The Concentrated Seed
From the murals of Shechen Monastery. Used with permission of Rabjam Rinpoche.
The Concentrated Seed: How to Distinguish the Tenets of Non-Buddhist and Buddhist Schools
by Patrul Rinpoche
Homage to the Omniscient One!
Here I shall briefly explain the divisions of all philosophical tenets. The basis for the division is naturally vast. We can divide this into the mundane and the supermundane.
For the first, the basic vehicles of gods and humans include the vehicle of human beings, through which one practices the sixteen pure forms of human conduct in pursuit of the higher realms, and the vehicle of gods, which involves adopting the ten virtues and avoiding their opposites. The second involves healing and purification.
The non-Buddhist tīrthikas subscribe to the 360 views related to the perishable collection (‘jig tshogs), but these can be summarized as the twenty peaks related to the perishable collection, and these in turn may be summarized as eternalism and nihilism.
The eternalist view is typified by the Sāṃkhya, who are the principal. most fundamental of all tīrthika schools. They take the three qualities of rajas, tamas and sattva as the path, and claim that the nature of these in equilibrium is the self (ātman), which is shiny and white, round, as large as a thumb and as small as a mustard seed, imperishable and indestructible, and located within the hearts of all sentient beings. At the time of liberation, this brings about liberation with colour and shape, located above the heavens and resembling an all-encircling white umbrella.
Nihilist views are of two kinds: 1) nihilism with respect to causes and 2) nihilism with respect to results.
Causal nihilism claims that the mind of the past is not the mind of the present. The mind is naturally present in the four causal elements. It is latent within each element, not manifest until conditions, such as heat and moisture, cause it to emerges and develop into mind. This means that mind is present within the heaviness in the earth, the fluidity in water, the blazing sound of fire, and the lightness of the air.
Those who profess resultant nihilism deny not only the existence of past lives, but also that mind develops from the four elements. They claim that mind arises by its own essence, spontaneously. Likewise, they say that the sharpness of thorns, the rising of the sun, the downward flow of water, the roundness of corn, the bright colours in a peacock’s tail and the beauty of a princess all occur spontaneously, uncaused by any agent.
Here there are two: 1) the basic vehicle of śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas, and 2) the great vehicle.
1. Basic Vehicle
This is divided into the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas.
There are two śrāvaka schools: Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika.
The Vaibhāṣikas are the followers of the treatise called the Abhidharma Mahāvibhāṣa, which was composed by 700 arhats, including Upagupta, after the Buddha’s parinirvāṇa. The Sautrāntikas are those who accept only the sūtras spoken by the Buddha and reject other treatises as invalid.
The Vaibhāṣikas explain relative and ultimate reality in the following way. They say that the relative includes the composite phenomena of conscious experience such as yak’s tails and meadows, which ultimately consist of particles and fragments just like the water in a vase. They also claim that the continuum of consciousness is relative, whereas the present moment is ultimate. Concerning the twofold identitylessness, they realize the absence of personal identity, but not realize the identitylessness of phenomena. The initial entry point of the path is engagement with the four truths. They assert that one must abandon the discards of the path of seeing and 414 discards of the path of meditation and actualize the sublime wisdom with its eightfold exhaustion and non-arising in order to gain liberation.
The śrāvaka school of Sautrāntika assert the absence of personal identity in the same way as the Vaibhāṣikas. When it comes to the identitylessness of phenomena however, they realize the nature of particles and the five basic categories of knowable phenomena. Their view is thus superior to that of the Vaibhāṣikas. They also assert that one must engage with the four truths, abandon 88 types of subtle and coarse mental affliction, and realize sublime wisdom.
Both schools agree that practitioners must exert themselves on the five paths of accumulation, joining, seeing, meditation and no-more-training. They also agree that each of the three poisons has its own antidote: meditating on the eight impure substances and skeletons for desire, cultivating love as a remedy for hatred, and meditating on the twelve links of dependent origination as an antidote to ignorance. As the fruition, there are the four results of an arhat and so on, which are further divided into emerging and established to give a total of eight stages of great beings.
There are two kinds of pratyekabuddha follower of the basic vehicle: 1) the rhinoceros-like and 2) the parrot-like. The term pratyekabuddha (solitary realizer) signifies someone who seeks buddhahood alone.
The rhinoceros-like pratyekabuddhas are likened to rhinoceroses because they live in solitude. They meditate on how all phenomena included within the four truths arise through the twelve links of dependent origination in progressive order from ignorance through to old age and death. And they accept that one must overcome all subtle and coarse mental afflictions (or ‘subtle developers’) related to the three realms. Meditating on the twelve links of dependent origination in progressive order means considering how karmic formations arise from ignorance, consciousness arises from karmic formations, and so on. As regards the view, these pratyekabuddhas partially realize the absence of phenomenal identity in addition to the absence of personal identity. This is because they understand that perceived objects, consisting of divisible particles and indivisible atoms, lack any real essence and are non-arising.
The parrot-like pratyekabuddhas gather together like flocks. They meditate on how all phenomena included within the four truths according to the progressive and reverse orders of the twelve links of dependent origination. Visting charnel grounds, they ask themselves where the corpses came from. They consider how corpses result from death, which, in turn, results from old age. In this way, they consider all the links until ignorance. They realize the two halves of the absence of identity and cultivate the five paths, as a result of which they actualize the awakening in which faults are exhausted and will not arise again.
Both types of pratyekabuddha teach only through symbolic gestures, not through direct speech.
2. Great Vehicle
The Great Vehicle is superior to the approaches of the śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas because its followers possess the altruistic attitude of bodhicitta.
There are two types: true aspectarians and false aspectarians.
True aspectarians believe that apparent objects are merely aspects of one’s own internal consciousness appearing as if external. There are three sub-branches: 1) those who claim that there are as many aspects of consciousness as there are perceived objects [i.e., the proponents of perceptual parity]; 2) those who claim that perceived aspects and the perceiving mind are like an egg that is split in two; and 3) those who claim that perceived aspects and perceiving consciousness are not split in two even though there is perceptual diversity.
The first sub-branch claim that when someone hears a sound the auditory consciousness arises, but consciousness that perceives visual forms and so on does not arise. In other words, they assert that only the consciousness that perceives a given object arises, while other forms of consciousness do not, and there is therefore perceptual parity. The second sub-branch, the split-eggists, claim that the perceived aspect and perceiving consciousness — or in other words, object and subject — arise within the same mind. For the third sub-branch, proponents of non-dual diversity, although there is apparent diversity in the aspects of seemingly external objects, they are all apprehended by a single perceiving consciousness. This is comparable to seeing the blurred impressions of a monkey in a building with four windows. Just as one monkey gives the impression of being several, objects are cognized by a single consciousness through five sense doors.
False aspectarians believe that the impressions of outer objects are unreal habitual patterns that manifest to deluded consciousness, but that since the evaluating consciousness is false, the evaluated object and consciousness are both by nature false and delusory. There are two sub-branches: tainted and untainted.
There are two branches of Mādhyamika: Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika.
The Svātantrika assert that both the aspects of consciousness which appear as diversity and the evaluating mind are clear appearances that lack real existence , but that, in addition, even one’s own ultimate wisdom lacks any true essence. The school is subdivided into those who assert an illusory ultimate and the proponents of non-abiding.
The first sub-branch say that whatever constitutes subject-object duality, as well as what does not, namely the indescribable, inconceivable wisdom of one’s own awareness, is ultimately illusory. It is through the path, with its cultivation of qualities, and the ultimate fruition, which is the wisdom of buddhahood (both of which are illusory), that one works for the benefit of sentient beings. As the medium-length prajñāpāramitā sūtra says:
All phenomena are illusory and dream-like. Even nirvāṇa is illusory and dream-like. And, were there anything more exalted than nirvāṇa, that too would be illusory and dream-like.
This sub-branch is also known as the Lower Svātantrika.
The second sub-branch asserts that even the illusory ultimate is non-abiding. Just as there are no objects or aspects, even the experience of that absence, one’s own awareness, is unreal like the consciousness of the child of a barren woman. The medium-length prajñāpāramitā sūtra says:
Ultimately, there is no transference. There is no nirvāṇa. There is no emptiness. These are mere words, mere designations.
The Mādhyamika Prāsaṅgika rejects any claims about things being ultimately unreal or relatively mere appearances, illusory and so on. It says that the nature of things is beyond all extremes of existence and non-existence and free from all assertions. This corresponds to the following statement:
If I had a position,
Then I would be at fault,
But because I have no position,
I can only be without fault.
The Secret Mantra
Suppose one were to ask how the secret mantra is superior to the causal vehicle. The Torch of the Three Methods says:
It has the same goal but is free from all confusion,
It is rich in methods and without difficulties.
It is for those with sharp faculties.
The mantra vehicle is especially sublime.
Mantra (sngags) is so called because it is praised (bsngags pa) as the supreme means of protection from the mental afflictions. There are four or six subdivisions of tantra. It is called tantra, or continuum, because it brings comprehension of the clear light of the space of reality within one’s own mental continuum. The four classes of tantra are action (kriyā), performance (caryā), yoga and highest yoga tantra. The first three are called the three lower classes of tantra or outer tantras, and the fourth is called the higher class of tantra or inner tantra. The higher tantra class or inner tantra is further divided into father tantra, mother tantra and non-dual tantra, which gives a total of six tantra classes.
Action tantra is so called because the emphasis is on outward conduct, such as ritual cleanliness. Performance tantra is also known as ubhayā tantra, since its outward conduct accords with action tantra, but its inner samādhi accords with yoga tantra. Yoga tantra emphasises inner meditative absorption (samādhi). Highest yoga tantra is superior to three lower classes of tantra in the following way: it is free from all notions of cleanliness or pollution with regard to the five meats, five nectars, and so on, and it arrives at the spontaneous unity of the truths, great purity and equalness. It is further divided into the developmental Mahāyoga, the scriptural Anuyoga, and the non-dual Atiyoga.
These are the words of Patrul Rinpoche.
| Translated by Adam Pearcey, 2018.