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Buddhadharma : Summer 2007
summer 2007| 76 |buddhadharma deluded or enlightened – are empty of self- existence. They depend on causes, condi- tions, and concepts extrinsic to them.3 In the third turning, at Vaishali and elsewhere, the Buddha taught various Mahayana sutras concerned with mind and buddhanature. This turning also estab- lished a distinction between dharmas that are not real (the imaginary concepts and dependent entities of samsara) and dhar- mas that are real (the perfected nature or enlightened mind).4 Rangtongpas and Shentongpas dis- agree over the meaning of the second and third turnings of the dharma wheel. Rangtong schools like the Geluk argue that the second turning – with its teach- ing that all dharmas, “from form through a buddha’s omniscience,” are equally empty of self-existence – is definitive and final. They believe the third turning – with its more positive characterization of the ultimate – is provisional and requires fur- ther interpretation. Thus, for example, “positive” descriptions of buddhanature in the third turning may be understood explicitly as palliatives for disciples with a dread of emptiness. Implicitly, these positive descriptions of buddhanature nevertheless refer to the mind’s empti- ness of inherent existence, without which it could not change from a deluded to an enlightened state. Conversely, Shentongpas like Dolpopa and Taranatha claim that the teaching of the third turning is definitive and final in discriminating between the two under- standings of emptiness. In other words, buddha mind is empty of samsaric enti- ties but is replete with enlightened quali- ties, which are permanent, ubiquitous, and self-existent. From this point of view, the second turning is too monolithic in its account of emptiness, and so requires fur- ther interpretation. Thus, second-turning negations of nirvana or buddha mind must be read on two levels: explicitly, as merely general assertions of their empti- ness; and implicitly, as claims that nirvana or buddha mind are empty of their “other,” namely samsaric concepts and entities. Each school believes that the views of its opponent lead to catastrophic philo- sophical mistakes that threaten to under- mine the possibility of enlightenment. For Gelukpas and other Rangtongpas, the Shentong claim that buddha mind is empty in a different way than samsaric entities, and is in fact self-existent, entails the extreme of eternalism – precisely the sort of belief in an enduring self, or atman, that the Buddha found in the Hindu schools of his time and rejected. Thus, if one accepts the self-existence of buddha mind, one is effectively admitting the existence of a self. Since grasping at self is acknowledged by all Buddhists to be the root of rebirth in samsara, medi- tating on the basis of the Shentong view will only perpetuate our suffering rather than end it. What’s more, if we assert that we already have within us the complete qualities of a buddha, why bother to practice? For Jonangpas and other Shentongpas, however, the Rangtong view that all dhar- mas of samsara and nirvana are empty in exactly the same way – devoid of intrinsic reality or self-existence – inclines toward the extreme of nihilism, particularly where buddha mind is concerned. While it may be reasonable to deny that conditioned, samsaric dharmas exist self-sufficiently, to assert the same of unconditioned bud- dha mind reduces it to the same level as worldly conventions, thereby collapsing the crucial distinction the Buddha made between the unsatisfactoriness of sam- sara and the perfection of nirvana. If one denies that nirvana is fundamentally dif- ferent from worldly persons, places, and things, and all of those are empty, then nirvana, which is utterly non-samsaric, will remain forever beyond reach. Indeed, if nirvana is reduced to the same nature as samsara, why bother to practice? Over the course of their centuries-long dispute, both Rangtongpas and Shentong- pas developed nuanced arguments to dis- arm their opponents’ critiques, appealing to scripture, rational argument, and basic Buddhist principles. Both Mountain Doc- trine and The Essence of Other-Emptiness contain ingenious Shentong polemics. Yet given the complexity of the debate, and the sometimes differing premises of the antagonists, it is doubtful that either side 3 The second turning led to the Madhyamaka (Middle Way) philosophical tradition of Nagarjuna, including the Prasangika subschool of Chandrakirti exalted by the Gelukpas. 4 The third turning led to the development of the philosophical tradition associated with Maitreya, Asanga, and Vasubandhu, regarded by Rangtongpas as Cittamatra (Mind-only), and by Shentongpas as Great Madhyamaka. Apply yourself to the way that points directly at reality. — Eihei Dogen Zenji A chance to refresh and clarify the mind. Zazen, study, dharma talks, private interview, moment-to-moment practice. —July 27-August 5 Ten Day Sesshin (meditation retreat) —August 6-12 Precepts Study Week —August 13-17 Study Days —August 17-19 Writing Workshop Weekend —August 20-26 Sesshin — August 26 Shuso Hossen Ceremony (an intriguing Zen ceremony with dharma combat). The Village Zendo Roshi Enkyo O’Hara, Abbot 588 Broadway, suite 910 New York, NY 10012 www.villagezendo.org 212 340 4656 or contact firstname.lastname@example.org TheVillage Zendo 2007 Summer Intensive Practice July 25-August 26 Cornwall-on -Hudson, NY