rangtong vs. zhentong

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rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:25 am

Ok, not trying to start another "true self" thread, but wondering if someone can clarify this stuff for me:

Basically as I understand it Prasangika Madhymaka simply makes no assertion as to the state of ultimate reality, as it is impossible to describe, so makes no statement about ultimate reality being empty or dependently originated one way or another, due to the fact that we simply cannot describe ultimate realty in any terms, it is outside our capabilities...is this basically correct?

I do not understand the Shentong criticism of this exactly, is it a claim that Rangtong says that ultimate reality is dependently originated (seems incorrect to me, since there is no such assertion being made by Rangtong to my reading) or is it something different?

Also, how is Shentong not monism..being as it is asserting such a thing as an "absolute reality" or permanent substance? Or is it, in fact just monism?

I take it that Shentong is a minority view in Tibetan Buddhism, but how widely held is it? At first glance it also seems to go against the general trend of even parts of the Pali Canon, where definite claims about existence and non existence are avoided in reference to ultimate reality...am I misunderstanding some nuance of it?

It seems like the different sects have a wide variety of views on the subject, is there any kind of standard for the lineages, or is it simply a subject of debate?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby futerko » Sun Feb 03, 2013 9:26 am

This should help answer your questions and see how it is generally viewed as fitting together rather as a refutations of each other, Progressive Stages of Meditation on Emptiness by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
http://itisnotreal.com/uploads/7/2/9/3/ ... tiness.pdf
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:02 am

"Johnny Dangerous"]Ok, not trying to start another "true self" thread, but wondering if someone can clarify this stuff for me:


Agreed we already have a discussion on the True Self topic so it shouldnt be brought up here whatsoever,if it is brought up in a qoute concerning the topics at hand(dependent origination/inherent existance/monism) the true self mentioned in the qoute should be ignored on this thread and only the info in the qoute that has to with the topic should be discussed.

Basically as I understand it Prasangika Madhymaka simply makes no assertion as to the state of ultimate reality, as it is impossible to describe, so makes no statement about ultimate reality being empty or dependently originated one way or another, due to the fact that we simply cannot describe ultimate realty in any terms, it is outside our capabilities...is this basically correct?


Before this discussion can even start,it must be made clear what the Rangtong postion is on ultimate reality,so this means you must first get together with other Rangtong practicioners and discuss what your views are.
You dont beleive Enlightenment can be discribed,so you will not say it is dependently originated,BUT others do say it is dependently originated.
Look on the thread (Nirvana-unborn or created) as you can see many view Enlightenment as being dependently originated.

I do not understand the Shentong criticism of this exactly, is it a claim that Rangtong says that ultimate reality is dependently originated (seems incorrect to me, since there is no such assertion being made by Rangtong to my reading) or is it something different?


Again you guys have to hash out your own views,before you can even compare it to ours.

Also, how is Shentong not monism..being as it is asserting such a thing as an "absolute reality" or permanent substance? Or is it, in fact just monism?


Good question,hmmm.not sure if I even know if this topic is even mentioned in Shentong texts.
Well lets poke at it,is all the Buddhas perfectly Enlightened?is it the same enlightedment or is there different full enlightenments? Do the Buddhas have different personalities where they can disagree with one anouther?
I suppose if Enlightenment is one then all Buddhas are perfectly one with one Full Enlightenment,unless Enlightenment is different for all Buddhas.

I take it that Shentong is a minority view in Tibetan Buddhism, but how widely held is it? At
first glance it also seems to go against the general trend of even parts of the Pali Canon, where
definite claims about existence and non existence are avoided in reference to ultimate reality...am misunderstanding some nuance of it.

It seems like the different sects have a wide variety of views on the subject, is there any kind of standard for the lineages, or is it simply a subject of debate?


I would think it is a minority view,although I have found that many Kagyu and Nygima(sorry if I spelled the wrong) also accept this view.
And of course all of Jonang hold this view.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 03, 2013 4:49 pm

Futerko..reading that book is what actually prompted me to post the question lol.

I thoroughly enjoyed the book and expect to go back to it many times, i'm just not clear on what is supposed to be valuable about Shentong as a criticism of Rangtong, the book kind of lost me on the lat part there. I guess first I should ask if I have my terms right, is Prasangika Madhyamika synonymous with Rangtong?

Son of Buddha:

There is no "your view vs. My view" in my question, i'm not asking what someone said in another thread on DW, I asking about the actual schools of thought.

Good question,hmmm.not sure if I even know if this topic is even mentioned in Shentong texts.
Well lets poke at it,is all the Buddhas perfectly Enlightened?is it the same enlightedment or is there different full enlightenments? Do the Buddhas have different personalities where they can disagree with one anouther?
I suppose if Enlightenment is one then all Buddhas are perfectly one with one Full Enlightenment,unless Enlightenment is different for all Buddhas.


That's the thing though, the whole point of Prasangika madhyamika is to NOT poke at the question at all, that's why it seems odd to me that Shentong is only able to claim Rangtong is incorrect - by poking at it where the other does not, basically by saying it claims something it never claims, because it is only Shentong's (seemingly questionable) inference that makes their argument possible.



Anyway, on that note in the book he seems to be saying that the purpose of Shentong is 'fix' Prasangika Madhyamika' s supposed subtle problem of negating Tathgatagarbha as dependently originated by implication rather than assertion. If my understanding is correct, in Prasangika Madhyamika there is no actual assertion of anything, and that is the point. So I don't really understand how Shentong adds anything to the equation other than a statement of absolute reality...which is something that seems a bit strained to me when layed side by side with Pali Canon literature with quotes like this:

"By and large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by a polarity, that of existence and non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, "non-existence" with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, "existence" with reference to the world does not occur to one."

So again, what i'm asking I guess is how/why Shentong sees Rangtong as asserting dependent origination of Buddha Nature/Whatever you call it, since it appears to me it doesn't do that, unless I missed something. I found the explanation of this part of the book really confusing.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Karma Dorje » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:08 pm

Johnny, rangtong and shentong are not meant as doctrinal positions outside of praxis. Rather, rangtong is intended to thoroughly undercut all grasping at self as an entity. Doctrinally, you could say that this would be enough because as you say, there is nothing at all posited. Practically, there is still a tendency to grasp at emptiness. Shentong corrects this kind of conceptual uptightness.

It's really somewhat pointless to put these two approaches in opposition to each other. Shentong depends upon and enhances the understanding of rangtong.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:28 pm

Karma Dorje wrote:Johnny, rangtong and shentong are not meant as doctrinal positions outside of praxis. Rather, rangtong is intended to thoroughly undercut all grasping at self as an entity. Doctrinally, you could say that this would be enough because as you say, there is nothing at all posited. Practically, there is still a tendency to grasp at emptiness. Shentong corrects this kind of conceptual uptightness.

It's really somewhat pointless to put these two approaches in opposition to each other. Shentong depends upon and enhances the understanding of rangtong.


What do you mean "not meant as"? It's my understanding it was subject of great debate historically, is that not correct?
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Karma Dorje » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:40 pm

What I am saying is that it is not useful to view it as a doctrinal debate solely. These are two approaches to the same thing, depending on certain stages of practice. One cannot understand shentong without a proper understanding of rangtong. The debate was not between these two approaches, but rather between those that insisted on an exclusively rangtong interpretation and those that viewed both as useful modes of understanding. In particular I would read Hookham's 'The Buddha Within' for the framing of the debate which provides much of the historical context and introduces all of the main interlocutors.

http://www.scribd.com/doc/88252854/S-K- ... dha-Within
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Sun Feb 03, 2013 5:57 pm

thanks, that's really helpful.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Jinzang » Sun Feb 03, 2013 10:19 pm

The core of the difference between rang stong and gzhan stong is whether the expience of enlightenment has any positive content. That is, do you see the truth, or only see what isn't so. Rang stong arrgues that any positive content can be subjected to Nagarjuna's analysis and shown to be false. Gzhan stong argues, that since the content transcends intellect, it cannot be subjected to this sort of analysis. The rang stong view gzhan stong as smuggling Hindu Advaita into Buddhism. Gzhan stong views rang stong as ignoring the clear meaning of the tantras.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Vajratantrika » Mon Feb 04, 2013 12:12 am

Within the Jonang lineage both rangtong and zhentong views are taught. The difference depends on whether we are talking about relative/conventional truth (i.e. samvrtisatya) or absolute/ultimate truth (i.e. paramarthasatya). According to (my understanding of) Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen's teachings (1292–1361 CE), all relative phenomena are 'empty of self' (rangtong) and the ultimate level of reality is 'empty of other' (zhentong) - that is, empty of anything *other* than its ultimate nature.

There are some great sources for this here:

The Buddha From Dolpo

The Mountain Doctrine

Lastly, I will add this caveat...to understand the distinctions between rangtong and zhentong in anything more than an intellectual (conceptual) manner would require at least some level of direct realization of sunyata (emptiness) arising through practice (meditation, tantra, etc). The teachings are a lot more detailed and subtle than what I have said above. This is due to my own limited understanding and meager realizations.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Son of Buddha » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:55 am

"Johnny Dangerous"]
There is no "your view vs. My view" in my question, i'm not asking what someone said in another thread on DW, I asking about the actual schools of thought.


what im trying to say is you cant have a debate about Rangtong vs Zhentong if you cant even show what the Rangtong position is to begin with.this is why I brought up what other people said.the reason is their view of rangtong isnt the same as yours,so which view is correct?like is said you first have to hash out what the actual postition of Rangtong is before you can even try to debate it vs Zhentong.


"Johnny Dangerous"
That's the thing though, the whole point of Prasangika madhyamika is to NOT poke at the question at all, that's why it seems odd to me that Shentong is only able to claim Rangtong is incorrect - by poking at it where the other does not, basically by saying it claims something it never claims, because it is only Shentong's (seemingly questionable) inference that makes their argument possible.


again what is the view of Rangtong is it that Enlightenment is dependently originated(as others who uphold Rangtong say) or are they wrong and you are to NOT even try to answer the questions at all.(again what is the Rangtong position? and again how do you know they dont make these claims as far as I can see they make these claims all the time) ill give you an example on my next comment.

"Johnny Dangerous"
Anyway, on that note in the book he seems to be saying that the purpose of Shentong is 'fix' Prasangika Madhyamika' s supposed subtle problem of negating Tathgatagarbha as dependently originated by implication rather than assertion. If my understanding is correct, in Prasangika Madhyamika there is no actual assertion of anything, and that is the point. So I don't really understand how Shentong adds anything to the equation other than a statement of absolute reality...which is something that seems a bit strained to me when layed side by side with Pali Canon literature with quotes like this:

So again, what i'm asking I guess is how/why Shentong sees Rangtong as asserting dependent origination of Buddha Nature/Whatever you call it, since it appears to me it doesn't do that, unless I missed something. I found the explanation of this part of the book really confusing.


so then you would disagree with this claim correct?

[...] Even emptiness itself, which is seen as the ultimate nature of reality, is not absolute, nor does it exist independently. We cannot conceive of emptiness as independent of a basis of phenomena, because when we examine the nature of reality, we find that it is empty of inherent existence. Then if we are to take that emptiness itself is an object and look for its essence, again we will find that it is empty of inherent existence. Therefore the Buddha taught the emptiness of emptiness."
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Son of Buddha » Mon Feb 04, 2013 4:57 am

"Johnny Dangerous"
"By and large, Kaccayana, this world is supported by a polarity, that of existence and non-existence. But when one sees the origination of the world as it actually is with right discernment, "non-existence" with reference to the world does not occur to one. When one sees the cessation of the world as it actually is with right discernment, "existence" with reference to the world does not occur to one."


(from the writings of Dolpopa)
1.Not existent and also not-non existent
and moreover the thought of all the statements in a great many stainless texts of the middle way of being devoid of the extremes of existance and non existance is that:

(*) Since all dependently arisen conventionalities do not really exist,when one realises this,one does not fall to an extreme of existance and is released from the extreme of superimposition.

(*)Since the ultimate noumenon that is beyond dependent-arising is never non-existent,when one realises this,one does not fall to an extreme of non-existance and is released from the extreme of deprecation.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:32 pm

Who is the quote on empty-empty from?


I still don't understand though, whether Prasangika is the same thing as Rangtong or whether there is some subtle difference.

I will say just what I said above though, the Prasangika Mahaymaka approach (if I understand it right at all) makes most sense to me precisely because it does not make assertions about the nature of ultimate reality at all, whereas it can only be called "wrong" by those that to make assertions about ultimate reality. The only way to find fault with it is to by definition {i]try to define the undefinable[/i], something that seems out of whack to me.
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is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby conebeckham » Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:48 pm

Both are conceptual positions, even if so-called "Rangtong" claims to have no view, and no assertion. In the end, conceptually, that is still a view.

These things can be useful in praxis, I agree, but they can also be fodder for a lot of empty word-slinging.

When one is resting in a nonconceptual state, there is no view. This is the final wisdom of the "Rangtong" position--the view of no-view. This is also the Primordial Wisdom of the Shentong, the Tathagatagarbha, and, when fully realized, the Unborn Dharmakaya.

It's true that Shentongpas "assert" an Ultimate, but the important point is that they qualify that it is beyond conceptual mind's ability to grasp the Ultimate.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby conebeckham » Mon Feb 04, 2013 5:52 pm

..another thing is that when one says "Rangtong," you have to identify what sort of "Rangtong" that is.....although I feel there are precursors in Indian tradition, Tibetans have developed a variety of interpretations of "Prasangika"--so, are you talking about the Madhyamika of Sakya Pandita, or of Tsong Khapa's interpretation? They are different.

Actually, Shentong also has a variety of subtly different interpretations in this day and age, as well...Dolpopa's is somewhat different in it's assertions than the "Shentong" as asserted by Taranatha, or Kongtrul, for instance.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:06 pm

In other words: sit your ass down and practice! :tongue:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:09 pm

gregkavarnos wrote:In other words: sit your ass down and practice! :tongue:


I do..don't worry, just trying to understand the context of the arguments.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Sherab Dorje » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:13 pm

I'm sure you do, hence the smiley! :smile:
"When one is not in accord with the true view
Meditation and conduct become delusion,
One will not attain the real result
One will be like a blind man who has no eyes."
Naropa - Summary of the View from The Eight Doha Treasures
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Karma Dondrup Tashi » Mon Feb 04, 2013 6:16 pm

Rangtong, two self-empty schools:

i) Svatantrika. Apparent reality is illusion-like phenomena. Genuine reality is emptiness like space.
ii) Prasangika. Apparent reality is whatever ordinary people believe truly exists. Genuine reality is free from complexity and beyond all thought and expression.

Shentong, one empty-of-other school:

Apparent reality is dependently arisen appearances imagined to be objects and subjects. Genuine reality is original wisdom which is the inseparability of clarity and emptiness.
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Re: rangtong vs. zhentong

Postby Johnny Dangerous » Tue Feb 05, 2013 4:40 am

Thanks, been a helpful thread for me.
"Just as a lotus does not grow out of a well-levelled soil but from the mire, in the same way the awakening mind
is not born in the hearts of disciples in whom the moisture of attachment has dried up. It grows instead in the hearts of ordinary sentient beings who possess in full the fetters of bondage." -Se Chilbu Choki Gyaltsen
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