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Buddhadharma : Summer 2012
SUMMER 2 0 1 2 BUDDHADHARMA: THE PRACTITIONER’S QUARTERLY 29 path and those who haven’t. Those who haven’t had instructions have no path to drop. Those who have had instructions have a path to drop. The Buddhists and the non-Buddhists are on the same level with this truth. The non-Buddhists don’t have to give up Buddhism, the Buddhists do. The non-Buddhists, however, have to give up whatever they’ve got, because we have to meet what’s happening directly with no words, with no concepts. This is the path of universal libera- tion. This is the second turning. The Third Turning The next path, the third turning of the wheel, which is talked about in this scripture, resurrects the conceptual approach. It offers us a logical path, just like the first one. But this logical path is based on the refutation of the logical path. It’s based on the second path, which says, if you take the slightest step toward the truth, you move away from it; if you use any means to realize what you are, you alienate yourself. That’s the second path. The second path is actually the tru- est in a way. But unfortunately it seems to refute all the teachings of Buddha prior to that, and many people found those teachings very, very useful. So the third path redeems the logical approach to practice, but it is a logical approach that is based on the refutation of logic. The first turning of the wheel constructed a path of liberation, the second turning refutes the path, and the third turning accepts the refutation of the path and redeems the path. This scripture offers a path based on the refutation of the ear- lier path but redeems the earlier path. Another way to say it is that the first turning gives the logic of liberation, the second condemns all logic, and the third reconstructs logic but based on the understanding that logic is ultimately completely useless. In fact, the third phase used logic more than ever before, and it could use logic more energetically because it was based on the empti- ness of logic. In this sutra, the bodhisattvas ask the Buddha: “You taught this way, the first turning way, and then you taught the second turning way. When you were teaching the second turning, what was your intention?” Then the Buddha explains his intention and that there are these three turn- ings. The first turning is an analytical, concep- tual approach, teaching the five aggregates, the eighteen dhatus, the four noble truths, the twelve links of dependent origination, and so on. All these different kinds of teachings aimed to help people see phenomena in such a way that they would be relieved of the belief in the independent existence of the self. Then in the second turn- ing, the Buddha taught that everything, includ- ing the teachings, lacks inherent existence, is unproduced, unceasing, and naturally in a state of nirvana. After he gave those teachings, the bodhisattvas said: “That sounds very different from the early teaching. What did you have in mind?” So he tells us what he really had in mind in both cases, which then becomes part of the third turning teaching, which is a deeper revela- tion of the nature of ultimate truth. The third turning protects us from a danger- ously narrow understanding of the second turn- ing. It’s possible that some understandings of the second turning would deprecate the first turning. But a subtle understanding of the second turning enhances the first turning, so that the first turning then can be taught in a more subtle and a more selfless way than it could be taught the first time. When the Buddha Shakyamuni first taught, he allowed the illusion that there was something to The first turning gives the logic of liberation, the second condemns all logic, and the third reconstructs logic but based on the understanding that logic is ultimately useless.