in Buddhadharma

"I praise the perfect Buddha,
The Supreme Philosopher,
Who taught us relativity ;
Free of cessation and creation,
Without annihilation and permanence,
With no coming and no going,
Not a unity, nor a plurality,
Fabrications quieted, the supreme bliss !"

Nâgârjuna : Mûlamadhyamakakârikâ, I:1-2.

These Studies in Buddhaharma are dedicated to the Teachings ("Dharma") of Siddhârtha Gautama (ca. 563 - 483 BCE), Buddha Śâkyamuni, the Awakened One ("bodhi"). He is found to be the gem of the wise.

Three principal geographical sources stand out : India, Tibet & China. As the origin, India necessitates a study of the Pâli Canon, the Mahâyâna Sûtras and the basic Tantras. Indian Buddhism was eradicated by Muslim invaders. For over a millennium, Tibet, the custodian of the three historical Vehicles of these teachings, called the Lesser Vehicle, the Great Vehicle & the Diamond Vehicle, practiced Buddha's "science of mind" in an isolated monastic environment, characterized by schools, sects & lineages. After 1959, Tibetan Buddhism spread over the world.

Although strictly keeping to the various Indian sources, Tibetan scholasticism added, accommodating the continuity of  their monastic practices, its own typical way of organizing them. For example, the distinction between "prâsangika" and "svâtantrika"
Mâdhyamaka is not found in Sanskrit & Pâli sources. Given the Buddhadharma also reached China, Chinese Buddhism & Taoism are also to be considered, especially in the Tantras.

This independent study does not embrace the view of a particular school, sect or lineage, but tries to present the teachings of the Buddha with minimal cultural overlay and aware of contemporary scientific methodology. To do so, the study of the following proved to be helpful :

Early Indian Buddhism as found in the Sûtra-pitaka ("Basket of Discourses") ;
Early Mahâyâna sources (in particular the Heart Sûtra) ;
Early Tantric sources and their relation with Śaivite Tantra ;
the works of Nâgârjuna, Chandrakîrti, Śântideva, Atiśa and Tsongkhapa ;
Shamanism, Bön and the "Nyingma" or "old translation school" of Tibet ;
Mahâsandhi (Dzogchen) & Mahâmudrâ teachings as found in India & Tibet ;
Ch'an Buddhism, the Flower Garland School ;
Ch'i Kung, Taoist alchemy & T'ai Ch'i ;
Parapsychology & the applications of Biofeedback in meditation.

Ending suffering by ending ignorance lies at the heart of Buddha Śâkyamuni's care for sentient beings, i.e. entities endowed with the capacity to be aware & understand, but misled by themselves & others and so constantly dissatisfied. The gross conceptual mind suffers from a false ideation, a mistaken cognitive process. For the Buddha, ignorance is, before all other things, a cognitive act, a delusion or "mental" hallucination causing emotional afflictions like anger, hatred, greed, stupidity, excessive attachment, arrogance, jealousy, pride, malice etc. Mental obscurations, in particular the reification of thinking, cause emotional woe. Basically, suffering is the outcome of mental error. Take this darkness away, and the root of suffering has been cut.

Unwholesome, afflictive emotions take on the form of states of hatred, anxiety, worry, depression, fear, anger, cruelty etc. The stress accompanying these states directly affects physical health & mental well-being, shortening our life-span. In this way, a vicious circle of defilement is generated. To start getting out of our personal inferno, morality, meditation and wisdom need to be acquired. Meditation (pacifying the mind) and compassionate activity set the tone to tackle these emotional afflictions. Only after having thoroughly relaxed the mindful mind, generating the intent to benefit all sentient beings, may the root-cause of the fundamental cognitive error be correctly identified and properly negated. Then, in a tranquil setting, analysis is introduced. This is the dawn of wisdom-mind. But as long as stress is the case, thought follows emotion and no philosophy free of reification emerges. Then, extreme views cannot be avoided. Delusion cannot end. Enlightened activity remains absent.

Note how humans are deemed naturally empowered to change for the better. No external Divine Saviour is necessary. All what is needed is already present. There is no original sin, nor is there the effect of Divine retribution. The law of cause and effect (determinations & conditions of universal interdependence) is universal and determines the situation we find ourselves in. To know what is happening right now, observe what has happened in the past. And to know our future, just witness what we are causing right now. But we need to turn the mind, considering our human birth, suffering, impermanence, lack of substance & the laws of interdependence.

The Middle Way of Buddha's wisdom avoids two extremes : (a) positing eternal objects existing from their own side (as substances) & (b) turning relativity into nihilism (futilizing compassion & the salvic intent). In the former, substance is affirmed to the point of denying relativity. This is essentialism, affirming the existence of self-powered objects. In the latter, relativity is cherished to the point of denying effective activity. The ground of compassion is poisoned.

When wisdom-mind ends false ideation or misknowledge attributing self-power & intrinsic reality to objects, the house of suffering cannot be build again. When sensate and/or mental objects are no longer substantially instantiated, i.e. when in every instance or moment of consciousness, the cognitive act of attributing static, independent, fixed, self-powered, substantial & inherent existence is no longer present, the "Seal of Truth" or "Dharmamûdrâ" has been effectively placed, allowing full recognition of the Clear Light of the mind.

The Buddhadharma was set afoot to heal the mind. Without suffering, there is no need for any Buddha to appear. There is no ignorance to end. Only "nirvâna" is at hand. But making the distinction between "nirvâna" and "samsâra" is to merely exist in "samsâra". The mind is the ground of both.

© Wim van den Dungen, Antwerp - 2008 / 2017 - last update : 22 XI 2011

Mistakes are due to my own ignorance and not to the Buddhadharma.
May all who encounter the Dharma accumulate compassion & wisdom.
May sentient beings recognize their Buddha-nature and find true peace.