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:
Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche in Shentong & Rangtong: Two Views of Emptiness p.120-21: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.
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: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.
II. Don't Confuse Terms with RealityQuestion: 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.
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:
In Buddhanature, p.343 KGTR writes: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.
When speaking specifically about permanence, KGTR states (in Tony Duff's The Other Emptiness p.178):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)
Back to KTR in Shentong and Rangtong, p.115: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.
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.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.
smcj wrote: ↑Sat Mar 23, 2019 7:31 pmBingo. 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.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.
"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.