Essential Tibetan Buddhism, p. 176-202

Tsong Khapa’s Medium-Length
Transcendent Insight (Part II)

Conditions Necessary for Transcendent Insight
General Setup

(Kamalashila), in his Second Stages of Meditation, states that the three conditions for transcendent insight to be reliance on a holy person, eagerness to hear the teachings, and suitable reflection upon them. More explicitly, the reliance on an expert who knows unerringly the essentials of the Buddha's Scriptures,  the study of the flawless scientific treatises, and the development of the view that realizes thatness by the wisdoms of learning and reflection - these constitute the indispensable preconditions for transcendent insight. If there is no penetrating certainty about the import of actual reality, it is impossible to generate that realization which is the transcendent insight into the nature of reality. 

One must seek such a view by relying on teachings of definitive meaning, and not on  those of interpretative meaning. And one comes to understand the impact of the definitive discourses by knowing the difference between  interpretable and definitive discourses. Further, if one does not rely on the philosophical treatises that elucidate the Buddha's inner  thought, written by one of the great champions who personified living reason itself, one is like a blind person wandering in a dangerous wilderness without any guide. Thus one should rely upon the flawless scientific treatises.

On what sort of person should one rely?

The holy Nagarjuna was renowned through the three realms and was quite clearly predicted by the Lord himself in many Sutras and Tantras as the elucidator of the essence of the teaching, the profound import free of all extremes of being and nothingness. So, one should seek the view that realizes voidness by relying on his treatises. Aryadeva also was taken as equal in authority to the Master by the great centrists such as Masters Buddha-palita, Bhavaviveka, Chandrakirti, and Shantarakshita. Hence, since both Father Nagarjuna and Son Aryadeva were the sources for the other centrists, the old-time scholars called these two the "grandmother treatise centrists" and the others, the "partisan centrists."

Which one of these masters should one follow to seek the ultimate intention of Nagarjuna and Aryadeva, the Holy Father and Son?

The eminent former mentors in the line of my oral tradition followed the practice of the Lord Masters Atisha in holding the system of Chandrakirti as the supreme one. Master Chandrakirti perceived that, among the commentators on the Wisdom, it was Master Buddhapalita who most completely elucidated the intention of the noble ones. He took the latter's system as his basis, and, when he worked out his own elucidation of the noble intention, while he used many of the good statements, he refuted points that seemed slightly incorrect in the work of Master Bhavaviveka. Therefore, since I see the explanations of these two masters, Buddhapalita and Chandrakirti, as very much superior in explaining the treatises of the Noble Father and Son, I will follow them here in determining their intention. 

The Method of Determining the View: Identification of Addictive Misknowledge

Misknowledge is  the basis of all ills and faults since all the Victor's teachings to counter other addictions such as attachment are only partial remedies and only his teachings against misknowledge is a comprehensive medicine. As Chandrakirti says in the Lucid Exposition: "Buddhas are renowned in this world as regulating the activities of people by their nine modes of teaching such as Sutras, based on the two realities. Therein, teachings dispelling lust will not bring hatred to an end. Teachings dispelling hatred will not bring lust to an end. Teachings dispelling pride and so on will not conquer the other taints. Thus, those teachings are not all-pervasive and do not bear the great import. But teachings dispelling delusion conquer all addictions, for Victors declare that all addictions truly depend on delusion."

That being so, the meditation on thatness is necessary as the medicine for misknowledge and since one does not know how to cultivate the medicine without identifying misknowledge itself, it is very important to identify misknowledge. 

Misknowledge is the opposite of knowledge, and knowledge here should be taken not as whatever type of common knowledge but as the wisdom of the knowledge of the thatness of selflessness. The opposite of that, again, is not properly understood as the mere absence of that wisdom, as merely something else than that, but as its very antithesis. That is precisely the reification of a self, and, as there are two reifications of selves, of persons, and of things, the subjective self-habit and the objective self-habit together constitute misknowledge. As for the manner of that reification, it is the habitual sense that things have intrinsically objective, intrinsically indentifiable, or intrinsically real status. 

These reasons bring out the mode of the habitual sense of truth status, the negatee which is the habitual  notion that the apparent intrinsic reality of things is not merely imposed by force of beginningless mental construction but is established within objects as their own objectivity. The presumed conceptual object of that habit patern is called "self" or "intrinsic reality." Its absence in the designated "person" is called "personal" or "subjective selflessness," and its absence in things such as eyes, ears, and so forth is called "selflessness of things" or "objective selflessness." It is thus understandable by implication that the habitual sense of the existence of that intrinsic reality in persons and things is the two "self-habits." As Chandrakirti says in his Four Hundred Commentary: "The 'self' is the 'intrinsic reality' which is that objectivity in things independent of anything else. Its absence is selflessness. It is understood as twofold by division into persons and things, called 'personal selflessness' and 'objective selflessness.' "

With regard to the innate egoistic view that also is the self-habit, in the Introduction, Chandra refutes the position that its object is the dependency designated self. He also states that the conventional self not the mere conglomerate of the aggregates. Thus, as its object is neither the conglomerate of the aggregates at any one time nor the conglomerate of the temporal continuum of the aggregates, one must take the mere "person" and the mere "I" as the objective basis of the mere thought "I." Thus one should not put either the separate or the conglomerate aggregates as the substance of that "I." This is the unexcelled distinctive specialty of this dialecticist centrist system, which I have explained extensively elsewhere. 

The object of the innate egoistic view that is the porperty habit is the actual "mine," object of the innate cognition that thinks "mine," and is not held to be objects such as one's eye and so on. The manner of this habit is the habitual holding of the objects perceived as "mine" as if they were intrinsically identifiably property.

As for the innate objective self-habit, its objects are the form aggregate and so on, the eyes, ears, and so forth of both self and others and impersonal inanimate objects and so on. Its mode is as explained above.

In the Introductory Commentary, Chandra affirms that "delusion is misknowledge, which functions as the reification of the intrinsic objectivity of nonobjectively existent things. It is superficial, with a nature of obscuration, seeing intrinsic realities in things." Further, in saying "thus, by the force of the addictive misknowledge included in the 'existence' member," he equates that misknowledge which is the truth habit about objects with addictive misknowledge. Thus, while there are two systems of classification of objective self-habits either as addictive or as cognitive obscurations, this system chooses the former way.

 This is also the statement of the Noble Father and Son, as in the Voidness Seventy: "Reification of the reality in things born of conditions, the Teacher called it 'misknowledge'; therefrom the twelve members arise. Seeing truly and knowing well the voidness of things, misknowledge does not occur, is ceased; thereby the twelve members cease." Here "reification of the reality of things" indicates the habitual perception of "truth" or "reality status" in those things.

In the Jewel Rosary, Nagarjuna also states in the same vein that "as long as there is the aggregate habit, so long will there be the 'I' habit." That is, that egoistic views will not be reversed als long as the truth habit about the aggregates is not.

The context here is the identification of that "delusion" which is one of the three poisons and hence equivalent to addictive misknowledge. To get rid of that misknowledge, he declares it necessary to understand the import of the profound relativity, which happens when the import of voidness arises as the import of relativity. Therefore one must interpret addictive delusion according to Chandrakirti's explanation in the Four Hundred Commentary as the reification of reality of things.

This system was lucidly proclaimed by Chandrakirti, following Buddhapalita's elucidation of the intention of the noble ones.

Now that just-explained misknowledge which is thus habituated to the two selves is not the conscious holding of persons and things hypostatized by the distinctive beliefs of Buddhist and Non-Budddhist philosophers, such as unique, permanent, and independent person; objects that are external yet are the aggregates of indivisible atoms without eastern and so on directional facets; subjects that are internal cognitions yet that are consciousness-continua composed of indivisible instantaneous consciousnesses without any temporal prior and posterior components; and such as a true nondual apperception devoid of any such subjects and objects. It rather consists of the two unconscious self-habits, which exist commonly both for those affected by theories and for those unaffected by theories and which have persisted from time immemorial without having depended on any theoretical seduction of the intellect. Therefore it is that same unconscious self-habit which is held as the root of the egocentric life-cycle. 

This reason reveals that all living beings are bound in the life-cycle by the unconscious misknowledge. Further, since intellectual misknowledge exists only for those philosophers, it is not properly considered the root of the egoistic life-cycle.

It is extremely important to come to an exceptional certitude about this point. If one does not know this at the time of determining the view, one will not know how to hold as principal the determination of the nonexistence of the hypothetical object held by unconscious misknowledge, while keeping the negation of the intellectualy held objects subordinate. And if one refutes the two selves and neglects the negation of the habit patern of unconscious misknowledge, then one will have determined a selflessness that is merely a rejection of those "selves" hypothesized by the philosopers, as explained above. Even at the time of meditation, one's meditation will be just the same, since the "determination of the view" involves meditation as well. Thus even in meditation only the manifest habits will be involved in the final analysis, and one will experience only the absence of the two selves that are merely those hypthesized by the intellectual habits. To think that this will eliminate the unconscious addictions is a great exaggeration.

One should also understand according to the statement of Dharmakirti in the Commentary on Validating Cognition: "Who sees a self always reifies an 'I' there; supposing one identifies with that; identifying, one becomes obscured with faults. Seeing qualities, one desires them, one grasps their attainment as 'mine.' Thus, as long as one is attached to the self, so long will one revolve in the life-cycle."

First, once one holds to intrinsic identifiability in the objective basis of the thought "I," attachment to the self arises. Therefrom craving for the happiness of the self arises. Then, since the self's happiness cannot arise without dependence on one's property, craving arises for property, the "mine." Then, being obscured by such faults, one begins to see the qualities in those things. Then one grasps onto the property as the means of accomplishing the happiness of the self. Through the addictions thus produced, conceptually motivated action occurs, and from such action, the life-cycle itself is constantly held together. As Nagarjuna says in the Voidness Seventy, "Action has its cause in addictions; construction's nature is from addictions; the body has its cause in actions; and all three are empty of intrinsic reality." In such a way one must practice finding certainty in the sequence involved in te evolution of the egoistic life-cycle.

Tsong Khapa’s Medium-Length Transcendent Insight