Emptiness and How to Realise it: Part 4

Transcription of teachings by Chamtrul Rinpoche, Johannesburg 2017

Ok, so we continue from the morning class, explaining the 4 great philosophical schools. We have completed the first 3 schools, Vaibasika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra and now we will go on to the Madhyamaka.

So as we said, the other views fall into some extreme of existence and non-existence. If the view is not these, then what is the view? For this we need to know the 5 characteristics of the dharma sphere that we discussed earlier, inexpressible, non-dual, not an object of logicians, one taste, signless.

Madhayamaka means middle way because it is beyond ordinary perception and it does not fall into the extreme of one side, existent or non-existent. The meaning is beyond ordinary person’s perception, but still we use the name Middle Way. This Madhyamaka can be divided into two levels: the subschools and highest school. We need to follow step by step.

The subschool’s teaching briefly has two different classes: Svatantrika and Yogacarya. The first one, Svatantrika believe that conventionally external sense-source objects can exist separately. This is similar to the Vaibasika and Sautrantika schools.
Ultimately they believe all is empty.
Then the other, the Yogacarya believe that conventionally all exists as appearances- like Cittamatra School, but ultimately they believe that all is empty- even the ultimate realization of the absolute self & object is empty.
This is the subschool view.
Then the highest view is the Middle Way Consequentialist Class: Again there are 2 different levels: Nominal ultimate truth and actual ultimate truth.
So now we talk about the first one – nominal ultimate truth:
Eg: We can follow the Heart Sutra as it addresses one of the five aggregates, form: ‘Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form.’ This means there are 4 stages or categories of understanding to traverse in order to reach the highest meaning step by step.

So first Buddha says: ‘Form is emptiness’ because in the beginning we believe that form exists inherently. This is ordinary people’s perception- we apprehend true existence, but Buddha says it is mistaken. Then if you ask why? Because form originates interdependently (the king of logic). First we need hearing wisdom then contemplation wisdom and then we need to meditate. But if you stop there and think form is empty, then maybe you feel that form is like space or nothingness.
So then Buddha says, “Emptiness is form”. Now you feel maybe there is a contradiction. Form is apparent, but emptiness is nothingness…so how can appearance and nothingness not be contradictory? If you ask why is it not contradictory, then the answer is because appearances arise interdependently…so emptiness means interdependence. Finally they become the same nature. According to ultimate logic you say emptiness and according to conventional logic you say interdependence. When you first hear these two statements you could feel like these are like two horns- separate emptiness and separate form is still not pure view…so at this stage you are not yet on the middle way, you are falling to extremes. So how can you be free of falling to extremes? You continue onto the next verses of the Heart Sutra:

“Form is no other than emptiness. Emptiness is no other than form”. This means union, but not that two are related, but rather the equality of form and emptiness…the nature of form and emptiness is one taste. Your view is equanimous – free from elaborations and concepts. The reality is equal. This equality of suchness is the middle way. Middle way does not mean a center of something- otherwise you need a right and a left. The Middle Way sounds like it means between, but this is not the meaning…it actually means beyond…beyond subject, object and perceptions. This view equally pervades everything- the impure appearances of samsara and pure appearances of nirvana. This is the fourth stage. So if we go step by step, then finally we can reach the fourth stage of equality.

So how can you find this view and practice, meditate etc? Through the Nominal Truth Madhayamaka teachings. First you can separate conventional and ultimate truth…conventionally the appearance of form and ultimately emptiness. Then you realize that they are just different aspects in union and then finally you realize the union is equal. It is easier to reach the understanding of final emptiness to go this way via the nominal truth.

Then the Actual Ultimate Truth of Madhayamaka (Consequentialist school)- the highest most profound view, is a direct view, not step by step. There is no higher view. They explain the dharmadatu directly. The explanation is direct. Chandrakirti and Nagarjuna are the main teachers of this Madhayamaka.
(Rinpoche quotes Chandrakirti in Tibetan):
General meaning:
There are not two different explanations of ultimate and conventional truth. Equally they can both be explained…both are of unborn nature.

We have used two truths until now because ordinary mind has dualistic grasping and so hard to explain this equality from the beginning. So finally there is no difference between ultimate and conventional truth…no self-existent conventional or ultimate truth…emptiness is empty.

First we thought emptiness was the antidote to grasping at existence. So emptiness is the object of extraordinary minds of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, but if you think emptiness exists inherently this is also an error. Emptiness itself is empty. We need to understand the object of negation in Madhyamaka. If you can perceive any inherently existent thing- either from conventional or from ultimate point of view, this is not reality. If you think something is not existent this also is an error. If you only think all is emptiness except emptiness then this is denigration. In the beginning you must pass this step, its fine, but finally even emptiness should be empty. How do we know emptiness is empty? What is the logic?

(Rinpoche quotes Nagarjuna):
If in case there are some existent things out there, then they should depend on emptiness. But finally if you see there is nothing inherently left, then even emptiness cannot exist, because emptiness depends on objects. Eg if there is nobody sick, then there is no medicine. So finally we understand that all is unborn, not inherently existent- directly, then you also understand that emptiness was just an antidote and was not itself existent. Finally emptiness is empty.

(Rinpoche quotes Nagarjuna):
General meaning:
Nagarjuna says that the promise of emptiness is not his final traditional view. Emptiness only depends on the others who believe there is something existent and acts as an antidote. So therefore he himself has no commitment and therefore you cannot find any fault with his view because there is no final view/commitment.

So when you clearly get this conviction and certainty and you practice the view then you have less obscurations to the omniscient mind – Buddha’s mind. This omniscient mind does not mean you are all powerful, but it means that what sentient beings need, you can offer. You can lead beings to liberation, free from faults, karmas and delusions. This is the final Mahayana purpose. It is not enough for just you to be liberated. Buddha knows exactly these methods, views, results and paths clearly without error because he experienced the path and result. This is the meaning of Buddha’s mind is omniscient.
Everyone sooner or later has this power to attain the omniscient mind because everyone has Buddha nature. Buddha nature means emptiness wisdom and essence of luminosity. The luminosity and emptiness wisdom are inseparably one nature, the unity of wisdom and compassion. This Buddha nature pervades everyone. The perfect seed of Buddhahood is there.

So when will we attain Buddhahood? This differs from person to person. For someone it could be this year, or this life, but we never know. We do know that one day everyone will attain this state because the obscurations are not the nature of our mind. So this is the Madhyamaka view.

In the beginning its easier to think of emptiness if you think of zhentong: emptiness of others eg: an empty airoplane with nobody in it. Then if you go deeper you can say Buddha nature is empty of pure appearances of nirvana and impure appearances of samsara, but this is still not pure emptiness- it is still the emptiness of other. Buddha nature is the self and impure/pure appearances is other – in this case. Then you can say that Buddhanature itself is empty – like an aeroplane itself is empty of itself or the 5 aggregates are empty of themselves.
As we mentioned from the heart sutra: “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form, form is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than form”. You can use this verse with all the other aggregates, not just form, like feeling:
“Feeling is emptiness, emptiness is feeling, feeling is no other than emptiness, emptiness is no other than feeling…and so forth with all the aggregates until you have equality without concepts.
And then if you find an object of knowledge other than these aggregates then you can use this object and continue with this contemplation.

Finally we say that great compassion is the essence of emptiness (of self and phenomena). This is very important. Why do we say this? At the beginning we cultivate love and compassion dependent on other’s problems, your feeling and energy etc, even though we don’t know emptiness. If you train your mind like this then love and compassion arises and this is necessary, but not very pure. When you understand emptiness then you know how and why sentient beings are suffering and wandering in samsara clearly. You know because you yourself saw the root of the suffering- self-grasping and you understand that all beings can be free. You know that if they are free of self-grasping, they can be free of karma, delusions and the sufferings of samsara. This compassion is a very strong wish to benefit- you don’t want only to temporarily benefit, but ultimately through your experience. So this compassion is born from wisdom mind.

Then maybe you ask; if someone has already realized selflessness of phenomena then to whom do you generate compassion? If the answer is ‘to sentient beings’ but then you say they are empty so there is nobody to generate compassion to. This is again a misunderstanding. It does not mean that Buddha’s focus on suffering beings existing inherently. They understand clearly that all exists as illusion. Illusorily you can have compassion to illusory sentient beings. Illusorily you can lead others on the path.
Actually attaining Buddhahood is finally also not true, because there is no inherent Buddhahood. There is no inherent samsara. If samsara is inherent, then how can we have nirvana? Samsara transforms into nirvana, which means ordinary perception transforms into enlightenment therefore Buddhahood can’t exist inherently. But don’t worry- you can illusorily attain Buddhahood. If you understand this you are close to attaining Buddhahood.

(Quotes Shakyamuni Buddha)
If someone believes Buddha is form, smell, taste etc then you are mistaken. Buddha is beyond these, ultimately.

Conventionally all is true from path of accumulation until path of no more learning…conventionally I am saying. Finally you understand there is no samsara and no nirvana, then you understand that which is hard to understand, but if you say this too early people get a headache, or don’t practice because they say there is no Buddhahood, but at the end you found the meaning so we can say this now, but not always.

I will tell one story. One Tibetan man is a very positive traditional practitioner and he has the commitment to not kill. He has yaks and sheep but does not kill them because he has a vow. One day he asks his teacher; ‘Master can you tell me what is the highest of Buddha’s teachings?’ The master says, ‘Ok, I will tell you’ and gives him a teaching like this so he says, ‘ok thank you I now understand’ and he went away and killed a yak. His wife had a fit and said, “Are you crazy? Why are you killing?” The man says, “Oh before I was mistaken, but now I understand there is no subject, no object and no action- I mistook the 3 spheres. There is no subject of killing, no object and no act of killing therefore I can kill.”
So this is a great mistake and danger- especially in tantra and great perfection, but even in sutra. So we need to understand well.

Great Compassion is born from the realization of Emptiness. Also the realization of Emptiness depends on Compassion. If we ask how do we achieve Buddhahood? We need to cultivate the mind of Enlightenment. What is the mind of Enlightenment? It is wish or attitude to benefit other mother sentient beings, so therefore I will attain the mind of enlightenment. These two are the Bodhicitta mind. This means if there is no compassion then there is no reason to attain Buddhahood, but even if you have strong compassion, if you don’t attain Buddhahood then you can’t really benefit. These two mutually support each other.

Then, finally if the pure compassion is born from the realization of emptiness. How can we collect merit? Great compassion is the main method. How can we collect wisdom? Realise emptiness. These two can be the base- view, the path and the final result of Buddhahood. Pure wisdom and compassion is the meaning of Enlightenment or Buddhahood. Ok, this is enough for the moment to introduce emptiness. There is the self emptiness and emptiness of others. Emptiness of other is a bit easier to understand, but then you must understand the emptiness of self. Finally you must go beyond emptiness of self and other and this is the final view of Madhyamaka.

So does this make sense? Good so try…sometimes study and meditate on compassion and wisdom. This talk on emptiness is the foundation for sutra and tantra…sometimes people think oh I want to practice tantra, not know this, but you need to have a general point meaning of emptiness to practice pure tantra. For example in the sutras we can say appearances are empty or the union of emptiness and appearances and in tantra we say clarity and emptiness of the deity. Emptiness is always there. If you ask “how do I visualize the deity?” I say you must visualize it clearly and its nature is empty. This ‘empty’ is all that we have been talking about. A biit higher you say bliss, emptiness. This bliss you find, you must know the nature of bliss, which is emptiness. If you only practice bliss and enjoyment, then this is desire. Then in Dzogpachenpo we talk of the emptiness of self-awareness. If you only know self-awareness as existent then this is an error, you must know the empty nature. So as I said before, the prajnaparamita teachings can have a direct, indirect and hidden meaning. Direct meaning is emptiness, indirect – the stages of the path and the hidden meaning is tantra. So this teaching is important for sutra and tantra practitioners. However if you only follow the Therevada tradition, then it is enough to only understand emptiness of person and the coarse level of emptiness of phenomena. This is the antidote to the obscurations of delusions. But if you want to reach complete Buddhahood, you need to understand selflessness of phenomena to destroy the obscurations to omniscience.

Between the Tibetan Buddhist schools, Geluk, Kagyu, Sakya and Nyingma there can be tiny differences in the philosophical view of emptiness, but we are dharma practitioners and so no need to understand these. If we do understand then good, but no need. We need to know what the cause of suffering is and the cause of happiness… how we cultivate the cause of suffering and happiness and get higher rebirth, liberation and so forth. Then we don’t need the details. Why are there differences? Because of lineage. There cannot be the same father for everyone. That is not possible. Right? So it’s a family true- its natural. But it doesn’t matter what kind of tree you belong to, your object is the same. So we must respect all the traditions of Buddhism. Buddha says you can keep faith to your tradition, but respect all traditions. Unfortunately some people even don’t respect within their own tradition. The dharma is always meant to be an antidote to negative emotions like jealousy. If dharma is used to cultivate jealousy then what is the use of dharma teaching and practice? Dharma should be the antidote to jealousy, but if you found a new jealousy from dharma then I think this is wrong.


Emptiness and How to Realise it: Part 3

Transcription of teachings by Chamtrul Rinpoche
Johannesburg 2017

So now we continue our topic of Emptiness according to the 4 great philosophical schools, Vaibasika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra and Madhyamaka. Yesterday we mentioned the first two philosophical schools and some of the third school and today we will go further with the third school.

To understand emptiness, we must first know there are two types of objects of knowledge: the objects of knowledge of conventional truth and objects of knowledge of ultimate truth. So these two truths must be clearly distinguished. The conventional truth means just the appearance of phenomenal objects like illusions or the reflection of the moon in the water or like reflections in the mirror or like objects in a dream…various aspects like sound, smell, form, taste and tactile sensation appear clearly. All these compounded phenomena originate interdependently, not independently and that’s why they just appear like an illusion. So this is conventional truth.

What is the ultimate truth of these phenomena? The nature of phenomena is empty, completely unborn from the time of their appearance. This empty nature equally pervades all appearing phenomena, so we can say all is of single taste or one taste, which means emptiness. Appearances are thousands, countless different aspects conventionally, but ultimately they are of one taste. So this is the view, which is important to know.

Buddhadharma view is that all appearances are interdependent and their nature is emptiness. These two are different aspects, but one nature. So how can we get this certainty of the view from our heart? We need to follow valid cognition with perfect logic and reasoning until certainty arises. Then when we clearly understand this view, we need to practice. Practice means we need to meditate and train the mind to become more familiar so that the meaning can become more and more clear and we can experience the general view of emptiness. Even on the path of accumulation and the path of preparation you can experience the general meaning of emptiness. Then finally at the end you will realise the selflessness of person and the emptiness of phenomena. So when you directly realize these two emptinesses with your primordial wisdom mind then you enter the path of seeing and your ordinary perception becomes the extraordinary wisdom mind and you become a spiritual, holy being (Arya Being).

If you then meditate further during the path of meditation, not only will you be free of obscurations of karma and delusions (suffering) but you will also finally be free of the obscurations to omniscience which means you achieve the state of the omniscient mind – with no imprint – and this we call Buddhahood. So everyone has the potential to eventually achieve this state.

Now we go further with our explanation. Within the first 2 schools, Vaibasika and Sautrantika, the coarse level phenomena are existent conventionally and then the partless particle and partless moment are the ultimate truth. They believe the object and subject exist separately. The subject (internal mind) and the object (the external physical objects) are composed of partless particles so both are existent conventionally at the coarse level and ultimately as partless particles and partless moments.

So now how do we perceive the 5 sense-source objects with the 5 sense-source consciousnesses? The Vaibasika school believes that in order to perceive the 5 sense objects you need the 4 conditions:
-Dominant condition: the faculties
-Observed object: the external form,
-Immediately preceding condition (which needs some explanation): It means both the continuity of external physicality and the internal mentality (mind) must both just have past the last moment or have disintegrated. If there is no disintegration yet, then we cannot perceive anew.
-The actual causal condition: one’s own mindstream-continuity. The mind itself is the substantial cause for receiving sense objects.

So in this way for example when you are perceiving an object of form, what is the dominant condition? Your eye faculty. If there is no eye faculty you cannot receive the object of form. If you lack the external observed object, then you cannot perceive. For example there must be a flower or tree to be perceived. Even if you have the eye and the object, you still need the preceding condition to have disintegrated or passed otherwise you cannot perceive the form. If you have these three but you don’t have consciousness’s clarity and awareness then you also cannot perceive the form. So if these 4 conditions are there then you can perceive an object successfully. In the same way for example to perceive sound you need an ear (dominant condition) and sound (external object) and the other 2 conditions – the third and fourth condition- stay the same and the same for the other senses. So this is the same for all sense faculties. Medical science believes something similar.

There is however a slight difference between the Vaibasika and Sautrantika schools. Sautrantika is a higher school than the Vaibasika and so their explanation is a bit more advanced. The first school, Vaibasika, believes that the outer object and inner faculty must meet and connect and then you will be able to directly perceive for example the form with your eye at the time that they meet. Generally this is what we all believe.

Then the Sautrantika believes you cannot perceive the object directly in the present moment as the conditions meet. The object and subject meet first in a preceding moment and in the moment you have perceived the object, that present moment of meeting has already passed. So they say you can never directly perceive an object- you only experience the reflection aspect of the object. This is similar to scientific explanations…if you see a shooting star, that star exploded maybe many years ago and so what you see is just an aspect or reflection of the actual object. So the Vaibasika is similar to what we normally perceive in the moment- we think that all is there and experienced in the moment, but the Sautrantika is similar to the scientific view.

Cittamatra school does not believe that there is any external materiality. They only believe in mind. They don’t believe in partless particle or partless moment. Therefore the external object and internal moment cannot exist inherently – all is just illusion like in a dream. The subject and object in a dream don’t exist substantially, they are only dream characters. For example if you dream of a big elephant, you can experience fear of it and run away. In fact the object elephant is not true and therefore nor are you as the perceiver. Both appear illusorily in the dream, but both are not true. So why do we experience subject and object separately? This separation is an illusion. Why do they appear in an illusory way? Because they appear interdependently. Dependent on what? Dependent on our imprint from past – we have an imprint of a subject and an imprint of a subject karma. We grasp at a separate self and other and this is stored on our consciousness life after life. So in the dream, what and how do we dream? Again, all is interdependently appearing – depending on our imprints during our daytime and our life from the time of our birth. These imprints go with us into the dream and simply appear as subject and object.

So in the Cittamatra school, they describe 3 different characteristics of self and phenomena:
-the imaginary self,
-the relational or dependent self
-and the absolute or ultimate self.
The same for the object: imaginary, dependent and absolute object. What does this mean? Cittamatra says everything is only mind…meaning the imprints (conditions) and the mind (cause) create our reality. So when we apprehend an external object as inherently existent then we also perceive the subject as inherently existing- this is dualistic grasping born of ignorance of all ordinary beings. Both outer and inner are not truly existent. So according to the misunderstanding we can say there is an imaginary self. We apprehend a true existence where there is not one and this gives rise to dualistic grasping. Like a dream- it exists imputedly, but not inherently. We totally mistake the reality.

Then if someone understands that this self is just imaginary and imputed and that conventionally the reality only exists interdependently then this is the second self- the dependent self.

When someone observes the ultimate truth of emptiness of self then that is the third self- the absolute self. There are two different aspects of absolute self: absolute self of object and absolute self of subject. These are only aspects of the same thing- one nature actually. This is ultimate truth.

The absolute aspect of object is Buddha nature and the absolute aspect of subject is wisdom- different aspects of same thing and when you realize Buddha nature with wisdom mind you see they are same nature. So this is the absolute self in the Cittamatra school.

So now we go to the highest philosophical school, Madhayamaka. What is the difference between Cittamatra and Madhayamaka? Cittamatra believes in selflessness of self and also the selflessness of phenomena, like Madhyamaka. So what is different in the view of these schools?

Although the only mind (Cittamatra) school does not believe in the inherent existence of subject or object – they believe all is illusion created by mind, they do believe that the absolute (ultimate) self- the 3rd characteristic (absolute self)- is substantially existent…it forms the basis of samsara and nirvana.

This absolute self forms the foundation of reincarnation- how we go from life to life. The impure appearances of samsara and the pure appearances of nirvana are displayed from this Buddhanature or absolute self. They believe that Buddhanature exists inherently and is permanent.

However if Cittamatra says that all phenomena are empty, but they say Buddhanature is ultimately existent then actually there is some contradiction because Buddhanature is also a phenomenon and so the Madhyamaka cannot accept this. They say there is a tiny contradiction.

So Vaibasika and Sautrantika schools come from the Theravada tradition and Cittamatra and Madhayamaka come from the Mahayana tradition. All are Buddha’s teachings though.

So now how do we check whether the absolute self can exist ultimately? Who knows? Does anyone know this- have they recognized that the absolute self that exists inherently? Cittamatra says that they know, but the fault is that if they believe that subject and object are interdependent, then it is not possible that only one exists dependently, like right and left- to have right then left must be there and here and there, etc. So Cittamatra does believe that everything appears like a dream, and the absolute self is selflessness of self and reality. After you have exhausted object and subject – you can’t find them- then they say the only remaining ultimate truth is this. If someone knows then this becomes an object of knowledge, then it can’t be ultimate truth because there is subject and object -dualism- ultimate truth and a knower.

So if you ask again who knows and they say that nobody knows the Buddhanature then that’s impossible- you can’t debate anything at all. It is like someone saying there is a creator god, but sorry we can’t prove this because nobody knows this. It is not logical. These faults are recognized by Madhyamaka.

This means that the absolute self is selflessness- the absolute truth is beyond ordinary perception/speech. This can only be understood through the extraordinary primordial wisdom. This Madhayamaka understands. Besides this Cittamatra is very wonderful, beautiful and logical until this point.

Everyone has the right to debate in Buddhism… they always open the door to everyone to debate, but all must follow perfect logic. All reality of phenomena eventually comes down to only one if you follow perfect logic and reasoning. The pure view must be only one – it doesn’t matter who is talking. Reality must be reality- there can’t be two pure views, one must be right and one wrong. In the end Buddha’s view can only fully be understood from Madhyamaka emptiness point of view.

Madhyamaka (Uma) means Middle way. So what does Middle way mean? Except for the Madhyamaka view all the other views fall into one extreme. They fall either into the extreme of existence or non-existence, even non-Buddhist traditions do this. Some fall into the extreme of existence, permanenece, inherent existence, automatic existence…like Cittamatra falls into the extreme of existence of inherent Buddhanature. The Vaibasika and Sautrantika partless moment and partless particle also fall into extremes of existence. Some views fall into the extremes of non-existence. This is important to distinguish clearly. Falling into the extreme of non-existence means that according to ultimate logic you find something inherently existent and then during your meditation you focus on a kind of nothingness or blankness.
Some traditions believe in both existence and non-existence. Some believe in neither existence nor non-existence. So according to the Madhyamaka:
Ultimately existent is wrong view
Ultimately non-existent is wrong view
Ultimately both existent and non existent is wrong view
Ultimately neither existent nor non-existent is wrong view

So what is the pure view according to Madhyamaka? You must be free of these 4 extremes or elaborations. Your realization of wisdom mind is non-conceptual therefore you must be free from extremes of wrong view. The pure view is not existent, not non-existent, not both existent and not neither existent nor non-existent. That is the absolute reality of phenomena. It doesn’t matter if Buddha comes or not or whether we recognize it or not, it is the reality.

This truth is not nothingness. It is free from concepts and elaboration.
The dharma sphere (Choying or Dharmata) is the object of this knowledge and the perceiver is suchness wisdom or primordial wisdom (extraordinary wisdom). Subject and object are aspects of the same nature. When you realize true nature then at that time it becomes one taste, but when you talk and explain then it seems like two. When you meditate in one- pointed equipoise on this reality then its one nature. This is beyond ordinary people’s perception.
So what are the characteristics of dharma sphere, how to explain? Difficult- even Buddha did not speak of the reality for 49 days and when he did, he did so at Vulture’s peak and taught the prajnaparamita and he used analogies- like sky, like space. Buddha can speak heart to heart but this is not ordinary speaking. To us ordinary followers he must use words.

There are 5 characteristics of the Dharma sphere:
-First aspect: unexpressible
-Second aspect: Non-dual
(Its not dualistic, zero dualistic- that is why you cannot think or talk about it because the object is zero).
-Third aspect: Not an object of logicians
Even if you are very smart as long as you use ordinary perception you cannot find the dharma sphere
-Fourth aspect of dharmata: One taste, single taste. In Tibetan we say, ’Ro chigpa’ like sour and sweet is two, but the reality is one.
-Fifth: is signlessness
So with these 5 together can you feel something?
Even if we talk like this we can get the general meaning of dharmata and we must do this if someone wants to meditate on emptiness. So then you meditate on this certainty of the view.

Wisdom we can divide into 3:
Hearing, contemplating and meditation wisdom.
First you must hear the perfect view, word by word, with no mistake. Then if you can clearly heard the view, you must contemplate and judge this and follow perfect logic and analysis until you have doubt ,which is a good sign. Then research further until real certainty from your heart is born… selflessness of self and phenomena is true. Then there is conviction- wisdom of the reflection of the word.

Now you must cultivate the third wisdom, meditation, which is the only way. You must train your mind with the view of emptiness- habituate your mind to this view. Like medicine: First you can hear how to cure and recognize what is good medicine and then you need to use the medicine, which is practice- meditation. What is the object of meditation? There are so many objects of meditation, but here it is emptiness, what you understand about emptiness from hearing and contemplation wisdom. Then if you one-pointedly focus on this without concepts, elaboration and without falling into the extremes of wrong view and keep this for as long as you can, eventually you will become more habituated and finally you will realise the dharmasphere with primordial wisdom.

So it is different to understand and to realize. Maybe some of you understand already from the teachings, but this is not the same as realising the truth. So if you do this and one day realise the true nature of your mind, then you become an extraordinary person.

Maybe some of you are on the first two paths of accumulation and preparation- this is very beautiful, you are an ordinary holy person, but still you are ordinary. You are holy because you understand how to benefit sentient beings and have trained trained your mind over lifetimes and are collecting merit, but still ordinary. When you directly realize your true nature directly your wisdom mind, you reach the path of seeing and become an extraordinary holy being, noble being or arya being.

So therefore the king of logic for emptiness is interdependence. If someone asks how everything is empty, you can say all originates from interdependence. This interdependence can be seen in science, which is very useful. Scientists usually use the word ‘dependence’, and Buddhists use the word ‘interdependence’, which is more vast, but they related to each other. Why do we say it is the king of logic? Emptiness does not mean just nothingness. Complete nothingness is nihilsm. Conventionally things appear interdependently. If there is nothingness then nothing can appear. But phenomenal appearance is like an illusion- like when you recognize during your dream that you are dreaming, you can say your dream is illusory, but if someone has not woken up from the dream then they misunderstand the dream- they can only understand the dream as real. So this is conventional truth- all is like a magical illusion.

When we research and try to find an inherent thing, we can’t find anything, but all is there interdependently. You cannot find even atom existing independently. When we look at coarse things we can understand interdependence more easily for eg: without the sun there is no earth and maybe no moon because their circulations depend on each other- they link up. Even at the subtle level of the single atom- we cannot say it exists independently as we said before, the atom depends on electrons, protons, quarks and finally perception. Therefore there is no thing that exists independently or inherently. It can only appear interdependently.

The magic elephant and the real elephant are both appearing- but how? They appear interdependently. So by this logic you can understand yes, ultimately magic and real elephant are the same. All phenomena are all like this, so the dharmasphere pervades everything- samsara and nirvana, from ordinary mind until Buddha’s omniscient mind. Buddhanature pervades all equally. One taste.

Answer to a question:
The difference between an empty house and emptiness in the dharma sense:
Tibetan: ‘Tongpa’- means nothing/nobody is there- empty of other things eg: the house is empty of people. This is ordinary emptiness.

‘Tongnyi’ means suchness empty- empty of inherent existence. ‘Nyi’ means empty of itself.

Suchness emptiness means the house itself is empty, or space itself is empty of inherent existence. The nature of each is the same- all is one taste, but if you meditate that earth is like space for example, then you fall into extreme of nihilism- this is not emptiness of inherent existence.
Emptiness is very beautiful and wonderful, but takes time to get conviction. Need to keep on analysing and meditate one-pointedly on your conviction.

Emptiness and How to Realise it: Part 2

Emptiness and How to Realize it
Part 2
Transcription of teachings by Chamtrul Rinpoche, Johannesburg 2017

So we continue from the morning teachings on emptiness. As I mentioned there are 4 great Buddhadharma philosophical shools: Vaibasika, Sautrantika, Cittamatra and Madhyamaka.
We will discuss the first two schools- the sub schools – Vaibasika and Sautrantika. As we mentioned, Emptiness is the antidote to the obscurations. Obscurations can be divided into two: obscurations of delusions and obscurations to omniscience. Emptiness we can also divide into two: selflessness of person and selflessness of phenomena.

The first one, recognition of selflessness of the person is the antidote to the delusions, which obscure liberation. So if someone wants to be free from the faults and the suffering of samsara then they must be free from obscurations of delusions. How can we be free? There is only one option- we must realize the emptiness or selflessness of the person.

So now we go further. Due to self-grasping, we grasp at the aggregates as if they are the person, then we misunderstand that the continuity of the aggregates is the person, but this is the misperception. As long as we believe that the coarse level of the aggregates are truly existent then it is difficult to realise the selflessness of the person because the 5 aggregates to our normal perception are the enjoyment object of a person. Sometimes we say “I” or “My”. This is our natural feeling. As long as you believe that these aggregates are inherently existent you will naturally have the feeling you are inherently existent.

So now we must investigate the emptiness of the 5 aggregates. The aggregate of form we can divide into two: causal form and resultant form. This means the 4 elements (earth, water, fire and air) are the causes of the coarse level of form. The resultant form is again divided into two: external and internal form. The external resultant form are the 5 sense-source objects: form, sound, smell, taste and contact and sometimes we refer to a sixth as the object of phenomena, but generally we say 5. Then the internal resultant form is made up of the 5 sense-source faculties: the eye, ear, nose, tongue and skin faculty. So in total there are ten that make up resultant form- the 5 sense-source consciousnesses and 5 sense-source faculties.

So now would you think that the tangible form is inherently existent or just appearing? We need to check as before. As ordinary people we believe very much that this form exists ultimately and inherently. Is this true or not? For example his hall or house: we believe it exists inherently. We can buy and sell it, we have trust that it is here, but it cannot be inherently existent ultimately- like the person we mentioned before. It can exist only imputedly, but not ultimately. We grasp at the hall and person in the same way. If you believe this hall or house exists inherently then you must research with ultimate logic to find the ultimate truth.

I am saying the nature of this house is emptiness. But this does not mean this house is nothingness. We can use this house, because conventionally we can use the house, but we cannot use it ultimately because ultimately who can use it? There is no person- the person or subject is also not existing ultimately, but conventionally there is a person who can use this house in an illusory way and have an illusory teaching.
But now we are talking about emptiness and so how can it be that we can use this house? Because the house exists interdependently, not inherently. If you believe from your heart that the house exists interdependently then you cannot believe it exists inherently because if the house can exist independently (inherently) then it can’t exist interdependently.

Its appearance is like magic- an illusion…a magic house. How can a magician show a magic house? Depending on magician’s mantra, subject, object, parts- if they come together the house can appear like a film.
So ultimately we can say the house is houseless. Now we check what is the house? All the pieces together or is only the one part the house? Generally we say all this together is the house, but if you take out the door or window pane you still believe there is a house. Also we recognize that the door is door of the house or the window is the window of the house, but not the house itself. Same for ceiling, walls, and all the parts. You don’t believe the parts are the house, otherwise there would be many houses, the door would be a house, the wall, the ceiling would be a house, but this is not true. So where is the house? So now take out all the parts one by one and then where is the house itself? It totally disappears- it’s totally non-existent, we can’t find the house. This is the meaning of emptiness.

This is not nothingness because interdependently we can use this house, but this is conventional truth. It does not contradict the empty nature. They are the same quality but different aspects. They depend on two different logics to get different results.

Then maybe you say yes I see that the house’s reality ultimately is empty, but what about the parts of the house? Again you can further take apart the parts of the house eg: the wall: it has many corners, and many bricks and you can slowly destroy the wall piece by piece to try find the wall. If I ask whether each piece is the wall you will say no it’s a piece, it is not the wall. You see that the wall is not existent inherently. Finally if you take away all the bricks the wall disappears.
So by this logic you think ok the wall is not true but the brick must be true. But the brick you can also destroy piece by piece and finally you get particles and atoms. So now we can say all that we can taste, touch, see etc is like illusion. It appears interdependently and cannot exist independently and that is why it appears as illusion. That is conventional truth. So at the coarse level everything is like an illusion- not existing truly. All is like a dream. That is clear.

So what is the ultimate truth of these phenomena?
Emptiness is the ultimate truth- the reality of phenomena. So therefore even the subschools of Vaibasika and Sautrantika also believe that the coarse level of phenomena are conventionally existent like a dream and illusion. But what do they believe is ultimately true? They believe in the partless particle and partless moment.

They believe that these are the foundations of the whole universe. This universe is composed of these two- partless moments and partless particles. If you ask a person of these schools how was this world created? They will say it’s created by a collection of countless particles and moments. Countless particles join and get bigger and form shapes and you can see them and use them like this house etc. Mind and consciousness is also according to them made up of countless moments of clarity and awareness of consciousness. Age is comprised of partless moments, into minutes, days, years and kalpas.
So these two- partless particle and partless moment- according to the subschools of Vaibasika and Sautrantika are the ultimate truth.

Some scientists believed that atoms exist and they caused the big bang. They said the atom exist inherently, but then they checked the atom and found an atom is made up of electrons, protons and neutrons and then they examined these and found the quark – the subtler particle. Finally at the end of 20th century Einstein found that energy is the final substance of earth, but energy is difficult to define- is it material or not, stable or not? They found that it depends on the personal perception of the person checking. So finally they found that without perception there is nothing existent. Is that right? I understand very little about this science, but I understand a bit of dharma so some of this makes sense. In this way there is some recognition that interdependently something can appear but independently not. This explanation was expounded 2600 years ago by these two subschools.

So now we ask is it true that the partless particle and partless moment can exist ultimately? Now you have to change your philosophical school. If you only use the subschools you cannot go further. From kindergarten you can’t understand everything you need to move to a higher class- you need to go to high school. Now we look at the third class, we look at Cittamatra (mind-only) school.

The Cittamatra school believes that the subschools have tiny faults. They say it is impossible to have partless moments and particles. How do we check that this is the case? We need to follow valid cognition to judge.

So now you can destroy a particle further and further into sand and powder and more and more until it is almost invisible and then you use a microscope and break it down further and then finally the last bit you can call the partless particle because there are no more parts.

It is impossible actually to have a last partless particle. You do believe it is the foundation of all existence and collect millions of these to build the earth, but how can you build bigger things if it the particle is partless? We can use our imagination and wisdom to judge.

First put one partless particle in the centre and then put 4 partless particles around this centre one. Now the question is: If we look at the centre particle, are there different directions of this particle where the other particles are around or touching it or does it only have one direction? So now we have to say that east direction cannot be north and west direction cannot be south etc – each direction is different. Then the object can get bigger because it is growing out in different directions and gets bigger and bigger. But now if you say this then your last assertion of the partless particle is lost because you say that it is partless and can’t be destroyed- it is independently existent, but we just divided it into 4 directions.

Partless should mean that you cannot make more pieces, but now the partless particle has pieces- 4 directions, east, west, north and south that exist interdependently and therefore an object can grow bigger into the 4 directions. If you say, ‘no the centre one and the other 4 particles are completely facing the same direction’ then the thing cannot get bigger- the other four particles should dissolve completely into the centre one and there should be no growth, but this is not so. So finally we see we cannot have a partless particle. As long as something remains it will always be with parts and as long as it is with parts it means it exists interdependently. So this shows that as long as something appears, it does so as illusion, not independently – there is no true partless particle there -only something appearing interdependently, not truly. If something is shown, then it must depend on others, it cannot show itself alone as an independent.

So you can do the same with partless moments. You cannot have 4 directions, but you can use the 3 times, past, present and future. Is the past moment the same or different to the present and future moments? If you say different then it can grow longer, but you lose your partless aspect because the present partless moment must have 3 parts- the duration of past and duration of present and duration of future, so therefore there is no partless moment. If you say it’s the same then even 100 kalpas or eons should be only one moment only and this is not true, so if there is continuity it must be interdependent- even with consciousness. So this is all illusion.

The only-mind (Cittamatra) school understands this clearly. They understand that there is no truly existent partless particle and partless moment. So then if you ask how was this universe created? If there is no truly existent atom then how can you create this earth and galaxy?
Then we need to go to the Cittamatra. They say this is only mind. You don’t need to worry- you can still create this universe, but it is only your mind. All the objects of knowledge are appearing only on your mind. This is similar to what they say in quantam physics. They say the power is dependent on perception- this means mind. If there is no mind, we cannot have perception and recognition.

So the 5 aggregates, form, feeling, recognition, mental compositional factors and consciousness are only created by the mind. So now we ask is it from your mind or my mind? Actually your objects of perception come from your mind and my perception is my mind. This is my house here and you have your house there. Whether beautiful or not depends on your mind’s perception. Some people like a red colour, some like yellow and others like multicolour. Some maybe believe this teaching hall is very big and others say no this is not very big. We need not fight about this, both are true- depending on our perception. So one person can be an object of attachment or an unpleasant object. A mother for example: The child finds their mother very pleasant, her husband finds her very attractive and an object of attachment and her enemy finds her very unpleasant. One woman can appear pleasant and unpleasant – it depends on the person’s perception. Everything is like this; nothing is one hundred percent pure or impure. Some people love you, some people don’t love you, some like you and others don’t like you. This doesn’t come from your side- it comes from them, their perception. Everything is only mind. So if you focus on the pure, then one day the pureland can appear completely on your mind. If you focus on the impure then sure- all can one day appear ugly and uncomfortable to you.

Tantra is very related to the Cittamatra school where we visualize suddenly all as pureland- deity, mantra everything all as the pureland with no negatives, only purity. We start to visualize and change wrong, negative perception into right, pure perception. At the beginning we just visualize, but one day all will appear as pure in your experience- like the mind of the Bodhisattvas & Buddhas.
But on the other side even very negative perception cannot perceive this teaching hall like we perceive it. Lets take a glass of water; hell realm beings cannot see pure water, they can only see burning iron. Hungry ghost beings can’t see water or burning iron but only rotten pus and blood. Sea animals see it as their home- with air to breathe. Human beings see water as liquid for drinking, washing and cooking. A God’s mind is more pure and so they don’t only see water, but nectar. Then if someone has the very high perception of the yogin like a bodhisattva, they see the real nature of the phenomena as deity. They can experience the bliss emptiness of the deity when they use what we call water. Then the completely enlightened Buddha’s mind is beyond ordinary people’s perception. They don’t see normal beings’ perception- even the perception of water as deity. They see only the primordial wisdom and compassion- the display of wisdom and compassion.

This only-mind school is very logical and helpful for sutra and tantra. How do we open the gate of tantra? With pure perception… pure perception is the main key. This is not blind faith- from this logic you can feel that this is true- all is only mind. So we need to train our mind and keep pure perception and avoid wrong perception because wrong perception leads to samsara and even hell realms. Pure perception creates the pureland and at least the higher, fortunate realms.

All that appears is only mind. Nature is empty and the appearance is only mind. Like a dream. Then if we ask, ‘If it is only mind then how does it work?’ Look at you dream. As long as you don’t wake up from your dream and recognize dream as dream then the dream can work. Fire can work for burning and water can work for washing in the dream. Is there any difference to reality? No. When you wake up then yes you recognize that one reality was the dream and one is real. But still even this distinction also comes from your mind. Madhyamika can explain this. But it is a bit hard for us to understand this…higher realised beings can recognise that we have not woken up. We are in a long dream. When you wake up from the deep sleep of ignorance then you realize that night dreaming and life dreaming are no different.

Then there are different experiences – some have a happy life, some have a bad life. This depends not only on perception but also individual karma that leads to that perception. If he or she accumulated lots of positive karma then the objects appear pleasant, but if he or she accumulated lots of negative karma then the perception of the object will be unpleasant. Now tantric practitioners try suddenly to try to change this negative and wrong perception and imprint to pure peception and pure imprint. So try…this is the connection between the Cittamtra and Tantra.

Actually one verse of Buddha’s teachings can have a direct, indirect and hidden meaning. So within the prajnaparamita or emptiness teachings- the heart sutra for example..the direct meaning is emptiness or selflessness of person and phenomena. The indirect meaning of the heart sutra is the explanation of the stages of the paths from path of accumulation to the path of no more learning. “Tayata om gate gate paragate parasamgate bodhi soha”. Go go go beyond go until enlightenment. The hidden meaning is not possible to understand yourself- you have to follow the instructions from pure lineage, master to master and follow the tantric path. The hidden meaning is from the 3rd turning of the wheel. In the 2nd turning Buddha said mind is emptiness, emptiness is mind etc then in the 3rd turning Buddha does not only say mind is only empty, but the nature is luminosity. The luminosity is the join between sutra and tantra. It is the basis of all tantric teachings. All pure objects and perception is displayed from the luminosity. If there is no luminosity then pure perception is not possible. Anyway still the details are hidden and the only direct meaning comes from highest school tantra and the complete direct explanations are from Dzogpachenpo, otherwise it is hidden.

So, however, everything is from our mind and perception. Conventionally we can say the mind-only school can be divided into two. One is the conventional conventional truth and the other is ultimate conventional truth. Conventional conventional truth says you are not my mind, the external object is not my mind, but ultimately these objects are my mind. So finally what is the ultimate truth of the mind-only school? There is no object or subject existing inherently, there is only the Buddha nature. Mind is not mind truly, but its nature is luminosity. Pure and impure reality are display of the base clear light. The fundamental nature is base clear light. Except for this mind everything else is illusory. So this is the empty nature. So in this way we understand that the 5 aggregates are like illusions originating interdependently. Finally even the partless particle and partless moment are imputed by the subschools, but not final truth. So what is the final reality of mind-only school? Selflessness of person and selflessness of phenomena.

We need to understand all these stages and the objects of knowledge. Objects of knowledge depend on perception. If nobody has perception there is no way to know objects of knowledge. If something exists it is by your perception. If there is no mind there is no knowledge if no knowledge there is no object, so now we should know everything is created by mind. So who is knowing? Knowledge. If there is no Knowledge then we can’t recognise. A microscope itself in quantum physics can’t know the object of knowledge without the mind. So true – mind-only school is really beautiful – all is mind.

So mind itself also is empty, but that we will talk about tomorrow- the emptiness of Madhyamika. Today we are only addressing the first 3 schools, Vaibasika, Sautrantika and Cittamatra. Still this is not the final view of Buddhism, but still true. The rest goes deeper into emptiness.
Therefore now it is clear: If you recognize selflessness of the person you will be free from the ignorance or the misconception of the person. We apprehend the person as substantially existent but this is not true. Person is empty.

If you practice and meditate and finally realize no-self, then no problem, but we have problems because we apprehend a self. My problem, your problem comes from apprehending a self. All problems come from self-grasping. Even if you remain in samsara but you realize the true nature of samsara then there is no problem- you are free from the faults of samsara. Even if you remain in the pureland beside Buddha, but you believe that your self is truly existent, then though Buddha has pure perception you perceive everything as impure because of your impure perception. This tells us that between samsara and nirvana there is no distance. The main distance is from your heart or your mind. Mind is the creator of impure samsara appearances and pure appearances of Nirvana or Buddha’s purleland.

Buddha’s pureland is not created by Buddha actually it is created by those people with pure perception… it’s the same for the Hell realms. Hell is not created by a creator god, according to Buddhism (excuse me). The hell realm is created by your heart or mind, so someone who has not created the causes and conditions cannot see the hell realm even if they want to and someone who doesn’t want to will have to if they have created the causes and conditions. Like in a dream… I can’t dream your dream but you can experience it. It is not true, but still you can burn in the fire. Hell beings do not necessarily exist thousands of kilometers below the ground, but you can feel when you suffer in the burning fire that you are thousands of kilometers below the ground. You can dream you are falling or sinking below the ground, but this is not really true- you are actually sleeping nicely on your bed.

In the common teachings of the Abidharma for example they say the hell realm is 80 000 km below the earth, but I think this is bigger even than the diameter of the earth and you will come out the other side. So this is just how far down you feel with your perception. You will feel suffering like this.

So the pureland is the same. It doesn’t mean you reach a pureland on the aeroplane. This would be good because maybe one day we can get there without practice, but it is not so. When you practice you can feel that this pureland is like this in your mind. Actually both nirvana and samsara are from your mind. Even if you want to be born in samsara in the higher realms, this is all dependent on your mind. If you think carefully about Buddhas teachings- everything is interdependently clear from ten no virtues until this explanation…but you cannot teach this explanation to most beginners, you will only give them a headache. You can teach them the ten virtues and they can understand and practice

Emptiness and how to realise it: Part 1

Transcribed from Chamtrul Rinpoche’s talks at the Lam Rim Centre
Johannesburg South Africa 2017

Buddha Shakyamuni cultivated the mind of enlightenment before Mahashakyamuni Buddha three numberless eons ago and then he continuously accumulated merit and wisdom over this long time. Finally then Buddha Shakyamuni attained the state of complete Buddhahood under the bodhi tree in Bodhgaya in India. He did not teach even one verse over the next 49 days because he felt that people would not understand the realisation of the selflessness of person and phenomena because the topic is very extensive and he himself took so long- three numberless eons to accumulate the wisdom and merit to understand the truth.

But then the Gods of desire realm with temporary contaminated clairvoyance appeared to him. They could see with the divine eye that he had achieved enlightenment and had a strong wish that Buddha Shakyamuni spread the teaching of dharma in the world and so they requested the teachings. This was an auspicious sign to Buddha and so he first taught the 4 Noble Truths in Sarnath, near Bodhgaya. He taught the noble truth of suffering, the noble truth of origination of suffering, the noble truth of cessation of suffering and the noble truth of path to liberation. These formed the basics of the details that would later come from Buddha’s teachings and comprised the first stage of Buddha’s teachings or the first turning of the wheel of dharma.

The second stage of turning the wheel of dharma was at a place called Rajgir in India- Vulture’s peak near the palace of the Indian King. This second turning’s main subject was the perfection of wisdom (prajnamaramita in Sanskrit) or we can say emptiness explanations. Then the third turning of the wheel was taught especially in Yangpachen in India and the main topic was around 10 sutras of the only mind school and the main point was the realization of Buddha Nature and how to find Buddha nature which pervades all beings’ mind.

Why did Buddha teach more than 84 000 different teachings? The reason is because the future follower’s karmic capabilities, faculties, afflictive emotions and obscurations of delusion would be different. So Buddha gave many options. We can say all the abandonment objects can be divided in the 84 000 aspects of dharma. These can be divided into 3 stages which are linked to the 3 poisons- anger desire and ignorance which are at the root of all the various kinds of afflictive emotions. Buddha’s teachings can be divided into 3 baskets, combating the 3 root delusions/levels of obscurations– 21 000 kinds of desire, 21000 types anger, 21000 kinds of ignorance, and a fourth basket (tantra) – 21 000 different aspects which addresses the abandonment objects of the 3 poisons and their imprints and so in total there are 84 000 dharmas.

Here we will discuss the 2nd turning of the wheel- the prajnaparamita teachings (great perfection teachings). Buddha taught these in a detailed way in 100 000 verses. We have 12 volumes of these detailed explanations. Then the second detailed explanation is in 20 000 verses and the third is the 8000 verses on prajnamaramita. Then from these 8000 verses there is a shorter summary of around 100 verses and lastly there is a very brief essential summary – the “Heart Sutra” which is very well known. This all makes up the 2nd turning of the wheel teachings on emptiness.

So what is the benefit of understanding emptiness and what are the problems if we don’t understand emptiness? As you know a dharma practitioner’s main purpose is the attainment of all-knowable knowledge for the sake of all mother sentient beings from when first generating the mind of enlightenment until samsara is emptied.
Therefore how can we benefit others? What bodies can benefit? We can Benefit through two main bodies – the dharmakaya (truth body) and form body (rupakaya).

We need to collect merit and wisdom to attain these bodies to benefit beings. Buddha himself did so over three numberless eons. It does not matter whether you follow sutra or tantra, you still need these collections. If you are missing one of these two you cannot possibly attain buddhahood.

So how do we start? We need to generate the Bodhicitta mind or mind of enlightenment. The compassionate and loving kindness mind is the essence of the mind of Bodhicitta and is the method for collecting merit. If we lack these two- compassion and loving kindness- then there is no way to collect merit. That’s why compassion and love is the essence of dharma for Therevada up to Mahayana practitioners. Then the second is the collection of wisdom. How do we start? We need to understand the emptiness of person or self and emptiness of phenomena.
Therefore emptiness and compassion is the basis of Buddha’s path and the basis from which all the details emerge from sutra and tantra. The accumulation of merit is the actual cause of the rupkaya to benefit sentient beings. The collection of wisdom is the condition of the rupakaya.
Then the collection of wisdom is the actual cause of the truth body (dharmakaya) and the collection of merit is the condition for the fully ripened result of dharmakaya. So if we miss one of these collections then we cannot attain the final aim of Buddhahood. So we must know the view of Buddha dharma.

Conventionally we must know that all compounded phenomena are originated interdependently. This is just conventional truth. When you understand conventional truth clearly, then by this logic you can further understand in a deeper way the reality of the conventional truth, which is selflessness or emptiness of person and phenomena – which is ultimate truth. So if you gain certainty of these two truths then you have found the excellent, authentic view.

After you have found the view you need to practice and train your mind with this view and enter into the path of liberation. The BASE is the view, PATH is the accumulation of the two collections (merit & wisdom). We need to continuously train in emptiness and compassion mind – to gain familiarity and step by step increase mental-spiritual qualities on the path of dharma. Within PATH there are 5: the path of accumulation, the path of preparation, the path of seeing, the path of meditation, and the path of no more learning.

How can you enter the first step? By accumulation of wisdom and merit. Then continuously become more familiar and then you can cross to the path of preparation and so forth. Then at the path of seeing the ordinary being becomes the Arya being (noble being) but this is not yet Buddhahood. Then if you continue these accumulations continuously with the view, you cross to the path of meditation and then the path of no more learning.
There is no way of leaving out one of these stages, you need to complete all the accumulations but the methods are different and so with some methods you can collect these more quickly.

So first we need to understand generally the objects of knowledge. There are two- the objects of knowledge of conventional truth and objects of knowledge of ultimate truth. We need to know both. Both are true, both born of perfect logic and excellent investigation and reasoning. If you follow wrong logic then you find the wrong path and wrong result. So its important to follow right logic, reasoning and right path and result. Truth is undeceptive.
Every object of knowledge can be divided into these two truths, for example our life: Maybe we are 40 years and at this time we seem like our life is stable, permanent. But the reality is that our life is impermanent changing moment to moment. So which is true? Yes we are 40 years old and our life has reached this point, but actually this stability has come about through many moments of change. So conventionally we can say we have lived for 40 years- that is true, but ultimately we cannot say our life is longer than one instant (from an ultimate truth point of view).

The appearance is different from the ultimate reality.
So the definition of conventional truth is that what appears to us, but the actual nature of what appears to us is non-existent, selfless, or empty- that is ultimate truth. To find this ultimate truth you cannot only follow the logic of conventional truth, but if you follow the logic of ultimate truth then you can find the object of ultimate truth, the reality of emptiness. So by following these two logics you find two different kinds of truth. So therefore these two truths of appearance and emptiness are not contradictory- both are true depending on what logic you follow.

For example someone may say “I had a very bad dream last night and my body was burning in a fire. It was so painful…it was a terrible dream!” Is this true? We can divide this experience into two kinds of truth. Conventionally we can say yes true you did burn in the fire and it was terrible- you experienced this. But actually it was not reality because it was just a dream. In reality your body was sleeping comfortably on your bed, you were not burning and there was no fire- there was no problem at all.
So both are true. But then you may ask how can both be true? One must be true, not both because one was burning and one was not- they are opposite. But if your reasoning only follows one kind of logic and reasoning then you can say that there is a contradiction. So you must separate your logic into two logics, one conventional and one ultimate. So everything is like this- all phenomena and objects of knowledge can be divided into these two truths.

So now what does emptiness mean? In Buddhist philosophy emptiness is introduced step by step because it is not easy to comprehend the deeper level. For example start with impermanence and permanence. First you think life is permanent (that is the object of negation) then you realise that it is impermanent and you understand the truth of our life. So first you had misunderstanding that life is permanent then you realize that permanence is not existent (permanence is empty) but something else is there- impermanence. Your life is not non-existent. Your life exists, but not permanently- only impermanently.

So there are 4 great philosophical schools that explain these two truths and emptiness:
All of these schools teach truth. The first class teaches tiny truth, not the very vast truth of emptiness and then becomes vaster and deeper as you go from school to school. The last school is more complicated and the deepest level.
So it is better to go step by step. First there are two kinds of emptiness:
Emptiness of person &
Emptiness of phenomena
Or we can say
Selflessness of person &
Selflessness of phenomena
Why are there two stages? We need to know the abandonment object. The first abandonment object is the obscuration of karma and delusions
Second abandonment object is the obscuration to omniscience

If you want to attain the state of Nirvana (ultimate peace and satisfaction) then you must at least understand how to cut the root of delusions and samsara, which is Ignorance. What is the meaning of ignorance? Ignorance or ‘Marigpa’ in Tibetan means not knowing or seeing the opposite of reality (misunderstanding) What is the object of misunderstanding?
First it is yourself- the person. It is an object of knowledge that can be divided into two truths. What is the conventional truth of a person? A person can exist interdependently. We are dependent on our karma and ignorance and delusions. We are born this way thousands of times and if we don’t liberate then this will continue for many reincarnations. This is conventional truth… like illusions…the appearance is true but we add something on top of appearance. We apprehend substantial or inherent existence. This is not true. This is ignorance of conventional truth. If you recognize that something is a reflection of a form in the mirror then that is conventional truth. If we only believe that all is like illusion appearing interdependently then this is conventional truth.

So now what is the ultimate truth of yourself- the person? Completely empty, non-existence of a person. So now we need to examine how we can say that the ultimate truth is emptiness of the person.
Self-grasping or ego clinging is at the root of suffering of samara. That is ignorance. Is this object of clinging true or not? If you want to jugde you must follow ultimate logic, not conventional. Usually the self-grasping is two types: innate/co-emergent and imputed (imaginary) self grasping. Imputed self is learned as we grow up and learn things about how we exist, but what is the innate/coemergent self?

The innate self is born in everyone’s mind, even animals. There is self-grasping- like when we are thirsty we feel uncomfortable then try find drink or when threatened we move away etc- this is our natural predisposition and as long as we have this self-grasping, then the next stage of problems arise- self-cherishing. I, I, I, I want I need etc more, more, more…endless desire stems from this self-cherishing. All you want to accept and want to reject for yourself is based on self-cherishing. Then this self-cherishing is the root of desire, anger and ignorance- the 3 poisons and these are the root of contaminated karma. Then when contaminated karma is created we will experience the fully ripened result of suffering of samsara. So if you want t be free of samsaric suffering then need to be free of contaminated karma, if want to be free of contaminated karma must be free from delusions- the 3 poisons. Then if we want to be free from the 3 poisons then we must see that these are born of misunderstanding and we must be free of ego-clinging and self-grasping. So its clear that the root of all suffering comes from the self-grasping. So now is it possible to be free from self-grasping or not?

If you see the possibility of changing self-grasping then you can see the possibility of changing delusions, karma and samsaric suffering. How to change self-grasping? We must at least realize selflessness of the person or self. Is the person or ‘I” truly existent or not from the point of ultimate truth?

(Rinpoche quotes Nagarjuna & Chandrakirti)
General meaning of quotes: From the beginning we have self-grasping. As long as self-grasping is there then we cling to others. Then we have dualistic grasping mind. Then ignorance, attachment and aversion will be there. Contaminated karma is there and whether positive or negative it will always lead us back to samsara. So if you want to be free from suffering of samsara you need to be liberated by realizing selflessness of self.

So now lets check if the person is truly existent or not by using our excellent investigation and analytical faculties. If self is truly existent then there is no hope of being free of samsara. If not truly existent then there is a chance.
Our natural perception is to think that self is true. That’s why we say we are angry because they hurt me or I love them etc. We believe naturally that I myself am one single entity- that’s why we say “when I was a teenager this and that happened” or why we believe in one incarnation of the same being eg HH Dalai Lama. So now lets check- where is this person? We never check where this person is. Is this person material or non-material? Maybe you say I am material, look I am sitting on the cushion in front of you. But if that is you then you don’t come from a past life because your physical body comes from your parents. Maybe some of you say “I don’t believe in reincarnation anyway.” Then we check further- what is the basis of a person? In a human we have 5 aggregates that form the basis. The aggregate of form- we can all see each other, feeling- you all have sensation, perception/recognition- you can understand what I am saying clearly, mental compositional factors- anger, compassion, jealously can arise and then consciousness- clarity and awareness.

These are the foundation of a person. We grasp that this is ‘me’ or that is ‘you’.
So now check whether the aggregates of a person are the same nature or different? Naturally we say yes they are same and I am one. But if you investigate say the body then you see your have 5 limbs so which part is yourself? One limb, or all 5? If you say the whole body is me then if you lose one part then you have lost yourself eg: you loose a leg you loose yourself because you say you are the whole. So now if you say a part is you then you have to say one arm is you, one leg is you and if you count all the limbs then you have 5 persons. So a part can’t be you either. So maybe you can say this body is ‘yours’, not ‘you’. We often say my body is unhealthy or fit- we refer to it as ‘my body’. This is true because your body comes from parents but you are coming from a past life. This body will exhaust into the 4 elements, but not you because you believe the 15th Dalai Lama is coming in the future therefore you know the body is not self.
Now lets check feeling? You say ‘my feeling is comfortable or uncomfortable’. Then this is not you because you change. Today you may be an angry person and tomorrow you may be happy and enjoy life, so you feel its my feeling- not me. Also the same for my regognition/perception. Then secondary mind has 51 factors therefore you would be divided into 51 persons. So usually people say, “but I am consciousness because mind is the basis of reincarnation” so you feel consciousness is the basis of the person. If you say consciousness is the person then you can divide consciousness into 6 sense-source consciousnesses, so therefore you should have 6 persons. If the whole of the consciousness is you then if you lose one sense eg you are blind or deaf then you must say you have lost yourself, but this is not true. But usually we say ‘my consciousness”. Maybe we say mental consciousness is me because that is what travels from life to life. The base of all consciousness has many different kinds of seeds planted in it- good and bad karmic seeds and so if it is you then you are changing moment to moment as each seed ripens and is exhausted. Then that means you lose yourself when each moment rises and ceases.
So we can say the 5 aggregates are MY aggregates but not ME.
But now we still are looking for me. Where are you? Where am I?
So we have established that self is not residing within the 5 aggregates. So now we may say the self exists separately – it is remaining separately like a host, but where? How far from the aggregates? Can you measure? Why can you not find a separate self apart from the 5 aggregates. The reason is that a separate self does not exist. If someone finds an inherently existent person then they must explain what it looks like- colour, shape, particles etc.
So a person is not existent within the body, separate from the body, or interdependently with the aggregates or independently from the aggregates.
You feel that the person must be there like you see shoes so you assume there are feet, or you see a house and you assume there is a host. But how do you know that the 5 aggregates belong to a person? Without proof of a person, you cannot say the person is there. So finally you cannot even say ultimately these 5 aggregates are mine.
Conventionally the person is there, but ultimately if you look you can’t find a person. So finally you have the perfect view.

If you say there is absolutely nothingness like the horn of a rabbit- then you fall into extreme of nihilism. Madhyamika is free from extremes of existence and non-existence. There is someone who is there who can practice, get married, have children and can die. So like in a dream all these are possible conventionally, pleasure and suffering, but ultimately there is no person, no dream, no suffering or pleasure. We are suffering conventionally in samsara not ultimately, because we misunderstand conventional and ultimate truth. We should understand first conventional and then ultimate truth and then its not enough to understand but we must practice and realize selflessness of self.

First you hear what is said today and then you need to collect the wisdom of contemplation to gain some conviction and then once you have gained these two understandings then we need to start meditation . If you have hearing, contemplation and meditation experience of emptiness then you will have more experience of selflessness and then finally if you can become more and more familiar then at the end you will directly realize the true nature and achieve the realization of true nature of selflessness by primordial wisdom. Then you will be completely free of ignorance, free of contaminated karma and free of delusion. You are then a noble being (Arya being). You are not an ordinary being any more. Then you can be born into samsara through wisdom and compassion power only- like His Holiness Dalai Lama and not through karma and delusions.
This is the view of all 4 schools – that emptiness is the true nature of the person. If someone has renunciation to samsara and attachment to nirvana then this is the only way- to realize selflessness of self. Emptiness is the actual way to be liberated. You can practice many things like generosity, morality and so forth and these can lead you to the higher realms, but can never lead to liberation. To attain liberation we must be free of contaminated karma. To collect uncontaminated karma we must hear, contemplate and realize selflessness of the person otherwise we only accumulate contaminated karma. Okay clear?

Chamtrul Rinpoche’s Teachings starting tonight in Cape Town

“Drops of Advice from my Heart”
A commentary on the a text composed by His Holiness Jigme Puntsok Rinpoche

Friday 1st Sept- Sun 3rd Sept
Sufi Temple, Campground Rd, Claremont

“Introduction to POWA practice”
An overview of the Transference of Consciousness practice at the time of death

Tues 5th Sept
Grace’s House, 17 Crassula Str, Milnerton

“Mind”- from a Buddhist Perspective”

Wed 6th Sept
Erin Hall, Erin Rd, Rondebosch
8 pm

“Vajrasattva Retreat & Nyungne (semi-fasting)”

– We do the Preliminary Practice with Rinpoche, with emphasis on Vajrasattva purification. The sessions are interspersed with teachings and advice. We take Mahayana precepts each morning and have only one meal a day- at lunch time.

3 days: Fri 8th Sept- Monday 11th (Monday is not a public holiday, so please take leave if necessary)
Cost: R1800 and it is necessary to attend all the retreat, thank you

All teachings besides the retreat are by Donation
No Booking necessary, please arrive ten minutes early for the teachings

Refuge vows with Chamtrul Rinpoche

There will be two opportunities to take refuge with Chamtrul Rinpoche during his 2017 visit in KZN (South Coast) and Cape Town:

KwaZulu Natal: Shelley Beach

Tues 29th Aug
Refuge and Interviews
417 Windsor Street, Shelly Beach

Cape Town:

Sunday 3rd Sept
12.30 – 1.15pm
Refuge Ceremony
Sufi Temple, Campground Rd, Newlands

Refuge involves a commitment to enlightenment for the sake of others by relying on the unsurpassable refuge objects: Buddha (teacher) the dharma (teachings) and the sangha (Buddhist community). Chamtrul Rinpoche will explain the refuge objects in-depth and also the vows associated with taking refuge. New people will receive their dharma name and those who have already taken refuge can renew their refuge vows.

Chamtrul Rinpoche’s Teaching Schedule, JHB & KZN, Aug- Sept


3 Bardos
24th Aug 7-9pm
Drikung Kagyeling Buddhist Centre

“The Heart Sutra”
25th -26th Aug
Buddhist Retreat Centre


South Coast:
“How does Karma work?”
Tues 29th Aug
Uvongo Library


“ATeaching on Death and Dying”
Wed 30th Aug
Uvongo Library



“Finding Peace in Troubled Times”
Wed 13th Sept
Shantikaya, Victory Park


“Purification Practice: Vajrasattva”
Thurs 14th Sept & 15th Sept
Shantikaya, Victory Park


“Emptiness and How to realise it”
Sat 16th & Sun 17th Sept
10-12noon and 1-3pm
Lam Rim Buddhist Centre, Vrededorp

Chamtrul Rinpoche’s Teaching Schedule, Cape Town

“Drops of Advice from my Heart”
A commentary on the a text composed by His Holiness Jigme Puntsok Rinpoche

Friday 1st Sept- Sun 3rd Sept
Sufi Temple, Campground Rd, Claremont

“Introduction to POWA practice”
An overview of the Transference of Consciousness practice at the time of death

Tues 5th Sept
Grace’s House, 17 Crassula Str, Milnerton

“Mind”- from a Buddhist Perspective”

Wed 6th Sept
Erin Hall, Erin Rd, Rondebosch
8 pm

“Vajrasattva Retreat & Nyungne (semi-fasting)”

– We do the Preliminary Practice with Rinpoche, with emphasis on Vajrasattva purification. The sessions are interspersed with teachings and advice. We take Mahayana precepts each morning and have only one meal a day- at lunch time.

3 days: Fri 8th Sept- Monday 11th (Monday is not a public holiday, so please take leave if necessary)
Cost: R1800 and it is necessary to attend all the retreat, thank you

All teachings besides the retreat are by Donation
No Booking necessary, please arrive ten minutes early for the teachings

Vajrasattva with Nyungne Retreat

Blue Butterfly Retreat

Tulbach, Cape

8-11th Sept 2017


Chamtrul Rinpoche

About the Retreat:

Vajrasattva is a powerful tantric purifaction practice that can purify past negative imprints that are stored on the mindstream. Chamtrul Rinpoche will guide us through the Longchen Nyingtik Ngondro (preliminary practices) and focus on the Vajrasattva meditation during the sessions. We will also receive advice on how to practice effectively.

Nyungne & Sojong Vows

Each day starting Saturday morning we wake before sunrise and take the 5 Mahayana Precepts (sojong vows).

“Nyungne” means “”fasting and we therefore have only one meal a day- a substantial lunch and drink tea/coffee in-between. This aids our meditation and provides an opportunity to purify karma related to greed and avarice. It also gives an opportunity to develop compassion for others who lack food and drink.

The 24 hour Mahayana Precept Prayer:

From now on I shall not kill,

Steal others’ possessions,

Engage in sexual activity,

Or speak false words.

I shall avoid intoxicants,

From which many mistakes arise.

I shall not sit on large, high, or expensive beds.

I shall not eat food at the wrong times.

I shall avoid singing, dancing, and playing music,

And I shall not wear perfumes, garlands, or ornaments.

Just as the arhats have avoided wrong actions, such as taking the lives of others,

So shall I avoid wrong actions such as taking the lives of others.

May I quickly attain enlightenment,

And may the living beings who are experiencing the various sufferings

Be released from the ocean of cyclic existence.

We take the vows for 3 days- Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

A rare opportunity. Space is limited to 25 people

Necessary to attend the whole retreat

Start: 6pm, Friday 8th Sept End: 2pm Monday 11th Sept

Cost 1800

50% deposit (R900) will secure your place

Bank details:


Bodhicitta Africa

branch code: 201909

a/c no: 62351369915

Please give your name as reference

New dates For Chamtrul Rinpoche

Chamtrul Rinpoche’s revised dates in South Africa are:

22nd Aug- 18th Sept 2017

Rinpoche’s teachings will start off in KZN this year and then come to Cape Town and end off in Johannesburg.  Dates are still being finalised however here is a sneak peak at two retreats:

* Buddhist Retreat Centre, Ixopo: 25th-27th Aug “The Heart Sutra”- bookings open
* Blue Butterfly Retreat, Tulbach, Cape Town: 8th-11th Sept “Vajrasattva Purification Practice with Nyungne”