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Transcending Ego : Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom

Transcending Ego : Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom
Item Code: NAU592
Author: Thrangu Rinpoche
Publisher: Sri Sadguru Publications
Language: English
Edition: 2001
ISBN: 817030704X
Pages: 128
Other Details: 8.50 X 5.50 inch
weight of the book: 0.18 kg
About the Book

The Third Karmapa, a proponent of the Shentong tradition of Tibetan Buddhism, wrote 36 verses detailing the development of mind from ordinary consciousness to spiritual wisdom.

This text explains the functioning of the eight consciousnesses and how they interact with one another to create perception of the world. It is these consciousnesses that set the stage for inner and outer experiences creating the illusion that outer world is solid and real. Out of this mistaken belief arise the disturbing emotions that then lead to the false belief in an ego or a self.

After describing the eight consciousnesses, the author then gives an explanation of how the alaya consciousness is the ground out of which arises relative reality. The Mind-only view holds that everything is created by mind and this text explains just how this happens.

The text then gives a detailed explanation of how these eight consciousnesses are transformed into each of the five wisdoms upon reaching enlightenment. The five wisdoms are described with an explanation of their importance to Buddhist Practice.

Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom contains not only a translation of the root verses of the Third Karmapa, but also an extensive commentary by Thrangu Rinpoche giving the background to each concept introduced by these verses. This allows the reader to understand the psychology of meditation and spiritual development without having an extensive background in Buddhist philosophy and logic.

This text is a clear and helpful explanation of the process of how the mind works which giving what could be termed as the basis for Buddhist psychology.

**Contents and Sample Pages**


Two and a half millennia ago the Buddha proposed that all our happiness and all of our suffering are due to one thing: our mind. After his own realization he spent the rest of this life giving teachings on how we ourselves can work with our mind to achieve complete peace, nirvana, or enlightenment.

The basic way of working with mind is through meditation. The Buddha began by teaching tranquillity (Skt. shamatha) and insight (Skt. vipashyana) meditation which are practiced by Buddhists all over the world. This path, called the sutra path, is a very steady and gradual path. Except in the case of a few exceptional individuals, it takes many lifetimes of meditation to achieve enlightenment using the practices of the sutra path. To practice the Buddhist teachings, regardless of sect or style, one should begin by practicing the accumulation of great merit, the development of a pure conduct, and engaging in shamatha and vipashyana meditation. There are many excellent books on the sutra path by great Theravadin teachers, Zen masters, and Tibetan lamas including Thrangu Rinpoche’s The Practice of Tranquillity and Insight.

Another path leading to enlightenment is the Vajrayana path. If one applies oneself with great effort to the practice of the Vajrayana, it is possible to achieve enlightenment rapidly. As pointed out many times by Thrangu Rinpoche, the goal of enlightenment, is exactly the same for all paths. The choice is in the method one wants to pursue. Both the sutra and Vajrayana methods have been extensively practiced in Tibet. One of the most important Vajrayana meditations is the meditation of the mahamudra or "great seal." Looking directly at the mind and seeing what is or is not there is the method. To understand mahamudra meditation, it is important to identify the mental process. The examination of the nature of mind, how thoughts arise, where they dwell, and disappear show how the mind works.

This text on consciousness and wisdom is a detailed map of what is perceived when one engages in this process of looking into the mind. Rangjung Dorje begins with a description of the eight mental consciousnesses and describes each in terms of what it does and how it leads us to perceive our world incorrectly. Because these eight consciousnesses cause us to see the world in a deluded way, we continue to live in samsara and this causes us to continue to experience unhappiness, frustration, dissatisfaction, and emotional upheavals. Rangjung Dorje, being one of the great Buddhist thinkers of his time, in this text brings together the Abhidharma literature of the Theravadins, the Mahayana doctrines on emptiness, the Mind- only writings of the Cittamatrins, and the practice of examining mind directly of the mahamudra. After this description of the eight consciousnesses he describes how these are transformed into the five wisdoms that are present in the mind at the time of the attainment of enlightenment.

Central to all discussion to the nature of reality in the Mahayana and Vajrayana levels of Buddhism is the concept of emptiness. Emptiness (Skt. shunyata) is the fundamental characteristic of matter and this is treated slightly differently in two traditions in Tibet. One tradition, the Shentong tradition, to greatly simply holds that there is Buddha-nature which pervades all sentient beings and it is this tathagatagarbha which is the potential for all sentient beings to reach Buddhahood. The other Rangtong tradition holds that everything is empty of inherent existence and so Buddha-nature cannot exist in everyone as a permanent quality. The latter Rangtong position is mainly supported by the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism (who take a very academic stand based on the works of Nagarjuna), while the Shentong school is mainly supported by the Kagyu and Nyingma schools who emphasize meditative practice. The delineation of the Shentong and Rangtong view is given in more detail in Hookam’s The Buddha Within. This treatise by Rangjung Dorje is an important text of the Shentong view, which differs slightly from the Rangtong presentation of consciousness and wisdom. In addition Rangjung Dorje held a few views which were different from the traditional Cittamatra view, so the presentation, particularly of the actual consciousness into wisdoms may appear to contradict the teachings of some other teachers. Thrangu Rinpoche reviewed the section of the transformation of consciousnesses into wisdoms to make sure the text conformed exactly to what Rangjung Dorje had proposed.

The Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom was written by the eminent scholar, the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje. Like most other texts on mahamudra practice, this treatise is not in the form of a scholarly thesis, but in the form of a spiritual song, or doha. A spiritual song distills the realization of the .Vajrayana practitioner in verse, each line usually having nine syllables. This particular text is very compact and comprises only thirty-six verses. In the nineteenth century the great scholar, Jamgon Kongtrul, wrote a longer commentary on this treatise to help clarify its meaning. Thrangu Rinpoche consulted this commentary of Jamgon Kongtrul as he taught on this spiritual song.

In the Tibetan tradition a student first memorizes these root verses as a part of his or her religious studies. The student then requests a lama, known not only for his or her scholarly accomplishment and understanding of the text, but also for the lama’s realizations, to give a lengthy line-by-line commentary on the root text. We are pleased to offer here both a translation of this great vajra song and a commentary by Thrangu Rinpoche, an eminent scholar of Buddhism who possesses the above qualities. With this text the Western student of Buddhism can have the experience of being able to study a profound text with a commentary by an excellent scholar of Buddhism in the same way that Tibetan students in the Buddhist monasteries of Tibet have studied this text for the past millennium.

Distinguishing Consciousness from Wisdom is an important text on psychology, as well as Buddhist philosophy. Rangjung Dorje arrives at conclusions about how the mind works which are far different from what modern Western psychology would suggest. To illustrate this, I will briefly summarize the arguments of the text, not in the order presented in the text, but in a Western framework.

**Contents and Sample Pages**


Prior to the time of the Buddha (c. 490-410 B.C.E.) the Brahmanas and the earliest Upanishads of the Vedic tradition in India presented enumerations of the constituents that comprised an individual’s mind and faculties, such as the eight pranas described in the Brdharanyaka Upanishad: the prana of breath, eye, speech, tongue, ear, body, mind (manas), all of which arose from and were reabsorbed into an underlying atman (soul or self).

The Buddha, who referred to and refuted the Brdharanyaka Upanishad, denied the existence of the underlying atman, but enumerated the constituents of the empirical individual in his doctrine of five aggregates (skandhas), or the six conscious-nesses.

All the early Buddhist traditions that developed from the third century B.C.E. onwards, preserved the teaching of six consciousnesses. In particular, a systematizing doctrine based on the Buddha’s sutras attempted to present a numeric delineation of the constituents of existence. This was known as the Abhidharma traditions such as the Vaibhashika considered certain Abhidharma texts to be the words of the Buddha. The Tripitaka or "Three Baskets" were formed through conjoining the Abhidharma to the collection of the sutras together with the Buddha’s teachings on monastic rules, the Vinaya. Other philosophical schools, such as the Sautrantika, however, refused to recognize the canonical authenticity of the Abhidharma, which was given commentarial status only.

All Tibetan Buddhist traditions recognize the supremacy of the Sautrantika amongst the early schools of Buddhism; therefore, there is no Abhidharma section in the Kangyur, the Tibetan canon of the Buddha’s words. All Abhidharma texts are found only in the Tengyur, the Tibetan translations of Indian Buddhist treatises and commentaries. The principal treatise in this canon is the 7reasury of the Abhidharma (Abhidharmakosha) by Vasubandhu (fourth to fifth centuries C.E.).

The Madhyamaka (Middle Way) tradition, which was promul- gated especially by Nagarjuna (second century C.E.) also taught the Six consciousnesses. Later Madhyamaka masters such as Candrakirti (seventh century) and Shantideva (675-715 C.E.), who are referred to by Thrangu Rinpoche in this book, maintained this view, denying the validity of the two additional consciousnesses introduced by the Cittamatra (Mind-only) school promulgated especially by Asanga (fourth century) and by his younger brother Vasubandhu in his later Mahayana works, such as The Thirty Verses, a key source for Rangjung Dorje’s The Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom.

The eighth century witnessed the rise of a syncretism of Madhyamaka and Cittamatra, such as that taught by Shantarakshita. Shantarakshita came to Tibet 762 C.E. and was instrumental in establishing Buddhism there. As a result of this unification of differing views, scholars began to divide the Buddha’s teachings into those in which the meaning is explicit, and those in which the meaning is implicit. In the latter category, the apparent meaning was, therefore considered to be expedient. This new method of classification allowed scholars to consider the body of the Buddha’s teachings as a unified hierarchy of what were otherwise regarded as contradictory views.

In addition, by the mid-eighth century, the tantra was well established. This introduced a system of the five dhyana buddhas, with corresponding sets of elements, afflictions, and wisdoms. The numerical equivalence with the five aggregates facilitated a teaching of the transmutation of specific skandhas to corresponding wisdoms. This teaching is found, for example, in the eleventh century terma, the Bardo Todrol, better known as The Tibetan Book of the Dead. In this system all eight consciousnesses are included within the aggregate of consciousness, and so all eight transform into dharmadhatu wisdom. In turn each of the other aggregates transforms as follows: form transforms into mirror-wisdom, the aggregate of sensation into equality wisdom, the aggregate of identification into discriminating wisdom, and the aggregate of mental activity into accomplishment wisdom. Rangjung Dorje’s text, however, presents a less-well known alternative. According to this text, the aggregate of consciousness alone transforms into all five wisdoms.

Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339) was the third in the lineage of Kamnapa reincarnations, the supreme hierarchs of the Karma Kagyu school, that commenced with Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193). He composed The Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom in 1323 C.E. based particularly on the writings of the founders of the Cittamatra school, Asanga and Vasubandhu.

The commentator to this text, Jamgon Kongtrul (1813-1899), was a prolific commentator, compiler, and editor of Buddhist teachings, especially of the Karma Kagyu tradition. He wrote commentaries for all three of Rangjung Dorje’s texts: The Profound Inner Meaning, The Treatise Elucidating Buddha-Nature and this work The Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom Jamgon Kongtrul’s commentary on the latter text is entitled An Adornment for Rangjung Dorje’s Thoughts. is this commentary which served as the basis for Thrangu Rinpoche’s teaching on the Third Karmapa’s text.

In 1959, in order to escape from the holocaust of Chinese Communist oppression unleashed at that time, the eighth Thrangu Rinpoche (born in 1933) had to leave Thrangu Monastery in east Tibet. He fled to Sikkim and later became abbot and principal scholar at Rumtek monastery in Sikkim, where Rangjung Dorje, the Sixteenth Karmapa (1924-1981), had established his seat in exile. Subsequently, Thrangu Rinpoche founded Thrangu monastery and also the Namo Buddha retreat center in Nepal. Since 1979 he has toured the world extensively, establishing Buddhist centers, and is most recently consecrated Vajra Vidya Institute which will become a center for teaching Buddhism at the place where the Shakyamuni Buddha give his first teaching.

**Contents and Sample Pages**


There are four major traditions of Tibetan Buddhism: the Kagyu, Sakya, Nyingma, and Gelugpa. Each school has its own particular approach. The Gelug school, for example, emphasizes learning and scholarship producing great scholars, whereas the Kagyu school emphasizes meditation and is known, therefore, as the Drubgyu or "practice lineage" school. The principle meditation of the Kagyu lineage is the mahamudra’ or ‘great seal’. The mahamudra instructions came from Saraha (ninth to tenth century C.E.), Tilopa (928-1009 C.E.), and Naropa (956-1040 C.E.). They taught through the method of brief spiritual songs or dohas. These spiritual songs do not give detailed information on Buddhism but use poetical imagery to introduce the listener to the nature of the mind. Spiritual songs express these practice instructions in the form of poetry. They are very brief and direct and are very beneficial to the mind. Although they do not provide thorough background info...:xui0n on the teaching; they do give direct instructions on recognizing the nature of the mind.

Gampopa (1079-1153 C.E.), the Tibetan master who founded the monastic order of the Kagyu school, unified the teachings of the mahamudra tradition with the scholastic and monastic Kadam tradition of Atisha (982-1055 C. E.). Gampopa taught that the study of Maitreya’s Uttaratantra would be a great help for comprehending the mahamudra instructions on experiencing the nature of one’s mind.

Gampopa’s principal pupil, Dusum Khyenpa (1110-1193 C. E.), was the First Karmapa and founded the Karma Kagyu school, which has since been governed by successive Karmapa rebirths. The Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje (1284-1339), composed a text entitled The Profound Inner Meaning. In it he described the subtle channels and subtle winds that exist within the body and how these winds and channels are the basis for the practice of meditation.? He also composed two other very short texts: The Treatise Distinguishing Consciousness and Wisdom, which is the text we are concerned with here and a summary of the Uttaratantra entitled A Treatise Elucidating Buddha-Nature. Rangjung Dorje said that if we can understand the Uttaratantra with these two short texts, then we will be able to understand mahamudra meditation.

**Contents and Sample Pages**

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