Teachings on Lamrim Chenmo

By His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In July 2008, His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama gave a historic six-day teaching on The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment (Lamrim Chenmo), Tsongkhapa's classic text on the stages of spiritual evolution. Translator for His Holiness was Thupten Jinpa, Ph.D.

This event at Lehigh University, Pennsylvania, marked the culmination of a twelve-year effort by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center (TBLC), New Jersey, to translate the Great Treatise into English. The transcripts were kindly provided to LYWA by the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center, which holds the copyright. Webcast recordings of these teachings are available through His Holiness’ official website.

The transcripts have been published in a wonderful book, From Here to Enlightenment, edited by Guy Newland and published by Shambhala Publications. We encourage you to buy the book from your local Dharma center, bookstore, or directly from Shambhala.

Day Six, Afternoon Session, July 15 2008

Transcript # 10


The Challenge of Maintaining Reality after Negating Inherent Existence1

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: In this, Tsongkhapa’s text Lamrim Chenmo, at some point in his section on…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: …special insight he has integral verses that he writes. In one of them he writes the following.2 He says that, “Oh Learned Ones, who are learned in the Middle Way treatises, although….” So this is on page 325, where he writes that:

“My friends who are learned in the profound Middle Way treatises, although it is hard for you to posit dependent origination of cause and effect within the world devoid of inherent, intrinsic, existence, it is better to take the approach by saying, ‘Such is the system of the Middle Way.’ ”

And this is very true because what Tsongkhapa is pointing out is that, in the course of inquiry into the ultimate nature of reality—and when you have negated inherent existence, existence by means of intrinsic nature and objective existence—then one cannot maintain any notion of reality that is objectively grounded. So there is literally nothing left that one can hold on to that is objectively grounded.

Yet at the same time one still needs to accord, one still needs to maintain, functions of harm and benefit, cause and effect and so on. And that is where the challenge really is. How, in the aftermath of negating any notion of intrinsic existence and objective reality—how one still maintains a coherent notion of reality. That really becomes the challenge.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: Similarly in Tsongkhapa’s Essence of Eloquence–Differentiating the Interpretable and Definitive Scriptures, there Tsongkhapa also (in dealing with the understanding of the notion of reality in the aftermath of negating inherent existence) there also Tsongkhapa makes a similar point, where he says that if we try to examine the notion of existence, there are only two possible ways in which we can understand the notion of existence.

One is existence by means of inherent nature or inherent reality; or existence by means of some nominal criteria or nominal existence. And between these two, since existence by means of, by virtue of, intrinsic nature has proven to be completely untenable, so there is no alternative left, other than to say... other than to accept that the existence is only nominally defined.

Tsongkhapa also makes similar observations in his Ocean of Reasoning (which is a commentary on Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way) where he again lists the two possible ways in which one can understand the concept of existence. And having demonstrated that existence by virtue of inherent existence, inherent nature (which is objectively grounded existence) is untenable, he says that the alternative left is a nominal existence. Therefore one should direct one’s mind towards that angle.

So similarly in Gongpa Rabsel (his Clear Elucidation of the Thought) which is a commentary on Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way, Tsongkhapa explains that when we probe into our understanding of the nature of existence of things, he says that, “Although having an ascertainment of emptiness by means of negation—that is comparatively easier. But, in contrast, having an understanding of the reality in terms of dependent origination in the aftermath of the negation—that is a very difficult challenge.”

And so he in fact says that, “This being able to accord reality, a core notion of existence or reality, to things in the aftermath of having rejected existence, any form of objective inherent existence…” here, he says, “…this is the greatest difficulty and challenge in the context of the Middle Way thinking, Middle Way philosophy.”

So here, one thing that is most helpful in enabling us to at least maintain a coherent notion of reality within the Madhyamika context is to look at conventional… the three criteria that Tsongkhapa presented for conventional existence, which we touched upon earlier: that it is known to worldly convention; that the known convention is not invalidated by any other valid conventional cognition; and furthermore…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the second…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the second criterion, which is that the known convention should not be invalidated by any other subsequent or any other valid cognition, this may include one’s own, the individual’s own, subsequent cognitions. For example you may perceive something and think that to be the case but your subsequent perception of the phenomenon may in fact invalidate it, if it happened to be a false perception.

Similarly it could be invalidated by valid cognitions of some other third person. So in this sense this is very similar to the form of verification that occurs in the scientific method where repeatability and inter-subjective verification (in other words verification by some other third person) also becomes an important factor. So the second criterion is very similar to the need for inter-subjective verification in the scientific method.

And the third criterion is added, which is that the known convention should not also be invalidated by ultimate analysis. So the point of including that is to provide a way of adjudicating between claims that are metaphysically grounded. For example, the Mind-Only School’s claim that…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: The Mind Only School, particularly those following after the scripture, their postulation of alaya, foundational consciousness, although they may not see themselves as having made this postulation from the point of view of ultimate analysis, however, from the Madhyamika-Prasangika perspective, postulation of the alaya, or foundational consciousness, will be seen as having been made in the aftermath of ultimate analysis.

Because the whole motivation for postulating alaya (foundational consciousness) to be the true essence of the person, from the Madhyamika point of view, is motivated by a form of an ultimate analysis. Because they were not satisfied with the everyday level convention which operates at the level of perception and everyday appearance. Rather they were looking for a true referent of the term ‘person’, something that would have an objective basis, and looking for that kind of essential… the real ‘person’.

So pursuing such a line of analysis, then they postulate the idea of alaya, (foundational consciousness) as being the true identity of the person. And here for example, the proponents of foundational consciousness are uncomfortable with the idea of the sixth mental consciousness as being the ‘person’ because they run into… they see that it runs into problems. So therefore they seek a more… a consciousness that has a more stable basis. And then they identify, they postulate, this alaya to be the true identity of the person. So from a Madhyamaka point of view, that whole line of thinking and quest involves a form of ultimate analysis because it operates beyond the boundary of everyday normal convention.

Using Critical Reasoning in Meditative Practice3

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So in terms of actually how to bring these understandings into actual meditative practice, the way in which one can do this is to proceed in the following manner, which may be very helpful. We proceed with employment of, or application of, a particular form of reasoning, whether it be the seven-fold analysis of person, or whether it is the Diamond Slivers analysis, the chatuskoti, the four cornered argument, which examines the arising of a phenomena in terms of self, another, both, or neither.

And so whatever of the reasoning process that you use, as you apply this form of reasoning which negates or rejects all the other possibilities then, you know, one will arrive at a point where you will come to recognize that the subject under analysis is unfindable when we search for them by means of such critical analysis. So at that point you will arrive at a point… a kind of awareness, a sense of non-existence of the thing under investigation when subject to such critical analysis.

And at that point you must then bring to your mind the recognition, the fact that things do exist. It is incontrovertible—because things do make an effect, impact. They can cause harm; they can bring benefit. The fact that these phenomena do have an effect in terms of benefit and harm is an incontrovertible proof that they do exist. They possess some manner of existence.

The question then is how do we understand that status of existence? In what sense can we say they are existent? And here one then comes to understand that, given that objective, inherent existence becomes untenable, the notion of existence that we accord to them must be at some kind of nominal criteria, on the basis of nominal reality.

And here it is helpful to then relate this understanding to the principle of dependent origination. And therefore the principle of dependent origination is often referred to as the king among all reasoning. Because the principal of dependent origination… when you use dependent origination as a rationale for arriving at the understanding of emptiness, then the fact that things are dependently originated indicates their lack of any independent status.

And because of their dependent nature, they are thoroughly contingent. And because they are contingent, their nature is such that they can be real only in relation to some other thing. And once you come to recognize that, then there will be a kind of a realization that the existence that we can accord to reality can only be this relational existence. They can only be understood in terms of dependent designation. And because they are dependently designated, their coming into being and their existence can only be understood in these relational terms. And because they possess this thoroughly relational, contingent nature therefore they are thoroughly dependent on others.

And once you come to recognize that, then you will come to recognize that the status of existence that we can accord to them is only on this nominal level. And for example Buddhapalita states in his text, he says that, “If things were to exist by means of their own intrinsic nature and if things exist in their own right, then we can point our finger to that thing and say, ‘That is the essence!’ So then if that is the case, then there is no need for things to be dependent upon any other factors.”

And this also suggests that if things possess objective reality, some kind of existence by means of their own essence or intrinsic nature, then one should, even before the label is given, the thought that ‘this is so’ should arise. So this is in fact a reasoning that Nagarjuna uses in one of his texts, finally in a kind of crushing…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So this a reasoning that is used by even Mind Only School and others as well, but Nagarjuna in fact uses that argument in his text finally kind of, you know, crushing or pulverizing the arguments of others. So there Nagarjuna also presents this argument.

So when you use these kinds of analyses, then you will come to recognize that the thought that something is such-and-such (that kind of identity-based thought) can only arise if the thing is dependently designated. If a thing exists only… if a thing exists by means of its own intrinsic nature, then the arising of a thought that this-is-so should not depend upon that thing being labeled before. So in this way we will come to recognize that the only reality that we can accord to things is really a nominal, dependent reality.

When you come to understand this and you cultivate your understanding further and further, then you relate that then to the way in which normally things tend to appear to you. So now as a result of contemplating emptiness you have come to recognize that things and events do not possess existence by means of intrinsic nature or inherent existence. Yet, when you relate that to your own everyday perception of the world, you also recognize, in your everyday perception, you tend to perceive things as possessing such objective existence.

And in this way you will come to recognize there is a disparity between the way things appear to you and the way things really are. And in this way one can get an experiential flavor to what is called the process of identifying the object of negation. In a sense the object of negation will be… the identification will have an experiential dimension almost as if you are touching something in a naked way.

And so in this way we need to basically kind of combine and use interchangeably various processes. First applying critical reasoning to demonstrate the un-tenability of, unfindability of, anything when you subject it to critical analysis. You then move on to dependent origination and relate that to their own dependent existence, and then from there you compare that to your own personal everyday perception of the world. And in this way one will be able to see how understanding of dependent origination leads to emptiness, and how understanding of emptiness leads to dependent origination so that they mutually compliment each other and reinforce the understanding of each other.

And when this happens then, as Tsongkhapa points out in his Three Principal Elements of the Path, where he says that, “At that point when, without any temporal sequence, simultaneously, at the same time, the instant… the moment you see infallible reality of the dependent origination, if the object of your grasping is totally dismantled, at that point one has arrived at the culmination of analysis.”

How Ignorance Is Related to the Afflictions

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So here in page 183, Tsongkhapa, citing from Chandrakirti’s Commentary on the “Four Hundred Stanzas”, he cites the following: he writes (in fact before that he writes)

“Ignorance superimposes an intrinsic nature on things; from this, attachment, hostility, and so forth arise, further superimposing features such as attractiveness or unattractiveness upon that intrinsic nature. Therefore, reason can also be used to eradicate the way that attachment and such apprehend objects.”

Then he cites from the Chandrakirti commentary which reads:

“Attachment and so forth superimpose features such as attractiveness or unattractiveness only upon the intrinsic nature of things that ignorance has superimposed. Therefore they do not work apart from ignorance; they depend upon ignorance. This is because ignorance is the main affliction.”

So here Chandrakirti identifies two ways in which ignorance is related to the afflictions. In one, he writes they do not work apart from ignorance, and then in the second he says they depend upon ignorance. So this may relate to a more subtle understanding of the levels of some of these afflictions: in some cases ignorance serving as the basis for the afflictions to arise; and in some cases the grasping at true existence being actually present within, concomitant within, the complex of the affliction itself.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So in these cases of subtle afflictions, since the ignorance grasping at true existence is concomitant within that complex of the affliction, then the question arises, “Does that mean that these afflictions themselves are also a form of ignorance?” And here the response has been given that the grasping at inherent existence that is present within that affliction is not by their own accord but rather through the power of ignorance. So therefore they grasped at inherent existence because of the presence of ignorance with them.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So then having dealt with the problem of over-negation and under-negation, then the third major outline Tsongkhapa presents is the way in which one’s own position identifies the object of negation.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So we have already actually dealt with this topic of the question of how to identify the object of negation.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So in this context, when we are talking about the object of negation of reasoning, we have to understand that when the wisdom of emptiness is cultivated and arises in one, it undermines the grasping. So the manner in which it undermines the grasping at true existence is to really directly oppose the perspective of the grasping, and in this way it undermines that grasping. But as far as the content of that grasping is concerned, the reasoning and the wisdom realizing emptiness… what it does is that it demonstrates the non-existence of that content, which is the true existence.

Two Types of Madhyamaka4

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So next we will deal with the outline that touches upon the question of, “What kind of method one should employ to negate that object of negation,”—whether one should rely on consequential reasoning or that of syllogism.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So this is presented in two main outlines. One is the refutation of other’s position, and the second is the presentation of one’s own standpoint. So we will read with the second one, which is the presentation of one’s own standpoint:

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So here the main point being discussed is whether or not, in one’s own understanding of Madhyamika, one should accept the notion of autonomous syllogistic reasoning. And so the term that is being used is svatantra (which means autonomous) and autonomous syllogism, or autonomous reasoning. And the supposition here, made by the proponents of autonomous syllogism, is that any form of inference must occur on the basis of the use of a form of valid reasoning that possesses the three modes of validity.

And the idea here is that the subject that is being analyzed must be something that has been verified by a valid cognition that is non-deceptive, un-deceptive, with relation to its own intrinsic nature. So in other words the proponents of autonomous syllogism operate from the assumption that when two parties are involved in a debate, the subject that they choose must be commonly verified on the basis of a certain assumption of the criteria of validation.

And from the Madhyamika-Prasangika’s point of view, that kind of validation becomes untenable because any notion of a valid cognition that is non-deceptive to the intrinsic nature of phenomena becomes untenable. So therefore the Madhyamika-Prasangika reject the supposition that in order for a discourse to take place, the subject under discussion must be verified on the part of both parties, where the validation… the process of validation is accepted by both parties. So that is being rejected here.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So Tsongkhapa explains here that when we try to understand what is at issue here on the question of whether or not one should accept autonomous syllogism, he says that it is more helpful if you understand the two standpoints as: one representing a group that subscribes to some notion of svabhava, intrinsic existence; and the other group that rejects the notion of intrinsic existence even on a conventional level.

So Tsongkhapa’s suggestion is that it is better to characterize the two camps in this way rather than as Madhyamika-Svatantrika vs. Madhyamika-Prasangika, and generally… because otherwise this raises, opens up, all sorts of complex questions about how do we define what is a Madhyamika-Svatantrika and what is a Madhyamika-Prasangika and so on. Historically, for example, if you look at the masters like Buddhapalita, in his treatises the primary form of reasoning that is used is a form of reasoning that draws consequences by revealing internal contradiction in others’ position. So the debate sometimes is…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: In contrast, if you look at the writings of Bhavaviveka (and Shantarakshita for that matter) we will also recognize that they tend to use primarily a form of syllogistic reasoning rather than an argument in the form of a consequence.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So these masters like Bhavaviveka and Shantarakshita, their underlying assumption really is an acceptance of a notion of intrinsic nature, svabhava.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So we already discussed that earlier. So the discussion really… one of the aspects of the discussion is whether it is indispensable to use a syllogistic reasoning in order to generate inference, inferential understanding; or whether one can also… by means of a reasoning that takes the form of consequence one can also generate inference. So that’s one aspect of the debate.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So we will now read from the section where Tsongkhapa cites from Chandrakirtri’s Clear Words (Prasannapada) where Chandrakirti really rejects… kind of, you know, critiques one of the principal suppositions of the syllogistic reasoning, where the assumption is made that when two parties enter into a dialectical analysis, at that point the subject upon which the discussion, the discourse, is taking place must be commonly verified. It should not… the subject should be something that is… must be accepted at a common level, that does not include imposition of one’s own distinct philosophical or metaphysical views about its existence.

So when two parties enter into a debate, whatever subject it may be whose characteristics you are discussing, whose properties you are discussing, the subject itself should be accepted at the level where both parties share a notion of its existence. And when you do that, both parties should not bring their own specific metaphysical views about its existence.

So now Chandrakirti is critiquing that basic assumption of Bhavaviveka, and he writes (this is on page 262) and he writes, “The same method that was used to show that the position is defective insofar as its basis is not established should be used to show the defect that the reason, “because it exists,” is also not established.”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: I think that was the translation. And there are two ways in which this particular passage, critical passage, from Clear Words of Chandrakirti is explained in Tsongkhapa’s writing. One here in the Lamrim Chenmo text; the other one in his Essence of Eloquence text. And the reading is slightly different.

Here, Tsongkhapa reads it in the following. He reads it so that, for example, he says that when in the context of a Madhyamika critiquing the notion of self-arising that has been postulated by say, for example, Samkhya philosophers, or any other form of essential arising that Buddhist essentialists have presented, so in that context Bhavaviveka himself employs the following form of reasoning, syllogism. He says that sprouts and so on do not possess ultimately real arising because they are so and so.

And when he uses that kind of reasoning, what Chandrakirti is pointing out is that because you take it for granted that sprouts and so on do not possess ultimately real arising or ultimately real existence therefore you are already accepting that the sprouts and so on, which are the subject, are things which are posited only by conventional validation. And because they are not objects of ultimate analysis, therefore, given that they belong to the conventional reality, therefore the cognition that posits their reality is a form of a distorted cognition. They are not a cognition that perceives the ultimate nature of reality.

Given that you assume that, however, when you use that reasoning against a Samkhya, there will be no commonly shared subject because, so far as the Samkhya (the opponent) is concerned, the subject that is being examined is a phenomenon that is verified and established by…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa:…because the opponent against whom the critique of self-arising is being directed is the Samkhya School, and the Samkhya of course would maintain that the sprouts and so on, which are being presented, are verified by valid cognition which is true to their nature. So when Samkhyas and the Madhyamikas enter into a discussion pertaining to the status (ultimate status) of sprouts and so on, there will be no commonly shared understanding of the subject. So it is in this way Chandrakirti points out a contradiction in Bhavaviveka’s position.

In Lek Shay Ning Po, however, in Essence of Eloquence, Tsongkhapa reads this passage in a slightly different way, where he says that when a proponent of intrinsic nature and the proponent of a standpoint that rejects intrinsic existence enter into a debate, there cannot be a commonly verified subject because the proponent of intrinsic existence is going to make the assumption that any valid cognition of the subject …

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa:…so any validation of the subject will presuppose that that valid cognition is non-deceptive with relation to the intrinsic nature of the thing. Whereas the proponent of the standpoint that rejects intrinsic nature, when they enter into debate, is going to assume that the subject that is being examined has no intrinsic nature. So therefore any perception that relates to it as if it possessed intrinsic nature is going to be distorted.

So therefore there is no commonly accepted criteria that validates the subject that is being analyzed. So here, in this reading, Tsongkhapa is pointing out that Bhavaviveka himself becomes the object of critique. So there are slightly… two different way of reading this passage.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the main point of contention really is whether or not one accepts the notion of inherent existence; and when a valid cognition perceives an object, whether or not that valid cognition is erroneous with relation to its intrinsic nature, or whether it is not erroneous in relation to its intrinsic nature. So the main point of contention is whether or not one can accept intrinsic nature of things, intrinsic existence of things.


Two Types of Madhyamaka (cont.)5

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So here, for example in Chandrakirti’s Entering the Middle Way, after the completion of his critique of the Mind Only standpoint, there is a section where Chandrakirti critiques a particular standpoint. And if you examined this standpoint that Chandrakirti is critiquing, it is a standpoint that involves, while rejecting the notion of true existence, yet at the same time according some notion of intrinsic nature or intrinsic existence. So this is basically the Madhyamika-Svatantrika position that is being negated here. So this is a position that, while rejecting the notion of true existence, accepts some idea of…

His Holiness: [discussion with translators in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So this is a standpoint where the opponent accepts the notion of emptiness of true existence, yet at the same time accepts the notion of svalakshana, existence by means of self-defining characteristics. So here Chandrakirti levels three consequences, you know, undesirable consequences. The first consequence he levels against this is to say that, according to that standpoint, then the wisdom of the meditative equipoise of the noble aryas will become in a sense a cause for the destruction of things and events because they recognize all of these… perceive all of these to be devoid of inherent existence.

The second consequence that is leveled is…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the second consequence that is leveled against the position is to say that the conventional truths will become such that they will withstand ultimate analysis. So an example we can give is that because they take the sixth mental consciousness to be the true essence of the person (in the aftermath of searching for the essence of the person) so the person in that sense becomes a phenomenon or an entity that can withstand ultimate analysis.

And the third consequence that he levels is that then the teaching on all phenomena, all conditioned phenomena, as being devoid of ultimate arising…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

His Holiness: [brief discussion with Thupten Jinpa in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the third consequence is that, according to their standpoint, the ultimate arising still remains un-negated. So these are the three consequences that are leveled, and in that…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa:…and then also Chandrakirti …

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: He also reveals that the position is in contradiction with scripture that presents all phenomena to be emptiness of their own intrinsic nature. And here a quotation is given from…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So then Chandrakirti also points out that the position that he is critiquing also is in contradiction with the statement in one of the Buddha’s sutras, and the sutra here cites from Questions of Upali, which is part of the Ratnakuta collection. And where in this sutra the emptiness is presented as being an intrinsic emptiness, emptiness of intrinsic existence.

So when we use the word rang-tong, intrinsic emptiness, it is important to recognize that sometimes there are two different meanings of intrinsic emptiness. One is the one that is being presented here in this sutra where, for example, if one’s understanding of emptiness of form, for example, is such that you assume the form to have some kind of intrinsic nature and then you take that intrinsically real form to be the basis and then try to understand emptiness in terms of negating some kind of ultimate reality over and above this form, then that kind of emptiness does not become rang-tong. It does not become intrinsic emptiness because you leave the intrinsic nature of the form intact, and you are negating something that is over and above it. So that becomes a form of extrinsic emptiness.

So here, for example, in the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, there is a very important statement, passage, where it says that, “It is not the case that the form and so on are being emptied by emptiness but rather the form itself is emptiness.” And this is a very important point, because if your understanding is that when we are establishing emptiness somehow the form… if the assumption is made that the form is intrinsically real, and it has intrinsic existence, and that emptiness involves some kind of negating extrinsic properties over this, then this does not become real emptiness.

Therefore, when negating the object of negation here, we need to take the form—as we perceive it—and then negate its inherent existence. And when you do that then the emptiness becomes true intrinsic emptiness. So this is a very important point.

Therefore when we use the terms like rang-tong, we need to understand rang-tong (or intrinsic emptiness) can be understood in two different ways. One is the way in which the sutra Questions of Upali suggests, which is the position that Tsongkhapa accepts to be valid. There is also another way of understanding this expression rang-tong, which is to say, for example, form is devoid of form, or form is not form. So that kind of rang-tong, a negation of itself, this is a form of rang-tong that Tsongkhapa does not accept.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So on this model, the expression is used that all conventional realities are rang-tong, empty of themselves, and ultimate truth is empty of other…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: And on this view then, the ultimate truth is also understood to be ultimately real, absolute.

How to Proceed—Valid Forms of Reasoning6

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So then the question is raised that, “If the standpoint that rejects the notion of intrinsic existence rejects autonomous syllogistic reasoning, then does that mean that, in this system, there are no valid forms of reasoning at all?”

Then here Tsongkhapa says that that’s not the case. One can employ different forms of argumentations, including a form of consequential reasoning, and also forms of reasoning that take into account the perspective of the other person.

So for example, when someone is presenting, establishing, emptiness of a phenomenon to a person who continues to uphold the notion of inherent existence, until the view of emptiness arises in that person, until that point, so far as the intellectual understanding of that person is concerned, he will continue to hold onto that subject under examination as possessing inherent existence. Whereas the other member of the party, the Madhyamaka who presents the argument, will not make such supposition. So therefore there will be no commonly verified common subject.

But at the same time, the Prasangikas can still continue to use the forms of reasoning by taking into account the perspective of the other, and on that basis simply accepting a subject that is renowned, that is known, to that opponent. And on that basis one can proceed with the reasoning and analysis.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: In the conclusion of this section that we have been discussing, Tsongkhapa makes an observation which is helpful. So we read, “So when the person that is…” (this is on page 274, so it’s the fourth paragraph):

“So, when the reason that is used to prove the probandum is established for both parties with the kind of valid cognition explained previously, this is an autonomous reason. When the reason is not established in that way and the probandum is proven using the three criteria that the other party, the opponent, accepts as being present, this constitutes the Prasangika method. It is quite clear that this is what the master Chandrakirti intended.”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So here then, to continue reading, there is an outline which reads, “Which system to follow…” (so that is between the autonomous syllogism system and consequence reasoning) “…which system to follow so as to develop the view in your mind-stream.” So here Tsongkhapa writes:

“The great Madhyamikas who follow the noble father Nagarjuna and his spiritual son Aryadeva split into two different systems: Prasangika and Svatantrika. Which do we follow? Here, we are followers of the Prasangika system. Moreover, as explained previously, we refute essential or intrinsic nature even conventionally; yet all that has been taught about cyclic existence and nirvana must be fully compatible with that refutation. Therefore, you should…”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: And then Tsongkhapa explains that… so having stated that it is the Prasangika system that one will follow in establishing the view of emptiness, he then explains in the third major outline the manner in which the view (the correct view of emptiness) arises within one on the basis of such a method. And here this is explained in the following presentation of the selflessness of ‘person’… presentation of selflessness of phenomena, and how, on the basis of familiarizing the view, the obscurations are eliminated.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the presentation of the selflessness of phenomena (the emptiness of ‘person’) is really done by means of drawing analogy with analysis of the chariot. And the chariot, being the composite entity which is composed of its various parts, this is subject to a seven-fold analysis. And when (subject to a seven-fold analysis) the chariot is proven to be un-findable, then in the same manner one analyzes the relationship between the self (or the ‘person’) and the aggregates in the similarly seven-fold manner. And in this way one establishes the emptiness of inherent existence of the ‘person’.

And once you have established the emptiness of inherent existence of the ‘person’, then one will also be able to extend that analysis to the ‘mine’, the things that belong… the possessions of that ‘person’, and in this way also demonstrate the emptiness of not just ‘I’ but also ‘mine’.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So this is followed by, then, a presentation of the selflessness of phenomena. And here the principal reason…one of the reasons that is used is by means of analyzing the arising in four possible ways. So it’s the four-fold analysis of arising.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So it is in fact in the context of the analysis of the arising by means of the four possibilities where Buddhapalita’s presentation of Nagarjuna’s text was subject to extensive criticism by…critiqued by Bhavaviveka. And it was Chandrakirti who demonstrated that the criticisms, the objections, by Bhavaviveka do not really apply to Buddhapalita’s position. And in the course of this debate, this whole discussion on whether or not one can accept a commonly verified, shared, subject that we discussed came into being.

The Heart of the Path to Liberation7

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So the third outline that we will look at now is how, on the basis of familiarizing these views, the obscurations come to be eliminated.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So here Tsongkhapa writes the following (on page 320, it’s the fifth or sixth paragraph), where we read that, “After you have seen that…” This is after the outline, “How to eliminate obscurations by becoming accustomed to those views.” He writes:

“After you have seen that the self and that which belongs to the self lack even the slightest particle of intrinsic nature, you can accustom yourself to these facts, thereby stopping the reifying view of the perishing aggregates as the self and that which belongs to the self. When you stop that view, you will stop the four types of grasping—grasping that holds onto what you want, and so on—explained earlier.”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: Sorry. And:

“When you stop these, existence conditioned by attachment will not occur; hence, there will be an end to the rebirth of the aggregates conditioned by existence; you will attain liberation. Nagarjuna’s Fundamental Treatise [Wisdom] says:

Because of the pacification of the self and that which the self owns,
The conception ‘I’ and the conception ‘mine’ will be gone.”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So here (this is on page 321) there are a couple of sentences where Tsongkhapa really sums up the importance of the understanding of emptiness, and he says that:

“Thus, afflictions such as attachment and hostility—rooted in the reifying view of the perishing aggregates—are produced from such misconceptions. These misconceptions operate mistakenly only by clinging to the notion, “This is real,” in regard to the eight worldly concerns, or men and women, or pot, cloth, form, or feeling. Since it is these misconceptions that conceive those objects, they are generated from the elaboration of conceptions of true existence.”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: Okay, so here we read on page 322…

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So, citing from Chandrakirti, then Tsongkhapa comments, “This passage proves that the view of emptiness…” (this is on page 322) “…the view of emptiness cuts the root of cyclic existence and is the heart of the path to liberation. Hence, you must gain firm certainty about this.”

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So what this shows is that, unless we don’t want to think about what is meant by liberation at all—so long as we wish to think about liberation—there is no choice but to cultivate the understanding of emptiness.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: Then the text proceeds with the explanation of the various types of special insight, vipassana; and then the manner in which one should cultivate and maintain the special insight; and then also how to unite the tranquil abiding and special insight.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: And then there is a summary of the entire path.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: And then there is a section on how to, you know, train in the path of the Vajrayana.

His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

The Great Treatise—“A Thousand Doses in One Dose”, “Every Day, Learn One Page” 8

His Holiness: So,—now completed! Thank you. Thank you. So if you properly… how do you say…if I give teaching of this, then it takes months.

Then properly practice, it takes many decades. But we have to do. There is no other choice. My own case, I think at age around fifteen, sixteen, I developed genuine interest about, you see, these teachings. Now, over seventy-three. Still, this is main text, or main guidance way…

Thupten Jinpa: …guide…main guide. Guide book. His Holiness: [in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So generally there is a convention in the Tibetan tradition to refer to those texts that are very comprehensive as calling them, “A thousand doses in one—one dose.” So Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo is like one of those tong thun, you know, a thousand doses in one dose.

His Holiness: [begins in Tibetan] …I think generally the… every Lama Tsongkhapa’s sort of commentary, you see, all those… the hardest sort of passage usually, you see, he tries to explain. This is something very unique.

So therefore, naturally, his own text also becomes difficult. But that is highly necessary. Although his sort of texts only eighteen volumes but hardly no sort of simple sort of text. Every one something really weightful…

Thupten Jinpa:…weighty…

His Holiness: …and then his own writing style—also wonderful. The use, I think, minimum word but bring the maximum meaning. That is a special sort of gift for his writing, like that.

So therefore I, as a simple Buddhist monk, I’m extremely happy, some lecture on this book, on this text.

So of course, my own sort of knowledge—still very limited. And then experience—even far less. But I am very happy—very, very, very fortunate—you see, reading this book.

So, look at teacher. Now, since around sixteen years old, now ‘til seventy-three—still working on it.

So you see you also, you see, have to think—the study, as well as practice, takes many, many years. So should not feel, how do you say… discouraged, or… demoralized.

Even one day, every day, learn one page. That’s enough. Good. Then hundred days— hundred pages. Thousand days—thousand pages. Okay.

Even, I think, the construction of external thing, it takes time. Now construction in our mind, it takes time. So, not easy. But one hundred percent sort of assurance this can change, can improve. That much, from my own experience, I can assure you. If we make effort continuously, without losing interest, without losing determination, things can change. Things will improve.

So then eventually, our aim is genuine experience of infinite altruism and understanding of ultimate reality. Through that way, as a Buddhist, our final destination—Buddhahood.

So, now—let us start—from now to that final destination!

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

His Holiness: [begins in Tibetan]…Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.


His Holiness: Now, as a tradition…[continues in Tibetan]

Thupten Jinpa: So, as it is customary during the lam-rim teachings, today we will chant the lam rim dedication verse, and we will do that in English so the…

His Holiness: …English, English…

Thupten Jinpa: …aspiration part of the dedication verse is on page 368, stanza number 4 on that page. So we will read the lines together. It starts from “By accumulating…”:

By accumulating through long effort
The two collections as vast as the sky
May I become the chief of the conquerors,
Guide of all beings whose minds are blinded by ignorance.

Also, in all lives until I reach that point
May Manjughosa look after me with loving-kindness. After I find the supreme path, complete in the stages of the teaching,
By accomplishing it may I please the conquerors.

By skill in means inspired by strong loving-kindness,
May the vital points of the path that I precisely know
Clear away the mental darkness of beings.
May I then uphold the Conqueror’s teachings for a long time.

In regions where the supreme, precious teaching has not spread
Or where it has spread but then declined,
May I illumine that treasure of happiness and benefit
With a mind deeply moved by great compassion.

May this treatise on the stages of the path to enlightenment,
Well-founded on the wondrous deeds of the conquerors and their children,
Bring glory to the minds of those who want to be free,
And long preserve the Conqueror’s achievements.

As for all who provide conditions that support integration of the good path
And clear away conditions that inhibit that integration–
Whether they are human or not, may they never be separated in all their lifetimes
From the pure path praised by the Conquerors.

When I strive to properly achieve the supreme vehicle
Through the ten deeds of the teaching,
May I be accompanied always by those who have power,
And may an ocean of good fortune pervade all directions.

His Holiness: Thank you. [continues in Tibetan]

Long Life Prayer for His Holiness

His Holiness: [brief discussion with Joshua Cutler in Tibetan] …okay, first, I think…

Thupten Jinpa: You want to do this first?

Joshua Cutler: First of all I’d like to thank Your Holiness for your wonderful teachings. Our teacher, our founder, Geshe Wangyal, always referred to Your Holiness as Yeshe Norbu. And so then I understand that means “wish-granting jewel” so every time I meet Your Holiness I always feel those words, that my wishes are being fulfilled. Your insightful… what can I say?

That just… I understand how… I thought when I invited Your Holiness that you could provide us with the heart of these teachings and I feel you led us to the heart, and though it might take many days, or many weeks, to really teach this book, I feel that we received the heart of this book in these six days of teachings. And only a great scholar of the Buddha’s Dharma is capable of doing that.

So then I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank many people but in particular the translator, Geshe… Dr. Thupten Jinpa.

And then as most of us here haven’t been aware of it but then we’ve had two translators in the back rooms here, Jamyang Rinchen doing the Chinese and also Li Bui doing the Vietnamese. We’d like to thank them.

And then of course there’s all the people who made this possible. Starting with the President of Lehigh, Alice Gast, and all our friends who make up the Lehigh family.

And Chief Shup and all the marvelous security officers who have been our dharma protectors for all these past few days, including all the members of the diplomatic security service that our federal government has provided.

Sorry, it’s a bit of a list because there’s so many people that have done this… And then Rich Fritz who’s the director of Stabler Arena and all his marvelous crew that put this all together for us…

And then of course all the wonderful volunteers who gave their time to spend these past six days with us…

And then finally, but not the least, all our dear friends at the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center who gave so much I can’t… I kind of got stuck on the words…

And then… well now maybe…let’s see… I’d like all of you to join together with me, as I said before, to say this one verse for His Holiness’s long life, and we’ll recite it together three times:

In that pure land surrounded by snowy mountains,
You are the source of all benefit and happiness.
All powerful Avalokiteshvara, Tenzin Gyatso,
May you stay until samsara’s end.

In that pure land surrounded by snowy mountains,
You are the source of all benefit and happiness.
All powerful Avalokiteshvara, Tenzin Gyatso,
May you stay until samsara’s end.

In that pure land surrounded by snowy mountains,
You are the source of all benefit and happiness.
All powerful Avalokiteshvara, Tenzin Gyatso,
May you stay until samsara’s end.

So now I’m going to do the traditional offering. [conducted in Tibetan]

His Holiness: [His Holiness refuses an offered donation] I do not want to receive any.

[The ceremony continues with scarves being offered]

Thank you. Thank you very much.

His Holiness: [discussion with Joshua Cutler in Tibetan]

Joshua Cutler: I’d like to introduce my wonderful friend who’s made this all possible, the event coordinator, Lynn Teale, and she’s going to read our… well, the results of everything, and our financial statement.

Lynn Teale: As of 2:15 this afternoon, the gross revenues for these teachings were $1,138,798.00. Through today, the expenses totaled approximately $1,110,000.00, but may still increase to no more than $1,175,000.00 once all the bills and expenses have been received over the next few weeks.

The Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center expects to break even, or show only a slight loss. However, any surplus will be donated to charities that have been approved by His Holiness’s Office of Tibet in New York City.

Thank you. 


1 See Guy Newland, From Here to Enlightenment, ch. 14: 176-177. [Return to text]

2 When His Holiness is reading from the original Tibetan Lamrim Chenmo, Dr. Jinpa sometimes translates directly from the Tibetan and sometimes reads from the Great Treatise English edition of Lamrim Chenmo. Occasionally he provides his own terminology so there will be some small differences between his translation and the English edition. Two differences are his use of “dependent origination” instead of the Great Treatise “dependent arising” and “Middle Way” instead of the Great Treatise “Madhyamaka.” [Return to text]

3 See Newland, ch. 14: 177-179. [Return to text]

4 See Newland, ch. 14: 170-172. [Return to text]

5 See Newland, ch. 14:172-173. [Return to text]

6 See Newland. Ch. 14: 173-175. [Return to text]

7 See Newland, ch. 14: 175-176. [Return to text]

8 See Newland, ch. 15. [Return to text]