Essential Insights into the 3 Principal Aspects-Correct View of Emptiness

THE CORRECT VIEW OF EMPTINESS

The wisdom that believes the things or phenomena we normally see or perceive do not exist is the correct view of emptiness. Because the object of this wisdom is emptiness, the mere absence of the things or phenomena we normally see or perceive, this wisdom is called the ‘correct view of emptiness’. Only this view is the correct view through which we can attain permanent liberation from suffering and ignorance. An additional explanation is as follows. We should know that all phenomena we normally see or perceive do not exist, and all living beings, including ourself, we normally see or perceive do not exist. This is the truth. However, sometimes we may find this difficult to accept because of mistakenly thinking, ‘If all living beings including ourself that we normally see or perceive do not exist then how can we practise renunciation, compassion, love and bodhichitta?’ Thinking this we develop confusion, which interferes with our daily Dharma practice. We can solve this problem through special instructions of Je Tsongkhapa that clarify this subject. Je Tsongkhapa said, ‘Whenever we see or perceive any phenomenon, any living being or ourself, we see or perceive them only as inherently existent.’ Since inherent existence does not exist, all phenomena we normally see or perceive do not exist, all living beings we normally see do not exist, and ourself we normally see does not exist. However, we should know that all phenomena, all living beings and ourself exist as mere name. This recognition of phenomena, living beings and ourself is completely correct. All living beings including ourself exist as mere name and each have their own function. So, through being satisfied with their mere name, we can practise renunciation, compassion, love and bodhichitta, and all the other instructions. Je Tsongkhapa clarified this following Buddha’s intention, as well as Nagarjuna’s intention. In the Sutras Buddha said that all phenomena are just mere name, even the emptiness of all phenomena is just mere name. This implies that beyond the mere name nothing exists at all. Also, it is true that because living beings identify themselves mistakenly they develop mistaken appearances as hallucinations and, because of this, they experience suffering and problems continually in life after life until they attain the supreme permanent inner peace of nirvana. We should know that we are thinking ‘I, I’ day and night, even during sleep. Because of this we perceive an I as ourself. This way of identifying ourself is wrong because the I that we normally see does not exist. Through this we can understand how we are identifying ourself mistakenly all the time. For example, suppose a practitioner called John, through perceiving his body or mind, which are his basis of imputation, spontaneously thinks, ‘I am John’. Because his basis of imputation, his body and mind, are contaminated by the inner poison of delusions his recognition of himself as John will cause him to experience suffering continually. If John does not wish to experience suffering he needs to change his basis of imputation from his contaminated body and mind to an uncontaminated body and mind, such as the body and mind of Heruka, Vajrayogini or any other Guru-Deity. This is not only for John, but for everyone. Anyone who does not wish to experience suffering needs to change their basis of imputation. What are ordinary appearance and ordinary conception? When John appears to himself as John this appearance is John’s ordinary appearance, and when he grasps at himself as John this is his ordinary conception. Both are the root of John’s suffering. We should apply this example of John to the ordinary appearance and ordinary conception of all other living beings, including ourself. Ordinary appearance is the main obstruction to the attainment of enlightenment, and ordinary conception is the main obstruction to the attainment of liberation, known as ‘nirvana’. Thus, for Tantric practitioners, their principal objects of abandonment are ordinary appearance and ordinary conception, and their principal practice is the practice of generation stage and completion stage through which they will gradually reduce and finally abandon all ordinary appearance and conception completely. A detailed explanation of how to change our basis of imputation from a contaminated body and mind to an uncontaminated body and mind can be found in Modern Buddhism, Part Two: Tantra and in many other Tantric scriptures in sections on self-generation practice. The view believing the things we normally see or perceive actually exist is ignorance, the root of all suffering. In the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra Buddha says that if we search for things with wisdom we cannot find them. We cannot find our form, feelings, discriminations, compositional factors and consciousness. Thus we cannot find our self. This proves that the things we normally see do not exist. A detailed explanation of this can be found in the book Modern Buddhism. If the things we normally see do not exist, then how do things really exist? Things exist in dependence on their mere name. If we are satisfied with their mere name, things exist. Beyond their mere name nothing exists at all. To solve our daily problems we can practise as follows. From our heart we should understand and think, ‘All the suffering, problems, difficulties, sickness, painful feelings, receiving harm, not finding things I desire and losing things I am attached to, experienced by myself that I normally see, do not exist. This is because myself that I normally see does not exist.’ Understanding this and thinking deeply we can relax and remain with a peaceful mind all the time, so that we will be happy all the time. In this way, because we are happy all the time our own problems will all disappear. There are three levels of the correct view of emptiness – according to Hinayana Sutras, according to Mahayana Sutras and according to the Vajrayana. The most supreme of these is the correct view of emptiness that Buddha explained in the Vajrayana. In Vajrayana, or Tantra, Buddha explained about the union of appearance and emptiness. The wisdom realizing this union is the correct view of emptiness, which is Buddha’s ultimate view. The union of appearance and emptiness means that all phenomena – the appearance – and their emptiness are one object, not two objects. For example, our body – the appearance – and its emptiness are one object, not two objects. When we see our body, in truth we see only the emptiness of our body because the real nature of our body is its emptiness. However, we do not understand this because of our ignorance. We normally see our body as something that exists from its own side. This is mistaken appearance from which all suffering and problems develop endlessly. We should know that there is no ‘our body’ other than its emptiness. We should apply this knowledge to all other phenomena. To understand this subject of union correctly we need to be very patient. When, through correctly understanding and continually training in the union of appearance and emptiness, we directly experience the union of appearance and emptiness we will directly experience our environment, enjoyments, body and mind as the enlightened environment, enjoyments, body and mind, and we will directly experience ourself as an enlightened being – the union of Buddha, the union of Vajradhara, the union of Heruka, and so forth. The root text says: But even though you may be acquainted with renunciation and bodhichitta, If you do not possess the wisdom realizing the way things really are, You will not be able to cut the root of samsara; Therefore strive in the means for realizing dependent relationship. Je Tsongkhapa advises us saying, ‘Therefore strive in the means for realizing dependent relationship.’ Dependent relationship is a very important subject. Through correctly understanding this we can understand the way things really are. The great scholar Aryadeva said: Just as the body sense power pervades the entire body, So ignorance pervades all delusions. Thus, if we cut our ignorance by applying great effort to realize the real meaning of dependent relationship All our delusions will cease. Please keep this instruction in your heart. Things exist in dependence on their causes and conditions, in dependence on their parts, in dependence on their basis of imputation and in dependence on their mere name. The last of these is subtle dependent relationship. When we realize subtle dependent relationship our understanding of emptiness is qualified. Things existing in dependence on their causes and conditions proves that things do not exist from their own side, and this in turn proves that the things we normally see or perceive do not exist. This in turn proves that things exist in dependence on their mere name, which is the real meaning of dependent relationship. The way things really exist is in dependence on their mere name. There are no things other than their mere name. This is subtle dependent relationship. We should practise the following contemplation and meditation: Things existing in dependence on their causes and conditions proves that they do not exist from their own side. This in turn proves that the things we normally see or perceive do not exist, and this in turn proves that things exist in dependence on their mere name. The way things really exist is in dependence on their mere name. When through contemplating this again and again we realize clearly that the way things really exist is in dependence on their mere name, we hold this profound knowledge in our heart and meditate on it for as long as possible. Through continually practising this contemplation and meditation our self-grasping, the root of all suffering, will decrease and finally cease completely. The root text says: When you clearly see phenomena such as samsara and nirvana, and cause and effect, as they exist, And at the same time you see that all the phenomena you normally see or perceive do not exist,
You have entered the path of the correct view of emptiness, Thus delighting all the Buddhas. In this stage we need to accomplish the following two things: (1) we need to negate the objects of negation of emptiness – the things and phenomena we normally see or perceive – and (2) we need to realize that the phenomena of samsara and nirvana, and cause and effect, all actually exist. When we accomplish these two without seeing any contradictions between them we have entered the path of the correct view of emptiness, thus delighting all the Buddhas. The root text says: If you perceive and believe that the appearance, phenomena, And the empty, emptiness of phenomena, Are dualistic, You have not yet realized Buddha’s intention. With these words Je Tsongkhapa is saying that if we perceive and believe appearance and emptiness are dualistic we have not yet realized Buddha’s intention. Thus we need to apply effort to realize Buddha’s ultimate intention, which is to realize non-dual appearance and emptiness. In general, all phenomena are included within two, appearance and emptiness. Phenomena themselves are appearance and their emptiness is empty. This appearance and empty are non-dual, which means one object not two. This is like the blue of the sky and the sky itself. The blue of the sky is the sky itself; there is no blue of the sky other than the sky itself – the sky itself appears as blue. Because the real nature of phenomena is the emptiness of phenomena, when we perceive phenomena in truth we perceive the emptiness of phenomena, but due to ignorance we cannot understand this. There are no phenomena other than their emptiness. Thus, phenomena – which is appearance – and their emptiness – which is empty – are non-dual, which means one object, not two. Through this explanation we can understand the meaning of non-dual appearance and empty. When, through mentally contemplating the meaning of this explanation again and again, we realize the non-dual appearance and empty as an endless space of emptiness, we hold this profound knowledge in our heart and meditate on it continually until it becomes the spontaneous realization of non-dual appearance and empty. Through this our dualistic appearance and mistaken appearance will cease and we will thus attain enlightenment quickly. For qualified Tantric practitioners, in this endless space of emptiness their own environment, enjoyments, body, mind and their own self naturally appear as the enlightened environment, enjoyments, body, mind and self of an enlightened being, all naturally existing in dependence on their mere name. The meaning of non-dual appearance and emptiness is very profound and not easy to understand. The wisdom that realizes non-dual appearance and emptiness is a higher level of the correct view of emptiness, and training in this wisdom is the quick path to enlightenment. Je Tsongkhapa took these instructions from the Ganden Emanation Scripture, whose nature is the wisdom of Buddha Manjushri. If we have within ourself a strong potential for spiritual realizations, then with this condition we will easily develop and maintain profound knowledge and spiritual realizations. We can accomplish this condition, a strong potential for spiritual realizations, within ourself by sincerely practising the Guru yoga of the Wisdom Buddha Je Tsongkhapa. Through this we will receive the powerful blessings of all the Buddhas through our Guru so that we will easily develop and maintain profound knowledge and spiritual realizations. Practitioners such as Gyalwa Ensapa and his disciples and Je Sherab Senge and his disciples are witnesses to this. They attained the state of enlightenment within three years. This is magical. Through this we can understand how fortunate we are to have the opportunity to practise these instructions. There are two principal Guru yogas of Je Tsongkhapa: Offering to the Spiritual Guide and The Hundreds of Deities of the Joyful Land, which are both extracted from the Ganden Emanation Scripture. The practices of these two Guru yogas are powerful methods to grow our potential for attaining enlightenment quickly so that we can attain enlightenment quickly. The root text says: Through just seeing that things exist In dependence on their mere name, If your self-grasping reduces or ceases, At that time you have completed your understanding of emptiness. The meaning of this verse is very clear. At this stage we need to train in subtle dependent relationship – that phenomena exist in dependence on their mere name and not from their own side. This means that we need to contemplate and meditate on this subtle dependent relationship continually. The root text says: Moreover, if you negate the extreme of existence By simply realizing that phenomena are just mere appearance, And if you negate the extreme of non-existence By simply realizing that all the phenomena you normally see or perceive do not exist, And if you realize how, for example, the emptiness of cause and effect Is perceived as cause and effect, Because there is no cause and effect other than emptiness, With these realizations you will not be harmed by extreme view. Extreme view is very harmful for ourself and others. For this reason Je Tsongkhapa advises us to apply effort to develop the above realizations so that we will be free from this harmful view. We should distinguish between extreme and extreme view. An extreme is something that is exaggerated and that actually does not exist, and an extreme view is a mistaken belief that exists in our mind. Phenomena existing from their own side is the extreme of existence, and phenomena completely non-existing is the extreme of non-existence. Neither of these extremes exists. The root text says: When, in this way, you have correctly realized the essential points Of the three principal aspects of the path, Dear One, withdraw into solitary retreat, generate and maintain strong effort And quickly accomplish the final goal. This is the final advice from Je Tsongkhapa’s heart. We should keep this advice in our heart and put it into practice.