Wednesday, October 31, 2007

me long lta bu'i ye shes - Mirror-like Wisdom

The first of the ye shes lnga (five wisdoms) we will go through is me long lta bu'i ye shes.

me long is a mirror. lta bu is like that, similar -- this is a very common term, good to learn inside out. The ending 'i is a genitive particle that binds the right to the left. ye shes is wisdom.

So the most common translation for this wisdom is mirror-like wisdom. This is the deep, deep wisdom of the whole sphere reality. It is called mirror-like as phenomena appear to the mind in the same way as in a clean mirror - totally accurate with no distortions. Pleasant objects do not stick to the mirror, and unpleasant objects are not repulsive in the mirror. Mirrors reflect things as they are, whether it is a smoking machine gun or a beautiful rose. This includes no separation of self and other phenomena, everything is experienced in full harmony, as it is.

Next what needs to be transmuted in order to get to this wisdom state.

Monday, October 29, 2007

phung po lnga - Five Aggregates

ye shes lnga, the five wisdoms, are also associated with phung po lnga, the five aggregates.

phung is actually heap, skandha in Sanskrit. phung po is usually here in west translated as aggregate. It's somewhat odd term, as the heap or collection concept is easier to understand, it's really about taking a bunch of what a person consist of, and placing them in five distinctive collections, or five heaps; lnga is five.

There's plenty of good material out there on the web concerning the five aggregates, here's a good one by Alex Berzin. As we will see, it's interesting to notice the connection between the collections and the wisdoms -- again the raw material is there, it's a matter of purifying it.

There are even more things associated with the five wisdoms, and we will pick them up along the way, but these four sections times five is twenty postings, so that should be a mouthful during the next month or so. But the end result is that you would easily recognize how each important part plays together, in dependent origination, so that will be fun.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

dug lnga - Five Poisons

The raw material for ye shes lnga, the five wisdoms, is actually dug lnga, the five poisons.

dug is poison. These are like mental poisons, bothering the mind.

lnga is number five.

Sometimes this expression is also dug lnga 'khrugs pa, where 'khrugs pa means distraction, disturbance.

So the really cool idea is to take the poisons, and turn them into the pure form, which is wisdom. The five poisons are: desire, anger, delusion, pride and envy. For most sentient beings, those are present every day, so there's plenty of raw material to work with.

Friday, October 26, 2007

MacOSX 10.5 Leopard and Tibetan Fonts

Ok, Leopard is out so we could finally talk about the new features and fixes in this MacOSX release. See this image, it's from the Wikipedia Skandha page. Yes, finally decent default Tibetan Unicode fonts in MacOSX, and they properly stack, too.

I have not tested out all the possible variations yet, but finally MacOSX has good Tibetan font rendering support. That and with Microsoft Vista, we are finally, finally at a point where web sites could include real Tibetan Unicode strings.

I will still use the image approach in this blog, as it will take a while before everyone has the latest versions of the platform OS systems. But from the point of getting decent Tibetan font support, this is the time to upgrade.

... I still remember ten years back in time when it was just a matter of a few years before the platforms would have Tibetan Unicode support...

Thursday, October 25, 2007

rgyal ba rigs lnga - Five Buddha Families

Something that will play an important role in going through the ye shes lnga -- five wisdoms - is rgyal ba rigs lnga, the five Buddha families.

rgyal is king or royal, rgyal ba is the translation for Sanskrit jina, victorious one, or a Buddha. The victory refers to conquering the four maras.

rigs is an interesting word, means lineage, family or clan, especially concerning a spiritual lineage or spiritual family. lnga is number five.

These five Buddha families in the highest yoga practices correspond to the five Wisdoms. You could encounter these Buddha aspects in many places, such as in paintings, images of enlightened beings, practice texts, and so on. The highest yoga deities have all five incorporated, sometimes very obviously as five parts in the head ornament, sometimes in a more subtle way. And when you do do various practices, one of the Buddha families play an important role in the practice, and there's always a reason why.

Ultimately, they are inborn factors present in every sentient beings' mental continuum that makes it possible to become enlightened, the only difference being that in an enlightened mind, they are pure, and not mixed with ignorance as in the ordinary mind stream of a normal being.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

ye shes lnga - Five Wisdoms

The enlightened mind operates with five wisdoms - ye shes lnga. These are five aspects of pristine awareness. As mentioned earlier, ye shes, wisdom, is transcendental wisdom, the awareness of an enlightened being. lnga is number five.

Well, to get there, certain ordinary parts and consciousnesses have to be purified. When that's done, they actually operate with transcendental wisdom, that's all. That's why again the Sakya presentation of Samsara and Nirvana being of the same taste is interesting, as it points out that all the material is available, it's just a matter of transforming it.

We will go through the ye shes lnga, one at a time, and for each also show the connection to various other parts, such as mental poisons, aggregates, Buddha families, symbolism, and so on. So this will take a while, but as part of that you will learn a lot of Tibetan Buddhist terminology, as well as see the deep interdependent connections all kinds of parts you didn't even expect. And next time you look at a Buddhist picture, you would know what various parts represent, it's all encoded in there, and you learn to decipher it!

Anyway, I hope by taking the ye shes lnga as the anchor point this will be a somewhat different kind of presentation.

mngon par byang chub pa'i sku - abhisambodhikaya

The last of the sku lnga parts of a Buddha is mngon par byang chub pa'i sku - abhisambodhikaya.

mgon pa is manifest, the r is a sub-ordination particle, it classifies the right side to the left. Tibetans translated the Sanskrit term abhi, towards, higher, supreme, as mngon par, so you should see this here and there in the texts.

byang chub is enlightenment, the 'i is a genitive particle that binds right to left. sku is body.

One way to translate this is the body of manifest enlightenment.

The short form of this is mngon byang gi sku.

One way to describe this is that the four other kayas spontaneously complete within the awareness wisdom, so this is the body of true perfected purity. It is the embodiment of buddha's enlightened qualities.

It is said that to describe the qualities of an enlightened being is like a bird taking off over an ocean, and turning back after flying one day. To make it more modern, we could fill every web page available on Internet with descriptions, and never finish the job. Anyway, it's auspicious to talk about it, so next there will be a short series of how ordinary parts of a sentient beings will turn into enlightened parts, which ones, and what is the end result.

Monday, October 22, 2007

mi 'gyur rdo rje'i sku - changeless vajrakaya

Well, in some presentations there are actually five parts to buddhahood, sku lnga. In this case there's dharmakaya, sambhogakaya, nirmanakaya, and two new parts.

The first is mi 'gyur rdo rje'i sku - changeless vajrakaya.

Let's go through this term backwards. sku is body, the 'i is a genitive that binds right to what's follows to the left. rdo rje is vajra.

'gyur is to become, and the mi in front negates this, so it does not become, or changeless.

The short form of this is rdo rje'i sku.

For example, vajrakaya is the body in which Jetsun Milarepa arose from his funeral pyre to give one final teaching to his disciples. It is basically the immutable or unchanging nature of the four other Buddha parts.

This is also sometimes translated as diamond body, as vajra is translated as diamond when using this expression, and rdo rje is king of stones, an indestructible stone. Another translation I've seen is body of indestructible reality.

I think to get more in-depth teachings on this topic, it's best to consult with your teachers, especially the Nyingma tradition would have beautiful explanations about this term.

Next, the last part in the sku lnga presentation.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

ngo bo nyid kyi sku - svabhavikakaya

The parts of a Buddha are also divided into four parts, sku bzhi. In this case the two form parts are the same, but the non-form parts are two. We went through ye shes chos sku before. The second part is ngo bo nyid kyi sku - svabhavikakaya.

ngo bo is essence, svabhava in Sanskrit; one of those words good to recognize, as you could see it used in various other terms in the scriptures.

nyid means itself, the very one, exactly.

The term ngo bo nyid is the very essence, the essential nature of something.

kyi is a genitive particle, binding the right side to the left, sku is body. Thus the rough translation the body of essence, or the Essence Body as this has usually been translated in English.

So what is this essence body? Depending on the tradition you get different answers. One is that this is the emptiness of the three other bodies. Thus, the three bodies are united in the form of them lacking self-existence, and appearing due to dependent origination. Sometimes this is described as the essential nature of being itself, something that is totally pure in nature. It is the ultimate buddha part, the wisdom aspect is dharmakaya, and the form is rupakaya, where pure beings perceive sambhogakaya, and impure beings perceive nirmanakaya.

But wait, there's also a fifth part, that's next!

Friday, October 19, 2007

longs spyod rdzogs pa'i sku - sambhogakaya

The second form part in the system of three parts of a Buddha is longs spyod rdzogs pa'i sku, sambhogakaya in Sanskrit, and usually translated with the intriguing title enjoyment body.

longs spyod is enjoyment, rzdogs pa is perfect. The 'i is a genitive particle, binding the right side to the left. sku is body.

This term is also sometimes shortened to be longs sku.

So what is this form? It is the form an enlightened being takes for ten level bodhisattvas, as a representation as a teacher. This has five perfected parts: perfect teacher, perfect retinue, place, teaching, and time that is only perceptible to bodhisattvas on the tenth (last) ground.

If you attend a teaching, and you sit close to a teacher, it is an approximation of what will happen later along the path, when you are a tenth level bodhisattva. You might maybe even have this teacher in the enlightened, sambhogakaya form. Or maybe that is already the case, and we don't yet perceive it??

And why is this an enjoyment body? The buddha is in a constant state of bliss, hence the name.

Now, a case that might map to this is the story how Asanga was taken to the realm of Maitreya and receive the five texts. Now, according to the Tantric system Maitreya is already enlightened, but in the scope of this story, the Sutra tradition, Maitreya is not yet enlightened, and is on the tenth stage Bodhisattva level, just about to become enlightened. Anyway, there are many other examples of practitioners reaching up to this level and receiving teachings directly from a sambhogakaya form, and these are also described for various enlightened beings in the scriptures. This includes the so called 32 minor and 80 minor marks of an enlightened being.

As a final note, these three parts are also associated with a Buddha's body, speech, and mind, nirmanakaya is the body aspect, sambhogakaya is the speech aspect, and dharmakaya is the mind aspect.

Next, there's actually another, four-part description of an enlightened being.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

sprul pa'i sku - nirmanakaya

Next, in scriptures sometimes the parts of a buddha are defined having three parts, or sku gsum as the term is called. In this case chos sku is still counted as the mental and ultimate part, but the form part has two sections.

Here is the first, sprul pa'i sku, nirmanakaya in Sanskrit, or Emanation body.

sprul is to emanate, manifest. sprul pa is emanation. Note again how the pa construct is to build words from verbs.

The 'i is a genitive particle, binding from right to left. And sku is again body.

This term could also be shortened to sprul sku. The pronunciation is trulku, so that should sound familiar, as it is a honorific title sometimes given to various teachers, hinting at the possibilities.

Now, I usually think of this term in plural, emanation bodies, rather than emanation body. A Buddha is capable of emanating countless forms, not just one at a time. It is said that a Buddha spontaneously emanates any form suitable for particular sentient beings at particular times. It could be a person, an animal, but also forms such as wind, bridges, clouds, sounds from the sky. If we want to be more contemporary, it could be TV series, web sites, MP3 music, chat sessions, podcasts, blogs and so on. There's no limit concerning the ways emanation forms could manifest.

Depending on the student, the emanation forms could take more obvious forms such as a special teacher and so forth. Anyway, worth thinking about this capability and what the possibilities are.

Next, the other form part.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

ye shes kyi tshogs - Collection of Wisdom

The cause of the second part of a Buddha, chos sku, is ye shes kyi tshogs - collection of wisdom, jnanasambhara in Sanskrit.

ye shes, jnana in Sanskrit, is a really cool word. It is unfortunately sometimes translated the same way as shes rab, wisdom. But there are all kinds of levels of wisdom, especially in languages such as Sanskrit or Tibetan. I wish we had more words for wisdom in our western culture.

Anyway, shes rab, prajna, is wisdom that a bodhisattva accumulates while on the path, ye shes is primordial wisdom, the wisdom that a Buddha ultimately is capable of. In both cases we are dealing with wisdom realizing reality as it is, lack of self-existence of self and phenomena, however everything works just fine with dependent-origination.

kyi is again the genitive particle -- remember to bind from right to left, and tshogs is collection.

This is the collected effort of studying and meditating on the correct view, emptiness, first intellectually and by proxy, then directly experiencing it, and then perfecting it up to the level of buddhahood. This collection then creates the mental and ultimate aspects of a Buddha.

Next, now we will divide a Buddha into three parts!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

chos sku - dharmakaya

The second of the two-way collection of what a Buddha consist of is chos sku, dharmakaya.

As you will learn along the way, chos, dharma, has very, very many meanings when translating. Here the closest we could refer to in this combinational term is ultimate existence.

sku, kaya is body, as mentioned before.

This term is again very, very hard to fully translate. The meaning is that this collection is the mental and ultimate nature parts of a Buddha, or everything else that is not form. Sometimes this is translated as Truth Body. I don't know, this term is somewhat vague as it does not really explain what the parts are.

Anyway, basically this is the mental parts of a Buddha plus the emptiness aspect of a being. From the mental point of view, this is why a Buddha knows the three times, all causes and effects, and so on. From the emptiness aspect, even all the parts of a Buddha have no self-existence. They exist due to dependent-origination, that's all.

These two, gzugs sku and chos sku, are also called sku gnyis, the two bodies, in various scriptures and commentaries, so it's good to know what this term refers to.

And again, there's a cause why this part is appearing, and we will go through that next.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

bsod nams kyi tshogs - Collection of Merit

The way the form aspect of enlightenment is actualized is via a cause, and the cause is: bsod nams kyi tshogs, collection of merit, punyasambhara in Sanskrit.

bsod nams is merit, punya. The perfection of giving, and so forth, the first five perfections (giving, discipline, patience, diligence, concentration) are perfected along the bodhisattva path.

kyi is a genitive, binds the right side to the left.

tshogs, sambhara, is another word good to know inside out, as you will encounter this quite a lot. It usually means collection, accumulation, mass, crowd, but here it means collection.

Thus, by collecting all the merit from the first five perfections, the form aspect of enlightenment is reached. Logically it makes sense, if you perform deeds with all sentient beings in mind, you will get a form where you indeed perform deeds to all sentient beings.

Next the other aspect of an enlightened being.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

gzugs sku - rupakaya

We will first go through the generic collections what constitute an enlightened being. First, you will get the classical two part presentation, then the three part, and finally the four-part presentation.

As part of the two part presentation, the first one i called gzugs sku, rupakaya in Sanskrit.


gzugs is form, rupa in Sanskrit. sku is the honorific form of body, reserved for parents, teachers, bodhisattva, buddhas and so on. In Sanskrit this is kaya, and it's used for body.

Thus, this is the form body.

As you will see later, this classification is not about bodies, rather what constitutes an enlightened being, where there are form, mental and other attributes. In this case this is indeed a body part. So yes, Buddhas do have a body, but it's not like a samsaric body. And of course, it does not exist from its own side -- as we will see next there's a reason how this enlightened body will appear from causes created while in a samsaric environment.

For the time being, think of these as both their selected body form for very high students who could actualize being around them, and any kind of materialized form they want to express as part of teaching sentient beings: other humans, animals, trees, wind, whatever. There are stories in India and Tibet where enlightened beings have taken the form of an island, or a bridge...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Samsara and Nirvana is One - Part 4

This statement then concludes: rtsa rgyud.

rtsa is yet another word good to learn inside out, it means root, and is used in all kinds of combinations to state that something is the root of something else.

We had rgyud before, it means continuum. So this part is the root continuum. rtsa rgyud could also mean root tantra, mulatantra, but here it is important to know from the context that rgyud is referring to continuum.

So what does the root continuum mean here? In this whole context (see earlier postings), all the samsaric obscurations (impure visions) have Samsara as the root. The methods to clear the impure visions are applied to reach Samsara from Nirvana is another root, as well as the results. All together, Samsara and Nirvana together is needed. Thus it is the root continuum.

This was just touching the tip of the iceberg about this important concept of Samsara and Nirvana really being of the same taste. It's also very, very important to remember that these, as well as the concept of a root continuum, are not existing from their own sides at all. There has been thousands of debates in Tibet if such a view is grasping to something self-existent or not, but I will let you debate this internally. Even better, try to get teachings from a qualified Sakya lama about this whole thing, they will be delighted to teach you -- it's a very, very deep topic, and a big section of lam 'bras is about looking at this view over and over again from different angles.

Next, we will start going through the qualities of enlightened beings, if we want to get to that state, it would be interesting to learn what it will really be like.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Samsara and Nirvana is One - Part 3

Next in this line is the following words: tshang bas.

The word is actually tshang ba, complete. The sa at the end is an instrumental particle, it binds that follows next to the previous sentence. Think of it as translated as 'by' at this point of time.

tshang ba is actually an adjective that is tied to the earlier 'khor 'das, Samsara and Nirvana. Typically adjectives are after the noun in Tibetan. Thus this section is the complete Samsara and Nirvana. Or, Samsara and Nirvana are complete.

So what is the complete part about? They are complete, because all samsaric (impure experiences) are complete in the form of characteristics. The path of Nirvana is complete concerning the form of qualities, and the final results are complete in the form of the potency. In other words, nothing exists outside this.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Samsara and Nirvana is One - Part 2

Next is an easier section, it continues with: 'khor 'das.

This is really a short term for Namsara, 'khor ba, and myang 'das, Nirvana.

Something that you will encounter over and over again when translating text is that more complex terms are shortened, of many reasons, either it takes less space when carving wood blocks that takes a long time. Or then it is assumed that the intelligent reader knows about it, hence sometimes you see a short term followed la sogs, and so on...

As a translator you then have to make a choice, should you follow the same style, or spell out the terms? I usually think this way that in this age of cheap paper, and especially computers, it's better to just spell everything out. If it becomes too cumbersome, you could always use footnotes, especially on the same page.

Anyway, back to 'khor 'das. If you followed along, you could now also think of these two states as experiencing impure phenomena versus experiencing pure phenomena. And they have a common ground of the mind, where the causalities operate along the continuum of the mind...

But, there's more to follow!

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Samsara and Nirvana is One - Part 1

Let's just continue along vajra verses to the following sentence. This will be somewhat tough, and takes a while to grasp, but such sentences are good as then the mind will expand!

This starts with kun gzhi rgyu rgyud la. We have seen kun gzhi before, it's short for kun gzhi rnam par shes pa. Click on that link to learn more. Anyway, just now think of this all ground as the part where all the actions in the universe will play out, in other words your mind.

rgyu rgyud is a tough word. rgyu is cause and rgyud is continuum, so one way to translate this is causal continuum. So what is that? The causal part means that there are causes happening, actions lead to results. Continuum means that there's an awareness that is extended from infinite past as a sentient beings, towards infinite future as an enlightened being. It's like an unbroken stream.

la is again the oblique particle that will bind this causal continuum of the universal ground with something we will go through next.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Vajra Verses Online

I forgot to mention that the Vajra verses text is available online as a PDF file, click here to get it to your browser.

Based on the earlier 11 postings, you should be able to navigate the beginning of the text. I didn't go through the homage section.

Note, the further you go inside the text, the more compressed information is provided, so you need a commentary, even better, an oral transmission, to really understand what the vajra verses state.

Vajra Verses - Part 11

OK, this is the last third of the third statement, so we could now translate the whole third section. First, dag pa'i snang ba'o.

dag pa means pure. the ending 'i is a genitive particle that binds the right side with this one on the left. We've had snang ba before, here it could be interpreted as a verb in this terse verse notation, thus it means to appear, or appearance occurs. The lonely 'o indicates that the section ends here. Tibetan has no real period separator, rather sentences, and when a section ends, this is the way to indicate it.

Thus the third statement is pure appearance occurs. So this is the appearance section.

Thus: For a Sugata with the ornamental wheel of inexhaustible enlightened body, speech and mind, pure appearance occurs.

For an enlightened being, there's no special Samsara or Nirvana, same with being a Buddha and not being a Buddha, it's rather experiencing reality as it really is, just pure primordial awareness.

So, sentient beings have an impure appearance, yogis due to practices have experiential appearance, and Buddhas have pure appearance. So there are no external places and events, it's all how beings experience reality. This is the Sakya term snang ba gsum, Three Appearances, or Triple Visions, depending how it's translated. Then the lam 'bras teachings initially describe the impure visions, and the second, tantric and yogic level, describes how to get the visions of experience, one at a time, up to full enlightenment.

We will next go through the little bit cryptical, Sakya-focused, presentation why Samsara and Nirvana are the same!

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Vajra Verses - Part 10

OK, this is the end of the second section: rgyan gyi 'khor lo la.

rgyan is ornament. This word is used a lot in text titles and similar places. Think of a queen who has ornaments in her hair. gyi is a genitive particle that binds the right side to the left.

'khor lo is wheel; this word is used to express ideas of a gathering, or a wheel of influence, and so forth. And la is an pointer particle, binding this with something which is the third statement we will go through next.

So far do we have this partial translation: For a Sugata with the ornamental wheel of inexhaustible enlightened body, enlightened speech and enlightened mind...

The word ornament is used here because the body, speech and mind of a Buddha ornaments both oneself and others. The word wheel is used because this wheel of enlightened activity covers everyone. So this was the support section of the third statement. Next is the appearance section.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Vajra Verses - Part 9

The second part continues thus, mi zad pa...

zad pa is extinction, exhausted, consumed. mi in front makes this the opposite as mi is a negation, thus inexhaustible.

This all refers to the earlier part, so the verse talks about the inexhaustible body, speech, and mind of a Buddha.

It is said that the qualities of an enlightened body, speech, and mind can't even be described. Imagine the options to spontaneously manifest any form that will benefit any sentient being anywhere, have the option to exactly teach and influence anyone towards the same future, and knowing everything that ever was and ever will be. And these capabilities will neither ever end.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Vajra Verses - Part 8

The second line of the third block of the introduction vajra verses is longer, so we will slowly go through each part next. It starts with: sku gsung thugs.

This is actually a very important term, you could encounter this one quite a lot when discussing the qualities of enlightened beings.

sku is the honorific form for body. In Tibetan there could be two words meaning the same, where the non-honorific is used amongst beings of the same or lower meaning, and the honorific is used to talking to one's father, teacher, abbot, bodhisattva, or here, about enlightened beings.

Similarly, gsung is the honorific form for speech, and thugs for mind. Thus, this is the body, speech, and mind. This term is then used to describe various parts of an enlightened beings, as they could indeed be classified into these three, a manifestation form and projected forms, the teaching aspect benefiting all sentient beings, and the omniscient mind, knowing everything. Thus, this is the package anyone aspiring to become enlightened for the sake of others is aiming for.