Śākya mchog-ldan on gotra in Yogācāra and Madhyamaka
by Peter Gilks
This paper is being presented as part of a panel on the topic of Reformulations of Yogācāra in Tibet. Particularly, it relates to Tibetan commentary on Abhisamayālaṃkāra in which it is taught that the foundation (pratiṣṭhā) for religious practice is the dharmadhātu and that since the dharmadhātu
is undifferentiated (asaṃbhedā), there are ultimately no distinct gotras corresponding to the three vehicles. This teaching is usually interpreted as a Mādhyamaka justification for one final vehicle, as opposed to the three-vehicle theory, attributed to Cittamātra/Vijñaptimātratā, and which is closely
related to the doctrine of three gotras found in sutras such as Saṃdhinirmocana and Laṅkāvatāra and śāstras such as Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra. However, there are some Tibetan writers outside the influential Gelug tradition who see the equation of gotra with dharmadhātu as an essentially Yogācāra doctrine. This
alternative viewpoint implies that Yogācāra and Cittamātra are not, as is commonly held to be the case, the same thing and brings to the fore the question of whether Yogācāra is better understood as a tradition that transcends traditional doxographic categories. Through an analysis of Śākya-mchog-ldan’s
explanation of AA I:39, which includes a differentiation of two other terms that are also often held to be synonymous, namely gotra and buddha-essense (or tathāgatagarbha), I aim to highlight some of the ways in which his ‘reformulation’ of Yogācāra implies a reformulation of certain Cittamātra doctrines.
influential in modern Buddhalogical research. Against this trend, but in accordance with the thinking of the Kagyu masters Mibskod-rdo-rje and dPa'-bo-gtsug-lag-phreng-ba, Karl Brunnhölzl has distinguished three streams of Yogācāra. He identifies the first of these streams as the system of Maitreya,
Asaṅga, and Vasubandhu, also known as ‘the lineage of vast activity’ or simply ‘Yogācāra’. This system, he argues, is not Cittamātra, and its final intention is not different from Madhyamaka.1 Another alternative position is that of the Sakya teacher, Śākya-mchog-ldan, who classifies the two Yogācāra
sub-schools, Satyākāravāda and Alīkākāravāda as belonging to Cittamātra and Madhyamaka respectively.2 Like the Kagyu view outlined by Brunnhölzl, Śākya-mchog-ldan’s position is based on a fundamental distinction between two different approaches to the ultimate—the contemplative system (sgom lugs) of
Maitreya etc., which is employed to describe its essential feature positively, and the analytical system (mtshan nyid 1 Karl Brunnhölzl, The Center of the Sunlit Sky (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2004). 2 Yaroslav Komarovski, Visions of Unity (Albany NY: State University of New York Press, 2011).
kyi lugs) of the Niḥsvabhāvavāda tradition stemming from Nāgārjuna, which points to ultimate reality as a non-affirming space-like negation.3 Śākya-mchog-ldan sees these two approaches as complementary, unlike the distinction which is often made between Cittamātra and Madhyamaka in which they are identified as antagonistic ‘schools’—a distinction that is grounded more in pedagogy than in historical reality.
One of the first points of difference between Cittamātra and Madhyamaka that a student encounters in the Tibetan monastic curriculum is when he or she studies topic of gotra (Tib. rigs) in chapter one of the Abhisamayālaṃkāra (AA), the fundamental text for the study of Prajñāpāramitā, which is not, as the
name suggests, so much about the perfection of wisdom, as much as it is about constructing a worldview that takes the bodhisattva path as its center and within which all religious practice makes sense.4 The topic is dealt with in a textbook on the AA’s difficult points (dka’ ba’i gnad), called Lung-chos rgya-mtso’i snying-po5 by the Sakya master, Śākya-mchog-ldan , and which is studied in the Pullahari Monastery in Nepal, an institution founded by 'Jam-
mgon-kong-sprul Blo-gros-chos-kyi-sengge, a Kagyu master in the ecumenical (ris med) tradition. The work was composed in 1480, during the period when Śākya-mchog-ldan’s unique views on Yogācāra were still evolving, 6 i.e., before their crystallisation in works such as bDud-rtsi’i char-’bebs, (1489) and Yid-bzhin lhun-po(1501) 7, wherein he expresses the view that the Yogācāra tradition of Maitreya/Asaṅga is properly considered as Madhyamaka, not Cittamātra. Śākya-mchog-ldan’s treatment of gotra in this work has been translated and included as an appendix to this paper.
Śākya-mchog-ldan’s evolving position on a closely related topic, that of the buddha-essence (tathāgatagarbha), has been analysed in two excellent articles Yaroslav Komarovksi,8 and this paper is intended to serve as an extension of that work. However, it differs from Komarovski’s analysis insofar as it focuses on gotra. The difference is significant since, unlike other writers who are often clubbed together in the gzhan-stong camp, Śākya-mchogldan does not see gotra is seen as synonymous with buddha-essence,9 nor does he see it as a reason that establishes the concomitance of the buddha-essence in all beings.10
Śākya-mchog-ldan’s presentation of the gotra in Lung-chos rgya-mtso’i snying-po is also of interest because its description of the differences between the Cittamātra and Madhyamaka assertions regarding gotra also tells us how Śākya-mchog-ldan understood the tenets of
3 ———, "Shakya Chokden's Interpretation of the Ratnagotravibhāgha: "Contemplative" of "Dialectical"?," Journal of Indian Philosophy 38(2010). 4 See Georges Dreyfus, "Tibetan Scholastic Education and the Role of Soteriology," Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 20, no. 1 (1997). 5 Śākya
Mchog-ldan, Mgnon Par Rtogs Pa'i Rgyan 'Grel Ba Dang Bcas Pa'i Dka' Ba'i Gnad Rnam Par Bshad Pa Spyi'i Don Nyer Mkho Bsdus Pa Lung Chos Rgya Mtsho Snying Po (Kathmandu: Rigpe Dorje, 2008). 6 Komarovski, Visions of Unity. 7 Dbu ma’i byung tshul rnam par bshad pa’I gtam yid bzhin lhun po, translated in
Yaroslav Komarovski, Three Texts on Madhyamaka by Shakya Chokden (Dharamsala: Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, 2000), 1-36. 8 (1) ———, "Reburying the Treasure—Maintaining the Continuity: Two Texts by Śākya Mchog Ldan on the Buddha Essence," Journal of Indian Philosophy 34(2006). (2) Komarovski, "Shakya Chokden's Interpretation of the Rgv." 9 See S. K. Hookham, The Buddha Within (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991), 105. 10 See Uttaratantra
Cittamātra during this evolving period. Of particular interest is Śākya-mchog-ldan’s view that the equation of dharmadhātu with gotra is a tenet common to both systems, a position which raises questions of how Cittamātra can accept three final vehicles. Also of interest is his attribution to Yogācāra of the
view that practitioners in all three vehicles take the emptiness of apprehender and apprehended as a focal object of mediation. Since this is considered the definition of the emptiness of phenomena in the Yogācāra, Śākya-mchog-ldan must address the question of whether śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas realise the identitylessness of phenomena in Yogācāra. Both of these points will be discussed in this paper.
1 The Abhisamayālaṃkāra By way of providing a context for the discussion that follows, I begin with a brief discussion of the doctrinal standpoint of the AA as a whole, as it is understood in the Indo-Tibetan exegetical tradition. It should be noted at the outset that Western scholars who have analysed the
correspondence between the AA’s paradigmatic interpretive structure and the Prajñāpāramitā (PP) sutras have found it to be quite artificial,11 and the occurrence in AA I:39 of the argument that there is just one gotra is a case in point. Gotra is rarely mentioned in the PP sutras, and when it does occur, it does so right at the end, where, in direct contrast with the AA’s doctrine of a single gotra, three distinct gotras are taught.12
If the standard Tibetan approach to understanding the PP corpus has been coloured by its reliance on the lens of the AA, it is also true that attempts to classify the AA within the wellknown four-‘school’ doxographical framework mean that it too has not always been understood on its own terms. Although
Indian Buddhists commented on the AA from a variety of standpoints,13 in Tibet it is the commentaries of Haribhadra and Āryavimuktisena, who are often grouped together as representatives of a single tradition, that have been most influential. Since they are both classified Yogācāra-Svātantrika-Mādhyamikas, it is often thought that the AA is a work of Yogācāra-Svātantrika-Madhyamaka school. This has been asserted by a number of prominent Western scholars, 14 yet unfortunately they do not cite any Tibetan sources, and I haven’t been able to find any that explicitly state this.
11 “It is an indisputable fact that the original authors of the Prajñāpāramitā, when they composed it, gradually over a number of generations, never had such a scheme in mind.” Edward Conze, "Marginal Notes to the Abhisamayālaṃkāra " Sino-Indian Studies 5(1957): 22. “The commentaries often provide reasons for the order of the chapters in the AA and certain of its topics, but these reasons seem somewhat arbitrary, obviously attempting to forge a coherent overall structure where it is hard to find one.” Karl Brunnhölzl, Gone Beyond: The Ornament of Clear Realization, and Its Commentaries in the Tibetan Kagyu Tradition, 2 vols., vol. 1 (Ithaca, NY: Snow Lion, 2010), 701. 12 See Edward Conze, The Large Sutra on Perfect Wisdom (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1975), 652. While it is possible, if not likely, that the chapter in which three distinct lineages are taught was added after the composition of the AA, it nevertheless stands as an example of directly contrasting standpoints that the commentarial tradition has had to come to terms with. 13 E.g., the commentaries by Ratnākaraśānti – Śuddhamatī (To. 3801) and Sārottamā (To. 3803); and Bṛhaṭṭīka (Tib. Yum gsum gnod 'joms), by Daṃṣṭrasena (To. 3808) 14
Ruegg mentions “the Abhisamayālaṃkāra, a work which has been classified as belonging to the YogācāraSvatantrika-Madhyamaka…” David Seyfort Ruegg, Three Studies in the History of Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka Philosophy: Studies in Indian and Tibetan Madhyamaka Thought (Vol. 1) (Vienna: Arbeitskreis für Tibetische und Buddhistische Studien, Universität Wien., 2000), 18. Hopkins says, “Vimuktisena's view is clearly that of a Yogachara-Svatantrika-Madhyamika, and Maitreya's Ornament for Clear Realization
On the contrary, in rGyan gyi mthar thugs pa’i lta ’grel by Khedrub’s disciple, Chos-dbang Grags-pa’i-dpal it says that Tsong-kha-pa, rGyal-tshab and mKhas-grub are unanimous in saying that the ultimate view of the AA is Prāsaṅgika.15 He states that were its ultimate view that of Svātantrika-Madhyamaka,
it would imply that the ultimate view expressed in the Prajñāpāramitā sutras themselves was also Svātantrika-Madhyamaka. Even it is accepted that Haribhadra does faithfully interpret the AA, it is not necessarily agreed that he can be narrowly classified as belonging to a sub-school of a sub-school of Madhyamaka. Certainly, no such detailed subdivisions existed at the time of his writing.
Although the AA is one of five famous works attributed to a single author, some Tibetans take the view that the five works of Maitreya represent a range of different doctrinal positions.16 Others see all the five works of Maitreya as united in their viewpoint, which is variously claimed as Great Madhyamaka,17 Alīlākāravāda,18 or Yogācāra-(Madhyamaka).19 Of course, such unification is doubtlessly driven by a belief that these works were composed by a single author, but it should be noted that the attribution of all these five works to Maitreya appears to be relatively late.20
While the idea that the AA should be considered in toto to be a Yogācāra work may require a flexible and expanded view of Yogācāra, there are a number of Western scholars who at least recognise the clear influence of Yogācāra on the work. Conze, for example, observed that “the standpoint of the work is not that of the Yogācārins proper, but of those who stood halfway between Yogācārins and Mādhyamikas.”21 He also noted that the work contains several verses that are very similar to ones found in works normally associated with the
Abhisamayalamkara), which was brought to this world by Asanga on his return from the Joyous Pure Land, manifests the same view.” Jeffrey Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness (Boston: Wisdom Publications, 1983), 362-63. Brunnhölzl also says that many Gelugpa commentaries make this claim, while at the same time noting that most earlier Tibetan and Indian commentators did not express such a view. Brunnhölzl, Gone Beyond I, 81. 15 Chos-dbang-grags-pa'i-dpal,
"She Rab Kyi Pha Rol Tu Phyin Pa'i Man Ngag Gi Bstan Bcos Mngon Par Rtogs Pa'i Rgyan Gyi Mthar Thug Pa'i Lta Ba Thal 'Gyur Du 'Grel Tshul Gnad Don Gsal Zla," in Stong Thun Skal Bzang Mig 'Byed (Mundgod: Gaden Jangtse Libary, 2006), 623-24. For mKhas-grub’s assertion that the ultimate view of the AA is a Prāsaṅgika, see José Ignacio Cabezón, A Dose of Emptiness (Albany NY: State University of New York, 1992), 224. 16 It is often held that in the Gelugpa tradition, the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra, Madhyāntavibhāga, and Dharmadharmatāvibhāga represent the doctrines of the Cittamātra, the Abhisamayālaṃkāra represents those of the Yogācāra-Svātantrika-Madhyamaka school, and the Ratnagotravibhāga is said to represent the point of view of the Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka school. 17 This view is attributed to Dolopa by Taranatha in Jeffrey Hopkins, The Essence of Other-Empiteness by Tāranātha (Ithaca & Boulder:
Snow Lion, 2007), 121. 18 This view is attributed to Śākya Mchog-ldan. See Komarovski, "Shakya Chokden's Interpretation of the Rgv." 19 This is the view of the Eighth Karmapa, Mi-bskyod rDo-rje. It should be noted, however, that he believes Yogācāra is not a doxographical category comparable with Madhyamaka or Cittamātra. See Brunnhölzl, The Center of the Sunlit Sky, 501. 20 Maitreya is not mentioned as the AA's author by the earliest Indian commentators. The MVB
predates Asanga (source?). Paul Griffith writes that the attribution of Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkara to Maitreya is also quite late and probably unknown during the time of its circulation in India. Paul J. Griffiths, "Painting Space with Colors: Tathāgatagarbha in the Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkara Corpus Iv.22-37," in Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota, ed. Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan (Reno: Buddhist Books International, 1990), 43. For a more detailed discussion, see Karl Brunnhölzl, Luminous Heart (Ithaca NY: Snow Lion, 2009), 79-84. 21 Edward Conze, "Maitreya's Abhisamayālaṅkāra," East and West 5(1954): 194.
Yogācāra school and that the doctrine three kāyas—svabhāvikakāya, sambhogakāya, and nirmāṇakāy— is a Yogācāra doctrine, unknown in the Prajñāpāramitā sutras. Similarly Karl Brunnhölzl has also identified a number of terms and doctrines typically associated with Yogācāra in the AA and concludes that its “strong Yogācāra underpinning makes sense”23 since it is about bringing an experiential understanding to the sutras.
I would go further and suggest that reason why the work contains many Yogācāra influences is due to the existence of those influences in the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā-Prajñāpāramitā, the version of the PP sutra with which it is most closely associated. These include not only the existence of the word yogācāra (not found in the earlier version, but also traces of the pañcamārga system and of course, the Questions of Maitreya chapter, which, although an apparently later interpolation, teaches the classic Yogācāra doctrine of three svabhāvas in a manner reminiscent of that found in the Saṃdhinirmocana sutra.24
2 Śākya-mchog-ldan on how gotra is viewed in Cittamātra and Madhyamaka Turning now to Śākya-mchog-ldan’s explanation of gotra in Lung-chos rgya-mtso’i snyingpo, there are three parts: (1) a general explanation of the different types of gotra (2) identifying the tathāgatagarbha (3) a detailed explanation of how the dharmadhatu functions as the support for the accomplishments of practitioners in the three vehicles. In the first part Śākya-mchog-ldan’
presents his general explanation of the gotra and its divisions as something with which he claims Cittamātra and Madhyamaka are broadly in agreement (phel cher mthun pa). It should be noted that although he does not explicitly identify Cittamātra with Satyākāravāda, while considering Alīkākāravāda a division of Madhyamaka, but would appear to be the case. The main points of similarity are as follows:
22 AA I:18-20 is very similar to Mahāyānasūtrālaṃkāra IV:15-20 while AA VII:8 is almost identical with Mahāyānasamgraha X:13. See Ibid. 23 Brunnhölzl, Gone Beyond I. 24 In addition, it is noteworthy that Gareth Sparam has described the Pañcaviṃśatisāhasrikā as “a Yogācāra version of the Prajñāpāramitā sūtra.”
Gareth Sparham, Ocean of Eloquence (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993), 16. 25 The division of the ālaya into consciousness and wisdom is based on Asaṅga’s distinction between ālaya into consciousness and supramundane mind. Brunnhölzl, Luminous Heart, 864, n.1250. The use of the term ālayawisdom is an innovation of Dolpopa's.
The nature of the dharmadhātu of the stained mind is asserted to be the luminous and knowing pole of stained mental experience (dri ma dang bcas pa'i sems myong ba gsal rig gi cha). This, he says, accords with the general system of all the Maitreya scriptures and their explanations by Asaṅga and Vasubandhu.
Although they are similar in teaching that the nature (ngo bo) of the natural gotra is the dharmadhātu, [within] the two Madhaymaka systems there is a division regarding whether or not the nature of the dharmadhātu is the pole of experience that is luminous and aware.
Śākya-mchog-ldan is saying here that the Cittamātra position with regard to what the dharmadhātu is only shared by one of the two Madhyamaka systems, and that the point of agreement with one of those systems is that the dharmadhātu is the pole of experience (myong ba) that is luminous and aware. Since this
positive description of the dharmadhātu, in which is not seen as the mere actuality of phenomena but what realises this actuality accords with that found in Madhyāntavibhāga, we can see that at this stage in the development of his thinking Śākya-mchog-ldan appears to divide Madhyamaka not according to the Prānsaṅgika/Svātantrika distinction, but along the lines that he later articulates in Yid-bzhin lhun-po, namely the tradition of pioneered by Nāgārjuna and that pioneered by Asaṅga.
However, to claim that Cittamātra asserts that all beings naturally possess the buddha-gotra in the form of the dharmadhātu appears to go against several conventions. Although Śākyamchog-ldan includes the uncompoundedness of natural gotra among the points with which both systems broadly agree, as the contemporary ris med teacher, Ngag-dbang kun-dga’ dbang-phyug, points out:
The other problem with saying that Cittamātra equates the dharmadhātu with the gotra is explaining how that in that system three ultimate vehicles can still be asserted. Śākya-mchogldan’s teacher, Rong-ston, expresses the Cittamātra position as follows:
Similarly, Ngag-dbang kun-dga’ dbang-phyug also writes:
So how does Śākya-mchog-ldan account for the fact that Cittamātra accepts on the one hand that that the buddha-gotra is the dharmadhātu yet on the other hand assert that there are three ultimate vehicles? At first glance his explanation seems contradictory. On the one hand he seems to say that, unlike Madhyamaka, in Cittamātra beings (i.e., arhats) somehow manage to extinguish their natural gotra. He says:
Although [[[Cittamātra]] and Madhyamaka] are similar in their assertions regarding the Buddha essence at the time of no remainder, there are differences regarding whether or not they assert the natural gotra [[[exists]] at that time].29
It seems to me that Śākya-mchog-ldan claims that, although Cittamātra and Madhyamaka both assert the natural gotra to be the dharmadhātu, their different definitions of what the dharmadhātu is (e.g., conditioned vs. unconditioned, cause of all phenomena vs. sphere of all phenomena) entails different positions on whether the natural gotra is extinguished in arhats at the time of no remainder. In Cittamātra the arhat has truly transcended existence and there is nothing that can be nurtured by conditions to become the svābhāvikakāya.
On the other hand, elsewhere when presenting the Cittamātra response to the consequence that there would only be one ultimate vehicle in that system if it is accepted that dharmadhātu is that natural gotra, he writes:
26 ———, Gone Beyond I, 478. 27 Translated in Ibid., 458. 28 Ibid., 477. 29 lhag med gyi tshe sangs rgyas kyi snying po 'dod par 'dra yang/ rang bzhin du gnas pa'i rigs yod par 'dod mi 'dod kyi khyad par dang/
Although it is not possible to fully understand his thinking on this topic based on this text alone, it does appear again that the differences can be accounted for by recognising that Cittamātra and Madhyamaka conceive of the dharmadhātu differently, and that in Śākyamchog-ldan’s interpretation of Cittamātra, although the continuum of the natural gotra, it ceases to be the buddha-gotra for the arhat at the time of no remainder since there is no possibility that it can function as the foundation for the practices of a bodhisattva.
3 Buddha-essence Śākya-mchog-ldan’s definition of the buddha-essence in this text is essentially the same as that in found in the Essence of the Ocean of Scriptural Doctrines.31 Here, he expresses it as follows:
[The essence] is the suchness of the inseparability from the qualities of a Buddha such as the [ten] powers etc. It is not differentiated here by way of genuine and imputed [[[essence]]]. [However,] if it is so divided, there is the fully qualified (mtshan nyid pa) [[[essence]]] which is the reality purified of adventitious stains and the imputed (btags pa ba) [[[essence]]] which is the naturally pure reality.
The first is [of two types]: the perfected [[[purified]] reality] of a Buddha, and the partial one—the reality purified of adventitious [stains] (glo bur rnam dag gi chos nyid) on the ten [[[bodhisattva]]] grounds. It does not exist in ārya śrāvakas or pratyekabuddhas.
The main point to recognise is that, unlike the Buddha-gotra, it is not something that is possessed by all beings. Śākya-mchog-ldan explains how those sutras that teach the buddhaessence is possessed by all beings are not to be understood literally, but such arguments are outside the scope of this article.
Next, Śākya-mchog-ldan addresses the question of how the dharmadhātu functions as a support for the three vehicles. It will be recalled that Śākya-mchog-ldan defines the dharmadhātu not as a space-like non-affirming negative, but the pole (cha) of the mind that is luminous and aware. When bodhisattvas take this as their focal object (dmigs pa) of meditation, they realise its emptiness of apprehended and apprehender. The question then arises: if this emptiness is the nature of the dharmadhātu of the stained mind and it is the
30 rang bzhin du gnas pa’i rigs ma chad kyang de gsos ’debs byed kyi rkyen ma tshang srid pa’i phyir na ’tshang mi rgya ba’i sems can srid cing/ 31 lung chos rgya mtsho’i snying po, Tr. in Komarovski, "Reburying the Treasure—Maintaining the Continuity: Two Texts by Śākya Mchog Ldan on the Buddha Essence."
Although it is accepted that all three vehicles take as their focal object the dharmadhātu of their own mental continuum, there is no fault [that śrāvakas eliminate realise the identitylessness of phenomena or eliminate obscurations to omniscience]. The pole of luminosity and awareness which is empty of
is made in dependence on external objects and which is made in dependence on inner consciousness. Having thus made a threefold division, the three gotra bearers take these respectively as their object and cultivate a path cognising identitylessness in accordance with respective focal object arises. …the teaching that the identitylessness of persons is the dharmadhātu is a tenet of Yogācāras.33
Śākya-mchog-ldan here says that the realisation of the identitylessness of persons is made by taking the pole of luminosity and awareness which is empty of apprehender and apprehended as the focal object by all persons of all three vehicles is a tenet of Yogācāras. The expression rnal ’byor dpyod pa ba dag
suggests he is talking about both satyākāravāda and alikākāravāda, yet the emptiness of apprehender and apprehended which is made in dependence on internal objects would appear to the realisation of the pratyekabuddha in alikākāravāda only. That is, within the dharmadhātu which comprises all that exists, the śrāvaka and pratyekabuddha take the person as a focal object. Win this, although the śrāvaka cognises the lack of a substantial difference between of apprehender and apprehended, he/she still sees the mind’s projections of external phenomena as real
32 This point and Śākya-mchog-ldan’s response (though he is not identified by name) is also raised by other Tibetan scholars. Mi-bskod-rdo-rje writes: Some Tibetans present the nature of the dharmadhātu as conscious that is lucid and aware. They explain the assertion that, by focussing on nothing but this, it
functions as the support for the various types of realisation of the three yānas as being the system of the Yogācāras. They say, “If the dharmadhātu is realised, this is not necessarily the realisation of phenomenal identitylessnes,” and “When the result of the any of the yānas come forth in dependence on the dharmadhātu, it is not certain that the dharmadhātu must be realised [for this to happen]”. There are indeed [such statements], but [for now] I leave them as bases to be examined. 33 Des na gang zag gi bdag med kyang chos dbyings su ’chad pa ni/ rnal ’byor dpyod pa ba dag gi grub pa’i mtha’ yin la/
It is not necessary to accept that if the dharmadhātu is cognised the identitylessness of phenomena is also cognised. Even if it were necessary, since the dharmadhātu is only taken as a focal object, there is no entailment that it [the identitylessness of phenomena] is realised.
There are no differences between wisdoms of the three vehicles, which having taken the dharmadhātu as their focal object, are born as the nature of the dharmadhātu wisdom. However, there is no fault of the unwanted consequence that all three realise the identitylessness of phenomena because the meaning of realisation of the identitylessness of phenomena it is posited as a realisation of the pervaded dharmadhātu while the two vehicles only take a tiny part of the dharmadhātu as their focal objects, the realisation is only of that much.
To restate the two main points I have highlighted from Śākya-mchog-ldan’s explanation of gotra and put them in theoretical perspective: (1) Śākya-mchog-ldan is in agreement with the AA exegetical tradition when he says that it teaches that the natural gotra is the dharmadhātu. However, he disagrees with
most other commentators when he says that this is a view taken by both Cittamātra and Madhyamaka. In order to explain how Cittamātrins can accept this view as well as the doctrine of three final vehicles, he says that they do not accept that the natural gotra exists for an arhat at the time of no remainder.
However, this would appear to require a different interpretations of what the dharmadhātu is. (2) The second point is that Śākya-mchog-ldan holds that in Yogācāra the aspect of mind that is luminous and aware is identified as the dharmadhātu and this is taken as the focal object by practitioners of all three vehicles, though this does not necessarily entail them all cognising the identitylessness of phenomena.
It is worth asking the question what exactly Śākya-mchog-ldan trying to explain here. I believe that he was trying to explain not just how Madhyamaka and Cittamatra are closer than we might suspect, but that the practices of the three vehicles are also very similar.
Given that his claim that the identification of the naturally gotra with the dharmadhātu is an essentially Yogācāra doctrine (rather than a Madhyamaka doctrine) may be seen as original, it is worth revaluating some of the criticism that has been levelled at the Tibetan doxography genre.
It has been said that works of this genre flatten out the distinctions between authors,34 and that the ‘four schools’, have little in common with historical reality and may lead to a distorted understanding of texts and authors. While it is true that historians agree that there were many more than two Hīnayāna schools, and even if these many schools were to be grouped, it makes more sense to group them, as most scholars who have studied them do, into 34 Matthew. Kapstein, The Tibetan Assimilation of Buddhism : Conversion, Contestation, and Memory (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000).
Sthaviravāda and Mahāsāṃghika, despite the lack of a distinct institutional basis, John Dunne is surely right when he says that through “their intertextuality, the continuity of their ideas, their, appeal to the same authorities, and so on” identifiable schools, such as Madhyamaka do exist.35
However, the deeper problem, I feel, is that Buddhist traditions end up being differentiated predominantly on philosophical terms, or even more narrowly, in only ontological terms. José Cabazón has shown how in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, systems of tenets canonize philosophy by functioning a filters
through which all doctrines must pass if they are to be accepted as Buddhist.36 Against this however, it is important to remember that Buddhism is not purely a system of doctrines; and for those such as Śākya-mchog-ldan, who may see a fundamental doctrinal difference between the analytical and contemplative traditions in, it is also possible to not only recognise them both as Madhyamaka, but show that the differences between Madhyamaka and Cittamātra are not that great.
In conclusion, I would like to explain Śākya-mchog-ldan’s approach in terms of a distinction between the genre of doxography and doxographical discourse. The former are works specifically dedicated to detailing the doctrinal differences between the Four Systems. The latter is the simply a framework of reference, a set of rules, existing in the background in Tibetan commentarial works, which allow for the creation of order out of disorder, albeit not reflective of historical reality. The two are related, as Hopkins explains when he writes that
in Tibet, students are taught this fourfold classification first, without mention of the diversity of opinion that it conceals. Then, over decades of study, students gradually recognize the structure of such presentations of schools of thought as a technique for gaining access to a vast store of opinion, as a way to focus on topics crucial to authors within Indian Buddhism. The task of then distinguishing between what is clearly said in the Indian texts and
what is interpretation and interpolation over centuries of commentary becomes a fascinating enterprise for the more hardy among Tibetan scholars. The devotion to debate as the primary mode of education provides an everpresent avenue for students to challenge home-grown interpretations, and affords a richness of critical commentary within the tradition that a short presentation of tenets does not convey.37
Śākya-mchog-ldan’s evolving position is an example of this process. By making use a doxographical worldview he is able to harmonise apparently conflicting systems and arrive at a personal philosophical position not exactly found in any Tibetan text, yet appears to be consistent with the basic impulse of Yogācāra, namely a tradition that was not limited to the
35 John Dunne, "Buddhism, Schools Of: Mahayana Philosophical Schools of Buddhism," in Encyclopedia of Religion, ed. Lindsay Jones (Detroit: Macmillan Reference, 2005). 36 José Ignacio Cabezón, "The Canonization of Philosophy and the Rhetoric of Siddhānta in Tibetan Buddhism," in Buddha Nature: A Festschrift in Honor of Minoru Kiyota, ed. Paul J. Griffiths and John P. Keenan (Reno, NV: Buddhist Books International, 1990). 37 Jeffrey Hopkins, "The Tibetan Genre of Doxography: Structuring a Worldview," in Tibetan Literature: Studies in Genre, ed. Jose Ignacio Cabezon and Roger R. Jackson (Ithaca: Snow Lion, 1996), 176.
theoretical discussions, but a practical teaching aimed at recognising how a basically pure, luminous mind was tainted with adventitious stains It also accords with the experience of a Gelugpa geshe who once told me that he had learned about 25% of what he knew from texts and about 25% through oral instructions from his teachers. The remaining 50% of his knowledge was arrived at through debate and the reflection prompted by those debates.
General explanation of the divisions of gotra itself Generally speaking, the word 'gotra' has the meaning of cause. Furthermore, between the cause of saṃsāra and [that of] nirvāṇa, here, the general term is particularly applied with respect to the latter. Both causes are similar in that they exist within (steng du) the ālaya as seeds. [Regarding the ālaya consciousness, in the Mahāyānasaṃgraha] Asaṅga cites [this verse] from the [[[Abhidharma]]]sūtra:
There are also two [types of] seeds—contaminated and uncontaminated.
The first is the actual ālayavijñāna. As a conceptual isolate, it is also said to be the its [i.e., the ālaya's] seed factor (sa bon gyi cha). These seeds are newly deposited; they are not naturally acquired (chos nyid kyis thob pa).
As for the second [the uncontaminated seed], it is called ālaya wisdom. In the tantric vehicle, it is labelled 'the natural gotra', 'the tathāgatagarbha', 'the vajra of the mind', 'the original Buddha', etc. This [uncontaminated] seed is not newly planted because it is acquired by nature. [In the Sūtrayāna]
it has several synonyms: it is called the uncontaminated seed, the special feature of the six internal sense-spheres and imprints for listening because [respectively] it is suitable to become supramundane wisdom, because it is the basis of the specialness of the six internal sense-spheres, and because it
In that case, how, are the three gotra bearers classified? It is taught that when the three different conditions that cause awakening nurture the single Buddha gotra [in three ways], there are three gotra bearers. As it says [in the Abhisamayālaṃkāra]
By way of the instances of the phenomena based on it Its divisions are expressed. [AA I: 38cd]
38 The text reverses the order of the last two reason. But since it seems they should be understood as applying respectively to the three synonyms, I have changed the order in the translation. 39 I can't find this in the ACIP version.
The meaning [of these lines] in brief is that three gotra-bearers are posited by way of the [three] divisions of the developmental gotra.
In that case, if one [mistakenly] thinks that the three gotra-bearers become definite in the Mahayana gotra due to being definite bearers of the buddha gotra, there is no such fault. The positing of definite and indefinite gotra is not done from the point of view of the natural gotra; it is done [from the point of view of] whether the developmental gotra does or does not nurture. There are three agents of nurturing by way of the divisions of the mind generations of the three vehicles. The dharmadhātu that is nurtured by those [three] is just the buddha gotra, and that which nurtures is the gotra of the three vehicles. The three [types of] person who abide in those [[[three vehicles]]] are termed the [three] gotra-bearers.
It cannot be posited as the developmental gotra merely on the basis of being newly arisen because it does not pervade the virtues which are merely conducive to the merit [for attaining rebirth in higher realms] (bsod nams cha mthun tsam).
With respect to the distinctive features of the two gotras, some other Tibetans teach that they are divided on the basis of whether the uncontaminated seeds in the ālaya nurture or do not nurture. This is mistaken because, as it says in the Sūtrālamkāra
Given this, at that time, what can be made as the nature of the dharmadhātu of the contaminated mind? The experience of the contaminated mind is asserted to be the clear and knowing aspect because such is taught in the general system of all the Maitreya scriptures. Asaṅga and his brother have also explained it in that way. Master Zangpo also accepts this point. Also, it is said in the Sūtrālamkāra [XIII:19]
In the Uttaratantra: 
Through the assertions of this master [[[Asaṅga]]?] recognition of suchness and emptiness is taught extremely clearly. Others, with regard to the natural gotra, teach that perceiving subject and reality is a division into compounded phenomena and uncompounded phenomena. The first is the factor of experience that is clear and knowing, and the second, emptiness, is the non-affirming negation factor. This is [a case of] not knowing because the natural gotra is pervaded by reality (chos nyid) and uncompoundedness. And because the natural gotra and the svābhāvikakāya both being taught as non-affirming negatives factor does not appear in the scriptures of Maitreya.
The both of them having just been explained, if one asks from which point of view is it, Madhyamaka or Cittamātra? Here, there are two sections: with regard to this point, the teaching that Madhyamaka and Cittamātra are mostly in agreement and a short explanation of their distinctive disagreements.
Broad agreement The positions of Madhyamaka and Cittamātra with regard to the just-explained two types of gotra and identification thereof are similar because the Mahāyānasūtrālamkāra and the Uttaratantra and Dharmadhātustava and explanation in Bodhisattvabhūmi and the explanation in Abhidharmasamuccaya and [[[Ratnākara]]]śānti's Śuddhimatī all are in agreement.
If it is objected that, since the Cittamātrins' position that the nature of the natural gotra is the dharmadhātu is like that, there would follow unwanted consequences of not accepting beings who are bearers of gotra and there would be one ultimate vehicle.
There are two answers: turning the argument back on the objector and the grounded [response].
40 mataṁ ca cittaṁ prakṛtiprabhāsvaraṁ sadā tadāgantukadoṣadūṣitaṁ| na dharmatācittamṛte 'nyacetasaḥ prabhāsvaratvaṁ prakṛtau vidhīyate||19||
First, since Cittamātrins accept that all sentient being possess the buddha-essence, the unwanted consequence [that there would only be one ultimate vehicle] applies to you too. They assert like that because the sutra that teaches all sentient beings possess the Buddha essence is accepted literally by the Cittamātrins, according to the glorious Chandra. In the Sūtrālamkāra [IX:37] too, it says, "All beings have its essence."
Second, although the natural gotra is not broken it is possible that the conditions that nurture it may not be complete, it is possible that some beings do not attain buddhahood, and although being a possessor of the Buddha-essence, since there is the possibility of the absence of causes for taking rebirth in samsara, there are three ultimate vehicles. Thus is asserted by Cittamātrins.
Short explanation of their distinguishing differences. Although they are similar in teaching that naturally abiding gotra is the dharmadhātu, [within] the two Madhaymaka systems there is a division regarding whether or not the nature of the dharmadhātu is the pole of experience that is luminous and aware. And
although they are similar in not asserting that there are beings who are cut off from the Buddha-essence and the natural gotra, they are different in asserting and not asserting that there are beings who never reach nirvāṇa. And although they are similar in their assertions regarding the Buddha essence at the time of no remainder, they different in asserting and not asserting the natural gotra exists [at that time]. And although they are similar [in
asserting] there are no delusions then, they are a little different in their assertions regarding the presence and absence of causes for taking rebirth. Based on these differences the two are differentiated. In [[[Kamalaśīla's]]] Madhyamakāloka it is said that, since the gotra which is a natural purity exists, [to say] some people never become completely purified is unsuitable. There, the opponent is a Cittamātrin.
Identification of the essence [The essence] is the suchness of the inseparability from the qualities of a Buddha such as the [ten] powers etc. Since it is not differentiated here by way of actual and imputed [[[essence]]], if it is so divided, there is the fully qualified [[[essence]]] which is the reality purified of adventitious [stains] and the imputed [[[essence]]] which is the naturally pure reality.
The first is [of two types]: the perfected [[[purified]] reality] of a Buddha, and the partial one— the reality purified of adventitious [stains] on the ten [[[bodhisattva]]] grounds. It does not exist in ārya śrāvakas or pratyekabuddhas because they don't have the dharmakāya or [[[attainment]] of] nirvāṇa. They are
unlike ārya bodhisattvas because the existence from the first bhūmi of the dharmakāya that is purified of adventitious stains is taught in the Sūtrālamkāra, the Uttaratantra commentary and Dharmadhātustava and because in [[[Candrakīrti’s]]] commentary on Yuktiṣaṣṭikāvṛtti it is said that nirvāṇa is manifested from the first bhūmi.
Qualm: It is said [in the Uttaratantra?] that except for buddhahood there is no nirvāṇa. By this example, isn't it also taught that there is no dharmakāya of tathāgata etc. on the path of training either? [Answer]: The intention behind that teachings is that there [i.e., on the training paths] one is inseparable from all the positive qualities of a Buddha. As it is said [in a verse cited in the Uttaratantra commentary]
The ārya śrāvakas and pratyekabuddhas are not the same because they do not have the practice of cultivating (sbyong byed) the dharmakāya from dharma sphere of their own continuums . [This is] because they delight in a mistaken dharmakāya. For example, as long as one cognises the equivalence of saṃsara and nirvāṇa, and the elaborations of the existence and non-existence of self are not pacified, the dharmadhātu of one's continuum is permanent and unsuitable to be the self. If it is unsuitable, there is no way to posit the [[[tathāgata]]] essence. Similarly, it is not at all the meaning of "the dharmadhātu of ordinary beings' minds is inseparable from the qualities of a Buddha" because supramundane wisdom does not exist in those beings.
The thought behind the literal meaning of [saying that] the essence pervades all beings In the sutras it is said that all beings possess the Buddha-essence. As for the literal meaning of this statement, it is that all beings have the essence of each buddha [?] Facilitating knowledge of the non-literal meaning
Actual First, the basis of [the Buddha's] thought: the thusness of the impure is intended. When dividing by way of conceptual isolates, there are three: the aspect which is suitable to be free of impurity, the naturally pure aspect, and the aspect that is suitable to engage the potentialities of love and wisdom etc. These three are labelled as "dharmakāya eminations", "undifferentiated thusness" and "Buddha gotra".
The damage to the explicit [rendering]: All sentient beings are not bearers of the Buddha essence because their dharmadhātu is not inseparable from any of the qualities of the dharmakāya such as the [the] powers etc. Alternatively, the subject [of the syllogism] is the four persons without the eye to [?] see the essence.
Establishing through scripture The Uttaratantra śāstra explains the meaning of what is said in the sutras [i.e., the essence pervades all beings] is non-literal. There, the three, basis of the thought etc. [i.e., the necessity and the damage to the explicit teaching] are clearly taught. How?
(1) The basis of the thought is, in brief, the three purposes (don).42 When they are further divided, just the nine points illustrated by the nine examples [of the budda-essence in ordinary beings] is the basis if the thought. Then in the context of (dbang du byas nas) explaining the intention of the teaching that all beings possess the essence, it [the śāstra] says:
The subject [of the syllogism] is all corporal beings. The existence of a reason for the statement that [all beings] possess the buddha-essence is what is established. "Because the kāya is emanating" etc. literally is the reason. Though that is the meaning to be understood, [the śāstra] teaches that through the reason being suitable to arise in one's continuum [one knows that] one is a possessor of the essence. Otherwise, if one asserts that one is literally the possessor of the essence, it does not go beyond being a contradictory, or indefinite or unestablished reason.
[If it is taught] as the suchness (chos nyid) of a buddha, the division of dharmakāya into three and the division of gotra into five would not be essences. Thus, [the reason] would be either contradictory or indefinite.
And it would be an indefinite reason if for the sake of making known the suchness of buddhahood, when setting [as a reason] the undifferentiated suchness, the unestablished would be [used] to establish [the reason]. Thus it would become an unestablished reason.
[He had taught in various places that every knowable thing is ever void,] like a cloud, a dream or an illusion. [Then why did the Buddha declare the essence of Buddhahood to be there in every sentient being?] 42 The goals of the three vehicles (?). 43 Because becoming a buddha means one no longer possesses the buddha-gotra.
It has been said [in the Scriptures] All kinds of phenomena, made by causes and conditions And known in the forms of Defilement, Action and Result, Are, like clouds, etc., deprived of reality. || 158 ||
As for the the teaching of the necessity of the ten powers etc. are not empty of thoroughly establish phenomena, and the essence which is empty of adventitious imaginary stains pervades sentient beings, [the Uttaratantra says]
There are 5 defects [[[caused]] by the previous teaching]: The depressed mind, contempt against those who are inferior, Clinging to things unreal, speaking ill of Truth, And besides, affection for one's self. [The teaching about Essence of the Buddha] has been taught In order that those who are possessed of these defects Might get rid of their defects. || 157 ||
Uttaratantra I:157 "The existence [of the element] is taught to relinquish these five faults: discouragement, disparagement of inferior beings, holding on to the inauthentic, denigration of the authentic truth, and considering ourselves to be superior.
(3) Third, explaining the damage to the explicit [[[teaching]]]: It is taught [in verses 84 to 93] from
With regard to considerations about whether the explanation of the Element of beings and the dharmakāya etc. should be taken literally or not, since the ten powers are inseparable from the qualities [of a Buddha], they are not other than a fully enlightened Buddha.
Detailed explanation of the support
The meaning of being the foundation of the three vehicles
Just as [we perceive the stages of realization] of the śrāvaka vehicle [and so forth, we similarly impute conventional names to the lineages in presenting the dharmadhātu as the nature of a cause because it acts to realize the Āryan dharmas.] 44
The meaning is, although the dharma sphere (dharmadhātu) of the mind of those of the śrāvaka vehicle is, in general, the buddha gotra, there is a reason for temporarily designating it with the term, śrāvaka gotra. It is because it is said to be the cause for producing all the qualities of a śrāvaka.
Although it is accepted that all three vehicles take as their focal object the dharmadhātu of their own mental continuum, there is no fault [that śrāvakas eliminate realise the selflessness of phenomena or eliminate obscurations to omniscience]. The pole of luminosity and awareness which is empty of
apprehender and apprehended is called the dharmadhātu (gzung ’dzin gnyis kyis stong pa’i gsal rig gi cha la chos kyi dbyings zhes bya). Furthermore, there is a classification into two: the emptiness of apprehender and apprehended that is made with respect to persons and the emptiness of apprehender and
apprehended which is made with respect to phenomena. Also, there is a distinction between the emptiness of the duality of apprehender and apprehended which is made in dependence on external objects and which is made in dependence on inner consciousness. Having thus made a threefold division, the three gotra bearers take these respectively as their object and cultivate a path cognising selflessness in accordance with respective focal object arises. .
As it says in the Madhyāntavibhāga [I:15]
And as it says in the Abhidharmasamuccaya,
Thus, the teaching that even the identitylessness of persons is the dharmadhātu is a tenet of Yogācāras. The master Zangpo too has clearly asserted this very point. It is not necessary to accept that if the dharmadhātu is cognised the identitylessness of phenomena is also cognised. Even if it were necessary, since the sphere of reality is only taken as a focal object, there is no entailment that it [the identitylessness of phenomena] is realised.
44 'grel pa don gsal : ji ltar nyan thos kyi theg pa la sogs pa rtogs pa'i rim gyis dmigs pa de bzhin du/ 'phags pa'i chos rtogs par bya ba'i phyir/ chos kyi dbyings rgyu'i ngo bor rnam par 'jog pa'i sgo nas rigs nyid du tha snyad 'dogs so/ / 45 "How should one understand the meaning of these synonyms?
Because emptiness is not something else, it is suchness and is, therefore, always present. Because it is unmistaken, it is perfectly genuine. It is, therefore, not a basis for error. Because it is their cessation, it is the absence of marks and is free of them all. Because it is the sphere that the
noble ones engage through wakefulness, it is the ultimate, the object of sacred wakefulness. And, because it is the cause of noble qualities, it is the basic field of phenomena. In other words, observing emptiness is the source of all noble qualities. Respectively, these are the meanings of the synonyms." 46 Abhidharmasamuccaya §10B(2) AS_ETEXT_V1_ALL.PDF
The way the divisions are tenable by way of examples [AA I:38 states]:
This means that although the dharma sphere of the mind in all three vehicles are similar in being the buddha gotra, there is a reason for positing three temporary (gnas skabs) gotra bearers. It is because the names of the supported developmental gotra having been used to label the foundational natural
gotra, there is a threefold classification of gotras and gotra bearers. For example, although three containers are alike [in terms of being] honey containers, they are classified as three [kinds] by way of [their different] contained contents.
The meaning of being the foundation of the thirteen practices How are there thirteen divisions when the dharmadhātu is taught as the foundation of practice? [Answer]: [It is] by way of the division of supported phenomena.
In what manner are they supported by the dharmadhātu ?
Practice in this case is mainly posited in terms of (kyi cha nas ‘jog) the wisdom that realises the identity lessness of phenomena. Also, it is taught that those who cognise [[[Wikipedia:Identity (social science)|identity]] lessness] make the dharmadhātu of their own [[[Wikipedia:continuum|continuum]]] their object of mode of apprehension because when [a person] meditates [on that object] those practices arise as the nature of the wisdom of the dharmadhātu. As for [this teaching] it is said:
There is an alternative way of explaining that teaching. Since all objects of knowledge exist [song ba] with respect to knowers that depend on the dharmadhātu, there is an extremely great pervasion.48
The wisdoms of the three vehicles too, having taken the dharma sphere as their focal object, there are no differences with respect to wisdom of the dharma sphere which is produced as its nature. However, there is no fault of the unwanted consequence that all three realise the identity lessness of phenomena because what is meant by the realisation of the identity lessness of phenomena is posited as a realisation of the all-embracing dharmadhātu (khyab pa’i chos dbyings) while the two vehicles only take a tiny part of (nyi tshe ba’i) the dharmadhātu as their focal objects, the realisation is only of that much.
[Concluding verse] The classification of the gotras of the individual gotra-bearers and The tathāgatagarbha is just as [I have explained]; The nature of the natural gotra too Is unfolded in this way by the developmental gotra.
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