Unraveling the Intent
Degé Kangyur, vol. 49 (mdo sde, ca), folios 1.b–55.b
Translated by the Buddhavacana Translation Group (Vienna)
under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha
In Unraveling the Intent, the Buddha gives a systematic overview of his three great cycles of teachings, which he refers to in this text as the “three Dharma wheels” (tridharmacakra). In the process of delineating the meaning of these doctrines, the Buddha unravels several difficult points regarding the ultimate and relative truths, the nature of reality, and the contemplative methods conducive to the attainment of complete and perfect awakening, and he also explains what his intent was when he imparted teachings belonging to each of the three Dharma wheels. In unambiguous terms, the third wheel is proclaimed to be of definitive meaning. Through a series of dialogues with hearers and bodhisattvas, the Buddha thus offers a complete and systematic teaching on the Great Vehicle, which he refers to here as the Single Vehicle.
Translation by the Buddhavacana Translation Group.
The text was translated by Gregory Forgues and edited by Casey Kemp. With special thanks to Harunaga Isaacson, Matthew Kapstein, Klaus-Dieter Mathes, Jonathan Silk, Lambert Schmithausen, Tom Tillemans, and William Waldron for their helpful comments and advice.
The translation was completed under the patronage and supervision of 84000: Translating the Words of the Buddha.
The generous sponsorship of Qiang Li (李强) and Ya Wen (文雅), which helped make the work on this translation possible, is most gratefully acknowledged.
The Blessed One answered, “Mañjuśrī, the truth body of the tathāgatas is characterized when one has fully achieved a shift in one’s basis of existence, the emergence [from cyclic existence] through the practice of the stages and the perfections.308 Because of the two [following] reasons, you should know that this truth body is characterized by inconceivability: (1) it is beyond mental elaborations and is not produced by intentional action,309 (2) while beings are fixated on mental elaborations and produced by intentional action.”
“Mañjuśrī, it is not.”
“Blessed One, how should it be called?”
“Mañjuśrī, it should be called the liberation body.310 With regard to the liberation body, the tathāgatas are similar and equal to the hearers and solitary realizers, but, on account of the truth body, they are distinctively superior to them. This being so, they are also distinctively superior to them in terms of the distinctively immeasurable aspect of their positive qualities. This is not easy to illustrate with examples.”
“Mañjuśrī, those who have the characteristic of the emanation body311 resemble those who manifest in the world realms. You should see them as those whose characteristic is to be established by the sovereign power312 of the buddhas, being fully adorned with the ornaments of the tathāgatas’ qualities. The truth body does not have this manifestation of arising.”
“Mañjuśrī, being conceived in a family renowned to be powerful or honorable in all the buddha fields of the trichiliocosm, taking birth, growing up, enjoying desirous objects, leaving home, displaying immediately the practice of austerities, renouncing them, and displaying all the stages of the complete and perfect awakening should be considered as the skillful means of the emanation body.”
“Blessed One, through which teachings emanating from their sovereign power do the tathāgatas bring to maturity those spiritually immature beings who have been converted? How do they liberate spiritually mature beings by means of the very referential object [taught in the Great Vehicle]?”
“Mañjuśrī, it is like this: sūtras are teachings that gather the subject matter of various Dharma methods in four, nine, or twenty-nine topics.
1. “What are the four topics? They are (i) what was heard, (ii) taking refuge, (iii) the training, and (iv) the awakening.
2. “What are the nine topics? They are (i) concepts of sentient beings, (ii) their possessions, (iii) their birth, (iv) their existence after birth, (v) their affliction and purification, (vi) their diversity, (vii) the teacher, (viii) the teaching, and (ix) the assembly.
3. “What are the twenty-nine topics? They are the topics related to affliction: (i) [the phenomena] included in the conditioned, (ii) their progressive activity, (iii) the cause of their arising in future lives once they have been conceptualized as a person, and (iv) the cause of their arising in future lives once they have been conceptualized as phenomena.
“They are also the topics related to purification: [F.50.a] (v) the referential objects that are taken as reference points;314 (vi) the exertion in [the practice of] these very [objects]; (vii) mental abiding;315 (viii) blissful abiding in this very life; (ix) the referential objects that liberate from all suffering; (x) the three kinds of comprehension, which are the comprehension of the basis of error, the comprehension of the basis of error with respect to beings’ conceptions for nonpractitioners, and the comprehension of the basis of humility for those who practice Dharma; (xi) the basis of practice; (xii) the actualization [of practice];316 (xiii) the practice; (xiv) [the practice] as the central activity; (xv) its aspects; (xvi) its referential objects; (xvii) the skills in the investigation of what has already been eliminated and what not yet been eliminated; (xviii) [the factors] that are distractions from practice; (xix) [the factors] that are not distractions from practice; (xx) the source of nondistraction; (xxi) the yoga of clear mindfulness317 that is protected by318 the practice; (xxii) the benefit of practice; (xxiii) its stability; (xiv) the unification with the lord of the noble [practice]; (xv) the unification with its retinue and entourage; (xxvi) the realization of true reality; (xxvii) the attainment of nirvāṇa; (xxviii) the fact that the well-expounded Dharma and Vinaya are superior to the correct views of mundane beings and all nonpractitioners; and (xxix) the impairments resulting from not practicing. Thus, Mañjuśrī, without practicing the well-expounded Dharma and Vinaya, impairments will ensue, and this is not because one has faulty views.
“Mañjuśrī, there are seven topics: (1) the teachings on the ceremony of taking [the vows of the bodhisattva discipline], (2) the teachings on the basis of serious downfalls,319 (3) the teachings on the basis of transgressions, (4) the teachings on the nature of transgressions, (5) the teachings on the nature of what are not transgressions, (6) the teachings on the emergence from transgressions, and (7) the teachings on the abandonment of the vows.
“Mañjuśrī, the mātṛkās are the teachings that I imparted and categorized into eleven topics. What are these eleven topics? They are (1) the defining characteristic of the conventional, (2) the defining characteristic of the ultimate, (3) the defining characteristic of referential objects consisting of the awakening factors, (4) the defining characteristic of their features; (5) the defining characteristic of the[ir] nature, (6) the defining characteristic of their result, (7) the defining characteristic of the description of the experience of them, (8) the defining characteristic of the factors disrupting them,320 (9) the defining characteristic of the factors conducive to them, (10) the defining characteristic of the defects related to them, and (11) the defining characteristic of their benefit.
1. “Mañjuśrī, consider that the defining characteristic of the conventional has three subtopics: (1) the teaching on persons, (2) the teaching on the imaginary nature, and (3) the teaching on the activity, movement, and action of phenomena.
4. “Consider the defining characteristic of [their] features in terms of the teaching on the eight features of the analysis of cognitive objects. What are these eight? They are (i) the truth of cognitive objects, (ii) their determination,322 (iii) their faults, (iv) their positive qualities, (v) the methods for analyzing, (vi) the processes related to them, (vii) the principles of reason, and (viii) the condensed and extensive presentations of cognitive objects.
ii. “The determination of cognitive objects consists in establishing the person or the imaginary essence [F.51.a] or in establishing categorical, analytical, interrogative, and dismissive answers as well as secret instructions.323
v. “The methods for analyzing cognitive objects includes six points: (a) the method for analyzing the meaning of true reality; (b) the method for analyzing attainments; (c) the method for analyzing explanations; (d) the method for analyzing the elimination of the two extremes; (e) the method for analyzing the inconceivable; and (f) the method for analyzing the underlying intention.
vii. “There are four principles of reason in the analysis of cognitive objects: (a) the principle of reason based on dependence, (b) the principle of reason based on cause and effect, (c) the principle of reason based on logical proof, and (d) the principle of reason based on the nature of phenomena itself.
b. “The causes that will bring about a result,324 a completion, or an action once phenomena have arisen, as well as related causal conditions, constitute the principle of reason based on cause and effect.
c. “The causes establishing the meaning and bringing about the valid understanding of the thesis,325 the demonstration, and the statement of a proof, as well as related causal conditions, constitute the principle of reason based on logical proof.326 This logical proof is, moreover, of two kinds: valid and invalid. Among these, five are characterized as valid327 and seven as invalid. What are the five logical proofs characterized as valid? They are the logical proofs characterized by (I) a perception that is a direct cognition of the thing to establish,328 (II) a perception that is a direct cognition of something existing in dependence on the thing to establish,329 (III) a demonstration through an instance belonging to the same class,330 [F.51.b] (IV) an actual demonstration, and (V) a citation from a valid scripture.331
“With regard to those five logical proofs:
I. “The logical proof characterized by the perception that is a direct cognition of the thing to establish consists [for example] in perceiving through a direct cognition that all conditioned phenomena are impermanent, suffering, and without a self as well as anything conforming to this.332
II. “The logical proof characterized by a direct cognition of something existing in dependence on the thing to establish consists in inferring something not directly perceptible by means of something333 [directly perceptible], as well as in anything conforming to this, [for example], (A) the perception as a direct cognition of the principle of impermanence that exists in dependence on the things to establish, [namely,] the momentariness of all conditioned phenomena, the existence of a next life, and the consequence of good and bad deeds;334 (B) the perception as direct cognition of the diversity of beings that exists in dependence on the thing to establish, [namely,] the diversity of karma; or (C) the direct cognition of the happiness and suffering of beings that exists in dependence on the things to establish, [namely,] virtue and nonvirtue].335
III. “You should know that the logical proof characterized by a demonstration through an instance belonging to the same class of phenomena336 consists in anything conforming to this, [for example] in the demonstration of external and internal conditioned phenomena through (A) the perception of death and rebirth, being born and other forms of suffering,337 and causal dependence,338 which are established as facts in all worlds or (B) the perception of wealth and misery, which are established as facts in all worlds, including those of future lives.339
IV. “Thus, you should know that a logical proof characterized by one of the three proofs mentioned above340 is an actual demonstration because it is conclusive with respect to the thing that must be established.
V. “Mañjuśrī, you should know that the logical proof characterized by a citation from a valid scripture consists in the words taught by quoting the omniscient ones, such as ‘Nirvāṇa is peace’ and other similar statements. [F.52.a]
“Therefore, on account of these five kinds of characteristics, an analysis of cognitive objects founded on the principle of reason based on logical proof is valid.341 Because such an analysis is valid, you should rely on it.”
“Mañjuśrī, they have five qualities: (A) wherever they manifest, they are renowned in this world for their omniscience; (B) they have the thirty-two marks of a great being; (C) by means of their ten powers, they eliminate all qualms affecting beings; (D) the words of the Dharma they teach through the four kinds of assurance cannot be refuted or disputed by any opponent; (E) on the basis of their Dharma and Vinaya, the eightfold noble path as well as the four noble truths manifest for those who have renounced cyclic existence.342 Thus, you should know that their manifestation, marks, elimination of doubts, freedom from refutations and disputes, and support [for those who have renounced cyclic existence] constitute the defining characteristic of the omniscient tathāgatas.
“Thus, the principle of reason based on logical proof is valid on account of the five characteristics included within these valid cognitions: direct cognitions, inferences, and authoritative scriptures.343
“What are the seven logical proofs characterized as invalid? They are the logical proofs characterized by (I) a perception that conforms with something other than the thing to be established,344 (II) a perception that does not conform with anything other than the thing to establish,345 (III) a perception that conforms with all things,346 (IV) a perception that does not conform with anything,347 (V) a demonstration through an instance belonging to a different class of phenomena,348 (VI) a demonstration that is not actually demonstrating anything, and (VII) a citation drawn from an invalid scripture.
“The logical proof characterized by a perception that does not conform with anything349 is ascertained when the defining characteristics of the proof and the premise do not conform with one another because they are incompatible in terms of reason, essence, karma, quality, or cause and effect.350 [F.52.b]
“Mañjuśrī, the logical proof characterized by a perception that does not conform with anything351 is comprised by the logical proof characterized by a perception that conforms with something other than the thing to be established352 and similar instances. This proof is therefore inconclusive with respect to the thing to establish.353 This is called an unestablished logical proof.354
“Moreover, the logical proof characterized by a perception that conforms with all things355 is comprised by the logical proof characterized by a perception that does not conform with anything other than the thing to establish356 and similar instances. This proof is therefore inconclusive with respect to the thing to establish. This is also called an unestablished logical proof.357
“Because these logical proofs are not established, the analysis is invalid according to the principle of reason based on logical proof. Since this analysis is invalid, you should not rely on it. You should know that the logical proof characterized by a citation from an invalid scripture is invalid by nature.
d. “Whether tathāgatas manifest or not, the constancy of the domain of truth, the nature of phenomena, on account of the constancy of phenomena, constitutes the principle of reason based on the nature of phenomena.358
5. “The defining characteristic of the nature of awakening factors consists in the apprehension of a referential object together with its aspects, as I have taught, such as the awakening factors, the four applications of mindfulness, and so on.
6. “The defining characteristic of their result is the accomplishment of their result, the mundane and supramundane positive qualities, by abandoning the defilements associated with the mundane or the supramundane phenomena.
7. “The defining characteristic of accounts telling how one experiences them as one proclaims them, explains them, and correctly teach them to others is the analytical knowledge of the gnosis359 that liberates within true reality.
10.” The defining characteristic of defects related to them is the fault interrupting them.
Then, the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī further said to the Blessed One, “Blessed One, please explain the meaning of the formula through which bodhisattvas comply with the underlying intention360 of the profound Dharma expounded by the tathāgatas, the complete meaning of the sūtras, the Vinaya, and the mātṛkās that is not known by those not following you.”
“Mañjuśrī, listen. I will explain to you the complete meaning of the formula so that bodhisattvas will in this way understand my underlying intention. Mañjuśrī, the possessors of qualities resulting from affliction and purification361 are all without movement and without a person. This is why I taught that all phenomena are in every respect beyond activity. It is not the case that the possessors of qualities resulting from affliction first became afflicted and will then become purified from these afflictions or that the possessors of qualities resulting from purification have become purified from afflictions they previously acquired. Thus, foolish ordinary beings rely on views resulting from their latent dispositions, on account of which they wrongly conceive the body afflicted by corruption as the essence of phenomena and persons. As a consequence, reifying [the ego through concepts such as] ‘I’ and ‘mine,’ they mistakenly conceive of the following notions: ‘I see,’ ‘I hear,’ ‘I smell,’ ‘I taste,’ ‘I touch,’ ‘I am conscious,’ ‘I eat,’ ‘I do,’ ‘I am afflicted,’ and ‘I am purified.’ [F.53.b]
“Thus, those who understand this fact as it really is abandon the body afflicted by corruption and instead obtain the body that is not a support for any defilement, being pure, free from mental elaborations, unconditioned, and unproduced by intentional action. Mañjuśrī, you should know that this is the complete meaning of the formula.”
Then, at that moment, the Blessed One spoke these verses:
“Mañjuśrī, tathāgatas are not characterized by mind, thought, or cognition.364 However, you should know that, similar to an emanation,365 the tathāgatas’ mind arises in the way of something that is not produced by intentional action.”
“Mañjuśrī, their mind arises on account of a previous intentional action, namely, the practice of skillful means and wisdom. Mañjuśrī, it is like this: although awakening from a state of sleep in which there is no thought ensues [spontaneously] without resulting from intentional action, [F.54.a] one will awaken due to previous intentional actions. Although the emergence from the absorption in the state of cessation is not produced by intentional action, one will emerge from it merely due to previous intentional actions. Just as the mind arises from a state of sleep or from the absorption in the state of cessation, you should know that the tathāgatas’ mind also arises due to previous intentional actions such as the practice of skillful means and wisdom.”
“Mañjuśrī, the sphere of activity of the tathāgatas consists in the pure buddha realms, the arrayed ornaments of inconceivable and boundless positive qualities common to all tathāgatas. The domain of the tathāgatas comprises five domains: the domain of the surrounding universe, the domain of beings, the domain of Dharma, the domain of discipline, and the domain of methods of discipline.369 There is a distinction between the two.”
“Mañjuśrī, the tathāgatas are characterized by nonduality.370 They are neither completely and perfectly awakened nor not completely and perfectly awakened; [F.54.b] they neither turn the wheel of Dharma nor do not turn the wheel of Dharma; they neither [attain] the great parinirvāṇa nor do not attain the great parinirvāṇa. This is because the truth body is utterly pure and the emanation body constantly manifests.”
“Blessed One, since this does not seem to be produced by intentional action, why is it that the great light of gnosis manifests in beings solely through the truth body of the tathāgatas and that innumerable emanated reflections also manifest [as the tathāgatas’ emanation body], while this light and its reflections do not manifest from the hearers’ and solitary realizers’ liberation body?”
“Mañjuśrī, while this does not seem to be produced by intentional action, on account of the power of very strong beings and the force of beings’ karma, a great light manifests to beings from water and fire crystals produced from the disks of the moon and sun. However, it does not manifest from water and fire crystals produced from other sources. From a precious gem that has been well polished through [intentional] action, reflections corresponding to its engraving manifest [when it is placed before a light source]. However, they do not manifest from another unpolished gem. Likewise, because the truth body of the tathāgatas also is established by having been purified through the practice of skillful means and insight focusing on the immeasurable domain of truth, [F.55.a] the great light of gnosis manifests in beings, and innumerable emanated reflections arise. However, they do not manifest from the hearers’ and solitary realizers’ liberation body.”
“Blessed One, you said that, through the force of the tathāgatas’ and bodhisattvas’ sovereign power, one can obtain an excellent body in the realm of desire, such as that of a warrior or a brahman, a body that is like a great sāla tree, or the excellent body of a god residing in the realm of desire, the realm of form, or the realm of the formless. Blessed One, what was your underlying intention with regard to this?”
“Mañjuśrī, by means of their sovereign power, tathāgatas teach as they are the path and practices through which one obtains all these excellent bodies. Those accomplishing these path and practices will always obtain all these perfect bodies, while those who reject or denigrate these path and practices, as well as those who have animosity or resentment toward them, will always obtain all kinds of miserable bodies upon their death. Mañjuśrī, on account of this skillful means, you should know in this way that, because of the sovereign power of the tathāgatas, one will be reborn in a perfect body as well as in a miserable one.”
“Mañjuśrī, in the universes that are impure, [F.55.b] eight things are abundant and two are rare. Abundant are (1) followers of traditions other than mine; (2) suffering beings; (3) beings who are different in terms of lineages, families, and communities or wealth and poverty; (4) beings engaging into wrongdoing; (5) beings who have lost their discipline; (6) beings in bad destinies; (7) followers of inferior vehicles; and (8) bodhisattvas with inferior intentions and practices. Rare are (1) the actions of bodhisattvas having superior intentions and practices and (2) the manifestation of tathāgatas.
Then, the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī asked the Blessed One, “Blessed One, what is the name of the teaching imparted in this Dharma discourse that unravels the Tathāgata’s intent? How should I keep it in mind?”
The Blessed One answered, “Mañjuśrī, this is a teaching of definitive meaning establishing the deeds of the tathāgatas. Keep it in mind as The Teaching of Definitive Meaning Establishing the Deeds of the Tathāgatas. As the Blessed One expounded this teaching, seventy-five thousand bodhisattvas obtained the perfect analytical knowledge of the truth body.
The [tenth chapter of the bodhisattva Mañjuśrī] called “The Chapter Establishing the Positive Qualities [of the Tathāgatas]” of [the sūtra of] the Great Vehicle called “Unraveling the Intent” is concluded.
|Bd||Bardan (Zanskar) canonical collection|
|C||Choné xylograph Kangyur|
|Cbeta||Chinese Electronic Buddhist Association, (www.cbeta.org)|
|D||Degé xylograph Kangyur|
|Do||Dolpo canonical collection|
|F||Phukdrak manuscript Kangyur|
|Go||Gondhla (Lahaul) canonical collection|
|H||Lhasa xylograph Kangyur|
|He||Hemis I Kangyur|
|J||’jang sa tham/Lithang xylograph Kangyur|
|Kʙ||Berlin manuscript Kangyur|
|Kǫ774||Peking 1737 xylograph Kangyur|
|L||London (Shelkar) manuscript Kangyur|
|Lg||Lang mdo Kangyur|
|N||Narthang xylograph Kangyur|
|Pj||Phajoding I Kangyur|
|Pz||Phajoding II Kangyur|
|S||Stok manuscript Kangyur|
|Saṃdhdh||Dunhuang manuscript: Stein Tib. n°194 (49 folios) and Stein Tib. n°683 (1 folio) (Hakamaya 1984–1987)|
|T||Tokyo manuscript Kangyur|
|Taishō 676||解深密經, translated by Xuanzang (596–664 ᴄᴇ)|
|U||Urga xylograph Kangyur|
|V||Ulaanbaatar manuscript Kangyur|
|VD||Degé; xylograph of the Viniścayasaṃgrahaṇī of the Yogācārabhūmi from the Tengyur|
|VG||Golden; xylograph of the Viniścayasaṃgrahaṇī of the Yogācārabhūmi from the Tengyur|
|VP||Peking; xylograph of the Viniścayasaṃgrahaṇī of the Yogācārabhūmi from the Tengyur|
|VinSg||Viniścayasaṃgrahaṇī of the Yogācārabhūmi|
|X||Basgo manuscript Kangyur|
|YBht P ’i||Tibetan translation of Acarya Asanga’s Yogācārabhūmi from the Peking Tengyur (n°. 5540, sems-tsam, ’i 143aI-382a5 (vol. I l l : 121-217)|
|Z||Shey Palace manuscript Kangyur|
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