OVERVIEW OF DAY 8 TEACHING
The Day 8 teaching can be split into two main topics, 1)the Five Dharmas of Maitreya and 2) Zhentong, Rangtong and Buddha Nature in relation to Mind-Only and Middle Way.
1) The Five Dharmas of Maitreya
ORIGIN OF THE DHARMAS OF MAITREYA
The Karmapa continued the Day 7 teachings by discussing the origin of the five Dharmas (see slide below). He explained that:
“One thing we do need to pay attention to is the Indian treatises in the Tengyur, which have different explanations of the origins of the Dharmas of Maitreya.”
“For example, Acarya Haribhadra writes in his commentary on the 8 000 line Prajnaparamita that Asanga had not fully realised the entire words and meaning of the Prajnaparamita scriptures, so he was a little unhappy about that and dissatisfied. So, Asanga then wrote the explanation and root that is the Verses of the Ornament of the Sutras. First, Maitreya taught this and Asanga heard it. Then he and Vasubhandu taught it. This is one explanation of how Maitreya wrote the Five Dharmas.”
There is more about this in the full transcript.
ARE THE DHARMAS OF MAITREYA MIND-ONLY OR MIDDLE WAY OR BOTH?
In this section of the teaching, the Karmapa discussed the question as to which type of tradition the five Dharmas of Maitreya fit into:
“Regarding which school they belong too, Mind-Only or Middle Way, there was not much debate about that in India or China. There was a lot in Tibet. As a result, there are many explanations….Basically there are three different positions, they are:
1) Mixture of both
2) All Middle Way
3) All Mind-Only
He explained that the 8th Karmapa and his teacher, the 1st Sangye Nyenpa (1457-1519) were both of the view that they were 1) a mixture of both:
” In the Commentary on Entering the Middle Way: The Chariot of the Siddhis of the Practice Lineage by 8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje, he cites a quote from 1st Sangye Nyenpa, saying that the five Dharmas of Maitreya are proven to be commentaries on the meaning of the words of all of the Mahayana cause and result. Now the middle three Dharmas do not teach the Middle Way on the side, but explicitly teach the Mind-Only. The first Dharma of Maitreya is both Middle Way and Mind-Only. The last Dharma is a commentary about Sutra and Tantras. So this is very similar to the generally accepted explanation. It’s a position that they mixed the traditions.”
As for Tibetans they generally thought the five Dharmas were 2) all Middle Way:
“As we say in Tibet: ‘Prajnaparamita comes down to the yak (g.yag).’ Yak in Tibetan here means Mipham Chokyi Lama, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen, Penchen Shakya Chogden, and most other Zhentong advocates. What they say is that all five of the Dharmas are Middle Way in their view.” (for Tibetan of this quote see slide below).
The Karmapa also helpfully created a table that lists each of the Five Dharmas of Maitreya and where they fit in the three types of views on their connection to Mind-Only, Middle Way according to Tibetan scholars.
TWENTY INDIAN TEXTS CONNECTED TO THE DHARMAS OF MAITREYA
The Karmapa then went onto to discuss the ‘twenty Dharmas connected Maitreya’ and the earliest Tibetan commentaries on the five Dharmas, which included an explanation as to how they count them as twenty:
However, the Karmapa pointed out that in Taranatha’s History of Dharma in India, he asserts that we say there are the eight treatises but it is difficult to call them treatises but more commentaries on words, So it is not alright to include them all. If they are a prakarana (treatise), they are given that name. Tibetans gave them that name but they were not called that in India.
EARLIEST TIBETAN COMMENTARIES ON DHARMAS OF MAITREYA
The Karmapa then went on to discuss the earliest Tibetan commentaries on the five Dharmas, that of Tsen Khawoche (1021-?) and what became known as the Meditative Tradition (sgom lugs) in Tibet, but also, in particular, that of Ngog Lotsawa Loden Sherab (rngog blo ldan shes rab,1059-1109):
“The transmission from Ngog Lotsawa Loden Sherab was very beneficial for the five Dharmas of Maitreya but also for Middle Way and other texts. It was important for establishing a tradition of study but also propagating it….Later we think all our traditions are important, Kagyu and Shakya as being important and so on, but if we think about the early phase of the Later and Earlier transmissions, because these translators worked so tirelessly, they laid the foundation for everything to turn out well. It was because of their kindness at the beginning, such as Ngog Loden Sherab and his disciples.”
2) Rangtong, Zhentong, and Buddha Nature and the Mind-Only and Middle-Way
THE RELATION BETWEEN MIND-ONLY AND ZHENTONG (EMPTY OF OTHER)
The Karmapa then went onto the second part of the teaching, a discussion on Rangtong, Zhentong and Buddha Nature and their connection to the Mind-Only and Middle Way schools. He first considered the differences between the Rangtong and Zhentong views (see slide for Tibetan below):
“I am not speaking categorically. If you think I have decided something categorically that is not how it is. However, I do think it is important to speak about the relationship between the Zhentong and Mind-Only. Before I speak about that, we need to understand what is Zhentong and what is the difference between Zhentong and Rangtong? It is important to understand this. To speak about the difference in detail in a short time is difficult, but I will try my best.”
Interestingly, Karmapa approached the differences between the two views first, in terms of texts they focused on:
“When we say Rangtong, empty of self, what we mean is a view that emphasizes the thought of Nagarjuna and the Root Verses of the Middle Way and Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way. It is alright to identify it like that. When we say Zhentong , that is the view that emphasizes the Sublime Continuum and the other Dharmas of Maitreya.”
Then in terms of what they are using the word ’empty’ to refer to:
3RD KARMAPA, RANGJUNG DORJE’S ZHENTONG CAME BEFORE DOLPOPA
Following that, the Karmapa then described how, considering the texts he wrote and taught, the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) was a Zhentongpa proponent before the Jonangpa Kunkhyen Dolpopa became one. That the 3rd Karmapa may well have had an important influence on Dolpopa, whom when they met was a Rang-tongpa and how the Karmapa predicted that in the future he would become a Zhentongpa.
“I have already mentioned how Rangjung Dorje was related to Zhentong. His explanation was earlier than Dolpopa’s. If we look at the history. Dolpopa went to visit Rangjung Dorje and they had many discussions about the view. At that time, Rangjung Dorje held the Zhentong position and Dolpopa held the Rangtong position. At that point, he was still Rangtong and not Zhentong and Rangjung Dorje was already holding the Zhentong view, before Dolpopa became Zhentong. They had a lot of discussion about it. Then Rangjung Dorje said, right now you are refuting and rebutting me, you are refuting my Zhentong view. However, in the future, there will come a time that you will come to uphold this Zhentong view.’ It was as if he was giving a prediction.
So this is recorded by the Jonang school and in the old Karma Kagyu texts. When we look at this account, before Dolpopa became Zhentong, Rangjung Dorje was already Zhentong so he must have had some degree of influence on him becoming Zhentong. I am not saying he becamse Zhentong because of Rangjung Dorje but it must have had some degree of influence on him. It must have made some sort of impression on him. If one says that it is OK. “
Furthermore, the Karmapa explained the important influence of the 3rd Karmapa not only on Dolpopa but on the Kagyu lineage and study and how his works themselves led to many Kagyu commentaries and studies of the Dharmas of Maitreya/Mind-Only:
“When we look at the works of Karmapa Rangjung Dorje, did he write any connected to the Zhentong? He did. For example, his commentary on Nagarjuna’s In Praise of the Dharmatdhatu, as well as his commentary on Distinguishing Phenomena and Dharmata and his root text and commentary on the Profound Inner Meaning and an outline of the Sublime Continnuum. He wrote many such works that teach that instead of an emptiness negation, they teach a positive negation, the view of Buddha Nature.
Likewise, the 3rd Karmapa also said that all those who want to enter the profound Vajrayana, need to first understand the words of the Sublime Continnuum and Profound Inner Meaning otherwise it would be difficult to enter the Vajrayana and understand the profound and vast Secret Mantra. So before studying Secret Mantra, he said you should study those two texts. This is his instruction. Because of that, to this day, in the Kagyu lineage, we have a continuous lineage of teachings on the Sublime Continnuum and the Profound Inner Meaning. This is mainly because of the resolve and intention of the 3rd Karmapa Rangjung Dorje.”
THE DIFFERENCES IN VIEW BETWEEN 3RD KARMAPA, RANGJUNG DORJE AND JONANG DOLPOPA
The Karmapa then explained the differences in the views of the 3rd Karmapa and Kunkhyen Dolpopa and how the 3rd Karmapa was one of the earliest Tibetan scholars to say the two views were not contradictory:
“So Rangjung Dorje is a Zhentongpa and Dolpopa is also a Zhentongpa. Between the two of them is there a distinction in their descriptions in their view of Zhentong? Even if we look at the works of Rangjung Dorje and his disciples such as Sherab Rinchen and if we compare these, then we would have to say that Rangjung Dorje’s Zhentong is a bit different from Dolpopa’s Zhentong.
Rangjung Dorje says that ultimately the Buddha Nature transcends the nature of conventional existence, he does not say that it is categorically truly existent. However, Rangjung Dorje does identify that the ultimate is the perceving wisdom/awareness. Therefore, he identifies the position of ‘existing’ more than ‘not existing’. Likewise, he teaches that the thought of Nagarjuna and Asanga are the same.
Later, many Zhentongpas were unhappy with Rangtongpas and it also says that the Rantongpas were unhappy with the Zhentongpas. So we see these explanations. However, between the two of them there were some scholars who say the two views are not contradictory. Among those, Rangjung Dorje was probably the earliest Tibetan scholar to say that they are not contradictory.”
According to the 17th Karmapa, Longchenpa (1308-1363), one of the 3rd Karmapa’s students was also in agreement with this:
“Kungjung Longchen Rabjam also explained that the two views are not contradictory. So as there is a connection of master and disciple between Rangjung Dorje and Longchenpa, we can say that there is an influence of Rangjung Dorje on Longchenpa. Later, when we speak about Mipham RInpoche, he spoke about the Rangtong and Zhentong as being non contradictory and also considered both views to be important. So this is the influence of Rangjung Dorje on these scholars regarding that.”
According to the 17th Karmapa, this influence of the 3rd Karmapa was also connected to his knowledge and study of Mind-Only, whereas Dolpopa outright refused to say he is Mind-Only:
“Generally, when talking about Rangjung Dorje, he had studied and contemplated the Five Levels and many other MInd-Only texts. However, he mainly emphasised the Dharmas of Maitreya, he was the first Kagyupa, in the general and the sub Kagyu lineages to spread the teachings of the Dharmas of Maitreya. He left a very strong impression and had a lot of activity in spreading the teachings of Maitreya.
The Jonang master, Dolpopa Sherab does not say he is Mind-Only. He would not accept that at all. Though he would not accept that, he would say that the texts of Maitreya, even though they are accepted as Mind-Only, he would not have accepted that. However, in terms of Buddhism in general, we do call them Mind-Only.”
However, even though Dolpopa used Mind-Only texts to assert his Zhentong view, others (such as Gorampa, objected to it and said he had simply re-named the Mind-Only view:
“These Mind-Only texts that Dolpopa uses are the main source for his view. From one perspective, we could say this had a great influence of the spread of these Mind-Only texts in Tibet. From another perspective, as he did not assert he was Mind-Only yet he emphasized these Mind-Only texts, there were many who objected to him.
To give an example, in the Blue Annals it says ‘there are those who say that Jonang Dolpopa’s position of a permanent Buddha Nature is mistaken but there are those in Tsang who take the Sublime Continnuum as their yidam. This is because of the kindness of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen.’ So many people considered the Sublime Continnuum to be very important and many taught and studied it, and they said the reason was because of Dolpopa. It is like a Praise of him.
However, Gorampa wrote that the name Mind-Only has simply been changed to Zhentong, they just gave it a new name. Other than that, it is Mind-Only but they call themselves the Great Madhyamaka. He was displeased by it and there are many others who spoke like that.
So, in terms of the entre Buddhist school, these texts which are well-known to be Mind-Only texts, were not explained by Dolpopa to be Mind-Only. What other people said were Mind-Only texts, he did not accept. In his ‘Mountain Dharma, the Ocean of Definitive Meaning’ Dolpopa asserts that all the works including the Sutras of the third wheel of Dharma all five Dharmas, the Compendium of Abhidharma, the Five Sets of Levels, and Vasubhandu’s Thirty Verses and so on, are not Mind-Only. He went through each of them and said categorically that they are not Mind-Only. Not only that, he said they are not the Rangtong Middle Way, they are the Zhentong Middle Way….
In brief, if we consider the Jonang tradition of Dolpopa, there is no clear identification as to what texts are Mind-Only and who the Mind-Only scholars are. Or, even if it is explained, there are just one or two Mind-Only scholars or texts. Yet, Dolpopa declared that none of the Buddhist masters, whom all the international scholars recognise to be Mind-Only, and all the texts they wrote, are Mind-Only.”
JONANG JETSUN TARANATHA’S SLIGHTLY DIFFERENT ASSERTION TO DOLPOPA
“Among the Jonang scholars who followed Dolpopa, the most well known is Jonang Jetsun Taranatha. He was very different from other Tibetan scholars. He had a very broad knowledge of history. He wrote History of Buddhism in India, which many contempoary scholars use as a source when they are researching Indian history. When he was examining things, he was able to do it in a fair and impartial way. If we look at how Taranatha explains things, and the way Dolpopa explains things, it is quite different.
Taranatha says that when Bhaviveka and others say that Asanga is Mind-Only, if we look at the way they criticise, generally they do not assert that it is Mind-Only. However, Taranatha says in his Indian history text that this is not the same terminology, and they us the words ‘awareness’ and ‘proponents of awareness’, and also talk about the ‘Middle Way proponents of awareness’. If we look at the way he uses the terms and designations, it is not always clear. ” (see slides for the Tibetan explanation of 17th Karmapa)
“”In terms of the view, Taranatha discusses those of Dignaga, Stiramatthi (Lobpon Loten), Dharmapala, Chandragomi, VinItadeva, Genyen Tsunpo Ngonyi Medpa as if they were Mind-Only. It seems that way. So even though Dolpopa says that Asanga and Vasubhandu were not considered Mind-Only even in India, Taranatha does assert that they were generally well-known as Mind-Only.
Despite that, I believe that Taranatha must have thought deep down that they were Zhentong Middle Way. But this needs to be investigated.“
PANCHEN SHAKYA CHOKDEN’S EXPLANATIONS
The Karmapa then discussed the explanations on Zhentong by Panchen Shakya Chogden(1428-1507)
“After Dolpopa, there was the Panchen Shakya Chogden who had a different explanation about the Zhentong view. The Panchen had the most different explanation of it. Penchen was well-knonn as a Sakya scholar. Among the Sakya scholars, they talk about the three most learned scholars of Sutra and Tantra. So he is said to be one of these three. Also, Panchen Shakya Chogden, also had a deep connection with the 7th Karmapa and the 4th Zhamarpa and others. Shakya Chokden also had a greater influence on the Kagyu, Jonang and other lineages besides Sakyapa.
In the first part of his life, he was a Rantongpa but in the latter part of his life he became a Zhentongpa. What he said is that, there are two different types of the Middle Way. The Yogacara Middle Way and the Middle Way Proponents of Essencelessness The Yogacara Middle Way, if you divide them, you can say that the Rantongpa and the Zhentongpa and the Proponents of Essencelessness have two different parts: the consequentialist and the autonomist schools. This is a different way of classifying them. What he gives as an example of the Rangtong Yogacara Middle Way are Shantarakshita and his disciples and descendants. The example he gives of the Zhentong Yogacara Middle Way are Asanga and his disciples.”
What he gives as an example of the Rangtong Yogacara Middle Way are Shantarakshita and his disciples and descendants. The example he gives of the Zhengtong Yogacara Middle Way are Asanga and his disciples. This is how we can generally speak about the Middle Way
Another complicated thing in its use of terminology, is that Mind-Only can be understood as the Mind-Only of the five schools. However, if we talk about the Mind-Only of the Yogacara, it is not necessarily only Mind-Only. Because with the Proponents of Awareness, there are both Mind-Only and Middle Way parts. As I said before, with the Yogacara Middle Way, Sakya Chogden mentions there being Zhengtong and Middle Way and he also talks about the Proponents of Awareness, there are both Mind-Only and Middle Way passages. Generally, it also said that in Mind-Only there are two sub-schools: the true and false image school. “
“Generally, we say there are distinctions between the true and false image schools but what Shakya Chogden says is that the meaning of the true image and false image school are present in the Mind-Only texts in India but the term did not occur at all in india.
Another important thing he said, is when when one talks about those for whom the meaning of the false image school is most important, these are the Yogacara Middle Way. The school that fits the meaning of the false image school best is the Yogacara Middle Way Zhentong school.
Another thing he says, is the difference between the Mind-Only and the Middle Way, or between the MO and the Yogacara Middle Way Zhentong is as he describes it, the Mind-Only asserts that consciousness is ultimate truth and the Yogacara Middle Way Zhentong asserts that consciousness is not ultimate but only discriminating self-aware awareness is ultimate. This is the difference between Mind Only and the Yogacara Middle Way.
Likewise, in the Mind-Only tradition, wisdom is also said to be consciousness but in the Yogacara Middle Way, he says you have to distinguish between wisdom and consciousness, they are not the same. Likewise, in the Mind Only, they say the dependent nature does exist but he says that according to the Yogacara Middle Way it is not existent. He says that according to the Ornament of the Sutras it says the dependent is illusory and does not exist.”
Dolpopa said that the Middle Way masters did not refute Asanga and his disciples and call them Mind-Only, However, Shakya Chogden says that Bhaviveka and Chandrakirti did refute them as being Mind-Only. However, they did not refute Yogacara Middle Way but refuted the many Mind-Only tenets and views found within the texts of Asanga and his disciples.
So, Shakya Chogden also said that even though Bhaviveka and Chandrakiriti said that Asanga and Vazubhandu are not Middle Way, merely by saying that that they are not Middle Way, the consequence would be that Asanga and his disciples explain that the Proponents of Essencelessness fall into nihilist extreme, as that same concept would apply to them.
So when Chandrakirti says that Asanga did not realise the thought of Nagarjunaand therefore is not Middle Way, that does not necessarily mean that he was not Middle Way.
THE 17TH KARMAPA ON THE CONNECTIONS BETWEEN MIND-ONLY, MIDDLE WAY, ZHENTONG AND BUDDHA NATURE VIEWS
The Karmapa then went on to give his own views on what the Zhentongpas themselves do not accept about the Mind-Only and the not very good reasons for their doing that (I summarise these here below):
- “In Tibet, if you are a Mahayana school follower then you must be either Mind-Only or Middle Way. You have to be one or the other. Generally, there those who say you don’t have to do that, but if you are going to choose, who will you choose? Then you will choose the Middle Way because that is accepted to be the highest and most final view.”
- “No Mind-Only scholars came to Tibet. Maybe some came but no famous or influential Mind-Only scholars came. For example, there was no-one like the Chinese scholar, Thangzhontsang who went to India to study Mind-Only. Thus, the earlier texts and instruction manuals on Mind-Only (that came before the five Dharmas of Maitreya) were not clear or accurate.”
- “Within China, and many contemporary international scholars say that the connection between Mind-Only and Proponents of Buddha Nature is extremely strong. Like the False Image scholar, Sthiramati, there is great connection with the Buddha Nature school. However, if we do not understand our own view and that of Mind-Only very deeply, then it will be a cause for making many errors about it.”
CONCLUSION -THIRD MAHAYANA SCHOOL OF ‘BUDDHA NATURE’
The Karmapa concluded that for these three reasons, ‘the Tibetan Middle Way Zhentong school was unable to assert or accept themselves as being close to the Mind-Only, and that is why they are averse to the Mind-Only’. However, there was a way around this situation by introducing the notion of a third Mahayana School, that of Buddha Nature:
“If the Zhentongpas were not so insistent on being Middle Way and instead they were a Buddha Nature school, if they accepted they were a third type of Mahayana school then it would be a different situation. The reason for this is that in China, there was a Buddha Nature school. Even though it was in China, international researchers from the beginning accepted the tradition and said the Mahayana was the two schools of the Middle Way and Mind-Only. However, l=later when they did more research, they then asserted that actually one cannot say there are only two schools in the Mahayana, there had to be a third school. The proof and source for this assertion, is the Sublime Continnuum. They found a Sanskrit manuscript of it and when they examined it, it is a little bit different from the Mind-Only and Middle Way. Therefore, it is Mahayana and so there must be a separate Mahayana school.
I think this idea is very good. Usually, we say there are only four Buddhist schools and that is why we could not say there is a third Mahayana school. However, in India there was a lot of freedom in the schools, they had eighteen fundamental schools. So there is no reason why we couldn’t have three schools. If we accept there is a Buddha Nature school there would be no problem with that. There would be no need for so much debate between the Rangtong and Zhentong, we would not have to insist on being Middle Way either and try and insist on fitting that with the Mind-Only texts; if we just say that we are the Buddha Nature school that is separate.”
For full transcript, contact here.
FURTHER READING/SOURCES ON THIS WEBSITE
Video recordings of the Day 8 teaching are here (English and Tibetan):