Buddhist Philosophy Series
Courtesy of Himalayan Art Resources
The following texts are available as part of our Buddhist Philosophy series:
A simple guide to the contents of Vasubandhu's classic work, listing the main subdivisions within the text's eight chapters devoted to: 1) the elements, 2) faculties, 3) cosmology, 4) karma, 5) negative tendencies (i.e., the afflictions), 6) paths and individuals, 7) wisdom and 8) meditative absorption.
Citing a passage from the Chronicle of Ba as a reference, Lochen briefly discusses the eighteen elements (or dhātu) and their relationship to the ten virtues and twelve links of dependent origination.
Mipham Rinpoche elaborates on the practice that he introduced in The Wheel of Analytical Meditation (dpyad sgom 'khor lo ma) by offering further instruction on contemplating how the five aggregates are multiple, impermanent, painful and devoid of self.
Composed in a single day in 1891, this celebrated verse text offers a practical guide to meditating analytically on the multiplicity, impermanence, suffering nature and selflessness of the aggregates, as an antidote to the mental afflictions (kleśa; nyon mongs).
Written for a disciple who was about to travel from Sikkim to Tibet, this brief song encapsulates the message of the intermediate and final turnings of the Wheel of Dharma and explains how to practise the indivisibility of emptiness and compassion.
This short text, which is untitled in the original Tibetan, briefly discusses the Five Treatises of Maitreya, the writings of Asaṅga, and the fact that the buddha nature, or sugatagarbha, is not empty of its own immaculate qualities.
Categories of Teaching
Based on the writings of Patrul Rinpoche, this brief survey summarises each of the nine successive vehicles leading to enlightenment in terms of their entry point, view, meditation, conduct and results.
- A Brief Overview of the Three Turnings and the Mantra Piṭaka of the Vidyādharas by Khenpo Pema Vajra
In this short annotation commentary, Loter Wangpo explains the nature and subdivisions of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) and identifies the somewhat cryptic numerical references in Nāgārjuna's verses.
In this short text, called Pratītyasamutpādahṛdaya in Sanskrit, Nāgārjuna explains the heart or 'essence' (hṛdaya) of dependent origination (pratītyasamutpāda) in just seven stanzas. He shows how the twelve links of dependent origination can be further condensed into the three categories of afflictions (kleśa), karma and suffering, and how all phenomena, being interdependent, are empty of true existence.
Logic and Epistemology
Taken from the author's commentary on Sakya Paṇḍita's Treasury of Valid Reasoning (tshad ma rigs gter) entitled The Unmistaken Commentary on the Intention of the Seven Treatises [of Dharmakīrti] and the Sūtra [i.e the Pramāṇasamuccaya of Dignāga]—Clarifying the Meaning of the Treasury of Valid Reasoning, this is an examination of the objects of cognition according to Buddhist epistemology.
One of Mipham's best known works, this treatise in 104 verses was written in just a single day in 1885. It is structured around the four principles of reasoning (rigs pa bzhi)—of causal efficiency, dependence, nature and establishing a proof—and the four reliances (rton pa bzhi), i.e., Rely not on the individual but the Dharma; Rely not on the words but the meaning; Rely not on the provisional but the definitive meaning; Rely not on ordinary consciousness but wisdom.
Almost certainly written in 1958, this brief text in verse summarizes Tsongkhapa Lobzang Drakpa's approach to Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka based on his interpretation of Candrakīrti's Introduction to the Middle Way (Madhyamakāvatāra).
- The Seed of Reasoning: Notes on the Five Great Logical Arguments of the Middle Way by Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo
A brief text summarizing the five great logical arguments of the Madhyamaka, or Middle Way: 1) the investigation of the cause: the Diamond Splinters; 2) the investigation of the result: refuting existent or non-existent effects; 3) the investigation of both: refuting the four permutations of arising; 4) the investigation of essential identity: ‘neither one nor many’; and 5) the logical argument of Great Interdependence.
This section of Gateway to Learning (mKhas 'jug) explains the so-called "Four Great Logical Arguments of the Middle Way" (dbu ma'i gtan tshigs chen po bzhi), which are: 1) investigation of the cause: the Diamond Splinters; 2) investigation of the result: refuting existent or non-existent results; 3) investigation of the essential identity: ‘neither one nor many’; and 4) investigation of all: the Great Interdependence. This translation also includes some comments from Khenpo Nüden's celebrated commentary.
Notes on the general preliminary points to be made before commenting upon any of the major Indian treatises, such as what is meant by “In the language of India...” and the four rubrics of subject matter, immediate purpose, connection and ultimate purpose.
- Preliminary Points to be Explained When Teaching the Buddha's Word or the Treatises by Patrul Rinpoche
This brief work on pedagogical theory outlines the qualities and approaches of three different types of teacher (a fully enlightened buddha, arhat and learned paṇḍita), before discussing the science of listening and explaining the purpose of titles.
This short verse-text sets out to clarify the term "self-awareness" (rang rig; svasaṃvedana), especially as it is used in Dzogchen, and challenges those who reject the notion. Mipham points out that self-awareness is something to be experienced firsthand, not debated or speculated about.
In this short text, Mipham Rinpoche succinctly explains what is meant by the self of the individual (pudgalātman; gang zag gi bdag) and the 'self' (or identity) of phenomena (dharmātman; chos kyi bdag), and he describes how to become certain as to the non-existence of them both. The author also highlights the importance of distinguishing between a more superficial, conceptual understanding and a genuine, non-conceptual realization of ultimate reality.
Extracted from Gateway to Learning (mKhas 'jug), this section on the selflessness of the individual (gang zag gi bdag med) explains the absence of any permanent, unitary, independent and all-pervading self, either identical to or distinct from the five aggregates (pañcaskandhā; phung po lnga).
Stages and Paths
This survey of the five paths (lam lnga) and ten stages or bhūmis (sa bcu) explains the practices and qualities associated with each and every phase of the Mahāyāna path, from its initial point of entry through to its eventual culmination with the attainment of enlightenment.
- Elucidating the Hidden Meaning: A Commentary on the Meaning of the Four Mudrās by Dola Jigme Kalzang
In this short text Dola Jigme Kalzang explains the meaning of the four mudrās that provide a context for tantric practice: the karma mudrā, which is the basis of practice; the dharma mudrā, which is the object of practice; the samaya mudrā, which is the means of practice; and the mahāmudrā, which is the fruition of practice.
In this brief text, the celebrated Dzogchen scholar and adept Khenpo Ngawang Palzang summarizes the four main Indian Buddhist tenet systems traditions (according to Tibetan doxographers): 1) Vaibhāṣika, 2) Sautrāntika, 3) Cittamātra (Mind Only) and 4) Mādhyamika (Middle Way), which is further divided into Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika.
- The Concentrated Seed: How to Distinguish the Tenets of Non-Buddhist and Buddhist Schools by Patrul Rinpoche
In this short guide to Buddhist and non-Buddhist philosophical tenets, Patrul Rinpoche begins by outlining the tīrthika views of eternalism and nihilism. He then summarizes the views of the śrāvaka schools of Vaibhāṣika and Sautrāntika, as well as the two kinds of pratyekabuddha, the various branches of Cittamātra, and the Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika strands of Mādhyamika. To conclude, he offers a brief overview of the various levels of secret mantra.
In this brief treatise, Rongzom deploys the example of a black snake’s reflection in water to illustrate the differences between the tenets of the Śrāvakas, Mādhyamikas, followers of Kriyā and Yoga Tantra, Mahāyoga, and the Great Perfection.
Three Gateways to Liberation
- Elucidating the Essence of the Instructions for Entering the Three Gateways to Liberation by Rongtön Sheja Künrig
In this short work, Rongtön clarifies the teachings on the samādhi (ting nge 'dzin) meditations related to the three gateways to liberation (rnam thar sgo gsum): emptiness, the absence of characteristics and the wishless.
- The Excellent Path of the Great Vehicle: How to Meditate on the Three Gateways to Liberation According to the Mahāyāna by Rongtön Sheja Künrig
A brief explanation of the "three gateways to liberation" (rnam thar sgo gsum) according to the Mahāyāna, i.e., emptiness (śūnyatā; stong pa nyid), absence of characteristics (mtshan ma med pa), and wishlessness (smon pa med pa).
One of Patrul Rinpoche's better known works, this pithy presentation of the two levels of truth is more than just a guide to what "relative" and "absolute" signify; it is also a practical instruction on how to apply such understanding in meditation.