Mahamudra and Yogacara

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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:40 pm

Great thread! And thanks Astus, I didn't realize Yogacara had such an influence. To research further I just got The Influence of Yogacara on Mahamudra, by Traleg Kyabgon yesterday and would recommend it for anyone interested in the links between the two. It's a short book and have read it already, but it had a lot of decent information in it.

As for Yogacara asserting that consciousness/mind is real, just to try and help :

From a link that Astus also used : http://www.acmuller.net/yogacara/articles/intro-uni.htm

Yogācāra doctrine is summarized in the term vijñapti-mātra, "nothing-but-cognition" (often rendered "consciousness-only" or "mind-only") which has sometimes been interpreted as indicating a type of metaphysical idealism, i.e., the claim that mind alone is real and that everything else is created by mind. However, the Yogācārin writings themselves argue something very different. Consciousness (vijñāna) is not the ultimate reality or solution, but rather the root problem. This problem emerges in ordinary mental operations, and it can only be solved by bringing those operations to an end.


And from the book by Traleg Kyabgon :

To say Yogacarins believe the world is nothing but a creation of the mind is to miss the point.

As we have discovered, our experience of subject and object may be constructed by mind, but reality itself is not constructed by mind or there would be no reality.

We first have to turn our mind to thought processes and images and then we begin to discover that our experience of objects is also constructed by our own mind. The practitioner begins to realize that subject and object do not exist; they are created by mind. When we realize this and the notion of subject and object are removed, reality reveals itself.


There's plenty of other things from the book that some of you might find interesting, will maybe post back later.

Actually, while I'm here, one more extract from the book :

As far as the Yogacarins are concerned, once the subject/object distinction is removed, once the workings of the three levels of consciousness are removed, things begin to exist in a harmonious way on the level of tathata, "reality."

As we go along, we will discover this has some affinity with the tarntric notion of "one-flavoredness" or ro chig. Yogacarins are saying that, as far as the ultimate existence of the world is concerned, every single thing has the same nature as everything else, so every single thing shares the same reality. Only one type of thing exists: equanimity. Tantrikas would say everything has one-flavor, which means the flavor of reality is the same in everything. However, the Yogacarins had already developed the notion of the all-pervasiveness of reality within everything, so that in an ultimate sense things exist in a harmonious way even if they are opposites.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Malcolm » Sun Jan 19, 2014 2:50 pm

conebeckham wrote:and the assertion, if I recall, was that the dependent, purged of the imaginary, was the perfect nature...which would lead to the conclusion that the dependent "exists." I may be remebering this incorrectly....but for those of you interested in concepts and polemics, have at it....!!!


Yes, this is how Maitreyanatha, Asanga and Vasubandhu uniformly present the three natures. The idea that perfect is empty of both the dependent and the imagined is very late in Indian exegesis (10th century).
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Sun Jan 19, 2014 5:20 pm

I've made this point earlier, but it seems to need refreshing:
And from the book by Traleg Kyabgon :

There is a source of confusion that needs to be clarified when quoting contemporary Karma Kagyupas. Khenpo Tsultrim, and therefore most all of the modern generation of Karma Kagyus, uses the term "Yogacara" to mean what most people think of as "Shentong". Contemporary Karma Kagyus, including people like Brunnholzl, use those terms as synonyms. Khenpot Tsultrim uses the term "Cittamatra" to mean the "Mind-Only" school, which in most other contexts is synonymous with Yogacara. So the following is actually a presentation of Shentong thought and not of the "Mind-Only" school.

To say Yogacarins believe the world is nothing but a creation of the mind is to miss the point.

As we have discovered, our experience of subject and object may be constructed by mind, but reality itself is not constructed by mind or there would be no reality.

I have no idea if that change in the use of the term "Yogacara" pre-dates Khenpo Tsultrim or not. All I know is that one should assume that for contemporary Karma Kagyupas it should be assumed that "Yogacara"="Shentong" unless it is specified otherwise.

I'm sure Khenpo Tsultrim and his followers have good reason to make such a distinction, but it certainly is not helpful for the purposes of internet discussions to change the way the terms are normally used. In fact it completely sows the seeds of confusion.

:tantrum:

At least Cone had the courtesy to suggest that the term "Yogacara" was not settled. (Khenpo Tsultrim is a teacher of his.):

Astus wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Which Yogacara? The one that posits an existent "mind?" Or later interpretations? :smile:


Which Yogacara posits an existent mind? It seems to me that only Tibetan apologetics invented that. Vasubandhu certainly did not.

The ones before modern day Karma Kagyus.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:20 pm

smcj wrote:I've made this point earlier, but it seems to need refreshing:
And from the book by Traleg Kyabgon :

There is a source of confusion that needs to be clarified when quoting contemporary Karma Kagyupas. Khenpo Tsultrim, and therefore most all of the modern generation of Karma Kagyus, uses the term "Yogacara" to mean what most people think of as "Shentong". Contemporary Karma Kagyus, including people like Brunnholzl, use those terms as synonyms. Khenpot Tsultrim uses the term "Cittamatra" to mean the "Mind-Only" school, which in most other contexts is synonymous with Yogacara. So the following is actually a presentation of Shentong thought and not of the "Mind-Only" school.



Nope it's definitely the actual Yogacara. He's talking about Asanga, Vasubandhu, how it started out around the 2nd century, the alayavijnana (eight consciousnesses), three natures (svabhavas : false imagination, right knowledge, reality), vasanas (translated here as traces and dispositions), vikalpa (translated as conceptual paraphernalia.) and plenty of other aspects.

Book is here : http://www.amazon.com/Influence-Yogacar ... 193460819X
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Sun Jan 19, 2014 6:44 pm

rob h wrote:Nope it's definitely the actual Yogacara. He's talking about Asanga, Vasubandhu, how it started out around the 2nd century, the alayavijnana (eight consciousnesses), three natures (svabhavas : false imagination, right knowledge, reality), vasanas (translated here as traces and dispositions), vikalpa (translated as conceptual paraphernalia.) and plenty of other aspects.

Right. As far as Khenpo Tsultrim and his students are concerned, when Yogacara is correctly understood it is synonymous with Shentong. That is how they use the term. Shentong interpretation sources Asanga and Vasabandhu, the eight consciousnesses, three natures, and so on. It sounds exactly the same.

However the distinction is that Khenpo Tsultrim's Yogacara does not accept the "Mind-Only" school's premise that consciousness is truly existent. They call "Mind-Only" (what most people call Yogacara) Cittamatra.

So in the quote:
To say Yogacarins believe the world is nothing but a creation of the mind is to miss the point.

As we have discovered, our experience of subject and object may be constructed by mind, but reality itself is not constructed by mind or there would be no reality.

He is affirming the Shentong interpretation of the term "Yogacara".

So for Ponlop R., Treleg R., Brunnholzl, Hookam, or any of the other modern day Karma Kagyu writers that follow Khenpo Tsultrim, the assumption should be that Yogacara=Shentong. Now that does not include other Kagyupas like the Drikung, or whatever. Plus I have no idea if Thrangu R. uses the term that way. Since he is a peer of Khenpo Tsultrim and not a student he has every right to have his own position. How the 17th Karmapa is going to use it remains to be seen, especially since he is getting a good taste of Gelug schooling in the matter.

So it is all very confusing. And more than a little irritating too. :tantrum:
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Sun Jan 19, 2014 7:17 pm

Malcolm,
As far as I understand it, the Karma Kagyu interpretation of the three natures does not leave one with a truly existent dependent nature.
I'm working on it....
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Sun Jan 19, 2014 8:40 pm

conebeckham wrote:Malcolm,
As far as I understand it, the Karma Kagyu interpretation of the three natures does not leave one with a truly existent dependent nature.

Not sure if that was a typo. I can't see anyone thinking that there would be a "truly existent dependent nature".

KTGR's "Progressive Stages…"
The Shentong uses Madhyamaka reasoning to refute the true existence of the dependent nature as well as the imaginary nature.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:12 pm

smcj : thanks for that, didn't realize. But even though that's the case, it doesn't seem like there's much difference if it's just rejecting that consciousness actually exists? It might even be the same as some forms of the original Yogacara anyway in that case, but I've still to research properly into it. (spent way too long just being content with the Lankavatara Sutra.) Have got one of Asanga's Maitreya texts (Ornament of Clear Realization.) though and another is on the way (Distinguishing between Dharma and Dharmata.) so hopefully things will be clearer shortly.

As far as I know at the moment though, it's the Tathagatagarbha-influenced Yogacara that points towards something actually existing, and I didn't think Asanga and Vasubandhu who seemed to have established so much of Yogacara, would really follow that type of view either. So maybe the Shentong Yogacara is close to how one of more of the main school(s) of Yogacara from the time of Asanga and Vasubandhu viewed things anyway.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Sun Jan 19, 2014 9:39 pm

rob h wrote:smcj : thanks for that, didn't realize. But even though that's the case, it doesn't seem like there's much difference if it's just rejecting that consciousness actually exists?

All I know is that it is splitting hairs. I don't think my understanding is going to get any clearer through texts. I'd have to be able to put my questions to somebody that has actually studied this stuff rigorously in a Karma Kagyu (my school) context.

Specifically my hangup is with the Shentong rejection of the "Mind-Only" contention that consciousness (meaning up to and including alayavijnana maybe?) is truly existent, yet assert that somehow beyond that the "non conceptual Wisdom Mind" is truly existent. Huh? WTF? I don't get it. That is very suggestive to me of…well I'm not going to say. Are there maybe some other terms it could be put in, like Dharmadhatu or something? Or maybe some Dzogchen related terms that have been used around here a bit?

Anyway sorry to vent my frustrations on the subject. Maybe if I'd learned Tibetan it would be less confusing.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Sun Jan 19, 2014 10:01 pm

smcj wrote:
rob h wrote:smcj : thanks for that, didn't realize. But even though that's the case, it doesn't seem like there's much difference if it's just rejecting that consciousness actually exists?

All I know is that it is splitting hairs. I don't think my understanding is going to get any clearer through texts. I'd have to be able to put my questions to somebody that has actually studied this stuff rigorously in a Karma Kagyu (my school) context.

Specifically my hangup is with the Shentong rejection of the "Mind-Only" contention that consciousness (meaning up to and including alayavijnana maybe?) is truly existent, yet assert that somehow beyond that the "non conceptual Wisdom Mind" is truly existent. Huh? WTF? Are there maybe some other terms it could be put in, like Dharmadhatu or something? Or maybe some Dzogchen related terms that have been used around here a bit?

Anyway sorry to vent my frustrations on the subject. Maybe if I'd learned Tibetan it would be less confusing.


Haha, yeah it doesn't seem like there's that much difference at times. With what you're referring to though, I think it's the same as what's in the book, and also what Dan Lusthaus is saying (he goes into detail on this page that's already been linked a couple of times : http://www.acmuller.net/yogacara/articles/intro-uni.htm ) That seems to be that the consciousness-only, or mind-only aspect, is referring to the problem, not the solution in some cases. So the consciousness/mind is the 5th skandha of consciousness that should be eventually dropped/transformed with the rest of the skandhas, and then the truth can emerge.

As for that truth actually existing, I don't really get hung up about that either way. (although I prefer not to take any view on what the truth actually is, maybe like Madhyamikas do.) If it's the truth then it doesn't bug me as long as people aren't trying to form false concepts over the top of it that mislead others. As long as that's the case, and it's Nirvana, Satori, Tathata, Mahamudra, etc, etc, it all seems to be referring to the same type of thing mostly.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby Malcolm » Mon Jan 20, 2014 3:06 pm

smcj wrote:Maybe if I'd learned Tibetan it would be less confusing.



Here is a fact -- among Indian authors there is very little disagreement about these things. Among Tibetans, there is great disagreement. That should clue you into something.

That some Tibetans consider Yogacara = vijñāptimatra/cittamatra is based in Indian sources. Fellows like Shtiramati were definitely classic "mind-only" proponents. He was a direct disciple of Vasubandhu. Further, another immediate, if not direct disciple, of Vasubandhu, Aryavimuktisena, criticizes Vasubandhu for his substantialism.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby conebeckham » Mon Jan 20, 2014 5:48 pm

smcj wrote:
conebeckham wrote:Malcolm,
As far as I understand it, the Karma Kagyu interpretation of the three natures does not leave one with a truly existent dependent nature.

Not sure if that was a typo. I can't see anyone thinking that there would be a "truly existent dependent nature".

KTGR's "Progressive Stages…"
The Shentong uses Madhyamaka reasoning to refute the true existence of the dependent nature as well as the imaginary nature.


It's not a typo.
Long ago, in the dim mists of the Dharma Wheel Past, (what, six months or so? :smile: ) we were discussing the Three Natures and Malcolm indicated that he felt the outcome of Yogacara thought was that the Dependent Nature was what existed....To be clear, he was not asserting that he believed this, but this is a conclusion reached by following the reasoning of Yogacara texts.

I'm not sure one even needs to approach "Shentong" to dispense with the true existence of the Dependent Nature. I believe there are alternate readings of the Indian texts that do not posit an Absolutely Existent Dependent Nature. But, as I said, I'm working through this stuff. I'd suggest Brunnholzl's "Mining Wisdom from Delusion" as an interesting read.....
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby smcj » Mon Jan 20, 2014 6:21 pm

I'm not sure one even needs to approach "Shentong" to dispense with the true existence of the Dependent Nature. I believe there are alternate readings of the Indian texts that do not posit an Absolutely Existent Dependent Nature. But, as I said, I'm working through this stuff. I'd suggest Brunnholzl's "Mining Wisdom from Delusion" as an interesting read.....

Ok, well the good news is that you guys definitely provoke me to read more, and more complicated material, than is my natural inclination. So thanks for that. But we've all got to choose our lines of investigation and I don't find this one particularly compelling. I still have some of ChNN's shorter books on my desk that need reading, all of which have been put there in response to what you guys talk about. I think they will take priority for now.

At the end of the day I really do reduce things down to comic-book level interpretations for my own purposes. It is only here on the playground that I've got to stretch myself and really organize my thoughts. So thanks for that too!
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Tue Jan 21, 2014 3:58 am

Another translation with some commentary by Thrangu Rinpoche of the same four yogas that are in the opening post. From Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata, (Dharmadharmatavibhaga) translated by Jules Levinsion :

As regards application authentic in its mode,
There are four degrees of engagement in this as well:
Application involving something to focus on,
Application involving nothing to focus on,
Application devoid of focuser serving as focus,
Application whose focus is nothing to focus on.


Commentary by Thrangu Rinpoche :

We begin at the first stage in which we focus on something which is observing that all phenomena is just mind only. In this stage we are not able to directly apprehend non-conceptual wisdom directly, so we must go to the second stage.

In the second stage we do not focus our attention on anything specific with this being called the "application of nothing to focus on."

In the third stage we not only don't focus upon anything but there is no longer even an observer and something to be observed.

Finally, in the fourth stage there is "nothing to focus on" which means we see dharmata just as it is. We must realize that this progression of stages does not lead us to a state of voidness of being like a stone. No, this last stage of observing dharmata directly is one of "complete illumination" or full intelligence and luminosity in which there is no darkness (or ignorance).


If anyone ends up getting a copy of that book, this part is from page 66 : Chapter 7 - The Foundation for the Transformation, (c) Stages of Meditation.
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Tue Jan 21, 2014 11:13 pm

Hi again, just wondering : does anyone know of any other sources where Asanga mentions these four yogas? And does Vasubandhu ever mention them in any of his works?
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Wed Jan 22, 2014 3:20 pm

The Dharmadharmatavibhaga arrived in the post today, so have got two of the Asanga-Maitreya works now. Two down, three to go. :mrgreen:

Will research Mahamudra as well hopefully over the coming weeks/months and post back if there's any other significant similarities/influences that I think are there from Yogacara. (I also think that these stages match up in some way with the Theravadan Jhanas and Arupajhanas, but that's another topic I guess.)
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby monktastic » Mon Jan 27, 2014 6:11 pm

rob h wrote:(I also think that these stages match up in some way with the Theravadan Jhanas and Arupajhanas, but that's another topic I guess.)


This will be interesting to hear about! The Mahamudra teachings I've heard are clear that pursuing the higher jhanas (or perhaps even the first, at the level suggested by the visuddhimagga) is not necessary (and can even be a sidetrack for some). Looking forward to you sharing your thoughts (or maybe you've already created another thread).
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Wed Jan 29, 2014 7:19 pm

monktastic wrote:
rob h wrote:(I also think that these stages match up in some way with the Theravadan Jhanas and Arupajhanas, but that's another topic I guess.)


This will be interesting to hear about! The Mahamudra teachings I've heard are clear that pursuing the higher jhanas (or perhaps even the first, at the level suggested by the visuddhimagga) is not necessary (and can even be a sidetrack for some). Looking forward to you sharing your thoughts (or maybe you've already created another thread).


Ah it was just something very basic that's all, and can see how actively pursuing jhanas when already on another path probably wouldn't be needed, as those stages would just be recognized on that path naturally?

All I meant was something like :

Application involving something to focus on - 1st Jhana - Directed thought and evaluation.
Application involving nothing to focus on - 2nd Jhana - Free from directed thought and evaluation - internal assurance.
Application devoid of focuser serving as focus - Equanimity of the 3rd and 4th.
Application whose focus is nothing to focus on - 4th Arupajhana - Dimension of Neither Perception nor Non-Perception.

The problem is that to understand this I'd clearly have to be a lot better at meditating and have a clear understanding of the 4th Yoga stage and the 4th Arupajhana, and I'm not going to pretend that that's the case!
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Re: Mahamudra and Yogacara

Postby rob h » Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:27 am

Apologies, got the yogas/jhana thing totally wrong by the looks of it. (or at least the 4th yoga/jhana part anyway, not so sure about the others.) Have been researching and trying to meditate to get better at understanding jhanas and they seem to be more concentrative states as opposed to anything else. In fact I don't really want to comment on jhanas like the 7th and 8th at all again (unless I'm fortunate enough to manage to reach one in this lifetime.) because from what I've been reading they're well beyond anything I can understand.

Serves me right for talking about things I've not meditated on/researched enough. Hopefully a lesson learnt.
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