Dharma Notes


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Definition of the Week (54): Phenomenon (dharma)

The Sanskrit word dharma (Tib. cho) has two meanings:

  1. Phenomenon
  2. Teaching

The definition of dharma is holding its own identity. If something holds its own identity it eliminates another identity as being itself. For example, mind holds its own identity of being clear & knowing, which eliminates the possibility for it to be matter, i.e. being atomically established.

In the context of the teachings, a dharma mind holds its own identity of virtue, which eliminates the identity of non-virtue from the mind.

☞  Purbu Chock:

Definition: That holding its own identity.
Phenomenon is synonymous with existent. To exist it has to possess an identity, and that which does not exist does not hold an identity.
To be empty of inherent existence, it has to possess an identity, because it has to be a dependent arising.

☞ Chandrakirti:

Any definitions of compounded phenomena   [6.215]
And any definitions of non-compounded phenomena,
The emptiness of that alone,
It is the emptiness of definitions.

☞ The First Dalai Lama Gyalwa Gedun Drub:

Take the subject ‘the emptiness of the quintessential nature of the definitions of compounded and non-compounded phenomena alone’ – it is the emptiness of definitions – because it is the emptiness that is the lack of the true existence of definitions.

☞ The appearing desirability that gives rise to attachment, and the appearing darkness giving rise to anger, these do not hold their own identity. Running after them one is just running after one’s projections.

I Want Change - Artist: Meek

The Mythical Mental Reboot

To get away from destructive patterns some put their hopes into the idea of the mental reboot, thinking that by taking oneself away from harmful objects, and through other methods, the mind will return to a neutral state, and that through this alone a mental reboot will happen – a reboot of the mind in a more wholesome manner, perhaps a manner one knew earlier in life. If it were just that easy, we would all be enlightened.

What this does not take into consideration is that mind is a creature of habit, that one cannot undo past actions and that one can never start from scratch. Without having a strong inner antidote or counterforce to one’s afflictions and inner demons, upon returning to one’s usual environment one’s old habits arise again strongly in one’s mind, and soon one is acting in the same way as before all over again.

The Buddha taught that there are things to be abandoned, and that there are things to be cultivated. Examples for that to be cultivated and internalized are the positive qualities of love, compassion, generosity, patience, renunciation and wisdom. The more we have of those, automatically the less we have of the opposite.

  • The more love, compassion and patience, the less anger.
  • The stronger the generous mind wanting to give, the less greed,
  • The more renunciation, the less grasping and clinging desire,
  • The more wisdom, the less ignorance just living in the moment, without awareness of cause and effect.
  • The more mindfulness of the kindness of others, and the more gratitude, the less pride and isolation.
  • The more altruism, the less self-cherishing, the less anger, the less anything negative.

It is like switching on the light, the darkness goes away automatically at the same time, without having to focus on it.

This is the path of the antidote.

Paramita Versus Perfection

The actions of bodhisattvas refers to the six perfections, i.e., the six paramitas of generosity, etc.. Paramita is the Sanskrit word generally translated as perfection, but literally it means having gone to the other side. The other side is enlighenment, which is a state free from obscuration, and to reach it one needs the realization of emptiness. Perfecting generosity for example, does not just mean to increase the generosity per se, but to also purify it with emptiness, i.e., with the wisdom realising the emptiness of the 3 circles. The emptinesses of the 3 circles are the emptiness of the giver, of the object and of the recipient.

The Self-grasping Presents How Its Apprehended Object Exists Nominally

Debate Between Wisdom and Ignorance Note 6:
The Self-grasping Presents How Its Apprehended Object Exists Nominally

The Self-grapsing says to the wisdom:

I arrived simultaneously with the mind [19]
In a mere nominal way.
If you do not assert a really existing ‘I’,
And deny nominal existence

Have you not fallen into the extreme of nihilism? [20]
Cause and effect, dependent arising, action and activity
Are thoroughly pervaded by me.
Therefore, you go wherever you have to go to!

As I do not exist ultimately I came simultaneously with the mind relatively. If we look at the way we exist, you, the wisdom, do not exist ultimately, and did not come together with the mind ultimately, and likewise also me, the ignorance, do not exist ultimately and did not come together with the mind ultimately. I came together with the mind in a relative or nominal manner.

If one views nominally existing phenomena it is denial. If one denies nominal phenomena one falls into the extreme of nihilism. Therefore, have you not fallen into the extreme of nihilism? The phenomena of cause and effect, dependent arising and action and activity are conventional phenomena and their appearance is pervaded by me.

Self-Grasping says that since cause and effect, dependent arising and action and activity always appear truly, their appearance is always pervaded by it. Since it pervades all their appearances it will stay and the wisdom, should go wherever it has to go to!’

You are unsuitable to remain here [21]
Amongst our nominal actions and activities.
You, the one without ultimate true existence,
Since you contradict me, begone!

The self-grasping says:

‘Without true existence the actions and activities of cause and effect are not possible. We, the self-grasping and the mind etc., nominally perform actions and activities, which would not be possible without true existence. Without true existence nominal actions would not be possible, yet nominal actions and activities exist and I, the true-grasping, perform nominally actions and activities. Hence, you the wisdom, are unsuitable to remain amongst us. You without ultimate truth, you contradict me. Be gone!’

The wisdom destroys that notion

The Wisdom Destroys that Notion:
The wisdom says in return: [15bcd]
Because the mind, since first coming into existence,
Has never been experienced as existing ultimately,

Who did you abide together with? [16]
Since you too are completely non-existent
From an absolute point of view,
Who is taking whose side, who is, among other things,

Defending and supporting whom? [17ab]
Go where you have to go and do not return!

That called mind has not been experienced as having a self or being established as having a self since its very first coming into existence. Yet you grasp at it as having a self and say that you have accompanied that mind since beginningless time, so with whom exactly did you abide together with simultaneously?

From the point of view of absolute existence or ultimate existence also you, the self-grasping, do not exist at all. Therefore, from the point of view of absolute existence, neither the mind nor you do exist. While you say you grasp at the mind as having a self it does not have a self.

Hence, who is taking the side of whom? Who is defending and supporting whom? You would need to take the side of a mind with a self and defend it, but such a mind does not exist. Your whole concept is unrealistic and unacceptable.

Stop talking, go where ever you have to go and do not return!

Sentient beings fell under the control of mind, and the mind in turn fell under the control of you, the self-grasping. Due to this they started to be seduced by distractions, to be attached to praise and fame, to be attached to friends and relatives, to think about these actions and activities of this life, to be attached to the side of self and have hatred for the side of other due to the unrealistic conception, and thus start fights and arguments, and to be sidetracked by the meaningless and harmful actions of this life.
In short, the one who generates all non-virtue and suffering and destroys all virtue and happiness is you alone, the self-grasping.

Since you are not experienced as existing ultimately, with whom do you exist together? Since you do not exist at all in an accurate ultimate way, who is defending whom with arguments, and who is looking after whom?

Hence, since your determined object is refuted, you are exorcised from the root. Go wherever you have to go to, and do not return!


The self-grasping says in return

The self-grasping says in return: 12d

From the very moment it came into existence 13
I have accompanied the mind,
Taking its side and arguing for it.
Like a father and mother loving their child,

I lovingly gave support, food and clothing. 14
I lead it through the door of the dharma of 
The three poisons of desire and so forth.
If I do not overcome the enemy of the accumulation of virtue 

Then who will overcome this enemy? 15a

Self-grasping replies,

“From the very moment mind came into existence I have accompanied it. When the ‘I’, i.e. the person, needed someone to take its side, then I did it. When it needed someone to defend it against enemies, then I defended it and stopped the enemies. Like a father and mother that love their child I lovingly gave support, food and clothing.

Attachment, hatred and ignorance are generated through the force of self-grasping. Just as one is induced into the virtuous dharma by the virtuous teacher, here the self-grasping says: ‘I am the one that induces the person to walk through the door of non-virtuous dharma. I am the one that brings forth attachment, hatred and ignorance.”

Since these afflictions destroy the accumulation of virtues it further says, “I am also the one that destroys the enemy that is virtue. If I do not this then who will destroy the enemy that is virtue? If I am not there then nobody will do it. I have generated attachment and through that I achieve what is needed. I have generated anger and through that conquered enemies. I also destroy patience and love, which are the enemy. I am of greatest benefit for the mind.”


Compassionate prayers and the wishes

Wisdom saying to ignorance:

Compassionate prayers and the wishes 9d

Of those to be subdued – due to this collection of causes, 10
The truth body, enjoyment body, emanation body,
As well as the grounds, paths, qualities, activities and so forth,
Exist, but only in mere appearance.

They are not seen as existing in reality. 11
Hence, that a self exists in reality
Is even more mistaken then mistaken
Therefore, from now on, at all times,

I shall abandon you, the mistaken self-grasping. 12abc
Without generating any aversion,
Go where ever you have to go to.

„All phenomena of cause and effect, such as the mahayana basis, path, result, exist only in mere name, only in mere appearance, and in reality not even one atom of existence from their own side is seen. Therefore, to grasp at existence from its own side as reality, is mistaken even beyond mistaken, and from now on, at all times I shall abandon the mistaken self-grasping from the root. Hence, without generating any aversion, go wherever you have to go to.“

This is teaching that its apprehended object needs to be negated by practicing the wisdom that realises the lack of inherent existence, i.e., the selflessness of the self that is the focal object of the innate self-grasping.

Explaining the Mahamudra of the Path According to the Sutra System

They who have not realized this, grasp at true existence 3
And have been wandering in cyclic existence up to now.
The direct antidote to this is the wisdom
That explicitly realizes this selflessness.

There is no antidote apart from it. 4a

As it was mentioned above, although emptiness, the mode of abiding of mind, started to exist at the same time mind came into existence, the migrators who have not realised this, grasp at any object characterised by mind appearing to it, as truly existent. Motivated by this true grasping they accumulate karma and have wandered in cyclic existence up to now. The direct antidote to this is the wisdom that explicitly realises mind and all other phenomena to be lacking inherent existence, that realises them to be selfless.

Apart from this there is no antidote to the grasping at self.

Explaining the Mahamudra of the Basis According to the Sutra System

The very minds of the three realm sentient beings,
And specifically one’s own very mind,
Since time beginningless and non-abiding, 2
From whence ignorance came into being,
Have been abiding naturally with the mind’s nature.
This is the mahamudra of the basis.

The clear and knowing nature of the mind in the continuum of all sentient beings in general, and in particular of practitioners practising the path, has been there from its side since time beginningless and non-abiding. Simultaneously with the existence of this mind, although unknown to and unrealised by it, has been the mode of abiding of this mind, emptiness, which has been existing and abiding simultaneously with the mind. This is the mahamudra of the basis according to the sutra system.

Application of the Antidote Versus Watching the Mind

☞ My general experience is the judging oneself does not counteract the affliction, and often leads to the “guilty chocolate” syndrome. What is necessary is a true repudiation of the affliction, a clean clear mind of renunciation.

Perhaps one more point: The “being patient” with afflictions, and not identifying them as the enemy, is identified in the treatises as one main cause for us having so many and strong afflictions. One reason why this point is so important is because after all the self-involvement, the guilt and shame etc., the individual finds that deep down they actually do not want to change the primary affliction at all.

All the guilt etc., is just a smoke screen thrown up by ignorance, and after the dust has settled, nothing changes, and ignorance wins once again.

Bodhisattva Maitreya on Dedication

8000 Line Wisdom Gone Beyond Sutra, Chapter 6: Perfect dedication (270 – 346)

The bodhisattva Jampa says to Subuti: “The mind that is the mind which dedicates perfectly, its suchness is this; the phenomena that are the phenomena which are dedicated perfectly, their suchness is this; the phenomena that are the phenomena for which one dedicates perfectly, their suchness is also this. If one dedicates perfectly in this way then it is a correct perfect dedication, it is not a wrong dedication, and a bodhisattva mahasattva should dedicate perfectly in this manner.”

This is advice to dedicate with mindfulness on the emptiness of the three circles.

Symptoms of Dharma Practice

Dharma practice means to look into ones mind.
If one has not yet experienced being truly worried by what one sees there,
One has not yet practiced the dharma.

Definition of the Week (55): Object of Knowledge

Purbu Chock: That suitable to be made an object of awareness.

Object of knowledge is synonymous with existent. That which does not exist cannot be made a object of mind. That which exists can be comprehended and can be made an object of mind.

The causal nature of the afflictions, their nature of intense generation, their conditional nature and them being the source of all suffering can be comprehended and be made an object of mind.

Definition of the Week (53): Established Base

☞ Purbu Chock:
Definition: That established by prime cognition
Established base is synonymous with, among others, existent, phenomenon and object of knowledge.
That established objectively as existent is reality, such as the compounded being impermanent, that under the control of karma and afflictions being suffering, the existence of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha and their qualities, as well as one’s ability to attain these.

Everything not established by prime cognition, and rather refuted by it, is less than fiction, such as the compounded being static and permanent, that under the control of karma and afflictions being delightful, attractive and happiness, the non-existence of Buddha, Dharma and Sangha, or one being unable to transform one’s mind into the Dharma Jewel, and become Sangha Jewel and Buddha Jewel.

☞ Lama Tsong Khapa:
There are six causes for the generation of mental afflictions: … Regarding mental attention it is the mistaken mental attention which exaggerates the attractive or non-attractive, the grasping at the impermanent as permanent and so forth.

Desire and attachment are generated in dependence on exaggerating the attractive qualities of the object. Anger and hatred are generated in dependence on exaggerating the non-attractive qualities of the object. Both are generated in dependence on projecting existence from its own side where there is none.

When we are attached, we are attached to our own projection, and when we are angry, we are angry at our own projections. Since anger and attachment are perceived as the two main sources for worldly happiness, the worldly mind becomes tired out in constantly having to keep up its projections.
Give the mind a rest by giving the mind the alternative of liberation and enlightenment.

Definition of the Week (52): Existent

☞ Purbu Chock:
Definition: Being the object of prime cognition

In Buddhism the dividing line between something that exists and something that is only projected or imagined, is whether it is the object of prime cognition or not.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama:
The only antidote against the afflictions is to cut through the false appearances projected by mistaken conception and understand the reality of the object.

☞ Gyaltsab Je:
One is mistaken with regards to the truth of suffering by grasping at purity, happiness, permanence and self. Understanding the four aspects of the truth of suffering, which are impermanence, suffering, empty and selfless, counteracts this.
Take the subject suffering of suffering
it is impermanent – because it is generated adventitiously
it is suffering – because it is powered by karma and afflictions
it is empty – because there is no separate controlling self
it is empty – because it is not established in the nature of an independent self.
To exist it has to be the object of prime cognition. E.g., while the fiction of Harry Potter exists, not even one atom Harry Potter does exist.
The permanence of our aggregates, the happiness of samsara we always project, and the self that supposedly posseses these aggregates or enjoys the supposed happinesses of samsara are like Harry Potter – not the object of prime cognition.