Dharma - Merit - Meditation - Nectar - Liberation - Emptiness - Process - Awakening


in Buddhadharma


"We thus see that all the wranglings about the nature of a thinking being, and its association with the material world, arises simply from our filling the gap, due to our ignorance, with paralogisms of reason, and by changing thoughts into things and hypostatizing them." - Kant : Critique of Pure Reason, A394.

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"I give You good counsel ; may You all take heed : cut craving at its source !" - Dhammapada, verse 337.


Buddha Śâkyamuni is clear : to truly end suffering, ignorance has to stop ! There is no other way. This deluded "thirst" ("triśnâ") for sensual pleasure, existence, eternity & self-annihilation brings the arising ("samudâya") of suffering. At the heart of this "fire" lies the false conviction, false ideation or delusion phenomena have own-form ("svabhâva"), are self-powered, possess eternal, substantial thingness. Thus reifying thinking, the mind is spell-bound by its own power of definition, fabrication & planning ("mâyâ). This hypnotic power is applied to oneself, producing an inherently existing (ontic) self ("âtman") and applied to all other phenomena, generating a supreme creator, a "being of beings" deemed self-subsisting, self-powered & self-settled from his own side ("Brahman"). Thus a more-or-less functional but mistaken world of suffering results ("samsâra").

Ending this ignorance ("avidyâ") is to cut off the deluded thirst where it begins, namely at its root.

Reifying objects of craving is the first cause of affliction. Misrepresenting dynamic phenomena as static makes the hub of the wheel of suffering or "samsâra" spin. Rational study & reflection reveal no static objects can be found ! All objects function as other-powered phenomena, but appear to the conventional, conceptual mind as cut off, separate, independent & lasting. Meditation is the key to realize the wisdom-mind of Clear Light rooting out this misknowledge, misconception or mistake.

Although the conceptual mind may accept the Three Marks of Existence : impermanence, suffering & non-self, acting, feeling & thinking as if objects are self-powered remains ongoing. Targeting own-form, emptiness yoga aims to remove this fundamental delusion and bring about true peace.

Let us take heed of the teachings of the Hînayâna or "Small Vehicle", be inspired by the compassion of the Mahâyâna or "Great Vehicle", and integrate desire into the path, as in the Vajrayâna, or "Diamond Vehicle". Once desire is taken into the path, Tantra cannot be avoided.

The connections between, on the one hand, Western critical thought and process metaphysics and, on the other hand, the philosophy of the Buddha are given by the latter's unique approach of the word "śûnyatâ", the cornerstone and outstanding feature of this philosophy, particularly as expounded by Nâgârjuna and his followers :
Chandrakîrti, Śântideva, Atiśa and Tsongkhapa. Placed in a soteriological context, the "Middle Way" develops the Kantian distinction between "noumenon" (ultimate truth) and "phenomenon" (relative truth) long before Kant (1724 - 1804), and so we may well ask whether the Buddha was not the first critical philosopher ?

"The Light of the Wish-Fulfilling Jewel will shine in the West."
Nechung Oracle to the XIVth Dalai Lama in 1956.

When the Muslims invaded North India, Buddhist universities (like Nâlandâ) were savagely destroyed. Multiple sources were lost. Fortunately, much earlier, translations had been made & treasure-texts had been buried in Tibet, and so after Buddhism went extinct in India, Tibetan Buddhism became the sole keeper of the Lesser Vehicle, Greater Vehicle & "Secret Mantra", another name for Buddhist Tantra. After 1959, when the XIVth Dalai Lama fled from the Chinese communists, the "Wish-Fulfulling Jewel" (another one of his many names) came to the West, and the new era of Western Buddhism got initiated. Buddhist Tantra became fashionable.

Although the influence of Tibetan monasticism as a whole was crucial to keep & transmit the Buddhadharma in general and its Tantric teachings & practices in particular, I have no intention to interlace or spice these studies with Tibetan cultural traditions. In the West, we are fortunate to have a wide variety of English sources & Dharma centers available, making it possible to understand, reflect & meditate without having to learn Tibetan and incorporate the culture. Indeed, bringing the Buddhadharma into the path of the Western mind, calls for the bracketing of more than one Tibetan cultural element. Especially in Tantra, incorporating Taoist Internal Alchemy may prove very useful.

Stressing the importance of individual practice, my presentation is in harmony with our contemporary Western emphasis on personal intention, motivation, education, action & responsibility. It takes a cheerful distance from outdated forms of collective devotion, but this without altogether eliminating the practice of Guru Yoga.

Enlightenment, the end of ignorance, reveals the true nature of phenomena. Reason-wise, this true nature is the universal absence of inherent existence. Experience-wise, it is the experience of the mind of Clear Light, of bodhi-mind. The hub of the cycle of "samsâra" is a mind attributing self-power to phenomena. Wisdom, the opposite of ignorance, accepts conventional reality for what it is, namely a totality of functional, compounded, composed, contaminated entities, but negates the mind designating these realities as "cut off", independent, sovereign & substantial. It is thus necessary to realize a clear & distinct conceptual understanding of emptiness. Such a rational realization of the ultimate nature of phenomena is however impossible without a supple, acute & tranquil mind acting as its preliminary. Thus all begins with "mere sitting" ("za zen").

Understanding the actuality of process over substance, of other-power over self-power, of dynamism over stasis, etc. allows for a more reasonable understanding of change or process.

Although the view & the path depend on conditions, the fruit, enlightenment, once realized, does not. Beyond arising and cessation, its experience is utterly ineffable and object of un-saying & un-knowing. Not "invented", "assembled" or "created" by the Buddha, this Dharma was discovered to benefit all sentient beings.


© Wim van den Dungen
philo@sofiatopia.org l Acknowledgments l SiteMap l Bibliography

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.




initiated : 29 XI 2008 - last update : 22 XI 2011 - version n°1