Today, is the birthday of living Jonang lineage teacher in exile, Khentrul Rinpoche, who is based in Australia. Although I have never met this teacher, his activities for Jonang and Kālacakra are impressive indeed and worthy of mention. Today, he announced the publication of his new book on the Jonang view of the Great Middle Way ‘Empty-of Other’ ( gzhan stong dbu ma chen po) ‘The Celestial Drum of Victory‘ translated into English from Tibetan by Ives Waldo and edited by Venerable Tenpai Gyaltsen.
In a video accompanying this announcement (see below), Khentrul Rinpoche explains how the book is ‘unusual’ in that people will not be able to find another book like this in the 21st Century. The reason for this is because he says it is based on the ‘golden Dharma view’ of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (one of the main founders of Jonang and holders of the Shentong view). This statement is correct in terms of books in English composed in this century by Tibetan Buddhist teachers. Although translations and academic articles have been published, by Dolpopa, Tāranātha and other Jonang masters’ works on ’empty-of-other’, there are few, if none at all, written in this century by a living lineage holder.
From 2018 -2019, in Nepal, I was given the oral transmission and direct one-to-one instruction on an ’empty-of-other’ text by a living Karma Kagyu lineage holder, 10th Sangye Nyenpa Rinpoche for the purposes of translating it (and I have over ten hours of audio recordings from our meetings in May 2019), for more on that see here. However, due to unharmonious and unsupportive conditions since then, I have been unable to complete the translation to date. So, it is certainly true that there are few, if any publications in the 21st Century composed by living lineage holders on this topic.
The Empty-of-Other view – not unique to Jonang
As I wrote about in the ‘Introduction’ to ‘Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sutra‘, and in a short introductory article here, the ’empty-of-other’ view is not unique to Jonang, although these days sometimes one is given the impression that is so. The view is also held by many renowned Kagyu, Nyingma and some Sakyapa masters. In a nutshell, the essence of the view is this: although all composite and dualistic concepts and phenomena are impermanent, changing and empty of any inherent existence (‘self’) the qualities of the non-dual and non-composite Buddha Nature (dharmakāya, ultimate nature, luminous emptiness and so on) is ‘permanent’, ‘unchanging’ and empty-of-other (‘other’ here meaning it is empty of all the composite dualistic, lacking inherent existence phenomena and ego) but it is not empty of ‘self’ since the ultimate nature is eternally present and the enlightened qualities remain without any change or corruption. For the English translation of the Tibetan term shentong as ’empty-of-other’ (and not ‘the other-emptiness’ please see my short article here).
The ‘Empty-of-Self’ view and HH 14th Dalai Lama
The ’empty-of-self’ view (rang stong), even though not the final/definitive view, is an essential component of the ’empty-of-other’ view and must be understood correctly in order to have a correct understanding of the ’empty-of-other’ view. The rangtong view is mainly advocated by Gelug masters, although HH 14th Dalai Lama has recently been actively promoting the Jonang works and empty-of-other view in his Aspiration for the Flourishing of the Jonang Teachings, (part of which is excerpted below here) and in several of HH’s teachings on shentong and Jonang, see my translations of some of those teachings here (and a letter from the Office of HH Dalai Lama thanking me for doing those translations here).
do yi ta wa zhen nying u ma dang
gyu don nel jor drug gi nyam leg gyi
chö ku ngon du dze pai zhe söl che
jo nang pa yi ten pa gye gyur chig
Through your Empty-of-Other Madhyamaka view of the Sūtras
And excellent experience of the Six Yogas, the meaning of the Tantras,
Your great expositions on actualising the dharmakāya,
May the Jonang teachings thrive and prosper!
–HH 14th Dalai Lama in ‘Aspiration for the Prospering of the Jonang Teachings’
Nonetheless, the view of Jonang masters such as Dolpopa and Tāranātha, do contain subtle differences in the view from the other lineages, and it is this ‘uniqueness’ Khentrul Rinpoche is referring to. As a contemporary addition, to the Tibetan Buddhist canon on the ’empty-of’-other’ view it is to be congratulated. This post is my short and humble way of offering thanks, and also wishing Khentrul Rinpoche a happy birthday.
May the Jonang, ’empty-of-other’ and Kālacakra teachings and traditions flourish and may all beings attain the fully awakened state of Kālacakra!