not get discouraged. The important thing now is for me

to continue, and create a few landmarks such as Gérard Godet, so that you will remember. When

you write a story, people only remember when something dramatic happens.

[H17] (ii) Labelling created by innate ignorance

Labelling by innate ignorance refers to those who have a theory, or no theories. Whether or not

people belong to a religious or philosophical school like buddhism, they all have a notion of ‘I’.

We have now finished with the object, so we turn to the subject.

[H16] (b) The subject

The beliefs of the

Charvakas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 85

The subject includes clinging to things as truly existent (bden ’dzin), or apprehending their mere

appearance (mthsan ’dzin).

[H14] (b) Explaining the reasoning by which it is refuted

The Prasangikas use four methods to refute the views of others. These will all come in detail

later on, but in summary, they are:

• Pointing out contradictions in an opponent’s view (’gal ba brjod pa’i thal gyur)

• Using the opponent’s inferential logic (gzhan la grags kyi rjes dpags)

• Reductio ad absurdum: where we use the opponent’s logic to derive conclusions that

the opponent does not accept (rgyu mtshan mtshung pa’i mgo snyoms). For example, if

he says, “I am a human because I have a head”, we might say, “That dog is also a

human because it also has a head”. Here he is trying to prove his view using a

particular logic, but we use his own logic to derive a consequence that he does not want

to prove. You will find that the Prasangikas do this a lot.

• Pointing out circular arguments that prove nothing: (grub byed grub bya dang

mtshung pas ma grub pa). A circular argument arises when the proof that the opponent

is trying to use is the same as what he needs to prove. In other words, the proof is not

yet proven, so it cannot be used as the basis of deriving another proof. For example, it

would be like saying, “this is a head because it is a head”. This is a big mistake, but it is

common for many philosophers to make it.

[H13] (iii) Being rid of any faults for one’s own part (596)

[Note: Rinpoche did not teach specifically under this heading]

[H12] (b) Refuting objections to the Prasangika view (598)

There are two subcategories to “Refuting objections to the Prasangika”: based on establishing

the relative, and based on establishing the ultimate.

Relative: At times in this text, it will seem like the Prasangikas are accepting things. For

example, they might accept that there is smoke, but they do not accept things for themselves.

They are only saying that they agree in order for the other person to understand that there is fire.

Ultimate: When the Prasangikas say they have no assertions, it is important to know that by

saying this, they are not making another assertion. In this way, no logic can ever enter into this

kind of statement, even though it is not a thesis.

This is all an outline and we will begin to go through it in detail after some questions.

[Q]: For people who say they do not affirm any views, it seems as though the Prasangikas have

many views about the ground and the path.

[A]: As I said before, they accept these things during the path, but not during the view.

[Q]: Do the Prasangikas and Svatantrikas agree that self-production does not exist?

[A]: As far as a phenomenon not being self-produced is concerned, they both agree. But there is

a big disagreement in they way they establish this. As I said, the Svatantrikas want to add a

few words; the Prasangikas do not. At a glance, you may not think it is such a big

difference, but later on, you will see why the Prasangika view is exceptional. But then of

course, you are studying Prasangika text, so you will not hear so much about the

The four methods of

refutation used by the

Prasangikas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 86

Svatantrikas, which is a shame! Ideally, after studying this text, you should study the

Madhyamika Alankara (dbu ma rgyan) by Shantarakshita – let us see what he has to say!

[Q]: Can you say some more about the structural outline you are using?

[A]: I am using Gorampa’s structural outline, but I am deleting all the arguments among the

Tibetan schools. We have not even touched on these so far. You see, there are not only the

arguments between the Prasangikas and Svatantrikas on how to define things, there is also a

debate between Tsong Khapa and Gorampa and all the great Tibetan scholars on how to

define the definitions! I have not even touched on these debates. The commentaries of

Gorampa and Mipham are very similar, although Tsong Khapa has his own unique

presentation. During the arguments about production from other, I might go through some

of the Tibetan arguments, as they are very interesting, and not just a pile of words. But the

approach also depends on the particular school. Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamyang

Khyentse Chökyi Lodrö set up the Dzongsar school, and they mainly used the commentary

by the Dzogchen Khenpo Zhenga, because it does not have any Tibetan fabrication.

The Madhyamika is a vast study. Over 200 different authors have written commentaries on the

Madhyamika in Tibet alone. But do not think it is hopeless. It is possible for you to learn all

this. It is a matter of interest. You can do it, if a person like me has the energy and interest to

read a complicated novel like Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, with all those names in

Russian, all those happenings and goings back and forth. This is much easier!

Combining study and practice

Somebody asked me a question about how to combine study with practice. Study is like building

a suit of armour. It will help you to develop a diamond-like devotion. You might later realise

that your guru is a sadomasochist transvestite, but if you have diamond-like trust, you may not

fall apart! Study is also important because it is like endless wealth. If you have great wealth,

you can also give it to others. If you have studied well, it also benefits many people.

When it comes to practice, then you are bringing your emotions. Emotions know no logic,

although sometimes they pretend that they know logic. Just look at our emotions – at a certain

point in time, we like things using a particular logic, and then after a few years, we do not like

them, but this time using a different logic! There is no established solid logic. When we are

talking about practice, as long as something goes against your ego’s wish, it becomes a practice.

And for that, meditation is strongly stressed, because meditation, especially shamatha, isolates

the ego from all its distractions. Isolation is the last thing that ego wants, because ego is

fundamentally unhappy with its condition. Ego’s very nature is insecurity: insecurity about its

own identity and its own existence.

Therefore, ego always wants to have all sorts of excuses and distractions in which it can

somehow take refuge, and for a time forget its own insecurity. You should try sitting still

somewhere for a minute! Your hand will move towards a newspaper or to a remote control to

switch on the television. Ego needs to be occupied, but the more you let it occupy itself with

something, the more it settles down and becomes strong. So, we need meditation, which isolates

ego from all these distractions. However, studies like this can also become a distraction. So, you

have a guru. And if he tells you that your meditation is to drink 38 coca-colas a day, then you

should do that! And the less you fabricate the better. Beyond that, I do not know, as I am not

your spiritual master. You need to ask your spiritual master, individually.

We have been omitting

the arguments among the

Tibetan schools

Study is like a suit of

armour and like endless

wealth

As long as something

goes against your ego’s

wish, it becomes a

practice

We need meditation to

isolate ego from

distractions

Studying the view of the

Svatantrikas

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 87

The importance of mind training

When Madhyamika philosophy is taught, the teacher is supposed to remind the students about all

the other types of mind training and lojong from time to time. A strict teacher like Khenpo

Kunga Wangchuk would do this almost every day. He would teach lojong for 45 minutes, and

then spend 45 minutes on the Madhyamakavatara. Unfortunately, we cannot do it that way here,

as the situation is different. But I should remind you of this repeatedly.

Like guru yoga in the Vajrayana teaching, lojong is the essential teaching of all the Mahayana

and all the Hinayana. Without this, there is no ground, because without lojong, one does not see

the futile aspect of samsara. Until we see the futile aspect of samsara, we will remain victims of

the eight worldly dharmas. And if you are victim of the eight worldly dharmas, then you are a

weak person. The eight worldly dharmas are:

Wanting to be praised Not wanting to be criticised

Wanting to gain Not wanting to lose

Wanting to be happy Not wanting to be unhappy

Wanting to be famous Not wanting to be ignored

These eight worldly dharmas are like armour for the ego. Ego wishes to have four of them, and

wishes to not have four of them. From time to time, it is important that we check whether we

are, at this very moment, victims of one or all of these eight worldly dharmas. When I check

myself, I am very much a victim of all of them. For example, if you want to receive some exotic,

high-class Vajrayana teachings, all you have to do is praise me. Of all the eight, I think this is

the biggest problem for me. So, we must check repeatedly whether we have fallen into this trap.

I will give you another example. I realised that when a person is victim of these eight worldly

dharmas, they lose genuineness. For example, I realise that because of my position, I am always

living a very pretentious life. I do not have the shame and embarrassment that I should have.

But I do have the lack of inhibition! So, every move that I make, even blowing my nose, is an

act to draw attention to myself.

When I was last in London, I wanted to check myself. So, I went to Soho, a red light district, and

I came across a young man who was distributing leaflets in the street. These leaflets were for

prostitutes, telephone sex and all that. Then I thought, well, I should try this. I went to him and

asked if I could distribute them for him. He was surprised at first, and he looked at me for a

while. But then he said that if I really wanted to, of course I could. He became very happy and

left. So then, I distributed them. But every time I saw someone Japanese or Chinese who

resembled a Tibetan, I hoped that they were not Tibetan. I worried that they might ask me,

“Rinpoche, in what act for the benefit of sentient beings are you engaged?” Also, some people

started asking me questions once they read the leaflets, such as what should they do next? I did

not know anything, and said that everything is written down there. There was a garbage bin

nearby, and many times, I was tempted to throw all the leaflets in there. But I did not do it, and I

managed to distribute them all!

As I was saying, until we have a good lojong, our emotions will be very rigid. And until your

emotions are flexible, or at least soft, this kind of Madhyamika philosophy might enter your

intellectual head a little bit, but it will not sink into your heart. Your emotions will not accept

The eight worldly

dharmas

Madhyamika should be

taught together with

lojong

Lojong is the essential

Mahayana teaching. It

shows us the futile aspect

of samsara

They are like armour for

the ego, and we need to

check if we are their

victims

The story of Rinpoche

handing out leaflets in

Soho

Until your emotions are

flexible, the Madhyamika

will enter your head, but

not sink into your heart

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 88

that things are not truly existent, that things are not logically existent. With this, let us return to

the text.

[H10] (C) As determined in this text by means of logical reasoning (598)

We are now starting the third subcategory of explaining interdependent arising by means of the

absence of any self in phenomena. The first two were how the Buddha explained it and how it is

explained in the shastra. The third is how it is explained here in this text.

You need to understand a few things here. The Prasangikas are definitely not seeking to negate

the process of birth in general. If you ask Chandrakirti whether his mother gave birth to him, he

would say yes. The problem here is that theologians and theoreticians, from both buddhist and

Hindu schools, have established so many views.

When we talk about truth, it is like a basic instinct that we have. Truth is something that we

adopt, and what is not true, or fake, is something that we do not adopt. For example, we

distinguish between genuine Italian leather – truth – and fake leather made in Thailand. We do

this. You should also notice that without the imitation, there is no such thing as something

genuine. If it were not for imitations, advertisers could not brag about how genuine their

products are. But in the ordinary world distinctions such as fake and truth, genuine and

imitation, are completely taken for granted. There is not much reasoning behind them. The

decisions are mostly made by common or majority agreement, or by direct cognition, such as

when you touch the fire and it has heat, so you decide that from now on it is hot. That is as far as

it goes, and it does not go very far.

I am telling you this because the ideas of true and not true are the basis upon which we develop

our philosophies, ethics, religions and everything else. For example, the Vedic religions have the

idea that God is truth. Again, you can see here that the definition of truth is something that is not

a fake. It is something that is unfabricated, something that has always been there whether you

fabricate it or not, something independent from all causes and conditions. It is like the difference

between magic and non-magic. For example, this tent is true; it is real, because it is not

dependent on a magician. If a magician were somehow to display a magical tent, then it would

be a fake. The magician would have created it, and it would be dependent on him. We would

say that it was his idea, his trick.

So, many of these Vedic religions believe that God is truly existent. It is independent from

causes and conditions; human beings do not fabricate it. It is not a fake; it is there all the time.

And the rest is all maya, or illusion. This is what they believe.

I think that Christianity, Islam and Judaism must also talk about truth and non-truth, although

they may not use this language. We can debate this, but I think that there must be a right and

wrong way of doing things – ethics. Why is going to church every Sunday the right way? There

must be a view, and as we go on, they will say things like it is because God is the only merciful

one, and so on. If we ask why killing is bad, they will have another answer: because it is against

this and against that. The distinction between truth and non-truth is always there. In other

words, they are establishing a truly existent phenomenon.

The Vaibhashika school in buddhism has extensively defeated the idea or notion of God, and

shown that it is a fabrication of whatever the religion. For the Vaibhashikas, only two smallest

The ideas of true and not

true are the basis for all

our philosophies and

religions

Vedic religions believe

that God truly exists, and

the rest is illusion

All other religions also

distinguish true from not

true, i.e. establish a truly

existent phenomenon

We distinguish between

truth, like genuine Italian

leather, and fake, like

Thai imitations

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 89

things exist: a very small thing like an atom, and a very small particle of mind. This is why we

call them Vaibhashika, which means ‘proponent of discrete entities’ (bye brag smra ba). The

Sautrantika view is very similar, although there are some differences. The Cittamatra school has

extensively defeated these ideas of the Vaibhashikas and Sautrantikas, and they conclude that

only mind is truly existent. Everything else is just an illusion, made in Thailand. Mind is the

only one that is genuine leather.

But Chandrakirti does not believe in genuine leather. Well, he believes in genuine leather, but

not in truly existent genuine leather. He thinks that if it exists, then it has to have a birth. And if

it is truly existent, then it has to come from self, other, both or neither. Since he will refute all of

these possibilities when he examines them, he concludes that it cannot exist. So, if you ask him,

well in that case what would you accept, he would say, “dependent arising”. Without genuine

leather, there is no imitation leather. Without imitation leather, there is no genuine leather.

Genuine is dependent on imitation, and imitation is dependent on genuine. This is his

philosophy, so for him there is no such thing as a real cause.

Chandrakirti will proceed in three stages. He will explain dependent arising, in order to refute

the four extremes of birth. Next, he will explain why everything is dependently arising. And

then he will explain the benefit of understanding dependent arising.

[H11] (i) The use of reasoning to refute the four extreme theories of genesis

(598)

6:8.1-2 Not created by itself, how can it be created by another?

Not created by both, what exists without a cause?

[H12] (a) Explaining the truth of interdependent arising by refuting (the four

extreme theories of) genesis (598)

[H13] (i) The proposition of Nagarjuna in brief, 6:8.1-2

The first two lines of the 8th sloka are a brief presentation of the four affirmations of Nagarjuna.

The first of these, “Not created by itself”, will not be explained thoroughly in this text, but there

is a good explanation in the ninth chapter of Shantideva’s Bodhicharyavatara. Here, our

emphasis is on the second one, “how can it be created by another”, and our opponents will

mostly be buddhist. The third and fourth affirmations are in the second line: “Not created by

both, what exists without a cause”.

[H13] (ii) Detailed explanation of the reasoning (599)

[H14] (a) Autogenesis (Self-Arising)

Here our symbolic opponents are the Samkhya school, which was founded by Kapila, who is

thought to have lived in the 7th century BC. It advocates a quite complicated dualistic vision of

the universe, starting with the old question, what is the universe made of. It leads on to questions

about the true self or, more accurately, telling the true self from that which appears to be self.

According to the Samkhyas, there are two basic categories in the universe: purusha and prakriti.

They say that the history of the world is the history of these two fundamental constituents, which

is quite different from Upanishad thought. From this simple dualism develops a very complex

set of interrelations between purusha, which is like the spirit of atman, and prakriti, which is like

the matter of original nature. The nature of purusha is spirit; it is many spirits. It is being,

consciousness. It is limitless, untainted awareness.

Chandrakirti does not

believe anything is truly

existent. He only accepts

dependent arising

The Samkhya view: the

two basic constituents are

purusha and prakriti

The Vaibhashikas refuted

God, but they were

refuted by the

Cittamatrins, who said

that only mind is truly

existent

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 90

The Samkhyas argue that the world is formed as purusha infuses prakriti, and thereby stimulates

the three states of prakriti, which are called the three gunas. These are activity (rajas in

Sanskrit), inactivity (tamas) and transparency (sattva). This is a very interesting theory – it is the

highest Hindu philosophy. If you are not careful when explaining the Buddha nature, you might

end up talking about something more like purusha.

The gunas interact and play different parts in the development of prakriti. As prakriti is

activated, it becomes buddhi, or intellect, out of which individual egos evolve. Individuals often

confuse their ego with their true self, and liberation can only happen when the true distinction is

understood. The true liberation is obtained at death, when the bonds between purusha and

prakriti are dissolved.

The Samkhya school also believes strongly in causation. This part is important. They argue for

cause, effect and the indestructibility of matter. Scientists say something quite like this. It is

known as the theory of existent effect, which means that the effect already exists in the cause of

all things. So, in some mysterious way, the cause of something pre-exists its effect, although

they are distinct. Consider a jar of clay, for example. The jar is the clay, but it is not the lump of

clay.

The basic idea is that what already exists cannot change, and what is not existent cannot be born.

This is a very good idea! What is there cannot be changed into something else, what is not there

cannot be born. In a way, it is a dualistic view, and they accept that. They are saying that in that

clay, the vase is already there. It is not as though it was clay before and then becomes, or

changes into, a vase. They are saying that the pot is in the clay: the effect exists at the same time

as the cause. I am sure that if I prepare for a few days and then take the side of the Samkhyas,

most of you will end up fumbling with words as you try to attack me. The Samkhyas are a great

school, not just a stupid bunch of people!

[Q]: What happens if the pot breaks?

[A]: Which pot? If you are making another pot with the broken clay, then the other pot already

exists there. Cause and effect exist at the same time. It is known as the theory of the

existent effect. Water has the effect of quenching our thirst. This effect is there, which is

why we drink water. If it did not have the effect of quenching thirst, then no matter how

much water we might drink, it would never quench our thirst. This logic is incredible!

[Q]: Is there a substance that is underneath all this?

[A]: Yes – prakriti, in its three states of rajas, tamas and sattva.

[Q]: But this makes no sense.

[A]: That is good! Because that is exactly what Chandrakirti is saying. You do not need to know

everything about the Samkhya school here; all you need to know is that one of their

essential theories is that the cause already contains the result. Their logic is that what is

existent cannot be changed, and what is not existent cannot be born. So, within the clay,

there must be a pot. If the pot does not already exist there, then it cannot be born. So, no

matter how a potter might try to make a pot, he could never create one.

[Q]: If the effect already exists in the cause, we cannot speak of the theory of causality.

[A]: I am not defending them! We will come to all this shortly.

[H15] (i) Reasoning from the commentary (Madhyamakavatara)

[H16] (a) Autogenesis refuted by suchness

[H17] (i) Untenable consequences explicit in the opponent’s statement

I do not know how you are finding things like these syllogisms. You might think that we are

learning new things here, but we are not. We are learning something that we have always done,

The three gunas: rajas,

tamas, and sattva

Liberation is obtained at

death, when the bonds

between purusha and

prakriti dissolve

The Samkhya view is

known as the theory of

existent effect – the cause

contains the result

What exists cannot

change, and what does

not exist cannot be born –

the pot is in the clay

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 91

but in order to study a philosophy, we have to learn about our normal habits using words and

categories. This is why you might find it difficult.

Even when a cook boils an egg, there is a complete syllogism and a complete inferential logic. If

you have this much water, this much heat and this much fire in the stove, the egg will be cooked

around this time. So now you might ask, why do we need to study this? We need to study this

because we are trying to prove something that cannot be directly cognised, like the fire on the

hill. That is not an object of direct cognition. But if you can see the smoke, then you can say

that there must be fire. This is the syllogism, the inferential logic, and we have drawn

conclusions this way for many centuries. It is similar in this case, when we talk about the

refutation of ‘born from the self’, or autogenesis. However, the root text is very condensed, and

you may find it hard to follow, so I will explain it briefly and then we should have a discussion.

[H18] (a) Such genesis would be meaningless (Buddhapalita’s refutation),

6:8.3-4

6:8.3-4 There is no purpose in something already arisen arising again.

What is already arisen cannot arise again.

Chandrakirti starts to negate self-birth in the third line of the 8th sloka. The third and fourth lines

of the 8th sloka are Buddhapalita’s refutation. He argues that if things are born from the self, then

there is no purpose or benefit to the act of birth. The act of birth is not even necessary if things

are born from the self, because they are already there. As we have seen, the Svatantrikas say that

mental formations are not born from the self because they are existent. You can only have the

idea of birth for something that does not already exist. There was no flower in your garden

before, but now it is being born.

Do not think that this is complicated. It is very simple. If something is already there, then it

cannot be produced, because it is already there. If something is born from the self, then there

must already be a self there that is giving birth. And if the self is already there, then what is the

point of being born? The whole purpose of so-called taking birth is that you do not have a child,

so you produce a child. But here, the child is already there. If somebody walks into the tent and

says she has come from the kitchen – that is our ordinary conception. But in this kind of

analysis, she was already here. That coming from the kitchen does not exist. These are hidden

simple aspects of life. They are very simple, but they usually remain hidden in our lives. The

important thing to remember is that the Samkhyas say the result is already there.

The Samkhyas are saying that cause and effect have one essence, and that the cause contains the

result. In the ninth chapter of the Bodhicharyavatara, Shantideva negates this argument, saying

that in this case, when you eat rice, you must be eating shit (9:135.3-4). You might argue that

there is a potential of shit there, and that this is what you are eating. But because the Samkhyas

believe in things being truly existent, they cannot use the word ‘potential’. They believe that

purusha is truly existent, that prakriti is the wealth of the purusha, and that purusha enjoys the

prakriti. Purusha, the atman, is truly and permanent existent, so they cannot even dream of

talking about potential. Words like ‘potential’ belong to the dependent arising school, people

like us.

[H18] (b) No genesis would ever actually occur (Chandrakirti’s refutation),

6:9.1-2

6:9.1-2 If you truly believe something already created could recreate,

Production such as germination could not occur in ordinary experience.

Even in boiling an egg,

there is a complete

syllogism

We use syllogisms to

prove something that

cannot be directly

cognised

If things are self-born,

birth has no purpose, as

they are already there

Shantideva refutes selfbirth

in the ninth chapter

of the Bodhicharyavatara

The Samkhyas cannot talk

of ‘potential’, because

they believe in things

being truly existent

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 92

The first two lines of the 9th sloka are a new negation by Chandrakirti. The Samkhyas say that

cause and effect have one essence, so they are saying that the seed comes from the seed, because

they are one essence. This is another Prasangika method of attack. Since the Samkhyas believe

things have the same essence, they are saying that seed is producing seed. In this case, there will

never be a time with a shoot. The occurrence of shoot can never exist at all, because the time is

totally occupied by the seed.

[H17] (ii) Conflicting consequences implicit in the opponent’s statement

[H18] (a) Such genesis would be endless, 6:9.3-4

6:9.3-4 Or a seed would continue to recreate until the end of existence –

What [sprout] would ever cause it to cease?

The third line is very similar to the first two lines, but concentrating more on the seed. Here the

Samkhyas will have the consequence that the seed will continue forever, so the shoot will not

have a chance to arise. The fourth line is almost like an answer to a question, which is hidden

here. The question, or objection, from the Samkhyas is that when a seed produces a shoot, the

condition of the seed gradually changes because of things like water, earth, moisture and warmth

and so the seed gradually becomes a shoot. Chandrakirti’s answers: how can it destroy itself,

because according to the Samkhyas, the causes and conditions are not separate from the shoot. If

they are separate, their theory is that phenomena are other-born, not self-born.

[H18] (b) The nature of cause and effect would be mixed up, 6:10.1-2

6:10.1-2 A sprout different from its instigating seed – with a distinct form,

Colour, flavour, potency and ripening – could then not exist.

The first and second lines of the 10th sloka say that for the Samkhyas who believe in the selfborn,

a consequence will be that the cause and the result will become mixed up. In other words,

he is saying you could never differentiate between the seed and the shoot, in terms of their

colour, flavour, potency or ripening, because they are the same.

[H18] (c) Cause and effect would be both different and the same, 6:10.3-11

6:10.3-4 If the self-substance of the previous vanishes,

As it assumes another nature, what remains of its suchness?

The two next lines are saying something like this. When you make yoghurt, you start with milk.

But when the milk becomes yoghurt, you cannot say that the yoghurt is a different entity from

the milk. You will not find a shoot that is a totally different entity from a seed. Another example

is enlightenment. When you attain enlightenment, we Vajrayana people say things like this

person gets enlightenment, this Buddha nature becomes awakened. The result is already there;

all you need to do is realise this. But because you do not realise this, you create a separation

between cause and effect. And that is delusion, which in turn creates all this illusion.

Chandrakirti’s negation here is in the form of a question. He asks them: if the previous selfsubstance,

such as the seed or milk, vanishes into another nature like yoghurt, then what remains

of its reality or suchness? He is asking them, what remains of the thing that they call self-born?

If something is self-born, then that same suchness must remain, but they have said that it is

already transformed.

External conditions like

warmth and moisture

cannot change a seed into

a shoot, as then it would

no longer be self-born

If things are self-born,

cause and result cannot

be distinguished

Objection: seed

transforms into shoot, but

they are not totally

different entities

If cause and effect have

one essence, then seed

must produce seed

If things are self-born,

their suchness must

remain. It cannot be

transformed

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 93

6:11 If in ordinary experience seed is not different from sprout,

You could have perception of neither seed nor sprout.

And, if they were the same, when seeing the sprout,

You should also see the seed. Thus, your thesis is unacceptable.

If the seed is not different from the shoot, then the consequence for the Samkhyas is that in the

same way that they cannot perceive the seed, they also will not see the shoot. Or because they

are the same, then when they see the shoot, they should also see the seed. Now he negates selfborn

even in the relative, conventional truth.

[H16] (b) Autogenesis refuted by ordinary conventional experience, 6:12.1-2

6:12.1-2 Because a result is seen upon disappearance of the cause,

To say they are the same is not accepted even in ordinary experience.

Even in the ordinary experiences, although the cause such as milk exhausts, we can still see the

result like yoghurt. That’s why even in ordinary experience, ordinary people would not say that

cause and effect are one, because ordinary people would say that it was milk before and it has

now become yoghurt. They would say that they are separate. This is why a thesis that believes

in things being born from the self, such an imputation, cannot be accepted not only in the

ultimate truth, but even in the conventional truth.

[H16] (c) Concluding summary of these two, 6:12.3-4

6:12.3-4 So-called creation from a self, when properly investigated

Is impossible, in suchness as well as ordinary experience.

[H15] (ii) Reasoning from the commentary (Nagarjuna’s Mulamadhyamakakarikas),

6:13

6:13 If creation arises from a self, it follows that the created, the creator,

The act and the agent all are the same.

As these are not one, this ascertation is impossible,

As there will follow the shortcomings already extensively explained.

In conclusion, if one asserts that things are born from the self, then the one that is created, such

as smoke or shoot, will become the same as the creator, like the fire or the seed. In addition, an

act such as writing, and the agent, the writer, will also become the same. That is not possible,

because there are so many shortcomings that we have already explained.

Discussion on production from self (auto-genesis)

So, we have gone through this briefly, and we will go back and discuss it a little more. But first,

I would like to know where your difficulties are with this, or what you cannot accept. One of the

If seed and shoot are not

different, you should see

both of them together or

neither of them

Cause and effect are

separate in ordinary

experience. This refutes

the Samkhyas

In conclusion, the creator

and the created must be

the same, which is

impossible

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 94

biggest problems here is that not knowing much about the Samkhyas, our opponent. So, please

ask some questions.

[Q]: Can you summarise the problem with the Samkhyas?

[A]: What Chandrakirti is unhappy about is that they are trying to establish a truly existent

phenomenon here, purusha, and a prakriti which is like self-born. So, because you say they

are truly existent phenomena, he refutes them with several different arguments. For

example, they say that things are born from the self. Birth means that you produce

something that you do not already have. Otherwise, what is the point of producing? What

is produced? And if you do not have it already, how can it be born from something you do

not have? If you separate these two words – born and self – there is a contradiction. It is

not only a contradiction; it is meaningless. And it is not only meaningless; it is useless,

because it is already there. But there is a big danger here, because we are trying to make it

sound very simple to attack the Samkhyas, and I do not want to do this. They are very

tough people. Actually, all we need to do is delete the word truly existing, and what they

say makes a lot of sense. For example, they are saying that the conch has a sound. And this

is true. But where they went wrong is that they said it is truly existent. If you were to ask

Chandrakirti “Where does the nice sound of the conch come from?”, then conventionally

speaking, he would say it is dependent arising. Mouth depends on the conch, conch

depends on mouth and sound depends on conch and mouth: dependent arising. But the

Samkhyas want to create a god, purusha, which is a truly existent creator. That is where

they went wrong.

[Q]: If we use ordinary conventional experience to refute the Samkhya argument, then why don’t

we accept other-arising as true, since this is accepted by ordinary conventional experience?

[A]: You will see when come to discuss the other-born. Today, our hero said that self-born is not

accepted by ordinary people. But tomorrow, when we talk about other-born, he will say that

ordinary people would say “I planted this tree”, “I planted this son in my wife’s womb”:

they do not accept the other-born. He will slip to the other side again! Ordinary people are

like Madhyamika people: they are flexible, and they do not analyse. The only difference is

that ordinary people just accept a certain reality, but the Madhyamikas analyse and find out

that things are dependent arising. Ordinary people do not have a path, but the Madhyamikas

have a path.

[Q]: I think we are misrepresenting the Samkhya position. We are analysing things that they say

do not truly exist as if they truly exist. It seems to me that they are saying that Atman truly

exists. When they say that all these phenomena are born from self, it is just a linguistic

convention of theirs. What they mean is exactly what you mean. Things cannot actually be

born from the self; they are an illusion. It seems as if they are born from the self, and it

seems as if they have a separate nature, but in fact, they do not. They are all the Atman. So,

we have separated their argument, and we are agreeing with them while also trying to show

that they are absurd.

[A]: The only trouble here is the truly existing. They believe in truly existent Atman, whereas

we do not believe in truly existent emptiness or dependent arising.

[Q]: But they say that atman is limitless. It has no beginning, so it was not born.

[A]: But that is self-contradictory. They cannot both say that atman truly exists and that it is

limitless.

[Q]: Can you explain how they understand time?

[A]: They say that time is illusion; it is maya. They are only slightly different from buddhism, I

think. In the Vajrayana, the Samkhyas are so highly praised that their view actually

qualifies as a defilement that needs to be purified by the first initiation, the vase initiation.

They are very high.

[Q]: Do the bodhisattvas have the view that we are trying to establish here?

[A]: A bodhisattva on the sixth bhumi does not have the three fetters, and because of that, he

does not have the clinging to the view of the Samkhya school. But nor does he have

clinging to the view of the Madhyamika school, because he does not have clinging to any

view. But right now, we are establishing a view for ordinary people like us. We are

gradually beginning to establish a view by negating the four corners of birth from self,

The main problem with

the Samkhyas is that they

try to establish truly

existent phenomena

Ordinary people are

flexible and do not

analyse, but they have no

path

Bodhisattvas do not cling

to any views, but we need

to establish a view for

ordinary people like us

The Samkhyas believe in

truly existent Atman, but

we don’t believe in truly

existent emptiness

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 95

other, both, and neither. Today we are starting by negating the first corner, which is selfborn.

[Q]: But what about when we talk about the bodhisattva seeing the gift, the giver and the

recipient all as empty?

[A]: That is totally different. The key here is truly existent. Bodhisattvas do not believe in truly

existent emptiness. So, a bodhisattva understands the unity of these three by understanding

that the three do not truly exist. This is why they cannot become one. For the Samkhyas,

although they are also trying to say that they are all one, the difficulty is that they say they

are based on truly existent purusha and prakriti. This is the problem.

I think that the theory of self-born is actually quite difficult to communicate. Most of the time, if

we are students of a philosophy, science, technology or whatever, we are usually more oriented

towards the other-born. The self-born theory is almost something religious. I do not think that

scientists talk about self-born, do they? Scientists do not have this problem of truly existent, do

they? Of course, they still cling to truly existent emotions, but they do not try say that these are

theoretically established.

Let me give a simple example. I am. I have a clinging to a truly existent self. I am true. I am

not like a rainbow; I feel pain when something hits me, I have emotions. Then I start a school,

and after much analysis, I found that I am truly existent. That is a theory. It is the worst kind,

because you already have your own share of problems, but now you are creating a new problem

for yourself.

Chandrakirti has compassion towards the kind of ignorance like feeling ‘I am truly existent’. He

has very gentle compassion, and he gives us a path for this – compassion, bodhicitta and so on.

But if I have created an idea or ideology of ‘I’, he has a very wrathful compassion. He does not

teach me compassion or give me any meditation instructions. First, he will use my own logic

and defeat me. He will show that my establishment of this self is wrong. Ordinary people do not

share the ideas of the Samkhyas. Do you think that you are purusha? No, you think you are

John, or whatever. Scientists fall into this second category.

[Q]: But modern science is showing that the mind depends on the brain.

[A]: If you say that brain is mind, I will accept that. Buddha also said it. Brain is part of the

kamsum (khams gsum), the three realms. Buddha said everything is mind, so brain has to be

mind! But mind is not brain; there is a difference. There is a problem if you think that

mind is brain. Let us suppose that the brain presently sitting in your head, and all its brain

cells, are all in good condition. And then I show you six objects in front of your head.

There is no sickness and no dysfunction, and there are six objects, so the brain has to

perceive all six objects simultaneously. But the brain chooses not to see all of them, and

that choice comes from habitual patterns. This demonstrates that mind is not brain (see

discussion starting on p.240).

[Q]: The brain is a systemic organ. Science has shown that habitual patterns are created while

young people are growing up, so what you are saying is not necessarily true.

[A]: All right. We will come to this during other-production anyway. Debating with scientists is

so difficult, because they do not have an established view! They are always changing their

view, every century, every year, even every time they have a conference! When the Buddha

taught the reality of the phenomena, he said that even before the Buddha came to this earth,

it was like this. And even after all the buddhas have gone, it will still be like this. Even if

buddhas are teaching something completely wrong, reality will never change. We do not

need conferences; we do not need discussions. It is there, it has been like this, it is going to

be like this and it is like this right now.

[Q]: But who is there to say this?

[A]: Nobody has to be there to say this. That reality is simply dependent arising.

There is nothing exotic, colourful, or interestingly shaped – just dependent arising. That’s it. As

long as there are some crazy scientists who think that they have found what is ‘smallest’, then the

Bodhisattvas do not

believe in truly existent

emptiness

Clinging to self is simply

ignorance, but creating a

theory about self is the

worst kind of problem

Chandrakirti has gentle

compassion to clinging to

self, but is wrathful

towards theories of self

The Samkhya view

conflicts with ordinary

experience: do you think

you are purusha?

The view of science is

always changing, but the

reality of phenomena

never changes

Showing that brain is

mind, but mind is not

brain

Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche – Madhyamakavatara – 1996 Chapter 6 – 96

mind that thinks ‘this is the smallest’ is very much dependent on the object ‘smallest’. And the

object ‘smallest’ is dependent on the crazy mind that decided that it is the smallest. And this is

why at times you will find it said in buddhism that reality is inexpressible and unthinkable. That

is not an excuse; it is the best answer. As soon as you try to express it, reality is deformed; it

becomes paralysed, like a vegetable, as soon as we speak. But despite that, I would still tell you

that reality is simply dependent arising.

I think this is an incredible finding. But the Samkhyas do not believe in dependent arising. They

do not believe that purusha is dependent on anything. Ah! If only they would say that purusha

is also dependent, then they would be accepting that it is not truly existent. From now on, it will

help if you think that ‘dependent arising’ and ‘not truly existent’ mean the same thing. This is

because to be truly existent, a phenomenon must be independent and unfabricated. Otherwise, it

is dependent on something else, and hence it is dependently arising.

[Q]: Is there a relationship between the three qualities, the gunas, and the twelve links of

interdependent origination?

[A]: I think so; it is just a different term.

[Q]: The Samkhyas believe that activities come from the imbalanc