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Buddhadharma : Summer 2017
summer 2 0 1 7 buddhadharma: the practitioner’s quarterly 55 Everything that we think exists, or does not exist, or both or neither—all these things are fabrica- tions of our mind. We fabricate them and then we become attached to our fabrications. But we don’t realize they are our own fabrications. We think they are real, but basically, every single conception or clinging that we have is some kind of fanatical process. The Mahayana sutras teach emptiness, or shunyata, to lead us beyond all these extremes and fabrications. When we talk about emptiness, something beyond fabrication, we immediately think of a state of being that has no function, like a couch potato or piece of stone, but that is absolutely not correct. It is not merely a negation, elimination, or denial. It is not like the exhaustion of a fire or the evapora- tion of water. It is full of function, and we call this function buddha activity, which is one aspect of buddhanature. This buddhanature has an aspect of uninterrupted wisdom. This is the difficulty, because as soon as we talk about wisdom, we think in terms of cognition and the senses and their sense objects. We are curious about how a buddha perceives things. But although buddhanature is seemingly a cognizer, it has no object, and therefore it can- not be a subject. Furthermore, it’s not inanimate, nor is it animate, in the sense of mind. This is why the Uttaratantra Shastra is really complementary to the Mahasandhi (Dzogchen) teachings, which always say that mind and wisdom are separate— the dualistic mind of subject and object is separate from the nondual wisdom, which is not other than buddhanature. You could say that when Nagarjuna explains the Prajnaparamita, he concentrates more on its empty aspect, whereas when Maitreya explains the same thing he concentrates more on the “-ness” aspect. This “-ness” is buddhanature. You might wonder why the Buddha taught in the sutras that all phenomena are like clouds—unstable, naturally illusory, and empty. Why is it that even though we can experience them, they are without essence, like a dream or mirage? Why is all this taught as emptiness in the Madh- yamaka teachings and the Prajnaparamita Sutras? And as Mipham Rinpoche’s commentary on the Uttaratantra Shastra asks, why in this third turn- ing of the wheel of dharma does the Buddha say that this buddhanature exists within all sentient beings? Isn’t that a contradiction? Furthermore, since buddhanature is very difficult to understand, even for sublime beings who are on the path, why is it taught here for ordinary beings? Let’s go to Mai- treya’s text: He had taught in various places that every know- able thing is ever void, like a cloud, a dream, or an illusion. Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of buddhahood to be there in every sentient being? (Stanza 156) First of all, there is no contradiction between the second turning of the wheel of the dharma, where the Buddha taught that everything is emptiness, and the third turning of the wheel, where the Buddha taught that all sentient beings have buddhanature. In the Prajnaparamita Sutras of the second turning, the Buddha emphasizes that nothing is truly exis- tent. So here, when Buddha says there is buddhana- ture, he isn’t saying that buddhanature truly exists. Rather, he is emphasizing its clarity aspect. When we talk about the union of clarity and emptiness, it’s important that we understand both aspects, not only the emptiness aspect. Beyond this, the Buddha’s teachings on bud- dhanature address, and counteract, five particular mistakes: When Buddha says there is buddhanature, he isn’t saying that buddhanature truly exists. Rather, he is emphasizing the clarity aspect.