Dharma Notes

Definition of the Week

Definition of the Week (10) – Truth of Suffering

“Suffering is to be known
The source to be abandoned
Cessation is to be attained
The path is to be practiced.”

Jetsün Chokyi Gyaltsen:
Truth of Suffering: A truth  characterised by being impermanent, misery, empty and selfless, and belonging to the completely afflicted side.

Gyaltsab Je:
We are 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 misery – 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.

Essentially, if it is generated under the control of karma and afflictions it is misery, and hence impermanent, empty and selfless, and therefore truth of suffering and to be abandoned. The key element seems to be misery.

Have a good week! (haha)

Definition of the Week (9) – Nirvana

Nirvana (Gone beyond suffering; transcendence of suffering; left suffering behind)

An analytical cessation that has completely abandoned the afflictive obscurations.

“Analytical cessation” because it is a cessation that is achieved through analysis of the four noble truths.

Nominal fourfold division of nirvana into:

  1. Nirvana with remainder: Def.: Hinayana nirvana with a remainder of suffering aggregates. E.g., nirvana of an arhat belonging to one of the three realms.
  2. Nirvana without remainder: Hinayana nirvana without a remainder of suffering aggregates. E.g., nirvana of an arhat belonging to one of the pure realms.
  3. Natural nirvana: Emptiness of all phenomena. “Natural” because all phenomena are naturally liberated from inherent existence.
  4. Non-abiding nirvana: Analytical cessation free from the two obscurations. Synonymous with the truth of cessation in the continuum of a buddha.

“Non-abiding” because of not abiding in the extremes of existence and peace. Non abiding in the two extremes, but always abiding in meditative equipoise on emptiness, even while walking, eating or drinking.

Definition of the Week (8) – Ultimate Truth

Ultimate Truth:
That which can only be cognized in a non-dual manner by the direct perception realizing it.

Ultimate truth and emptiness are synonymous.

Definition Key:
To be cognized in a non-dual manner: the perception is free from the three dualistic modes:

  1. The appearance of subject and object as different.
  2. The appearance of an illusory (nominal) phenomenon.
  3. The appearance of inherent existence.

On the level of sentient beings there is only one consciousness that fulfills these criteria, which is the non-dual transcendental wisdom directly realizing emptiness.

It is the only antidote against ignorance and samsara, and synonymous with  the truth of the path.

Definition of the Week (7) – Illusory (conventional) truth

Illusory (conventional) truth:
That which can only be cognized in a dualistic manner by the direct perception realizing it.

The implication is that this part of existence, since it cannot be realized in a non-dualistic way, is always deceptive in appearance, it is false, misleading and illusory.

“Conventional” has now been known for some time to be not correct. Other alternatives provided are “concealer truth”, or “truth for a concealer” and such.

Illusory truth is my personal word choice, with the seal of Lama Zopa Rinpoche, who said this term can be used.  It seems to fit all the parameters given in the texts.

Also, by hearing the term, rather then reaffirming a sense of inherent existence, it reminds of the discrepancy of appearance and existence, and encourages us to question our projections and mental stories.

A personal favorite tongue-in-cheek favorite is “Hollywood truth”.

Definition of the week (6) – View of the transitory collections

View of the transitory collections

An afflicted wisdom grasping at inherent existence upon having focused on the ‘I’ or ‘mine’ in ones own continuum.

Definition Key:
An afflicted wisdom – an afflicted discriminating mental factor; eliminates any primary consciousness as transitory view.
Grasping at inherent existence  – grasping at the object as existing from its own side, not labelled by the imputing mind.
Upon having focused on the ‘I’ or ‘mine’ in ones own continuum – shows that the ‘I’ and ‘mind’ in owns own continuum are the focal object; eliminates the ‘I’ and ‘mine’ in another persons continuum as the focal object of the transitory view.

Initially starting grasping at self by naming ‘I’,    
Then generating attachment for phenomena named ‘mine’.
Praise to whatever becomes compassion for migrators
Traversing without freedom like a bucket in a well.

First Dalai Lama:
Migrators in cyclic existence initially start grasping at a truly existing self by naming ‘I’. Subsequently the view of the transitory collections grasping at ‘mine’ generates attachment for the true existence of phenomena named ‘mine’, such as the eyes. This causes them to traverse in cyclic existence without freedom, like a bucket in a well.

Definition of the Week (5) – Negation

Negation according to the first Dalai Lama Gyalwa Gedun Drub:

That which is realised through direct elimination of its object of negation.

Division: Affirming and non-affirming negation

Non-affirming negation: That which is realised through direct elimination of its object of negation and which doesn’t project another phenomena in place of the object of negation.

E.g., emptiness.

Emptiness has to be the mere negation of inherent existence, because in the non-dual meditative equipoise no illusory conventional phenomenon can appear.

From the Debate between Wisdom and Ignorance by Panchen Chokyi Gyaltsen, Ignorance says to Wisdom:

Focusing on the aggregates one says ‘I’.

Make the mere non-affirming negation [149]
Of true existence of this the object of apprehension.
If then, without weakening strength, but with clear intensity,
Free from mental sinking, excitement and apprehending characteristics,

One is skillful in training in the mode of apprehending, [150]
Where, upon having focused on the aggregates,
My non-existence appears as object,
Then this is is the mode of apprehending antithetical to me.

Then one is able to evict me. [151]
However, this is like a mere daytime star.

Choden Rinpoche, commenting on these lines:

One thinks ‘I’ in dependence on focusing on the aggregates. One eliminates this mode of apprehension in relation to the aggregates, refuting truly existent aggregates, and then one holds that mode of apprehension, the mere lack of true existence, without adding anything. The apprehended object is the mere lack of true existence and one has realized emptiness.

This is then combined with calm abiding, which is free from mental sinking or excitement and endowed with clear intensity. If one finds a person that is skilled in this way, this person can harm true-grasping and can evict true-grasping. But such a person is as rare as a star in daylight.



Definition(s) of the Week (4) – Non-harmfulness, Harmfulness, Cruelty


From the Compendium of Knowledge: What is Non-harmfulness? A compassionate mind that belongs to the family of non-anger, having the function of preventing harming and belittling others.

As such: Patience that, having focused on a suffering sentient being, without any harmful intent wishes it to be free from suffering.

Harmfulness, Cruelty

Definition: Harmfulness is the wish to abuse others, being a consciousness of non-compassion, non-sympathy and non-empathy.

Non-compassion, if one wishes to do the abusing oneself.
Non-sympathy, if one wishes to order another to abuse.
Non-empathy, if one rejoices in the abusing of others.

Harmfulness belongs to the family of anger. It has the function of causing abuse.

Lama Zopa Rinpoche:
“The purpose of our life is not simply to solve our own problems, to gain happiness for ourselves. The purpose of our life is to be of use to others, to benefit other sentient beings, whether it be one or many. However, the real reason we are alive is to free the numberless other sentient beings from suffering and lead them to the unsurpassed happiness of full enlightenment. That is the meaning of our life. Each of us has this universal responsibility to bring the greatest happiness to all sentient beings.

Pause here for a moment, stop reading, and meditate on the feeling of universal responsibility, that if you have compassion for all living beings, each one receives great peace and happiness from you; each one receives no harm. Think, “All this peace and happiness that they experience and enjoy depends upon me.” Think of the reasons for this and meditate on the thought, “I am responsible for all sentient beings’ peace and happiness.” It would be wonderful if you could practice mindfulness of this in your everyday life.”

Definition of the Week (3) – Definition of Emptiness

Definition of Emptiness:

The mere non-affirming negation of inherent existence.

“Mere” because if one takes away more than inherent existence one  falls into the extreme of nihilism, and if one takes away less than inherent existence one falls into the extreme of eternalism.

Panchen Losang Choki Gyaltsan:

The reflection of illusory appearance arises
Within the mirror of the empty mind.    
Since it has no existence beyond mere appearance,
There is no place for true-grasping to remain.

Emptiness is divided relative to the basis into the selflessness of person and the selflessness of phenomena.

To liberate migrators his selflessness was taught in two aspects,
Dividing it according to phenomena and person.

Definition of the Week (2) – Definition of Consciousness

The definition of consciousness is clear and knowing.

Clear refers to the ability of consciousness to arise in the aspect of the object.

Knowing refers to the primary arising of consciousness in the aspect of the object, i.e., the apprehension of the object.

Awareness, consciousness and knower are synonymous.



Definition of the Week (1) – Definition of Person

Definition of Person:

The mere “I” labelled in dependence on the aggregates.

“I”, self and person are synonymous.


1) My preferred personal wording:
The mere “I” labelled relative to the aggregates.

2) It usually says “person”, but person extends primarily to human beings, while the Tibetan term gang zag extends to all forms of life. Therefore instead of person it is better to think here of being or creature perhaps. Also animals and other lifeforms have a self and “I”, or more correctly phrased, are a self and “I”.