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. Tsong-kha-pa’s Reasoned Analysis of Path-Structure

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Having highlighted the plurality of approaches to explaining the difference between Sūtra and Mantra by Bu-tön and Long-chen-pa, let us now turn to contrast these with Tsong-kha-pa’s emphasis on a single feature, deity yoga. His system has thereby been put into historical context; the radical nature of his distilling the distinctive essence of Mantra down to the single central feature of deity yoga stands out in juxtaposition to the earlier multifaceted approaches of Bu-tön and Long-chen-pa.

In the first of fourteen sections in his Great Exposition of Secret Mantra,a Tsong-kha-pa, 1357-1419, founder of the Ge-luk-pa (Virtuous Way or Joyous Way)b sect of Tibetan Buddhism, presents his view on the difference between Sūtra and Mantra in his highly rationalistic style. The section is a long, involved argument in which, although Indian sources are cited, the central appeal is to reasoning. Typical of much of Tsong-kha-pa’s writing, the argument is so involved and the principles behind the steps so taken for granted that an introduction presenting the same material in a more straightforward manner is needed. Through translating and editing

sngags rim chen mo. The longer title of Tsong-kha-pa’s text is Stages of the Path to a Conqueror and Pervasive Master, a Great Vajradhara: Revealing All Secret Topics (rgyal ba khyab bdag rdo rje ’chang chen po’i lam gyi rim pa gsang ba kun gyi gnad rnam par phye ba). In the Peking edition it is P6210, vol. 161 (Toh. 5281), but I mainly used the Dharmsala (Shes rig par khang) edition of 1969, despite flaws, because of its legibility, checking questionable passages against the Ngawang Gelek edition (New Delhi, 1978), which is a retouched version of the 1897 Hla-sa old Zhol blocks.

The first part of this chapter is adapted, in part, from my article “Reason as the Prime Principle in Dzong-ka-ba’s Delineating Deity Yoga as the Demarcation Between Sūtra and Mantra,” Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 7, no. 2 (1984): 95-115, and has appeared in my introduction to His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso and Jeffrey Hopkins, The Kālachakra Tantra: Rite of Initiation for the Stage of Generation (London: Wisdom Publications, 1985; second revd. edition, Boston, 1989), 23-30. For a detailed discussion of the distinction between Sūtra and Mantra, see H.H. the Dalai Lama, Tsong-kha-pa, and Hopkins, Tantra in Tibet, and Jeffrey Hopkins, The Tantric Distinction (London: Wisdom Publications, 1984). Since the presentation closely follows Tsong-kha-pa’s argument in and the Dalai Lama’s introduction to Tantra in Tibet, detailed page references are given in the notes. b dge lugs pa. Several Tibetan scholars have reported that dge (virtuous) was originally dga’ (joyous). an oral commentary by His Holiness the Dalai Lama XIV,a I have provided this in Tantra in Tibet, which is centered around translation of Tsong-kha-pa’s first section.

The extreme rules of redundancy that often make Tibetan writing laconic to the point of obfuscation do not apply to oral commentary, and thus the Dalai Lama’s explanation provides a more free-flowing introduction to this complex argument, which he gave me privately in his office for eventual publication. It is the type of exposition that a well-versed Tibetan scholar will give to a student before launching into a topic and while reading the text line by line; it smoothes the way and thus is invaluable for a beginner. This more accessible version, however, is not meant to replace the twists and turns of Tsong-kha-pa’s argument; rather, one is encouraged to become acquainted with the system to the point where the implicit principles are explicit to the mind of the reader of Tsongkha-pa’s text. This is likely the Dalai Lama’s point when, during public lectures, he has encouraged Ge-luk-pas not to forsake Tsongkha-pa’s writings for later simplified presentations.

In the same spirit of providing an accessible reformulation of Tsong-kha-pa’s exposition, the First Paṇchen Lama Lo-sang-chökyi-gyel-tsenb wrote an extremely readable version of his argument (see Donald S. Lopez’s translation in Appendix 1). Here, I will encapsulate Tsong-kha-pa’s and the Dalai Lama’s arguments for the sake of getting a firm grip on the broad structure of the myriad points being made. I read the argument as follows. Outlining the Tantric difference

Because people are of different capacities, dispositions, and interests, Shākyamuni Buddha taught many different paths. He set forth Sūtra and Mantra, and within Sūtra he taught four different schools of tenets (Great Exposition School, Sūtra School, Mind-Only School, and Middle Way School)c and within Mantra, he set out four different tantra sets—Action, Performance, Yoga, and Highest Yoga (literally “Unsurpassed Yoga”).d

a The Dalai Lama’s introduction in Tantra in Tibet, 13-79. b blo bzang chos kyi rgyal mtshan, 1567[?]-1662.

bye brag smra ba, vaibhāṣika; mdo sde pa, sautrāntika; sems tsam pa, cittamātra; dbu ma pa, mādhyamika.

bya ba, kriyā; spyod pa, caryā; rnal ’byor, yoga; rnal ’byor bla med, anuttarayoga.

In each of the four schools of the Sūtra system he described three varieties of paths—for Hearers, Solitary Realizers, and Bodhisattvas. Each of the four schools also has internal subdivisions, and the four divisions of Mantra also contain many different types of processes and procedures of meditation. The result is that there are many different levels of commitment—ranging from the assumption of tantric vows down to the assumption of only the refuge vow—many different paths and many different styles.

To appreciate the special distinctiveness of Mantra, it is necessary to determine the difference between the Sūtra and Mantra vehicles, and to do that, first it is necessary to settle the difference between the vehicles in Sūtra—the Hearer Vehicle, Solitary Realizer Vehicle, and Bodhisattva Vehicle or Great Vehicle—and then consider the further division of the latter into its Sūtra and Mantra forms. Difference between the Sūtra vehicles

Vehicle” (theg pa, yāna) has two meanings:

1. Since yā means “to go,” and na indicates the “means” of going, a vehicle comprises those practices carrying one to a higher state—those practices that when actualized in the mental continuum cause manifestation of a higher type of mind.

2. Somewhat unusually, “vehicle” can also refer to the destination—the place or state at which one is aiming. This is because just as a vehicle can bear or carry a certain load, so the state of Buddhahood, which is the goal of the Bodhisattva Vehicle, can bear or carry the welfare of all sentient beings, whereas the state of a Lesser Vehicle Foe Destroyer can bear much less.

Since “vehicle” has these two meanings, the distinction between the two Buddhist Vehicles—Hearer and Solitary Realizer (being Lesser Vehicle) and Bodhisattva (or Great Vehicle)—must occur either within the sense of vehicle as the means by which one progresses or within the sense of vehicle as the destination, or state, to which one is progressing, or in both meanings.

In the exposition of the Lesser Vehicle and the Great Vehicle according to the Middle Way Consequence School, considered to be the acme of philosophical systems by most Tibetan schools, there is a tremendous difference between the two in the sense of vehicle as that to which one is progressing. In the Lesser Vehicle, practice culminates as a Foe Destroyer, one who has overcome the foe of ignorance but is not omniscient and thus is not a Buddha. Unlike a Buddha, a Foe Destroyer does not have the ability spontaneously to manifest in myriad forms in order to help beings. Since the states of being a Buddha and a Foe Destroyer are very different, there is a significant difference between the Lesser and Great vehicles in the sense of vehicle as that to which one is progressing—the respective goals of Buddhahood and Foe Destroyerhood.

With this difference in goal, there must also be a difference in the two vehicles in the sense of the practices by which one progresses to these goals. The difference between the Lesser and Great vehicles in terms of the means of progress can occur in only two places—method and wisdom, these two comprising the entire path, in that method mainly produces the form body of a Buddha and wisdom mainly produces the Body of Attributes. In the Consequence School’s explanation, the Lesser and Great vehicles do not differ with respect to wisdom in that both require realization of the

subtle emptiness of inherent existence of all phenomena such as body, mind, head, eye, wall, consciousness, and so forth. The Lesser and Great vehicles differ in terms of how wisdom is cultivated— Bodhisattvas using myriad reasonings for getting at the subtle emptiness and Hearers and Solitary Realizers using only a few to realize the same emptiness; however, in terms of the object of the mind of wisdom, the emptiness of inherent existence, there is no difference between the emptiness a Lesser Vehicle practitioner realizes and the emptiness a Great Vehicle practitioner realizes. In this sense there is no difference in wisdom. Tsong-kha-pa discusses this point in some detail in his commentary on Chandrakīrti’s Supplement to (Nāgārjuna’s) “Treatise on the Middle” a and also indicates a nuanced way that there is a difference in approach:

To establish that even a single phenomenon does not truly exist, Great Vehicle practitioners use limitless different reasonings as set forth in Nāgārjuna’s Treatise on the Middle, due to which their minds become greatly broadened with respect to suchness. Lesser Vehicle practitioners use only brief reasoning to establish suchness by valid cognition, and since they do not establish emptiness the way Great Vehicle practitioners do, they do not have a mind broadened with respect to suchness.…This difference arises because Hearers and Solitary Realizers strive to abandon only the afflictive emotions [the obstructions to liberation], and realization of a mere abbreviation of the meaning

of suchness is sufficient for that. Great Vehicle practitioners are intent on abandoning the obstructions to omniscience, and for this it is necessary to have a very broadened mind of wisdom opened to suchness. Bodhisattvas’ more extensive use of reasoning helps in achieving their greater aim of overcoming the obstructions to omniscience, though how this is accomplished is left for the reader to ponder. Since wisdom in the Lesser and Great vehicles does not differ in terms of the type of

emptiness being realized, the difference between the two vehicles must lie in method.b “Method” here specifically means motivation and the deeds that it impels. No matter how much compassion Lesser Vehicle practitioners have, their primary motivation is to release themselves from cyclic existence. However, in the Great Vehicle the primary motivation is the altruistic aspiration to highest enlightenment c induced by great love and compassion in which one takes on the burden of the welfare of all beings.

madhyamakāvatāra, dbu ma la ’jug pa. The first five chapters of Tsong-kha-pa’s commentary (dgongs pa rab gsal ) are translated in Jeffrey Hopkins, Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism (London: Rider and Co., 1980; rpt. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications), 174-175. (For discussion of the translation of the title Madhyamakāvatāra as

“Supplement to the ‘Treatise on the Middle,’” see Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness, 462- 469 and 866-869.) b The Dalai Lama’s introduction in Tantra in Tibet, 55.

byang chub kyi sems, bodhicitta.

Thus, there is a significant difference between the Lesser and Great vehicles in terms of method, even though not in wisdom.a Hence, the Lesser and Great vehicles differ in both senses of vehicle, as the means by which one progresses as well as that to which one progresses. Difference between the Perfection Vehicle and the Mantra Vehicle

In the Great Vehicle itself, there are two vehicles—the Perfection Vehicleb and the Mantra (or Tantra) Vehicle.c The Perfection Vehicle is Sūtra Great Vehicle, and the Mantra Vehicle is Mantra (or Tantra) Great Vehicle.

Do the Sūtra Great Vehicle and the Mantra Great Vehicle differ in the sense of vehicle as that to which one is progressing? The goal of the Sūtra Great Vehicle is Buddhahood, but the Mantra Great Vehicle cannot have another goal separate from Buddhahood as there is no attainment higher than the Buddhahood described in Sūtra as attainment of the Body of Attributes and form bodies. Sūtra

describes a Buddha as having removed all obstructions and attained all auspicious attributes, having no movement of coarse winds, or inner energies;d thus such Buddhahood has to include the attainments of even Highest Yoga Mantra, the primary aim of which is to stop the movement of all coarse winds and manifest the most subtle consciousness—the mind of clear light—while simultaneously appearing in totally pure form.e Hence, the Vajradharahood often mentioned as the goal of Mantra and the Buddhahood

a Tantra in Tibet, 98-99. b phar phyin kyi theg pa, pāramitāyāna.

sngags kyi theg pa, mantrayāna. The term “Tantrayāna” has great favor in much of current non-Tibetan scholarship but does not appear to have been popular in the Tibetan cultural region. There the favored term is Mantrayāna or Guhyamantrayāna (gsang sngags kyi theg pa). d

rlung, prāṇa. This is one among many points that Jam-yang-shay-pa (’jam dbyangs bzhad pa, 1648-1721) makes in defending the position that the Buddhahoods of Sūtra and Mantra are the same in his Great Exposition of Tenets; see Hopkins, Maps of the Profound, 637-645.

See Lati Rinbochay and Jeffrey Hopkins, Death, Intermediate State and Rebirth in Tibetan Buddhism (London: Rider and Co., 1979; rpt. Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 1980), 69-73. described in Sūtra are the same.

There being no difference between the Perfection Vehicle and the Mantra Vehicle in terms of the goal—the destination—they must differ in the sense of vehicle as the means by which one progresses. Therefore, they must differ either in terms of method or wisdom or both. If the difference lay in

wisdom, there would be many problems because the Perfection Vehicle contains Nāgārjuna’s Middle Way teachings on emptiness, and there would have to be some other more subtle emptiness than that which Nāgārjuna establishes with many different reasonings in the twenty-seven chapters of his Treatise on the Middle, whereas there is none. Thus there is no difference between Sūtra and Mantra in the view, which here refers to the

objective view, that is, the object that is viewedb— emptiness or ultimate truth—and does not refer to the realizing consciousness, since Sūtra Great Vehicle and Highest Yoga Mantra do differ with respect to the subtlety of the

consciousness realizing emptiness. Specifically, in Highest Yoga Tantras such as the Guhyasamāja Tantra or the Kālachakra Tantra, more subtle, enhanced consciousnesses are generated to realize the same emptiness of inherent existence. Still, because the object realized is the same whether the consciousness is more subtle or not, the “objective view” is the same.c

In this way, between the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles there cannot be any difference in the factor of wisdom in terms of the object understood by a mind of wisdom. Hence, the difference again has to lie in method. Nevertheless, in both the Sūtra and the Mantra Great Vehicles, the foundation of method is the altruistic intention to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings, and thus the

motivational basis of the deeds of the path is the same. The other main factor of method has to do with the deeds induced by that motivation. In the Sūtra Great Vehicle these are the practices induced by that altruistic aspiration—the perfections of giving, ethics, and

patience, and since these are also practiced in Mantra, the difference cannot be found there either. Furthermore, Mantra has an even greater emphasis than Sūtra on the deeds of the perfections in that a tantric practitioner is committed to engage in them at least six times during each day.a

Moreover, the distinction could not be made on the basis of speed of progress on the path because within the four tantra sets— Action, Performance, Yoga, and Highest Yoga Mantra—there are great differences in speed, such as the possibility of achieving Buddhahood in one lifetime in Highest Yoga Mantra but taking at least two periods of countless eons in the other three, according to

Tsong-kha-pa. Also, in the Sūtra Great Vehicle there are five different modes of progress, slow to fast, which are compared to an ox chariot, elephant chariot, sun and moon, magical creation of a Hearer, and magical creation of a One-Gone-Thus.b In addition, the difference must not lie in some small or insignificant feature, but in an important one.c

Tsong-kha-pa’s intricate comparison of the Perfection and the Mantra vehicles has shown how similar these two vehicles are in their basic structure in terms of goal, wisdom of emptiness, and altruistic motivation, thereby literally setting the stage for appreciating the central difference. He finds the profound distinction in the fact that in Mantra there is meditation in which one meditates on one’s

body as similar in aspect to a Buddha’s form body, whereas in the Sūtra Great Vehicle there is no such meditation. This is deity yoga,d which all four tantra sets have but Sūtra systems do not. Deity yoga means to imagine oneself as now having the form body of a

Buddha; one meditates on oneself in the aspect of a Buddha’s form body,e imagining oneself as presently an ideal, altruistically active being. This is the central distinctive feature of Tantra in that it occurs in all four sets, even though it does not occur in all tantras, due to which it is not a definition of tantra.

In the Perfection Vehicle there is meditation similar in aspect to a Buddha’s Body of Attributes—a Buddha’s mind of wisdom. A Bodhisattva enters into meditative equipoise directly realizing emptiness with nothing appearing to the mind except the final

a The Dalai Lama’s introduction in Tantra in Tibet, 57-58. b See Tantra in Tibet, 238-239 n. 20.

The Dalai Lama’s introduction in Tantra in Tibet, 58, and Tsong-kha-pa’s own exposition, 100-101. d lha’i rnal ’byor, *devatāyoga. e

The Dalai Lama’s introduction in Tantra in Tibet, 61-65, and Tsong-kha-pa’s own exposition, 115-116. nature of phenomena, the emptiness of inherent existence; the mind of wisdom and emptiness are like water poured into water, undifferentiable. Even though, unlike their tantric counterparts, Sūtra Bodhisattvas do not specifically imagine that the state

of meditative equipoise is a Buddha’s Body of Attributes,a meditation similar in aspect to a Buddha’s Body of Attributes does occur in the Sūtra system in the sense that the state of meditative equipoise on emptiness mimics a Buddha’s pristine mind of wisdom in its

aspect of perceiving the ultimate. However, the Sūtra Perfection Vehicle does not involve meditation similar in aspect to a Buddha’s form body. There is meditation on Buddhas and so forth as objects of offering and so forth, but there is no meditation on oneself in the physical body of a Buddha.b

Such meditative cultivation of a divine body is included within the factor of method because it is mainly aimed at achieving a Buddha’s form body. In the Sūtra system the sole means for achieving a Buddha’s form body is, on the basis of the altruistic intention to become enlightened, to engage in the first three perfections— giving, ethics, and patience—in “limitless” ways over a “limitless” period of time,

specifically three periods of “countless” great eons (“countless” being said to be a figure with fifty-nine zeros). Though the Mantra Vehicle also involves practice of the perfections of giving, ethics, and patience, it is not in “limitless” ways over “limitless” periods of time.

Despite emphasis on the perfections in the Mantra Vehicle, practice in “limitless” ways over “limitless” time is unnecessary because one is engaging in the additional technique of meditation on oneself in a body similar in aspect to a Buddha’s form body.c In other words, in

the tantric systems, in order to become a Buddha more quickly, one meditates on oneself as similar in aspect to a Buddha in terms of both body and mind. This practice is significantly distinctive and thus those systems that involve it constitute a separate vehicle, the Mantra Great Vehicle.

In deity yoga one first meditates on emptiness and then uses

The source here is the late Jam-pel-shen-pen, abbot of the Tantric College of Lower Hla-sa during the time of its relocation in South India and later the ThroneHolder of Gan-den, head of the Ge-luk-pa order.

The Dalai Lama’s introduction in Tantra in Tibet, 60 and 62, and Tsong-kha-pa’s own exposition, 115.

See the Mongolian scholar Nga-wang-pel-den’s (ngag dbang dpal ldan) statement of this in H.H. the Dalai Lama, Tsong-kha-pa, and Hopkins, Deity Yoga, 211-212.

this consciousness realizing emptiness—or at least an imitation of it—as the basis of emanation of a Buddha. The mind of wisdom itself appears as the physical form of a Buddha. This one consciousness thus has two parts—a factor of wisdom and a factor of method, or factors of (1) ascertainment of emptiness and (2) appearance as an ideal being—and hence, through the practice of deity yoga, one simultaneously accumulates the collections of merit and wisdom, making their amassing much faster.

The systems that have this practice are called the Vajra Vehicle because the appearance of a deity is the display of a consciousness which is a fusion of wisdom understanding emptiness and compassion seeking the welfare of others—an inseparable union symbolized by a vajra, a diamond, the foremost of stones as it is “unbreakable.” Since the two elements of the fusion, compassionate method and

penetrating wisdom, are the very core of the Perfection Vehicle, one can understand that Sūtra and Mantra, despite being different, are integrated systems. One can understand that compassion is not superseded in Mantra but is essential to Mantra and that the wisdom of the Perfection Vehicle is not forsaken for a deeper understanding of reality in the Mantra Vehicle.


To encapsulate the points made in Tsong-kha-pa’s argument up to here: The difference between the vehicles as explained in the Consequence School must lie in the sense of vehicle as that by which one progresses or that to which one progresses. The Lesser Vehicle differs from the Great Vehicle in both. The destination of the lower one is the state of a Hearer or Solitary Realizer Foe Destroyer and of the higher one, Buddhahood.

Concerning “vehicle” in the sense of means by which one progresses, although there is no difference in the wisdom realizing the subtlest nature of phenomena, there is a difference in method—Lesser Vehicle not having and Great Vehicle having the altruistic intention to become enlightened and its attendant deeds.

Sūtra Great Vehicle and Mantra Great Vehicle do not differ in terms of the goal, the state being sought, since both seek the highest enlightenment of a Buddha, but there is a difference in the means of progress, again not in wisdom but in method. Within method they differ not in the basis, or motivation, of the deeds, this being the altruistic intention to become enlightened, nor in having the perfections

as deeds, but in the additional technique of deity yoga. A deity is a supramundane being who is a manifestation of compassion and wisdom. Thus, in the special practice of deity yoga one joins one’s own body, speech, mind, and activities with the exalted body, speech, mind, and activities of a supramundane being, manifesting on the path a similitude of the state of the effect.

Reason as the arbiter

The basic appeal throughout Tsong-kha-pa’s presentation of the difference between the vehicles is to a rational investigation of path structure, but it is not that he does not cite supportive Indian sources. For instance, in establishing that according to the Middle Way Consequence School even those who are of the Lesser Vehicle by patha must realize the most subtle emptiness, he presents an abridged

version of his own extensive argument on this in his commentary to Chandrakīrti’s Supplement to (Nāgārjuna’s) “Treatise on the Middle,”b citing Chandrakīrti’s Supplement,c and Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland,d Treatise on the Middle,e and Praise of the Nonconceptualf as well as two

Perfection of Wisdom Sūtras,g and a Lesser Vehicle Sūtra.h (That the Middle Way Consequence School’s view on the emptiness of inherent existence is needed in order to become a Foe Destroyer is controversial, as it means that no follower of the Great Exposition School, the Sūtra School, the Mind-Only School, or even the Autonomy School can complete the Lesser Vehicle path

The reference here is to Hearers and Solitary Realizers, as opposed to those who are of the Lesser Vehicle by tenet, the Proponents of the Great Exposition and the Proponents of Sūtra. For a discussion of this point, see the first appendix in Tantra in Tibet, 173-177. b Tsong-kha-pa’s argument can be found in Hopkins, Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism, 150-181. Tantra in Tibet, 94. d Ibid., 94. e Ibid., 95 and 96.

rnam par mi rtog pa la bstod pa, nirvikalpastava[?]; ibid., 95. g Ibid., 95-96. h Ibid., 96. and become a Foe Destroyer by means of any of those paths alone.) Considering counterarguments, Tsong-kha-pa makes referencea to presentations in both Lesser Vehicle and Great Vehicle texts that propound the opposite, that is, that to get out of cyclic existence it is sufficient to have the

fully developed wisdom understanding that the person is not substantially existent, which is a coarser type of selflessness.b Again, the conflict is settled by reasoning through differentiating what is definitive c and what requires interpretation.d This not being a main subject of the Great Exposition of Secret Mantra, he leaves the matter with a brief admonition to learn how to make such distinctions—implicitly indicating

the benefit of studying his The Essence of Eloquence e where the dominant argument is that scriptural reference is not sufficient since a supporting scripture would require another which, in turn, would require another ad infinitum, and thus reasoning is necessary. The working principles revolve around showing that the conception of inherent existence is the root of cyclic existence and that some trainees are temporarily incapable of receiving teaching on such a subtle topic. Adjudication of the opposing scriptures is made:

1. on the basis of the ontological fact, determined by reasoning, that the emptiness of inherent existence is the final mode of subsistence of phenomena
2. in the context of the existential situation of the epistemological needs of the trainees to whom the doctrines were taught
3. in the face of reasoned refutation of opposing scriptures.
a Ibid., 96-97. b Ibid., 179-181.
c nges don, nītārtha. d drang don, neyārtha.

drang ba dang nges pa’i don rnam par phye ba’i bstan bcos legs bshad snying po; Peking 6142, vol. 153. My annotated translation of the General Explanation and the section on the Mind-Only School is in Emptiness in the Mind-Only School of Buddhism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999); for the point made here, see 69-71; see also Jeffrey Hopkins, Reflections on Reality (Berkeley: [[Wikipedia:University of

California Press|University of

California Press]], 2002), 96-99. For a translation of the complete text, see Robert A. F. Thurman, Tsong Khapa’s Speech of Gold in the Essence of True Eloquence (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1984). A Chinese translation was completed in Hla-sa on the day commemorating Buddha’s enlightenment in 1916 by Venerable Fa Zun, “Bian Liao Yi Bu Liao Yi Shuo Cang Lun,” in Xi Zang Fo Jiao Jiao Yi Lun Ji (Taipei: Da Sheng Wen Hua Chu Ban She, 1979), vol. 2, 159-276.
Tsong-kha-pa resolves other seeming contradictions by taking into account the frame of reference of a remark. For instance, Kalkī Puṇḍarīka’s a commentary on the Kālachakra Tantra, called the Stainless Light,b explains the term “vajra” in “Vajra Vehicle” in the context of the Kālachakra Tantra, a Highest Yoga Tantra, in such a way that the meaning applies only to that class of tantra and not to all four classes. Tsong-kha-pa comments:c

The meaning of “Vajra Vehicle” is given through taking “Vajra” as an indivisibility of the effect—the Mantra mode—and the cause, the Perfection mode. Here, “cause and effect” refer to totally supreme emptiness and supreme immutable bliss. The Brief Explication of Initiations [included in the Kālachakra cycle] says:d

That bearing the form of emptiness is the cause, That bearing immutable compassion is the effect. Emptiness and compassion indivisible Are called the mind of enlightenment.

The indivisibility of these two is a Cause Vehicle in the sense of being the means by which one progresses, and it is an Effect Vehicle in the sense of being that to which one is progressing. Such a Vajra Vehicle has reference to Highest Yoga Mantra and cannot occur in the lower tantras. For the supreme immutable bliss can arise only when one has attained the branch of meditative stabilization [in the Kālachakra system] and thus the branches of mindfulness and those below must be the means of achieving it. The three lower tantras do not have all the factors included in these causal branches.
Therefore, [this description] is too narrow here in the context of identifying the general meaning of the Vajra Vehicle, and positing the meaning of the Vehicles of Cause and Effect through that mode [of explanation] is also too narrow in a general presentation. Here the meaning of
Vajra Vehicle” should be taken in accordance with what is
a rigs ldan pad ma dkar po. b dri med ’od, vimalaprabhā; P2064, vol. 46.

c Tantra in Tibet, 107-108. d dbang mdor bstan pa, śekhoddeśa; P3, vol. 1.
said in Ratnākarashānti’s Handful of Flowers, Explanation of the Guhyasamāja Tantra: a

With regard to its being called the Vajra Vehicle, those which include all the Great Vehicle are the six perfections. Those that include them are method and wisdom; that which includes them as one taste is the mind of enlightenment. That is the Vajrasattva meditative stabilization; just this is a vajra. Because it is both a vajra and a vehicle, it is the Vajra Vehicle, the Mantra Vehicle.

Thus, the Vajrasattva yoga indivisibly uniting method and wisdom is the Vajra Vehicle. It occurs at the time of both the path and the fruit.

Tsong-kha-pa explains that since the three lower tantra sets do not have the paths necessary for the generation of a fusion of totally supreme emptiness (here referring to a form empty, or devoid, of material particles) and supreme immutable bliss (“immutable” here referring to nonemission), this explanation—in the Kālachakra mode—of “Vajra Vehicle” is too narrow. He adds that explaining “Vehicles of Cause and Effect” in

this way is also too narrow for a general presentation. Rather, the general meaning of “Vajra Vehicle” must apply to all four classes of tantra, not just Highest Yoga. Tsong-kha-pa is making the point that the type of union of method and wisdom described in those texts applies only to [[Highest

Yoga]] Mantra and that a meaning of “Vajrayāna” applicable to all four tantra sets must be found elsewhere. As explained above, he indicates that this is deity yoga, an indivisible union of method and wisdom.
Regarding scriptural authority for the distinction between the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles, Tsong-kha-pa quotes a passage from the Lady Sky-Traveler Vajra Tent Tantra,b rejects the commentaries of Kṛṣhṇapāda and Indrabodhi, c and critically uses the

gsang ba ’dus pa’i bshad sbyar snyim pa’i me tog, kusumāñjaliguhyasamājanibandha; P2714, vol. 64. b mkha’ ’gro ma rdo rje gur shes bya ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po’i brtag pa, dākinī-
vajrapañjara-mahātantrarāja-kalpa; P11, vol. 1. See Tantra in Tibet, 117.

Ibid., 120. Kṛṣhṇapāda’s commentary is mkha’ ’gro ma rdo rje gur zhes bya ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po’i brtag pa’i rgyal po’i bshad sbyar, ḍākinīvajrapañjaranāma-mahātantrarājakalpamukhabandha; P2325, vol. 54. Indrabodhi’s commentary is mkha’ ’gro ma

commentary of Devakulamahāmati,a accepting some parts and rejecting others. Having established that deity yoga is the dividing line between the two Great Vehicles, he reinforces this with citations from or references to works on Highest Yoga Mantra by Jñānapāda,b Ratnākarashānti,c Abhayākara,d

Durjayachandra,e Shrīdhara,f Samayavajra,g Jinadatta,h and Vinayadatta.i The general drift is illustrated by a passage j from Ratnākarashānti’s Commentary on (Dīpaṅkarabhadra’s) “Four Hundred and Fifty” k as Tsong-kha-pa cites the title, or Commentary on (Dīpaṅkarabhadra’s) “Rite of the Guhyasamāja Maṇḍala” as it is listed in the Tibetan Tripitaka: l

If one cultivates only [a path] having the nature of a deity, one cannot become fully enlightened through that because the fulfillment of [[[yogic]]] activities is not complete. Or, if one meditates on the suchness of a deity and not on that deity, one will attain Buddhahood in many countless eons but not quickly. Through meditating on both, one will attain the highest perfect complete enlightenment very quickly because to do so is very appropriate and has special empowering blessings.
Since a Buddha has both a Body of Attributes and a form body it is very appropriate that on the path one cultivate both emptiness yoga and deity yoga, the former having as its main result the Body of Attributes and the latter, the form body. In short, the path to speedy attainment of enlightenment must involve both deity yoga and emptiness yoga; one without the other is not sufficient.
rdo rje gur gyi dka’ ’grel shal nas brgyud pa, ḍākinīvajrapañjaramahātantrarājasya-pañjikāprathamapaṭalamukhabandha; P2324, vol. 54.

dpal gsang ba ’dus pa’i dkyil ’khor gyi cho ga’i ’grel pa, guhyasamājamaṇḍalavidhiṭīkā; P2734, vol. 65.
Furthermore, as Tsong-kha-pa points out, these two exist in one consciousness; thus, his assertion of the difference between the Sūtra and

Mantra Great Vehicles is made on the basis of the simultaneous union in one consciousness of the factors of method and wisdom, specifically the appearance of the divine form and ascertainment of its emptiness.

Having cited such passages in Highest Yoga Tantras and commentaries to show the distinctive presence of deity yoga, he makes brief citations for Yoga, Performance, and Action Tantras by referring to Shākyamitra,a Ānandagarbha,b and Buddhaguhya,c skirting for the time being the considerable controversy over whether Action Tantra and Performance Tantra have deity yoga, since he tackles that problem at the beginning of the section on Action Tantra.d
Despite Tsong-kha-pa’s many citations of tantras and Indian commentaries, it is clear that they are used only as evidence for his argument. Tradition is only supportive, not the final authority. The arbiter is reason, specifically in the sense of determining coherence and consistency within a path structure. Tsong-kha-pa refutes Ratnarakṣhita and Tripiṭakamāla,e for instance, not because they differ from the aforementioned

sources but because their presentations fail in terms of consistency with the path structure. By doing so, he moves the basis of the argument from scriptural citation to reasoned analysis of a meditative structure.
Refutation of Ratnarakṣhita

Tsong-kha-pa analyzes and refutes Ratnarakṣhita’sf and Tripiṭakamāla’sg presentations on the difference between the Perfection and Mantra vehicles (the first is not included in Bu-tön’s presentation and the second is). In his Commentary on the Difficult Points of the
Saṃvarodaya Tantra,h Ratnarakṣhita explains that the generation
a Tantra in Tibet, 132. b Ibid., 133. c Ibid., 133. d See chapter 11 and also Deity Yoga, 47-62.
e Tantra in Tibet, 143-150.

sdom pa ’byung ba’i rgyud kyi rgyal po chen po’i dka’ ’grel padma can, saṃvarodayama-

stage, which he takes to be deity yoga, is the distinctive feature of Mantra. He rejects meditation on emptiness as a distinctive feature because it occurs also in the Perfection Vehicle, and he rejects bliss because Bodhisattvas of the Perfection Vehicle are able to maintain a feeling of pleasure or bliss even in the midst of extreme torture. In a typically laconic way, Tsong-kha-pa leaves many points

unsaid or only hints at them. He merely says:a
[Ratnarakṣhita] says this, thinking that all cultivations of deity yoga are included in the generation stage, that the yogas of channels, winds, and drops are for generating bliss, and that bliss is similar [in the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles].

Tsong-kha-pa is making several points important to his own system:

1. Although all four tantra sets involve deity yoga, only Highest Yoga Mantra has a generation stage; Action, Performance, and Yoga Tantra do not. The reason is that the deity yoga of the generation stage in Highest Yoga Mantra must be modeled after the processes of death, intermediate state, and rebirth, whereas the three lower tantras, while using deity yoga, do not present this way. Specifically, the meditation on emptiness that is at the beginning of deity yoga must, in Highest Yoga Mantra, include a mimicking of the eight signs of death:

four appearances

(1) like a mirage

(2) like smoke

(3) like fireflies within smoke, and (4) like the flame of a butter lamp the dawning of three subtler consciousnesses

(5) the mind of vivid white appearance

(6) the mind of vivid red or orange increase, and (7) the mind of vivid black near attainment and the dawning of the most subtle consciousness

(8) the mind of clear light.
hātantrarājasya padminīnāmapañjikā; P2137, vol. 51. a Tantra in Tibet, 144.
This is called “bringing death to the path as the Body of Attributes.” The yoga must also mimic the process of assuming an intermediate state through appearance as a seed syllable and then the process of rebirth through appearance in divine physical form. These latter two are called “bringing the intermediate state and birth to the path as the Complete Enjoyment Body and Emanation Body

respectively. Since the deity yogas of the three lower tantras—Action, Performance, and Yoga—do not involve such a patterning on the stages of being born in cyclic existence, they cannot fulfill the characteristics of a generation stage. Since the generation stage does not occur in three out of the four tantra sets, it cannot differentiate the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles, and thus Ratnarakṣhita is wrong to hold that the generation stage is the distinctive feature of Mantra.

2. Just as meditation on emptiness occurs in Highest Yoga Mantra in both the generation stage and the completion stage, deity yoga also occurs in both stages. (The distinctive feature of the completion stage is that the three subtler minds and the fourth subtlest one are actually manifested through causing the winds to enter, dissolve, and remain in the central channel.) Therefore, Ratnarakṣhita is wrong in holding that all cultivations of deity yoga are included in the generation stage.

3. The blissful minds generated in the completion stage in Highest Yoga Mantra are more subtle consciousnesses than any generated through Sūtra practice, and once generated, they are used to realize the emptiness of inherent existence. Hence, Ratnarakṣhita is wrong in holding that bliss is similar in the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles.

According to Tsong-kha-pa, when these points are not differentiated, the distinctive features of Highest Yoga Mantra are blurred. It can be seen that one of his aims in finely and critically delineating the difference between the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles is so that the uncommon techniques of Highest Yoga Mantra can be appreciated. The doctrine of the most esoteric system affects the presentation of the less esoteric.

Refutation of Tripiṭakamāla

The second position that Tsong-kha-pa examines is that of Tripiṭakamāla as found in his Lamp for the Three Modes. Though Tsong-kha-pa earlier cited the Lamp for the Three Modes as a source for the division of vehicles into three types—Lesser Vehicle, Sūtra Great Vehicle, and Mantra Great Vehicle—from the viewpoint of trainees’ interests (and abilities) and although he cites it later as a source for etymologies of the

names of the four tantra sets, here he presents and refutes the Lamp for the Three Modes at length. Since, as we have seen, Tripiṭakamāla’s presentation is central to the expositions not only of Bu-tön and Long-chen-pa (as well as other major scholars in Tibetan orders), Tsong-kha-pa’s refutation of it is a radical and dramatic attempt to change the focus of tantric exposition. Let us consider the refutation in detail.
Tripiṭakamāla holds that the Mantra Vehicle is superior by way of four features: being for the nonobscured, having many methods, not being difficult, and being contrived for those of sharp faculties. Bu-tön paraphrases Tripiṭakamāla’s own explanation of these, and Tsong-kha-pa condenses it (both without, to my sight, any warpage), and I shall condense it even further.
1. Being for the nonobscured. Tripiṭakamāla explains that those following the Perfection Vehicle try to complete the perfection of giving, for instance, by physical acts of charity that include, in dire instances, even giving away one’s own body. He says that followers of the [[Mantra

Vehicle]] see that since “a perfection is the ability to fulfill a want of all sentient beings simultaneously”d and since this cannot possibly be done by giving away one’s body, head, or the like, Māntrikas engage in the superior technique of meditatively satisfying the wishes of all beings. This lack of obscuration, according to Tripiṭakamāla, characterizes the trainees of the Mantra Vehicle as superior.
Tsong-kha-pa disagrees with Tripiṭakamāla’s basic notion of how the Perfection Vehicle describes fulfillment of a perfection. He cites Shāntideva’s description of the perfection of giving in his Engaging in the Bodhisattva Deeds,e an unchallengeable treatise of Sūtra Great Vehicle:

If through eliminating the poverty of beings
A perfection of giving occurred,

Then since there are still poor beings, how did The former Protectors achieve perfection?
Through an attitude of giving to all beings

All one’s possessions with their fruits A perfection of giving is said to occur, Thus it is just in attitude.
According to Shāntideva, the perfection of giving is a matter of bringing the attitude of generosity to full development, not of

satisfying the wants of all sentient beings. Otherwise, a perfection of giving never could have previously occurred, since obviously there are still beggars in the world. In that case, Shākyamuni Buddha could not have become enlightened, since he would not have attained the perfection of giving. Tripiṭakamāla’s description of this first feature of Mantra’s being for the nonobscured is, as Tsongkha-pa says, “in trouble.”

2. Having many methods. Tripiṭakamāla explains that the techniques of the Sūtra system are all peaceful and thus “cannot take care of all sentient beings.”b It might seem that he is suggesting that the achievement of activities of pacification, increase, control, and ferocity in Mantra is unique to Mantra, but he does not even mention this line of argument and, instead, speaks of the mental, verbal, and physical

aspects of maṇḍala meditation for the sake of undermining a single afflictive emotion, such as desire. Tsong-khapa does not address this explanation, only mentioningc that Tibetan explanations of this feature as referring to the four types of activities are not based on Tripiṭakamāla’s own words.

3. and 4. Not being difficult and being contrived for those of sharp faculties. Under these headings Tripiṭakamāla discusses four levels of capacity of Mantra trainees:

1. The supreme of the supreme meditate on the Great Seal—an indivisibility of wisdom and method—without using either a meditated consort or actual one.

2. The next beneath them use a meditated consort, called a Wisdom Seal.

3. The next use a fully qualified actual consort, called a pledge seal.

4. The next use an actual consort not necessarily endowed with all attributes.

If we add Jñānakīrti’s explanation, there is a fifth level, that of trainees of Yoga Tantra and below who meditate on the body of a deity that is given the name “Great Seal”—in other words, deity yoga without a consort.

The first four represent levels within Highest Yoga Mantra. Thus, according to Tripiṭakamāla,b the supreme of the supreme trainees of Highest Yoga Mantra do not use desire for attractive visible forms, sounds, odors, tastes, and touches in the path; they do not

make use of even a meditated consort, never mind an actual one. Tripiṭakamāla holds that those just below the very top rank meditate on an imaginary consort, and he posits the usage of an actual consort only for the third and fourth levels of practitioners. It is clear that he does not

hold Tsong-kha-pa’s view that an actual consort is needed even by the very best of trainees in order to bring about a withdrawal of the grosser levels of consciousness as in the process of dying. It seems that he views the usage of a meditated or actual consort only as a technique for those

distracted by desire. His thought is likely that by meditating on emptiness and so forth in the midst of ritualized sex, a practitioner could overcome the sense that sex is separate from the scope of emptiness and thereby could undermine sexual desire.
The psychological value of exposing oneself to one’s own inner desires, fears, and so forth in the midst of a different, intentional background in meditating on emptiness is unquestionable (if one can succeed). However, it seems that Tripiṭakamāla was not cognizant of the doctrine of the levels of consciousness manifested in orgasmic bliss and thus did not even conceive of utilizing them in the path. He had a completely

different notion of the purpose of using desire in the path; for him desire is brought to the path only by those whose meditation is disturbed by lustful thoughts.
According to Tsong-kha-pa, just the opposite is the case. Through using an actual consort a person proficient in the meditations of Highest Yoga Mantra manifests the three subtler and the final, subtlest consciousness, thereby enabling completion of the path—from the

path of accumulationb to the path of no-morelearningc—in one lifetime. Later in the Great Exposition of Secret Mantra Tsong-kha-pa explains this to be the system of the Guhyasamāja Tantra, and thus, from his point of view, it is totally mistaken to claim that the supreme of the supreme trainees of Highest Yoga Mantra do not use desire in the path; it misses what, for Tsong-khapa, is the most powerful feature of the Highest Yoga

Mantra path. Also, it is self-contradictory (1) to claim that the Mantra Great Vehicle is superior to the Sūtra Great Vehicle due to not being difficult in the sense of using desire in the path and (2) then to hold that the supreme of the supreme trainees do not use desire in the path.
Again, Tsong-kha-pa is emphasizing the special features of Highest Yoga Mantra. As with his refutation of Ratnarakṣhita, this refutation of Tripiṭakamāla is primarily based on a difference of views on Highest Yoga Mantra; Tripiṭakamāla is indicted for being misinformed about the most profound form of the path. For Tsongkha-pa, sense, coherence, and consistency are of utmost importance; thus, divergent views must be refuted; they cannot just be repeated.
The Nying-ma master Long-chen-pa’s exposition of Tripiṭakamāla’s stanza is different in both style and content. He takes the “object” of the first line (“Though the object is the same”)—which Bu-tön explains as referring to the fact that nondual omniscience is similarly the goal of

both the Sūtra and Mantra systems—as indicating not that the goal of Buddhahood is the same, but that the basis, the essence of clear light, is similarly described in both systems. He takes the line as meaning that the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles similarly delineate this basis as well

as the phenomena that depend upon it; thus, he incurs no self-contradiction when later he says that the goal of Mantra is higher than that of Sūtra. Long-chen-pa creatively comments on Tripiṭakamāla’s stanza in a way that fits his own system, without even hinting that Tripiṭakamāla himself explains this stanza differently.a
From Long-chen-pa’s explanation of the four distinctive features of Mantra, let us consider how Tsong-kha-pa and his followers might object to two of them—being for the nonobscured and not being difficult. Long-chen-pa says that those of the Perfection, or Definition,

Vehicle are obscured with respect to the basis, paths, and fruits. He identifies the basis as the profound and the vast—the first being ultimate reality and the paths to it and the second being (1) the mode of procedure of the path of compassion and (2) the

conventional phenomena in terms of which that procedure is carried out. He says (246):
The Definition [[[Vehicle]]] has no more than only a profundity that is concerned with a basis fabricated by the mind, an ultimate truth known by determinative inferential valid cognition breaking down [[[objects]]] through reasoning.

His assertion that in the Perfection Vehicle the ultimate truth is known only inferentially would not sit well with Tsong-kha-pa who holds that in the Perfection Vehicle inferential realization is a necessary prerequisite to direct realization of the [[Wikipedia:Absolute

(philosophy)|ultimate]]. Indeed, if there were no direct realization of emptiness in the Perfection Vehicle, it would contradict the assertion of ten Bodhisattva grounds, which are levels centering around direct realization of emptiness in meditative equipoise. Long-chen-pa’s view that

the ultimate truth described in the Perfection Vehicle is a mere mental fabrication is diametrically opposite to Tsong-kha-pa’s who holds that inference incontrovertibly knows the actual ultimate truth, albeit by the route of a generic imageb and not directly. For Tsong-kha-pa, inferential realization leads to direct perception of the same emptiness. The change is epistemological, not ontological.
For Long-chen-pa, however, the ultimate truth as presented in Mantra or, more specifically, in Highest Yoga Mantra is actualized in the completion stage of the path of method in Highest Yoga Mantra through concentrating on special points in the body to induce the winds to enter the central channel so that the inner heat c can be generated, melting the drops at the top of the head and

For Döl-po-pa Shay-rap-gyel-tsen’s explanation of this stanza, see Hopkins, Mountain Doctrine, 207, 447, and 456. b don spyi, arthasāmānya.

gtum mo.

causing their descent within the channel structure and the subsequent generation of the four empties, or four subtle consciousnesses. He says (246):

Mantra, however, delineates—as the ground—nonconceptual pristine wisdom unfabricated by the mind, the essence of the Body of Attributes, merely through concentrative emphasis on focal points of body, speech, channels, winds, drops of essential fluid, and so forth without depending on reasoning.

Here the procedure for getting at the ultimate truth is not reasoning but special techniques for inducing manifestation of pristine wisdom; a more profound means of perception realizes a more profound reality.
When the mind of clear light is actualized and objects are seen as manifestations of it, one is beyond the need for discarding nonvirtues and adopting virtues as everything has become an appearance of this fundamental mind; everyone and everything of its own nature appears as divine. The style of the narrative itself is meant to yield glimpses of this hierophany in which everything, of its own accord, shines in self-established purity, divinity.
One can see how difficult it might be for those trained in Longchen-pa’s and Tsong-kha-pa’s traditions to appreciate the other’s approach. Neither could find in the other’s teaching the particularly attractive taste that they find in their own—it would appear to be devoid of the most

intriguing essence of their own path. Yet, for me, once this distinction of approach and of content is made, the two styles are more like two sides of a coin, without appreciation of which the whole picture might not be gained. I would suggest that to appreciate both styles, it is helpful to recognize the seeming contradictions and inconsistencies in each presentation when viewed from the other perspective.
With respect to Mantra’s feature of not being for the difficult, Long-chen-pa concludes that “achievement arises through using the attributes of the Desire Realm and so forth.” This specifically refers to making use of the pleasant visible forms, sounds, odors, tastes, and touches of a consort in the path. As we have seen, desire for these is used in or as the patha in the sense that

desire leads to a bliss consciousness realizing emptiness. Specifically, in Highest Yoga Mantra sexual union is used to manifest (in orgasm but without emission) the subtler levels of consciousness mentioned above.b However, their mere actualization is not

sufficient; those bliss consciousnesses, according to Tsong-kha-pa, must take the emptiness of inherent existence as their object, thereby eradicating desire. Long-chen-pa does not explicitly say such, but he would seem to hold that, far from merely arising from being fed up with the rigors of a wearying path, the practice of using desire in the path serves as a technique for highly qualified persons to proceed on the path more quickly.
As will be discussed later (340), in the three lower tantrasAction, Performance, and Yoga—desire is also used in the path, though not to generate subtler consciousnesses. However, Tsongkha-pa is unwilling to hold that the usage of desire in the path is a distinguishing feature of Mantra

because Sūtra Bodhisattvas are well known for using the afflictive emotions of desire and so forth to aid sentient beings, thereby accumulating meritc which contributes to their eventual full enlightenment. As a source he cites the
Kāshyapa Chapter Sūtra:

Just as the filth of city-dwellers

Helps the field of a sugarcane grower,

So the manure of a Bodhisattva’s afflictive emotions Assists in growing the qualities of a Buddha.

In his commentary, the Dalai Lamae gives as an example a Sūtra Bodhisattva king’s using desire in the path in order to father children so that they can be of service to the kingdom. The implication is that desire is necessary for erection and orgasm; thus, even though
chags pa lam du byed pa. b In the Great Completeness manifestation of these subtle minds is not sufficient; a permanent fundamental mind must be realized. See, for instance, Mi-pam-gyatso, Fundamental Mind: The Nyingma View of the Great Completeness with practical commentary by Khetsun Sangbo Rinbochay, trans. and ed. by Jeffrey Hopkins (Ithaca, N.Y.: Snow Lion Publications, 2006).

bsod nams, puṇya. d ’od srung gi le’u, kāśyapaparivarta; P760.43, vol. 24. Cited in Tantra in Tibet by the Dalai Lama, 71, and by Tsong-kha-pa in laying out Ratnarakṣhita’s position, 144.

the causal motivationa for such copulation is compassion and thus is nonafflicted, the motivation at the time of the actb is mixed with the afflictive emotion of desire.
As an amusing aside, let me cite the comment by the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century Ge-luk scholar Jam-yangshay-pac that Bodhisattva Superiors,d those who have reached the path of seeinge and above, can have a “serviceable organ”f without an afflictive emotion being involved:g
If [[[Bodhisattva]] Superiors] are able to display endless emanations in actuality [and not just in imagination], what need is there to mention that they could emanate an actual serviceable organ!

Since Bodhisattvas on the first ground and above could magically display an erection, they would have no need to use such an afflictive emotion to father a child. More seriously, this calls into question the assertion that the scope of Sūtra Bodhisattvas’ usage of desire in the path would be limited to those on the paths of accumulation.
Hatred also is said to be used in the Sūtra Great Vehicle path, as in killing a highly injurious person who cannot be tamed in any other way. Again, the causal motivation is compassion (both for the evil person and for others oppressed by him/her), but does the act itself have to involve hatred or does it just look like a hateful act? Among my Tibetan teachers, one lama said that hatred might be necessary to bring the act of stopping the other person’s life to completion, whereas another said it would not.h
In any case, the Sūtra ways of using the afflictive emotions in the path in which negative emotions impel virtuous acts are not
a rgyu’i kun slong. b dus kyi kun slong.

jam dbyangs bzhad pa ngag dbang brtson grus, 1648-1722. d ’phags pa, ārya. e mthong lam, darśanamārga.

dbang po las rung. g Jam-yang-shay-pa’s Great Exposition of the Concentrations and Formless Absorptions, 149b.2. h This issue is crucial to determining how the afflictive emotion of hatred itself actually is used in the path in the Sūtra Great Vehicle and if it is, on what levels it is used, but a definitive answer is elusive.

comparable to the tantric use of a bliss consciousness arising from desire to realize emptiness. Hence, there remains the question of whether the usage of desire in this particularly tantric way could be indeed a differentiator of the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles. Tsong-kha-pa briefly addresses this more refined position:a
We must assert that the trainees of the four tantras each use pleasure in the path in dependence on the four types of desire for the attributes of the desire realm [gazing, smiling, holding hands, and union. The presence or absence of such an ability to use pleasure in the path] is suitable as a difference between persons who are initially entering the Mantra or Perfection Vehicles; however, such cannot distinguish the vehicles.

Is Tsong-kha-pa making the point that differences between practitioners of vehicles cannot determine differences in vehicles? This seems unlikely, since the difference in persons comes by way of an ability to practice a certain path, or vehicle. Or, is he saying that such a difference occurs with respect to trainees “initially” entering these vehicles but does not hold true throughout the practice of the vehicle and thus cannot distinguish the

vehicles? If this is the case, then in Tsong-kha-pa’s system deity yoga would absurdly have to be practiced at every single point in the Mantra Vehicle, something that he himself does not assert.b Rather, he seems to be admitting that the difference in the trainees of the respective vehicles indeed indicates a difference in the paths but is not sufficient to distinguish the vehicles since it is not central. The Dalai Lama speaks directly to this point:

Although it indicates an inequality in the capacities of the two types of persons, it is not the profound and complete
Tantra in Tibet, 112. b As the Presentation of the Grounds and Paths of the Four Great Secret Tantra Sets: Illumination of the Texts of Tantra (gsang chen rgyud sde bzhi’i sa lam gyi rnam bzhag rgyud gzhung gsal byed) (rgyud smad par khang edition, no other

data), 5b.4, by Ngawang-pel-den (ngag dbang dpal ldan; born 1797) says:
In general, whatever is either of the two, a yoga with signs or a yoga without signs, does not necessarily perceive the body of a deity who has the aspects of a face and arms because on this occasion there exist the four—deity and emptiness yogas and wind and repetition yogas.
distinction between the Perfection and Mantra vehicles.

This statement reinforces a focal point in Tsong-kha-pa’s basic argument, namely, that the difference between the vehicles must be significant in terms of the general structure of the path, this being in terms of method and wisdom, which are the chief progenitors respectively of the two aspects of the goal of the path—a Buddha’s Body of Attributes and form bodies. Deity yoga does indeed fulfill this criterion.
The special tantric way of using desire in the path can perhaps be subsumed under deity yoga, the special union of method and wisdom found only in Mantra, since it is performed within imagination of oneself and the consort as deities, whether the consort is an actual one or

not. However, because the technique of using desire in the path is for the sake of enhancing the mind of wisdom realizing emptiness—not necessarily in the sense of generating a subtler consciousness realizing emptiness as is done in Highest Yoga Mantra but at least in

the sense of generating a bliss consciousness realizing emptiness—it should be included within the factor of wisdom, in which case there would be a difference between the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles in terms of how wisdom is enhanced, a difference not limited to Highest Yoga Mantra but also present in the three lower tantras. Still, for Tsong-kha-pa, this would not make the factor of wisdom the

differentiator between the two vehicles since just as he recognizes the difference between the Lesser Vehicle and Great Vehicle modes of cultivating wisdom—the former by just a brief form of reasoning and the later by “endless” reasonings—and yet does not posit it as a

sufficiently significant difference to be the central distinction between those vehicles, so here the difference in the usage of desire in the path in the two Great Vehicles is clearly for him not sufficiently significant. Rather, in Tsong-kha-pa’s system, the centrally significant distinguishing feature of Mantra is deity yoga—meditation on oneself as having a body similar in aspect to a Buddha’s form body.
Deity yoga involves an enactment in meditation of the pure condition of Buddhahood while still on the path. The abode, body, resources, and deeds of a Buddha are an Effect Vehicle in the sense of being that to which one is progressing. Because in Mantra the

cause vehicle—the means by which one progresses to that state— involves using an imitation of the state of the effect in the path, it is also called an Effect Vehicle. Thus, the term “Effect Vehicle” has two meanings: (1) the actual state of the effect that is the goal of the path and (2) the means of progress (cause vehicle) that is called an Effect Vehicle since it involves a meditative assumption of the state of the effect. Tsong-kha-pa says:

About “Vehicle,” there is an Effect Vehicle which is that to which one is proceeding and a cause vehicle which is that by which one progresses. Due to proceeding [it is called] a vehicle. With respect to the “Effect Vehicle,” the word “Effect” refers to the four thorough purities—abode,

body, resources, and deeds, which are a Buddha’s palace, body, fortune, and activities. In accordance with them one meditates on oneself as one presently having an inconceivable mansion, divine companions, sacred articles, and deeds such as purification of

environments and beings. Thus, it is called the “Effect Vehicle” because one is progressing through meditation in accordance with the aspects of the effect [or fruit, Buddhahood].
Vehicle” as the goal of the path—Buddhahood—“proceeds” most likely in the sense of being able to carry or bear the welfare of limitless sentient beings.
The imagination of oneself in the body of a Buddha in an inestimable mansion with divine companions and articles and emanating radiance that purifies lands and the persons therein is mantra, which is understood as “mind-protection.” With man meaning “mind” and tra (taken to be trā with

the final long vowel ā being dropped in the compound) meaning “protection,” mantra means to protect the mind from ordinary appearances and apprehension of oneself and one’s surroundings as ordinary. Clear appearance of the divine figure and so forth protects the

mind from ordinary appearances of a usual body, house, resources, and activities, for the mental consciousness is involved in divine appearances to the point where the factors necessary to generate an eye consciousness, for instance, deteriorate for the time being and the [[sense

consciousnesses]] do not operate. With clear appearance of pure mind and body there is a sense of being the divine “I” designated in dependence upon them; this counters the conception of ordinariness,a that is to say, being an ordinary person with an ordinary impure body of flesh, blood, and bone and with an ordinary impure mind.
This practice is found in all four tantra sets and occupies a significant place in the path as an enhancement of method. Since it is not found in Sūtra systems, it can serve as the central differentiator between the two Great Vehicles, Sūtra and Mantra, or Perfection Vehicle and Mantra Vehicle.


Tsong-kha-pa’s style of exposition is as an appeal to the intellect, a carefully constructed argument based on scriptural sources and reasoning, with the emphasis on the latter. Consistency, coherence, and elegance of system are the cornerstones. His procedure is that of

a thorough-going scholar, analyzing sources and counteropinions with careful scrutiny and determining the place of the pillars of his analysis in the general structure of a system. By extending the scope of analysis beyond that seen in Bu-tön, his adjudication of conflicting systems of exposition establishes a radically new one.
Still, this new mode of exposition of Mantra did not carry the day with the other orders of Tibetan Buddhism. For instance, with respect to whether Action Tantra actually does involve deity yoga, the sixteenth-century Druk-pa Ka-gyub master Padma-kar-poc in his Presentation of the General Tantra Sets, Captivating the Wise d first cites

the explanation in an authoritative Highest Yoga Tantra, the Wisdom Vajra Compendium (see below, page 303), that there is no self-generation in Action Tantra and then after citing Buddhaguhya’s and Varabodhi’s opinions (see 304) disposes of them:e
One need not take this to be very important, for if it is treated that way, one must deny the tantras as well as texts by many adepts, whereby it would be very sinful.
a tha mal pa’i zhen pa. b ’brug pa bka’ rgyud.

c padma dkar po, 1527-1592. d rgyud sde spyi’i rnam gzhag mkhas pa’i yid ’phrog, 18b.6.

The implicit characterization of Tsong-kha-pa’s approach to this topic as sinful highlights the innovation of his exposition, a radical departure from the approach of the other Tibetan orders on such topics, a turn from maintenance of tradition to critical analysis.
We more than glimpse here a different picture from that painted by Herbert Guenther who declares that Tsong-kha-pa “was not an independent thinker.” Far from being an uneventful repeater of Indian Buddhism, Tsong-kha-pa’s Great Exposition of Secret Mantra is a dramatic development through subjecting sources to wide-ranging critical examination. The change indicates the liveliness and development of

Buddhist thought in Tibet, as does Longchen-pa’s highly creative presentation, dispelling any notion that Tibetans merely blindly repeated the conclusions of their Indian predecessors.

Some have suggested that Long-chen-pa has less concern with Indian sources; however, the claim of authenticity in terms of lineage of source-teachings from India is as strong in Long-chen-pa as in Tsong-kha-pa. Rather, a salient difference between the two approaches may rest in a difference of style that stems from a difference in the mode of procedure of the path (though I make this suggestion with considerable trepidation as it is

likely overblown). Tsong-kha-pa’s presentations are often more intellectually evocative, the place of the intellect in the long process of finally generating the subtler levels of consciousness being emphasized. For Longchen-pa, the chief technique for uncovering fundamental mind is to identify it

in the midst of any sort of consciousness; thus, the texts, though certainly as long as others, tend to use psychologically evocative terminology, a special language that even immediately evokes glimpses of deeper states. For instance, Long-chen-pa’s Precious Treasury of Tenets on the difference between the Sūtra and Mantra Great Vehicles (above on page 253) says:

In Mantra the secrecy of mind is that memories and conceptions dawn as the sport of the noumenon, whereby the mind dawns as self-illuminating self-arisen pristine wisdom, due to which meditative stabilization is established in the yoga of the flow of a river, through

which the mind is spontaneously established as a maṇḍala of nonconceptual shine.
The song of the text itself contributes to the immediately evocative terminology, whereas in Tsong-kha-pa’s presentation—as well as those by his

followers—the style is that of methodical conceptual construction. Though Tsong-kha-pa’s texts also can eventually become highly evocative, one would have to cite a lengthy passage, if not a complete book or several books, and ask the reader to study it over months if not years to experience it, for it is often only through extensive conceptual familiarity with his overall system that glimpses of profound experience begin to dawn.
In terms of immediately evocative style, the intellectual intricacy of Tsong-kha-pa’s presentation is no match for Long-chenpa’s; however, when the principles of his position have been so internalized that the reader can supply the unspoken interstices, the experience of re-reading the text

can evoke palpable glimpses into the experience of deity yoga. The argument itself becomes an exercise moving the mind toward developing the ability to combine profound realization of emptiness and manifestation as an ideal being such that one senses the possibility of consciousness itself appearing as form—the union of method and wisdom that, for Tsong-kha-pa, is at the heart of Mantra.
Tsong-kha-pa is often criticized, both in Tibet and beyond, for being overly verbal, overly abstract, but I would suggest that this criticism often is due to not having put sufficient time into first ascertaining the positions of Ge-luk scholars and then allowing the metaphysical

imagination to be stimulated. The danger of overabstraction in some areas of Tsong-kha-pa’s thought is great, but the intricately woven arguments, when probed over time, lead to an internalization of knowledge and palpable experience of principles that are then the basis for verbalization. In the beginning, the words seem to use the reader, but later a changed person uses the words.
We need both patience to go through this process as well as willingness to become absorbed in these complex systems. The dilemma posed by such openness and the need for discrimination is certainly not solved by refusing to spend the time needed to probe the material or by an affectation

of either closeness or distance from a tradition that prevents actual involvement. Tsong-kha-pa seems to have conquered this dilemma within his own culture through startlingly refreshing reasoned analysis of traditional accounts that functions as an expository method, bringing all

the more focus to a pivotal practice in Mantra, deity yoga which itself is founded on the reasoned analysis performed in emptiness yoga. The lesson may be that the type of mind needed to follow his argument is also needed in this central practice of deity yoga founded on the necessarily

analytical approach of emptiness yoga. Seen in this light, there is a harmony between the form of Tsong-kha-pa’s elaborately reasoned argument on the difference between Sūtra and Mantra and the content, the identification of deity yoga—the first step of which is reasoned meditation on emptiness—as the central tantric feature. The style itself makes the point that this type of reason is not cast aside in Mantra.

Utilization of many perspectives

The tantric tradition that Bu-tön cataloged was far more complex in terms of its strains and directions than the one that emerged after Tsong-kha-pa’s reasoned reformulation of it. If we valued only early forms of religious and cultural traditions, the latter’s system would not be of much interest, but in terms of the development of an idea, form, or paradigm much as in music or art where the first expression

may be crude, his systematic formulation is enticingly rich in complex coherence, providing a world-view in the architecture of which conceptual thought can thrive, producing insights and creatively ordering and transforming experience. In order to open ourselves to the magnificently creative coherence of his vision, we need to discount the claims of his followers that this is only Indian Buddhism.
Also, the critical reasonableness of Tsong-kha-pa’s system should not blind us to the value of Bu-tön’s contribution—the historical richness, the variety of approaches that he sought to preserve. This richness is lost in Tsong-kha-pa’s reduction of these diverse traditions to a single view, but his perspective has its own richness—a grand design—that invites creatively interpretive thought to juxtapose facets and to attempt to resolve

remaining contradictions. One might expect that the reduction to a single central distinguishing feature of Tantra would stifle dynamism, but it does not. For centuries, his view has beckoned many of the best minds of the vast Tibetan cultural region to apply its principles both to resolve inconsistencies and to gain insights and psychological development.
The world-view becomes a dynamically interactive structure that does far more than just serve as an interpretive grid for ordering an inherited tradition and for ordering experience. It is also a future-directed schema that leads a practitioner to make connections vital to a process of psychological and spiritual transformation. Through this route, the world-view exerts a constructive, transformative effect on the mind.
Long-chen-pa’s perspective provides opportunities for his more evocative discourse that, while systematic, beckons one to an experience beyond systems, an epiphany in which all is resolved by the very nature of the experience. The overriding perspective is not one of

conceptual architecture, but a call to experience in which objects shine in their own self-nature, unencumbered and unimpeded by overlays of misperception. Long-chen-pa’s conceptual system even provides interstices in thought, liminals which through the stimulation of his evocative prose can be noticed. Resolution will principally be found there, not in making new conceptual connections.
Long-chen-pa’s discourse is aimed mainly at providing such avenues, windows, or gaps in which the conceptual mind is stilled and the richness of the perceptual situation is directly experienced in a dramatic unveiling of its ever-present but hidden completeness. These insights become what influence, organize, and provide directionality, uncovering the primordial enlightenment in which everything subsists. This is not to suggest that

the conceptual system implicit in Long-chen-pa’s presentation is not defined and defended, for it certainly has been by Nying-ma scholar-yogis such as Ju Mi-pam-gya-tso. Rather, as the contemporary Nying-ma lama Khetsun Sangpo said, a true lama speaks the doctrine from within the one great expanse of the noumenon. I would suggest that the dominant message is just this.
Whereas Tsong-kha-pa is speaking mainly to communicate the means to reach reality, Long-chen-pa is seeking to communicate mainly the perspective of that reality itself. Because of the different nature of these systems, it would be difficult for a person wedded to either of them to appreciate both, given the incompatibility of their perspectives. However, the mind is capable of

pragmatic compartmentalization, utilizing various perspectives, roles, and worldviews at different times which, if attempted to be forced together into one coherent system, would be cacophonously impossible. Through compartmentalization, different world-views can be alternated, not in psychotic dissociation but in a manner in which the two perspectives feed on and interact with each other in a creative way outside the realm of superficial

consistency. Perhaps this was a force that attracted several Ge-luk-pa scholar-practitioners such as Ten-dar-hla-ram-pa to embrace Nying-ma without forsaking their Ge-luk background, and perhaps it is this that is behind the educative procedure of the Nying-ma master Do-drup-chenb in which the Ge-luk curriculum is used for Sūtra study and Nying-ma is used for Mantra.
The rich context of the Tsong-kha-pa world-view, derived more from ordinary epistemology, provides a stimulatingly creative basis for practice, whereas the evocative Long-chen-pa expositions from the viewpoint of the final state make sure that the architecture of a spiritual system does not become a trap preventing the emergence of the very insights that it is seeking to promote. In this way, the two systems are a dynamically interactive whole.
Long-chen-pa’s presentation can be seen both as quickly moving the discourse on to his explanation of Highest Yoga Mantra (especially the Great Completeness) and as providing opportunities for discourse evoking insights into that system. The absence of involved explanation of the lower tantras, as in his reduction of Action Tantra to external bathing rites and so forth, is not so much a lack as a technique for moving the

discourse to the more important topic, the Great Completeness, the suggestion being that if one is capable of the highest system, then excessive involvement with the intricacies of Action Tantra is a distraction. A value of utilizing both Tsong-kha-pa and Long-chen-pa presentations is that for those not ready to appreciate the visionary heights of the Great Completeness, the former provides for the construction of a context in which the latter can eventually work its marvels.

Later Ge-luk literature on the topic

As can be seen in the next chapter, Ke-drup’s Extensive Explanation of the Format of the General Tantra Sets treats the question of the presence or absence of deity yoga in Action Tantra at length; however, except for a very brief mention, it does not treat the question of the difference between the two Great Vehicles. Given Ke-drup’s selective mode of presentation—sometimes expanding on topics barely mentioned in Tsong-kha-pa’s [[Great Exposition

of Secret Mantra]] and sometimes simplifying—his absence of explanation on this topic suggests that he found his teacher’s argument sufficiently extensive, clear, and straightforward. However, Paṇ-chen Sö-nam-drakpaa (1478-1554) gives a brilliant distillation of Tsong-kha-pa’s presentation of the difference between the four tantras in his Presentation of the General Tantra Sets: Captivating the Minds of the Fortunate.b Also, Lo-sang-chö-kyi-gyel-tsen

(1570-1662), retroactively called the First Paṇ-chen Lama,c turns many of Tsong-kha-pa’s points into syllogistic statements with great clarity in his Presentation of the General Teaching and the Four Tantra Sets, Based on Notes (see the Appendix for a translation of the relevant portion by Donald S. Lopez).d The aim of both of these texts is to provide exegesis of Tsong-kha-pa’s thought that enhances its accessibility by providing helpful background, such as in detailing opponents’ positions, and by summarizing the argument in a more straightforward manner.
Long-döl Nga-wang-lo-sang (1719-1794), on the other hand, puts forward a synthesis of (1) Tsong-kha-pa’s delineation of only
a paṇ chen bsod nams grags pa. b rgyud sde spyi’i rnam par bzhag pa skal bzang gi yid ’phrog (Dharmsala, India: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 1975), 18.6-32.1.

In the seventeenth century the Fifth Dalai Lama gave Tashi Lhunpo Monastery to his teacher, Lo-sang-chö-kyi-gyel-tsen, the fifteenth abbot of the monastery. As abbot of the monastery, he was called “Paṇ-chen” (mahāpaṇḍita, “Great Scholar”). When Lo-sang-chö-kyi-gyel-tsen died,

the Fifth Dalai Lama announced that his teacher would reappear as a recognizable child-successor, so his line of incarnations retained the title “Paṇ-chen Lama” and became the abbots of Tashi Lhunpo Monastery. The title “Paṇ-chen Lama” switched from being an elected one for a specific term of office to a line of reincarnations. d bstan pa spyi dang rgyud sde’i bzhi’i rnam gzhag zin bris su byas pa, Collected Works, vol. 4 (New Delhi: Gurudeva, 1973).

deity yoga as the chief distinguishing feature of the two vehicles and (2) presentations by many other scholars of several unique features. In his verse summary of Tsong-kha-pa’s Great Exposition of Secret Mantra, called Terminology Arising in Secret Mantra, the Scriptural Collections of the Knowledge Bearers, he combines rather than contrasts these two presentations, thereby suggesting that his text was written at a point

when sufficient time had passed since Tsong-khapa’s radically new paradigm of critical analysis such that the new critical paradigm came to absorb the old paradigm of recounting a tradition of a multitude of differences. Of particular interest is that the four features mentioned by Tripiṭakamāla are resurrected within being attributed to the great Mongolian scholar Jang-kya Rölpay-dor-jay. Unfortunately, the author does no more than list
the four as if their consistency with Tsong-kha-pa’s views is obvious! Otherwise, this section of Long-döl Nga-wang-lo-sang’s poem is self-explanatory and provides a succinct summary of the Ge-luk perspective:

If, having passed beyond the nature

Of the elders of the world who wish

To achieve happiness and avoid suffering

As long as alive and until dying,

One thinks to achieve the final aim
Of happiness in all future lives,

There is definitely no way to achieve it Without entering into the Conqueror’s doctrine.

The doors of entry are twofold:

Posited by way of tenet, there are four—

Great Exposition, Sūtra, Mind-Only, and Consequence schools.

Posited by way of vehicle there are three— Hearer, Solitary Realizer, and Great vehicles.

These in brief are two—the Lesser Vehicle and the Great Vehicle.

How are the two differentiated?

Between view and behavior, they are differentiated by


The behavior is of three types, since Lesser Vehicle and Great Vehicle

Are differentiated by the presence and absence

Of (1) the mind of the seven cause and effect instructions

And of equalizing and switching self and other,

(2) The deeds of the six perfections and the four means of gathering [students],a

And (3) the aspirational mind, vow of practice, and their precepts.

The Great Vehicle also is of two types,

The Perfection Vehicle acting on causes

And the Secret Mantra Vajra Vehicle acting in the manner of effects.

How are the two differentiated?

About this the Mañjunātha Lama [[[Tsong-kha-pa]]] said: Sūtra and Mantra are differentiated

By the presence and absence of meditation

Taking the fruit as the path [through divine] pride,

Clear appearance, and so forth by taking as objects of mind, Even as a beginner, the four—a Buddha’s abode, Body, resources, and exalted activities.

Though not factors differentiating Sūtra and Mantra, There are seven features not occurring in Sūtra But in all four tantra sets elevating them:

(1) Blessing of one’s continuum by Conquerors and their Children,
(2) Being taken care of by one’s favored deity,

(3) Mindfulness of Buddha in all lives,

(4) Completing the collections through obeisance, offering,

a As Nāgārjuna’s Precious Garland of Advice (stanza 133) says, the four means of gathering students are by way of giving gifts, giving doctrine, teaching others to fulfill their aims, and oneself acting according to that teaching:

You should cause the assembling

Of the religious and the worldly

Through giving, speaking pleasantly,

Purposeful behavior, and concordant behavior.

Speaking pleasantly” is conversation based on high status and definite goodness. “Purposeful behavior” is to cause others to practice what is beneficial. “Concordant behavior” is for one to practice what one teaches others.
and praise,

(5) Overcoming obstructors through meditating a wheel of protection,

(6) Achieving common feats in this life,

(7) Gathering great waves of collections [of merit and wisdom] through movements of body and speech.

These were mentioned by those supreme lamas again and again.

The Lord of Adepts [Jang-kya] Röl-pay-dor-jay spoke

Of four features—nonobscuration,

Having many methods, not being difficult, and [being contrived for those with] sharp faculties.