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A Teaching on Guru Rinpoche's Supplication That

All Thoughts Be Self-Liberated

by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

Tashi Chling, Oregon, U.S.A.

November 18, 2002
Tashi Delek! I hope that for you everything is filled with auspiciousness,
happiness, and excellence. To meet you all here makes me very happy. Gyatrul
Rinpoche is a great friend of mine and I have heard a lot about his monastery here.
Today, to actually come and be able to see it, to see what a secluded and beautiful
place it is, makes me very happy.
I would like to explain to you a supplication that was composed by Guru Rinpoche, a
supplication that all thoughts be self-liberated. Guru Rinpoche composed seven
chapters of supplications for students to recite to him, and this one comes from a
chapter that he taught to the monk whose name was Namkha'i Nyingpo.
Before listening to this teaching, please give rise to the supreme motivation of
bodhichitta. When we give rise to bodhichitta, it means that for the benefit of all
sentient beings, limitless in number as the sky is vast in its extent, we aim to bring
our love and compassion to their ultimate perfection, and to bring our wisdom
realizing emptiness to its ultimate perfection. We know that in order to do this we
must listen to, reflect upon and meditate on the teachings of the genuine Dharma
with all the enthusiasm we can muster in our hearts.

The first verse of the supplication1 is:

All these forms that appear to eyes that see,
All things on the outside and the inside,
The environment and its inhabitants
Appear, but let them rest where no self's found;
Perceiver and perceived when purified
Are the body of the deity, clear emptiness
To the guru for whom desire frees itself,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.
What appear to the eyes are forms, which are made up of shapes and colors.
Everything that is a shape and color is included in the source of consciousness
(Sanskrit: ayatana) that is called form. The shapes and colors that appear to the eyes
are found in all of the aspects of the environment in which we live, as well as in all of
the sentient beings who inhabit this environment. What is the true nature of the
appearances of shapes and colors of the environment and sentient beings? It is that
they are dependently arisen mere appearances, which do not exist in essence. The
forms that appear do not truly exist. In the abiding nature of reality, their nature is
emptiness. They appear while being empty; while empty, they appear. They are
appearance-emptiness like rainbows, water-moons, and reflections. All of the objects
that appear to the eyes are appearance-emptiness undifferentiable.
As the protector Nagarjuna writes in his Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way2:
Like a dream, like an illusion
Like a city of gandharvas,
That's how birth, and that's how living,
That's how dying are taught to be.
The meaning of this verse and the one from Guru Rinpoche's supplication are exactly
the same.
This is the actual way forms are. They are appearance-emptiness undifferentiable,
but sentient beings do not see this because they think things truly exist, and their
thoughts that cling to the true existence of appearances obscure the appearanceemptiness that is their true nature. That is why we practice the Dharmato cleanse
ourselves of this clinging to appearances as truly existent so that we can realize
appearances' true nature is appearance-emptiness undifferentiable.
It is like when you dream and you do not know that you are dreaming. The
appearances in the dream are appearance-emptiness, but your thought that they
truly exist prevents you from seeing that. Even though the dream appearances are
appearance-emptiness and have no inherent nature, they seem to be real when you
do not know that you are dreaming. You think that they are real and you have
experiences that seem to confirm your belief that they are real.
But however much you cling to the appearances in a dream, that does not change
what the appearances are from their own side. The essential nature of these
appearances is unchanging appearance-emptiness. It never moves from being just
that. When you dream and you know you are dreaming, you are free of the thoughts
that fixate on the appearances as being truly existent. You are free from that
obscuration so you can experience the appearances just as they are: as appearanceemptiness. That enables you to do wonderful things like fly in the sky, move
unobstructedly through rock mountains, and travel to pure realms. All that is possible

when you recognize a dream for what it is, and in that way, not be blocked by
thinking that the appearances truly exist.
In our waking life, even though the environment and sentient beings appear to us, the
supplication says "let them rest where no self's found." The environment and sentient
beings appear, but let them rest without clinging to them as truly existent. Let them
rest in their natural state of appearance-emptiness without fixating on them as being
real. When we let the appearances rest without fixating on them as being real, all of
the thoughts of there being an actual object out there to perceive and an actual
distinct subject perceiving it just dissolve. The thoughts that take the duality of
perceived object and perceiving subject to be real dissolve. They are purified.
When that happens, everything shines as luminous emptiness, clarity-emptiness. At
this point, you are ready to meditate on the deity, because the deity's enlightened
body is also appearance-emptiness. It appears while it is empty; it is empty while it
appearsit is like a rainbow. When you meditate on the deity, everything appears as
the body of the deityappearance-emptiness.
When all of the appearances of the physical environment shine as the appearanceemptiness immeasurable palace of the deity, and all the sentient beings in the
environment shine as the appearance-emptiness enlightened bodies of the deities
themselves, then all desire is free in its own place. It is self-liberated. Thoughts of
desire do not come from anywhere and they do not go anywhere. They do not arise,
so they do not cease. Since they are free from coming and going, and free from
arising and ceasing, thoughts of desire are self-liberated. For this reason the verse
says, "To the guru for whom desire frees itself, To Orgyen Pema Jungnay, I
The second verse of the supplication is:
All these sounds that appear for ears that hear,
Taken as agreeable or not,
Let them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness
Past all thought, beyond imagination;
Sounds are empty, unarisen and unceasing,
These are what make up the Victor's teaching
To the teachings of the Victor, sound and emptiness,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.
What appear to the ears are sounds. What is the nature of this source of
consciousness that is sound? In fact, the sounds we hear are like sounds in a dream.
Their basic nature is that they are always appearance-emptinessthey appear while
being empty, and while being empty they appear.
The two main kinds of sounds we hear are those that we find pleasing and those we
do not. Both kinds of sounds, however, are equally appearance-emptiness, soundemptiness, just as the sounds in a dream are sound-emptiness. If we know this and
meditate on the mandala of the deities, then all sounds manifest as the natural
sounds of the deity's mantra: sound and emptiness.
From among the eight worldly dharmas,3 four of them are related to soundsounds
that are pleasing, sounds that are displeasing, sounds of praise, and sounds of
criticism. We need to give up attachment to the eight worldly dharmasthe four that
we like and the four that we do not. To do that, we can see that we need to realize
that sounds are sound-emptiness. Then we will not be attached to sounds that are

pleasant and sounds of praise, and we will not be averse to sounds of criticism and
unpleasant sounds.
In a dream, all sounds of praise and all sounds of criticism, all sounds we like and all
sounds we do not, are equally sound-emptiness. They have no inherent nature at all.
But when we do not know that we are dreaming, we think these sounds truly exist,
and we have experiences of happiness and suffering based on sounds of praise and
blame, sounds that we like, and sounds that we do not; all because we do not
recognize sounds' basic nature is sound-emptiness. Guru Rinpoche instructs: "Let
them rest in the realm of sound and emptiness/Past all thought, beyond imagination."
This is an instruction to rest free of clinging to sounds as being truly existent, free of
clinging to them as being real. In their basic nature that is sound and emptiness, just
let go and relax. Settle into your own basic nature within the nature of sound that is
sound and emptiness.
Since the enlightened body of the Buddha is appearance-emptiness, then the sound
of the Buddha's speech is also emptiness. It is sound-emptiness undifferentiable.
When you know that all sound lacks inherent nature in the same way, then all sound
is like the sound of the Buddha's teachings and all sound manifests as the
resonance-emptiness sound of the Buddha's speech. The last line of the supplication
reads, "To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate." Here Orgyen Pema Jungnay
represents the Buddha's speech that is the sound-emptiness abiding reality of all the
sound there is. To this Orgyen Pema Jungnay, we supplicate.
At the beginning of this twenty-first century, everywhere we go there are radios
playing, tape recorders playing, the sound of movies and televisionsthe world is
filled with sound. At this time, then, it is quite important to know that all sounds have
no inherent nature. They are sound-emptiness. These days, moment by moment,
sounds can be carried across the globe and change so many people's feelings all at
oncefrom happiness to suffering, from suffering to happiness. Just on the basis of
hearing a few sounds, millions of people's feelings can change. Also these days it is
easy to realize that sounds are sound-emptiness, because if you pick up the phone in
America at noon and you call somebody in another country, then for some people it
will be midnight, and for some people in other countries it will be morning. So at what
time is this sound really being made? In this way, we can easily recognize soundemptiness. If somebody in America calls someone in India and talks to them on the
phone, in America it is noon, in India it is midnight. A daytime mouth is talking to a
nighttime earat the same time! If sounds were truly existent, that would be
impossible. It would be a contradiction for sound made during the day to be heard
simultaneously at night. But it is not a contradiction when we know that it is just
sound-emptiness. Thinking about things in this way, during these times it is much
easier to understand how sound is sound-emptiness.
Also, these days a famous person can give a speech that is broadcast all over the
world. The people who like that person will hear that speech as something very
pleasant and beautiful. The people who do not like that person will find it repulsive to
listen to. The people who have no opinion do not have any reaction to that sound one
way or the other. If we ask, "What is that sound, really? Is it good or bad?" again we
see that the true nature of sound is inexpressible. These days, sounds beam down
from empty space. They come from empty buildings and even empty cars. It is
important for us to be able to examine these sounds and their sources to see that
they are sound-emptiness, because most of the suffering we experience comes from
hearing sounds. We need to train in the understanding of sound as it is taught in the
Middle Way, which is that in genuine reality, sounds are empty of any essence. In
apparent reality, they are dependently arisen mere appearances.

As the glorious Chandrakirti wrote,

Things do not arise causelessly, nor from Ishvara,
Nor from self, nor other, nor both;
Therefore, it is clear that things arise
Perfectly in dependence upon their causes and conditions.
Things do not arise from any of the four possible extremes: from self, other, both or
without cause, and there's no fifth possibility. Therefore, things do not truly arise
they do not come into existence; they do not actually happen. Then what is the
appearance of them happening? It is just like the appearance of things happening in
a dream; like the appearance of a moon shining on a pool of water; and like the
appearance of an illusion. It is dependently arisen mere appearance. In this way,
since sounds do not exist in genuine reality, and since in relative reality they are just
dependently arisen mere appearances, all sounds are simply sound-emptiness.
When you recite mantras, then mantras are also sound-emptiness.
We supplicate Guru Rinpoche at the end of the verse, because even though we
know that sounds are sound and emptiness, we are obscured from realizing that
directly by our thoughts that cling to sounds as being truly existent. We supplicate for
Guru Rinpoche's blessing so that these thoughts that sounds truly exist may
dissolve, and when they dissolve, that we will recognize the true nature of sound is
The third verse of the supplication is:
All these movements of mind towards its objects,
These thoughts that make five poisons and afflictions,
Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances,
Do not review the past nor guess the future;
If you let such movement rest in its own place,
It liberates into the dharmakaya
To the guru for whom awareness frees itself,
To Orgyen Pema Jungnay I supplicate.
For ordinary beings, mind is discursive. It moves. It moves towards objects. It moves
towards the three times. It is constantly thinking about one thing or another. Mind is
moved by thoughts of the five poisons. When mind encounters an object it likes, it
moves towards that object with thoughts of attachment. When mind encounters an
object it does not like, it moves towards that object with thoughts of aversion,
thoughts of anger. When mind judges something incorrectly, it moves towards that
object with bewilderment. When one's mind believes that one has qualities that one
does not have, it moves towards oneself with thoughts of arrogance. When mind
looks at somebody else and sees things that it does not have, it moves towards that
person with thoughts of jealously. In this way, thoughts of the five poisons constantly
move the mind. "Leave thinking mind to rest without contrivances." When thoughts of
the five poisons are moving the mind, just let mind rest without trying to fix anything,
without trying to change anything, without reviewing the past kleshas (disturbing
mental states) or wondering what happened to them; and without anticipating what
types of disturbing states of mind one might experience in the future. Do not review
the past, do not guess the future. Just let mind relax as it is right now.
We do not need to try to prevent thoughts of desire from arising. We do not need to
try to stop thoughts of anger or jealously once they have arisen. Do not try to prevent

anything; do not try to stop or change anything; just simply do not take any of those
movements of mind to be truly existent. That is the instruction because we could not
stop the thoughts of the five poisons from arising, even if we wanted to! We could not
do that, but we do not have to. All we have to do is recognize that these thoughts
lack any essence.
How do we do this? Whatever thought arises, look straight at it with your eye of
wisdom and settle into its basic nature. When you do that, all thoughts and all
disturbing states of mind are liberated within the dharmakaya. They are self-liberated.
The whole collection of thoughts is free just as it is. This is awareness, and this
awareness is awareness-emptiness. Since this awareness-emptiness is pure in
nature, whatever obscurations there may be have no essence. Awareness itself is
self-liberated. It is free just as it is.
Then we supplicate the guru whose awareness is self-liberated. This is Guru
Rinpoche. For Guru Rinpoche, awareness frees itself. We supplicate you Orgyen
Pema Jungnay for your blessings so that we may realize, as you do, the selfliberation of awareness.
The Lord of Yogis Milarepa sang in his vajra song of realization called "The Three
To describe the nails of meditation, the three
All thoughts in being dharmakaya are free
Awareness is luminous, in its depths is bliss
And resting without contrivance is equipoise
All thoughts are dharmakaya in their nature. Thoughts are free all by themselves,
without having to do anything to them, stop them, or change them in any way. They
are naturally dharmakaya. What is dharmakaya like? It is luminous. It is awareness. It
is bliss. How do we experience this dharmakaya in meditation? Rest without
contrivance. Rest without artifice. This is equipoise. This is the experience of
dharmakaya. The verses of Milarepa and Guru Rinpoche have the same meaning.
What is awareness-emptiness like? Milarepa described it in the following way in the
song "The Ten Things it is Like"5:
When you know the true nature of everything to be known
The wisdom that's aware of the true nature's like a cloud-free sky
With these two lines, Milarepa tells us the emptiness aspect of awareness is like the
sky completely free of clouds. Then he sings:
When the mud settles down and mind's river is crystal clear
Self-arisen awareness is like a polished mirror's shine
Milarepa illustrates the luminous, bright, vivid aspect of awareness with the example
of a perfectly polished mirror's sparkling shine. In this way, we see what emptiness is
like, we see what awareness is like, and then we can understand that the two are
The great pandit Shakya Chokden described the noble Asanga's explanation of
genuine reality as follows:
Clarity-emptiness, mere awareness, empty of the duality of perceived and

perceiver is all phenomena's abiding reality.

Knowing this and combining it with a limitless accumulation of merit, the
spontaneously present three kayas will manifest.
This is Asanga's tradition.
In this way, Asanga presents the true nature of reality of all phenomena as nondual
luminous emptiness, nondual awareness-emptiness. The explanation that the true
nature of reality is emptiness beyond all concept of what it might be is the
presentation of the Middle Way Consequence School (Prasangika Madhyamaka).
The presentation of the true nature of reality as awareness-emptiness, luminous
clarity, is the presentation of the Shentong Madhyamaka, the Empty of Other Middle
Way School, and also the presentation of the Mahamudra and Dzogchen traditions.
What does the term "empty of other" or shentong mean? This is described in the text
called the Gyu Lama, the Treatise on Buddha Nature:
The element is empty of that which is separable from it, all fleeting stains.
But it is not empty of that which is inseparable from it, its own unsurpassable
"Empty of other" means that the buddha nature, the true nature of mind, luminous
clarity, awareness, is empty of that which is different from it: stains and flaws. It is
empty of those. But it is not empty of the spontaneously present qualities, the
naturally present qualities of enlightenment. These unsurpassable qualities are totally
inseparable from the true nature of mind.
In short, this supplication is a supplication that we will manifest our own basic nature.
We supplicate the guru to bless us so that we can manifest the awareness-emptiness
that is the true nature of mind. It is a supplication that all appearances will be selfliberated as the enlightened body of the deity, all sounds will be self-liberated as the
enlightened speech of the deity, and all thoughts will be self-liberated as essential
reality itself.
The last verse of the supplication sums it all up:
Grant your blessing that purifies appearance
Of objects perceived as being outside;
Grant your blessing that liberates perceiving mind,
The mental operation seeming inside;
Grant your blessing that between the two of these
Clear light will come to recognize its own face;
In your compassion, sugatas of all three times,
Please bless me that a mind like mine be freed.
Grant your blessings that all clinging to objects on the outside as truly existent will be
self-liberated. Grant your blessings that all thoughts on the inside will be selfliberated. Grant your blessings that in between, luminous clarity, Dzogchen, will
recognize its own face. In your compassion, realized buddhas of all three times, grant
your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from clinging to
characteristics. Grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be freed from
the bondage of samsara. Grant your blessings that I and all sentient beings may be
freed from the bondage of believing that duality truly exists. Grant your blessing that
all of our concepts of duality will be self-liberated.
My departing prayer is that Gyatrul Rinpoche be healthy, that he live a long life, and
that his activity for the benefit of all sentient beings flourish. And I pray that all of you,

his students, bring your activities of listening to, reflecting on and meditating on the
teachings of the genuine Dharma to their perfection and that, through this, you are of
great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings. And especially here at
Tashi Chling may the teachings of the practice and explanation lineages flourish
and bring great benefit to all of the beings of this land.
Translated by Ari Goldfield.

The Guru Rinpoche Prayer is translated by Jim Scott.

Translated by Jim Scott and Ari Goldfield.
The eight worldly dharmas are what worldly beings strive to attain or avoid. The four
not explicitly mentioned in this paragraph are happiness, pain, gain, and loss.
Translated by Jim Scott.
Translated by Jim Scott and Ari Goldfield.

Self-Liberated Appearances, Self-Arisen Wisdom

by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
Outside the three realms are shining in freedom
Inside the wisdom, self-arisen, shines
And in between is the confidence of realizing basic being
Ive got no fear of the true meaningthats all Ive got!
In this verse Milarepa sings about his realization of the true nature of reality. To
realize the true nature of reality, the necessary outer condition is for the three
realms to be shining in freedom. The three realms refer to the universe and all of
the sentient beings within it. Sentient beings inhabit the desire realm, the form realm,
and the formless realm, so these three realms include all the experiences that one
could possibly have, and they are shining in freedomthey are self-liberated.*
Self-liberation in one sense means that appearances of the three realms do not
require an outside liberator to come and set them free, because freedom and purity
are their very nature. This is because appearances of the three realms are not real.
They are like appearances in dreams. They are the mere coming together of
interdependent causes and conditions; they have no essence of their own, no
inherent nature. This means that the appearances of the three realms are
appearance-emptiness inseparable, and therefore, the three realms are free right
where they are. Freedom is their basic reality. However, whether our experience of
life in the three realms is one of freedom or bondage depends upon whether we
realize their self-liberated true nature or not. It is like dreaming of being imprisoned: If
you do not know you are dreaming, you will believe that your captivity is truly
existent, and you will long to be liberated from it. But if you know you are dreaming,
you will recognize that your captivity is a mere appearance, and that there is really no
captivity at allthe captivity is self-liberated. Realizing that feels very good.
The term self-liberation is also used in the Mahamudra and Dzogchen teachings,
which describe appearances as self-arisen and self-liberated. This means that
phenomena have no truly existent causes. For example, with a car that appears in a
dream, you cannot say in which factory that car was made. Or with the person who
appears in the mirror when you stand in front of it, you cannot say where that person
was born. Since the dream car and the person in the mirror have no real causes for
arising, all we can say about them is that they are self-arisen, and therefore they are
also self-liberated.
When we apply this to an experience of suffering, we find that since our suffering has
no real causes, it does not truly arise, like suffering in a dream. So it is self-arisen,
and therefore it is self-liberated. Since the suffering is not really there in the first
place, it is pure and free all by itself. And apart from knowing self-liberation is
sufferings essential nature and resting within that, we do not need to do anything to
alleviate it.
Thus, Milarepa sings that what one needs on the inside is to realize self-arisen
original wisdom. This wisdom is the basic nature of mind, the basic nature of reality,
and all outer appearances are this wisdoms own energy and play. Original wisdom is
self-arisen in the sense that it is not something created; it does not come from
causes and conditions; it does not arise anew, because it has been present since
beginningless time as the basic nature of what we are. We just have to realize it. The
realization of original wisdom, however, transcends there being anything to realize
and anyone who realizes something, because original wisdom transcends duality.

How can we gain certainty about and cultivate our experience of this wisdom? Since
wisdom is the true nature of mind, begin by looking at your mind. When you look at
your mind, you do not see anything. You do not see any shape or color, or anything
that you could identify as a thing. When you try to locate where your mind is, you
cannot find it inside your body, outside your body, nor anywhere in between. So mind
is unidentifiable and unfindable. If you then rest in this unfindability, you experience
minds natural luminous clarity. That is the beginning of the experience of original
wisdom. For Milarepa, original wisdom is shining. It is manifesting brightly through his
realization of the nature of the three realms and of his own mind.
In the third line, Milarepa sings of his confidence of realizing the true nature of reality,
the true meaning. There are the expressions and words that we use to describe
things, and the meaning that these words refer tohere Milarepa is singing about the
latter. He is certain about the basic nature of reality, and as he sings in the fourth
line, he has no fear of it, no doubts about what it is. He is also not afraid of the truth
and reality of emptiness. When he sings: thats all Ive got, he is saying: I am not
somebody great. I do not have a high realization. All I have got is this much. This is
Milarepas way of being humble.
One can easily be frightened by teachings on emptiness. It is easy to think:
Everything is empty, so I am all alone in an infinite vacuum of empty space. If you
have that thought, it is a sign that you need to meditate more on the selflessness of
the individual. If you think of yourself as something while everything else is nothing, it
is easy to get a feeling of being alone in empty space. However, if you remember that
all phenomena, including you yourself, are equally of the nature of emptiness,
beyond the concepts of something and nothing, then you will not be lonely; you
will be open, spacious, and relaxed.
In the context of this verse, it is helpful to consider a stanza from the Song of
Mahamudra by Jamgn Kongtrl Lodr Thaye:
From mind itself, so difficult to describe,
Samsara and nirvanas magical variety shines.
Knowing it is self-liberated is view supreme.
Mind itself, the true nature of mind, original wisdom, is difficult to describeit is
inexpressible. And from this inexpressible true nature of mind come all the
appearances of samsara and nirvana. Appearances do not exist separately from the
mind. What appears has no nature of its own. Appearances are merely minds own
energy; minds own radiance; minds own light. And so appearances are a magical
display. To describe the appearances of samsara and nirvana as a magical variety
means that they are not realthey are magic, like a magicians illusions.
Appearances are the magical display of the energy of the inexpressible true nature of
mind. When we know this, we know that appearances are self-arisen and selfliberated, and that is the supreme view we can have.
* Most sentient beings, including animals and humans, inhabit the desire realm,
so named because desire for physical and mental pleasure and happiness is the
overriding mental experience of beings in this realm. The form realm and the
formless realm are populated by gods in various meditative states who are very
attached to meditative experiences of clarity and the total absence of thoughts,

Awareness and the Expanse

by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
When one realizes this nature of mind that is the awareness and the expanse
undifferentiable, then all conceptual fabrications are pacified and the darkness of
ignorance is completely dispelled.
We practice the genuine dharma because it is a method for clearing away the
temporary stains that obscure our vision of the true nature of mind. The abiding
nature of our mind is clear light. It is the buddha nature, the undifferentiability of
clarity and emptiness. In its essence, it is primordially pure and primordially free from
any stain at all. It has been free and pure from the very beginning. Yet, although this
is the basic nature of mind, there are temporary, adventitious stains, which are not of
the nature of mind but which, nevertheless, prevent us from realizing what it is.
The fact that the true nature of mind could be this clear light, the buddha nature that
is completely free of any imperfection at all, and yet be obscured by temporary
stains, is called the first of the "four inconceivable points" in a text called the Gy
Lama. This text presents the highest view in the continuum of the Mahayana
teachings. Why is this point inconceivable? It seems to be quite a contradiction to
state that the basic nature of mind is pure and, at the same time, there are stains that
prevent us from seeing it. If the true nature of our mind is pure, why then dont we
realize this?
The situation is like gold that is pure and yet is obscured by some coarser mineral; it
is like water that is pure in essence, and yet is muddied by dirt; it is like the sun that
is shining and yet is blocked from our view by clouds. The purpose of practicing
dharma is to clear away these temporary stains so that the essence of mind shines
forth. At that time, mind will be like pure gold that is refined of all impure materials. It
will be like pure water, uncontaminated by any trace of dirt. It will be like the sun
shining in a cloudless sky. We can understand how this apparently contradictory
point is not contradictory when we consider such examples. On the surface, there
might appear to be a contradiction while, fundamentally, there is not.
The qualities of the basic nature of this clear light, or buddha nature, are that it is
naturally open, spacious and relaxed. When a person realizes this directly, they are
freed from the bondage of their conceptuality; they are no longer bound by
conceptual mind. Further, this realization benefits not only those who have
experienced it directly, but it also benefits us while we are still in the process of
listening to and reflecting upon these teachings. As we develop our understanding,
we progressively gain certainty that the nature of this mind will help to release us
from the bondage of our thoughts, and from the bondage of our own anger and
The glorious Third Gyalwa Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, described the true nature
of mind as the undifferentiability of awareness and the expanse. The quality of the
expanse refers to the transcendence of all conceptual notions; it cannot be
described in words or grasped by thought. It is the great openness transcending all
conceptuality. The quality of awareness describes the natural state of the mind,
which is clear, luminous, and bright. This quality of luminosity is what is meant by
This description by the Third Karmapa of the basic nature of the mind as the
undifferentiability of awareness and the expanse is the perfect unification of the

intention of the Buddhas speech in both the Second and the Third Turnings of the
Wheel of Dharma. The description of this mind as being in the nature of the expanse
is the aspect that is in harmony with what is taught in the Second Turning of the
Wheel of Dharma. The Second Turning sutras of the Transcendent Perfection of
Wisdom, or the Prajnaparamita, describe the basic nature of reality as transcending
all conceptual fabrication, as being beyond any conventional name, term, or
description. Furthermore, the awareness aspect, the natural clarity and luminosity of
mind, is in harmony with the Buddhas intention in the sutras on buddha nature,
which constitute the Third Turning of the Wheel.
When one realizes this nature of mind that is the awareness and the expanse
undifferentiable, then all conceptual fabrications are pacified and the darkness of
ignorance is completely dispelled. It is through our realization of the aspect of the
expansethe transcendence of all conceptual fabricationsthat conceptual mind is
completely pacified; and it is through our realization of the aspect of awarenessthe
luminous nature of mindthat the clarity of awareness dispels the darkness of
When one gains stable certainty that, in fact, the nature of reality is awareness
and expanse undifferentiable, then realizing the nature of reality as bliss-emptiness,
mahamudra, or as awareness-emptiness, dzogchen, becomes quite easy.
The great scholar and master, Mipham Chokle Namgyal, said, If one seeks to
master the basic nature of alpha purity, or kadak, it is necessary to perfect ones
understanding of the view of the Prasangika, or the Consequence School. Alpha
purity describes the basic nature of mind as it is expressed in the dzogchen
descriptions. If one wishes to realize dzogchen, alpha purity, or trekcho, as it is also
called, then one must perfect ones understanding of the Consequence School. That
is, one must realize that the nature of reality transcends all conceptual fabrications; it
cannot be described by any conceptual terms. This is the aspect of the expanse. If
one recognizes this, then it is easy to realize the mahamudra because, as Milarepa
The view is original wisdom which is empty
Meditation clear light free of fixation
Conduct continual flow without attachment
Fruition is nakedness stripped of every stain.
The view is original wisdom, which is empty, describes awareness, which is empty
of any flaw, empty of any type of conceptual fabrication, and cannot be described by
any conventional terms.
If one is able to gain certainty that the nature of mind is awareness and the expanse
undifferentiable, then one will perfect the intention of the glorious Sixteenth Gyalwa
Karmapa, Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, who expressed this realization again and again.
The buddha nature, itself, is nothing other than the awareness and the expanse
undifferentiable. It is very important for us to gain certainty that this is the case
through the practices of listening and reflecting. This has been a brief explanation of
the view of the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, and the Sixteenth Karmapa,
Rangjung Rigpe Dorje, which expresses the true nature of reality as awareness and
the expanse undifferentiable.

Shentong An Introduction
by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche
Before listening to Lord Buddhas teachings, I want to ask you to give rise to
supreme bodhicitta. Supreme bodhicitta is generated and increased by first thinking
of ones father and mother in this life and then extending the gratitude and love one
feels for them to all sentient beings, even to ones enemies. We want to attain the
state of complete, perfect, and precious enlightenment for their sake. We know that
in order to be able to benefit all sentient beings, we need to listen to, reflect, and
meditate upon the genuine Dharma teachings with all the enthusiasm we can muster
in our hearts. Please give rise to supreme bodhicitta when you listen attentively.
We think of our parents first, because the fact that we are able to practice the
Dharma in this lifetime is due to the immense kindness they have shown us. We think
of our enemies, too, because they are the ones who give us the exceptional
opportunity to practice patience when they are unkind and hurt us. Furthermore,
there is not a single enemy who was not our caring father or mother at one time in
the past, so that is why we remember them with gratitude. We think of the nature of
the minds of the people we are associated with - our friends, our enemies, and all
sentient beings. We know that every single sentient beings nature of mind is clear
light, the enlightened heart that is the Buddha nature. Since everyone has Buddha
nature, we can be sure that we will benefit others immensely. Just as the nature of
our own mind is clear light, the nature of our parents minds is also clear light.
Likewise, the nature of mind of all our friends and enemies is clear light. The nature
of mind of every single sentient being is luminosity, clear light.
In the nature of the mind there is no stain. There is not the slightest conceptual
fabrication in the minds true nature, and that is why mind is known as empty of
other, gzhan-stong. Since the ineffable nature of mind of every single sentient being
is clear light and since the essence of this clear light is free of the slightest stain that
arises due to dualistic fixations and mental constructs, one can develop the vast
understanding that the one who apprehends (the subject) and what is apprehended
(objects) have the same essence. Knowing this enables practitioners to develop
inconceivable compassion and a pure vision of reality. Knowing that relative
apprehensions are self-empty, rang-stong, and knowing that minds true nature is
empty of other, gzhan-stong, a sincere practitioner no longer slips into garments
that are extreme views about creation or cessation. Seeing that all phenomena that
can be apprehended are empty of an own essence, one no longer clings to the
extreme of permanence. Seeing that minds true nature is replete with many
invaluable qualities that manifest spontaneously and naturally, one no longer clings
to the extreme of nihilism or cessation. Since all relative phenomena that appear are
empty of a self, it is conclusive that the mind that apprehends and conceives relative
appearances is also empty of a self. Since minds true nature transcends what can
be accomplished, affirmed, or refuted, then what one thinks must be accomplished
and what one thinks must be abandoned are always and already pure and free.
It is taught that if one overcomes beliefs in a truly existing self, in truly existing
mental afflictions, in truly existing difficulties, in truly existing suffering, and so forth,
then one will have peace. But since everything is empty of an own essence already,
then why worry about momentary mental constructs regarding things that need to be
abandoned or not abandoned? Nobody has ever seen nor was able to prove that
thoughts about abandoning and not abandoning arise and cease, i.e., come and go.
Nobody has ever perceived these thoughts and never will, because their nature is

emptiness. Doubts as to whether thoughts are born and cease again cannot be said
to be the results of either bondage or of liberation. However, momentary perceptions
and apprehensions are solidified through resulting temporary conceptions by insisting
that what was apprehended denotes either bondage or liberation. Just like thoughts
that arise in a dream, ideas about bondage and liberation are merely imagined, kunbrtags.1
Everyone, even those beings who are entangled and bound in mental constructs,
has no perceptible essence. Doubts that arise in the mind of a practitioner and that
keep him or her in bondage can never be found to arise or cease. Thoughts about
bondage depend upon thoughts about liberation and vice versa. Concepts merely
arise in the mind and are ever dependent upon each other,gzhan-dbang.2
Let clinging to all constructed limitations subside into the unborn expanse
of dharmadhatu spros-pa-mtha'-dag-chos-dbyings-su-nub-pa.
Since this life is appearance-emptiness and like a reflection of the moon on a
pond, past and future lives are also appearance-emptiness and like reflections of
moons on ponds. Feeling happy and feeling sad are just like thoughts that arise in a
dream. If we know this well, then we will have realized the profound view, which is
wisdom devoid of all mental fabrications - spros-pa-thams-cad-dang-bral-ba'i-yeshes.
Just like every appearance in the relative world is empty of itself, the clear light is
empty of adventitious, fleeting stains, glo-bur-gyi-dri-ma-med-pa. In other words,
the clear light is empty of adventitious, fleeting thoughts, glo-bur-gyi-rnam-rtogmed-pa. Proponents of the empty-of-other view are masters and disciples of what
has come to be known as gzhan-stong-dbu-ma, the
Shentong Great Madhyamika School.3
Since the minds essence is primordially pure and free of stains that are other
than the minds essence, minds true nature is referred to as transcendent perfection
of authentic purity. Since the minds essence is other than the self that one believes
in and clings to and since the minds essence is other than non-self or selflessness
discovered through inference and deduction, minds true nature is referred to as the
genuine self. But how can stains of erroneous notions about it conceal minds true
nature? Minds true nature is beyond the self one thinks one perceives and then
imputes to be real and it is beyond the notion of selflessness one thinks one has
discovered through logical reasoning. Minds true nature is called genuine self since
it is beyond any assumptions of both a self as well as non-self or selflessness.
Samsara and nirvana are conceptualised and imputed in reciprocal dependence
upon each other and therefore neither the one nor the other is independent,
i.e., samsara and nirvana depend upon each other. When a practitioner sees the
equality and undivided nature of samsara and nirvana by having realized that the
essence of both is emptiness, then he or she has realized transcendent perfection of
real permanence. Happiness and suffering are conceptualised and imputed in
reciprocal dependence upon each other, too, and therefore neither the one nor the
other is independent, i.e., happiness and suffering depend upon each other. When a
practitioner sees the equality and undivided nature of happiness and suffering by
having realized that the essence of both is emptiness, then he or she has realized
transcendent perfection of bliss. Then the transcendent self, unchanging
permanence, and pure bliss have been fully established, yongs-grub.4

This was a brief explanation of the way relative appearances and experiences
are empty of self, rang-stong, and the way true reality is empty of other, gzhan-stong.
May all of you realize the true nature of mind
that is steadfast, peace, unchanging, and constant and
through that be of great benefit to the limitless number of sentient beings.
Instructions presented at Vajra Vidya Thrangu House in Oxford, 2000,
Translated by Ari Goldfield
Transcribed and edited by Gaby Hollmann

Further definitions of kun-tu-brtags-pa (kun-brtags) are imputed, imaginary,

conceptualized, conceptual. Kun-tu-brtags-pai-ma-rig-pa means conceptual
ignorance, non-recognition of intrinsic awareness resulting in conceptual imputation,
ignorance of the imaginary.
Further definitions of gzhan-dbang are dependent conditionality, dependent
phenomena, other powered, controlled by externals, the dependency nature,
dependent category, conditioned, relative dependence, external influence.
The lineage of masters of the Shentong School that focuses on emptiness
indivisible from luminosity, clear light, include Yumo Mikyo Dorje, the founder of the
school, Tukje Tsondru, Dolpowa Sherab Gyaltsen, and Taranatha. Michael Sheely and Rudy Harderwijk wrote: According to the Jonang,
the Shentong view of emptiness was taught by the Buddha, elaborated in India, and
later transmitted into Tibet. Among the early Tibetan authors
on Shentong was Yumo Mikyo Dorje, an 11th century Kalachakra yogi. He was a
disciple of Somanatha, the Sanskrit Pandit and Kalachakra master from Kashmir who
translated the Vimalaprabha - the great Kalachakra commentary - into Tibetan
with Dro Lotsawa. Yumo is said to have received the Shentong teachings while
practicing the Kalachakra six-limbed yoga in the Mt. Kailash area of Western Tibet.
He then taught Shentong as a secret doctrine to his closest disciples. - In
1294, Kunpang Tukje Tsondru (1243-1313) founded the main Jonang monastery
in Jomonang, which gave the name to the tradition. Reportedly, this monastery was
modeled on the traditional layout of the Kingdom of Shambhala as shown
on Shambhala thangka paintings. Tukje Tsondru also arranged and gathered
together the Six Yoga Kalachakra practice traditions that existed in Tibet at that time.
- In the early 14th century, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292-1361) became the main
figure of the Jonang. After studying each of the existing Buddhist traditions in Tibet
including the Sakya, Kagyu, and Nyingma, Dolpopa settled
in Jomonang. Dolpopa then served as the abbot of Jonang Monastery and in the
year 1333 completed the Great Stupa of Jonang. - Dolpopa was the first to
extensively teach Shentong. In his most famous work, Mountain Dharma: An Ocean
of Definitive Meaning, Dolpopa clarified the Shentong view. These are referred to as
the teachings of the Heart's Meaning. - The Jonang has generated a number of
renowned Buddhist scholars. Among these was Jetsun Taranatha (15751634). Taranatha placed great emphasis on the Kalachakra Tantra and
founded Takten Phuntsok Ling Monastery (near Shigatse). He is widely known as
one of the greatest scholars, historians, and practitioners of his time (the current
Eminence the Ninth Khalkha Jetsun Dhampa is considered a reincarnation
of Taranatha). Two of Taranatha's best known works are his History of Buddhism in
India and Origins of the Tara Tantra, or as it is also called, The Golden
Rosary. Online in: The International Kalachakra Network (April, 2007).
Yongs-grub also means absolute, unchanging, unmistaken.