Philosophy and Commentaries

cover of 2nd edition heart sutra book
Tāranātha’s Commentary on the Heart Sūtra . Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin. First Edition published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2017. Second Edition by Dakini Publications, 2023. 160 pages. English, with the Tibetan root text and foreword by Professor Matthew Kapstein.

A detailed study, translation and commentary on the Heart Sūtra written by Tāranātha (1575–1634), with extensive annotations from his longer commentary on the Sutra, The Previously Non-Existent Explanation of the Heart Sutra (shes rab snying po’i ‘grel ba sngon med legs bshad). Tāranātha is widely considered to be one of the most remarkable Buddhist scholars, translators and practitioners from Tibet.

In his commentary, Tāranātha succinctly distils his vast studies of Indian and Tibetan Buddhist thought on prajñāpāramitā and Buddha-Nature with the philosophical view of ‘Empty-of-Other’.  The leitmotif of the text is Tāranātha’s five-fold assertion that the Sūtra ‘clearly teaches the Empty-of-Other Great Madhyamaka’.  For Tāranātha, this confirms that ‘the intention of all three Turnings is the Empty-of-Other Great Madhyamaka’.

Tāranātha’s explanation is a valuable addition to the corpus of (Indian and Tibetan) translated commentaries on the Heart Sūtra.  As a concise distillation of the Jonang view of Empty-of-Other and its connection to prajñāpāramitā, it provides the reader with a reasoned analysis as to why prajñāpāramitā involves not only ‘seeing’ that all phenomena are empty of intrinsic existence, but also realizing, via primordial awareness, that the ultimate nature is ‘unchanging’ and ‘permanent’, going beyond ‘impermanent’ conditioning, duality and mental elaborations.

In his foreword to the book, Prof. Matthew Kapstein (University of Chicago, Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris) states it is:

…a valuable service to Tibetan Buddhist Studies. Her work, originally written as her M.A thesis, is clear and precise throughout, well-examplifying the distinguished tradition of research on Buddhism at the University of Hamburg…..Ms Tomlin’s study may be recommended as a particularly attractive and accessible introduction to the Jonangpa’s distinctive doctrinal perspective.

The second edition of the book, has a stunning new Tibetan calligraphy artwork by master Tibetan calligrapher, Jamyang Dorjee, for more on that artwork and the new second edition, see here.

If you would like a copy of this book you may purchase it directly from Amazon on Amazon USA, UK, Spain, Italy, Germany, Poland, Sweden, Japan and Australia.

A public lecture on this book and text was given at the Rangjung Yeshe Institute in October 2018 and is available to listen on the RYI website here

For a short introduction and reader to the Shentong view of emptiness, as advocated by Tārānatha, see here.

For other research on Tārānatha see the dedicated section on this website here.

Also, a new website on Tārānatha’s Collected Works here.

The Explicit and Hidden Aspects of Tāra: Commentary on the Twenty-One Tāras by Jetsun Tāranātha. Translated and edited by Adele Tomlin, Dakini Publications, 2020.

A short and beautiful commentary on the conventional and definitive aspects of the twenty-one Tāras by Tāranātha.  In the text, Tāranātha also briefly teaches how the practice of Tāra is connected to the six vajra-yogas of Kālacakra.

Condensed Essence of Empty-of-Other by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

The text is an extremely precise, profound and clear explanation and presentation of the main points of the empty-of-other view and succinctly captures the central points that need to be understood. From this text, it is clear that Khyentse Wangpo follows the view of the Jonang Dolpopa, opening the text with the lines:

Here is a little explanation of the tradition of the Empty-of-Other Madhyamaka of the great Jonangpa Omniscient One [Dolpopa].

Ultimate truth is indestructible, unconditioned and beyond interdependence. Conventional truth is phenomena that are born and decay, which gather together dependent on causes and conditions.