Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

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Matt J
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Matt J »

That is incorrect--- the Rangtong and Shentong views are not mutually exclusive. Typically, the Shentong is considered to be of the tradition of Asanga, and Rangtong to be of Nagarjuna. However, the Kagyus have not selected one over the other. Rather, they hold both Nagarjuna and Asanga in high regard and accept both. Accordingly, the Shentong refers to the wisdom aspect while Rangtong refers to the emptiness aspect. In the Kagyu tradition, these two aspects are unified. Second, you are confusing the concepts of permanence with permanence. This is why it is best not to learn these things merely from books, but also from live teachers who give experiential instructions (not directed at scmj, but to others reading). Nor can we simply cherry pick quotations and treat them like geometrical axioms. The tradition is presented organically, as a whole. Nevertheless, I have assembled a number of quotes that expressly contradict the assertions made here.

I. No Contradiction Between Shentong and Rangtong

First off, KTGR's Progressive Stages does not present the division of emptiness as a series of contradictory teachings. Rather, the concept of emptiness is further refined, experientially, from phase to phase. From this perspective, Madhyamaka does not contradict Sravaka, but it takes it further. Shentong is not in contradiction to Rangtong, but a further refinement of it. This is why KGTR wrote a whole book on Nagarjuna called the Sun of Wisdom.

Which is why KGTR stated in Stars of Wisdom p.57:
In fact, however, there is no contradiction [between Shentong and Rangtong], because all of the terms used by the Empty-of-Other tradition are merely conventional expressions describing the buddha nature, which in genuine reality is beyond existence and nonexistence. The buddha nature's existence is only posited conventionally. So, in this verse, when it says "empty-of-other," that is merely an expression. It is a term used to communicate. Such terms themselves are not ultimate reality--- they are conventional assertions, but the nature to which they refer is the ultimate.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in Shentong & Rangtong: Two Views of Emptiness p.120-21:
Some masters claim that Nagarjuna's teachings are good and Asanga's are not. Some say that Asanga's teachings are superior to Nagarjuna's. Some claim that Shentong is superior to Rangtong or vice versa. The people who argue in this manner are not correct because they have not had the good fortune to be able to learn and contemplate the dharma teachings properly and attain the necessary understanding to evaluate them....

Although Nagarjuna taught emptiness while Asanga taught Buddha-nature, clarity, and wisdom, both of these masters offered an explanation of the Middle Way. The Middle Way is the ultimate meaning of both traditions...

...Having understood the absence of reality, we go on to the ultimate aspect in which there isn't just plain emptiness but there is Buddha-nature, clarity, and ultimate wisdom, as explained in the Shentong tradition. The Shentong tradition, therefore, clarifies the Rangtong teachings, and the Rangtong teachings clarify the Shentong teachings. They both assist each other. We can see that there is no contradiction between them, but that they mutually assist each other.
Nor is this a Kagyu position, per Khenchen Paden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoches in Opening the Wisdom Doors of the Rangtong and Shentong Views:
Question: Is there a contradiction between the tathagatagarbha and the Madhyamaka point of view?

Answer: As Mipham Rinpoche states, to believe that Tathagatagarbha is a substantially existent thing would contradict the teachings of both Nagarjuna and the Prajnaparamita Sutras. From Mipham's perspective, there is no contradiction between tathagatagarbha and Nagarjuna's teachings; nor is there any contradiction between the teachings of Asanga and Nagarjuna; nor is there a contradiction between the Rangtong and Shentong schools of thought. The great masters simply emphasized the different aspects of the nature.
II. Don't Confuse Terms with Reality

Second, the terms used by Shentongpas doe not refer to the same thing that other religions indicate:

Per SK Hookham (also a Kagyu lama), Buddha Within, p.16:
Whereas Rangtong is accessible though both logical analysis and meditation experience Shentong is only accessible through meditation experience. It is Reality as revealed to the Yogi and, at a verbal level, can only be taught through intimation, imagery, symbols and so forth.
In Buddhanature, p.343 KGTR writes:
The tirthikas, such as different Hindu traditions and so on, hold the belief of there being a self or atman that is eternal, unique, and independent. This self or atman is called "true self." The term “perfection of true self” is to be understood as follows: The tirthikas, such as different Hindu traditions and so on, hold the belief of there being a self or atman that is eternal (Tib. rtag pa), unique (Tib. gcig), and independent (Tib. rang dbang). This self or atman is called “true self.” The shravakas and so on remedy this belief by the meditation on the non-existence of a self. They meditate that everything does not exist as a self at all, that everything is nothing but sheer voidness. The belief in the existence of an eternal, unique, and independent self is a wrong concept and perception. While the recognition that everything is utterly non-existent constitutes a valid remedy for this wrong perception of the tirthikas, it is in its turn also distorted in that it does not correspond to the ultimate nature of everything either.

The ultimate nature of everything is a state of peace completely beyond the conceptual elaboration in terms of the existence of a self or the non-existence of a self. If, for instance, while dreaming one thinks in terms of “self” and “I,” attachment to one’s body will arise born from the belief in an existing self. This is a mistaken reaction based on a deluded concept. If, while dreaming, one thinks that a self does not exist at all and therefore takes this body to be nothing but empty, this is also a deluded thought. In truth it is beyond any of these conceptual elaborations.

There is a great difference between “true self” as taught in the Hindu traditions and as taught in the Mahayana system. In the first sense the term “true self” denotes a self that is eternal, unique, and independent. “True self” as taught in the Uttara Tantra Shastra is equivalent to the state of peace in terms of complete freedom from any conceptual elaboration. This state of peace has only been given the name of “true self.” There is a mere similarity in terms. The Mahayana system does not hold the view of an eternal, unique, and independent self. Between light and darkness, for instance, there is only a similarity inasmuch as they are both things (Skt. bh›va, Tib. dngos po) fulfilling a function. Apart from that they contradict each other; there is not the slightest similarity. (emphasis and paragraphs added)
When speaking specifically about permanence, KGTR states (in Tony Duff's The Other Emptiness p.178):
Mind's actuality sugatagarbha has the nature of indestructibility, permanence, and nonchange. The supporting scripture for this is found in The Great Vehicle Highest Continuum. Explanations of it point out that permanence here means the great permanence "beyond permanence and impermanence," not permanence in the normal sense, and therefore this positing of permanence does not impose true existence on mind's actuality.
Back to KTR in Shentong and Rangtong, p.115:
The Shentong tradition holds that there is an element (Skt. dhatu) or Buddha-nature (Skt. tathagata-garbha), also known as the dharmadhatu, and this element contains all of the qualities of Buddhahood and its nature is emptiness. Buddha-nature is present in all beings at all times. It is realized at the attainment of enlightenment. But Buddha-nature is not the same as a permanent or eternal self (Skt. atman) posited by many Hindu religions. It is not the self, because the self is thought of as a real entity, whereas the Buddha-nature does not exist as an entity. Rather, Buddha-nature is devoid of its own nature. It is empty. Therefore, it is not the same as a self. By removing obscurations and by realizing the Buddha-nature, living beings will achieve Buddhahood.
Incidentally, this is also the point of the criticism of the six views of the base you cited by Kongtrul. Per Longchenpa and Vimalamitra (see Buddhahood in this Life), these views are partial and conceptual. Vimalamitra compares it to some one talking of a city they've never been to, and Longchenpa (Precious Treasury of the Genuine Meaning) speaks of it as six people holding different parts of an elephant.
smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:31 pm
Matt J wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:58 pm Stop right there--- emptiness in a general Mahayana context and an eternal infinite metaphysical substance are exactly the opposite. Emptiness typically refers to the unfindability of self and phenomenon, or to put it another way, the absence of any unitary, independent, permanent self.
Bingo. That is self=emptiness, the Rangtong view that is not accepted as the highest view in Shentong. Nagarjuna and Prajnaparamita are considered lower schools than Shentong. Their Madhyamaka deconstruction is considered applicable only to something that can be taken as an object of consciousness, so therefore the Wisdom Mind is not subject to Madhyamaka analysis.
"Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness" p.66:
KTGR wrote:This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the object of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madhyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it (the Wisdom Mind) can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.
"The essence of meditation practice is to let go of all your expectations about meditation. All the qualities of your natural mind -- peace, openness, relaxation, and clarity -- are present in your mind just as it is. You don't have to do anything different. You don't have to shift or change your awareness. All you have to do while observing your mind is to recognize the qualities it already has."
--- Yongey Mingyur Rinpoche
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus »

smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:29 pmUltimately established Wisdom Mind.
Wisdom Mind is jnana, knowledge, and in particular the knowledge of suchness, the absence of apprehender and apprehended. It is not like God, because it is not an entity, nor is it the basis of entities, as the whole world emerges from ignorance, not knowledge, and continues to exist because of ignorance. Although beyond the impure mind there is the pure mind, saying that knowledge causes ignorance would be quite problematic.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by tobes »

PeterC wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:30 am
tobes wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 10:37 am Well, in that case the Buddha himself would have to be censored - the Nikayas are filled with countless dialogues with non-Buddhists. Should we never mention them? And we'd have to rule out any examination of Chandrakirti, who begins his Madhamakavatara with an examination of causation in Samkhya (and incidentally, offers us a definition of Atman in the same text)......I could go on and on.

I can understand your concern that attaining the view in practice is really what is important. That's great, I hold the same opinion. But perhaps you should distinguish between your own practical concerns and the more general dialogue which could be helpful to other people. i.e. you don't really need to write anything if you truly don't think it is worthwhile to do so.
You’re making this far more complicated than it needs to be. OP posted a question about a position which is thoroughly rejected in all lineages. Many people said as much. The thread nonetheless continued with various intellectual excursions. I expressed surprise that this was still being discussed as if it were an open question, and subsequently explained why. It feels at this point that you’re trying to prolong a discussion which really has nowhere to go.

It seems you’re not too familiar with the Kagyu lineage. It describes itself as the “practice lineage” - somewhat modestly, as it has produced some very great scholars. It does so because it emphasizes practice over spending our very limited time in this life on intellectual pursuits. So you will not find much appetite for comparative religion in this particular school.

And with that, I’ll take my leave.
1. You should not make assumptions about what other people practice.
2. Please engage with my actual argument. It is this: it is not "comparative religion" to discuss philosophical topics that all the great Buddhist philosophers themselves discuss.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by tobes »

Btw last night I had a look at K. Brunnoholzl's chapter on Shentong/Rangtong. Quite relevant for this thread, in the following way:

He argues that the distinction is not found anywhere in Indian Madhyamaka, and that it pertains to the difference between Asanga's Yogacara & Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka, which are simply not mutually exclusive. But the important point for me is that in his argument he traces and uncovers some deeply polemical, very unjustified and widespread assumptions about Yogacara......and he urges students of Buddhadharma in the west to look into to these questions themselves, rather than taking as gospel how they have been presented in the (often political) context of Tibetan Buddhism.

Contrary to other opinions on this thread, I think far more harm is done in not doing this, than in doing it.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Btw last night I had a look at K. Brunnoholzl's chapter on Shentong/Rangtong. Quite relevant for this thread, in the following way:
Which book?
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Astus wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:28 pm
smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:29 pmUltimately established Wisdom Mind.
Wisdom Mind is jnana, knowledge, and in particular the knowledge of suchness, the absence of apprehender and apprehended. It is not like God, because it is not an entity, nor is it the basis of entities, as the whole world emerges from ignorance, not knowledge, and continues to exist because of ignorance. Although beyond the impure mind there is the pure mind, saying that knowledge causes ignorance would be quite problematic.
You’re hip to the fact that we’re not talking about a given individuals mind, right? Think Dharmadhatu.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Matt wrote:Back eto KTR in Shentong and Rangtong, p.115:
The Shentong tradition holds that there is an element (Skt. dhatu) or Buddha-nature (Skt. tathagata-garbha), also known as the dharmadhatu, and this element contains all of the qualities of Buddhahood and its nature is emptiness. Buddha-nature is present in all beings at all times. It is realized at the attainment of enlightenment. But Buddha-nature is not the same as a permanent or eternal self (Skt. atman) posited by many Hindu religions. It is not the self, because the self is thought of as a real entity, whereas the Buddha-nature does not exist as an entity. Rather, Buddha-nature is devoid of its own nature. It is empty. Therefore, it is not the same as a self. By removing obscurations and by realizing the Buddha-nature, living beings will achieve Buddhahood.

My apologies. If you think this refuted my position I obviously I haven’t made myself clear. I’ve never put forward a type of atman in Shentong view. The big difference is in how the individual is seen. KTGR points to this to show that Shentong is not the same as Advaita Vedanta, as well he should. If you go through and look at all the citations where KTGR is denying that Shentong isn’t Advaita Vedanta I think you’ll see he will always focus on atman, not Brahman. There’s a reason for that.

I have put forward a Dharmadhatu=Buddha Nature=Other Empty, transpersonal Dharmakaya, etc. . This has a parallel to Brahman. KTGR carefully affirms the Other Empty without drawing attention to the similarity with Brahman, as well he should.

Atman, no.
Brahman, yes—at least in terms of view.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus »

smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:01 pmYou’re hip to the fact that we’re not talking about a given individuals mind, right? Think Dharmadhatu.
Dharmadhatu as the ultimate nature of everything is emptiness, only as the ultimate nature of sentient beings is there emptiness with awareness. In other words, insentient entities are neither conscious nor capable of developing or possessing any level of wisdom. Furthermore, minds are not shared on any level.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Astus wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:31 pm
smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:01 pmYou’re hip to the fact that we’re not talking about a given individuals mind, right? Think Dharmadhatu.
Dharmadhatu as the ultimate nature of everything is emptiness, only as the ultimate nature of sentient beings is there emptiness with awareness. In other words, insentient entities are neither conscious nor capable of developing or possessing any level of wisdom. Furthermore, minds are not shared on any level.
That’s Nagarjuna’s view.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Wayfarer »

tobes wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 10:55 pm Btw last night I had a look at K. Brunnoholzl's chapter on Shentong/Rangtong. Quite relevant for this thread, in the following way:

He argues that the distinction is not found anywhere in Indian Madhyamaka, and that it pertains to the difference between Asanga's Yogacara & Nagarjuna's Madhyamaka, which are simply not mutually exclusive. But the important point for me is that in his argument he traces and uncovers some deeply polemical, very unjustified and widespread assumptions about Yogacara......and he urges students of Buddhadharma in the west to look into to these questions themselves, rather than taking as gospel how they have been presented in the (often political) context of Tibetan Buddhism.

Contrary to other opinions on this thread, I think far more harm is done in not doing this, than in doing it.
It seems to me that there's an inherited set of views, often intermingled with Tibetan philosophy, which has developed over centuries. Western students of Tibetan Buddhism will often absorb these ideas along with the teaching, but without really being aware of the original rationale. (I have found the deployment of the term 'tirthika' a bit of a red flag in this regard, as it means 'heretic' or something similar, and is invariably used to differentiate the 'pure doctrine' from outside influences. It is generally dismissive or derogatory.)
Astus wrote:Dharmadhatu as the ultimate nature of everything is emptiness, only as the ultimate nature of sentient beings is there emptiness with awareness.
So, empty of relative phenomena, but not empty of own-being, a facet of which is awareness (cit).
'Only practice with no gaining idea' ~ Suzuki Roshi
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by conebeckham »

Matt J wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 9:09 pm That is incorrect--- the Rangtong and Shentong views are not mutually exclusive. Typically, the Shentong is considered to be of the tradition of Asanga, and Rangtong to be of Nagarjuna. However, the Kagyus have not selected one over the other. Rather, they hold both Nagarjuna and Asanga in high regard and accept both. Accordingly, the Shentong refers to the wisdom aspect while Rangtong refers to the emptiness aspect. In the Kagyu tradition, these two aspects are unified. Second, you are confusing the concepts of permanence with permanence. This is why it is best not to learn these things merely from books, but also from live teachers who give experiential instructions (not directed at scmj, but to others reading). Nor can we simply cherry pick quotations and treat them like geometrical axioms. The tradition is presented organically, as a whole. Nevertheless, I have assembled a number of quotes that expressly contradict the assertions made here.

I. No Contradiction Between Shentong and Rangtong

First off, KTGR's Progressive Stages does not present the division of emptiness as a series of contradictory teachings. Rather, the concept of emptiness is further refined, experientially, from phase to phase. From this perspective, Madhyamaka does not contradict Sravaka, but it takes it further. Shentong is not in contradiction to Rangtong, but a further refinement of it. This is why KGTR wrote a whole book on Nagarjuna called the Sun of Wisdom.

Which is why KGTR stated in Stars of Wisdom p.57:
In fact, however, there is no contradiction [between Shentong and Rangtong], because all of the terms used by the Empty-of-Other tradition are merely conventional expressions describing the buddha nature, which in genuine reality is beyond existence and nonexistence. The buddha nature's existence is only posited conventionally. So, in this verse, when it says "empty-of-other," that is merely an expression. It is a term used to communicate. Such terms themselves are not ultimate reality--- they are conventional assertions, but the nature to which they refer is the ultimate.
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in Shentong & Rangtong: Two Views of Emptiness p.120-21:
Some masters claim that Nagarjuna's teachings are good and Asanga's are not. Some say that Asanga's teachings are superior to Nagarjuna's. Some claim that Shentong is superior to Rangtong or vice versa. The people who argue in this manner are not correct because they have not had the good fortune to be able to learn and contemplate the dharma teachings properly and attain the necessary understanding to evaluate them....

Although Nagarjuna taught emptiness while Asanga taught Buddha-nature, clarity, and wisdom, both of these masters offered an explanation of the Middle Way. The Middle Way is the ultimate meaning of both traditions...

...Having understood the absence of reality, we go on to the ultimate aspect in which there isn't just plain emptiness but there is Buddha-nature, clarity, and ultimate wisdom, as explained in the Shentong tradition. The Shentong tradition, therefore, clarifies the Rangtong teachings, and the Rangtong teachings clarify the Shentong teachings. They both assist each other. We can see that there is no contradiction between them, but that they mutually assist each other.
Nor is this a Kagyu position, per Khenchen Paden Sherab and Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoches in Opening the Wisdom Doors of the Rangtong and Shentong Views:
Question: Is there a contradiction between the tathagatagarbha and the Madhyamaka point of view?

Answer: As Mipham Rinpoche states, to believe that Tathagatagarbha is a substantially existent thing would contradict the teachings of both Nagarjuna and the Prajnaparamita Sutras. From Mipham's perspective, there is no contradiction between tathagatagarbha and Nagarjuna's teachings; nor is there any contradiction between the teachings of Asanga and Nagarjuna; nor is there a contradiction between the Rangtong and Shentong schools of thought. The great masters simply emphasized the different aspects of the nature.
II. Don't Confuse Terms with Reality

Second, the terms used by Shentongpas doe not refer to the same thing that other religions indicate:

Per SK Hookham (also a Kagyu lama), Buddha Within, p.16:
Whereas Rangtong is accessible though both logical analysis and meditation experience Shentong is only accessible through meditation experience. It is Reality as revealed to the Yogi and, at a verbal level, can only be taught through intimation, imagery, symbols and so forth.
In Buddhanature, p.343 KGTR writes:
The tirthikas, such as different Hindu traditions and so on, hold the belief of there being a self or atman that is eternal, unique, and independent. This self or atman is called "true self." The term “perfection of true self” is to be understood as follows: The tirthikas, such as different Hindu traditions and so on, hold the belief of there being a self or atman that is eternal (Tib. rtag pa), unique (Tib. gcig), and independent (Tib. rang dbang). This self or atman is called “true self.” The shravakas and so on remedy this belief by the meditation on the non-existence of a self. They meditate that everything does not exist as a self at all, that everything is nothing but sheer voidness. The belief in the existence of an eternal, unique, and independent self is a wrong concept and perception. While the recognition that everything is utterly non-existent constitutes a valid remedy for this wrong perception of the tirthikas, it is in its turn also distorted in that it does not correspond to the ultimate nature of everything either.

The ultimate nature of everything is a state of peace completely beyond the conceptual elaboration in terms of the existence of a self or the non-existence of a self. If, for instance, while dreaming one thinks in terms of “self” and “I,” attachment to one’s body will arise born from the belief in an existing self. This is a mistaken reaction based on a deluded concept. If, while dreaming, one thinks that a self does not exist at all and therefore takes this body to be nothing but empty, this is also a deluded thought. In truth it is beyond any of these conceptual elaborations.

There is a great difference between “true self” as taught in the Hindu traditions and as taught in the Mahayana system. In the first sense the term “true self” denotes a self that is eternal, unique, and independent. “True self” as taught in the Uttara Tantra Shastra is equivalent to the state of peace in terms of complete freedom from any conceptual elaboration. This state of peace has only been given the name of “true self.” There is a mere similarity in terms. The Mahayana system does not hold the view of an eternal, unique, and independent self. Between light and darkness, for instance, there is only a similarity inasmuch as they are both things (Skt. bh›va, Tib. dngos po) fulfilling a function. Apart from that they contradict each other; there is not the slightest similarity. (emphasis and paragraphs added)
When speaking specifically about permanence, KGTR states (in Tony Duff's The Other Emptiness p.178):
Mind's actuality sugatagarbha has the nature of indestructibility, permanence, and nonchange. The supporting scripture for this is found in The Great Vehicle Highest Continuum. Explanations of it point out that permanence here means the great permanence "beyond permanence and impermanence," not permanence in the normal sense, and therefore this positing of permanence does not impose true existence on mind's actuality.
Back to KTR in Shentong and Rangtong, p.115:
The Shentong tradition holds that there is an element (Skt. dhatu) or Buddha-nature (Skt. tathagata-garbha), also known as the dharmadhatu, and this element contains all of the qualities of Buddhahood and its nature is emptiness. Buddha-nature is present in all beings at all times. It is realized at the attainment of enlightenment. But Buddha-nature is not the same as a permanent or eternal self (Skt. atman) posited by many Hindu religions. It is not the self, because the self is thought of as a real entity, whereas the Buddha-nature does not exist as an entity. Rather, Buddha-nature is devoid of its own nature. It is empty. Therefore, it is not the same as a self. By removing obscurations and by realizing the Buddha-nature, living beings will achieve Buddhahood.
Incidentally, this is also the point of the criticism of the six views of the base you cited by Kongtrul. Per Longchenpa and Vimalamitra (see Buddhahood in this Life), these views are partial and conceptual. Vimalamitra compares it to some one talking of a city they've never been to, and Longchenpa (Precious Treasury of the Genuine Meaning) speaks of it as six people holding different parts of an elephant.
smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:31 pm
Matt J wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 6:58 pm

Stop right there--- emptiness in a general Mahayana context and an eternal infinite metaphysical substance are exactly the opposite. Emptiness typically refers to the unfindability of self and phenomenon, or to put it another way, the absence of any unitary, independent, permanent self.
Bingo. That is self=emptiness, the Rangtong view that is not accepted as the highest view in Shentong. Nagarjuna and Prajnaparamita are considered lower schools than Shentong. Their Madhyamaka deconstruction is considered applicable only to something that can be taken as an object of consciousness, so therefore the Wisdom Mind is not subject to Madhyamaka analysis.
"Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness" p.66:
KTGR wrote:This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the object of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madhyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it (the Wisdom Mind) can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.
Good stuff, and I believe it summarizes the Kagyu position. Views are, after all, views. They depend on a viewer, and the viewer can approach the same "object" from various points of view. In the end, the Kagyu view is that all conceptual assertions or negations are merely prapanca. The cornerstone of the Kagyu lineages is Mahamudra, which is experiental, and not based on conceptual understanding. But--that is not to knock conceptual understanding. It's good--to a point.
དམ་པའི་དོན་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ཆེ་བ་དང་།
རྟོག་གེའི་ཡུལ་མིན་བླ་མའི་བྱིན་རླབས་དང་།
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དེ་ནི་ཤེས་རབ་ལ་ནི་ལོ་རྟོག་སེལ།།


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It is realized through the blessing grace of the Guru and fortunate Karmic potential.
Like this, mistaken ideas of discriminating wisdom are clarified."
- (Kyabje Bokar Rinpoche, from his summary of "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning")
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by tobes »

smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 10:59 pm
Btw last night I had a look at K. Brunnoholzl's chapter on Shentong/Rangtong. Quite relevant for this thread, in the following way:
Which book?
The Centre of the Sunlit Sky. It's pretty solid, albeit a bit unruly in places.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus »

smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:33 pmThat’s Nagarjuna’s view.
The enlightenment of the insentient is a concept you can find in East Asian Buddhism, but not in Tibetan Buddhism. However, please provide a source for this idea taught in Shentong that the insentient have wisdom. In the meantime:

The Expanse of the Basic Element of Being
When used in terms of ultimate reality, the Sanskrit words dharmadhātu or just dhātu are understood in two main ways, which are reflected by two different Tibetan words that translate the latter term. In its most general way, dhātu in dharmadhātu refers to the ultimate nature of all phenomena—being equivalent to emptiness—which is usually translated into Tibetan as dbyings (“expanse,” “space” or “vastness”). If dhātu signifies specifically the nature of the mind of sentient beings in the sense of buddha nature as the most basic element of their entire being, it is typically rendered as khams (lit. “element”). To be sure, these two meanings and their Tibetan renderings are not necessarily regarded or employed in a mutually exclusive way. Still, generally speaking, they represent the understanding of (dharma)dhātu in Madhyamaka texts and the texts on buddha nature, respectively. Obviously, in the Dharmadhātustava and its commentaries, the term is clearly used in the latter way.

(Brunnhölzl, In Praise of Dharmadhātu, p 63-64)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Astus »

Wayfarer wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:54 pm
Astus wrote:Dharmadhatu as the ultimate nature of everything is emptiness, only as the ultimate nature of sentient beings is there emptiness with awareness.
So, empty of relative phenomena, but not empty of own-being, a facet of which is awareness (cit).
Only buddha-nature is called other-empty, but it does not have any 'cit', only 'jnana'.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by tobes »

smcj wrote: Sat Mar 23, 2019 11:13 pm
Matt wrote:Back eto KTR in Shentong and Rangtong, p.115:
The Shentong tradition holds that there is an element (Skt. dhatu) or Buddha-nature (Skt. tathagata-garbha), also known as the dharmadhatu, and this element contains all of the qualities of Buddhahood and its nature is emptiness. Buddha-nature is present in all beings at all times. It is realized at the attainment of enlightenment. But Buddha-nature is not the same as a permanent or eternal self (Skt. atman) posited by many Hindu religions. It is not the self, because the self is thought of as a real entity, whereas the Buddha-nature does not exist as an entity. Rather, Buddha-nature is devoid of its own nature. It is empty. Therefore, it is not the same as a self. By removing obscurations and by realizing the Buddha-nature, living beings will achieve Buddhahood.

My apologies. If you think this refuted my position I obviously I haven’t made myself clear. I’ve never put forward a type of atman in Shentong view. The big difference is in how the individual is seen. KTGR points to this to show that Shentong is not the same as Advaita Vedanta, as well he should. If you go through and look at all the citations where KTGR is denying that Shentong isn’t Advaita Vedanta I think you’ll see he will always focus on atman, not Brahman. There’s a reason for that.

I have put forward a Dharmadhatu=Buddha Nature=Other Empty, transpersonal Dharmakaya, etc. . This has a parallel to Brahman. KTGR carefully affirms the Other Empty without drawing attention to the similarity with Brahman, as well he should.

Atman, no.
Brahman, yes—at least in terms of view.
Interesting smcj. I'm not sure I can go all the way with this, but I can see where you're coming from.
I would say something like this:
Brahman - some might know one way or the other, but none can say. i.e. at this level of apprehension, we simply can't make conceptual distinctions which induce us into a definitive position.

So I suppose my worry is with the desire to lock down a definitive position, whatever it might be. That desire itself seems to be the problem.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by haha »

The posts here are illuminating to me.

I have noticed something interesting. It is a kind of self-defense. Defending what one is holding or the way one is holding.

I am really thankful. :namaste:

My understanding is that Vedanta is more close to Rangtong then Shentong. Why I am saying this. I remembered some lectures about six slightly different versions of “Neti, Neti” (Brh Up), at that time I felt the meaning of Prajnaparamita Hridaya sutra had reached to another high. lol. Even those sanyasi(s) or swami(s) said that they accept Nagarjuna's theory to refute/negate others views or duality. But not to establish their own views.

For another point: Take the word Indra. In Vedanta, Mimamsa, Puranic stories, Buddhism (Sravakayana to Vajrayana), they all have different meanings. One system does not give the meaning of other system. It applies to other terminologies, too.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

...they accept Nagarjuna's theory to refute/negate others views or duality. But not to establish their own views.
That’s what we’ve got Asanga for.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by muni »

And Shantarakshita. Freeing from any holding on, any comparisions, by using both systems, Yogacara and Madhyamaka, dissolving in practice.
Conversely, viewing the self as a mere convention or as a designated label for our dynamic stream of experience - consciousness in relation to the body and the world - is in harmony with the interdependent and impermanent nature of reality; and leads to a state of well-being grounded in wisdom, altruism, compassion, and inner freedom.
https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/ ... he-self--2

Simplicity reveals the nature of the mind behind the veil of restless thoughts.
https://www.matthieuricard.org/en/blog/ ... plicity--2
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Simon E. »

muni wrote: Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:20 am And Shantarakshita. Freeing from any holding on, any comparisions, by using both systems, Yogacara and Madhyamaka, dissolving in practice.
And there is the whole problem in one sentence.

Conflation and confusion.
“You don’t know it. You just know about it. That is not the same thing.”

Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche to me.
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Re: Brahman and Atman in Kagyu?

Post by Grigoris »

Simon E. wrote: Mon Mar 25, 2019 10:48 am
muni wrote: Mon Mar 25, 2019 9:20 am And Shantarakshita. Freeing from any holding on, any comparisions, by using both systems, Yogacara and Madhyamaka, dissolving in practice.
And there is the whole problem in one sentence.

Conflation and confusion.
You believe Shantararakshita was confused? I would like to see some evidence, please.
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