Treasures On The Tibetan Middle Way

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    Herbert V. Guenther



    Shambhala Berkeley 1976

  • SHAMBHALA PUBLICATIONS, INC. 2045 Francisco Street

    Berkeley, California 94709

    Originally published by E. J. Brill under the title Tibeta1z Budrj.hism Without Mystificatiotz

    1969 in the Netherlands by E. J. Brill, Leiden First Shambhala edition 1969

    Second edition 1976 Herbert V. Guenther ISBN 0-87773002-4

    LCC '75-40260

    Distributed in the United States by Random House and in Canada by Random House of Canada, Ltd. This book is published in the CLEAR LIGHT SERIES

    dedicated toW. Y. Evans-Wentz. The series is under the editorship of Samuel Bercholz.

    Printed in the United States of America


    Preface . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . VII

    Acknowledgments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . lX

    List of Abbreviations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . X



    Man - His Uniqueness and Obligation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3 Different Types of Man . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12 The Divine in Man's Life . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22 The Path and the Goal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 40 Paramitayana and Mantrayana . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 'SI



    The Gold-Refinery bringing out the very essence of the Siitra and Tantra Paths . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 77

    The Specific Guidance to the Profound Middle View or the direct Message of Blo-bzang . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ro4

    The Secret Manual revealing the Innermost Nature of Seeing Reality or the Source of all Attainments . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . r28

    The Instruction in the Essence of the Vajrayana Path or the Short-cut to the Palace of Unity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 136

    Index..................................................... 149


    Within the history of Tibetan Buddhism the dGe-lugs-pas were in the course of time to play a significant and powerful role. Their major contribution constituted a return to Indian sources which had be-come standard works for a strongly intellectually-toned approach to

    B~ddhist teachings. In this respect they have presented veritable trea-sures. This is the reason why the title to this collection of representa-tive works is Treasures on the Tibetan Middle Way.

    Originally these works had been published under the title Tibetan Buddhism Without Mystification, which reflected the concern of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose guest I was for the university summer vacation in 1961. He complained that most of that which purported to be information about Buddhism in Tibet was p'll;re fancy and catered for the mystery-monger rather than for the earnest seeker of religious experience or the critical student of philosophy and that its rich symbolism, especially that of the T antras, continued to be mis-represented grossly. He more or less pressed me to start writing about Buddhism as an inner experience which is of vital importance to our spiritual growth and development. In order to give an all-round pic-ture of Buddhism as such a living power, I chose four small texts that had been written by the tutor of the Eighth Dalai Lama. As the reader will :find out these texts are a mine of information. -They reveal clearly the inner nature of Buddhism as a path of development, and they elucidate the relation between the Sutras and Tantras and thus are invaluable in removing the many misconceptions about the latter texts. In the translation I have tried to emphasize the value of mystic experience, not only because it is the keynote of Mahayana Buddhism, but also because it 'involves' man in actually following his path. At the same time I have attempted to show how its distorted presenta-tion, its mystification, can be avoided. In this attempt I have studi-ously refrained from etymologizing (because we do not understand a word or a proposition by its etymology) and from rediscovering neo-Hegelian trends in Buddhism (although this seems to be the stan-dard procedure by many Easterners and Westerners) . This has neces-sitated a revision of almost all key terms in Buddhist texts and the


    introduction of new renderings. Against the likely objection to this innovation I can only say that stale, outworn and misleading terms do not help us in understanding the problem in question and that clarity, the prime concern of the scholar, demands that he distin-guish what can be. distinguished by as clear and unambiguous labels as he .possibly can.

    The texts, which are translated here for the first time, belong to the dGe-lugs-pa school of thought, and in the notes to those passages which need further explanation for the Western reader, I have drawn copiously from other dGe-lugs-pa works. Although it would have been easy for me to quote from texts belonging to other schools of Buddhism in Tibet, I have refrained from doing so because I wanted to bring out the specific merits of the dGe-lugs-pa writers: the clear distinction between die various philosophical trends that were de-veloped by the four major schools of thought in India and continued in Tibet; the preeminent interest in epistemological problems; and their traditionalism.

    In the transliteration of Tibetan words I have adopted the system proposed by Turrell V. Wylie. It has the advantage of dispensing with diacritical marks. However, with personal names I have used a capital for theorthographic or phonetic initial, as the


    I am grateful to the following publishers for permission to quote at sonie length from the designated works published by them, as follows: George Allen & Unwin Ltd.:

    Louis Arnaud Reid, Ways of Knowledge and Experience.

    Faber and Faber Ltd: WilliamS. Haas, The Destiny of the Mind. East and West.

    The Macmillan Company:

    F. S.C. Northrop, The Meeting of East and West. An Inquiry concern-ing World Understanding.

    Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd. :

    C. D. Broad, The Mind and its Place in Nature. C. D. Broad, Religion, Philosophy, and Psychical Research. John Hospers, Introduction to Philosophical Analysis.

    Charles Scribner's Sons.:

    William Ernest Hocking, Types of Philosophy.






    KsNzh Ktsh




    SLNzh SLSHp SngSLNzh



    Tskhp Zhdm


    Byang-cub lam-gyi rim-pa'i dmar-khrid thams-cad mkhyen-par bgrod-pa'i bde-lam (commonly known as Byang-chub bde-lam) The Collected Works of Yongs-rdzogs bstan-pa'i mnga'-bdag stag-phu yong-'dzin Ye-shes mtshan-can dpal bzang-po (Chu-bzang gsung-'bum) Grub-mtha'i rnam-bshad rang-gzhan grub-mtha' kun dang zab-don mchog-tu gsal-ba kun-bzang zhing-gi nyi-ma lung-rigs rgya-mtsho skye dgu'i re-ba kun skongs (Grub-mtha' chen-mo) The Collected Works of mKhas-grub dge-legs bzang-po (Tashilhunpo edition) gZhi'i sku-gsum-gyi rnam-bzhag rab-gsal sgron-me Byang-chub lam-gyi rim-pa chung-ngu'i zin-bris blos-gsal rgya-mtsho'i ljug-ngogs (Ke'u-tshang lam-rim) Byang-chub lam-gyi. rim-pa'i dmar-khrid thams-cad mkhyen-par bgrod-pa'i myur-lam (Byang-chub myur-la:m) The Collected Works of rje-btsun bla-ma Ngag-dbang blo-bzang chos-ldan dpal bzang-po (lCang-skya ngag-chos gsung-'bum) The Collected Works of rDo-rje-'chang Pha-bong-kha-pa dpal bzang-po (Pha-bong-kha-pa gsung-'bum) Sa-lam-gyi rnam-bzhag theg-gsum melzes-rgyan Sa-lam-gyi rnam-bzhag go-bde-ba'i ngang-gis bshad-pa gSang-sngags rdo-rje-theg-pa'i sa-lam-gyi rnam-bzhag rin-po-che'i them-skas The Collected Works of Thub-bstan yongs-rdzogs-kyi bdag-po rje-btsun Blo-bzang thugs-rje dpal bzang-po (sPang-gling gsung-'bum) dGon-gnas stag-lung brag-tu gsung-rgyun rgyal-ba'i bstan-srung-rnams-kyi gter cho-ga bskan-gso cha-lag dang bcas-pa dam-can dgyes-pa'i sbyin-phung The Collected Works of Tsong-kha~pa (Tashilhunpo.edition) Byang-chub bde-lam-gyi khrid-dmigs skyong-tshul shin-tu gsal-bar bkod-pa dge-legs 'od-snang 'gyed-pa'i nyin-byed (Zhva-dmar lam-rim) Byang-chub lam-gyi rim-pa'i khrid-yig 'Jam-pa'i dbyangs-kyi zhal-lung

  • I.




    Throughout its history Buddhism has claimed to be a path; and since it is the nature of a path to begin and to lead somewhere, its starting point and goal are of equal importance, although it is the goal that exerts a dynamic effect upon man's actions and in so doing directs his path or course of becoming. This goal is known by various names such as 'de-tachment from worldly and transworldly concerns', 'enlightenment', 'Nirvana', 'Buddhahood', and 'deliverance'. No doubt, these terms are ambiguous and what is to be understood by them may pe considered from various angles. The goal may be seen on the one hand as something static and to be approached in a sense of possessiveness or, on the other, as a way of being .which is active and dynamic. It is this difference in the goal-conception, the one static and the other dynamic, that marks the first great division in Buddhism: Hinayana and Mahayana.

    It, further, would be a great error if we were to assume that apart from this distinction the goal is something uniform. There are considerable differences of opinion and expression concerning the nature of the go~l. i.e., enlightenment, freedom, Buddhahood, in particular. In one instance deliverance means freedom from emotionally tainted responses which are felt to be the main cause for being tied to the world and for experiencing all kinds of hardships, disappointments and misery. In another case it is, in addition to the el~mination of these emotional states and forces, an emancipation from the grosser fox:ms of intellectual fog. Such a goal-conception is, more specifically, the recognition of the idealistic premise that things external to the observer do not exist apart from his experi-encing them. Lastly, the goal is not only freedom from emotionally upsetting states but also from all forms of intellectual fog. In its most subtle form this is the belief that things really exist instead of recognizing that the notion of things, or a thing, is something defined by a set of propositions, and that to name is not to define them but is merely a way in which we assign and use meaning-terms. This difference in the goal-


    conception marks the second great division in Buddhism, that between Sravakayana, Pratyekabu


    man's physical aspect in this connection, although the Buddhist texts seem to make the same distinction as we do ~hen we spe!i-k of the physical and the mental. Such distinctions, valuable as they are for particular disciplines, more often than not blur the differences in conception which occur in various cultural settings. They tend to make us overlook the uniqueness of man, his humanity which is essentially of a psychological order because it is defined by references to certain kinds of mental pro-cesses, attitu~es and actions prompted by them. Thought' and action go together, although it is the latter .that is more easily perceived as it occurs in a physical setting. Hence in order not to read our .categories of the mental and physical into Buddhism and then rashly judge that after all everything is the same, it is better to refer to that which would look like the physical aspect as man's active aspect as it manifests itself in his being with others. In this way we focus not so much upon what man is as how he acts. At the same time we recognize his obligation to act as a human being. Of course, he may not fulfil his obligation because to do so would necessitate a thorough awareness of his beipg human and it is much easier to avoid such an awareness and its inherent responsibility by seeking to justify and cling to outworn schemes of values which are

    a~sunied to have been fixed once for all by divine sanction. B\lt this is precisely to lose one's uniqueness, to miss one's chance of being human and to succumb to the dehumanizing forces of un-knowing. However, once the awareness of being man and of the obligation it entails is awakened, we find a value that is relevant to our concrete existence here and now. This value reinforces action and binds us to it. The intimate connection between fact and value and its relation to action in the framework of human existence is clearly stated by Tsong-kha-pa who, following anpld tradition, demands that eighteen qualities and conditions must be fulfilled before man can be considered a human 9eing. Of these eight relate to the uniqueness of his being man, while the remaining ten indicate the nature of his response to stimuli in connection with his spiri-tual growth and development 1 Tsong-kha-pa's words are. 2 :

    "The eighteen qualities and conditions which constitute man's unique-ness and fortune must be complete, because those who live in evil forms of life are tormented by unbearable suffering and those who are among the

    i These eighteen qualities have been explained in detail in note I, p. 78 and note 3. p. So.

    2 Tskllp II 2, 84a seq. As this passage is extremely concise and as a purely literal translation (a 'crib') would not convey the meaning, the latter has been supplied from Zlldm 33b-36b, which comments on Tsong-kha-pa's dissertation.


    gods and in the realm of the blessed have little to be dissatisfied with. For this reason I must realize enlightenment at a time when I have the above eighteen and conditions. The basis for winning enlighten-ment is the presence of these conditions which constitute my uniqueness and fortune. If I were to think that I could win this enlightenment when I find this unique occasion in another, future existence, I must think how hard it is to find it.

    "The difficulty relates both to the effect and to the cause. As to the effect, i.e., my present unique occasion, I have to think of it in relation to the different kinds of living beings and of how difficult it is to find it among those who are similar to me. In the former case, the very body of a being appears to be a sport in comparison to the multitude of animal forms, and in the latter even among men themselves, the presence ofthe eighteen qualities and conditions is something exceptional,

    ''As to the cause of my uniqueness I have to think of the difficulty in general and in particular. In the first case it means that in order to find a human body it is necessary to store powerful, wholesome Karma, and this is very rare. In the latter case, imp...