Essential Tibetan Buddhism, p. 176-202

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

Reason for the Need to Seek the View That Understands Selflessness, Wishing to Abandon Such Misknowledge

It appears extremely necessary to will to abandon utterly the above misknowledge, the twofold self-habit, so one should intensely cultivate such a will. Even so, having such a desire, not to strive to understand how self-habits become the root of the life-cycle, and, having seen a part of that, not to strive to develop in mind a pure view of selflessness, having properly negated the objects held by self-habits with the help of the definitive scriptures and sound reasoning, such a person has to have extremely dull faculties, since he thinks nothing at all of completely losing the life of the path leading to liberation and omniscience.

Thus Chandrakirti teaches that the truth habit positing things is the cause of all addictive views. And all other addictions are abandoned by the realization of the real condition of things as not intrinsically really produced, by reason of their relativity. For the vision of their intrinsic realitylessness will not arise without negation of the object held as the intrinsically real status of things. 

That is, he states that by cultivating the understanding of voidness, as voidness of the intrinsically real status of things, the egoistic views are eliminated, and by eliminating them all other addictions are eliminated, since it is impossible to understand selflessness without negating the object of the personal self-habit.

In short, the many supreme experts in elucidating the meaning of the profound discourses investigate with many references and reasonings when they determine the import of thatness. And, seeing that selflessness and voidness cannot be understood without seeing that the self, as held by the false habits, is not existent and is void, they spoke thus as above; because it is crucially important to find certitude about this. 

If one does not meditate on the import of this negating of the object of the error fundamental to cyclic bondage, even if one meditates on any other would-be-profound import, it will not disturb the self-habit at all; because it is impossible to eliminate self-habits without applying the intelligence to the thatness of selflessness and voidness; and because even though without negating the object of self-habits one can at least withdraw the mental gravitation toward that object, that is not acceptable as applying the mind to selflessness. 

The reason for this is that when the mind is applied to an object, there are three habits: one holding that object in truth, one holding it as truthless, and one holding it without either qualification. So just as the nonholding of truthlessness is not necessarily the truth habit, so the disconnection from the two selves is not necessarily the application to the two selflessnesses; because there are limitless states of mind included in the third option. 

The two self-habits, further, function through perceiving things chiefly as persons and objects, and therefore it is necessary to determine right on the very basis of error the nonexistence of that thereon so held; otherwise it is like searching for footprints in the house of a thief already gone into the forest.

Therefore, since errors will be terminated by meditating on the import thus determined, such a voidness is the supreme import of thatness. And if some other false import of thatness is determined, it is no more than wishful thinking, and you should consider it outside the meaning of the scriptures. 

Thus the misknowledge in truth habits about fabrications of persons such as males and females and things such as forms and sensations is eliminated by finding and meditating upon the view that understands the voidness that is selflessness. When misknowledge is eliminated, eliminated too are the conceptual thoughts that are improper attitudes reifying the signs of beauty and ugliness and so on by perceiving the objects of truth habits. When they are eliminated, all other addictions, desire and so on, which have egoistic views as their root, are eliminated. When they are eliminated, involuntary birth in cyclic life as propelled by actions is eliminated.

Considering this process, the firm determination "I will attain liberation!" is generated, and thence one seeks the utterly incisive view of thatness. 

In regard to the sequence of generation of the two self-habits, it is the objective self-habit that generates the personal self-habit. Nevertheless, in entering the truth of selflessness, it is by first generating the view of personal selflessness that one must later generate the view of objective selflessness. As Nagarjuna states in the Jewel Rosary: "A creature is not earth, water, fire, wind, space, or consciousness; if it is none of these things, what else might a creature be? Since the creature as collation of elements is not real in itself, so each element, itself a collation, is not really real either." Thus he first declares the nonreality of the person and then the nonreality of its designative bases, the elements earth and so on. 

As for the reason why one must understand it that way, while there is no variation of degree of subtlety in the selflessness to be ascertained in the basic person or in the basic thing, because of the essentiality of the subject of concern, it is easier to ascertain selflessness in the person and harder to ascertain it in the thing. For example, it is difficult to ascertain objective selflessness in the eye, ear, and so on but easy to ascertain it in things such as images, and this can be used as an example of the varying cases in determining selflessness with regard to things and persons above.

If one knows well the condition of the "I" anchoring the concept of self that thinks "I," and one applies the reason about it to internal things such as eye and nose and external things such as vases, one should come to understand them in just the same way. Then, knowing the nature and seeing the reality of one thing, one can be able to know and see the natures of all other things. 

"Person" is a term used in context such as the six species of persons such as gods, or the types of persons such as individual persons or holy persons, and in referring to the accumulator of evil and good action, the experiencer of their effects, the traveler in cyclic life, the practicer of the path for the sake of liberation, and the attainer of liberation. Chandrakirti in his Introduction Commentary quotes a standard Scripture: "The demon-mind ‘self,’ it forces you to adopt its view; this aggregate of emotions is void, therein no sentient being. Just as one says ‘chariot,’ depending on its aggregate of components, so depending on the aggregates, one says ‘superficial sentient being.’"

The first centence teaches the personal selflessness that is the ultimate absense of "person"; the first phase calls the personal self-habit the "demon-mind"; the second phase shows the holder of that habit to be the victim of evil views; and the third and fourth phases state that the aggregates are devoid of any personal self. The second verse teaches the conventional existence of the self, the first two phrases giving the example and the last two applying it to the meaning. It teaches that the "person" is a mere designation based on the aggregates, because this Scripture states the conglomerate of aggregates or their sequential conglomerate. Thus neither the spatial conglomerate nor the temporal continuum of the aggregates can be posited as the "person." When the conglomerate is posited as designative base, that which is conglomerated is also posited as a designative base; so it is illogical for either to be the "person" itself. 

Here one uses the first of the four key procedures for determining self-lessness, analyzing one’s own mental process in order to identify one’s own mode of habitual adherence to a personal self. This has been already explained.

The second key procedure (is as follows): if that person has intrinsically real status, it must be established as actually the same or actually different from the aggregates of body and mind, and thus one decides that there is no way for it to be established in any other way. In general, in regard to such things as pots and pillars, if one determines them on one side as matching, one excludes them on the other side from differing, or such a thing as a pot, if determined here as differing, is excluded on the other side from matching - as this is established by experience, there is no third option other than sameness or difference. Therefore one must become certain that it is impossible for a self to exist and to be neither the same as nor different from the aggregates.

The third key procedure is to see the faults in the hypothesis that the person and the aggregates are intrinsically really the same.

The fourth key procedure is to see well the faults in the hypothesis that the person and the aggregates are really different. Thus, when these four keys are complete, the pure view realizing the thatness of personal selflessness is developed.

To rehearse the third key procedure, if self and aggregates were the same entity with intrinsic real status, three faults would accrue. The first is that there would be no point in asserting a self, since if the two were intrinsically really established as a single entity they would never be at all differentiable, since the two being absolutely established as a single entity could necessarily never appear as different to a cognition that perceived them. The reason for this is that, while there is no contradiction for a superficial thing’s appearance being different from its real mode of existence, such a difference does preclude any truth status in that thing, since a true thing must really exist in just the way it appears to any cognition. 

Thus the postulation of an intrinsically objective self is (only) for the sake of establishing an agent for the approbation and discarding of the aggregates, and this is not plausible when the self and the aggregates have become the same. As Nagarjuna states in the Wisdom, "When it is asserted that there is no self but for approbation, then that the approbation itself is the self; and then that self of yours is nonexistent." The second fault is that the self would become a plurality. If the self and the aggregates were really the same, then just as one person has many aggregates, so one would come to have many selves; or, as the self is no more than one, the aggregates would become one. Chandrakirti says in the Introduction: "If the aggregates were the self, as they are many so the self would become many."

The third fault is that the self would become endowed with production and destruction. As Nagarjuna says in the Wisdom: "If the aggregates were the self, then it would become endowed with production and destruction." That is, just as the aggregates are endowed with production and destruction, so the self would become endowed with production and destruction, since the two are a single entity.

Now, if one thinks this is merely an acceptance of the momentary production and destruction of the self or the person each instant, while it is admitted that there is no fault in accepting this merely conventionally, the opposition here asserts the intrinsic identifiability of the person and so must assert the intrinsically objective production and destruction of that person, which assertion has three faults, as Chandrakirti states in the Introduction

First, "Things intrinsically identifiably separate are not rationally included in a single continuum"; that is, it is illogical for things that are objectively established as different, in being former and later, to relate with the later depending on the former; because the former and later things are self-sufficiently and independently established and cannot properly relate to one another. Thus, since it is incorrect to include them in one continuum, the "I" cannot rightly remember its former life, "At that time I was like that," just as two different persons such as Devadatta and Yajna cannot remember each other’s lives. In our system, though things are destroyed in every instant, conventionally there is no contradiction for former and later instants to be included in a single continuum, so it is possible for former lives to be remembered. Those who do not understand this point generate the first of the wrong views mentioned in the Scripture as relating to a former limit. When the Buddha often says, "I was this former person," they think that the person at the time of Buddhahood and the person of this former life are the same, or that, since created things are instantaneously destroyed, they cannot be the same, so both of them must be permanent, and so forth. In order not to fall into such (views), one must understand properly the way - at the time of remembering former lives - in which the general "I" is remembered without specifically qualifying it as to country, time, and nature. 

The second fault is the fault of the effect of action commited becoming lost, when, if the person were intrinsically identifiable, it would be impossible to bring the agent of the action and the experience of the evolutionary effect together on a single basis, the mere "I."

The third fault is that of receiving the evolutionary effect of actions not performed; if such could happen, there would be the extreme absurdity that a single personal continuum would experience all the evolutionary effects of all the actions performed and accumulated by other different personal continua. These two faults, as explained above in the Introduction, accrue through the key point that if the person has objectively real status, it is impossible for his former and later instants to be included in a single continuum. As Nagarjuna says in the Wisdom, "If the god and the man are different, they cannot logically belong to one continuum." 

Here you may wonder, "Granting these faults if persona and aggregates are the same, what is the fault if you assert the intrinsically real difference of person and aggregates?"

Nagarjuna gives the fault in the Wisdom: "If the self were different from the aggregates, it would be devoid of the nature of the aggregates." If the self were objectively different from the aggregates, it would have to lack the created nature of the aggregates; it would have no production, no duration, and no destruction, just as a horse lacks the nature of an ox, being a different creature. Our opponent here thinks, "Well, isn’t that just how it is, after all?" However, if the personal self were utterly different from all relational things, it would not be logical for the instinctive mental self-habit to perceive it as the object that supports the conventional designation "self," because it is not a created thing, subject to ordinary contacts and relations, just like a skyflower or a state of Nirvana. Further, if it were really different from the nature of such as the aggregates, which is material and so on, it should be perceived as such, just as matter and mind are perceived as different things. But since the self is not perceived in such a manner, the self is not something different from the aggregates. As Nagarjuna says in the Wisdom: "It is not correct for the self to be something different from the process of approbation; if it were, logically it should be perceived apart from approbation; but it is not." And Chandrakirti says in the Introduction, "Thus the self does not exist apart from the aggragative processes since its perception beyond them is not established." 

By means of such reasons, one should cultivate a firm certainty that sees the faults of the self being objectively different from those of the aggregates. If you do not derive a correct certainty about the faults of these two positions in sameness and difference, your decision that the person is intrinsically realityless will merely be a premise, and you will not discover the authentic view.

Tsong Khapa’s Medium-Length Transcendent Insight