Notes for Lines of
1. Sunyata (stong-pa-nyid) is the true nature of all phenomena and is
descriptive of the actual way in which all things exist. More technically,
Sunyata is the logical refutation of the possibility that any phenomenal
object can have true existence by itself, independent of its causes and
circumstances and isolated from the mental label with which it is named and
cognized. This is contrary to the more usual but mistaken view that regards all
phenomena as having individual separate identities.
2. Bodhicitta (byang-chub-kyi sems) is the Enlightened Attitude of
wishing all sentient beings to be happy because you cannot tolerate the
sufferings of others. Bodhicitta motivates you to take it upon yourself
to work to attain the Full Enlightenment of Buddhahood, because only as a Buddha
will you be able to fulfil the hopes and wishes of all others to be
3. The Dharma (chos) is the body of Buddha's teachings.
(hkhor-ba) is the vicious circle of continued rebirth. The nature of
samsara is that it is fraught with endless sufferings, such as from
sickness, old age, impermanence and death.
5. The Southern Continent
(Jambudvipa, hDzam-bugling). According to Buddhist cosmology, as
outlined in the "Abhidharmakosa," the universe consists of four
continents arranged in the four directions around Mount Meru in the center. The
Southern Continent is where human life, as we commonly know it,
6. The Three Realms
(tridhatu, khams-gsum). The Three Realms are (a) the Desire Realm in
which consciousness is preoccupied with desire for objects of the six senses
(kamadhatu, hdod-khams); (b) the Form Realm in which consciousness
possessing a form is preoccupied with meditations (rupadhatu,
gzugs-khams); and (c) the Formless Realm in which consciousness not having
any form is preoccupied with deep meditations (arupadhatu, gzugs-med
khams). The Desire Realm is inhabited by the hell creatures, hungry ghosts,
animals, humans, anti-gods and the first six classes of gods. The Form Realm is
inhabited by the next seventeen classes of gods; and the Formless Realm includes
the top four classes of gods. As these life forms differ according to the amount
and kind of suffering that they consciously experience, it is possible for
humans to become aware of these states of consciousness as well.
7. The "Prajnaparamita
Sutras" were delivered by Buddha on Vulture's Peak. In them are begun the
two Mahayana (Theg-chen) lineages of the teachings of the profound
insight of Sunyata and the widespread action of Bodhicitta.
8. This refers
specifically to rJe Tzong-kha-pa's two main Gurus of the forty-five he had,
namely the bKah brgyud Lama Grwa-skor mkhan-chen Chos-skyob
bzang-po and the rNying-ma Lama lHo-brag Nam-mkhah rgyal-mtsan.
The oral tradition lineages of the two lines begun in the "Prajnaparamita
Sutras," which were recombined for the first time in Atisa, were divided among
the three bKah-gdams sub-traditions after Atisa's death. These
three were combined again in rJe Tzong-kha-pa through these two main
9. Skilful and effective
means (upayakausalya, thabs-mkhas). This is Buddha's method of teaching
each sentient being the Dharma in that manner most suited for him by which he
can best understand it.
10. The two aims are (a)
a more fortunate rebirth with less suffering as either a human or a god; and (b)
Liberation from the vicious circle of rebirth in samsara altogether through the
attainment of either Nirvana (mayng-hdas) when you yourself are
liberated, or the Full Enlightenment of Buddhahood (samyaksambodhi,
yang-dag-par rdzogs-pahi byang-chub), when you have the power and
ability to teach others the path to Liberation as well.
11. The nine kinds of
being are derived from the fact that beings from each of the Three Realms may be
reborn into each of the Three Realms; for example, those from the Desire Realm
may be reborn into either the Desire, Form or Formless Realm and so
12. The power-granting
king (vasaraja, dbang-gi rgyal-po). This is an epithet of the
wish-fulfilling gem. Cf. below, note 21.
13. The important point
here is that there is no contradiction between the sutra (mdo) and the
tantra (rgyud) traditions. The teachings of the tantras are dependent and
based on those of the sutras, just as the teachings from insights into the
scriptural texts gained from meditational practice are dependent and based on
the teachings from actual texts themselves.
14. Threefold theme
15. The great mistake
(mahaduscarita, nyes-spyod chen-po). This refers primarily to advancing
sectarian views, discrediting any of the Buddhist Schools, Vehicles or texts,
and disclaiming the validity of Buddha's teachings. As there is no contradiction
among any of the Buddha's teachings, then the varying traditions of Buddhism
differ only according to the methods they employ, following Buddha's usage of
skilful and effective means. Cf. above, notes 9 and 13.
16. The term, three
levels of human motivation, usually refers to the men of these three levels
(tripurusa, skyes-bu gsum). The man of initial level motivation
(adhamapurusa, skyes-bu chung-ngu) is one who, fearing rebirth in one of
the hells or as a hungry ghost or an animal, seeks rebirth as a human or as a
god. The man of intermediate level motivation (madhyampurusa,
skyes-bu-hbring) is one who, forsaking the sufferings of samsara
entirely, seeks Nirvana for himself alone. The man of advanced level motivation
(uttamapurusa, skyes-bu chen-po) is one who, forsaking Nirvana for
himself alone, seeks continued rebirth in samsara in order to help liberate all
sentient beings from their sufferings. The man of advanced level, then, has an
Enlightened Attitude of Bodhicitta as his motivation. Cf. above, notes 2 and
17. The essence of all
scriptural texts is the skilful and effective means of acting with Bodhicitta
and the wisdom of the profound insight of Sunyata.
18. Good aims for future
lives refers to the two aims explained above in note 10.
19. The Sangha
(dge-hdun) is the monastic community of novice and fully ordained
monks and nuns who devote their entire life to studying and practicing the
teachings of Buddha. The Buddha, Dharma and Sangha are called the Three Jewels
of Refuge (triratna, dkon-mchog gsum).
20. The eight liberties
for Dharma study (astaksana, dal-ba brgyad) are defined as freedom from
the eight states of no leisure. The eight are divided into two groups of four
each. The four human states of no leisure for Dharma study are being born in an
uncivilized border region among barbarians, or where the words of the Buddha
have not yet reached, being born with incomplete body or senses, or among those
holding views contrary to those of Buddha. The four non-human states of no
leisure for Dharma study are being born in one of the hells, as a hungry ghost,
an animal, or as a long-lived god.
21. The wish-fulfilling gem
(cintamani, yid-bzhin nor-bu). This is a fabulous jewel which grants all
22. Nagas (klu)
are snake-like animals who live, among other places, beneath bodies of water and
who, if not offended, are protectors of Buddhism.
23. According to the oral
tradition explanation of rJe Tzong-kha-pa, the rarity of being born with a fully
endowed human form is to be stressed here. It is possible that in the past you
may have been born as a human in one of the other three continents of the
universe, cf. above note 5, or as a human on the Southern Continent lacking one
of the eight liberties or ten opportunities for Dharma study, cf. above note 20.
But, if you have a fully endowed human form in this lifetime, and if you do not
take advantage of the opportunity presented by it to use it as a vehicle for the
study and practice of Dharma, then you will never have the good fortune of
obtaining another one again. If you do make strides towards the practice of the
Dharma but do not fully succeed in this lifetime, then you will continue to be
reborn with a fully endowed human form.
24. The three unfortunate
states of rebirth (tridurgati, ngang-hgro gsum). These are the
states of the hell beings, hungry ghosts and animals. Sentient beings reborn
into one of these three states are so preoccupied with suffering that they do
not have the leisure and opportunity to improve their condition until the
conclusion of such an unfortunate rebirth.
25. White karma
refers to the process whereby happiness and fortunate circumstances follow as
the result of previously committed virtuous actions. Black karma refers
to the process whereby suffering and unfortunate circumstances follow as the
result of previously committed non-virtuous actions.
26. The eight favorable
qualities of a human birth which are most conducive for a successful Dharma
career are being born with a long lifespan, with a handsome healthy body, in a
good reputable family, with great wealth and many friends, with credibility of
speech, with good influence on others, as a male, and with a powerful body and
consequences of previously committed non-virtuous actions (papa,
28. The four opponent
powers for cleansing black karmic consequences are invoked as follows. First
remembering the non-virtuous actions you have committed, you must feel sincere
regret about them, not guilt. Second you must offer your promise to turn away
from all such non-virtuous actions in the future. Then you must summon before
you mental images of the Three Jewels of Refuge, cf. above note 19, who actually
were the objects against whom you had committed your non-virtuous actions; and
you must take refuge in them and offer them your Bodhicitta vow to practice for
the attainment of Buddhahood in order to be able to liberate all sentient beings
from samsara. Finally you must offer the merit of whatever virtuous actions you
are doing, such as making religious offerings, prayers and so forth, towards the
Liberation of all sentient beings. In this way the obstacles and sufferings that
might have arisen as a result of these non-virtuous actions can be
29. Ignorance of Sunyata
Conduct (bodhicarya, byang-chub-kyi spyod-pa). Enlightened Conduct,
motivated by an Enlightened Attitude of Bodhicitta, entails acting with
loving-kindness and compassion towards all sentient beings. More specifically,
it refers to the actions involved in perfecting your practice of the six
perfections (paramita, pha-rol-tu-phyin-pa). These six are generosity,
discipline of moral self-control, patience, enthusiastic perseverance,
meditative concentration and wisdom.
Bodhisattva (byang-chub sems-dpah) is an Enlightenment-bound being
who, motivated by an Enlightened Attitude of Bodhicitta, practices the
Enlightened Conduct of perfecting the six perfections in order to attain the
Full Enlightenment of Buddhahood.
32. Generosity (dana,
33. Discipline of moral
self-control (sila, tsul-khrims).
34. Moral and mental
defilements (klesa, nyon-mongs) are compulsive patterns of behavior for
gaining ego-gratification and security. They are based on ignorance of Sunyata
and cause you to commit non-virtuous actions resulting in misery and unhappiness
for yourself and others. The three main ones, referred to as the three poisons
(trivisa, dog-gsum), are (a) longing desire to possess objects of sensory
cognition that you like and to include them in your ego-identity in the hope of
gaining a sense of security from "having them as a part of you" (raga,
hdod-chags); (b) fearful and angered repulsion to be rid of objects
of sensory cognition that you dislike and to exclude them from your ego-identity
in the hope of gaining a sense of security from "not having them as a part of
you" (dvesa, zhe-sdang); and (c) stubborn closed-mindedness about
learning anything you fear might threaten your ego-identity and upset the sense
of security you wish to gain from it, but which you are unsure of and therefore
feel you must protect (moha, gti-mug).
35. Patience (ksanti,
36. The garuda
(bya-khyung) is a half-man, half-bird creature.
37. Anger (dvesa,
zhe-sdang). Cf. above note 34.
perseverance (virya, brtzon-hgrus).
concentration (dhyana, bsam-gtan).
concentration (samadhi, ting-hge-hdzin).
41. Wisdom (prajna,
43. Mental quiescence
meditation (samatha, zhi-gnas).
44. Penetrative insight
into Sunyata (vipasyana, lhag-mthong).
45. Sunyata is like space
in that it is all-extensive and everywhere void of any obstructions to the
operation of interdependent origination and cause and effect.
46. Sunyata is like
conjured illusion (maya, sgyu-ma) in that whatever has Sunyata as its
true mode of existence is never found independent of the minds that believe in
it, and yet has the power to cause reactions in others.
47. Perfection Vehicle
(Paramitayana, Phar-phyin theg-pa).
48. Diamond-hard Vehicle
(Vajrayana, rDo-rje theg-pa).