Natural Luminosity

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Malcolm
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Natural Luminosity

Post by Malcolm »

The following is a comprehensive selection of citations from sūtra and tantra concerning natural luminosity [prakṛti prabhāsvara, rang gzhin gyis ‘od gsal]. It is by no means exhaustive, and I have not included any commentarial glosses by Indian scholars.

To understand natural luminosity, the first place to start is with the Prajñāpāramitā sūtras. Most people are familiar with the famous statement:
  • There is no mind in the mind, but the mind is naturally luminous.
The Śatasāhasrika-prajñāpāramitā, beginning with matter, ending with omniscience and including everything in between, states:
  • Due to matter being naturally luminous, it is pure and non-afflicted…due to omniscience of all aspects being naturally luminous, it is pure and non-afflicted.
Ārya-suvikrāntavikrami-paripṛcchā-prajñāpāramitā-nirdeśa states:
  • It is thought, “This mind is naturally luminous.” As this was thought, it is thought, “The mind arises based on a perception.” Since that perception is totally understood, the mind does not arise and does not cease. Such a mind is luminous, non-afflicted, beautiful, totally pure. Since that mind dwells in nonarising, no phenomena at all arise or cease.
The Ārya-prajñāpāramitānayaśatapañcāśatikā states:
  • Since prajñāpāramitā is totally pure, all phenomena are naturally luminous.
The Buddhāvataṃsaka-nāma-mahāvaipulya-sūtra states:
  • Since the original nature [prakriti] of the mind is luminous and endowed with purity, it is extremely pure…
    The original nature [prakriti] of the mind is correctly known as peaceful, luminous and equivalent with space…
    The natural luminosity of the dharmadhātu is abides as totality pure in the same way…
The Āryānantamukhapariśodhananirdeśaparivarta-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Whatever is totally pure, that is an immaculate entryway, the mind is naturally luminous and never possesses afflictions.
    The Ārya-bodhisattvapiṭaka-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
    All these phenomena are naturally pure,
    naturally luminous, fundamentally pure from the start,
    unfabricated and imperceptible.
And:
  • If it is asked what is luminosity, that which is natural is without affliction, like space, the nature of space. Follow space. That which is equivalent with the extent of space itself is extremely luminous by nature. Therefore, the immature are temporarily afflicted because they do not comprehend natural luminosity. Since sentient beings do not know natural luminosity, they must comprehend natural luminosity…Due to understanding the natural luminosity of the mind just as it is, the unsurpassed perfected awakening through the discerning wisdom possessed by an instant of the mind is called “full buddhahood.”
The Ārya-lalitavistara-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • I have obtained the ambrosia of Dharma,
    profound, peaceful, immaculate, luminous and unconditioned.
    Even though I explain it, no one will understand,
    I think I will remain in the forest without speaking.
    Free from words, untrained by speech,
    suchness, the nature of Dharma, is like space
    free from the movements of mind and intellect,
    supreme, amazing, the sublime knowledge…
    Always like space,
    nonconceptual, luminous,
    the teaching without periphery or center
    is expressed in this Dharmawheel.
    Free from existence and nonexistence,
    beyond self and nonself,
    the teaching of natural nonarising
    is expressed in this Dharmawheel…
The Ārya-sarvabuddhaviṣayāvatārajñānālokālaṃkāra-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Mañjuśrī, because the mind is naturally luminous, the secondary afflictions are exhausted by temporary secondary afflictions, but the primary afflictions do not exist by nature. Whatever is naturally luminous is without primary afflictions…
    Mañjuśrī, awakening naturally luminous through the natural luminosity of the mind. If it is asked what is luminosity, whatever is natural is without the primary afflictions, is equal with space, has the nature of space and is included in space, and is like space because of being extremely luminous by nature.
The Ārya-cintye-prabhāsa-nirdeśa-nāma-dharmaparyāya states:
  • The child asked, how shall I discern this? The mind is naturally luminous, within that afflictions are not produced and it does not become afflicted.”
    The Bhagavān replied, “It is just as you have said. The mind is always luminous, the common people become afflicted by temporary afflictions."
The Ārya-laṅkāvatāra-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Purified of the afflictions
    abandoned by meditation and seeing,
    the mind is naturally luminous,
    the pure tathāgatagarbha;
    but the addictions of sentient beings
    are boundless and endless.
    Just as when the surface of gold is polished, one sees
    the gold color, the brilliant shine and the pure surface,
    in just that way
    is the sentient being in the aggregates.
    The supreme ones have always shown
    the inexhaustible wisdom of the Buddha to be peace,
    without a person, without the aggregates.
    The natural luminosity of the mind
    endowed with the affliction of mind and so on
    along with [the affliction of] self
    possesses temporary afflictions
    from the start,
    naturally luminosity can be purified of the affliction of self,
    just like a [stained] cloth.
    Just as the flaws of either cloth or gold
    can be cleansed because they are [intrinsically] stainless,
    which neither remain nor are destroyed,
    and likewise have the nature of being flawless.
The Āryātajñāna-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Since all phenomena are naturally luminous,
    one should fully cultivate the perception of nonperception.
The Ārya-Śūraṃgamasamādhi-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    those are not real entities.
    When something is a nonentity,
    that is the purity of phenomena.
The Ārya-pratyutpanna-buddhasaṃmukhāvasthitasamādhi-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Also the mind is pure, naturally luminous,
    unperturbed, all pervasive and unadulterated.
And:
  • Since all these phenomena are naturally luminous, they are equivalent with nirvana.
The Ārya-bodhisattvagocaropāyaviṣayavikurvitanirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Due to not being asserted in other vehicles, the mind is pure. Due to the removal of the turbulence of the afflictions, the mind is not afflicted. Due to naturally luminosity, the mind is luminous.
The Ārya-tathāgatamahākaruṇānirdeśa-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Due to the natural luminosity of the mind, awakening is naturally luminous. If it is asked why it is called “naturally luminous,” whatever is natural is without the afflictions, equivalent with space, the nature of space, and equal in extent with space, and even with space. That nature is very luminous. Since immature common people do not comprehend natural luminosity, they are afflicted by the afflictions…
    The element of afflictions are fully known as the characteristics of the temporary afflictions. The element of purification is fully known as the characteristic of natural luminosity…
    The natural luminosity of the mind should be known in just that way. Due to that, the Dharma of the existence of result is shown in one moment of mind.


The Ārya-gaganagañjaparipṛcchā-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Whoever skillfully realizes all phenomena as pure,
    that is the natural luminosity of the mind…
    Because the mind is naturally luminous,
    therefore it is never afflicted.
There are of course many sūtra citations which I have excluded, but they all present a consistent theme.

Moving onto the tantras, we really do not find much variation on this theme, apart from the fact that the tantras tend to present a more precise explanation of the stages of the experience of luminosity in meditation (which will not be disclosed here). To begin with, the Ārya-ḍākinī-vajrapañjara-mahātantrarāja-kalpa-nāma states:
  • The dharmadhātu is luminous,
    someone who meditates on that
    is a sentient being who becomes equal with a buddha…
    The dharmadhātu is luminous,
    the taste of excellent bliss,
    called “the unobscured vajra.”
The Śrī-mahāsaṃvarodaya-tantrarāja-nāma states:
  • Natural luminosity
    is beyond the range of analysis,
    it is not low, not high, peaceful
    it cannot be invoked,
    it is inexpressible, beyond enumeration,
    the aspect of emptiness
    abiding as the nature all entities,
    free from all qualities such as sound and so on,
    this is the sources of the bliss of buddhahood.
The Saṃpūṭi-nāma-mahātantra states:
  • Natural luminosity is free from all concepts,
    free from being covered by the taints of desire and so on,
    with subject and object, the supreme being
    has said that is supreme nirvana…
    all phenomena are naturally luminous,
    because all phenomena do not arise from the start,
    it is termed non-origination by the mind.
The Mahāmāyā-tantra-nāma states:
  • All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    pure from the start and without perturbation…
    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    pure from the start, like space.
The Śrī-vajramālābhidhānamahāyogatantra-sarvatantrahṛdaya-rahasyavibhaṅga-iti states:
  • Natural luminosity is stainless,
    free from all aspects.
The Sandhivyākaraṇa-nāma-tantra states:
  • This phenomena is naturally luminous,
    since it is pure from the start, it is equivalent with space,
    there is no awakening, no realization,
    it is the explanation of bodhicitta.
The Māyājāla-mahātantrarāja-nāma states:
  • All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    pure from the start, without perturbation,
    without sentient beings, without life,
    without buddhas and without awakening.
The Sarvatathāgatatattvasaṃgraha-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • Also everything is naturally luminous,
    pure from the start, like space,
    neither a phenomena nor a nonphenomena,
    inconceivable and delightful…
    All phenomena are naturally luminous,
    intrinsically pure from the start.
The Vajraśikharamahāguhyayoga-tantra states:
  • Since everything is naturally luminous,
    its nature will be pure from the start,
    afflictions will not be perceptible,
    there will also be no liberation of nirvana…
    All phenomena are nonarising,
    totally luminous, peaceful from the start.


The Sarvarahasyo-nāma-tantrarājā states:
  • To explain the meaning of “sentient beings:”
    the mind is naturally luminous…
    whatever is naturally luminous
    is unsurpassed bodhicitta.
The Śrī-paramādya-nāma-mahāyānakalparājā states:
  • Since prajñānapāramita is totally pure, all phenomena are naturally luminous.
The Ārya-guhyamaṇitilaka-nāma-sūtra states:
  • All conditioned things are impermanent, and never arose from the beginning in natural luminosity.
The Ārya-vajrapāṇyabhiṣeka-mahātantra states:
  • The wisdom free from concepts
    is the actual buddhahood of all the past victors,
    that freedom from concepts
    is demonstrated as the accomplishment of Secret Mantra.
    The result of that is pure,
    naturally luminosity.
    Whoever dwells in conceptuality
    will never produce siddhis.
The Śrī-jñānavajrasamuccaya states:
  • Whatever arises from luminosity,
    that is called “mind,” “intellect" and “consciousness,”
    that is the foundation of all phenomena,
    the two stages are realized from
    affliction and purification…
    In order to explain the reality of all phenomena [gnas lugs], whatever arises from luminosity is dharmatā, the dhātu of naturally pure luminosity. Since a nonconceptual knowing awareness arises at the same time as the subtle vāyu, the mind [citta, sems] is the basis of all…
    The reality of that inner consciousness,
    nonconceptual innate dharmatā,
    is the nature of luminosity, empty and not a self…
    The reality of luminosity
    is an unfabricated mind which arises from it
    different from generic consciousness…
    luminosity is the ultimate truth…
    based on luminosity, the ultimate true state,
    the path is traversed rapidly…
    luminosity is dharmatā, suchness,
    pure like space, great bliss,
    unceasing, immaculate, peace,
    ultimate, mahāmudra itself.
    Mahāmudra of union
    is attained from luminosity that is very free from proliferation…
    Natural luminosity is totally pure,
    immaculate, like the element of space…
So, in the end we can see here that luminosity is uniformly considered to be a metaphor for the purity of both mind and phenomena. It is the critical point of meditation in Mahāyāna Buddhism, in both sūtra and tantra, and its experiential recognition leads in both cases to the realization of the final result, buddhahood. I have not included any citations from either sūtra and tantra which indicate how it is experientially entered, as that is beyond the scope of this post.

Finally, we can also see here in these citations that the naturally luminosity of the mind what is being termed tathāgatagarbha, dharmadhātu, and so on, and we can see that it is also termed emptiness, suchness, dharmatā and so on.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Dan74 »

Thank you very much, Malcolm! :namaste:
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Norwegian »

Great stuff Malcolm, thanks a lot.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by dzogchungpa »

Malcolm wrote:The Ārya-lalitavistara-nāma-mahāyāna-sūtra states:
  • ...
    Always like space,
    nonconceptual, luminous,
    the teaching without periphery or center
    is expressed in this Dharmawheel.
    Free from existence and nonexistence,
    beyond self and nonself,
    the teaching of natural nonarising
    is expressed in this Dharmawheel
Sometimes. :smile:
There is not only nothingness because there is always, and always can manifest. - Thinley Norbu Rinpoche
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Johnny Dangerous »

Excellent stuff.
"...if you think about how many hours, months and years of your life you've spent looking at things, being fascinated by things that have now passed away, then how wonderful to spend even five minutes looking into the nature of your own mind."

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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Vimalakirti also mentions luminosity as an aspect of Bodhi, but also many other factors. See chapter three, Boin-Lamotte gives the Sanskrit.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Karma Dondrup Tashi »

:twothumbsup: Ty
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Malcolm »

Nicholas Weeks wrote:Vimalakirti also mentions luminosity as an aspect of Bodhi, but also many other factors. See chapter three, Boin-Lamotte gives the Sanskrit.
Yes, but the point here is different.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

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'Luminous' means 'giving off light; bright or shining.
synonyms: shining, bright, brilliant, radiant, dazzling, glowing, gleaming, coruscating, scintillating, lustrous, luminescent, phosphorescent, incandescent'

The mind doesn't literally give off light - neither does matter, really - so as said, it's a metaphorical description. But what is it a metaphor for?
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Malcolm »

Wayfarer wrote:'Luminous' means 'giving off light; bright or shining.
synonyms: shining, bright, brilliant, radiant, dazzling, glowing, gleaming, coruscating, scintillating, lustrous, luminescent, phosphorescent, incandescent'

The mind doesn't literally give off light - neither does matter, really - so as said, it's a metaphorical description. But what is it a metaphor for?
Stainless purity, it is one of the central concepts in Mahayana.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Dan74 »

Why not say 'stainless purity' then?

Perhaps there is a vibrant luminous quality to the mind when freed from the habitual defilements?
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Malcolm »

Dan74 wrote:Why not say 'stainless purity' then?

Perhaps there is a vibrant luminous quality to the mind when freed from the habitual defilements?
All phenomena are naturally luminous, not just the mind. In any case, few of these citations have been presented in English before. Perhaps it is best if you reference a particular citation.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

If the end is buddhahood or omniscience, then rather than purity, the continuum of radiance suggests life or livingness - at bottom sentience, thru intelligence, mind, awareness etc. until jnana.

If the point is not related to Bodhi, then what?
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Malcolm »

Nicholas Weeks wrote:If the end is buddhahood or omniscience, then rather than purity, the continuum of radiance suggests life or livingness - at bottom sentience, thru intelligence, mind, awareness etc. until jnana.

If the point is not related to Bodhi, then what?
You need to read the list of citations again, looking for one that says no sentient being, no life, no buddhas, no awakening...
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Re: Natural Luminosity

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Wayfarer wrote:The mind doesn't literally give off light - neither does matter, really - so as said, it's a metaphorical description. But what is it a metaphor for?
I've always liked this simple definition/explanation by Tony Duff,
  • Luminosity or illumination, Skt. prabhäsvara, Tib. 'od gsal ba: The core of mind has two aspects; an emptiness factor and a knowing factor. The Buddha and many Indian religious teachers used "luminosity" as a metaphor for the knowing quality of the core of mind. If in English we would say "Mind has a knowing quality", the teachers of ancient India would say, "Mind has an illuminative quality, it is like a source of light which illuminates what it knows".
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Wayfarer »

Right - that is about how I understand it - mind is like a source of light.

As for "all phenomena being naturally luminous', thwt must also be metaphorical as few of them actually emit light.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by LastLegend »

The only luminosity I see is from the light on my ceiling.
Make personal vows.

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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Nicholas Weeks »

Malcolm wrote:
Nicholas Weeks wrote:If the end is buddhahood or omniscience, then rather than purity, the continuum of radiance suggests life or livingness - at bottom sentience, thru intelligence, mind, awareness etc. until jnana.

If the point is not related to Bodhi, then what?
You need to read the list of citations again, looking for one that says no sentient being, no life, no buddhas, no awakening...
Yes, I read them, but how is this basically differing from the Heart Sutra? It says the same thing, using emptiness rather than luminosity.

The Heart also has a line:
all dharmas are empty—they are neither created nor destroyed, neither defiled nor pure, and they neither increase nor diminish.


So one could say 'neither luminous nor dark'.

Also one of your quotes says this explains bodhicitta, so there is a relation to Bodhi.

Yet, as Je Rinpoche says, there is never any real conflict between Dharma doors, every teaching is correct for some minds at some point on their path to buddhahood.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Provider »

Malcolm wrote:
  • There is no mind in the mind, but the mind is naturally luminous.
Sadhu! Luminous, monks, is the mind, IF and that is the path and important. Otherwise its a construct. Is such a mind a construct, if Atma may ask, Mr Malcolm.

Maybe it's a translation problem as there are always is for ifs. Just made the some mistake 's. If mind is not Luminouse, maybe.
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Re: Natural Luminosity

Post by Malcolm »

Nicholas Weeks wrote:
Malcolm wrote:
Nicholas Weeks wrote:If the end is buddhahood or omniscience, then rather than purity, the continuum of radiance suggests life or livingness - at bottom sentience, thru intelligence, mind, awareness etc. until jnana.

If the point is not related to Bodhi, then what?
You need to read the list of citations again, looking for one that says no sentient being, no life, no buddhas, no awakening...
Yes, I read them, but how is this basically differing from the Heart Sutra? It says the same thing, using emptiness rather than luminosity.

The Heart also has a line:
all dharmas are empty—they are neither created nor destroyed, neither defiled nor pure, and they neither increase nor diminish.


So one could say 'neither luminous nor dark'.

Also one of your quotes says this explains bodhicitta, so there is a relation to Bodhi.

Yet, as Je Rinpoche says, there is never any real conflict between Dharma doors, every teaching is correct for some minds at some point on their path to buddhahood.
The point is that things, including the mind, are naturally luminous regardless of whether one is awakened or not.
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