From Yogācāra to Philosophical Tantra in Kashmir and Tibet
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This paper outlines a shift in the role of self-awareness from Yogācāra to tantra and connects some of the dots between Yogācāra, Pratyabhijñā, and Buddhist tantric traditions in Tibet. As is the case with Yogācāra, the Pratyabhijñā tradition of Utpaladeva (10th c.) maintains that awareness is self-illuminating and constitutive of objects. Utpaladeva’s commentator and influential successor, Abhinavagupta (10th–11th c.), in fact quotes Dharmakīrti’s (7th c.) argument from the Pramāṇaviniścaya that objects are necessarily perceived objects (sahopalambhaniyama). That is, everything known is known in consciousness; there is nothing that can be known outside or separate from consciousness. This aspect of Pratyabhijñā thought is shared with Yogācāra. While Utpaladeva drew upon Yogācāra epistemology to formulate a differential construction of objects (via apoha), he departed from this theory to develop a distinctive monistic framework for the interpretation of subjectivity. By appealing to the ultimate reality of a singularly nonconceptual, transcendental subject rather than a plurality of (non)conceptual particulars, Utpaladeva appropriated Dharmakīrti’s epistemological model while turning it on its head. That is, Utpaladeva critiqued Dharmakīrti in one context (his external realism) while he is indebted to him in another (his epistemic idealism) to establish the framework for his own absolute idealism, where everything happens in and through the absolute self that is Śiva. Utpaladeva extended (or made explicit) the place of self-awareness in Yogācāra to formulate an absolute idealism that is the theoretic foundation for philosophical tantra. In this paper, I will chart a trajectory of this development, from Yogācāra to Pratyabhijñā, and show how a parallel development took place in tantric assimilations of Yogācāra in Tibet.
KeywordsUtpaladeva Dharmakīrti Pratyabhijñā Tantra Tibet
This paper outlines a shift in the role of self-awareness from Yogācāra to tantra and connects some of the dots between Yogācāra, Pratyabhijñā, and Buddhist tantric traditions in Tibet. As is the case with Yogācāra, the Pratyabhijñā tradition of Utpaladeva (10th c.) maintains that awareness is self-illuminating and constitutive of objects.1 Utpaladeva’s commentator and influential successor, Abhinavagupta (10th–11th c.), in fact quotes Dharmakīrti’s (7th c.) argument from the Pramāṇaviniścaya that objects are necessarily perceived objects (sahopalambhaniyama).2 That is, everything known is known in consciousness; there is nothing that can be known outside or separate from consciousness. This aspect of Pratyabhijñā thought is shared with Yogācāra.
Yet Utpaladeva parts ways with Yogācāra by articulating another dimension to awareness beyond its luminosity (prakāśa), namely, discriminative recognition (vimarśa). The latter is a key to his equation of self-consciousness with Śiva. Utpaladeva presents self-consciousness as the structure of the primordial creativity of a unitary agent. This depiction of consciousness fits into the Śaiva narrative of the universe as an emanation of God—the primordial, undifferentiated unity of Śiva. Utpaladeva’s characterization of consciousness in this way contrasts sharply with Yogācāra, as he describes the nature of consciousness as independent (aparatantra),3 in contrast to ‘the dependent nature’ (paratantra) among the ‘three natures’ (trisvabhāva) of Yogācāra.
While Utpaladeva drew upon Yogācāra epistemology to formulate a differential construction of objects (via apoha), he departed from this theory to develop a distinctive monistic framework for the interpretation of subjectivity. By appealing to the ultimate reality of a singularly nonconceptual, transcendental subject rather than a plurality of (non)conceptual particulars, Utpaladeva appropriated Dharmakīrti’s epistemological model while turning it on its head. That is, Utpaladeva critiqued Dharmakīrti in one context (his external realism) while he is indebted to him in another (his epistemic idealism) to establish the framework for his own absolute idealism, where everything happens in and through the absolute self that is Śiva. Utpaladeva extended (or made explicit) the place of self-awareness in Yogācāra to formulate an absolute idealism that is the theoretic foundation for philosophical tantra. In this paper, I will chart a trajectory of this development, from Yogācāra to Pratyabhijñā, and show how a parallel development took place in tantric assimilations of Yogācāra in Tibet.
The I-consciousness, which is the very essence of luminosity, is not a concept (vikalpaḥ), although it is informed by language (vāgvapuḥ). For a concept is an act of ascertainment (viniścayaḥ) presenting a duality (dvayākṣepī). In fact, the manifestation of two opposed realities is possible in the case of ‘jar’ and ‘non-jar.’ However, the manifestation of a reality that is other and differentiable from luminosity is impossible in the same way.5
For Utpaladeva, consciousness is not only the transcendental condition for determinate knowledge, but also its substance and content. As far as this characteristic of consciousness goes, Utpaladeva’s interpretation of consciousness and apoha is one shared with Yogācāra.
Yet Utpaladeva did not stop with this characterization of consciousness (as prakāśa), as he included a kind of discriminative recognition (vimarśa) as well, which effectively functions like a conceptual judgment (niścaya) of a putatively nonconceptual perception. Instead of claiming that the content of nonconceptual perception is ineffable particulars (svalakṣaṇa) like Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, Utpaladeva claimed that only the I-consciousness (ahampratyavamarśa) is nonconceptual. Yet by introducing discriminative recognition as constitutive of self-awareness, he diverged from the Yogācāra interpretation of perception as nonconceptual.6
Despite the fact that Utpaladeva described I-consciousness as an irreducible unity devoid of conceptual determination,7 he goes on to say that this awareness distinguishes itself from manifestations that are separate from it.8 That is, right after claiming that this awareness is nonconceptual and not discernable by differentiation, he says that it is distinguished from its other and thus is nothing other than a conceptual construct (vikalpa). In his commentaries on the apparent contradiction here, Abhinavagupta provided an account of how I-consciousness (ahaṃpratyavamarśa) can be both with and without concepts by laying out two distinct types: one that is pure and one that is impure.9 Significantly, Abhinavagupta described the impure, conceptual I-consciousness—which identifies the synchronic and diachronic unity of a delimited self—as the first step in a higher recognition of one’s own true nature (as Śiva).10
This move notably contrasts with the Yogācāra tenor of deconstruction, which targets unities like the self as superimpositions to be dismantled in the process of coming to know the true nature of things. That is, Dignāga’s and Dharmakīrti’s notion of ineffable particulars plays a role to undermine the idea that concepts of things with spatial and temporal extension (universals) are ultimately real. By eliminating any real unity to things like selves—synchronically (through identifying the plurality of the self’s supposed identity with the five aggregates) and diachronically (through identifying the momentary nature of the causal flow of experience)—a Buddhist model explicitly imputes no real substances behind a fluctuating process. The synthetic unity of Abhinavagupta’s impure (spatially and temporally extended) self, however, creates a conceptual link with a timeless and omnipresent, cosmic self. For Yogācāra Buddhists like Dharmakīrti, conceptual links like this are part of the problem, not the solution, to knowing the nature of reality.
Yet Dharmakīrti’s arguments against real unities in his critique of universals leave a disjunction in another place. That is, the consistency of Dharmakīrti’s conceptual system in one area leaves an inconsistency in another, for if only ineffable particulars (svalakṣaṇa) are real, then how can conception relate to nonconceptual perception? And if perception is nonconceptual, how can it be meaningful? One attempt to smooth the rift between perception and conception can be found in Dharmottara’s innovations of the role of judgment (niścaya) in making the link between them.11 Other Buddhists in India, like Jñānagarbha, have tried to mend the relationship between perception and conception with the mediating role of mental perception (mānasapratyakṣa).12 Yet another trajectory of interpretation, which marks more of a ‘paradigm shift’ than simply a patchwork on an unstable dichotomous structure, is more interesting. This trajectory was taken by Pratyabhijñā theorists like Utpaladeva and tantric Buddhists in Tibet, who articulate a kind of self-awareness as a distinct form of nonconceptual cognition.13
Ascending Scales of Interpretation
A Yogācāra trajectory similar to one taken by Pratyabhijñā theorists can be seen in tantric Buddhist traditions in Tibet like that of Śākya Chokden (1427–1508), who developed a ‘tantric madhyamaka’ at the summit of an ‘ascending scales’ interpretation of Dharmakīrti. Śākya Chokden described a difference between a conventional self-awareness, which is structured by duality, and an ultimate self-awareness, which is nondual. The difference is one between a self-awareness that is the subjective aspect (grāhakākāra) of the dyadic structure of an epistemic idealism in the former and self-awareness that is the nondual (or transcendental) substructure (or superstructure) of an absolute idealism in the latter.14 He takes self-awareness (as the self-presenting, superstructure of reality) to another level of Yogācāra ‘analysis’ by asserting the presence of a (pure) cognition in the form of self-awareness to be unassailably real as the irreducible structure of reality.15
This kind of perspectival shift of an ascending scales16 model of Yogācāra allows for an interpretation that does not settle on one level of analysis (by either affirming a plurality of functional particulars or denying external objects while affirming an ‘internal’ mind). Rather, analysis can move along a context-dependent, fluid dynamic that continues on a trajectory—from objects to subjects, and beyond subjectivity—to subvert reification wherever it is found. For instance, Dharmakīrti affirmed the reality of what has causal efficacy (arthakriyāśakti) within a framework of external realism, which is sublated within a framework of epistemic idealism. This is evident in the fact that he denies several types of relations (such as inherence) in favor of only two (causal and identity relations) in one context, but then rejects the reality of even these relations ultimately, when he critiques the notion of relation all together.17
The hermeneutical principle of ascending scales inspired by Dignāga and Dharmakīrti, whose works (in)famously engage different registers of truth (that resonate with both external realism and epistemic idealism), allows for the extension of Yogācāra analysis to further levels, such as what we find in Utpaladeva and in Buddhist traditions in Tibet. Indeed, Dharmakīrti’s ‘final position,’ as taken up by some traditions in Tibet, extends the implications of his arguments such they do not stop at epistemic idealism, but necessitate embracing an absolute idealism (or nondualism) as well (for better or for worse).18
Utpaladeva had challenged Dharmakīrti’s signature claim of causal efficacy (arthakriyāśakti) as the criterion of the real by arguing that causal efficacy cannot be established independently of consciousness, as consciousness is its basis (saṃvidāśraya)19 and the precondition for anything to manifest as efficacious.20 He claimed that the world would collapse without the foundation of a single consciousness principle.21 Śāntarakṣita had taken up the role of consciousness as the basis of causality centuries earlier, when he stated in his Madhyamakālaṃkāra that ‘Causes and effects are only consciousness; that which is established in itself abides in consciousness.’22 Like Utpaladeva, Śāntarakṣita affirmed that awareness entails self-awareness,23 yet he differed from him by following Dignāga in presenting self-awareness as not reducible to any component of an agent-patient-action structure.24 Significantly, Śāntarakṣita also denied an ultimate, intrinsic nature to self-awareness because it is neither one nor many.25 Thus, while Utpaladeva described consciousness in terms of a singular agent, Śāntarakṣita avoided this move when articulating self-awareness’s nonduality, while also affirming that it lacks intrinsic identity.
Śāntarakṣita introduced Buddhist philosophy to Tibet in the eighth century and is famous for his so-called Yogācāra-Madhyamaka ‘synthesis’ by framing analysis on different registers or ‘scales.’ To appreciate the distinctive way that Buddhist tantric traditions in Tibet assimilated Yogācāra, it is important to see the way that they accommodate Yogācāra with the negative dialectics of Madhyamaka: both of these traditions play a role in tantric exegesis, between which there is a lively dynamic.26
Tantra in Tibet
The status of self-awareness, in terms of the relationship between its emptiness and nonduality, has a significant role in the formulation of tantric traditions in Tibet. We can see this particularly in what comes to be called ‘other-emptiness’ (gzhan stong) Madhyamaka,27 which takes over the Yogācāra trajectory in Tibet to articulate ‘what remains in emptiness.’28 We find this interpretation in commentarial traditions of seminal Buddhist tantras like the Kālacakratantra, where ultimate truth is interpreted differently than simply the lack of intrinsic nature (as we see in portrayals of Madhyamaka qua abstract philosophy). Significantly, the Kālacakratantra speaks of ‘empty forms’ or ‘reflections of emptiness’ (śūnyatā-bimba) in terms of a sentient emptiness (ajaḍa-śūnyatā) with a cognitive dimension as opposed to an inert void.29 This sentient quality of emptiness, inseparable from the living dynamics of subjectivity, mirrors the language of Utpaladeva’s text, the Proof of a Sentient Knower (Ajaḍapramātṛsiddha).30
Along with the dynamic emptiness of ‘other’—the diaphanous third category of Kālacakra beyond the dichotomous ‘inner’ and ‘outer’—the tantra also affirms that the engine of existence is not karma, but the gnosis of the Ādibuddha, the original Buddha. The Ādibuddha is the supreme deity in the Kālacakratantra and is the nature of mind.31 As the primordial basis of awakening, it has a prominent place in the old schools of Tibetan tantric traditions (rnying ma) as well. We see this in the role of the a-temporal ground (gzhi),32 which forms the basis of the narrative of the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra’s liberation through recognition (ngo shes) in the Nyingma exegetical traditions of the Guhyagarbhatantra, which, like the Monistic Śaivas, describe self-awareness (rang gi rig pa) with an agent syntax.
For instance, the twelfth-century Nyingma scholar, Dampa Deshek, stated in his Overall Structure of the Vehicles: ‘Everything is the magical display of awareness (rig pa); the unceasing play of Samantabhadra.’33 In the works of another important eleventh-century Nyingma scholar, Rongzom, we see a similar gesture in his Entering the Way of the Mahāyāna, when he articulates: ‘seeing all distorted appearances as the play of Samantabhadra’ and ‘seeing everything as the self-appearance of self-arising gnosis.’34 In Rongzom’s influential work, Establishing Appearances as Divine, he further demonstrates how a shift is made in tantra in terms of relating to the nature of appearance as not simply illusions, but as divine. Divine pride (lha’i nga rgyal), identifying with the deity, is the distinctive subjectivity taken up in tantra. Along with the objective aspect of appearance shifting from illusion to divine manifestation, we see a parallel shift in the nature of subjectivity. That is, in contrast to subjectivity based in distortion (as in the case of ālayavijñāna of early Yogācāra), the nature of subjectivity in Buddhist tantra is gnosis.35
In his eleventh-century commentary on the Guhyagarbhatantra, Rongzom presents the unique setting of the tantra in terms of fivefold perfections: (1) teacher, (2) place, (3) retinue, (4) time, and (5) tantra (teaching). According to his commentary, the perfect teacher is not a ‘trained individual’ but is rather the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra, the primordial nature of reality. The perfect place is not a spatial location, like Deer Park or Vulture Peak, but the maṇḍala of gnosis’s own perception. The perfect retinue is not a gathering of exclusively bodhisattvas, but the retinue is the Buddha’s own expression. The perfect time is also not a certain time but is the ‘fourth time,’ a timeless time, not past, present, or future. And the perfect tantra, or teaching, proclaims that all phenomena are the Buddha from the beginning.36 It is significant that each of the Great Perfection (rdzogs chen) texts in the set of 17 Seminal Heart (snying thig) tantras begins with this kind of uncommon setting (mthun mong ma yin pa’i gleng gzhi), along with a common one (mthun mong gi gleng gzhi). The uncommon one sets a scene of a reflexive, gnostic cosmogony.
Additionally, The Self-Arising of Awareness, another of the 17 tantras of the Great Perfection, states: ‘Everything arises from self-awareness, the unchanging mind of awakening (bodhicitta).’37 This is also reflected in the All-Creating King, a Great Perfection text that is the main tantra of the ‘eighteen Mind Series (sems sde) texts’ and the first text in the Collected Tantras of the Nyingma: ‘Listen great Vajrasattva, I am the primordial, all-creating king. I created the teacher, the teaching, the retinue, and the time…’38 The role of gnosis as agent is central in the All-Creating King: ‘Since objects are primordial gnosis (ye shes) from the beginning, I do not teach primordial gnosis and objects as distinct. Thus, objects too are said to be self-existing primordial gnosis; there is nothing besides the single self-existing primordial gnosis.’39 And, ‘From the nature of me, the all-creating king, everything that appears and exists, the environments and its inhabitants, all were created by me, and since they arise from me, there is not a single phenomena that is not contained within me.’40 This sentiment is also found in Bön texts, like The Valid Cognition of Awareness, which cites a Bön title that says, ‘Nothing, not even one thing does not arise from me. Nothing, not even one thing dwells not in me. Everything, emanates from me; thus am I only one.’.41
The complex relationship between tantric traditions in Tibet and Pratyabhijñā is a story still to be told, but we can see clear parallels and not simply an influence that is unidirectional from one to the other. Significantly, both traditions, around the same time, delineate variable registers of self-awareness and a shift from a deluded, finite subjectivity to a gnostic subject and divine agent.
Merging Pramāṇas when Epistemology Becomes Ontology
The epistemological and ontological primacy of self-awareness in these philosophical tantric traditions can be seen to extend from the notion of creative intuition (pratibhā) in the grammatical philosophy of Bhartṛhari. Bhartṛhari’s pratibhā is the irreducible event of understanding, the immediacy of a meaning’s presentation as opposed to its re-presentation in determinate, differential (and reducible) knowledge. Reflecting the unique phenomenological status of pre-reflective awareness, Bhartṛhari claimed that pratibhā is not only inexpressible as ‘that is this’ (idaṃ tad iti) to others but cannot be described even to the one who perceives it.42 Pratibhā, as immediate acquaintance defying representation, thus functions as the direct counterpart to the conceptually mediated knowledge from apoha.
The irreducible holism of pratibhā was taken up by Abhinavagupta as a central element in esthetic theory and the hermeneutics of tantra and is valorized in his Tantrāloka as the ‘supreme Goddess’43 and the highest form of knowledge.44 Significantly, Abihinavagupta treats pratibhā in conjunction with ‘the Goddess who is self-awareness’ (svasaṃvittidevī),45 extending the role of self-awareness in Yogācāra—by pushing Yogācāra’s epistemological idealism into an absolute idealism of the undifferentiated ‘I’ that serves as a theoretic foundation for the philosophical articulation of tantra.46
While Śaiva theorists inscribe self-awareness with the identity of the self or Śiva, certain tantric traditions in Tibet collapse self-awareness into yogic perception (yogipratyakṣa), as we see in the works of Śakya Chokden, for instance, who explicitly described yogipratyakṣa in terms of self-awareness.47 Representatives from other Tibetan traditions as well, such as the twelfth- and thirteenth-century Drikung Kagyü scholar, Sherap Jungné (1187–1241), described yogipratyakṣa as mahāmudrā,48 a nondual, unitive experience that is not conceptually enframed. Dharmakīrti had depicted yogipratyakṣa as the internalization of good inference,49 as a way to cultivate a knowledge, such as the four noble truths, to heightened clarity. In Tibetan developments, however, rather than a clarity that is developed as the direct product of a heightened inference, yogipratyakṣa as nonconceptual gnosis comes to the fore.
The merging of self-awareness with yogipratyakṣa (or pratibhā) is accompanied by a transition in the way that ‘knowledge’ is characterized: from a (conventional) determinate judgment to an (ultimate) ineffable knowledge. This distinction is clearly reflected in the Tibetan terms for two types of cognition: vijñāna (rnam shes) and jñāna (ye shes), similar to Abhinavagupta’s distinction between impure and pure self-awareness mentioned earlier. As opposed to vijñāna, it is only jñāna that is really nonconceptual as even sense perceptions are conceptual in some sense in the former (they are dualistic).50 Thus, this gnosis is held to be the only real pramāṇa by Mahāmudrā traditions like the one represented by the twelfth-century Drikung Kagyü founder, Jikden Sumgön (1142–1217).51
Gnosis is knowledge without determinacy; it is a bare ‘knowing’ by acquaintance or identity in contrast to a cognitive judgment, like ‘this is that’ or the Upaniṣadic ‘I am that,’ which is necessarily conceptual and premised on duality. Whereas Monistic Śaivas like Abhinavagupta characterize this absolute idealism as the undifferentiated ‘I-consciousness’ of Supreme Speech (parāvāk),52 for tantric Buddhists, gnosis’s self-awareness is the irreducible ‘content’ of an undistorted knowledge of a selfless, nondual reality. While identifying the nondual with an agent conforms to self-(and God-)realization in the Pratyabhijñā tradition, undermining dualistic and conceptual frameworks impels its realization in Buddhist traditions.
The idea of tradition-specific subjectivity…that the index of the first-person pronoun, the “I,” operates within the realms of practice and discourse constrained by text and tradition…is not fixed but in dialogical relationship with others and with social structures…For example, the tantric practitioner…identifies his body with the cosmos and deity in daily ritual and in yogic practice, identifying himself with something outside of himself that he then becomes.53
A variable index of self-awareness plays out in its shifting referents across the context-dependent ascending scales of Yogācāra analysis. While the language of self as agent conforms to Śaiva discourse on nonduality, nonduality—as framed negatively—in relief of a dismantled subject-object structure, fits into the Buddhist tradition of Yogācāra discourse. Yet a Yogācāra-inspired fluidity of the indices of self-awareness, as in the ascending scales of interpretation—from an epistemic, subjective idealism to a nondual or empty ‘subject’—can be found across Śaiva and Buddhist tantric traditions.
In both Śaiva and Buddhist traditions, we see the referent of self-awareness shift from its place in a system of epistemic idealism to absolute idealism, as the epistemological primacy of self-awareness takes on ontological import and subjectivity is encoded with tradition-specific significance (as nondual and empty among Buddhists and as the Śiva-self in Pratyabhijñā). Thus, in a parallel process, Pratyabhijñā and Tibetan tantric traditions accommodate a variable index of the self and subjectivity that structures their distinct philosophical discourses.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK I.5.2, 1: 198: ‘If the object did not have the nature of awareness (prakāśa), it would be without illumination (aprakāśa), as it was before [its appearance]. Awareness (prakāśa) cannot be different [than the object]. Awareness (prakāśatā) is the essential nature of the object.’ Trans. from Lawrence, Rediscovering God with Transcendental Argument, 110. Lawrence here translates prakāśa, which means ‘light’ or ‘luminosity,’ with ‘awareness,’ making explicit the strong parallel between light and (self-)awareness.
Abhinavagupta, Īśvarapratyabhijñāvivṛtivimarśinī (ĪPVV) II, 78. For Dharmakīrti’s statement, see Pramāṇaviniścaya, I.55ab; Steinkellner 1972: 206. Cited in Torella, The Īśvarapratyabhijñākārikā of Utpaladeva with the Author’s Vṛtti, 111n5. Abhinavagupta additionally drew from Vasubandhu and Dignāga, arguing that the idea of an external, indivisible particle that aggregates to construct the world of extended objects is incoherent. He explicitly cited Dignāga’s Ālambanaparīkṣā and Vasubandhu’s Vimśatika when arguing against the idea that indivisible particles cannot aggregate to constitute a world of extended objects (ĪPVV II, 144). See Ratié, ‘The Dreamer and the Yogin,’ 450–452.
Utpaladeva, ĪPKV I.5.13.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK 1.6.3: ‘We call a concept (vikalpa) the determinate ascertainment (niścaya) of “that,” e.g., jar, resulting from the exclusion of the “not-that” by the cognizer who experiences the intuition (pratibhā) of both the “that” and the “non-that”.’ Translation adapted from Torella (Torella, 1994), 131.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK I.6.1–2. Translation adapted from Torella (Torella, 1994), 127–130.
Utpaladeva’s characterizes his ‘nonconceptual’ I-consciousness as ‘informed by language’ (vāgvapuḥ). Thus, there is a difference between Dharmakīrti’s and Utpaladeva’s characterization of vikalpa. Utpaladeva’s I-consciousness is ‘conceptual’ according to Dharmakīrti’s definition—‘what is suitable to be mixed with language’ (abhilāpasaṃsargayogya), whereas Dharmakīrti’s nonconceptual particulars (svalakṣaṇa), which, present a duality, are conceptual according to Utpaladeva’s characterization of vikalpa as ‘presenting a duality (dvayākṣepī).’ For Dharmakīrti’s characterization of vikalpa, see his Nyāyabindu, I.5; for Utpaladeva’s characterization, see ĪPK I.6.1 translated earlier.
See, for instance, Utpaladeva, ĪPK I.6.1–2, translated earlier.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK I.6.4–5: cittatvaṃ māyayā hitvā bhinna evāvabhāti yaḥ / dehe buddhāvatha prāṇe kalpite nabhasīva vā // pramātṛtvenāhamiti vimarśo ’nyavyapohanāt / vikalpa eva sa parapratiyogyavabhāsajaḥ //. Torella (Torella, 1994), 28.
Abhinavagupta also delineates the impure consciousness into two varieties: identification and synthesis, such that the former identifies something like ‘I am fat,’ while the latter (anusaṃdhāna) synthesizes, in something like, ‘I was fat, now I am now thin.’ See comments under ĪPK I.6.4–5, in his ĪPV, vol. I, 313–316; 324; English trans. in Pandey, Doctrine of Divine Recognition, vol. 3, 89–90; 92.
See Abhinavagupta’s commentary on ĪPK I.6.6, in his ĪPV, vol. I, 326–27; English trans. in Pandey, Doctrine of Divine Recognition, vol. 3, 93.
Dreyfus, Recognizing Reality, 361–63.
Dreyfus, Recognizing Reality, 359. Dignāga described self-awareness as a subset of mental perception. See Pramāṇasamuccaya, 6ab; translated in Hattori, Dignāga on Perception, 27.
The twelfth-century Tibetan, Sakya Paṇḍita, for instance, claimed that it is self-awareness that bridges nonconceptual perception and conception, with an analogy of self-awareness as an interlocutor introducing a blind speaker (conception) to a mute sighted person (perception). Sapaṇ, Treasury of Epistemology (tshad ma’i rigs gter), 10.
Śākya Chokden, Enjoyment Ocean of the Seven Treatises, vol. 19, 477–78. See also Komarovski, Visions of Unity, 163–64.
Śākya Chokden says ‘The gnosis that is the basic nature of reality is truly real.’ Śākya Chokden, Splendor of the Sun, vol. 19, 118: (chos kyi dbyings kyi ye shes bden par grub). See also, Komarovski, Visions of Unity, 220–25.
I take this term from Georges Dreyfus. See his discussion of this topic in Recognizing Reality, 89–91; 99. See also discussion in Dunne, Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy, 53–79.
See, for instance, Dharmakīrti’s Sambandhaparīkṣā, where he denies the reality of the relations that he affirms in other contexts.
His final position as absolute idealism is pushed upon him by Mādhyamikas like Tsongkhapa, who wish to negate it. Yet he is also pushed there, favorably, by figures like the seventh Karmapa, Chödrak Gyatso (chos grags rgya mtsho), and Śākya Chokden.
Utpaladeva, Ajaḍapramātṛsiddhi 8; Trans. in Lawrence, ‘Proof of a Sentient Knower: Utpaladeva’s Ajaḍapramātṛsiddhi and Vṛtti by Harabhatta Shastri,’ 644.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK I.7.4: ‘The perceptions and non-perceptions, which in themselves concern this or that separate part, may cause the establishment of the causal relation only if they rest on a single knowing subject.’ Translation adapted from Torella (Torella, 1994), 137.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK I.3.6–7: ‘Thus, the functioning of the human world—which stems precisely from the unification (anusaṃdhāna) of cognitions, in themselves separate from one another and incapable of knowing one another—would be destroyed if there were no Maheśvara who contains within himself all the infinite forms, who is one, whose essence is consciousness, possessing the powers of knowledge, memory, and exclusion.’ Translation from Torella (Torella, 1994), 102–103.
Śāntarakṣita, Madhyamakālaṃkāra v. 91.
Utpaladeva, ĪPK, I.5.13: cittiḥ pratyavamarśātmā. Śāntarakṣita, Madhyamakālaṃkāra v. 16 (also TS 1999): ‘Consciousness is the opposite of matter; this immateriality is nothing but its self-awareness’ (vijñānaṃ jaḍarūpebhyo vyāvṛttam upajāyate / iyam evātmasaṃvittir asya yā ‘jaḍarūpatā). See Ichigo (Ichigo, 1985), 70n1.
Madhyamakālaṃkāra, v. 17 (also TS 2000): ‘Being singular without parts, it cannot be divided into three [the knower, the known, and the knowing]. This self-awareness is not constituted by action and agent.’ See also Dignāga, Pramāṇasamuccaya, 1.10; translated in Hattori, Dignāga on Perception, 29.
Śāntarakṣita, Madhyamakālaṃkāra v. 1: ‘All entities asserted by Buddhists or otherwise lack intrinsic nature, because ultimately they are neither one nor many, like a reflection.’ When anything is analyzed in terms of its essence, there is no singular, independent, or enduring essence found at all; thus, everything is said to lack intrinsic nature, appearing like an illusion, a reflection, or a dream.
In a commentary on the Guhyasamājatantra, the Geluk forefather, Tsongkhapa, laid out his explanation of the tantra in terms of Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka but, importantly, references a tradition of describing the unity of (bliss and emptiness) in tantra based on ‘Cittamātra’ (that is, Yogācāra). Tsongkhapa, A Lamp to Illuminate the Five Stages, vol. 7, 101; English trans. in Kilty, 103–104. To see the trajectory that Yogācāra takes in Tibet, we must look beyond Tsongkhapa’s influential fifteenth-century vision of Prāsaṅgika-Madhyamaka to earlier Buddhist traditions there.
The issue at stake in the competing interpretations of emptiness is highlighted in Ricoeur’s statement that ‘The question remains open for every man whether the destruction of idols is without remainder.’ Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation, trans. Denis Savage (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1970), 235.
Gadjin Nagao, ‘What Remains in Śūnyatā: A Yogācāra Interpretation of Emptiness,’ in Mādhyamika and Yogācāra (Albany: SUNY Press, 1991), 51–60.
See Kālacakratantra, Chapter II, v.161. Trans. in Wallace, The Kālacakratantra: The Chapter on the Individual together with the Vimalaprabhā, 219. Kalki Puṇḍarīka’s commentary, the Vimalaprabhā, glosses the sentient emptiness as that which has all supreme aspects, like a divination mirror, a metaphor often associated with Tibetan depictions of ‘other-emptiness’ (gzhan stong).
For English translation of Utpaladeva’s Ajaḍapramātṛsiddha, see David Lawrence, ‘Proof of a Sentient Knower: Utpaladeva’s Ajaḍapramātṛsiddha with the Vṛtti of Helabhatta Shastri,’ Journal of Indian Philosophy 37 (2009): 627–53.
See Kālacakratantra, Chapter II, v. 92 with Vimalaprabhā commentary. Trans. in Wallace, The Kālacakratantra: The Chapter on the Individual together with the Vimalaprabhā, 140–41. The notion of the Ādibuddha has a precedent in the doctrine of tathāgatagarbha, as an intrinsically pure reality that is to be discovered (recognized) rather than developed through transformation on a path. Kālacakratantra Chapter V, v. 66: ‘Sentient beings are Buddhas. There are no other great Buddhas here in this world.’ sattvā buddhā na buddhas tv apara iha mahān vidyate lokadhātau. Sanskrit cited from Vesna Wallace, Inner Kālacakra, 239n12. Similar statements are found in other anuttarayogatantras, such as the Hevajratantra: ‘Sentient beings are the Buddha as such, yet are obscured by adventitious defilements.’ Toh 418 rgyud, vol. 66, 108a3 (part II, IV.69. Tibetan ed. in Snellgrove, vol. 2, 71). See, also, Reverberation of Sound, 137–138, the root text of the 17 Dzokchen tantras of the Quintessential Instructions Series (man ngag sde): ‘Sentient beings are buddhas.’ See also, Wheel of the Life-force (srog gi ’khor lo), a ‘Mind Series’ (sems sde) text in the Collected Tantras of the Nyingma (mtshams drag ed.), p. 446; trans. in Karmey, The Great Perfection, 109.
See for instance, The Reverberation of Sound (sgra thal ’gyur), the root tantra of the ‘Seventeen Dzokchen Tantras,’ 107–108; See also Longchenpa, Treasury of Words and Meanings, ch. 1.
Dampa Deshek, Overall Structure of the Vehicles (theg pa spyi bcings), 23: thams cad rig pa’i chos ’phrul las/ kun bzang rol pa ’gags pa med.
Rongzom, Entering the Way of the Mahāyāna (theg chen tshul ’jug), 492–3:’khrul snang thams cad kun tu bzang po’i rol bar lta’o…spyod yul thams cad rang byung gi ye shes rang shar bar lta’o.
Mipam described arguments for establishing appearances as divine to be for those who accept an external world and arguments that establish the subject as wisdom for those who do not accept the existence of commonly appearing external objects. Mipam, Overview, 443; 450; English trans. in Luminous Essence, 45–6; 50.
See Rongzom, Secret Essence Commentary, 60–62. The Hevajratantra also expresses this: ‘I am the speaker; I am the teaching; I am the listener with good retinue. I am what is to be accomplished; I am the teacher of the world. I am the world and beyond the world.’ Hevajratantra 2.ii.39. Translation from the Tibetan (edition in Snellgrove, 49–50). For variant Sanskrit reading, see Ronald Davidson, ‘Reflections on the Maheśvara Subjugation Myth,’ 217.
Self-Arising Awareness (rig pa rang shar), 471: rang gi rig pa ’gyur med byang chub sems las thams cad byung.
All-Creating King (kun byed rgyal po’i rgyud), ch. 16, p. 76–77.
Ibid., ch. 50, p. 170.
Ibid., ch. 1, p. 56.
The Secret Scripture (mdo lung gsang ba) is cited in Lishu Takring, The Valid Cognition of Awareness (gtan tshig gal mdo rig pa’i tshad ma), 52: nga las ma byung gcig kyang med/ nga las mi gnas gcig kyang med/ kun kyang nga las sprul pa’i phyir/ des na nga rang nyag gcig go. Translation adapted from Klein and Wangyal, Unbounded Wholeness, 229.
Bhartṛhari, Vākyapadīya II.144. Puṇyarāja glosses pratyātmavṛttisiddhā with svasaṃvedanasiddhā. Vākyapadīya, vol. 2, 223.
Abhinavagupta, Tantrāloka I.2, vol. 2, p. 16: ‘I bow to the supreme Goddess, the intuition which is consciousness, the companion of Bhairava, making her abode on the lotus-trident whose parts are the cognizer, cognizing and cognition.’ Translation from Priyawat Kuanpoonpol, ‘Pratibhā: The Concept of Intuition in the Philosophy of Abhinavagupta’ (Ph.D. dissertation, Harvard, 1991), 263.
Abhinavagupta, Tantrāloka IV.42b–44a; cited in Rafaele Torella, ‘Observations on yogipratyakṣa,’ 478n25.
Abhinavagupta, Tantrāloka IV.42b–44a; cited in Rafaele Torella, ‘Observations on yogipratyakṣa,’ 478n25.
See Abhinavagupta, ĪPV I.5.13. See English translation and discussion of this passage in Lawrence, Rediscovering God with Transcendental Argument, 94.
Śakya Chokden, Ornament of the Treasury of Reasoning (tshad ma rigs gter gyi dgong rgyan rigs pa’i ’khor los lugs ngan pham byed) Collected Works vol. 10, 20.2: ‘This selflessness is as if the appearing object of yogic perception; selflessness is the self-illuminating, self-awareness empty of the twofold self.’ (bdag med de rnal dbyor mngon gsum gi snang yul yin pa lta bu’o/ ’dir bdag med ces pa bdag gnyis kyis stong pa’i rang rig rang gsal lo).
Leonard van der Kuijp, ‘An Early Tibetan View of the Soteriology of Epistemology: The Case of ’Bri-gung dJig-ldan mGon-po,’ Journal of Indian Philosophy 15 (1987), 63. Along with the new registers of meaning for self-awareness and yogic perception, ‘mindfulness’ (smṛti) also takes on a new meaning. See Dunne, ‘Toward and Understanding of Nondual Mindfulness,’ Contemporary Buddhism 12:1 (2011), 72–88. Thus in tantra it is said that there are ‘similar words with exalted values’ (sgra mthun don ’phags).
Dharmakīrti, Nyāyabindu, I.11.
Dharmakīrti described the innate misconception of duality as the ‘internal distortion’ (antarupaplava). Dharmakīrti PV3.359–362. See Dunne, Foundations of Dharmakīrti’s Philosophy, 89n57.
Jikten Gönpo said, ‘Valid cognition (tshad ma, pramāṇa) is the wisdom of Buddha’s gnosis.’ Chennga Dorje Sherap, Single Intention Commentary (dgongs gcig ’grel chen snang mdzad ye shes sgron me), vol. 1, 254; English translation in Roberts, Mahāmudrā and Related Instructions, 375.
See Abhinavagupta, ĪPV I.5.13. See also English translation and discussion of this passage in Lawrence, Rediscovering God with Transcendental Argument, 94.
Flood, The Tantric Body, 5.
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