Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Schrödinger’s Yidam
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Malcolm wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 2:55 pm
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 5:57 am sentient beings do not partake of Buddha Nature.
If this is the case, and I doubt it, this would mean that this idea stands in direct contradiction with the main systematized source of the tathāgatgarbha theory, the Uttaratantra.
Yes. Exactly.
Brunnhölzl mentions it in the video. It’s completely outrageous. It’s also in his “When Clouds Part” when he talking about HHKVIII too (page 73).
Brunnhölzl wrote:[HHKVIII] also repeatedly says that the tathagata heart and sentient beings are mutually exclusive since sentient beings are nothing but the sum of adventitious stains. Thus, sentient beings neither possess nor are the tathagata heart. This also means that it is not the case that buddha nature exists in sentient beings, but sentient beings (seem to) exist in buddha nature, just like clouds floating in the sky without affecting it.
I had thought only Karmapa VIII held this view, but in the video Brunnhölzl mentions Karmapa III also. That's the first I've heard of it. In any case it is an outlier.
Last edited by Schrödinger’s Yidam on Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:54 pm, edited 4 times in total.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »


In other words, it's beyond discursive thought for mere fools like ourselves.
Correct. But then again something might just be the exactly right thing for someone to hear at a given time, discursive though it may be.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by SilenceMonkey »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 5:23 pm Here is what I think: DharmaWheel, as much as I love it, spends far too much time bogged down in Metaphysical fretting about whether this or that aspect of the Dharma is "Hinduistic."

The Historical Buddha famously looked askance at metaphysical musings and his teachings were largely soteriological. In other words he told people what they needed to hear, when they needed to hear it, not with the aim of mapping reality like a Western philosopher but with the aim of liberating beings.
There were only 14 questions that the Buddha refused to answer. The nature of the atman was not one of them, and he taught on this quite a bit. And believe it or not, it was actually a cornerstone of the Buddha's teaching.

The way I see it, the fundamental question becomes: Is Buddha Nature inherently real? Hindus say atman is inherently real. I think even most shentongpas would say it's not real, it's emptiness.

I found this article recently and it goes deep into the subject. (Coming from a master with realization in advaita vedanta and tibetan buddhism both.)
https://www.byomakusuma.org/MadhyamikaB ... danta.html
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

The way I see it, the fundamental question becomes: Is Buddha Nature inherently real? Hindus say atman is inherently real. I think even most shentongpas would say it's not real, it's emptiness.
Nope.

Khenpo Tsultrim "Progressive Stages on Meditation on Emptiness"
Kindle edition, so no page number
This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the objet of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madhyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.
There's a gamut of possible interpretations here. Situ R. talks about ma-yin-gag (not actual term, just something like that) Shentong. There's no absolute reality beyond phenomena with that one--I think. So don't think it can be pinned down as just one idea or view. It's a whole range of views.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by FiveSkandhas »

Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:37 pm

Correct. But then again something might just be the exactly right thing for someone to hear at a given time, discursive though it may be.
SilenceMonkey wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:31 pm
There were only 14 questions that the Buddha refused to answer. The nature of the atman was not one of them, and he taught on this quite a bit. And believe it or not, it was actually a cornerstone of the Buddha's teaching.

The way I see it, the fundamental question becomes: Is Buddha Nature inherently real? Hindus say atman is inherently real. I think even most shentongpas would say it's not real, it's emptiness.

I found this article recently and it goes deep into the subject. (Coming from a master with realization in advaita vedanta and tibetan buddhism both.)
https://www.byomakusuma.org/MadhyamikaB ... danta.html
You both make good points. I don't want to come off as an "anti-intellectualist", which I personally see as a pernicious pitfall for many Buddhists. By all means Sutra and tenant study as well as analytical approaches are all valid, beneficial, and long-standing aspects of Buddhist cultivation.

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel people really beat their heads against the wall needlessly when it comes to Buddha Nature and Tathagatagharba thought. The issue as I see it is that Tathagatagharba texts present so many varied and often seemingly even opposing definitions and lines of argument when it comes to defining these concepts. You really can make well-reasoned arguments drawing on cannonical theory for maybe a dozen different definitions of Buddha Nature.

To avoid doctrinal discord, I personally tend to stand back from the whole issue in accordance with the lines I quoted from the Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra. Even if one doesn't have to be a Buddha to wrestle with this topic, one has to be exceedingly cautious not to fall into dogmatic rigidity when it comes to Tathagatagharba thought.

Perhaps if one takes the position that these texts are shot through with heavily-context-dependent upaya, it is an elegant solution to keep multiple seeming contradictory ideas in balance and avoid slandering the Dharma through dogmatic adherence to a limited view that rejects other ways of seeing Buddha Nature.

Certainly in the Diamond Sutra, for example, one can accept the manner in which it repeatedly makes propositions and then turns around and negates them, understanding this as a rhetorical strategy to demonstrate emptiness. In theory it should be possible to approach the Tathagatagharba texts with a similar understanding that what seems like contradiction is really ultimately harmonized when one takes all the different contexts into account. My problem is that there are just so many different formulations presented that it really feels as though one would truly need a Buddha's wisdom to keep the countless doctrinal strands from becoming hopelessly tangled in one's mind.

So in the face of all that I retreat humbly from the fray and choose to simply leave it all be. Your mileage may vary, of course.

南無阿弥陀仏。
"One should cultivate contemplation in one’s foibles. The foibles are like fish, and contemplation is like fishing hooks. If there are no fish, then the fishing hooks have no use. The bigger the fish is, the better the result we will get. As long as the fishing hooks keep at it, all foibles will eventually be contained and controlled at will." -Zhiyi
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Malcolm »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 12:06 am
Nevertheless, I can't help but feel people really beat their heads against the wall needlessly when it comes to Buddha Nature and Tathagatagharba thought. The issue as I see it is that Tathagatagharba texts present so many varied and often seemingly even opposing definitions and lines of argument when it comes to defining these concepts. You really can make well-reasoned arguments drawing on cannonical theory for maybe a dozen different definitions of Buddha Nature.

According to Candrakirti:

I. tathagatgarbha is merely the innate purity of a given consciousness also termed “luminosity” or “clear light.”

II. The 32 major marks said to abide innately in sentient beings is simply a metaphor for the natural purity of ones mind.

This should be understood as the Prasangika view of tathagatgarbha.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by gb9810 »

Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:06 pm
Khenpo Tsultrim "Progressive Stages on Meditation on Emptiness"
Kindle edition, so no page number
This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the objet of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madhyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.
A rather strange quote that doesn't seem consistent with KTGR's general teachings. First sentence seems fine, but the 2nd doesn't even follow logically.
I wonder if Shenpen really means that particular translation/interpretation.
I will have to check on the context, e.g. perhaps "it can be said" means: "some may say"

Either way, thanks for pointing it out.
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Könchok Chödrak »

I think Buddhism has a flawless way of explaining things with regards to Buddha-Nature, Anatta, non-self, and everything it explains. The Buddha made no mistakes in doctrine. Neither do any other Buddhas. There are no discrepancies in the words of the Buddhas. And there are all kinds of Skillful Means. To understand the purpose behind them is important because it may lead to Enlightenment, and to follow the purpose behind them will bring one closer to understanding them. It is kind of like one of those “Ancient Secret” things that will open your mind when revealed. So we have to respect Buddhism because it is perfect and valid in every way, in all its forms, according to the Ekayana Vehicle of Shakyamuni and all of the Buddhas. So we should respect the Buddhist doctrine and the Dharma. But at the same time it’s okay to ask questions and try to figure out why certain things are presented in a certain way. Someone may be saving your life when it seems to you like they are lying to you, but when the Dharma sinks in, it’s purpose is revealed. And like Garchen Rinpoche says, the Dharma is Love, both for Buddhists and those who call themselves non-Buddhists, so if we meditate on Love, the purpose of Buddhism will probably be revealed, considering Buddhism is about the Dharma. Namaste.

Buddha-Nature is the heart of the Dharma and the Dharma tells the truth.

Om Mani Padme Hum.
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by SilenceMonkey »

FiveSkandhas wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 12:06 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 7:37 pm

Correct. But then again something might just be the exactly right thing for someone to hear at a given time, discursive though it may be.
SilenceMonkey wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 9:31 pm
There were only 14 questions that the Buddha refused to answer. The nature of the atman was not one of them, and he taught on this quite a bit. And believe it or not, it was actually a cornerstone of the Buddha's teaching.

The way I see it, the fundamental question becomes: Is Buddha Nature inherently real? Hindus say atman is inherently real. I think even most shentongpas would say it's not real, it's emptiness.

I found this article recently and it goes deep into the subject. (Coming from a master with realization in advaita vedanta and tibetan buddhism both.)
https://www.byomakusuma.org/MadhyamikaB ... danta.html
You both make good points. I don't want to come off as an "anti-intellectualist", which I personally see as a pernicious pitfall for many Buddhists. By all means Sutra and tenant study as well as analytical approaches are all valid, beneficial, and long-standing aspects of Buddhist cultivation.

Nevertheless, I can't help but feel people really beat their heads against the wall needlessly when it comes to Buddha Nature and Tathagatagharba thought. The issue as I see it is that Tathagatagharba texts present so many varied and often seemingly even opposing definitions and lines of argument when it comes to defining these concepts. You really can make well-reasoned arguments drawing on cannonical theory for maybe a dozen different definitions of Buddha Nature.

To avoid doctrinal discord, I personally tend to stand back from the whole issue in accordance with the lines I quoted from the Śrīmālādevī Siṃhanāda Sūtra. Even if one doesn't have to be a Buddha to wrestle with this topic, one has to be exceedingly cautious not to fall into dogmatic rigidity when it comes to Tathagatagharba thought.

Perhaps if one takes the position that these texts are shot through with heavily-context-dependent upaya, it is an elegant solution to keep multiple seeming contradictory ideas in balance and avoid slandering the Dharma through dogmatic adherence to a limited view that rejects other ways of seeing Buddha Nature.

Certainly in the Diamond Sutra, for example, one can accept the manner in which it repeatedly makes propositions and then turns around and negates them, understanding this as a rhetorical strategy to demonstrate emptiness. In theory it should be possible to approach the Tathagatagharba texts with a similar understanding that what seems like contradiction is really ultimately harmonized when one takes all the different contexts into account. My problem is that there are just so many different formulations presented that it really feels as though one would truly need a Buddha's wisdom to keep the countless doctrinal strands from becoming hopelessly tangled in one's mind.

So in the face of all that I retreat humbly from the fray and choose to simply leave it all be. Your mileage may vary, of course.

南無阿弥陀仏。
Yeah... ideology is a big trap when discussing the profound. It seems a lot of people claim "I'm a Madhyamaka," for instance, without really understanding the reasoning. This is the reason for debating with competing views, to come to a view more aligned with reality. Otherwise it becomes an ideological "I believe it because this is how it is" or "I believe it because my master said it." Without understanding the underlying reasoning of why it refutes all other views, any claim about absolute reality is just blind faith.

What you said really made me think... I think it might actually be a bigger danger to believe something ideologically (blind faith), because it gets really emotional and based on self-grasping of "my view." I think it might actually be a much heavier obstacle to enlightenment than wrong view with regards to Buddha nature. The former is a very gross emotional affliction, the latter a subtle cognitive obscuration.
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

On the buddhanature.tsadra.org website Brunnhölzl has an interview that is broken up into 13 separate videos.
The first one in this thread was #2.
This video is #7.

1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Astus »

Könchok Chödrak wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 1:32 amCan anyone go into detail here how Buddha-Nature is not an Atman?
The Atman is a stand alone pure consciousness, never an agent. Buddha-nature is a reference to innumerable buddha-qualities that manifest when the obscurations are completely removed through the full realisation of twofold emptiness.
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Könchok Chödrak »

Astus wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:20 am
Könchok Chödrak wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 1:32 amCan anyone go into detail here how Buddha-Nature is not an Atman?
The Atman is a stand alone pure consciousness, never an agent. Buddha-nature is a reference to innumerable buddha-qualities that manifest when the obscurations are completely removed through the full realisation of twofold emptiness.
[Mod note: edit] We say “we all have Buddha Nature”. What is this ”we”? After we erase the “I” are we going to erase the “we”? Eventually it must be understood that there are Real Transcendental activities for the individual after liberation, and that there still is an individual, even after many lifetimes of self-negation.
Last edited by Ayu on Thu Apr 08, 2021 12:16 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Reason: Off topic deleted for the sake of saving a good question.
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Astus »

Könchok Chödrak wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 7:39 amWe say “we all have Buddha Nature”.
Such is the nature of skilful means, intended to make people maintain a hopeful outlook towards a great realisation, only to find out in the end that there has never been anything to realise.
What is this ”we”? After we erase the “I” are we going to erase the “we”?
'These mere appearances are not a real unity, because they possess many parts. Each of these parts can in turn be broken down into many subparts. Since this process can be infinitely repeated, there is not a single smallest particle that is a really existent and indivisible unity. Without even one real building block, how could you put together many so as to create a really existent thing? Consequently, there can be nothing that is a real multiplicity, because there is no real unity to begin with that could build up such a multiplicity. To be sure, this reasoning does not negate the mere conventionality that one thing has many parts. The point here is that neither the thing in question nor its parts really exist by themselves. Thus, what is denied is not the mere appearance of unity and multiplicity on the level of seeming reality but the existence of any unity or multiplicity that is really established and findable as such.'
(Center of the Sunlit Sky, p 237)
Eventually it must be understood that there are Real Transcendental activities for the individual after liberation, and that there still is an individual, even after many lifetimes of self-negation.
'“Are the dharmakāyas of the buddha bhagavāns said to be different or said not to be different?” They are said not to be different since their support, intention, and enlightened activity are not different. [However,] they are said to be different since innumerable bodies [of bodhisattvas] become fully and perfectly awakened. Just as the dharmakāya, the sambhogakāyas [of buddhas] are not different because their intention and enlightened activity are not different. However, since their supports are different, it is not that they are without difference because they arise with innumerable supports. The nirmānạkāyas are to be regarded in the same way as the sambhogakāyas.'
(Mahayanasamgraha X.8, tr Brunnhölzl)
1 Myriad dharmas are only mind.
Mind is unobtainable.
What is there to seek?

2 If the Buddha-Nature is seen,
there will be no seeing of a nature in any thing.

3 Neither cultivation nor seated meditation —
this is the pure Chan of Tathagata.

4 With sudden enlightenment to Tathagata Chan,
the six paramitas and myriad means
are complete within that essence.


1 Huangbo, T2012Ap381c1 2 Nirvana Sutra, T374p521b3; tr. Yamamoto 3 Mazu, X1321p3b23; tr. J. Jia 4 Yongjia, T2014p395c14; tr. from "The Sword of Wisdom"
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by lhaksam.dorje »

gb9810 wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 2:45 am
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Wed Apr 07, 2021 10:06 pm
Khenpo Tsultrim "Progressive Stages on Meditation on Emptiness"
Kindle edition, so no page number
This non-conceptual Wisdom Mind is not the objet of the conceptualizing process and so is not negated by Madhyamaka reasoning. Therefore, it can be said to be the only thing that has absolute and true existence.
A rather strange quote that doesn't seem consistent with KTGR's general teachings. First sentence seems fine, but the 2nd doesn't even follow logically.
I wonder if Shenpen really means that particular translation/interpretation.
I will have to check on the context, e.g. perhaps "it can be said" means: "some may say"

Either way, thanks for pointing it out.
As you say, I also find this quote conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings (that ignorant westerners such as myself have been exposed to), but now I put this down to my concepts and lack of experience.

Personally, I think it points to a nice sense of 'if you are conceptualizing it, that's nice but it's not what you thing it is, same as everything else'....

I always find this bit of that book very useful... a bit of 'yep, you want absolute reality....it's there, but if you think you've found something that you can talk about it, that's not it.....actually if you THINK you've found it, that's not it either, but it's there and you might have found something like it before you got to the point of thinking about it or wanting to talk about it''
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Crazywisdom »

According to Kalachakra and commentaries, and probably Dzogchen as well, this comes down to a thorough analysis of that which appears as wisdom yet is nonmaterial, for example clear light not only as purity but many forms, wisdoms, beneficial manifestations, etc.
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Könchok Chödrak »

Astus wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 1:04 pm 'These mere appearances are not a real unity, because they possess many parts. Each of these parts can in turn be broken down into many subparts. Since this process can be infinitely repeated, there is not a single smallest particle that is a really existent and indivisible unity.
So there is no smallest particle. Can we respect constructs as form, then form as Emptiness, then Emptiness as the basis for who we are, without saying we don’t exist just because we are infinite? Isn’t what really doesn’t exist the material aspect of this world, the non-Nirvanic, non-Buddhic dream of craving, but all the while, all the while Love and Compassion are real—?
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by gb9810 »

we tend to insist on fitting the pigeon into one of the binary holes, without consider just letting the pigeon fly free and beyond the constraint of the holes.

Where would the pigeon go then? it will be where it will be
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

As you say, I also find this quote conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings (that ignorant westerners such as myself have been exposed to), but now I put this down to my concepts and lack of experience.
Yes, it is conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings, if by "general" you mean the teachings on everything being self-empty (Madhyamaka, Heart Sutra, etc.). The workaround being the idea it is exempt from Prasangica deconstruction because it cannot become an object of consciousness, which I think is how it is said in an earlier edition.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Malcolm »

Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 6:13 pm
As you say, I also find this quote conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings (that ignorant westerners such as myself have been exposed to), but now I put this down to my concepts and lack of experience.
Yes, it is conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings, if by "general" you mean the teachings on everything being self-empty (Madhyamaka, Heart Sutra, etc.). The workaround being the idea it is exempt from Prasangica deconstruction because it cannot become an object of consciousness, which I think is how it is said in an earlier edition.
This does not make sense. Why? Nonconceptual gnosis arises from a cause, as is very clearly stated in both Madhyamaka AND Yogacāra sources.
"Nonduality is merely a name;
that name does not exist."
—Kotalipa
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Re: Brunnhölzl on Buddha Nature as a radical teaching.

Post by Schrödinger’s Yidam »

Malcolm wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 6:55 pm
Schrödinger’s Yidam wrote: Thu Apr 08, 2021 6:13 pm
As you say, I also find this quote conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings (that ignorant westerners such as myself have been exposed to), but now I put this down to my concepts and lack of experience.
Yes, it is conceptually inconsistent with general buddhist teachings, if by "general" you mean the teachings on everything being self-empty (Madhyamaka, Heart Sutra, etc.). The workaround being the idea it is exempt from Prasangica deconstruction because it cannot become an object of consciousness, which I think is how it is said in an earlier edition.
This does not make sense. Why? Nonconceptual gnosis arises from a cause, as is very clearly stated in both Madhyamaka AND Yogacāra sources.
I’m just relaying what I remember reading in a previous edition. Could be a good point.
1.The problem isn’t ‘ignorance’. The problem is the mind you have right now. (H.H. Karmapa XVII @NYC 2/4/18)
2. I support Mingyur R and HHDL in their positions against lama abuse.
3. Student: Lama, I thought I might die but then I realized that the 3 Jewels would protect me.
Lama: Even If you had died the 3 Jewels would still have protected you. (DW post by Fortyeightvows)
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