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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
54 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly summer 2 0 1 7 As soon as we talk about a path like Buddhism, we think about its finish line—some kind of result or goal. But in the Mahayana, there is no goal. In the Prajnaparamita Sutra, for instance, we hear that “Form is emptiness, emptiness is form. No eyes, no ears...” and all that. There’s nothing to obtain. And there’s “no nothing” to obtain. The Mahayana path is like peeling layers of skin and finally finding out that there’s no seed inside. We have to obtain liberation from the skins, but this is difficult to do—we love our skins. When we’re children, a sand castle is very important to us. Then when we’re sixteen, a skateboard is very important, and by then the sand castle has become a rotten skin. When we’re in our thirties and forties, money, cars, and relationships replace the skate- board. These are all layers of skin. More important, even the paths that we practice are all layers of skin, which we use to help us peel the other skins. The inner skin helps us think about the outer skin and motivates us to peel it. But ultimately in the Mahay- ana path, you have to be free from all systems, all skins. So what happens when all these skins have been peeled off? What’s left? Is enlightenment a total negation, like the exhaustion of a fire or the evapo- ration of moisture? Is it something like that? No, we’re talking about something that is a result of elimination. For example, if your window is dirty, you clean it, you wash the dirt; then the window, in the absence of dirt, is labeled a “clean” window. There’s nothing else. The phenomenon that we are calling a clean window, the quality that is the absence of dirt, is not something we produced by cleaning the dirt. I don’t think we should even call it a clean window, because the window in its origi- nal state has never been stained by the extremes of either dirty or clean. Nevertheless, the process of getting rid of the dirt can be labeled as the emer- gence of the clean window. Here we’re talking about buddhanature, and if you want to know about buddhanature, then Mai- treya’s Uttaratantra Shastra is the text you have to study. It’s important to be careful when establish- ing the idea of buddhanature, because otherwise it might end up becoming something like an atman, or a truly existing soul. The Mahayana shastras talk about the qualities of freedom, or elimination, such as the ten powers, the four fearlessnesses, the thirty-two major marks, the eighty minor marks, and so on. If you’re not careful, you might start to think about buddhanature theistically—that is, in terms of the qualities of a permanent god, soul, or essence. But all these qualities talked about in the Mahayana shastras are simply qualities of the absence of dirt. When we talk about the result of elimination, we automatically think we are talking about something that comes afterward: first there is elimination and then comes its effect. But we are not talking about that at all, because then we would be falling into an eternalist or theistic extreme. “Elimination” means having something to eliminate. But in the Prajnaparamita, we understand that there is noth- ing to eliminate. And that is the big elimination. The result of that elimination isn’t obtained later. It’s always there, which is why it’s called tantra, or “continuum.” This quality continues throughout the ground, path, and result. The window contin- ues from before the dirt was there, while the dirt is being washed away, and after the cleaning is complete. The window has always been free from the concepts of dirt and freedom from dirt. That’s why the Mahayana sutras say the result is beyond aspiration. You cannot wish or pray for the result of elimination, because it’s already there; it continues all the time, so there’s no need to aspire to it. The essence of all of the Buddha’s teachings is emptiness, or interdependent arising. Nothing arises, dwells, or ceases independently. Therefore, there’s nothing permanent. There is no truly existing self. DZonGsAR kHYenTse RinPoCHe is head of the khyentse lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and spiritual director of siddhartha’s intent. His latest book is The Guru Drinks Bourbon? published by shambhala. paWochoyningdorJi