SI L41 (final) - Amitabha Buddhist Centre

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Amitabha Buddhist Centre
Lama Tsongkhapa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom
Transcript of the teachings by Geshe Chonyi
Root text from The Medium-Length Exposition of the Stages of the Path
of Enlightenment Practised by Persons of Three Capacities by Lama
Tsongkhapa, translation Jeffrey Hopkins, Tsong-kha-pa’s Final Exposition
of Wisdom © 2008 Jeffrey Hopkins, Snow Lion Publications.
All outline references refer to the outline by Trijang Rinpoche unless
otherwise stated. Outlines are in bold.
Lesson No: 41
Date: 1st March 2011
Question and Answer
Question: In the syllogism: A vase is not truly existent because it is a
dependent arising. The thesis: A vase is not truly existent. The sign:
Because it is a dependent arising
The question is this: When someone realises the sign, “because it is a
dependent arising,” that person would have realised emptiness. However,
that person would not have realised the emptiness of an inherently
existent vase. Am I right to say that? What does that person realise if he
does not realise the emptiness of a vase?
Answer: One can perhaps state the example of the reflection
Question: How is it possible to superimpose a self onto a non-existent?
Response: Is it possible to have a concept of the inherently existent horns
of a rabbit or not?
Ven. Gyurme: You basically do not understand how you can apprehend
inherent existence of a non-existent, right?
Answer: It doesn’t really matter whether you are talking of an existent or
a non-existent. In relation to whatever object it is, there can be a mind
apprehending that object to be inherently existent.
Question: What is the difference between the apprehension of true
existence and incorrect mental attention?
Answer: This is a cause and effect relationship. Incorrect mental attention
arises from the apprehension of true existence—ignorance. One can say
that incorrect mental attention is the result or effect of ignorance.
As I mentioned before, things and events appear to the mind to be truly
or inherently existent. The mind then believes those appearances and
apprehends those objects to be truly existent. That gives rise to incorrect
mental attention that induces or brings about all the emotions such as
anger, desire and so forth.
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Two truths & two minds
You must understand how the two truths exist on all objects. Let’s take
the vase as an example. The two truths exist on the vase:

The vase itself is a conventional truth or a more accurate translation
will be “a truth for the obscured mind.”

The emptiness of the vase existing inherently is the ultimate truth of
the vase.
These two truths – the truth for the obscured mind and the ultimate truth
- exist on the vase. Because this is the reality of how things exist, that on
the basis, these two truths exist; therefore, there must be two
corresponding valid minds (cognisers) that understand these two truths
and are able to posit and explain what they are:
o The ultimate mind, i.e., the direct perception of emptiness, posits the
ultimate truth of the vase.
o There is another mind, other than the wisdom that directly realises the
emptiness of the vase, that can posit the existence of the vase. That
mind realises the conventional truth.
Let’s consider the wisdom of meditative equipoise of a superior being in
meditative equipoise. A superior being realises the emptiness of the vase.
The mind that directly realises the emptiness of the vase only sees the
ultimate reality of the vase, i.e., it only sees the final mode of abiding of
the vase, which is emptiness. This mind does not see the vase, the vase
does not appear to that mind nor does it realise the vase.
According to the CMWS, this mind which directly perceives emptiness is
unmistaken. There is no appearance of true existence to this mind, nor do
conventionalities appear to this mind.
There is a mind that realises the vase itself, i.e., it posits the existence of
the vase. This mind is called an obscurational (or obscured) mind. To this
mind realising the vase, the vase appears to be truly existent. For these
obscured minds there are many different modes of appearances, i.e.,
things can appear in many different ways. There is a whole host of
mistaken appearances.
With regard to these conventional or obscured minds, there are many
variations. There are valid cognisers and there are also minds that are
wrong or mistaken. Within the category of conventional minds, there are:

conventional minds that accord with reality and

conventional minds that do not accord with reality.
For the conventional mind that does not accord with reality, in particular
the mind apprehending true existence, a whole host of mistaken
appearances arise.
Let’s take the case of an ordinary person who has not realised emptiness.
Whatever appears to that person appears to be truly existent. Having said
that, that does not necessarily mean that the mind perceiving the object
necessarily apprehends the object to be inherently existent.
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What does a conventional mind mean? An obscuring mind is a better
translation than conventional mind because one is referring to the mind
that obscures one from seeing the truth, i.e., seeing reality, in particular,
the apprehension of true existence.
Refutation of inherent existence
How does ignorance – the apprehension of true existence - work? Things
appear to the mind to be truly existent. This mind then assents to that
appearance, apprehending that object which is appearing as truly existent
to exist in that way. Ignorance believes this is how things exist. Not only
do things appear as truly existent, ignorance apprehends the phenomena
which appear to us to be real. Therefore, there is a whole host of mistaken
appearances. But, in reality, things and events don’t exist inherently or
truly. That is not how they exist.
If things and events exist in the way ignorance apprehends them to exist,
these inherently existent objects should be found by the mind positing the
ultimate truth. They must be realised by the mind realising the ultimate
truth.
Why is this so? If things exist in the way they appear to us, that means
reality and appearance are in harmony. That constitutes the ultimate
truth. If it is the ultimate truth, it must be found by the mind realising
the ultimate truth. If things and events are indeed inherently or truly
existent, the way we believe them to be, then they must be found by the
mind realising the ultimate truth, but they cannot be found. Why?
Because the mind that realises the ultimate truth only realises the
emptiness of inherent existence. It does not realise inherent existence.
Although things and events do not exist in the way ignorance apprehends
them to exist, however, due to the pollution of ignorance, ignorance
produces all sorts of hallucinations and mistaken appearances, which
lead us to develop a whole host of negative emotions such as anger and
desire.
How things exist
There is no phenomenon that is established by its own nature. There is
no inherently existent or truly existent object. Things do not exist in the
way they appear to us. They do not exist in the way that our ignorance
believes them to exist.
Having said that, does that mean that things and events do not exist? No!
We need to be able to explain or posit the existence of things and events.
Things do exist. How do things exist? Things are posited to exist just by
the mere dependence on causes and conditions.
Summary
In summary, you should understand that:

The two truths exist on any chosen object.

The existence of that object is verified by the conventional mind,
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



Lama Tsongkhapa’s Final Exposition of Wisdom
which is a mind that posits the existence of a particular object.
In the category of the conventional mind, there are two divisions:
o the correct conventional mind that accords with reality and
o the incorrect conventional mind that does not accord with reality
The incorrect conventional mind, specifically ignorance, causes us to
have all sorts of mistaken appearances, which then give rise to a
whole host of negative emotions.
In order to stop these mistaken appearances and negative emotions,
you must eradicate their root, i.e., the ignorance apprehending
things and events to be truly existent.
The only way to overcome ignorance is to realise that the conceived
object of ignorance does not exist whatsoever.
Imputed by thought/posited by mind
Question: Can we say that when someone posits a phenomenon, that
person is not necessarily conceptually labelling that phenomenon?
Because there is a wisdom directly realising emptiness that posits
emptiness of a phenomenon. That wisdom has no conceptuality but there
is positing of a phenomenon by that wisdom directly realising emptiness.
Answer: In the teachings, we usually see these phrases: “Phenomena are
merely imputed by thought” or “Phenomena are posited by the mind.”
In the statement, “Phenomena are merely imputed by thought,” “thought”
is taken to refer to conceptuality. Although “thought” is used, you have to
analyse if it really has to be thought or not. Does it always have to refer to
conceptuality?
Then the statement, “Phenomena are posited by the mind.” Here, it
doesn’t say “thought” but “mind” instead. There is a conceptual and a
non-conceptual mind.
With regard to the earlier statement, do you agree that the word “thought”
necessarily refers to conceptuality?
If you say yes, it has to be conceptuality, what are the fallacies of that
position?
If you say no, it doesn’t have to be conceptuality all the time, then what is
the back-up?
Question: How
phenomenon?
does
a
non-conceptual
mind
impute
or
label
a
Answer: Let us look at the mind in terms of the sense consciousness and
the mental consciousness. It is difficult to think of the sense
consciousnesses labelling this and that. But, with regard to the mental
consciousness, it is easy to conceive how the mental consciousness
impute or label. There are different mental consciousnesses.
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Within the category of mental consciousnesses, there are direct
perceivers. The direct perception of emptiness does think, “This is
emptiness” and realises emptiness. Emptiness, which is the ultimate
truth, is posited by the mind realising it, specifically that direct perception
of emptiness. Other than that, how do you explain how emptiness is
posited other than the thought: “This is emptiness”?
Therefore, with regard to the statement, “Phenomena are merely imputed
by the mind,” I guess it doesn’t necessarily have to mean that, at all
times, things are imputed in this way.
When one says, “A mind posits an object,” how does one verify that that
object exists? It is through realising it. Once one has realised it, this is
how the object is posited. In that sense, emptiness is posited.
How does one determine whether something exists or not? It is
determined by whether there is a mind that is able to verify it, i.e., there
is a mind which realises it. If there is a mind that can verify the existence
of the object, then that object is said to exist. There are different kinds of
minds that verify the existence of an object. They can be conceptual or
non-conceptual minds. That being the case, it is then difficult to say that
the mind which verifies the existence of an object always has to be a
conceptual mind. For example, the Buddha realises all phenomena. All
phenomena are posited by his valid mind. But there is no conceptuality in
the Buddha’s mind. If that is the case, then it is difficult to say that
things and events are posited by thought.
Geshe-la: Buddha Shakyamuni has an alms bowl. Is that alms bowl
posited by Buddha’s mind?
This is something to be analysed. We are not making a conclusion here.:
“Phenomena are merely imputed by the mind”: The word “mind” is more
general because it covers both conceptual minds and non-conceptual
minds. You also hear that “Things and events exist in mere name or in
dependence on name and terminology.”
Mere appearance
Let’s talk about a vase. You should understand that the vase is only a
mere appearance. It is something that is merely imputed or posited by a
conventional mind. The vase does not exist inherently by itself and is not
established by its own nature.
Why? If the vase exists inherently, exists by its own nature, you must be
able to find it when you look for it. But when you look for that inherently
existent vase, you don’t find the vase. At the end of the process, there is
nothing to point to as a vase. In fact, what you find is the non-existence of
the inherently existent vase. What you found at the end of the process is
the emptiness of the vase but you will not find the non-existence of the
vase.
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Does that mean the vase does not exist? No! The vase exists. How does
the vase exist? It exists as something that is merely posited by the
conventional mind. This is a very important understanding. While the
vase is empty of existing inherently, it exists. The vase arises from
emptiness. While the vase is empty, it exists as something that is merely
posited by a conventional mind, a mere appearance.
Question: When someone is looking for the emptiness of the vase, at the
end of the analysis, does the person find the emptiness of the vase or the
emptiness of the emptiness of the vase? Because if he finds the emptiness
of the vase, it would mean that emptiness is findable and therefore
inherently existent.
Answer: He finds the emptiness of the vase.
Student: Why then would he go on to establish that the emptiness of the
vase is also empty of inherent existence?
Answer: Yes?
Student: To ensure that he would not go to the extreme of thinking that
the emptiness of the vase is inherently existent? That is the reason?
Geshe-la: When you look for Benny (name of student), can you find Benny
or not?
Think about this. If you are asked: “Can Benny be found in this room?”
you have to say Benny can be found in this room. If you go a little bit
further, you may say Benny is there sitting on the cushion. Benny is
there. It follows then that Benny is on his aggregates.
Is Benny sitting on the cushion?
Students answer: Yes.
So Benny is existing on his basis of designation. That means Benny is
findable on his aggregates. If Benny is on the seat, then Benny is also on
his nose. Does Benny exist on his nose? No? He is not on his hand? If he
is not this and that, then he is not (findable) on his aggregates which are
the bases of designation. If that is the case, then how can Benny be in
this room?
This is something you have to think about. Does the imputed object exist
on its basis of designation?
It is said that the imputed object exists on the basis of designation but, at
the same time, when you look for the imputed object on the basis of
designation, you will not be able to find it. Is there a problem?
The person exists. If the person exists, it has to exist somewhere. Where
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else (can the person exist) other than on the aggregates which is the basis
of designation of that person? It may be better to say that the person can
exist on the basis of designation, the aggregates of body and mind.
When one says that, does that necessarily mean that the person can be
found on the aggregates?
There is no problem. I can say the person exists on the aggregates which
are the bases of designation. Having said that, I am not saying that that
means that the person can be found on the aggregates. Why? Because the
person is imputed on the aggregates. The person can be found on the
aggregates. But if you search for the imputed object among the
aggregates, you will not be able to find it.
The point is: Can the person be found? If the person can be found, the
person can only be found on his aggregates. Therefore, it is ok to say the
person can be found on the aggregates.
But when you look for the imputed object and you cannot find it, that
shows that that (imputed) object does not exist inherently. The inherently
existent object does not exist at all.
But that does not mean that the object does not exist. What you find at
the end of the process is the non-existence of an inherently existent
object. You do not find the non-existence of the object.
It is also important to understand the meaning of “mere appearance.”
Let’s use the reflection of your face in the mirror. The moment you look in
the mirror, you will see your face in the mirror. Immediately, you realise
and understand that that is not your actual face. At the same time, you
understand that that is just an appearance, a reflection.
What is the basis of that immediate understanding? In fact, at the back of
your mind, you already realise that it is just a reflection, not your actual
face. But, in order for you to be able to establish that the reflection of
your face in the mirror is not your face, you must have many prior
understandings: that it is just a reflection; that your face is not in the
mirror and it is not behind the mirror. All these prior understandings
enable you to have an immediate understanding upon seeing the
reflection, “That is just a reflection.”
Having all these prior
understandings allow you to realise that when you see the appearance of
yourself in the mirror, you immediately realise that the reflection is not
your face. The reflection is just an appearance. It is not your real face.
Let’s say a bird stands in front of the mirror. The bird will start pecking at
it, probably thinking that there is another bird over there. What is
responsible for the bird’s behaviour? This is because the bird has not
realised, from the beginning, that it is just a reflection.
Although you understand that it is just a reflection and not your real face,
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nevertheless, you can develop attachment and desire in dependence on
the reflection. It is just like the magician who conjures up an image of a
very attractive person. Let’s say you realise that the attractive person is
just an illusion conjured up by the magician and that there is no real
person right there, but you can still develop desire for that illusion.
Although you realise the reflection of your face in the mirror is not your
actual face, you have not realised that the reflection of your face and the
mirror is empty of inherent existence. Because of that, when you look at
the reflection, you apprehend it to be inherently existent. You grasp at it
and can still develop attachment for that reflection. That means you have
not yet realised the emptiness of that reflection.
Questions from Geshe-la:
If a person realises emptiness directly, does that person still have
ignorance? Can that person still develop attachment and desire?
Once you have realised emptiness directly, is your ignorance eradicated?
Is there ignorance in the mental continuum of someone who directly
perceives emptiness?
(Responses from various students).
You all agree there is still ignorance there? So the bodhisattva on the first
to the seventh ground would still get angry, would still have attachment?
If you say yes, then when these emotions are generated, they accumulate
karma, yes or no?
That means they accumulate karma to be reborn in samsara, isn’t it? Yes
or no?
If you say no, but all the causes of samsara are there – ignorance is there,
anger is there, attachment is there. On top of that, there is karma…
You need to be able to explain, rather than just parroting the words, why
one does not create fresh causes for samsara once the direct realisation of
emptiness is achieved even though all the causes – ignorance, anger,
attachment and karma – are there.
Translated by Ven. Tenzin Gyurme
Transcribed by Phuah Soon Ek and Vivien Ng
Edited by Cecilia Tsong
Checked by Shirley Soh
Lesson 41
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