Turn away the fuel of anger and hatred;
May the radiance of the transcendental wisdom
Illuminate the darkness of ignorance;
May the holders of the Dharma enact the deeds
Of protecting transmigratory sentient beings.
I prostrate to you who is residing in the blissful heaven of Tushita.

-The Great Praise to Maitreya Buddha by Je Tsongkhapa

Shugchang" <> Date:  Sun Jul 1, 2001 7:11 pm Subject:  the title

The Uttara Tantra was originally written in Sanskrit. Translated into Tibetan it is called 'tegpa chenpo gyu lama tan cho'.

    Tegpa (T.)  means yana or vehicle;
chenpo = great.
gyu = tantra or continuity
lama = highest or ultimate
gyu lama = (S.) uttara
tan cho = shastra
which means a remedial teaching, as the Buddha's teachings offer beings true relief and freedom from the sufferings of samsara; therefore, it can be called - The Great Vehicle Teaching on the Ultimate Continuity

    t seems the higher the yana one considers, the less there is to really say about it. Check out Dudjom Lingpa's Buddhahood Without Meditation to see what I mean. Considering the merits of group study, I figured we might want to look at a work which invites commentary, something accessible to a degree of reasonable analysis, so I was drawn toward the Uttaratantra, one of the more globally interesting texts to be found among the third yana.

    Although each school of Tibetan Buddhism focuses on a specific set of Mahayana texts, there are a number, 13 to be precise, which are studied by all schools. Among this list of Thirteen Great Texts are such well- known titles as Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life, Chandrakirti's Ocean of Nectar, Nagarjuna's Root Verses of the Middle Way, two works on Abhidharma by the Yogacara brothers Asanga and Vasubandhu, and the Uttaratantra Shastra by Maitreya. Although these are all Mahayana treatises, I believe study of such seminal root scriptures will help establish a solid basis for a deeper understanding of the higher tantric teachings. Date:  Sun Jul 8, 2001  11:03 pm Subject:  Re: the title

Ultimate Continuity > More info on the title:

    "The Ratnagotravibhaga Mahayanottaratantrasastra,[...], is one of the treatises on the Mahayana doctrine written in Sanskrit. It was, however, quite recently that the Sanskrit manuscripts were discovered [in Tibet, sometime before 1950] and critically edited. Before then, it was known only through the Tibetan and Chinese versions. The first introducer of this text to the world of modern study was Dr. E. Obermiller who translated the Tibetan version into English [1931] under the title of 'Uttaratantra' according to the Tibetan tradition. In China, however, they used the name 'Ratnagotra-sastra' as its title, and this title was justified by the discovery of a Sanskrit fragment in Saka script in which we find the title 'Ratnagotravibhaga'."

-J. Takasaki, A Study on the Ratnagotravibhaga (1966), p.5

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Sun Jul 1, 2001 7:16 pm Subject:  five points

According to the Khenpos, in the traditional presentation of a text, there are five inquiries addressed;

1. How or through whom did this teaching originate?
2. For what purpose? Why?
3. What is the essential meaning from beginning to end?
4. What are the benefits associated with it?
5. On which level of the Tripitaka is it classified?

To begin our discussion, please feel free to address any of these points.

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Sun Jul 1, 2001 9:38 pm Subject:  point one

1. How or through whom did this teaching originate?

The text is considered the speech of the Buddha manifest through the agency of Lord Maitreya who resides in Tushita. According to Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, of the five teachings given to Asanga by Maitreya, both the Dharmatavibhanga and the Uttara Tantra were considered especially profound and shared with only a few pupils. These two texts were hidden as terma so that they were not known in Tibet during the days of the 'Great Three', King Trisong Deutsen, Santaraksita and Guru Rinpoche (khen lob cho sum). Eventually, the adept Maitripa, one of Marpa's Indian teachers, discovered these texts as they radiated light through the cracks from within an old stupa. At first he was not sure he understood what he read but after receiving the rlung directly from Maitreya, these teachings were disseminated widely throughout India and eventually into the Land of Snows.

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Sat Jul 14, 2001  2:34 pm Subject:  re: point #1

The following is excerpted from a religion thesis by Brian Hafer. The entire article is well worth reading. He gets into some very interesting territory around the early phases of Dzogchen in Tibet and the political atmosphere of the Samye debates.

    "The doctrine of tathagatagarbha (Buddha-essence) appears to have emerged independently of the Madhyamika school of Mahayana, although its historical origins are not clearly understood. It is reasoned that the Truth Body (arupakaya) of the Buddha is transcendent and eternal, yet must also be omnipresent and immanent in every atom of limitless existence. Therefore, when viewed from the perspective of a Buddha, all beings are seen to be immersed in the realm of the truth body (dharmakayadhatu). They continue to suffer, then, only because they fail to perceive their actual situation. But because all beings are present in the dharmakayadhatu, all sentient beings have within them the inherently pure Buddha nature, but it is present in an obscured, tainted state. Thus, the cultivation of wisdom is, in fact, "the removal of the obscurations of the Buddha essence and the revelation of the natural luminosity of the Buddha realm." The tathagatagarbha, translated tathagata-embryo or tathagata-womb, is the essence within each being which makes enlightenment possible. The tathagatagarbha writings go further than Nagarjuna's Madhyamika approach in asserting the oneness of samsara and nirvana. The Srimaladevisimhanada Sutra refers to the tathagatagarbha as the permanent, steadfast, and eternal substratum of samsara. This ground of being is said to be the dharmakaya when viewed from the enlightened perspective. The realization of the inherent purity of this substratum is nirvana, while the appearance of it as defiled is samsara. The existence of the tathagatagarbha as intrinsically pure and never defiled despite its apparent defilement being the cause of bondage is said in the Srimala Sutra to be a mystery which can only be understood by the Buddhas and advanced bodhisattvas. Thus, this sutra suggests that an element of faith is required from beginning practitioners who hope to discover the nature of the tathagatagarbha. Not all the schools of Buddhism accept the doctrine of tathagatagarbha. The Gelugpa school and others reject it as teaching monism and will approach it only in terms of the two truths (i.e. the conventional and ultimate levels of understanding) taught by Nagarjuna. The different interpretations of this viewpoint have led to a division along the lines of those Buddhists believing the path to enlightenment to be gradual versus sudden."

Everyone here is probably already familiar with the story of Asanga's frustrated retreat and relationship with Maitreya-

Also... A Brief History of Maitreya- by Lama Thubten Yeshe- Date:  Thu Jul 5, 2001 3:32 pm Subject:  Re: point one

This teaching originated with the Buddha, yet in looking at its origin, we can not help but be grateful to a nun, Salwai Tsultrim. When the University of Nalanda was burned by heretics, most of the Abhidharma texts were destroyed. She was very affected by this and decided to have sons who could help strengthen the Dharma. To her were born two sons, Asanga and Vasubandhu. Asanga became a master of Mahayana teachings, and his brother a master of the Hinayana. When Asanga received the teachings about Buddha Nature from Maitreya, he gave them to Vasubandhu, who later gave them to his disciple Dignaga, who gave them to Lodro Tenpa, his disciple.

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Thu Jul 5, 2001 6:23 pm Subject:  Re: point one

--- In uttaratantra@y..., jsierra@u... wrote: > This teaching originated with the Buddha, yet in looking at its origin, > we can not help but be grateful to a nun, Salwai Tsultrim.

(S) Pratisha Sheila actually had three sons who became Buddhist monks. (T. Thogs-med) Asanga's youngest brother was known as Virincivatsa, while the middle brother was known as Vasubandhu (T. dByig-gbyen). She made this decision to bear children after the latest wave of barbarians to flood through the Khyber Pass had sacked and burned the local monasteries. Born in region of present day Peshawar in NW India, Asanga taught the Mahayana for awhile in Oddiyana before becoming abbot of Nalanda for a dozen years. He died in Rajgrha. After spending some time promulgating Hinayana doctrine and living in Ayodhya, Vasubandhu was converted by the profundity of the Mahayana doctrine and eventually took over as abbot at Nalanda after Asanga died. But not before he wrote this verse-

Asanga, residing in the forest
Has practiced meditation for 12 years.
Without having attained anything by this meditation,
He has founded a system so difficult and burdensome
That it can be carried only by an elephant!

A painting of Asanga and Vasubandhu-

Here’s an excellent page on Buddha Maitreya

Shugchang" <> Date:  Sun Jul 1, 2001 11:10 pm Subject:  #two

2.  For what purpose was this composed?

The title of this work refers to the Ultimate Continuity and contains the word tantra (gyu continuity), the lineage of primordial wisdom manifesting uninterruptedly as both relative and absolute truth, as well as the continuity between the ground, the path and the fruit. More specifically in the present case, this shastra reveals the continuity which bridges views between sutra and tantra.

An interesting and important aspect of this work, especially in the light of Jamgon Kongtrul's commentary involves a clarification of the differences between the Rangtong and Shentong points of view (empty/ tong   self/ rang   other/ gzhan).

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Tue Aug 14, 2001  9:48 am Subject:  Beacon of Certainty

    Ruegg (1969, 1989) and Hookham (1991) have drawn attention to the crucial importance of the Ratnagotravibhaga for understanding Tibetan philosophical traditions. The Ratnagotravibhaga's importance hinges upon its role as a liminal text bridging sutra and tantra. It systematically discusses the most important principle underlying tantra  - the tathagatagarbha as a primordial state - while purporting also to represent the final intention of the sutras. Many Tibetan authors, including Tsongkhapa's disciple rGyal tshab Dar ma rin chen, interpret the Ratnagotravibhaga as expressing the Prasangika view. These authors do not agree, however, on whether the teaching of the immanence of the qualities of buddhahood in the tathagatagarbha should be taken literally. rGyal tshab understands the immanence of qualities to mean the nature of emptiness, which has the potential to manifest any possibility, while the dialectical-philosophical and tantric interpretations of the Nyingma understand this immanence literally, as the coalescence of enlightened attributes and the wisdom of the realization of emptiness in the original state.

-John Pettit, Mipham's Beacon of Certainty p.56-7, Wisdom Publications,1999

note: the subtitle of the Ratnagotravibhaga is the Mahayana Uttaratantra Shastra

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Mon Jul 2, 2001 12:11 am Subject:  #3

3. What is the essential meaning from beginning to end?

    The seven vajra points which comprise the body of the text are derived from the sutras of all three turnings of the wheel, distilling the essential meaning of all buddhist scriptures. The primary focus is on the true nature, the ground of awareness, the uncreated purity at the heart of all beings and phenomena. As both the title of this translation and the fourth vajra point, 'buddha nature' comprises almost one third of the book. At this last retreat, I asked the Khenpos to bless my copy of Buddha Nature. They were very happy to hear we were studying this text. On the inside cover they wrote- May you come to realize the Tathagatagarbha now! This statement directly indicates the heart of this work.

As Jamgon Kongtrul points out in the first few pages, the Buddha is the source of the Dharma and the Dharma is the source of the community. The practicing community manifests the buddha nature, the tathagatagarbha which is fully realized in buddhahood; from this follow the unfolding of the kaya qualities and the powers of buddha-activity. The seven vajra points delineate both the source and course of awakening, the true nature, expression and evolution of the supreme intention which takes form as experience and appears as being in the world.

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Mon Jul 2, 2001 12:22 am Subject:  #4

4. What are the benefits associated with it?

    Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche states, "In the second turning the Buddha established that all phenomena are void but this point was not elucidated. However, in the third turning, the Buddha revealed the ultimate nature of phenomena by showing that this voidness was not a total absence, a total emptiness of everything, but has qualities of the ultimate nature of phenomena. These teachings also show that all beings possess the essence of the Buddha. If they work on the path, they will be able to develop the perfect knowledge of the Buddha. The Uttara Tantra explains that this essence of Buddhahood is present in the mind of all beings. After the teachings of the third turning, many works were composed by learned teachers, which pertained to this same subject matter. For example, the bodhisattva Maitreya composed five teachings on this topic."

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Mon Jul 2, 2001 12:38 am Subject:  #5

5. On which level of the Tripitaka is the Uttaratantra classified?

    According to Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, this work is related to the subject matter taught in the third turning and therefore is classified as an explanatory text composed by someone other than the Buddha. It is in the Tangyur collection of sutric commentaries.

"Shugchang" <> Date:  Thu Jul 5, 2001 6:28 pm Subject:  Re: #5

Dudjom Rinpoche on the Third Turning of the Wheel -

    Concerning the third: The Tathagata's perseverance was not interrupted merely by that second promulgation of the doctrinal wheel. Subsequently, the Teacher promulgated the final turning of the doctrinal wheel, directing his intention towards the nucleus of the path of the greater vehicle, and actually revealed the ultimate truth for which there is no synonym. This he did after opposing all bases for the views concerning being and non-being and the like by causing sentient beings to penetrate the objective range of the Buddha through the topics of that irreversible promulgation and through topics concerning the utter purity of the three spheres (of subject, object, and their interaction).

    In places such as Mount Malaya, the Point of Enlightenment and Vaisali, at indeterminate times and to the host of great bodhisattvas who required the essential training, he excellently analyzed all things from form to omniscience in accord with the three essential natures of the imaginary (S. parikalpita), the dependent (S. paratantra) and the absolute (S. parinispanna); and having established the nature of the ground, path and result, he extensively revealed the abiding reality of the nucleus of the tathagata.

-Jigdral Yeshe Dorje, Fundamentals, P. 154.

: Date:  Sun Jul 8, 2001  10:27 pm Subject:  Re: #5

A somewhat different reading of this passage from the Samdhinirmocana:

Then the Bodhisattva Paramarthasamudgata said to the Bhagavan: "Initially, in the Varanasi area, in the Deer Park called Sages' Teaching, the Bhagavan taught the aspects of the four truths of the Aryas for those who were genuinely engaged in the [Sravaka] vehicle. The wheel of doctrine you turned at first is wondrous. Similar doctrines had not been promulgated before in the world by gods or humans. However, this wheel of doctrine that the Bhagavan turned is surpassable, provides an opportunity [for refutation], is of interpretable meaning, and serves as a basis for dispute.

"Then the Bhagavan turned a second wheel of doctrine which is more wondrous still for those who are genuinely engaged in the Great Vehicle, because of the aspect of teaching emptiness, beginning with the lack of own-being of phenomena, and beginning with their absence of production, absence of cessation, quiescence from the start, and being naturally in a state of nirvana. However, this wheel of doctrine that the Bhagavan turned is surpassable, provides an opportunity [for refutation], is of interpretable meaning, and serves as a basis for dispute.

"Then the Bhagavan turned a third wheel of doctrine, possessing good differentiations, and exceedingly wondrous, for those genuinely engaged in all vehicles, beginning with the lack of own-being of phenomena, and beginning with their absence of production, absence of cessation, quiescence from the start, and being naturally in a state of nirvana. Moreover, that wheel of doctrine turned by the Bhagavan is unsurpassable, does not provide an opportunity [for refutation], is of definitive meaning, and does not serve as a basis for dispute."

-Wisdom of Buddha The Samdhinirmocana Sutra, Translated by John Powers (Dharma Publishing), pp. 140-141. Date:  Sat Jul 14, 2001  8:10 pm Subject:  sources

There are two versions of the uttaratantra in the Tibetan canon:

1. theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos (Skt. mahayana- uttaratantra-sastra)
2. theg pa chen po rgyud bla ma'i bstan bcos rnam par bshad pa (Skt. mahayana-uttaratantra-sastra-vyakhya)

    The first is the root verses of Arya Maitreya and the second one contains the root verses plus Acarya Asanga's commentary (Skt. vyakhya).

    Both were translated at Srinagar in Kashmir under the panditas Ratnavajra and Sajjana by the Tibetan Loden Sherab around the end of the 11th century.