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Buddhadharma : Fall 2016
68 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly fall 2 0 1 6 monasteries and established religious communities. It could thereby be freely exported from a Tibetan context. It was that practice lineage, he told his stu- dents in Colorado, “that we ourselves belong to.” Other authors have also depicted rimay as being somehow in opposition to religious institutions, such that the Tibetan ideal has become a means for Western practitioners to give voice to an antipathy toward established religious structures. There has long been a strong suspicion of organized religion in the West, leading many practitioners to describe themselves as “spiritual” rather than “religious.” And of course once “tradition” and “practice” are conceived of as being able to exist independently, one can drop the former and focus exclusively on the latter. As Donald Lopez convincingly explained in Prisoners of Shangri La, Western scholars often projected their own anti-Catholicism onto Tibetan religion, dismissing its abundant rituals and elabo- rate monastic systems as not just empty of sig- nificance but also harmful to authentic religious practice. In several books on Jamgon Kongtrul that have appeared in the last few decades, this negative view of religion has been projected onto Kongtrul himself. Kongtrul is portrayed as having viewed monastic centers as corrupt, concerned only with political power and wealth, viciously sectarian, and no longer able to provide an environment conducive to meditative practice. Authors have also read into Kongtrul’s writings a call to surmount sectarian divisions by abandoning Tibet’s dominant religious traditions in favor of a common practice lineage. It is largely for this reason that readers have been led to believe that there is such a thing as a “rimay tra- dition,” a new religious movement somehow apart from the religious traditions within which Kongtrul operated. Yet there is nothing in the writings or the activity of Jamgon Kongtrul to support that he intended to reject, mix, or unite traditions. In fact, for centuries one of the hard-held beliefs in Tibet has been that traditions should not be mixed, and Kongtrul never indicates it should be otherwise. Ringu Tulku, in The Ri-med Philosophy of Jamgön Kongtrul the Great, makes this point repeatedly. He writes: Ri-me is not a way of uniting different schools and lineages by emphasizing their similarities. It is basi- cally an appreciation of their differences and an acknowledgement of the importance of variety to benefit practitioners with different needs. Therefore, the Ri-me teachers always take great care that the teachings and practices of the different schools and lineages, and their unique styles, do not become confused with each other. Kongtrul’s rimay is best understood through his writings. His literary output, among the largest of any Tibetan, is often said to be one of the finest examples of rimay activity that Tibet has produced. Together, the works are known as the “Five Trea- suries”: Encyclopedia of Knowledge, Treasury of Kagyu Tantras, Treasury of Revealed Scripture, Treasury of Precious Instructions, and Expansive Treasury (otherwise known as his Collected Works). All but one of these, Treasury of Kagyu Tantras, can be said to include teachings from and discussion about multiple traditions of Tibetan religion, both Buddhism and Bön; as a group, they certainly earn the right to be described as rimay. It is in Treasury of Knowledge, and a short reli- gious history in Collected Works called Nonparti- san Religious History, that Kongtrul perhaps most clearly expressed his own positions. Although com- monly described as being a treatment of traditional Tibetan topics of study, Treasury of Knowledge is as much a work of religious history, outlining the development of the Buddhist teachings from the early teachings of the Buddha through the differen- tiation of the doctrine into the various schools of thought. As such, Treasury of Knowledge sets forth what Kongtrul considered to be the pinnacle of the Buddhist teachings. As Gene Smith pointed out, the “special intention” of Treasury of Knowledge was “to stress the virtues of the Dzogchen atiyoga approach of the Nyingma sect.” Not only does the entire work conclude with a discussion of the Dzogchen fulfillment stage of tantric practice, but most sections likewise also conclude with a discus- sion of Dzogchen. According to Kongtrul, we are to understand that Dzogchen is the highest teaching, the final development of the Buddhist doctrine, and the most effective path to liberation. Similar to how Treasury of Knowledge sets forth Dzogchen as the highest practice, Nonpartisan Reli- gious History, which is included in Expansive Trea- sury and is the only one of his compositions that has the term rimay in its title, positions shentong as the definitive philosophical view. Shentong, literally translated as “other-empty,” is a philosophical posi- tion in which ultimate reality is described in positive terms—empty of only relative characteristics but possessing characteristics of its own. Dzogchen ›