Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:10 pm

90+% of the lectures I listened to as a young man about the Gelug Prasangika were from FPMT lamas: Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, Geshe Gyaltsen, Zong R., etc. That was a long time ago, but as I remember it, Tsongkhapa's contribution of how the interplay between the relative and absolute works did not result in producing a "view". In fact, it was only in the modern era that I found out that Tsongkhapa changed anything. They did not allow for alternative interpretations, what we were hearing was "the buddhist perspective". Nagarjuna's four points were stressed, as well as the absence of view. The phrase "non-affirming negation" was used extensively. Perhaps that is how they chose to teach a bunch of hippies at the time, but that has been, and still is, my education on the subject.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Tom » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:52 pm

smcj wrote:90+% of the lectures I listened to as a young man about the Gelug Prasangika were from FPMT lamas: Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, Geshe Gyaltsen, Zong R., etc. That was a long time ago, but as I remember it, Tsongkhapa's contribution of how the interplay between the relative and absolute works did not result in producing a "view". In fact, it was only in the modern era that I found out that Tsongkhapa changed anything. They did not allow for alternative interpretations, what we were hearing was "the buddhist perspective". Nagarjuna's four points were stressed, as well as the absence of view. The phrase "non-affirming negation" was used extensively. Perhaps that is how they chose to teach a bunch of hippies at the time, but that has been, and still is, my education on the subject.


Are you suggesting these Lamas taught a position that differers from Tsongkhapa's as a type of skilful means, or is this support for your claim that Gelugpas do not hold any views?

Also, why do you equate a non-affirming negation with the absence of a view?
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Malcolm » Fri Aug 23, 2013 7:57 pm

smcj wrote:90+% of the lectures I listened to as a young man about the Gelug Prasangika were from FPMT lamas: Lama Yeshe, Lama Zopa, Geshe Gyaltsen, Zong R., etc. That was a long time ago, but as I remember it, Tsongkhapa's contribution of how the interplay between the relative and absolute works did not result in producing a "view". In fact, it was only in the modern era that I found out that Tsongkhapa changed anything. They did not allow for alternative interpretations, what we were hearing was "the buddhist perspective". Nagarjuna's four points were stressed, as well as the absence of view. The phrase "non-affirming negation" was used extensively. Perhaps that is how they chose to teach a bunch of hippies at the time, but that has been, and still is, my education on the subject.



I have heard Lama Zopa teach extensively on emptiness, as well as HHDL -- they do not resemble at all what you report.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:12 am

Are you suggesting these Lamas taught a position that differers from Tsongkhapa's as a type of skilful means, or is this support for your claim that Gelugpas do not hold any views?

Geshe Gyaltsen passed away in 2009. This discussion has lasted long enough that, we're he still alive, I'd drive down to see him and get clarification. If at some point I can access a geshe in my area, I plan on doing just that, but I'm not flying off to India in a panic.

In any case, until then, I do not concede the point. In your quote of Geshe S.R.:
In the eleventh verse he mentions emptiness "free from all assertions." In the twelfth verse he refers to an understanding which "destroys through certainty the way the object is perceived." These phrases may be variously interpreted. "The mainstay of misconceptions" is generally viewed as true existence itself." The qualification of emptiness as being "free from all assertions" may be taken to mean that words cannot describe emptiness as it is. It can also refer to emptiness free from any assertions of intrinsic existence.

I take this as a confirmation that my position is one possible interpretation.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Malcolm » Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:28 am

smcj wrote:
Are you suggesting these Lamas taught a position that differers from Tsongkhapa's as a type of skilful means, or is this support for your claim that Gelugpas do not hold any views?

Geshe Gyaltsen passed away in 2009. This discussion has lasted long enough that, we're he still alive, I'd drive down to see him and get clarification. If at some point I can access a geshe in my area, I plan on doing just that, but I'm not flying off to India in a panic.

In any case, until then, I do not concede the point. In your quote of Geshe S.R.:
In the eleventh verse he mentions emptiness "free from all assertions." In the twelfth verse he refers to an understanding which "destroys through certainty the way the object is perceived." These phrases may be variously interpreted. "The mainstay of misconceptions" is generally viewed as true existence itself." The qualification of emptiness as being "free from all assertions" may be taken to mean that words cannot describe emptiness as it is. It can also refer to emptiness free from any assertions of intrinsic existence.

I take this as a confirmation that my position is one possible interpretation.


It is, but he clarifies it is pre-Tsongkhapa position.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Tom » Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:49 am

smcj wrote:Geshe Gyaltsen passed away in 2009. This discussion has lasted long enough that, we're he still alive, I'd drive down to see him and get clarification. If at some point I can access a geshe in my area, I plan on doing just that, but I'm not flying off to India in a panic.


I have had detailed discussion with a Geshe many times comparing the Sakya presentation of freedom from extremes with Tsongkhapa's presentation. Never has it been considered that Tsongkhapa might have a position of not holding any views. In LRCM Tsobngkhapa says,

Some [Tibetans who claim to be Madhyamikas] do not distinguish utter nonexistence from the absence of intrinsic existence, and do not distinguish essential existence from mere existence. They hope to avoid falling to the extremes of existence and non- existence simply by saying, "We do not claim that things are nonexistent (med pa); we say that they are not existent (yod pa ma yin pa). We do not claim that things exist (yod pa); we say that they are not nonexistent (med pa ma yin pa)." This is nothing but a mass of contradictions; it does not in the least explain the meaning of the middle way… Evidently their position is an overly literal misunderstanding of Madhyamaka.

I think your quote from Three Principle Paths is very interesting as it does say སྟོང་པ་ཁས་ལེན་བྲལ་བ (emptiness is devoid of theses) however it is only one quote and as Tsongkhapa responds when asked why Nagarjuna in the Vigrahavyavartani makes the famous statement about Madhyamikas not having theses and no positions:

"since there are also many passages that state that it is necessary to posit assertions, how can simply citing that one passage prove that Mādhyamikas have no positions?"
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Sat Aug 24, 2013 12:50 am

I take this as a confirmation that my position is one possible interpretation.

It is, but he clarifies it is pre-Tsongkhapa position.

He said it in the context of giving commentary on a line in a Tsongkhapa text that specifically addresses the issue at hand.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Tom » Sat Aug 24, 2013 4:27 am

smcj wrote:
I take this as a confirmation that my position is one possible interpretation.

It is, but he clarifies it is pre-Tsongkhapa position.

He said it in the context of giving commentary on a line in a Tsongkhapa text that specifically addresses the issue at hand.


For what its worth I was just speaking to a Geshe Hlarampa about this verse and he said that when Tsongkhapa says སྟོང་པ་ཁས་ལེན་བྲལ་བ (emptiness is devoid of theses) that you should take ཁས་ལེན་་བྲལ་བ to mean theses free of grasping at inherent existence.

Geshela also said that if someone claims that Tsongkhapa does not have any views about the ultimate truth/emptiness then you should explain that Tsongkhapa accepts that there are three types of apprehensions (འཛིན་པ) 1. wrong apprehensions which grasp to inherent existence, 2. correct apprehensions: the apprehension of the lack of inherent existence, 3. neutral apprehensions such as mere pot. When we ask does Tsongkhapa have a view with regard to ultimate truth then we are really asking if Tsongkhapa thinks ultimate truth is an object that can be apprehended. He does and it is correct apprehension that constitutes this right view. Geshela said if asked for scriptural reference then all this is clearly explained by Candrakirti in his Madhyamakāvatāra.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Sat Aug 24, 2013 5:14 am

When we ask does Tsongkhapa have a view with regard to ultimate truth then we are really asking if Tsongkhapa thinks ultimate truth is an object that can be apprehended. He does and it is correct apprehension that constitutes this right view.

You can't get any more authoritative than a larampa geshe, but that just sounds unbelievably incorrect to me. Unless by "apprehended" he just means Nagarjuna's four points have been proven.

This thread will force me to have an interview with a geshe at some point in the future. But until then, when I can get it from the horse's mouth, I ain't buyin' it.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby conebeckham » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:09 pm

Smcj-

I recommend Brunnholzl's stuff, I think he does a good job outlining Tsong Khapa's view, vis a vis the "freedom from extremes" classical understanding....though others may disagree.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Sat Aug 24, 2013 6:18 pm

conebeckham wrote:Smcj-
I recommend Brunnholzl's stuff, I think he does a good job outlining Tsong Khapa's view, vis a vis the "freedom from extremes" classical understanding....though others may disagree.

I have my teacher's spin on this, and he has total credibility with me. My own perspective is not in play.

The current conversation is about how the Gelug school sees itself. Outsider's perspectives don't count. When I come across a geshe I'll ask him. I'm in no hurry. It is of academic interest to me only. It has nothing to do with what happens when I sit down to meditate.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Son of Buddha » Sun Aug 25, 2013 11:36 am

smcj wrote:The Nyingmas call Shentong "Great Mad1yamaka". I would say that a majority of Nyingma lamas hold that position. For the Karma Kagyus the Shentong position is widely held also. Each school has subtle variations on the idea that I do not understand. I do not know how Dolpopa is viewed as an authority in those schools.

My impression is that Dzogchen is compatible with Great Madhyamaka. However ChNN does not subscribe to that view and he is popular here so you will get disagreement on that point.


How is Shentong and Buddha Nature viewed in your Sangha?
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Sun Aug 25, 2013 4:12 pm

Son of Buddha wrote:
smcj wrote:The Nyingmas call Shentong "Great Mad1yamaka". I would say that a majority of Nyingma lamas hold that position. For the Karma Kagyus the Shentong position is widely held also. Each school has subtle variations on the idea that I do not understand. I do not know how Dolpopa is viewed as an authority in those schools.

My impression is that Dzogchen is compatible with Great Madhyamaka. However ChNN does not subscribe to that view and he is popular here so you will get disagreement on that point.


How is Shentong and Buddha Nature viewed in your Sangha?

In short, Shentong is called the "empty of other" view. Since your Buddha Nature cannot be taken as an object of consciousness it is not self-empty as per the Prasangika reasoning just being discussed. It is empty of anything other than its own pristine essence, which is full of the qualities of Buddhahood. It is the basis for all samsara and nirvana.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby Son of Buddha » Mon Aug 26, 2013 2:07 am

smcj wrote:
Son of Buddha wrote:
smcj wrote:The Nyingmas call Shentong "Great Mad1yamaka". I would say that a majority of Nyingma lamas hold that position. For the Karma Kagyus the Shentong position is widely held also. Each school has subtle variations on the idea that I do not understand. I do not know how Dolpopa is viewed as an authority in those schools.

My impression is that Dzogchen is compatible with Great Madhyamaka. However ChNN does not subscribe to that view and he is popular here so you will get disagreement on that point.


How is Shentong and Buddha Nature viewed in your Sangha?

In short, Shentong is called the "empty of other" view. Since your Buddha Nature cannot be taken as an object of consciousness it is not self-empty as per the Prasangika reasoning just being discussed. It is empty of anything other than its own pristine essence, which is full of the qualities of Buddhahood. It is the basis for all samsara and nirvana.



yea thats how Shentong is described in Jonang also.
Does your Sangha follow Dolpopas teachings if not who is the main Shentong teacher that is cited in your sangha when it teaches about Shentong?
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:15 am

yea thats how Shentong is described in Jonang also.
Does your Sangha follow Dolpopas teachings if not who is the main Shentong teacher that is cited in your sangha when it teaches about Shentong?

To my knowledge Dolpopa is not essential to the Kavyus. I'm sure he is referenced extensively, given his contribution.

Modern day scholars are Thrangu Rin. and Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rin. The first Kongtrul Rin. was a major proponent, but various figures predate him in commentaries though, including several incarnations of the Karmapa.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:42 am

How is Shentong and Buddha Nature viewed in your Sangha?

I think that I should say that the teachings on Buddha Nature and Shentong are closely related but not the same. Buddha Nature says that the basis for your enlightenment is already there, and that it is simply covered by stains of emotionality and karma that never actually contaminate it. There are plenty of teachings about that in my school.

Shentong is more of a specialized subject. It is not taught all that widely as my school prides itself on being practice oriented, and Shentong is not about practice per se. It is about paradigms and ideas. Many a practitioner does long retreats and is never exposed to the idea at all. It is of academic interest only.
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Re: Views of Shentong and Dolpopa

Postby smcj » Mon Aug 26, 2013 6:58 am

Also, why do you equate a non-affirming negation with the absence of a view?

This seems like it will come down to a case of semantics. Here negation refers to the freedom from extremes, and non-affirming refers to nothing else posited other than that negation.

I liken it to a multiple choice question on a test. If, by proving that choices a, b, c, and d are incorrect (freedom from the extremes) without being given another option, then there is no correct answer=no view. But if you are given the choice "e. none of the above", then that is your answer, and you can say that there is a view.
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