Buddha Nature

The following article is from the Spring, 1950 issue of the Snow Lion Newsletter and is for historical reference only. You can see this in context of the original newsletter here.

The Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra with Commentary


by Arya Maitreya
Commentary by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye

Additional explanations by Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso Rinpoche

Translated by Rosemarie Fuchs

400 pp., 6 x 9 #BUNAMA $34.95 Cloth

Available July

This text is one of The Five Teachings of Maitreya, the future Buddha, who transmitted it to Arya Asanga after Asanga had gained the realization necessary to be entrusted with such instruction. It is regarded as very important as it presents in great detail and clarity the view which forms the basis of any Vajrayana and especially Mahamudra practice. Thus it builds a bridge between the Sutrayana and Vajrayana levels of the Buddha's teachings.

The Seventh Vajra Point: Activity

B.II. Activity is the action (of realization)

B.II. Concise teaching

B.II. Concise teaching (of activity) being spontaneous

Spontaneously an Ail-Embracing One always has access

to the disciples' temperaments, the means of training,

the (various) trainings that suit their temperaments,

and to seeking them wherever they are and at the right time.

When buddhas bring about the benefit of beings, they know the temperaments and constitutions of all sentient beings who are to be trained, endless in number. They know their dispositions, their latent tendencies, their wishes, thoughts, and so on. In accordance with these they teach the means of training, whichever is appropriate for any (individual). They take care that the trainings as they suit the various temperaments of the disciples establish them in the higher states of existence and in the state that represents the definitive good. They go to any place within the endless realms of the world and seek every disciple no matter where each may live, doing so whenever the right time to train them has come. While engaging in all of these, the All-Embracing Ones, the perfect buddhas, are always totally free from concepts and so on. They do not have to exert any deliberate effort and spontaneously have access (to all of these activities).

B.II. Concise teaching (of activity) being uninterrupted

Having multitudes of supremely precious qualities and the waters of the ocean of primordial wisdom, possessing the sunlight of merit and wisdom,

it is the definitive accomplishment of all vehicles without exception. (Enlightenment) is vast, without middle or end, and thus all-pervasive like space.

Fully seeing that buddhahood, the treasure of the unpolluted qualities, is (present) within all sentient beings without the slightest distinction,

the wind of the Buddhas' sublime compassion totally dispels the clouds of afflictions and hindrances to knowledge that have spun their net about it.

It is stated in the scriptures:

The activity of the Victor is uninterrupted and unceasing for the following reasons: (Buddhas) have an immeasurable multitude of supremely precious qualities, which are dharani, samadhi, and so on, and there is the great ocean of the ten bodhisattva levels, completely filled with the waters of unpolluted primordial wisdom. These latter constitute the cause that definitively exposes release (Tib. nges par byin pa'i rgyu). They are endowed with the accumulations of merit and wisdom, which are similar to the light rays of the sun, causing the ripening of all sentient beings. These constitute the supportive cause (Tib. nye bar rton pa'i rgyu). Through these, all vehicles or paths of beings are definitively accomplished without any exception. Sprung from this accomplishment they possess the best possible causes and they have attained the best possible fruit that can result from these. Thus is great enlightenment, which is pervasive as space, being vast and without middle or end. For these reasons buddha activity is uninterrupted or ever-present. Furthermore, once they have attained enlightenment, they perfectly see that true and ultimate buddhahood has been present in all sentient beings without any differentiation since beginningless time. Similar to a treasure, it is within all beings, possessing qualities that are by nature free from any pollution, such as the powers and so on. Since the Buddhas help all these sentient beings to fully get hold of this treasure, their activity does not. cease. The nature of the Victorious One, which itself is similar to space, is obscured by the adventitious pollutions of the veils of the afflictions and hindrances to knowledge. These obscurations, being similar to a net of clouds that has spun about it, need to be removed; the condition that will clear them away is the force of the great compassion of the Victors. This is similar to a fierce and mighty wind, constituting the ability to utterly dispel all the clouds of pollution. For these reasons as well, buddha activity is uninterrupted.

When put concisely, (this can be explained as follows): Temporarily a buddha joins all sentient beings with the two accumulations and the ten bodhisattva levels and finally with ultimate enlightenment. Furthermore, through his great compassion a buddha overcomes all the obscurations of beings. Buddha activity is therefore taught as being uninterrupted or ever-present.

B.II. Detailed explanation

B.II. Teaching of the summarized meaning of spontaneity

B.II. Manifesting free from ideation

For whom? How? By which training?

Where? and When? Since ideation as to such (questions) does not occur,

the Muni always (acts) spontaneously.

For the sake of which disciple should I manifest? Through which method should I train them? Which activity of training should be applied? To which place of living of a disciple should I go? And when should I do so? What is the appropriate time? Any ideation in terms of such questions does not occur and there is no movement of deliberate effort. For this reason, the activity of a Muni, a perfect buddha, always manifests spontaneously.

B.II. Manifesting unmistakenly as to place and time

The temperaments of the disciples, which of the many means for each, which training at what place and time:

(He is not mistaken as to any of) these.

A buddha is spontaneously familiar with the temperaments of the disciples, who have manifold wishes and aspirations. The same is true of the many methods of training: he intuitively knows through which of the three vehicles and so on each disciple will be trained most beneficially in accordance with his individual aspiration. He also has spontaneous access to the different activities of training, knowing which will establish (the disciples) temporarily in the higher states of existence and finally in the state that is definitively good (Tib. nges par legs pa). He intuitively knows where and when, (the right) time and place. He will go to the place where any disciple lives, no matter who, and will do so when the right time to train this particular disciple has come. In this as well a buddha is unmistaken and (his activity) manifests spontaneously, without any deliberate effort.

B.II. Explanation of the classified meaning of uninterruptedness

B.II. Concise leaching enumerating names

Since, with regard to the definitive exposure of release,

its support, their fruit, those being fully sustained,

their obscurations, and the condition cutting these veils,

there is no ideation, (buddha activity is uninterrupted).

The activity through which all buddhas bring about the benefit of beings is uninterrupted, since it manifests effortlessly and without any ideation as to the following six focuses:

(The first) is the fact that they have formerly relied on the path that definitively exposes release and have done so in the most authentic manner. This is the (primary) cause for their activity.

(The second) is the fact that they have relied on the two accumulations, which are the (causes) supportive to this (cause of) total release.

(The third) is enlightenment, being the fruit that results from these causes and conditions.

The fourth is sentient beings, who are fully sustained as the objectives of the manifestation of activity, which causes this fruit (to be attained by others).

(The fifth) is the obscurations, which are to be clarified in the mind-streams of these (sentient beings).

The sixth is great compassion, this being the condition for the activity that cuts these (veils).

B.II. Detailed explanation of the different kinds of meaning

The ten levels definitively expose release.

The two accumulations provide their cause.

Supreme enlightenment is the fruit of these.

Enlightenment in beings is fully sustained.

These are obscured by the endless afflictions,

the secondary afflictions, and the latencies.

A buddha's great compassion is the condition

that, at all times, vanquishes these (veils).

From the very beginning, when starting from samsara until at last enlightenment is reached, (one follows) the path that definitively exposes release within the final or ultimate state. This path is the condition or cause of (buddha) activity and is equivalent to the ten bodhi-sattva levels. While one gradually travels these through ten levels, one's qualities will increase to an ever greater extent. The supportive cause of (buddha) activity is the two accumulations of primordial wisdom and merit, or in other words, of wisdom and (skillful) means. The ultimate fruit of these causes and conditions is the attainment of great enlightenment, which is authentically perfected, unsurpassable, and supreme. When enlightenment is attained, it is seen that all sentient beings also possess buddha nature. Thus they are the objective for the manifestation of (buddha) activity which (upon this is seen) fully sustains them. This buddha nature (within beings) is obscured by the endless afflictions, the secondary afflictions, and the accompanying latencies or karmic imprints. These adventitious defilements must be overcome; the condition that at all times vanquishes these veils is great compassion, out of which the path is taught. For the first-mentioned reasons and the latter-mentioned as well, buddha activity is uninterrupted.

In this context Rongtonpa the Great has said, explaining this section very well:

Therefore, what is the cause for activity to be uninterrupted? It stems from having formerly travelled the paths and gone through the accumulations. Through the attainment of what fruit is it uninterrupted? Through the attainment of enlightenment. What object is there for it to be uninterrupted? Since the nature of enlightenment is present in all sentient beings and is identical (with enlightenment itself) (Tib. thsul du), the veils that obscure it are cleared away by great compassion.

B.II. Illustration of these by means of examples

These six points, being similar to an ocean, to sun, space, a treasure, clouds, and wind are to be grasped accordingly.

There are six points or meanings that serve as the reasons why the activity of a tathagata is uninterrupted or ever-present. These are to be understood through combining one meaning with an example, respectively. In their given sequence they are to be grasped as being similar to a vast ocean, to the unpolluted sun, to the element of space, to a great treasure, to a multitude of clouds that are to be dispelled, and to the force of a mighty wind that dispels (these clouds).

B.II. Detailed, explanation combining example and meaning

Holding wisdom's waters and qualities

like gems, the levels are like an ocean.

Closely sustaining all sentient beings,

the two accumulations are like the sun.

Being vast and without any middle or end,

enlightenment is like the element of space.

Genuine perfect awakening is dharmata,

hence beings' nature is like a treasure.

Adventitious, pervasive, and not existent,

its afflictions are like a host of clouds.

Always ready to dispel these (afflictions),

compassion is similar to a merciless wind.

They contain the waters of unpolluted primordial wisdom and hold gems of qualities such as clairvoyance and so forth. For this reason the ten bodhisattva levels, being the cause that definitively exposes release, are like an ocean. Since they benefit all sentient beings, sustaining them with happiness and well-being, the two accumulations of merit and primordial wisdom, which constitute the supportive cause, are like the sun. Pervading everything it is vast, and being without middle or end it is deep and profound. For this reason great enlightenment, which is the fruit of these (causes), is like the element of space. Dharmata, the actual state of a truly perfect buddha, has been spontaneously present since beginningless time (and) contains an inexhaustible wealth of qualities. For this reason sentient beings must be fully sustained and the tathagatagarbha, their element that is by nature pure, is similar to a great treasure. They are adventitious, being able to be removed; they pervade the nature and ultimately do not truly exist. For this reason the afflictions obscuring the element that is by nature utterly pure are similar to a dense host of clouds. It is always present and ready to teach the path that dispels these cloud-like afflictions. For this reason great compassion, which provides the condition to eliminate all veils, is similar to the force of an extremely fierce and merciless wind.

B.II. Summary of the way it is uninterrupted

Their release (is accomplished) for the sake of others.

They see the equality of themselves and sentient beings

and their activity is not completed to its full extent.

Thus their deeds will never cease while samsara exists.

Previously, while following the path of training, they have vowed to liberate all sentient beings without any exception and they have accomplished their release (from the cycle of existence) through the practice of the path, which is solely for the sake of the benefit of others. After having attained enlightenment for the benefit of others they have seen that they themselves and all sentient beings are equal as far as buddha nature is concerned. Thus they know that it is meaningful to unfold activity. There is no end to the number of the species sentient beings. Therefore their activity of establishing all those sentient beings on the level of buddhahood is not completed to its full extent. For these reasons the deeds of the buddhas are uninterrupted and will never cease as long as samsara has not been emptied. ä_æ

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