The basis is one's unfabricated mind

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The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Sherlock » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:53 am

Tibetans translate jñāna as ye shes. That term "ye shes "is frequently translated as "pristine awareness" or "primordial wisdom", etc. I am saying that Dzogchen authors take this term very literally (a literalism criticized by people like Sakya Pandita) because they are taking this mode of shes pa (jñatā, jñānatā, parijñāna, etc.), which they describe as ye shes to mean that the original state (ye nas) of the mind (shes pa) is pre-afflictive, and Dzogchen is the path to recover that primordial state.

I am not saying that this consciousness is a universal plenum, like brahman, from which all beings arise; that is exactly the mistake I think most people fall into when studying Dzogchen, i.e. they wind up falling into an unintentional brahman trap.

Thus what I am saying is the basis is personal, not universal. Each's being has their own basis since they each have their own mind, the characteristics of the basis (essence, nature and compassion) are general, and apply to all minds, just as all candles on a table are separate and unique, but all flames on those candles bear the same qualities, heat and light.

The fault that I suffered from was not seeing the fact that "rnam shes" (vijñāna), "shes rab" (prajñā), "ye shes" (jñāna), "shes pa"(jñatā) are all talking about one thing, different modalities of a single continuum from sentient being hood to Buddhahood, based on language in man ngag sde texts, reinforced very strongly by Longchenpa, which make a very hard distinction between sems (citta) and yeshe (jñāna) without recognizing the distinction is not in substance, but merely in mode i.e. afflicted/non-afflicted.

Let me add, that the way I see it now is that "rnam shes", consciousness, refers to the afflicted mind, "ye shes" refers to the unafflicted mind; and "shes pa" refers the a mind which is neutral, that can go either way depending on whether it is under the influence of vidyā or avidyā.

Really, I am not saying anything that is terribly controversial. I am recognizing that I was mislead by a distinction made by Longchenpa and others who, for didactic reasons, make a hard distinction between mind/consciousness and wisdom when what they are really doing is making a hard distinction between utterly afflicted minds and utterly pure minds, and providing a literary mythology (the universe arises out of the basis) to explain the separation of sentient beings and buddhas.

I have similarly come to the conclusion that the account of the basis arising out of the basis and the separation of samsara and nirvana at some imagined start point unimaginable eons ago is just a literary myth, and it does not need to be taken literally.


They are the same thing.

And no, I was slightly mistaken before.

The reason people see the five lights everywhere they look is that they no longer have traces to reify the five elements as the five elements because their consciousness has become free of all traces of the two obscurations, i.e. with those removed, what remains is wisdom.

Of course, there is nothing substantial that is ever removed, from such a mind.

Then we gave this from the Rig pa rang shar:

Son of a good family, one must recognize the awareness [shes pa] free from grasping as one’s own state.

Or the Rang grol:

A vidyā that performs actions does not exist
in the essence of pure awareness.

Or the Mind Mirror of Samantabhadra has an interlinear note:

The nature of one’s vidyā is light. Since kāyas are the gathered in the sphere of wisdom, the meaning of the view of Samantabhadra is realized. Further, there is vidyā and the wisdom that arises from vidyā. Further, vidyā that is free from extremes and beyond multiplicity does not transcend awareness (shes pa) and knowing (rig), endowed with a core of empty wisdom free from the extremes of things.

The Sun and Moon Tantra states:

At that time, that fortunate one
when the appearances are self-evident,
the non-abiding awareness is called “natural”.

Anyway, there are too many references in various Dzogchen texts which state quite clearly that the basis is just one's mind. This is consistent with Buddhadharma. Other explanations are not.

M


The ālaya cause continuum (Sakya), the fundamental mind of luminosity (Gelug), "ground mahāmudra" (Kagyu) or the "basis" (Nyingma) all refer to the same thing, i.e., one's unfabricated mind. There is no contradiction between these positions and a position that holds that the basis is tathāgatagarbha. All of these are merely different ways of discussing tathāgatagarbha.

M


As I already pointed out, wisdom is a noetic quality. It cannot be a noetic quality separate from our mind. It cannot be a singular noetic quality pervading all minds.

When the "mind" is completely purified of all taints, it is called "wisdom" (jñāna) When it is with taints it is called consciousness (vijñāna).

If we follow what you are saying, there is no hope at all of finding Buddhahood within our own minds, since buddhahood and wisdom would be extraneous to our continuums. If we are to find buddhahood within our own minds, as hundreds of texts recommend, then we have to discover that buddhahood in the essence of our own minds. That is not transpersonal.

Even gzhan stong does not presuppose a brahman like entity. They are merely stating that the three kāyas are the inherent in the nature of the mind. For example, Dolbupa, arguable the founder of gshan stong terms the tathāgatagarbhe the ālaya, the all-basis. He says too, [Hopkins, 2006, pg. 65] "Similarly the Glorious Hevajra Tantra also says that the natural clear light mind that resides in all sentient beings is buddha..." And on page 106 he says "

...Bhavya's "Lamp for (Nāgājruna's) Wisdom" if the middle way:
It consciousness,
clear light, nirvana,
All-emptiness, and body of attrubutes.

[The term] "consciousness" on this occasion is in consideration of the consciousness of the noumenon and pure consciousness because it is used as a synonym for the clearly body of attributes."

On 120 he says:

If the matrix-of-the-one-gone-bliss did not exist in fact, it would incur the irreversible fallacy of contradicting the statement in the Descent to Lankā Sūtra that the mind beyond logic, the essence of the ultimate 12 grounds, natural clear light, buddha-matrix, natural virtue, basis free from all positions, final source of refuge, and exalted buddha wisdom is the matrix-of-one-gone-bliss.

So you can see, the term below "one's unfabricated mind" has exactly the same meaning and for this reason I maintain that the view of the basis proposed in Sakya, Kagyu, Gelug, Nyingma and Jonang are the same, even though they describe it differently, from different angles and with different terminology. The meaning and the subject of discussion however is the same.

As such, because the basis, one’s unfabricated mind, arose as the essence of the sole reality, there is no need to search elsewhere for the place etc., i.e. it is called self-originated wisdom.

M


smcj wrote:
dzogchungpa wrote:
smcj wrote:and it is unacceptable for the basis to be like brahman.

That is the gist of the entire argument.

What are you, some kind of tirthika?

I'm a Shentongpa, which accepts that "the basis" is not simply your own mind (which would be what is usually called a Yogacaran interpretation) and is remarkably similar to the idea of brahman. So some people actually do think that I'm a tirthika since they reject that idea out of hand in whatever guise it appears.


I was reading a description of Samkhya in The Precious Vase and found it difficult to distinguish the idea of a transpersonal Basis from the Samkhya idea of an uncaused Nature underlying all phenomena. If one accepts the idea that the masters who commented on this tradition and distinguished it from Buddhadharma knew what they were talking about, then there is no way this could be the actual view of Dzogchen (or Mahamudra etc). So yes, it is problematic to say that the Dzogchen view is the same as Samkhya, because it implies the masters were being contradictory.

(Here it is maintained that) what is called 'nature' does not depend on primary and secondary causes, has no form, is not produced by the mind, cannot be decomposed into sundry aspects and particularities, but is (instead) deemed immutable and eternal. This does not mean that nature is a kind of cause whence other things derive as effect: in fact they believe that all animate and inanimate phenomena are this very nature itself. They define everything that we experience as impermanent, being tied to cause and effect, growth and decay etc., as the 'provisional property' (of this nature), but no separation exists between nature and its provisional property. In this regard they cite the example of gold, that when covered with mercury changes its colour but not its nature.


The view that Malcolm described, if his translations are accurate, resolves this problem: the basis is not a universal nature underlying all phenomena like in Samkhya. Maybe there is some way to resolve 'the universe arising out of the basis' idea with the basis being one's unfabricated mind, I don't know but I would find that interesting, but at least for now, it is enough for me that it distinguishes the Dzogchen view from Samkhya.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby wisdom » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:35 am

Question for anyone who might know, if the basis is ones own fabricated mind, how is my unfabricated mind connected to Dharmadhatu? What is the supreme, primordial reality and how does my personal basis abide in it, what is the relationship between these two things (my personal basis, and the universal whatever within which it finds itself)?
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Wayfarer » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:39 am

My way of parsing all such debates has to do with what can be spoken about or named. There is and always must be a great deal of implicit meaning in discourses around such matters. I am sure if you sit with a great master, the 'unspoken', that which is beyond speech, will be clearly felt or intuited. But over time, things have a way of being put into words, and once they're in that format, it is possible to compare ideas and debate about them.

That is one aspect. The other aspect is what is knowable as a 'that', as an object or entity you can gesture towards or indicate. Again something that includes and also transcends everything is impossible to delineate or define as a 'that'. To say anything at all, is only to talk in terms of customary usages within which particular types of expression are efficacious. But words can easily become debased and loose or change their meaning over time.

So 'higher knowledge' generally concerns something - although not actually a thing - which is not conceivable as a 'that' - it is real, but not anything, hence the aphophatic methods of un-saying and negation. That is what tends to be expressed as neti, neti in Advaita, and as one of the meanings of Śūnyatā, i.e. 'un-sayable'. However that kind of 'negative way' is found in many of the spiritual traditions.

But there's the other factor in the Indian tradition generally, which is that there were centuries of debate between pundits over very fine distinctions, about various forms of negation, what is, what is not, neither is nor is not, and so on. So as soon as you name something as 'that' - whether it is 'true nature' or 'real self' or what-have-you - then you are situating it both in some sense as object, and also within a domain of discourse. So in some ways that always amounts to a concession to the lower (i.e. verbal or discursive) aspect of intelligence (as distinct from the purely intuitive mind which is equated with silence.) To say 'it exists' is tantamount to situating it in the phenomenal realm. Then the debates begin about whether something 'exists' or 'doesn't exist' - which is the very kind of debate that the Buddha avoided from the beginning.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby asunthatneversets » Fri Feb 28, 2014 7:55 am

Sherlock wrote:The view that Malcolm described, if his translations are accurate, resolves this problem: the basis is not a universal nature underlying all phenomena like in Samkhya. Maybe there is some way to resolve 'the universe arising out of the basis' idea with the basis being one's unfabricated mind, I don't know but I would find that interesting, but at least for now, it is enough for me that it distinguishes the Dzogchen view from Samkhya.

The universe arises out of the basis because it results from the non-recognition of the basis. The noetic capacity which recognizes or does-not-recognize, and the aspect of compassion which is or isn't recognized (to be self-appearance), are also aspects of the basis.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Sherlock » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:36 am

asunthatneversets wrote:
Sherlock wrote:The view that Malcolm described, if his translations are accurate, resolves this problem: the basis is not a universal nature underlying all phenomena like in Samkhya. Maybe there is some way to resolve 'the universe arising out of the basis' idea with the basis being one's unfabricated mind, I don't know but I would find that interesting, but at least for now, it is enough for me that it distinguishes the Dzogchen view from Samkhya.

The universe arises out of the basis because it results from the non-recognition of the basis. The noetic capacity which recognizes or does-not-recognize, and the aspect of compassion which is or isn't recognized (to be self-appearance), are also aspects of the basis.


Actually I'm mostly wondering how to reconcile the basis being one's unfabricated mind with the cyclical universe idea:

As I have stated elsewhere, Dzogchen cosmology is just a minor variation on the standard abhidharma cosmology. In Abhidharmakośa, at the end of the eon, all sentient beings are reborn in the two upper form realms, where their minds are in a state of dharmatā. After twenty anatarakalpas, intermediate eons, because of traces of latent afflictions, the air mandala forms and so on, resulting in a container universe which is repopulated by sentient beings who take birth in it from top to bottom.

In Dzogchen, at the end of the previous mahākalpa, all sentient beings attain "buddhahood" after taking birth in the Kalavinkaloka. Then after twenty thousand eons while samsara and nirvana does not appear (this is called the bardo (antara) of samsara and nirvana in dzogchen texts), because of the lingering traces of affliction and action left over from the last eon, the basis becomes stirred, the five lights shine out and there is a chance for recognition or non-recognition by the neutral awareness(es) that is/are obscured by the innate ignorance of mere non-recognition while the basis is in a latent state. Depending on the fact of recognition or non-recognition, there is Samantabhadra and sentient beings.

Thus, we understand that the basis has two phases, active and latent. During the bardo of samsara and nirvana, it is in a latent phase.


I don't really think it is just a metaphor. There are other ideas in Buddhadharma such as the six realms of existence, or like the Mahayanasutralamkara (?, not sure if I remember it correctly, but I'm thinking of the text ChNN likes to mention as thinking he managed to understand the first time he read it through, but the second and third times were much more difficult for him until he remembered his teacher's advice to try to understand in terms of his personal life) that both apply on a "cosmic" level as well as within the level of one's one lifetime; I think the cyclical universe idea works similarly.

But anyway, this part is mostly speculation and dancing on books. If Nyibum does state straight out that the basis is one's unfabricated mind, that is a good enough statement to clarify the view of Dzogchen for me in a way that distinguishes it from tirthika philosophies.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Sherlock » Fri Feb 28, 2014 8:52 am

I have explained this now several ways. So, I'll try again: there are no sentient beings at the time of the latent basis, because all sentient beings, theoretically, acheived some kind of buddhahood in the last eon. The notion of the basis in Dzogchen man ngag sde is very similar to the Hindu idea of Pralaya. [In fact, in the term kun gzhi, ālaya, kun = ā, gzhi = laya. The term kun gzhi is distinguished from the term gzhi in Dzogchen, as you can easily find out, but the fact that gzhi is desceribed as the bardo of samara and nirvana is nothing if not telling. If someone is taking a text critical approach, they will note that there is a movement in Buddhist tantric texts in India in the late 9th through the 10th century in such texts as the Samputa tantra and the Kalacakra to borrow and repurpose some Samkhya concepts. Hence Dzogchen use of the term prakriti, etc.]

After the collapse of the previous universe, there are no buddhas and sentient beings -- and this is called the bardo of samsara and nirvana. Present in the latent basis however is a neutral awareness which does not know itself.

Because of traces of action and affliction remain from previous universe, the basis is stirred, lights shine out, and they are either recognized or not, resulting in samasara and nirvana.

This neutral awareness is what happens when someone acheives an incomplete full awakening, for example an arhat or some other form of lesser iberation that can "return to the cause". This is why Dzogchen makes such a big deal about Dzogchen Buddhahood being one that "does not return to the cause".


If the basis is one's unfabricated mind, it is easy to see how this model applies to a personal, individual life level. However, is there a way to say that the universe as a whole has its unfabricated mind too?

Actually I realise this is not really necessary or relevant for one's practice and liberation but I am curious.

Maybe my initial criticism of Malcolm's presentation of this idea can be redirected back at myself -- the idea of the universe itself having its own consciousness, distinct from that of the individual continua within it, is another form of dualism.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 1:49 pm

wisdom wrote:Question for anyone who might know, if the basis is ones own fabricated mind, how is my unfabricated mind connected to Dharmadhatu? What is the supreme, primordial reality and how does my personal basis abide in it, what is the relationship between these two things (my personal basis, and the universal whatever within which it finds itself)?


For each one if us, it is the dharmadhatu. Everything that appears to us appears to us only as the light of our own consciousness. When we reify that light, it appears to us as afflictive objects. When we do not reify it, appears to us as the pure luminescence of our own minds.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:06 pm

Sherlock wrote:
If the basis is one's unfabricated mind, it is easy to see how this model applies to a personal, individual life level. However, is there a way to say that the universe as a whole has its unfabricated mind too?


How could there be? This would just render the universe one more sentient being.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:10 pm

Sherlock wrote:I don't really think it is just a metaphor. There are other ideas in Buddhadharma such as the six realms of existence, or like the Mahayanasutralamkara (?, not sure if I remember it correctly, but I'm thinking of the text ChNN likes to mention as thinking he managed to understand the first time he read it through, but the second and third times were much more difficult for him until he remembered his teacher's advice to try to understand in terms of his personal life) that both apply on a "cosmic" level as well as within the level of one's one lifetime; I think the cyclical universe idea works similarly.



Yes, these cycles do work on cosmic as well as personal levels. The process of the development as well as the disappearance of our bodies mimics the process of the development and disappearance of the elements in the universe, and the same cycle is repeated through waking and sleeping, etc. But this mimesis does not bear the consequence that the general basis, a set of properties inherent to all sentients, be they buddhas or beings, is a universal mind-stratum. Consciousness permeates all sentient beings, without all sentient beings having the same consciousness.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby gad rgyangs » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:17 pm

claiming that the basis is "contained" within the minds of illusory sentient beings is like claiming that the mirror is contained in the reflections!
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Sherlock » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:35 pm

If our minds can experience all the highs and lows of samsara, why can't they experience an unafflicted state?
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby pensum » Fri Feb 28, 2014 3:54 pm

Malcolm wrote: this mimesis does not bear the consequence that the general basis, a set of properties inherent to all sentients, be they buddhas or beings, is a universal mind-stratum. Consciousness permeates all sentient beings, without all sentient beings having the same consciousness.


This is clearly demonstrated by the traditional analogy of oil permeating sesame seeds: all sesame seeds are suffused with oil, oil is a fundamental aspect of the sesame seed and common to all sesame seeds, yet sesame seeds do not arise from a substratum of oil.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:07 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:claiming that the basis is "contained" within the minds of illusory sentient beings is like claiming that the mirror is contained in the reflections!



It is the minds of illusory buddhas and sentient beings. Why is this not a problem? The basis is an abstraction, thus it is not real apart from its instantiations. The basis merely describes the potentiality of the mind's innate nature as the three kāyas and how the mind can deviate from that nature. In other words, one's unfabricated mind is the mirror.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby pensum » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:12 pm

Sherlock wrote:If our minds can experience all the highs and lows of samsara, why can't they experience an unafflicted state?


The mind can experience an unafflicted state, this is known as vidyā or rigpa. It is just important to distinguish the modes known as dualistic mind (sems) which perceives dualistically and thus by its very definition can only experience an afflicted state and wisdom mind or prajña which is nondualistic pure perception.
Last edited by pensum on Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:37 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:13 pm

I like your new approach to the basis in Dzogchen, it's much easier for me to understand, but I'm still wondering why it was controversial. What is the big deal?
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Sherlock » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:17 pm

Yeah it's actually not thst big a deal. It is what ChNN has alwqys said. The problem is that some of us read teachings we were not really ready for and created confusion for ourselves.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby gad rgyangs » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:23 pm

Malcolm wrote:The basis is an abstraction, thus it is not real apart from its instantiations.


so what, its real in its instantiations?
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby pensum » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:27 pm

Another way to demonstrate this is that the basis of all trees is wood, but there is no wood apart from trees. Without trees there would be no wood. Similarly the basis of all sentient beings is lucid emptiness (gsal stong), yet this empty lucidity does not exist apart from sentient beings.
It's quite simple really.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby gad rgyangs » Fri Feb 28, 2014 4:47 pm

pensum wrote:Another way to demonstrate this is that the basis of all trees is wood, but there is no wood apart from trees. Without trees there would be no wood. Similarly the basis of all sentient beings is lucid emptiness (gsal stong), yet this empty lucidity does not exist apart from sentient beings.
It's quite simple really.


sentient beings definitely do not exist apart from the lucid emptiness. In the yeshe sangthal, instant presence is discovered within the vast dimension of emptiness, not the other way around.
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Re: The basis is one's unfabricated mind

Postby Malcolm » Fri Feb 28, 2014 5:25 pm

gad rgyangs wrote:
Malcolm wrote:The basis is an abstraction, thus it is not real apart from its instantiations.


so what, its real in its instantiations?


Heat is an abstraction derived from instantiations of fire.

The basis is an abstraction derived from instantiations of sapients, both buddhas and sentient beings. Conventionally speaking, samanya-lakṣanas (universals) are considered completely unreal, as opposed to svalaḳsanas (particulars), which are allowed a certain species of conventional reality.

The basis is the description of the dharmatā of dharmins. Without a dharmin, a dharmatā is unintelligible, so in the end, the Dzogchen presentation of the basis is not nearly as radical as it is made out to be.
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