Geshe Michael Roach gives a really inspiring and deep teaching at The Three jewels in New York City about 9 great ideas from different schools of ancient Indian Buddhism. Understanding these oftentimes subtle differences in the presentation of emptiness will deeply enhance your understanding and practice.
Mixed Nuts Thoughts: Important Ideas from the Ancient Schools of Buddhism (2019, New York)
Interactive Outline / Time Codes
Click anywhere in the outline and the link will take you to the exact spot in the video.
0:09 – There’s roughly 9 different types of Buddhist languages (schools / ideas) that a Geshe will learn in their studies. Geshe Michael will go through one idea from each of these different schools today in this teaching. There as also a public talk last night at the Lincoln Center and Geshela didn’t finish covering all of the material. So he’ll also finish that here in this class.
2:38 – At the end of this class he’ll also talk about the history and future direction of ACI.
4:51 – Starting from the lowest school’s ideas then working up.
4:54 – (1st School) Abhidharma Kosha
Treasure House of Higher Knowledge
1700 years ago
There was kind of a “dark ages” in Buddhism for 7 centuries after Lord Buddha passed, from 500 B.C. to 200 A.D..
5:13 – Immediately after Lord Buddha passed from this world his teachings on emptiness were immediately misunderstood and interpreted in a much lower version called the Abhidharma school. As a result, these ideas weren’t really as effective for 7 centuries.
5:42 – In the Geshe program you don’t really study this school (Abhidharma) until the end of the Geshe program – the final 2 years. When Geshe Michael first went to live with his teacher he was teaching Abhidharma, so was able to study it for the first 12 years. They also translated the First Dalai Lama’s commentary on the Abhidharmakosha.
6:11 – Abhidharma is dear to Geshe Michael’s heart and it’s also the basis of DCI. Most of DCI’s material you can find somewhere in the Abhidharmakosha, especially the 4th chapter which is on karma. This presentation of karma is also complete and accepted by all schools of Buddhism. The foundation of the 4 Steps, etc. all comes from there.
7:42 – The idea / quote from the Abhidharma school is:
Is there any pure thing in this world?
Can we make the world pure?
The Abhidharma Kosha begins by explaining that everything in the world can be divided into 2 types: stained and unstained (sak je and sak me).
9:00 – Geshela studied Abhidharma for 12 years but he’s really only starting to appreciate it now. What this idea is saying is 99.9% of all the things in the world will cause you pain. The Abhidharma is a list of things which can hurt you and things that can help you. They also divide all the things in the world into changing and unchanging—existing things which do have a cause and existing things which don’t have a cause. Examples of unchanging things are: space, cessations (ie. the end of anger in a human heart), and emptiness itself.
10:01 – In the entire universe there’s only 1 changing thing which will not hurt you—the study of the Dharma and the understanding of emptiness.
11:47 – In the entire universe there’s only 3 unchanging things which will not hurt you.
(1) Space, which means the place in which you, or any other thing, is occupying. That place will still be here when you get up and walk somewhere else. Even if the planet is destroyed and blows up that space will not change. Obviously space doesn’t hurt people, so it’s one of the unchanging things that doesn’t cause pain.
12:25 – (2) Cessation. These can be divided in 2: sosor tang pay gokpa (སོ་སོར་བརྟགས་པའི་འགོག་པ་) and sosor tang min gokpa (བརྟགས་མིན་འགོག་པ་). One comes from a lesser understanding of emptiness, and the other from a direct perception of emptiness. If you teach the pen correctly then a person gets a lower (intellectual) understanding of emptiness, and because of that understanding certain negativities begin to become impossible for them.
If you start to understand intellectually that an irritating person who is not coming from your karmic seeds is impossible and doesn’t exist you start the process of becoming a person who cannot get angry. Nobody can make you upset and you start to travel to nirvana, which is the permanent end of anger and all other mental afflictions.
14:16 – An example of an intellectual understanding of emptiness is an understanding that the people who irritate you are not coming from themselves. Emptiness is always a double negative, without the double negative it’s dependent origination—it’s coming from you. They are flip sides of the same coin. You irritated someone in the past and now you are meeting an irritating person. If you really understand emptiness you will get less and less angry each time you encounter an irritating person.
14:55 – In Abhidharma terms, sosor tang min gokpa (བརྟགས་མིན་འགོག་པ་) means that it does not depend on the direct perception of emptiness and can be produced by an intellectual understanding of emptiness.
15:10 – (3) The final unchanging thing in the Abhidharma school which will not hurt you is sosor tang pay gokpa (སོ་སོར་བརྟགས་པའི་འགོག་པ་)—the cessations which come as a direct result of seeing emptiness directly. Sosor in this case means that individually you see the 4 Arya Truths (mistranslated as the 4 Noble Truths). There are 4 things you understand when you see emptiness directly. Because of these 4 truths, certain negativities are permanently stopped inside you—there’s a cessation for them. As a result of this cessation you start to reach nirvana and become a Buddha.
16:51 – (2nd School) Vinaya Sutra
The Book of Vowed Morality
Master Gunaprabha 1400 years ago
The 2nd school is the ancient vowed morality or Vinaya, and it’s considered to be part of the lower school (Abhidharma). What they’re working on now in the translation of Master Gunaprabha’s book are the 364 full nun’s vows. This lineage was broken in Tibet 1,000 years ago due to an evil king who killed most of the monastics. It takes 12 nuns to make a new nun, so he killed all but 11 and broke the lineage. There hasn’t been a full recognized linage of full nuns in Tibet since then.
18:08 – In the translation they’re restoring the version of the nun’s vows which came to Tibet. There are 18 different versions of the Vinaya.
19:32 – So the important idea from this school comes from the mid-level nun’s vows. These are defined as serious enough to confess, but not serious enough to get kicked out of the monastery for a day. Here’s the idea:
Not to stand
in a covered place: both appearances,
You’re allowed to stand with a man in an open place, but not somewhere which is hidden from view. This whole idea and vow relates to an ancient teaching from Abhidharma called ngotsa (shame) and trel yu (consideration). Shame is defined as avoiding a bad deed because of your own conscience or self-esteem. Consideration is defined as avoiding a bad deed because of concern for what others will think about you. According to Abhidharma, every time you do a good karma you have both of these going on in your mind.
20:44 – This teaching in the Abhidharma comes from these particular vows. Trel yu (consideration) is easy to understand. You don’t do anything bad in public because you’re afraid other people will see what you’re doing. It’s still a virtue. According to Abhidharma, this is present in the mind when you’re doing a good karma. It’s not only other people’s perception of yourself, but you also try to control yourself and be a good person because you don’t want to upset other people.
22:33 – Ngotsa (shame) is more subtle. Even if you were in your room alone, and you had a chance to do something bad, you control yourself and avoid doing something bad because of your own self-esteem. You avoid doing something negative because it’s not who you want to be.
23:17 – Every time you do a good karma these 2 thoughts / motivations are swimming around in your mind somewhere. That’s a very very important teaching from this second example of this lowest school—a version of Abhidharma called Vinaya.
23:50 – (3rd School) Pramana Vartika
A Commentary on Valid Perception
1350 years ago
24:21 – Pramana means a correct or accurate perception. You’re not drunk, crazy, or overwhelmed by jealousy or other emotions and see things that aren’t there. Pramana means you don’t have any of these things affecting you and your perception is correct. So this is a whole school of Buddhism called Sautrantika which means “followers of sutra”.
25:08 – They don’t agree with the Abhidharma schools because they say they’re not following sutra, but following a book which was compiled by a group of 500 scholars who met after the Buddha died.
25:38 – So this idea of the Sautrantika school comes from A Commentary on Valid Perception (Pramana Vartika) by Master Dharmakirti. How do you know when you’re having a valid perception? When you look at a cow, how do you see a cow? You’re looking at parts (legs and horns), and how does your mind make a “cow” out of the parts? This is the main subject of the Sautantrika school.
26:07 – This important idea comes from a subject called yul yul yan. Yul means all the possible objects of perception. Yul is called desha in Sanskrit and it came to mean a place. Yul can means the state of mind holding the object. In English we say “subject and object”.
26:51 – If you understand yul yul can correctly (object and state of mind holding the object) this idea that when you see emptiness directly somehow the mind (subject) becomes the object (emptiness) is mistaken. It is described as “pouring water in to water”, but you definitely have a state of mind going on otherwise you couldn’t be there and be seeing emptiness.
27:11 – “Non-duality” or “water into water” doesn’t mean that your mind disappears. The word itself for object (yul) and subject (yul can) means it has to be that way by definition. Your mind never turns off—it has gone on for countless eons and it won’t turn off. You can do anything but you can’t turn off the mind. It will be forever.
27:47 – In this text there’s a cool idea about the levels of objects:
The layers of perception:
how real is the
second husband in the kitchen?
There are many beautiful terms. 5 levels of objects. dmigs-yul, zhen-yul, ‘dzin-stangs-kyi yul, dngos-yul, and gzung-yul.
If i’m looking at someone’s face, the color and shape is called dmigs-yul, it means the object i’m looking (dmigs) at. And for Geshe Michael right now it’s also a dngos-yul, a direct perception of Ori’s face. Tomorrow when he’s on the plane to Tokyo he’ll have an indirect perception, a memory. Then Ori’s face becomes an indirect object.
29:44 – Why is this important in the study of emptiness? Seeing a face directly or indirectly, what does this have to do with what Geshe Michael said about Abhidharma?
Emptiness can be a dngos-yul or a gzung-yul. When Geshe Michael teaches emptiness with the pen you’re having a dngos-yul. You’re understanding emptiness, but not directly. You are figuring it out from what he says. Then one day it becomes a dngos-yul, a direct perception, so it’s a big difference. Geshe Michael likes to say it’s the difference between hugging your friend or thinking about them when they’re ten miles away. The direct perception is much more satisfying. It’s much more satisfying to hug emptiness directly than think about it with a pen.
31:09 – 3 ways you can perceive emptiness intellectually / indirectly (gzung-yul): (1) logic, (2) convention, and through (3) authority.
32:45 – The next is ‘dzin-stangs-kyi yul—how you take his face. In the deeper studies it becomes zhen-yul—a feeling you have about it which is mistaken. There’s a feeling that it’s coming from its own side. When you cut the zhen-yul then you understand the object correctly—it’s not coming from its own side. When you stop thinking that objects are coming from their own side, then a certain type of object is removed from the equation. When you remove the imaginary object that you made up, which is coming from the object’s side, then you start seeing the real nature of objects. We have all these layers of interpretation of objects which are falsely constructed by us and we never see what’s really there, which is the dmigs-yul—the one i’m really looking at.
35:05 – This is school 3, the logic or Sautrantika school. We’re not even up into the higher schools yet but it’s sexy. You can see why this school is called the key to emptiness. Unfortunately ACI 13 is the key to emptiness. One of the major points of this school are understanding all the layers of false objects.
36:59 – (4th School) Semtsam Kaney
Difficult Points in the Mind-Only
41:47 – Word Smith explains some ideas from his translation of Je Tsongkapa’s Difficult Points in the Mind-Only. Usually in Buddhism there are 6 consciousnesses (the 5 senses and the mind), but in the Mind-Only school they add 2 extra: kun gzhi (foundation consciousness) and nyon yid (negative consciousness). This entire book is divided into sections based on these 2 extra consciousnesses.
43:56 – The Mind-Only school is what the Buddha taught at the end of his career. This is what’s referred to as the 3rd turning of the wheel. At the beginning of his career, Lord Buddha taught very basic foundational things about suffering and mind, then by the 2nd turning of the wheel he started teaching deeply about emptiness. For example in the Heart Sutra, saying you have no eyes, ears, etc. and people got a bit uncomfortable because the first 2 turnings of the wheel seemed to contradict themselves.
45:07 – A Bodhisattva asked Lord Buddha which turning of the wheel was correct because in the first he said things exist, then in the 2nd he said nothing exists. This is how the 3 turning of the wheel, and the Mind-Only school was born. In this turning of the wheel Lord Buddha said some things exist and some things don’t exist as a compromise for the people who couldn’t handle the truth and freaked out during the 2nd turning of the wheel.
45:58 – In the Mind-Only school Lord Buddha added these 2 extra consciousnesses. Kun gzhi (foundation consciousness) are where all the karmic seeds are stored which then become your experiences. The 2nd part of the book is about nyon yid (negative consciousness), and this explains how we have the mental afflictions (nye-nyon) which cause all our pain and suffering.
47:03 – They reached a part of the translation that discusses cessations and this is the important idea from the Mind-Only school they wanted to highlight today:
What happens to the mind in nirvana?
If it’s true that you have all these parts of your mind which are broken and it’s accompanied by all these other parts of the mind that are messed up, when you reach a stage of the ultimate—seeing emptiness directly—you’re never supposed to come back to the desire realm. Once we reach that stage, what happens to that mental function in our mind? And to get rid of these faulty parts of the mind do we need to have a full lobotomy, or can we just pull that crap out and then go along and end samsara?
In Abhidharma, when you remove the afflicted part of the mind and reach nirvana you also remove all of the mind and disappear. Here in the Mind-Only school, they are having a debate about what happens to the afflicted parts of the mind upon reaching nirvana because obviously someone who reaches nirvana doesn’t disappear and continues on to end samsara and become a Buddha with their mind still intact. They haven’t reached the end of the debate in the translation yet, so they don’t know how it ends.
49:58 – (5) Abhisamaya Alankara
The Jewel of Realizations
1700 years ago
Now we reached the 4th school, which is the lower half of the Middle Way. The Middle Way school is divided into 2: the lower and higher middle way. If you take this division into consideration, you can say there’s 5 schools.
50:17 – One of the great teachings of the lower half of the Middle Way school is Arya Asanga’s presentation of the Wheel of Life. Asanga connects the Lion’s Dance meditation directly to understanding the Wheel of Life. He also discusses how you get into the Wheel and how you stay in the Wheel.
52:14 – Here is the important idea from the lower half of the Middle Way school Geshela wanted to share today:
How long does the Wheel of Life last?
There are 12 links in the Wheel and they are represented just like a clock going clockwise. (1) The first link is misunderstanding (not understanding emptiness). You think everything in your world, and your own body and mind, exist from their own side. Only because of this misunderstanding can you do link (2) which is making fresh karma. This causes the wheel to spin and it ends with (12) old age and death.
53:14 – We normally learn the Wheel of Life and we think the wheel looks like a clock and spins clockwise. What they realized recently in their translation class is that the Buddha says it’s actually always 3 wheels which are more like 3 interlocking gears. The first gear moves, which turns the second, and that causes the 3rd to turn.
53:58 – Using the 2 husbands in the kitchen example: (1) in this life you misunderstand your husband, and (2) you answer him when he yells at you. This then connects to link (3) of the 2nd wheel and you get reborn because you have created karma. Then you live a whole life up until link (10) which triggers the 3rd wheel, links (11) where you are reborn and (12) get old and die again.
54:26 – Once you learn it this way you can’t think of it as a clock again. Actually you’re looking at the wheels from above and when the 3rd wheel finally spins, it connects again to the next 1st wheel and the process repeats. You stay locked in this cycle of bad things happening and keep going down.
58:50 – (6) Yukti Shashtika
Sixty Verses on Reasoning
1800 years ago
For the upper Middle Way school they chose a difficult text called Sixty Verses on Reasoning. The last verse is:
gewa diyi kyewo kun,
sunam yeshe tsok-dzok shing,
sunam yeshe lejung way,
dampa kunyi topar shok.
By the goodness
Of what I have just done
May all beings
Complete the collection
Of merit and wisdom,
And thus gain the two
That merit and wisdom make.
This is the dedication verse we use after every class and this is where it comes from. It was written by Nagarjuna.
59:20 – In the 60 Verses text, Nagarjuna says that the lower schools are always criticizing our emptiness ideas saying the Buddha never taught them. The Buddha taught these ideas about emptiness during the 2nd turning of the wheel, mainly in the Heart Sutra and the Diamond Cutter Sutra, but the lower schools say that the Buddha only taught the basic sutras on the Wheel of Life and the 4 Arya Truths and never gave these teachings on emptiness. They claim these sutras which discuss emptiness were written by other people later.
1:00:11 – So after 700 dark years, these are the “dark ages” of Buddhism, because when Nagarjuna saw emptiness directly he realized all of the sutras of the 2nd turning of the wheel were actually the correct ones. In order to convince the lower school guys he has this really Arya idea and decides to use only the lower school’s own scriptures to prove that those scriptures also teach about emptiness. He doesn’t refer to the 2nd turning of the wheel at all, and plays the game of convincing them only within the 1st turning of the wheel.
1:01:30 – By the way, we are in Tsongkapa’s lineage. If you’re teaching with Tsongkapa’s intent in mind (connection of karma and emptiness) then Geshe Michael is happy, and if not then he’s upset. You can call it whatever you want and package it however you want, and he agrees that it’s important to package things different ways for different generations—this is what the Buddha did with the 3 turnings of the wheel. You have to change the language and keep up with your city. Do whatever you have to do to keep it relevant, but keep that message (connection of karma and emptiness) in there. You are keeping Buddhism alive in the world and your presentation to modern people is where it’s at now.
1:05:58 – Nagarjuna said (1) things don’t come from themselves, (2) things don’t come from something else, (3) things don’t come from both, and (4) things don’t come from neither (without a cause). This announcement by Nagarjuna marks the end of the dark ages in Buddhism and since then it has been light again—the real understanding of emptiness has survived. There was a danger moment around 300-400 years later when Master Bhavaviveka said Nagarjuna was trying to make meter in the poetry so he left out some important words.
1:07:35 – Which words did Nagarjuna leave out? According to Bhavaviveka, when Nagarjuna said “things don’t come from themselves”, this is obvious—it takes a seed to make a tree grow, there has to be something other than the tree to start the tree. Then it’s also quite obvious that “things don’t come from neither (without a cause)”—a tree can’t grow with no cause and pop up out of nowhere. The big questions is: does a tree, or does not a tree, come from something other than the tree? Yes! Everything comes from something else. Coffee comes from a coffee bean, a coffee bean comes from a coffee plant, a coffee plant comes from a coffee bean of last generation.
1:08:36 – Bhavaviveka claims that Nagarjuna said something wrong when he said “things don’t come from something else” because they do. He claims what Nagarjuna really meant to say, and should have added, was “from their own side”. Bhavaviveka then started a new school of Buddhism called Svatantrika—the lower half of the Middle Way school. Their main tenant was these statements by Nagarjuna can’t stand on their own—you need to add “from their own side” to them otherwise it just sounds crazy. “Of course there’s a husband in the kitchen, don’t go around saying there’s no husband in the kitchen, Nagarjuna you have to add the words from their own side.”
1:10:04 – (7) Tongnyi Tatri
A Book of Meditations on Emptiness
Choney Lama Drakpa Shedrup
This is still within the lower Middle Way school, but they have added a separate genre of literature called Meditations on Emptiness (Tatri), as a practical segment of the translation team. Ven. Utpala is working on this and she was recently translating Bhavaviveka because that section came up in her book.
The problem is that Bhavaviveka wants to fix Nagarjuna when he says, “things don’t come from something else”. In the example that we’ve been using, “there’s no husband in the kitchen at all”. Bhavaviveka wants to add the words “from their own side” at the end to clarify Nagarjuna. Then Ven. Utpala said, “I think what Gyeltseb Je is saying is that you don’t have to add those words, because if you add them the person will think the words come from their own side!”
1:12:40 – Geshe Michael was stunned. “She just cracked the Middle Way school.” She just said something more clear than thousands of pages of Bhavaviveka. If you’re Nagarjuna you say, “look, there’s no husband in the kitchen!” Either the person gets it or not, because even that person is coming from you. Logic is empty. Reasons don’t have an existence from their own side, so there’s no reason to add these extra words because they won’t get that either if they didn’t get the first one. The person you’re arguing with is also coming from you.
1:14:01 – In Tatri there’s also this important subject:
of the borders
of all possible things
This is what Geshe Michael was teaching last night at Lincoln Center and didn’t finish, so now he’ll finish this idea here.
1:14:42 – This subject in Tatri is where we get into the cracks. Something weird is going on in reality. Nagarjuna wants you to have a suspicion about reality—things aren’t working the way you thought. He starts with parts. (1) A thing is not its parts individually, (2) nor are they all the parts together, and (3) they’re not something else either.
1:17:51 – Arya Nagarjuna said “things are suspicious and let’s go through all the things in the world”. Last night we finished by discussing physical things that change. Now we need to move on to mental things. He’s saying the lines or borders between things are suspicious. Where does your arm stop and your body start?
1:18:28 – Nagarjuna then moves on to suspicious lines / impossible borders inside your mind. As Geshe Michael taught tonight, the lack of understanding of the 8 schools of thought in Buddhism is similar to the line between dark and light when the rises. The line between the light and dark should be moving across your mind. The light increases at dawn and the darkness recedes. As he taught tonight, your understanding gradually grew and didn’t happen all at once. There was a line of the light of understanding in your mind just like the line of light coming across the land at dawn. And Nagarjuna asks, “where is the line?”
1:19:32 – At which point did you understand 25%, 30%, and where exactly in your mind was it? Where exactly is the meeting point between not understanding and understanding? At which syllable? At which sibilant in the syllable? You can’t find it. There’s something weird going on.
1:21:17 – We covered the 3 kinds of changing things: (1) Physical things, (2) mental things, and (3) people we covered in the class last night when we discussed the elements and parts of a person.
1:21:30 – Now in the Tatri text, which is by Choney Lama Drakpa Shedrup, he moves on from changing things to discuss the emptiness of all the parts of all the unchanging things in the universe. (1) Empty space, (2) cessations (ie. the end of mental afflictions in the human heart), (3) and finally the emptiness of emptiness. Let’s look at the lines between all the things in the universe that never change.
1:22:35 – To discuss empty space, Choney Lama uses a coffee cup—actually he uses a water pitcher which everyone had in those days in the room, but nowadays it’s a coffee cup—it’s the same. It can be very confusing when discussing the cracks in empty space because empty space is not the space inside the coffee cup—the distance from one side of the cup to the other. Forget that idea. it’s the place in space in which the coffee cup is occupying, and this is the same whether the coffee cup itself is full of liquid or not.
1:24:38 – Then Choney Lama says something very cool. Imagine that the coffee cup is sitting on a saucer. Do the coffee cup and saucer both have empty space? Yes, they both occupy empty space. Does the empty space occupied by the coffee cup touch the empty space occupied by the saucer? And if they do, where’s the line between them? You can’t find it and that’s a crack in the wing.
1:25:49 – Choney Lama is not done yet. He then moves on to the 2nd type of unchanging things—cessations. What about the anger you’re never going to have once you understand the emptiness of your partner? (1) Can we say there’s such a thing as irritation at your partner? Yes. (2) Can we say that the partner which you’re irritated at is coming from their own side? No. (3) Can we say that there’s actually no partner that you’re irritated at which comes from their side? Or take the example of an irritating boss. Can we say there’s one which is not coming from them? Yes, every irritating boss is not coming from you. Now, where’s the line between the absence of the irritating boss that’s coming from their own side and the absence of the irritating partner that’s coming from their own side? Where’s the line between those 2 emptinesses, and where’s the line between the lack of anger you feel towards those 2? You can’t be angry at something you created yourself.
1:28:28 – Then Choney Lama goes even deeper! Where’s the line between the anger that you’ll never have because you understand that the boss is like the pen and the anger that you’ll never have at the husband because you understand that the husband is like the pen in the state of seeing emptiness directly? Where’s the line between those 2 empty people, relative to the direct perception of emptiness? And where’s the line between the anger you’ll never have because you saw the emptiness of one directly and the other one directly—which is called nirvana? You can’t find it.
1:29:13 – And Nagarjuna says, the definition of nirvana is the direct understanding of the emptiness of samsara.This blows up the lower schools because they think nirvana is where you disappear and have no more pain because everything is gone. And Nagarjuna says “No, nirvana is when you understand the emptiness of samsara directly!”
1:30:39 – (8) Siddhanta Hirdaya
The Essence of the Schools of Thought
Choney Lama Drakpa Shedrup
This is a traditional subject in the Buddhist literature about the study of religion in the world. For example, modern Siddhantas include Christianity. Siddhanta texts prior to 18th or 19th century compare the beliefs about emptiness of all the schools of Buddhism and 20+ Hindu schools. This is very cool because not only do they analyze the differences in understanding of emptiness amongst the various Buddhist schools of thought, but they also analyze what the self, soul, or lack of self means to non-Buddhists in India.
1:32:34 – It’s very beautiful and also tempting to categorize our belief systems—for example many of us were taught Christianity in the church and science in school. Where do those beliefs fit into these 30 belief systems analyzed in Siddhanta? They are below the first one. Science, for example, is more primitive than the lowest school of ancient times in Siddhanta.
1:34:22 – Part of the reason for our belief systems ranking so low is that we’re not taught how to think clearly—we lack the basic tools of logic. We are not formally trained in what makes sense—how to make a statement, a reason, etc.. The subjects of ACI Course 13.
1:34:54 – This Siddhanta text, The Essence of the Schools of Thought (Siddhanta Hirdaya), places a big emphasis on chakra shi, the four seals of approval. So this is the important idea from Siddhanta that we’ll discuss today.
Four seals of approval:
1:35:09 – The four seals of approval here refer to the four qualities that a Buddhist book must have. If it has those 4 qualities you should read it, and if it doesn’t then you should ignore it. Can also apply to movies or other forms of media. They are (1) changing: if a teaching doesn’t point out that you’re dying, and things are changing moment by moment, then it’s a waste of time. If it’s not directly stated or implied then it’s not relevant to your life.
1:36:29 – (2) Pain. Everything is pain. The 3 types of suffering: (a) obvious suffering – backaches, headaches, etc., (b) suffering of change. Even pleasant things are suffering—a nice dinner in Buddhism qualifies as suffering because you’ll be hungry again in a few hours. (c) Pervasive suffering—we’re all dying as we sit here now.
1:37:51 – If a teaching doesn’t inform you that you’re in trouble then don’t listen to it. If someone is not telling you that then you’re in trouble and you have to do something now. While you’re in this piece of meat, do something with it fast because you’re not going to be here very long!
1:38:43 – (3) Selfless, means things are not coming from their own side. This suffering situation is not coming from its own side. Your body is not coming from its own side. Who made it mortal? You did, because you weren’t kind enough to other people. For every meal you eat you also must be giving away 2 or you will die. That’s the arithmetic. If you hear a teaching and they’re not teaching that, then it doesn’t get the stamp of approval—t’s not worth your time.
1:39:27 – You obviously don’t have to repeat all these each class, but that institution should be teaching these 4.
1:39:41 – (4) Peace. If you figure out that the pen is coming from you (emptiness), then eventually you will become a Buddha who can serve countless beings at the same time. In the same hour you can serve billions of beings.
1:40:06 – If an institution is not teaching these 4 things then it’s not Buddhist. How you do it is up to you. Call it bowling and emptiness if you want.
1:40:38 – (9) Lojong Tsunjay Korlo
The Crown of Knives
1,000 years ago
1:42:07 – They had already divided up the 8 schools of thought for the translator program and at the last minute added a text on karmic correlations at the request of 2 students from Austria. There are 2 famous books in this genre of literature that they’re translating. (1) Karma Vibhanga was spoken by Lord Buddha and it’s very cut and dry. He asked what people wanted and gave the corresponding karmic correlation.
1:43:22 – (2) Lojong Tsunjay Korlo (The Crown of Knives) by Dharmarakshita who was the teacher of Atisha. When Atisha left for Tibet, his teacher gave him a poem called Tsunjay Korlo. It refers to a story in the first sutra, Karma Vibhanga, where a student is disrespectful to his mother and after a long ordeal finally has an experience of Bodhichitta. Tsunjay Korlo is a whole list of karmic correlations.
1:45:16 – The important and sweet idea they just reached in the translation is:
After looking into the past,
the extra step
of avoiding any trace
What’s the karma of doing everything to serve your Lama and trying everything to make them happy but they’re still upset with you and never satisfied? Of course it’s your fault and coming from your karma, but the exact cause is that you disturbed other people’s holy work, meditation, and study. You criticized their teachers, etc. It’s a whole list of things, but it’s mainly that you criticized your fellow students peace of mind, dharma practice, and study.
1:47:41 – What Geshe Micheal enjoys from this presentation in the text is that he said “never blame it on the person who is hassling you”. No eloquent defenses, the criticism is coming from you and don’t make extra trouble for yourself by criticizing the people who are criticizing you. Even if you blame them mentally you are creating more people who will criticize you in the future.
1:50:12 – It sounded like Nagarjuna was saying that the direct perception of emptiness was nirvana. Is that what you said?
He did say that and that takes us to a higher school. There are 2 kinds of nirvana, (1) nirvana with remainder and (2) nirvana without remainder. The first is called LHAG BCAS MYANG ‘DAS which means there’s something left over afterwards, and LHAG MED MYANG ‘DAS which means nothing is left over afterwards. Don’t confuse this with enlightenment, but in all schools of Buddhism you reach nirvana when you cannot have a negative emotion. You get there (to nirvana) by understanding that the people and things which irritate you are coming from you. This is how emptiness cures your negative emotions.
1:52:09 – The first time you hear about emptiness, the negative emotions are cracked and can’t be as healthy as they were before. At some point it’s so internalized that you cannot have a negative emotion again and in the lower schools and that’s called LHAG BCAS MYANG ‘DAS (nirvana with remainder)—because you still have your body which was created by negative karma and it will still cause you suffering. So it’s not the end of pain in the sense of the end of pain of the body, but you are not creating new pain. The Abhidharma school says once that body dies then an arhat is free and that’s LHAG MED MYANG ‘DAS—nirvana without remainder.
1:54:17 – In the highest school they still have these 2 divisions: LHAG BCAS MYANG ‘DAS and LHAG MED MYANG ‘DAS, but the order is switched. First you attain nirvana without remainder, but that’s just a code word for the direct perception of emptiness. The remainder that you don’t have at the moment of the direct perception is the remainder of any self-existent thing. After you come out of the direct perception it comes back again and you start nirvana with remainder.
1:55:14 – If you pushed a higher school person they would still say this person is not an arhat yet (someone who reached nirvana). It’s not real nirvana because that comes long after you see emptiness directly. Seeing emptiness directly speeds up the process of not getting angry at your husband, for example.
1:55:35 – If you get to the 8th Bodhisattva level is that nirvana with remainder or without remainder?
The 8th level out of 10 levels on the Bodhisattva track is nirvana. It would be without remainder because even though you can see emptiness directly at will at this level, things no longer appear as coming from their own side. Levels 8-10 are called da sa, the pure levels. The name in the Mind-Only school for a Bodhisattva on these levels (8-10) is Power Achiever.
1:58:03 – You can understand the lower Middle-Way from the example of a magic show. A magician in India shows a trick to a crowd of people by throwing a stick on the ground while saying a mantra, and then the crowd sees an elephant in place of the stick. In this metaphor, (1) the magician throws the stick down and even though an elephant is appearing he knows it’s a stick, so he’s similar to an arya after the direct perception of emptiness. (2) The crowd sees an elephant and they also believe it is an elephant, so they are similar to normal people who haven’t had the direct perception of emptiness. (3) Someone who walked up after the magic trick and mantra just sees and stick and they believe it’s a stick because it’s not appearing any other way. This is similar to the arya while in the direct perception of emptiness.
2:02:28 – The difference of Bhavaviveka’s school and viewpoint is the stick – the raw data. You can call it the 50/50 school. There IS a stick there. The data is coming from its own side and you create an elephant from your side with your karma. This whole magician metaphor is a lower Middle Way metaphor because they need the stick—raw data. They need to say that the color and shape of the husband is coming from the husband, and your mind is seeing yelling. The sounds are coming from their own side and your mind organizes them into criticism of you, but there are sounds coming from your husband which aren’t coming from you. Your karma then organizes those sounds into criticism. According to this schoo, If a person walked in who didn’t have that karma they would say your husband is correctly chastising you.
2:04:22 – It almost sounds like lower Middle-Way is lower than Mind-Only school because in Mind-Only they say everything is coming from your mind.
There’s also a group of the lower middle way school that lean toward the Mind-Only school. So these 2 schools overlap.
2:05:17 – Some people criticize the higher Middle-Way and say they’re only talking about emptiness and neglect to talk about cause and effect. So are those people who make this criticism the ones leaning towards the Mind-Only school?
This came up in Nagarjuna’s 60 Verses. The beginning verse is praise of the Buddha who taught emptiness in light of cause and effect. Tsongkapa also composed In Praise of the Buddha for Teaching Dependence, in which the same thing is said. You can’t really praise the Buddha for teaching emptiness if you don’t at the same time praise him for teaching where things really come from—you have to teach both. The fact that at the very opening of that famous book that Nagarjuna wrote there’s this statement shows us that obviously he understood this connection. He’s praising the Buddha for teaching (1) where the husband is coming from and (2) what the husband is not. You have to teach them together.
2:07:55 – As you start to meditate on emptiness more and more and get deeper insights there’s still a dualism, but the goal is to not have this dualism—the person perceiving the insight over here, and the insight over here. Do you have a suggestion on how to close that gap?
Geshela’s teaching has improved because he’s struggling with translations all day. There’s a beautiful discussion of what this question is asking and it’s called yi nang—The Discrepency. What people normally translate as “dualism” is kind of a mistranslation of the word yi nang, which means “double appearance”. It really means a discrepancy between what you see and what’s really there. When we say “dualism” it DOES NOT refer to the dualism between the observer and the object. That’s not what dualism means in Buddhism.
2:09:50 – In the 2 husbands in the kitchen example, dualism means the husband decided to criticize me, which is the appearance, and the reality is that my mind is creating a husband who is criticizing me. When you have a discrepancy, (1) what appears and (2) what’s real are not the same. It looks like your husband decided to criticize you, but what really happened was you yelled at your kids in the past and that planted karmic seeds for you to see someone else criticizing you now. There’s a disconnect between what is appearing to you and what is real—that’s the meaning of “dualism” in Buddhism.
2:10:25 – In the direct perception of emptiness, when you’re seeing emptiness directly that’s all you can see. You can’t perceive a changing thing (emptiness is an unchanging thing). In the direct perception of emptiness you’re having communion with an unchanging thing. During that time it’s impossible to perceive a changing thing. Therefore, a person who is perceiving emptiness directly cannot be aware of themselves—because “Micheal” is a changing thing. When they say that the subject disappears it’s not literal, it’s just that you can’t be aware that you’re there because if you were it would kick you out of the direct perception of emptiness. If you have the thought “Michael”, or the most dangerous thought is “I did it”, you literally get kicked out of the experience. In a way, during the direct perception of emptiness you’re trying to sustain the non-perception of “me” by staying in emptiness. You’re not aware of your mind but the mind is there—you just can’t be aware of it. There is a subject and there is an object. The word for subject in Sansrkit is “object holder”—deshin and desha. To say that there’s no subject or object is foolish because to say that in Sanskrit is impossible.
2:12:48 – The history and new direction / teaching training program for ACI.