Buddhist Philosophy based on the Rice-Seedling Sutra

(Salistamba Sutra)

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Topga Rinpoche

Twelve Links of Dependent Arising

Buddha statue

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[page 64 of pdf]

The sutra says in the world Brahmins and other religious people hold various points of view. The sutra mentions these two groups. Brahmins may also refer to lay people and other religious people may refer to Buddhists. In either case, the point is that people in relation to various schools of thought adhere to various points of view. A point of view is defined as a conclusion arrived at through the process of analysis. Some points of view may be correct and some may be incorrect. Here, what will be discussed are different types of incorrect point of views. In Buddhism there is a mention of five incorrect points of view. The following part in the text, as was said, will discuss various incorrect points of view. These five points of view that are incorrect all relate to different ways of perceiving the five skandhas, the psycho-physical constituents, that make up an individual. With respect to these incorrect points of view, these five different perceptions relate to taking the skandhas, that in fact are of a transitory nature, to be of a lasting nature. They are all based in that misperception.

In terms of these incorrect points of view, there is the viewpoint which says that a self really exists. That self may be imputed in dependence upon the five skandhas, the five psycho-physical constituents or what is at hand may be what the Jain-tradition calls the inner gnostic being, which they assert as a supreme self. There are many different assertions as what this self is. The point is that all of them say that the self truly exist. Then again other schools of thought, non-Buddhists, assert that there is some kind of supreme being who has created the universe. They speak of it as a sentient being, who is supreme, the creator of the world.

Again there is the Jain-tradition that regards this self as some sort of life-force that truly exists. Again there are others that speak of an individual self, such as one of the eighteen divisions of the Theravada-tradition (tib.: ng ma pu wa). This particular subdivision asserts the existence of an individual self. That individual self, according to this Theravada-tradition, is inexpressible.

These are incorrect viewpoints. They have paths that those, who adhere to them, practise. Those who follow the Vishnu tradition where Vishnu is asserted as a supreme being, the creator of the universe, believe that victory in a war will please Vishnu. That is one of the practises of that path, based in an incorrect viewpoint, namely believe in Vishnu as the creator of the world.

There is mention in these different traditions about auspicious substances that the practitioner uses in order to attain liberation. The sutra wants to point out that these approaches are mistaken. There are based in incorrect viewpoints, due to which the mistake occurs.

In terms of incorrect viewpoints, there are two main groups. One where the viewpoint involves focusing upon a self, whatever type it may be, a supreme self, an individual self or a creator. Whichever the viewpoint this individual who adheres to that viewpoint, focuses on that truly existent self. Then the opposite, a nihilistic outlook, where the individual doesn't believe in anything. It is a process of denying the existence of things. The individual, in terms of his state of mind when adhering to that viewpoint, is very limited in that the existence of cause and effect a.s.o. is denied, is annihilated.

Persons who have indulged in these viewpoints relating to an eternalistic or a nihilistic will, when truly comprehending the process of dependent occurrence, give up these viewpoints. They will turn away from these mistaken viewpoints. A complete understanding of the phases of the process of dependent occurrence cuts these primitive ideas at their root.

Thus, these primitive ideas will never again occur. It is just like lopping off the top of a tala tree: it never again regrows.

The sutra now goes on to the concluding part. Maitreya is speaking to Sariputra: Noble Sariputra, he who recognises and accepts things in this way. That deals with recognising and accepting the true nature of all phenomena, which is asserted to be the indivisibility of appearance and emptiness. The individual has not fear and hesitations in terms of perceiving that nature. He fully recognises and accepts that all phenomena are of this nature. This statement relates to the ultimate aspect.

He who fully comprehends the process of dependent occurrence. That relates to the relative aspect the process of dependent occurrence.

The individual who in this way comprehends both ultimate and relative reality, as was explained in the context of the process of dependent occurrence, will encounter the Tathagata, who will foretell his future attaining of Buddha, the enlightened state. The Tathagata is an individual, who in the same way as previous enlightened individuals have attained buddha, the enlightened state, has attained that state. He has arrived at that state. A buddha, an enlightened individual, is someone who has conquered the enemies being obscuring states of mind and as a result became a perfect and complete buddha. He has not stopped at the incomplete state of Nirvana of the Shravakas.

It was the historical Buddha who taught this sutra. The part we come to deals with the qualities of a buddha, of any enlightened individual. It is those qualities that are explained. Maitreya recollects the qualities of the Buddha.

The perfect or excellent teacher, the Buddha, has come into being in dependence upon certain causes. These causes relate to the Eightfold Path of the Noble Ones. This path is what enables the individual to develop an enlightened perception as well as allowing the individual to proceed throughout the stages that result in the ultimate attaining of enlightened perception. That involves insight, which is developed throughout the Eightfold Noble Path, traversed by that individual.

Viewpoint it terms of the Eightfold Path relates to insight. The remaining seven aspects of the Eightfold Path are what the individual goes through as he proceeds towards his attaining of buddha, the enlightened state.

These two, insight and path, can also be related to the three trainings, being insight, discipline and samadhi.

Insight or supreme knowledge is like the eyes of an individual. Through insight one is able to arrive at a proper perception of reality. Samadhi and discipline are like the feet of a person that allow the person to go to his desired destination.

There is mention of the Sugata, which is another epithet of the Buddha. It implies that a buddha is an individual who has arrived at his final destination. The state he has attained, the enlightened, will never regress. That is to say that the individual will never return to samsara.

It is a state where all good qualities have been attained. Hence, the attainment is irreversible.

An Arhat can be referred to as a Sugata in that he has attained freedom from samsara. He has gone beyond samsara. However, he has not attained the unobstructed wisdom of a buddha, the wisdom or insight, which perceives the true nature of all phenomena.

There is mention of qualities relating to the activity of an enlightened individual. The sutra says that a buddha serves as the inseparable guide for all beings, who are to be tamed.

The sutra mentions that an enlightened individual fully comprehends relative existence, which means that such an individual has the capacity o discern what individual in this world has the fortune to be taught and who has not that fortune.

An enlightened individual continually perceives what takes place in samsara. That individual perceives who suffers in the three lower existences, who undergoes painful experiences, what type of activity would free a certain individual form his state of suffering a.s.o. A buddha, enlightened individual, perpetually perceives and knows by what means he could be able to free beings from their sufferings.

Such an individual serves as the guide for all beings who are to be tamed.

Such an individual is a guide of beings in that he knows the different temperaments of beings and what methods are appropriate for taming those different individuals.

Ordinary individuals may be trainers of E.g., elephants. They train the elephant so that it responds to the different indications given by the individual who trains the animal. He is able to tame the animal and then guides the animal with his different indications, the methods he uses, so that it responds to these.

He is unparalleled in guiding beings, because he has knowledge of the appropriate methods.

He is an unparalleled guide in that he has no hesitations in terms of applying the appropriate methods that lead the individuals to the attainment of Nirvana. Hence, he is referred to as unparalleled, as outstanding.

Such an individual has the capacity to prevent being from falling into the three lower existences. Even though it may not be possible to teach and guide them, however, the enlightened individual has the capacity to protect them from falling into lower existences.

Then there are individuals who easily change. It is not certain that they have set out to complete. The Buddha, the enlightened one, has the capacity to establish or lead such individuals to Nirvana.

He is the guide of gods and human beings. He has the capacity to teach them so that an understanding of reality as it is will be produced. Goods and human beings are the vessels for his activity.

With respect to buddha there are two aspects. Cause relating to causes for freeing beings from samsara and attainment, which is the attaining of buddha, the enlightened state, where all obscuring states of mind have been given up. With respect to the first, cause, that which causes freedom from samsara for sentient beings, there is mention of the perfect teachings. The Buddhas teachings are perfect or excellent in that they lead to freedom from samsara.

Then there is the second aspect, attainment, where there are two things. There is what has been given up and what has been attained, namely the wisdom of a buddha. In terms of what has been given up, that relates to having given up all obscuring states of mind that are regarded as enemies.

One refers to obscuring states of mind as enemies in that they prevent the practise of virtue.

In terms of these obscuring states there is mention of four types of demonic force. The first demonic force relates to attachment to sense pleasures that prevents the individual from attaining liberation. The second demonic force, being obscuring states that cause the coming into existence of the samsaric skandhas. Then there are the five skandhas themselves that are considered as a negative or a demonic force in that they produce perpetual suffering. Then there is the demonic force of death, which causes the ending of the five skandhas.

The second aspect of attainment is the perfect wisdom of a buddha, which truly perceives the nature of all phenomena. Hence, one speaks of the perfect and complete buddha.

An individual who possesses these qualities is a perfect individual. There is mention of six aspects. There is perfect capacity, perfect form. One speaks of perfect form in relation to him being adorned by the major and minor marks of perfection.

A perfect buddha has the following qualities as well. There is perfect entourage, relating to the individuals surrounding him. A buddha has perfect or excellent renown in the world. He has perfect wisdom involving knowledge of things as they truly are and knowledge of phenomena in the full extend. And finally a Buddhas activity is perfect or excellent in that he accomplishes the welfare of beings.

That perfect buddha, who posses the qualities, that were just listed, foretells that the individual who truly comprehends the process of dependent occurrence in its relative and ultimate aspect shall become a perfect buddha.

Maitreya says: Thus does the Buddha predict complete, perfect enlightenment for such individuals; the individuals who have comprehended the process of dependent occurrence.

After the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva Maitreya had spoken these words, noble Sariputra, gods, men, asuras and gandharvas and the whole world rejoiced and praised the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva's explanation.

That ends the explanations on this sutra.

Heading here?

Question: What is the difference between the first two of the four demons?

Answer: The first is regarded to be more subtle.

Question: The Buddha makes predictions about the future enlightenment of people who understand the process of dependent occurrence. But isn't it that the understanding of the process of dependent occurrence is enlightenment itself, that enlightenment is nothing that follows later on? Answer: There is mention in the sutra of the Buddha stating that the individual who fully comprehends the process of dependent occurrence will attain buddha, the enlightened state. By saying so the Buddha encouraged striving for that attainment, pointing out that without fail that individual, who attains realisation of the process of dependent occurrence will attain buddha, the enlightened state. The word „prophecy" in Tibetan is also used when one speaks of the command of E.g., of a king. One should not understand this as a prediction about the future in a specific case. It is a statement where the Buddha says that anyone who attains such realisation will certainly attain enlightenment.

Q and A - p. 67 of pdf

Question: Is it possible to have some Theravadas, who assert an individual?

Answer: They speak of a truly existent individual on the basis of the five skandhas.

Question: A buddha, being perfect in his knowledge, sees the different capacities of beings. Why making a difference in that all beings have the buddhanature, the cause to attain enlightenment? Answer: A buddha perceives the different dispositions of beings. In that respect are three main levels. These approaches correspond to the fact that beings are different and develop differently. It is because the Buddha was able to perceive these differences that he taught the different methods and approaches.

Question: At the end of the sutra, the rejoice of Sariputra and all beings was stated. What does this really mean and how can we develop rejoice in the qualities and luck of others? Answer: A highly realised Bodhisattva such as Maitreya, teaches all kinds of beings, such s human beings, gods, asuras a.s.o. simultaneously. When an ordinary person teaches, it is not the case that all these different kinds of beings gather together. Since Maitreya is such a developed individual, he has the capacity to make those who listen comprehend what he is teaching. Hence, they naturally rejoice. This is not the case when an ordinary individual teaches.

Question: In the Theravada-tradition the modern ones don't accept the seventeen old schools as Theravada and vice versa.

Answer: These eighteen subdivisions are subdivisions of the Hinayana. Actually, Hinayana is a term made up by people teaching the Mahayana. The Hinayana propounders don't like this term.

Question: What are Gandharvas?

Answer: They are neither humans nor gods. They are individuals who live of smells. There are the stories of the lives of the Buddha prior to his enlightenment. Once he was he was born as the king, who in Tibetan was called Nor Sang, whose queen was Yi Dro Ma, 'the one who steals away the mind'. Her father was said to be a Maitreya.

Question: Are the four demons illusions that have to be overcome or are they outer things. If one is overcome, the most gross, is one then on one of the stages of a Bodhisattva?

Answer: They don't exist externally. The more they are overcome, the higher is ones realisations.


In order to attain enlightenment it seem that different factors play an important role: On the one hand the potential each and every sentient being has, i.e. the buddhanature, on the other hand there are factors such as developing compassion, training on the path, focusing upon enlightenment. Which among these various factors are considered to be causes and which are considered to be a contributing condition?


On the one hand you can refer to the buddhanature as being the cause since the buddhanature pervades the minds of all beings. You can speak about this in the context of the third wheel of the dharma which is said to express the ultimate meaning of the dharma. However, you will find various presentations. As you know there are presentations given by the Madhyamikas. From among them, the Prasangika-Madhyamikas presentation will vary from the so-called Shentong-Madhyamikas presentation. Again there is the so-called Svatantrika- Madhyamika presentation. Each will present the subject matter in a different way, because those masters, who introduced these various presentations, had their personal viewpoint about that subject matter. It is their understand, which they formulated into a philosophical system. In the context of the third turning of the wheel of the Dharma you come across what is referred to as the buddhanature. Where the buddhanature is considered as the basis and in that context can be understood as the main cause. Here the presentation is that upon this basis there are obscuring states of mind, obscurations, which need to be removed. The basis upon which the training and the removal of obscuring states of mind occurs is the buddhanature itself. In order to do away with these obscuration one first needs to understand what they are. One needs to identify them so to speak and then one needs to apply the respective methods in order to remove them. The methods will be the practises of the six paramitas. The will be the development through the different Bodhisattva-bhumis and the different paths of spiritual development. In that context one can refer to the buddhanature as being the cause and the practise which is adopted by applying the six paramitas one can either call the path of practise or one could refer to them as the various conditions.

Question: What is precisely the difference between the Cittamatra school of thought and the Shentong-Madhyamaka?

Answer: The Madhyamaka-philosophy originated in India. During the time the Madhyamaka-philosophy blossomed in India, there existed two major schools. On the one hand the so-called Prasangika-Madhyamaka approach, on the other hand what is called the Svatantrika-Madhyamaka approach. The master who mainly presented these two subschool within the Madhyamaka were Nagarjuna as the representative of the Prasangika-Madhyamaka and Shantarakshita as the representative of the Svatantrika-Madhyamakas. At that time the term Shentong-Madhyamaka did not exist. There was no school in India which would present Madhyamaka from that angle.

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