Deep Vision of the Non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana
His Eminence Ngor Ewan Phende Rinpoche
The "Deep Vision of the Non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana" is a
teaching which His
Eminence Ngor Ewan Phende Rinpoche gave when he was in Singapore in 1982. We are
grateful to him for so kindly providing us with an English translation of the text for publication
in One Vehicle when he was back in France. Lama Jamguene Ngawang Lepa is the famous
author of the following text.
"HERE IS CONTAINED THE ESSENTIAL SUMMARY OF THE VIEW OF
NON-DIFFERENTIATION OF SAMSARA-NIRVANA, CALLED THE ESSENCE
OF NECTAR FOR GOOD MERIT"
Prostration to Lama JAMPAYANG, who grants us the Wisdom View of
in all things' Essence.
If we summarize all the apparently diverse opinions concerning the
Masters of the Middle Path,
we obtain the outer and approximate Middle Path and the inner, precise and subtle Middle Path.
The first category is the view of the Prasangikas who hold for real
everything that is perceived
by their senses. At the time when all treatises of the Sastras were explained and during the
great debates that ensued this view was held.
The second category is the view that considers that all external
appearances end up in the
mind which is finally placed in its own nature, free of all manifestation. In their training of Yoga,
the adepts practise mostly this view in a solitary place.
Relating to this, Atisa has said:
"During all the contradictory debates with non-Buddhists at the
time of the debates
concerning the Great Treatises of commentaries, it was said to be the Middle Path.
And, at the time of the training to the true sense in the practice of Yoga, it is the Subtle
Middle Path which is practised and constitutes the essential oral Teaching."
Greater details are to be found in Atisha's dBuma Rinpoche'i
sGronMe along with the
sources of his commentaries, as it is said in the Legs bShad Gon-Ma'i dGons rGyan.
Thus, it is said that our own Tradition of the view of
non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana
agrees with the second Tradition.
Concerning the way of meditating:
First of all, it is indicated in the explanatory Teachings, all the
dharmas of the phenomenal world
of Samsara (cyclic existence) and of Nirvana, are only reflections of mind itself.
This lack of existence of the smallest dharma outside the mind is asserted by:
a) references to quotations,
b) logical deduction, and
c) the Essential Teachings.
a) THE QUOTATIONS
It is said in the mDo sDe Sa bCu Pa:
"Oh, Sons of Buddhas, in the end the three Spheres are nothing but Mind."
In the rDorje Gur:
"Outside the Precious Mind, there is neither Buddhas nor beings,
nor any object external
In the Chad Ma Rigs gTer:
"In truth, appearances are Mind itself and do not exist outside of
it; they are classfied into
true or false according to tendencies being long-lasting or not."
It is also explained by numerous other quotations.
b) LOGICAL DEDUCTION
"A unique object able to appear manifoldly is actually devoid of all reality." So it is said.
Thus, a cup of water will appear differently to the six types of
beings and in that way, we'll know
that appearances are devoid of all external reality. It is by experiencing that external appearances
are devoid of all external reality that this will come to truth.
In the past, a great adept of the 'Path and its Fruits' (Essential
Teaching of the Sakyapas) had a
sensation of thirst caused by his winds and channels. Unable to find any water in a well, spring,
or river, and totally puzzled, he hung his monk's clothes on a tree on the other side of the river and
went to sleep. The next morning, waking with his sensation of dryness gone, he realized that water
was flowing as it did before in the well, spring and river. He was then forced to use a small craft
to get his clothes back.
Another time, in India, a son who had a lot of respect for his old
mother, left the country to do
business. Upon leaving, he told his wife to please take care of his mother and to be sure to feed
her good and pure food.
During the son's long absence, the old lady caught an eye disease
which made the rice she was
given appear to be full of hairs. This, in turn, made her very weak due to a swollen stomach.
Upon returning, the son asked the old mother if she had been well taken care of.
"After you left, your wife never gave me good food, except this
rice full of hairs which
now made me sick with a bad stomach."
The son reprimanded his wife, who in turn answered him:
"I have only given her good food, but it seems that she has an eye
disease. Go and bring
her food yourself."
So, the son brought perfectly clean rice to his old mother who said:
"In older days, you had a lot of respect for me, but it seems that
now you're under your
wife's thumb. This rice is full of hair!"
Understanding that her eyes were bad, he told her to keep the
rice and called upon a doctor.
After having been treated, he asked his mother to look at the rice. And since there wasn't any
hair in the rice, the old lady understood that her disease was the cause, and thought:
"How can my stomach be sick if I've not swallowed a single hair?"
Reassured, her stomach problems disappeared as the rainbow vanishes in the sky. So it is told.
c) THE ESSENTIAL TEACHINGS
Concerning the assertion from the spiritual instructions given by each
of the Lineage's Lamas,
it is said:
"Sickness and disease numb and deceive the mind like a disease
veils the eyesight or
like a blazing point swirling rapidly."
Having thus thought about this truth which is asserted by the above
three quotations, arguments
and spiritual instructions, all appearances will be perceived as Mind.
For example, when salt absorbs itself in water, it becomes one with
water. In the same way,
we should understand that no existing dharma is different from Mind.
And lastly, we'll even doubt an external existence (different from
mind) of our own body. But,
concerning the authentic fusion of Mind-Perception, it is said that it does not appear until the
Eighth Land is reached.
Although the fusion of Mind-Perception of the preceding Land is not
really the authentic one,
it still appears as an experience during the practice of Yoga.
Those who wonder if the realization of appearances of Mind-as-such, is
not precisely the
Prasangikas' Tradition of the Middle Path, are in fact totally wrong.
In fact, Klu-sGrub, 'Phags-Pa Lha and ZLa Ba Grags-Pa have all three
asserted that perceptions
are only Mind, and who dares say that they do not understand the Prasangikas' view?
The great Savant Mi-Pham rGya-mCho has explained it thus in his dBu-Ma rGyan-'Grel:
"To realize that all perceptions are Mind-as-such is the essential
characteristic of the
Buddhist Path's holders; true situation of all objects, it is the sacred point of the Essential
Teachings relating to meditation. To destroy the illusion of phenomenal existence, it is
the essential hint, just as it is essential for the butcher to know the animal's vital point
in order to kill it, or for the lumberjack to know where to plant his nail in order to dry
out the tree.
If we can hold it (the essential point) due to skilful means, it is
also the heart of the
Essential Teachings pertaining to the Ultimate rDorje Vehicle."
And so are the numerous writings praising the realization of perceptions as Mind.
To say that appearances are Mind means that they are Mind perceiving
itself. In fact, Mind
never perceives an external object.
Relating to this subject, the Omniscient dKon-mChog Lhun-Grub has said:
"As distinctive object to our own manifold perceiving mind, our own
finds nothing but an illusive being. The chain of interconditioned production of the never
ceasing duality between 'me' and 'other' (appearing and resting on conditions and causes)
is empty of an own-self. Look at the own-face of the Sphere of the Inexpressible and
Therefore, if we investigate mind with mind, we'll experience
an unceasing Light which is called
the Mind's characteristic.
By its own Essence, this same Light is devoid of birth and empty of
primeval cause. In an
intermediary stage, it does not dwell in anything and is devoid of a distinctive essence. Finally,
since it is unceasing, it is empty of the Fruit of annihilation. Mind has no form or color. It does
not dwell inside or outside the body, nor in between. No matter which way we look for mind,
it cannot be found. Whichever way we investigate mind, we cannot find anything in which it
would realize itself (not having any distinctive essence). Although not having any distinctive
nature of its own, the trick of various perceptions nevertheless appears incessantly since the
beginning, therefore we never experience its lack of existence. Since this trick of various
perceptions appears constantly and we cannot find any true nature, neither can we experience
This nature of Emptiness in which we have never experienced any
existence, and this
characteristic of Light in which we have never experienced any non-existence, have
always been dissociable. Mind is Pure Light in its perception of itself, Empty in its own
Emptiness, and Perfectly conscious in its own investigation. All this is only a purpose of
experience for the Transcendental Wisdom of our own investigation.
But, in reality, there is no distinctive essence to hold in the
Primeval Nature of the Absolute
Truth. Nothing that mind should grasp, nor words to express it. But, nevertheless, in order to
dissipate ignorance, the Absolute Truth is called the relative Truth of language: 'non-dual',
'Union of the Two', 'inexpressible', and 'essence of Primeval Mind'.
Although this natural state comprises Samsara and
Nirvana, those who ignore their true
essence are said to be in Samsara, while those who know their true essence are said to be
in Nirvana. The designations of Samsara and Nirvana are thus attributed according to the
understanding or the lack of understanding (of their true essence).
From the true point of view, there is no bad Samsara that
should be rejected nor any good
Nirvana that should be realized. If this is correctly perceived, we have then obtained what is
called the understanding of the view of non-differentiation of Samsara and Nirvana.
In brief, there is nowhere to concentrate outside of the non-seizure
of Mind's Emptiness-Light.
The relaxed mind should constantly be in this state where there is nothing to meditate upon, free
of quest and artifice.
In the Songs of the Venerable Grags-Pa rGyal-mChan, it is said:
"How could there be a cessation and a distinctive essence in a mind
which is devoid
of original birth? To think that there is neither birth nor cessation is also an obstructive
thought; Give it up! You should also renounce the idea of giving up, since giving up is
also a thought!"
"That which is limitless goes beyond the realm of the expressible.
'Middle', 'Mind only', etc. . . are only words and manifestations, while their mental
representations are only conceptualizations."
However you think of it, if you have not perceived the Natural and
Spontaneous State of Mind,
and if you have not trained in the essential Teachings of non-grasping, you'll be caught grasping
even with the thought of non-grasping.
Understanding that this unceasing Emptiness-Light is the Natural State of Union.
rJe Sa-Pan has also said:
"Existence, non-existence, etc. . . ., there is nothing similar in
the Natural State of things.
There is no object to meditate upon, nor a subject who meditates, nor the act of meditating.
Mind being devoid of a distinctive essence, how could you explain that Essence? By passing
the realm of the expressible, there is nothing to say."
Coming out of this equanimous meditation, we'll then realize that all
the forms belonging to the
visual field as well as everything that is seen, are, as soon as perceived, Perception-Emptiness,
which is nothing else but the undifferentiation of Samsara-Nirvana.
In the same way, all the sounds of the audio field are, as soon as
heard, undifferentiation of
Audibility-Emptiness, of Samsara-Nirvana.
And, lastly, all the discursive thoughts pertaining to the mental
field as well as all that is thought
are, as soon as they appear, undifferentiation of Mind-Emtpiness, of Samsara-Nirvana.
Everything that appears is an Activity of the Dharma Body.
All perceptions having appeared as expressions of the
non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana
and without having to look anywhere else for a meditation object, like a businessman finding
himself in a country full of gold, it will be possible to leave the mind on everything that appears
without trying to transform it.
Some wrongly affirm that appearances, sounds and thoughts, that we
have just explained
above as being non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana, constitute the meditation and not
the view. In the two texts of the lJon Chin Chenmo and the Dag lDan, the Great rJe-bCun
"The 'holder of dharmas' (phenomena) is Samsara. Dharma itself (its
Nirvana and their undifferentiation is the undifferentiated Samsara-Nirvana."
'Jam-dByans dKon-mChog Lhun-Grub has also said:
"That which is devoid of a distinctive essence is only perception;
the nature of all
objects is the Dharma of Samsara-Nirvana; dharmas and 'holders of dharmas' are
in truth undiffrerentiated. Realize this view of profound meaning free from all limits!"
Thus, by examining the various quotations, doubts concerning
the view of the non-differentiation
of Samsara-Nirvana will disappear.
In summary, the Dharma Body at the moment of the path is to put
in practice the method
consisting of leaving Mind Itself in its natural and non-transformed state.
Thus, we obtain the Dharma Body of the moment of Fruit which is
to recognize Mind Itself
free of artifice. And it is That which is called Buddha.
If, outside of mind, there were a place where another Buddha could be
found, we could not
hold it, and even if we could, the fusion with Buddha would be difficult.
In brief, we'll know that those who didn't realize their Essential
Nature are called sentient
beings while those who do are called Buddhas.
Although we call them View, Meditation, and Action, those different
labels take a specific
name in the continuum of the practitioner according to the moment. They are in fact the unique
view of the non-differentiation of Samsara-Nirvana.
As the Lamas' Lineage has put it: First obtain the certainty that all
perceived objects are summed
up in mind. Then, perceive that all mind's perceptions are illusory and understand that this illusion
only appears because of the supportive links. After having perceived that the meaning of those
supportive links are separated from all expressible limits, realize the certitude not relying on anyone
regarding the Natural State; so is the View.
Having first started with the three preparatory Dharmas, we'll
remain in the Equanimity of the
Profound View with the help of the three basic Dharmas. Then, we'll meditate by using as final
ornament the three conclusive Dharmas. So is the Meditation.
At each moment and without letting go our steadiness of watchful
conscience of the View,
we'll meditate on three demons (gDen) of external obstacles, on the three diseases of internal
obstacles, on the three perturbating poisons of secret obstacles, on the eight mundane dharmas;
in brief, on the erroneous thoughts of passion-aversion by applying the vision seal.
Just as fire gets higher with the abundance of wood, no matter how
violent the mental and
dualistic perceptions of subject-object such as obstacles and bad causes, if we're never
separated from the key of the View, those perceptions will be perceived as the blissful Sphere
of Dharma, just as ice cubes melting in water. A greater advantage will then result concerning
Thus, a correct experience of this Profound View being born in our
mind, it will become
the antidote to all our disruptive forces (Klesas).
Generally, although our great compassionate Master, the Buddha, taught
the aspect of
repulsive meditation as an antidote to desire, the Samadhi of love as an antidote to anger
and hate, the meditation of appearance in relation to the supportive links an antidote to
ignorance, the charachteristics of the varied inclinations and temperaments as an antidote
to pride, the meditation of the similarity between oneself and others as an antidote to
jealousy, and so on . . . the repulsive aspect is only beneficial to stop desire but unable to
appease anger and hate but has no effect on desire.
If the unshakable certainty appears towards this Profound View, it
then becomes the antidote
to all disruptive forces.
For example, just as inside Samsara, the remedy called 'the
unique benefactor' is the antidote
to all diseases, if one perceives correctly the perfect meaning of Emptiness, this understanding
will then become the antidote to all disruptive forces.
It is said by Kun-mKhyen ChosKyi rGyalpo:
"Although the water of repulsion (ugliness) can wash the stains of
desire, it cannot
destroy the rocky mountain of anger; although the fire love can burn the bushes of
anger, it is unable to wash the stains of passion-desire.
"With the ability to perceive as Unity Emptiness and everything
that appears in relation
to the supportive links, one can totally cut the tree of self's view with its numerous branches
and leaves of actions and disruptive forces and its fruits of birth (namely, existence)."
Thus it is explained.
If we gathered all the Doctrines of the Way, we'll find that they are
all concentrated in the six
Paramitas (six Perfections). And those appear easily to the one who perceives perfectly the
essential point of this View.
In the sPyod-'Jug, from the beginning: "abandoning the
miserable beings", to the end: "they
wander without a reason", it is meant in those nine slokas (stanzas) that the six Paramitas do
not exist by relying on body and external speech but that we must find them relying solely on
the inside mind. Thus, the spirit of giving which comes from the heart is Giving; the total victory
over the spirit of ill-will is Moral Discipline; the total victory over the spirit of anger is Patience;
a mind rejoicing in practising virtue is called Zeal; a mind which remains firmly on any object is
called Meditation; the knowledge of the Nature of Mind is Wisdom.
Those virtues will be born in the mental continuum of the one who will
possess the perfectly
Pure View. Jo-Bo rJe (Atisa) and Milarepa have both said it. The victorious Yan dGonpa
has also said:
"To know the nature of virtue is the most excellent of all virtues.
To know the nature
of non-virtue is the most excellent of all confessions."
Just as it has already been explained, the wisdom of the nature
of virtue being an inexhaustible
virtue, it becomes the cause of Perfect Awakening. The wisdom of the nature of non-virtue is
the most excellent of confessions and it is said in the Tharpa Chenpo Phyogs Su rGyas-Pa'i
"If you want purification, firmly contemplate the Pure View. When
the Perfect Liberation will also come. This is said to be the most excellent of all
The Master, Arya Deva, has also said:
"Even those who has accumulated little merit will have no doubt
Doctrine. If they did, they would have to wander in cyclic existence (Samsara)."
For it to be born rightfully in our mental continuum, we must exert
ourselves with great
strength in Purification and Accumulation.
Having understood that the Lama was the Essence concentrating all
Buddhas, it is very
important to pray to him with perfection concentration, aspiration and immense veneration.
It is said in the rNal-'Byor-Ma Kuntu sPyod-Pa'i rGyud (bDe
"Prostration to the Feet of the One whose kindness allows the Great
Bliss to appear
in a flash. Prostration to the Lama whose Body is similar to the Jewel possessing the
Sakya Pandita, the Lord of Dharma, has also said:
"For the one who faithfully relies on You, that person immediately
Mercy and becomes in one instant a Perfect Buddha and realizes all the Perfect
In the Tantra, it is said:
"Due to a constant veneration and aspiration, the rank of Dorje
Chang can be obtained
in six months."
'Brom-sTon once asked Jo-Bo rJe (Atisa):
"Have the Doctrines I practised in the past been transformed in the Way or not?"
"Those where you served your Jetsun Lama did, the others, no," answered Atisa.
'Brom-sTon asked again:
"Although we have many meditations adepts in Tibet, none has
obtained the distinctive
Virtues. Why is this?"
"All the qualities, great or small, of Mahayana can only take birth
by relying on the Lama
and since you, in Tibet, only consider Lama as an ordinary being, how do you expect the
Qualities to be born?"
It is said that to see the clean face of the Profound and
Natural Situation of all dharmas, there
is nothing more excellent than the practice of Guru Yoga. By practising this Guru Yoga with
regularity, not only with the mouth but also with the heart, an unbearable strength of veneration
and aspiration will burn from the inside, just like a great fire. There is nothing else than to think
and recall the Lama.
We'll understand that all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten
directions are incarnated in our
own Lama. And by seeing or hearing the marvellous biographies of holy and realized Lamas of
India and Tibet, we'll also know that our Lama is their Incarnation.
Having established the certainty that the Essence of the Lama
concentrates without exceptions
the Three Jewels, and in order to honour Him, not even being satisfied with the offering of our
flesh and blood, by thinking of Him, we will pray to Him with veneration songs, pouring tears
similar to a rain shower.
If we're able to pray to Him with such great strength, there will be
no doubt of reaching the
If we're satisfied by saying a few prayer words such as: "The Lama
knows" while only thinking
of Him of time to time, then we'll never obtain the benefits of the Profound Guru Yoga practice.
That is why we must exert ourselves to a pure practice.
The most excellent of all incarnation, the Omniscient 'Jam dByans
rGyal-mChan has said:
"Know that all Refuges are the Essence of the Lama. See all
virtuous practices as the
Way of the Lama, and know that Samsara and Nirvana appear as Manifestations of
"Grant us Your Infinite Mercy so that the phenomenal world appears as the Lama!"
If what has just been said is realized, it is said to be the
true and faultless practice of the
Guru Yoga of the Profound Path.
This text was composed at the repeated request of Thartse Shab
Byams-Pa Nam-mKha' Kun-bZan BStan-Pa'i rGyal-mChan and other listeners of
the Lam 'Bras (Lamdre). They asked the monk of Sakya Thouppa, Nag dBan Legspa,
to record the authentic account of the stages of the view that he possessed. And it
was written by the incarnation of sDe gZung Lun-Rig, namely, Kun-dGa' BsTanpa'i