The Quintessence of Rangtong

jf_sky2_diego_2022.jpg Sky over Tibet

A long time coming, actually a year to the day since my last January 13th posting, The Quintessence of Zhentong from the collection of 108 Quintessential Instructions , I thought to revisit these instructions with a complimentary post.

Each of these instructions was meant to act as a pith directive to the practitioner about how to cultivate a particular outlook on the nature of reality through contemplative experience. These 108 Quintessential Instructions of the Jonang continue to be...

Are there Geluk Zhentongpas?

Are there Geluk zhentongpas? This is a question that I've been asking for some time. Fortunately, a set of rare texts that were recently recovered from Tibet may shed some light on this. Made available in late 2007, there are four published books by two authors of the Geluk tradition that deserve particular attention. These manuscripts were collected from library archives in Tibet and reproduced via computer input as part of the longer Mes po'i shul bzhag series published by China’s Tibetology Publishing House (Beijing, 2007). This set of works includes the three volume Collected Works of Gungru Gyaltsen Zangpo (1383-1450), and one volume from the writings of Kunkhyen Lodrö...

Notes on Jonang Series II

The second set in the Jonang Publication Series ( Jo nang dpe tshogs ) was recently published (vols. 11-21) in Beijing. [1] This annual series is dedicated to making select works on sūtra and tantra from the Jonang exegetical tradition available in softcover book form. Each Tibetan text in the series was chosen from the corpus of Jonang Tibetan Buddhist literature, and several of the rare works included in the series have only recently been recovered through our efforts at Jonang Foundation.

Texts were digitally inputted and edited by Tibetan Jonang scholars and monks in China as part of this ongoing publication project. Selections...

The Quintessence of Zhentong

Thinking about this well structured collection of 108 instructions, I thought to pick a few and post them. Feeling predictable, I wanted to start with what you may expect to find on this blog, the instructions on zhentong (#25). However, as we read through this instruction, its presentation is perhaps less obvious than expected (or maybe not).

What makes this particular instruction so interesting is that it seems to be the only surviving fragment of the writings attributed to the Tibetan master Tsen Khawoché (b. 1021), a major figure in the transmission of zhentong and the Five Treatises of Maitreya .” [1] Again, we...

Zhentong isn't Cittamātra

For some reason, those unfamiliar with the zhentong presentation tend to associate it with the Cittamāra ("Mind Only" or "Mentalist") system, as if Madhyamaka was only divided into Svātantrika and Prasaṇgika. According to the Jonangpa, this is a case of mistaken identity.

Perhaps one of the most intriguing developments in the historical narrative on the Tibetan zhentong tradition is the Jonangpa categorical situating of the Cittamātra system in relation to the other major philosophical "schools" of Indian Buddhism.

While the Cittamātra is generally associated with the final turning set of sūtra discourses and the śastra literature attributed to Maitreya, Asaṅga and Vasubandhu, the Jonangpa challenge this assumption as...

Tradition of the Perfect Eon

The "now" is important for any tradition. For it is in the process of bringing the past into the present wherein a tradition is brought to life. However, the past, and in particular the excavation of knowledge from the past, is arguably just as important for the life of a tradition.

As we discussed in the "Wheel of Time" series, this excavation process is a true concern for Dolpopa and later Jonangpa thinkers. [1] For them, this is the hermeneutical act of retrieving the pure teaching from the pure time: the dharma of the Kṛtayuga or Perfect Eon.

However, there is more to...

What Is / Isn't Rangtong?

Dolpopa, like many great Tibetan scholars, was interested in making distinctions. Within his writings, we find several terse compositions that employ rich Buddhist lingo in order to succinctly and deliberately analyze critical subjects such as emptiness, existence, consciousness, and the wholeness of buddhahood.

What strikes me about these writings is that they are so unambiguous. Its as if Dolpopa knew there would be speculation, and he didn't want to leave his words too open to interpretation from others.

Having mentioned rangtong in contrast with zhentong in an earlier post, I wanted to step aside and let a work by Dolpopa speak for itself. [1]...

Whose Svabhāva is It?

jf_taranatha_thangka_2.jpg Taranatha

One of the major tripping points in Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy is identifying what is intrinsically existent ― what is referred to in Sanskrit as "svabhāva" ( rang bzhin ), and what is not ( nisvabhāva , rang bzhin med ).

Svabhāva is the central target of the Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika Rangtong Madhyamaka enterprise, and is essential in understanding zhentong. [1] However, what is considered svabhāva is not the same within the major Mahāyāna philosophical systems. Since this is a source of possible...