Essential Tibetan Buddhism, p. 176-202

Tsong Khapa’s Medium-Length
Transcendent Insight (part VI)

Actual Transcendent Insight

When you discover the view that realizes the two selflessnesses from the above teaching of the necessary conditions for transcendent insight, you should meditate on transcendent insight.

How many transcendent insights are there?

Here I have not mainly taught the high stages of transcendent insight but have emphasized the transcendent insight to be meditated by common individuals. To completely analyze that type of transcendent insight, there are the insights of the four realities, the insights of the three doors, and the insights of the six investigations.

The insights of the four realities are stated in the Elucidation of the Intention as the four, "discernment" and so forth. Among them, "discernment" takes the contents of the reality as its object, and "investigation" takes the nature of reality as its object. The first contains examination and analysis, since they respectively discern coarse and subtle objects. The identification of these four is stated in the Stages of the Disciple and in the Instruction in Transcendent Wisdom. 

The insights of the three doors are stated in the Elucidation of the Intention as the insights arisen from signs, arisen from thorough investigation, and arisen from individual discrimination. As for the description of these three, taking the import of selflessness as an example, first, selflessness is identified, then it is taken as object, and then its significance is imprinted in the mind without engaging in repeated determinations. The second stage of insight consists of determinations in order to ascertain what was not previously certain. The third stage of insight is the analysis as above of the identified import.

The insights of the six investigations are the thorough investigations and individual discriminations of meaning, object, nature, orientation, time, and reason. Insight investigating meaning investigates whether "the meaning of this expression is this"' investigating objects considers "this is internal" or "this is external," and so forth; investigating nature, it investigates whether "this is a particular nature or a general nature," or "this is a common nature or an uncommon nature"; investigating orientation, it investigates "such happened in the past, such happens in the present, and such will happen in the future." Insight investigating reason, investigates through the four types of reasoning; it investigates relational reasoning by viewing how effects occur depending on causes and conditions, considering specifically the objects of superficial and ultimate realities; it investigates functional reasoning by investigating how things perform their specific functions, such as fire by burning, considering "this is the phenomenon, this is the activity, and this is the function it accomplishes"; it investigates logical reasoning by investigating how things are established without contradicting validating cognitions, considering whether "this is supported by perceptual, inferential, or scripturally testimonial validating cognitions or not"; and it investigates natural reasoning by investigating the commonsensical natures, the inconceivable natures, and the ultimate natures of things such as heat of fire and the wetness of water, respecting those natures and not considering other possibilities. The presentation of these investigative insights as sixfold is to be understood by the yogin, but they can definitely be included in three categories, as concerned with verbal meanings, with phenomenal objects, and with ultimate natures. The first investigative insight is in terms of the first concern, objective investigation and particular nature investigation are concerned with the second, and general nature investigative insight and the other three are concerned with the third. The first-explained four insights operate through three doors and manifest six modes of investigation, and therefore the insights of the three doors and the insights of the six investigations are included in the insights of the four realities.

The four conscious attitudes explained above in the quiescence section, such as the "balancing" attitude, are explained in the Stages of Disciples as being common to both quiescence and insight, and thus there are also four conscious attitudes in insight.

As for the way of practice, it is the procedure of first seeking quiescence and then, based on that, subsequently practicing insight, and that is the reason why quiescence and insight are differentiated by their different procedures in practice, even though they may both take the same object, such as selflessness. Especially, since the meditation of the two transcendent insights - that concerned with the levels of peace through specific discernment of the faults and virtues of the higher and lower realms, and that concerned with selflessness cultivated through analysis with the wisdom of the specific discrimination of the meaning of selflessness - is indispensably necessary to generate a firm and intense certainty, it has the greater power to abandon specific abandonees, defilements, and obscurations. As for the phenomenologically concerned transcendent insight, it is not only the meditation concerned with levels of peace that abandons the manifest addictions, but it is also stated by Ratnakarashanti in the Instruction to be the analytic meditation that discerns the nature of the eighteen elements, by which illustration one can understand the other insights meditated by distinguishing phenomenal objects.

Although Ratnakarashanti explains in the Instruction than one must generate quiescence and insight on the stage of yoga oriented toward the phenomenological before generating quiescence and insight oriented toward the ontological, here, following the view of Shantideva and Kamalashila and others, insight is generated after first generating whatever sort of quiescence, and I mean here the transcendent insight oriented ontologically toward ultimate reality.

The Esoteric Communion also explains the orientation toward mind-only, as taught in the Visit to Lanka: "depending on mind alone, do not imagine any external objects"; the orientation toward thatness; and the teaching of the three stages of the yoga of nonappearance. It also appears to explain, as above, the procedure of practice of quiescence and insight through focused meditation and analytic meditation in the first two stages. Thus it accepts a similar procedure of developing quiescence and insight in the mental process oriented toward reality. My own interpretation is that in the context of the Unexcelled Yoga the procedure of developing the understanding of the view must be practiced according to the central way treatises. In practice, however, although sometimes there are conscious attitudes analytic of thatness during the aftermath intuitions of the creation stage and perfection stage, and although the perfection stage yogin who has achieved the ability to concentrate on the essentials in the body must definitely meditate through concentration on top of his or her view when cultivating thatness in equipoise, there is no practice of the analytic meditation of transcendent insight as explained in other treatises. Therefore in that context you should not employ one-pointed reality meditation of transcendent insight as explained in other treatises. Instead in that context you should employ one-pointed reality meditation upon your view in alternation with your employment of analytic meditation. . . .

If you do not discover the view of selflessness, no matter what method of meditation you practice, your meditation will not abide on the import of thatness. So you must discover that view. And even if you have an understanding of the view, if you do not remember the view when you meditate on thatness and focus your meditation on that, you will have no meditation on reality. Further, if after each new session of analysis of the view you focus your mind on not holding anything at all, it is not the cultivation of reality of thatness. Further, practicing by remembering that view and just focusing upon it is no more than the above practice of quiescence, and the meaning of the treatises is not just to practice insight in alteration with that. Therefore you should practice through the specific analysis by means of wisdom of the import of selflessness as explained above.

If you practice analytic meditation by itself, the quiescence you previously developed will decline, so you should practice analytic meditation mounted on the horse of quiescence, now and then blending in periods of focused meditation. Moreover, if you practice analytic meditation often, your focusing decreases, so you should often return to focused meditation, engaging in quiescence by itself. If the focused meditation is overdone, you become adverse to analysis or you ignore the functioning of your analysis, and your mind becomes obsessed with one-pointed quiescence, and so you should often return to analytic meditation. Your meditation has the greatest power if you practice quiescence and insight in balanced proportion, so that is how you should practice.

Thus it is not correct to hold that all thoughts occurring in analytic practice are substantivistic sign habits that are truth habits and therefore terminate them; because, as I have repeatedly established, truth-habit thought is only one tendency of thought. If you decide that rational negations overwhelm whatever is held by discriminating thought, this becomes the nihilistic repudiation that has overextended the rational negatee, and it is not the meaning of the scriptures, as I have established. Yet you may still think that, even if you do not assert that with regard to other subjects of concern, whatever is held in cognition regarding ultimate nature is merely the product of substantivistic sign habits that conceptualize truth status in things. In fact, those sign habits are the fault of a defective habit pattern of mind and do not function with regard to all objects cognized, because it is stated that the egocentric individual desiring liberation must investigate reality from many scriptural and rational perspectives.

Again you may think that the meditation on thatness, as it is for the purpose of generating nondiscrimination, is not produced by analytic discrimination, since cause and effect must correspond in nature. The Lord himself [Buddha] clearly answered this concern, in the Kashyapa Chapter: "Kashyapa, for example, when you rub two sticks together, they produce fire and are themselves completely consumed in the process. In the same way, Kashyapa, authentic analytic discrimination produces the faculty of holy wisdom, and, being produced, it serves to consume that authentic discrimination itself." Here he clearly states that holy wisdom is generated by discrimination. Similarly Kamalashila states in his Middle Meditation Stages, "when the yogi analyzes with wisdom and does not cognize as ultimately certain any intrinsic objectivity of anything, he enters the samadhi free of discriminative thought, and he realizes the utter nonexistence of the intrinsic objectivity of things but merely meditates exclusively on the abandonment of all conscious attitudes; he never eliminates that particular discrimination of that absence of mental function, and he will never realize the utter nonexistence of intrinsic objectivity, since he is devoid of the illumination of wisdom. Thus, from the authentic specific discrimination arises the fire of the true wisdom of reality, like fire arisen from rubbing sticks, which then burns the sticks of discrimination. This is what the Lord stated." Otherwise it would never happen that the uncontaminated would arise from the contaminated, the transcendental from the mundane, a Buddha from a living being, a holy person from an alienated individual, and so forth. For in all these cases the effect is dissimilar from the cause. 

Nagarjuna states in the Disclosure of the Spirit of Enlightenment that "where discriminations occur, how could there be voidness? The Transcendent Lords do not perceive any mind in the form of discriminated and discrimination; where there is discrimination and discriminated, there is no enlightenment." But here he is teaching that enlightenment will not be attained when truth status is perceived in discriminated and discrimination and does not negate discriminative wisdom or the mere function of discriminated and discrimination. Otherwise it would contradict his extensive determination of thatness through many discriminative analyzes in that text; and if mere discrimination were meant, their not being seen by Buddha means their nonexistence. Again Nagarjuna states in the same text, "Voidness, called 'nonproduction,' 'voidness,' and 'selflessness,' if it is contemplated as anything less, it does not serve as meditation on that." This does not refute meditation that takes voidness and selflessness intrinsically unproduced as its object, but it refutes meditation on an inferior voidness, the lesser nature that is conceived by holding those voidnesses as having themselves truth status. As he states in the Transcendental Praise, "As you taught the nectar of voidness to cure all mental constructions, you reject those who adhere to it as true in itself." Likewise he said in the Jewel Rosary that "thus neither self nor selflessness is apprehended in reality. Therefore the Great Sage eliminated the views of self and selflessness." Both self and selflessness have on objective status in reality, and so the view that holds both as truly existing is eliminated. But this does not refute the view of selflessness, because, as in the previous quote from the Rebuttal of Objections, if it is not the case that there is realitylessness of intrinsically real status, then intrinsically real status would become existent. 

These ways of meditation occur also in the old instructions on the stages of the path. Geshe Potowa says, in his Collected Sayings, that "some say that you should rationally determine intrinsic realitylessness at the time of study and reflection but meditate only on nondiscrimination at the time of meditation. But such leads to an irrelevant voidness, which will not serve as a remedy, since it is meditated as something else. Therefore, even at the time of meditation, one should discriminatingly investigate the absence of sameness and difference, or relativity, whatever you are used to, and also fix oneself slightly in nondiscrimination. If you meditate like that, it remedies the addictions."

If you meditate through investigation by discriminating wisdom in that way, until you have achieved the previously explained ecstatic fluency, you have a simulated transcendent insight. Once that ecstatic fluency is generated, you have the genuine transcendent insight. The actuality and method of generating fluency through is a already explained. Further, this must occur without weakening of quiescence, and there is a fluency developed from that, so merely having fluency is not enough. Then what is? If you can develop ecstatic fluency through the power of the practice of analytic meditation itself, that then becomes transcendent insight. This is the same whether it involves the transcendent insight oriented toward the nature of reality.

Such a way of the integration of quiescence and insight must be understood according to the teachings of the original treatises, and one should not rely on other explanations that presume it to be otherwise. And you should understand from my extensive Stages of the Path the extensive details (of the teachings) of the "stages of the path of enlightenment" (tradition) on the conclusive analysis through reasoning, the supportive scriptural references, and the processes of meditation.

Tsong Khapa’s Medium-Length Transcendent Insight