Essence of the Tathagatas

Jestsun Taranatha

Jestsun Taranatha

“So, from primordial time, all that is ultimately consumed within the exalted dimensions, types of pristine awareness, qualities, and enlightened activities abides within the essence of the tathgatas. When someone becomes a Buddha, these are not then newly acquired but are merely separated from the defilements that have eclipsed them.”

[From The Essence of Zhentong by Jetsun Taranatha]

In other words, according to this teaching the innate quality of your mind is ultimate clarity, or Awakeness. However, for most of us this Awakeness is obstructed by habitual patterns, conditioning, and various forms of obscuration. This situation has been likened to a mirror covered in dust and grime. The mirror is there beneath the dust. Wipe the dust away, and the mirror will shine forth.

According to this teaching, buddha-nature is not something you presently lack, and can later acquire. Buddha-nature is something you already have, it is the very essence of your mind. The difference between ordinary beings and fully enlightened buddhas is that the latter have removed the obstructions that prevent this Awakeness from shining forth. This is a task of Dharma practice, to remove the obstructions and obscurations. There are innumerable methods available for doing this, applicable to beings of different capacities and dispositions.

OM AH HUM

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Master Dolpopa’s Mountain Doctrine

Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen

Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen

This has been on my wish list for a while now. Published in 2006, this is the first English translation of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen’s masterpiece titled Mountain Doctrine wherein he gives precise teachings on the rangtong (self-emptiness) and zhentong (other-emptiness) views. I am currently re-reading The Buddha from Dolpo by Cyrus Stearns, which is excellent–both in offering a basic biography of Dolpopa as well as providing many of his arguments regarding Buddhanature and other teachings. Dolpopa was also a master of Kalachakra tantra, and is recognized as such even to this day by many of the Vajrayana lineages (not just the Jonang).

For those who are interested in Buddhadharma but have never heard about Dolpopa, I recommend checking him out (probably starting with The Buddha from Dolpo). Hopefully we will see more from Dolpopa in English, as his collected works are gaining attention in academia.

Other related books of interest:

The Buddha from Dolpo (by Cyrus Stearns)

The Essence of Other-Emptiness (by Jetsun Taranatha. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins)

The Kalachakra Tantra: The Chapter on Sadhana Together with the Vimalaprabha Commentary (translated by Vesna A. Wallace)

Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation (by Alexander Berzin)

Ornament of Stainless Light (translated by Gavin Kilty)

Jonang Lamrim – Part 7 (A Suggested Method)

Buddha Shakyamuni

Buddha Shakyamuni

For ease of reference I have created this post which can be used for the opening and closing of each of the lamrim contemplations in this series. This is the suggested order for each session:

  1. Homage
  2. Offering 
  3. Seven-Branch Prayer (3 x’s)
  4. Lineage Supplication
  5. Lamrim Contemplation
  6. Dedication of Merit

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Jonang Lamrim – Part 6 (A few words on cosmology)

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

The next section of Taranatha’s Essence of Ambrosia is titled,

The Freedom and Endowments of a Precious Human Life

This section consists of Contemplations 2 through 4 which are, Contemplation 2 – The Difficulty of Obtaining a Precious Human Life with its Freedoms and Endowments, Contemplation 3 – The Probability of Being Reborn Human and Contemplation 4 – Why This Human Life is Important. Before getting into what is meant by the various freedoms and endowments I feel it might be helpful to offer a very general overview of Buddhist cosmology coming from the Indo-Tibetan tradition, though also noting that most of this roots back to the Abhidharma (one of the Three Baskets of the Pali Canon) so is somewhat consistent here with the Theravada school as well.

This background is assumed in the text but may not be as familiar to all of the readers who visit this blog. Also note I am neither a scholar nor a monk. I am a student and lay-practitioner with only about 10 years of Dharma study and practice under my belt. For a more in-depth understanding I recommend contacting a qualified lama, monk and/or scholar. That said, I do make effort to stay informed and to share what I have learned with as much care and accuracy as is possible. Like any of the material here on Vajra Vehicle, all errors and/or omissions are mine alone. As mentioned elsewhere, please know I always welcome questions, feedback, critiques, corrections and/or suggestions. I invite you to comment if you are reading this and you have something you would like to share. In fact, this offer stands for all of the posts on this blog. Now, on to some cosmology…

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Jonang Lamrim – Part 5 (Contemplation 1)

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

To honor the copyright holder of the translation of Essence of Ambrosia I am using,  I will not simply be typing up all of the instructions from the book verbatim for the contemplations. Rather, I will be including select passages (under fair use) and then summarizing parts of the additional sections. I encourage anyone who wants to follow this Lamrim to 1) find a teacher and 2) buy the book. Yet it is my hope that this series will motivate some to actually engage in the Lamrim practices. These are sutra level meditations, open to all.

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Jonang Lamrim – Part 4 (Intro Contemplation 1)

Ashvaghosha

Ashvaghosha

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

Continuing with the theme of Contemplation 1 (Relying on a Spiritual Master)  from Taranatha’s Essence of Ambrosia, I thought it might be helpful to offer some insight from an outside source. Taranatha’s lamrim is concise compared to lamrims from other lineages (for example, Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, a much larger text with copious amounts of commentary). Taranatha appears to be aiming for a very practical text, like an instruction manual to guide students through various sequential meditations (each of the contemplations). It also appears that Taranatha anticipated lamas teaching this text to include supplemental material and additional background or instructions  We know this because in the text Taranatha offers various asides directed to the lamas – suggestions and so forth that they might incorporate into the teachings.

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Jonang Lamrim – Part 3 (Intro -Contemplation 1)

Vajradhara

Vajradhara

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

 Contemplation 1 – Relying on a Spiritual Master, the Root of All Paths

To rely on something means to have confidence in it, to consider it to be, well… reliable. This confidence is typically based on some kind of experience in which the thing has proven to be dependable.

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Jonang Lamrim – Part 2 (Intro Continued)

Essence of Ambrosia

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

I am using the text Essence of Ambrosia: A Guide to Buddhist Contemplations  as a source for this series. The original text was composed by Jetsun Taranatha (1575 – 1634 CE), translated into English by Willa Baker (Lama Palmo) and was published by the Library of Tibetan Works and Archives in 2005. I also want to express gratitude to Khenpo Choejor Gyamtso of Dorje Ling Buddhist Center in Atlanta for recently offering a series of teachings on Essence of Ambrosia. Khenpo-la gave very clear instructions and explanations of this text, along with some related topics. Khenpo-la’s teachings have motivated me to further practice.

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Jonang Lamrim – Part 1 (Intro)

[This is part of an ongoing Lamrim series. All related posts can be found here.]

I have been attending teachings from  Khenpo Choejor Gyamtso on Jetsun Taranatha’s ‘Essence of Ambrosia‘ – the principle lamrim text of the Jonang lineage. I have decided to begin a new series of posts dedicated to this topic. I feel this will aid me in reviewing the teachings as well as perhaps benefiting others by sharing some of my reflections here.

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Lineage

I tend toward the view that lineage is important. While I consider myself a non-sectarian, and by this I mean that I will not disparage any of the authentic schools of Buddhadharma (Theravada, Zen, Mahayana/Vajrayana, Pure Land, Tendai, Shingon and others), or even other traditions for that matter (as long as they do not cause harm to others or breed things like hatred, etc), I have found that in my own practice and ongoing relationship with the Dharma, I have been extremely blessed by the lineage I consider my spiritual home – the Jonang.

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