When this kind of teaching is given there are many different levels of practitioners. It's said when pointing out instructions are given, a person sits down as an ordinary person, and rises as an enlightened being. This is possible for beings of the highest capacity. Then there are those who need to practice gradually, step by step. If you put these teachings into practice, that is a great advantage. But if not, that is a lamentable loss. Even if we are of the highest capacity, we should adopt the conduct of the gradual practitioners. We should understand the subtleties of dependent origination. We hope to achieve the ultimate, but how can this be if we have not yet understood the relative? So we must first adopt the right view.
The view of Dzogchen expresses the ultimate nature. To understand it, we must first hear, contemplate, and meditate on the teachings. There is first the view which is established through examination. We establish the validity of the truth through examination. Though that a strong confidence is established and we give rise to the view of self awareness. Finally there arises the view that abides in primordial wisdom, which is Dzogchen.
So we have already explained the view of Madhyamika. Within the bounds of ignorance, which obscures the nature, relative truth is established. The Prasangika school says all phenomena appear to exist and function in the relative but have no true existence. The Svatantrika view of the relative has already been explained. The Prasangika view is a little different. They distinguish between the mistaken and unmistaken relative by whether the senses are impaired. If they are, it is the mistaken relative, if not, it is the unmistaken relative. Mistaken relative is like a person suffering from cataracts, who sees streaks in the sky, or a person suffering from jaundice, who sees a white conch as yellow. The Prasangika definition of the ultimate truth has no two divisions. The ultimate truth is the meditative experience of an arhat, bodhisattva, or buddha. It is beyond comprehension, so they make no assertions about ultimate truth. Chandrakirti said because I do not posit anything, I am free of conceptions. But they do speak in order to refute the wrong views of others. Because they do not posit anything, they have no comment on the ultimate. The Tantric view is the same as the Prasangika, the inseparable unity of the relative and absolute. That is why everything is seen in Tantra as the display of wisdom. Tantra says the relative has the same essence as the ultimate, but different aspects. That is the only difference between Prasangika and Tantra.
So that is the view. Next we have to receive the pith instructions. The philosophical teachings are many and would take a lifetime to master. But the pith instructions are short and easily meditated on. During meditation we awaken to the view of dharmakaya and in post-meditation we carry out the activities of daily life. We begin first with the preliminaries, such as ngondro practice. We cultivate the four thoughts and practice the extraordinary preliminaries while taking the seven points of posture of Vairochana.
We then come to the main practice, where we contemplate the selfless of all phenomena. All phenomena are divided into the five aggregates, which are classified as either mind or matter. The characteristic of ego is the continuous stream of the thought of I. We often feel that the ego is is the same as our body. But other times we think as if our body is the possession of the ego, as when we say my arms or my legs. So is the sense of ego the same or different from the five aggregates? Is the ego independent, or does it arise in dependence on the aggregates? Phenomena arise dependent on conditions. If we say the ego is permanent, shouldn't the aggregates also be permanent? And if the ego is single, shouldn't the skandhas also be single? But they are not. If the ego is distinct from the aggregates, then it must be perceived separately from it. But where is it and how is it experienced? In fact, it is not.
So the ego cannot be found either within or outside of the aggregates. This is what is called egolessness. But perhaps you feel it is hidden somewhere in the aggregate of form. Form can be broken down into the tiniest ultimate particles. So can external objects. A house is only the composition of its parts. Likewise the rocks and lumber that make it up are divisible. So no house can be found in its component parts. External forms cannot be found. In this way we understand the selflessness of phenomena. All phenomena lack any substantial identity. But this is not a nihilistic view that denies everything. The unceasing display of appearance is still present. When we see appearance itself as emptiness the extreme of eternalism is pacified. And when we see emptiness as appearance, the extreme of nihilism is pacified.
For a long time we have conceived of the body as the ego. But it is not single, since it is the result of the union of our father and mother. And the body constantly undergoes change. This is the gross aspect of impermanence. The body has over three hundred bones, twenty one thousand hairs, and three million pores. So it is not a single unitary thing. The body is not independent, since it is subject to the law of karma. So by this sort of examination we see that the body has no self. It is a mere dependent arising. All phenomena are empty but they unobstructedly arise as dependent origination. This is the wisdom that arises through examination. This is very important to understand.
Based on this we give rise to confidence in the view. Then we practice Dzogchen and see everything as the display of awareness. This is the view of self awareness.. But it is very important to establish the view first by examination. Having discerned that all phenomena as self arisen wisdom, one remains in that state. Then we turn the view inward and ask what is this. Finding nothing, we remain in that state, When we see that there is no duality of self and other, that is the view of abiding in primordial wisdom. There is a vast difference between this and the first and this view. This view is what brings you to the experience of dharmata.
When we feel tired or weary, we simply relax, and by our familiarity with emptiness the view naturally arises. But in this is still a certain amount of contrivance. The first meditation on emptiness through examination of phenomena as compounded is a mental exercise and will tire the mind. At that point you should relax and through the habit of examination, phenomena naturally appear as unreal. This is how one passes from a fabricated to unfabricated meditation. Although we may not be able to understand perfect emptiness, we will at least get a taste. It is like taking a sip of sea water on the shore of the great ocean. But if you do not continue to practice, that taste will be lost. Through continuing practice, one will give rise to the understanding of dharmata.
Q: Tsongkhapa said without understanding the three indestructible vajras, one cannot reach Buddhahood. How does that correspond to this view?
A: The three vajras correspond to the view of dharmata. When you understand mind, both body and speech are seen as phenomena of mind.
Q: What was the text of Maitreya that you referred to this morning?
A: Maitreya's teachings are popularly known as the Seven Treatises. Maitreya's way of explaining the teaching is known as that of vast conduct. Nagarjuna's is known as the profound view. His text that teaches emptiness is the Abhismayalamkara.
Drikung Mahayana Center
September 20, 2008