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Heart of the Great Perfection

Phase 1: Taking the Impure Mind as the Path

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Phase 1: Taking the Impure Mind as the Path

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2. The Discussion of the Contributing Conditions

For the satisfaction of the apparitional display of his circle of disciples,

the supreme teacher, Samantabhadra, Omnipresent Lord Vajra,

declared, “Listen!” to his circle of disciples, who were the nondual display of his own creative power.

THE TOPIC OF discussion is the request to explain the meaning of the tantra, for this is the condition that contributed to the emergence of the teaching. In this case, as a result of the natural sound of ultimate reality arousing the circle of disciples to make the request, the meaning of the tantra was ready to emerge in accordance with the minds of disciples of the future. For the satisfaction of his circle of disciples, who were an apparitional display of primordial consciousness, the self-appearing, supreme teacher who surpasses other buddhas, Samantabhadra, Omnipresent Lord, the great Vajradhara, declared, “Listen!” Having caught their attention, the teacher spoke to his emanated circle of disciples, who were the nondual display of his own creative power. Among common and uncommon teachings, these were the latter, for the minds of the teacher and of his circle of disciples were indivisible, which is to say that the teacher exhorted and taught himself, and not anyone else.

The four related aspects of the significance of this section are (a) the subject of this tantra, namely the pristine awareness that is present in the ground dharmakāya, (b) the significance of gaining realization by hearing and reflecting upon the words of this tantra, (c) the essential significance of gaining liberation either in this life or in the intermediate period57 by48 practicing the realized meaning [350] with unflagging enthusiasm, and (d) the interdependent relationship among these aspects. These four aspects are characteristics of an authentic tantra or treatise.

3. The Resultant Comprehension of the Actual Meaning of the Tantra

This section has three parts: (a) the path of cutting through to original purity, (b) the path of direct crossing over to spontaneous actualization, and (c) the manner in which the indivisible nature of the ground and the fruition is actualized.

a. The Path of Cutting Through to Original Purity

This section has three parts: (i) identifying the creator of all phenomena as the mind, (ii) establishing the mind as baseless and rootless, and (iii) how individuals with specific faculties may enter the path.

i. Identifying the Creator of All Phenomena as the Mind

Examine the body, speech, and mind, and among them recognize the one that is primary as the all-creating sovereign.

Here is the way to examine the agent, or sovereign, that creates all phenomena as the mind, which is primary among the body, speech, and mind. During the daytime, nighttime, and the intermediate period, due to the mind’s self-grasping, the body and speech appear to the mind. Over the course of a lifetime, it is the mind that experiences joy and sorrow. Finally, when the body and mind separate, the body remains as a corpse. When the speech disappears without a trace, the mind follows after karma and is the agent that wanders in saṃsāra. From one perspective, for those three reasons, among them recognize the mind as primary. From another perspective, none of those three is anything other than the mind; [351] therefore, by ascertaining them as the mind alone, among them recognize the mind as primary. The former perspective is determined in accordance with their conventional mode of appearances, while the latter perspective is determined in accordance with their conventional mode of existence.

To further explain the meaning of the latter perspective, Mahāpaṇḍita Nāropa’s treatise Synthesis of the View states:

All phenomena that appear and come into being

have no existence apart from the self-aware mind,

for it causes them to appear and be clear,

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just like the experience of your own awareness.

If they were not the mind,

they would be unrelated to the mind and would not appear at all.

Determine relative truth58 in that way.

To the deluded mind, the body and mind appear as if they were different, but in terms of their mode of existence, they directly appear to nonconceptual consciousness and are clearly experienced. This indicates that they exist not as something material but simply as the natural illumination of your own awareness, like consciousness that experiences joy and sorrow. If they were not the mind but were instead matter, like light and darkness, they could never interact with each other, so they could never appear at all. For these reasons, the body, speech, and all other appearing phenomena are established as the mind.

ii. Establishing the Mind as Baseless and Rootless

The shape and color of the all-creating sovereign,

as well as its origin, location, and destination, are objectless openness.

This is the spontaneous actualization of the essential nature of the path of cutting through. [352]

By examining in that way whether the mind that is the all-creating sovereign of the body, speech, and mind — or of all phenomena — is really existent or really nonexistent, the mind is found to have no basis or root, so it is not established as having any shape or color. The five elements and five [sensory] objects appear like objects of the mind, and your own body appears as its base. But if all these are investigated from an ultimate perspective, they are found to be like space, not truly established as either one thing or many. Ascertaining the origin, location, and destination [of the mind] as objectless openness is the spontaneous actualization of the essential nature of the path of cutting through. This is not something freshly achieved, but is simply the knowledge of the mode of being of the nature of existence.

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iii. How Individuals with Specific Faculties May Enter the Path

This section has two parts: (A') how individuals of superior faculties enter the path and (B') how individuals of middling and inferior faculties enter the path.

A' How Individuals of Superior Faculties Enter the Path

Simultaneous individuals enter the path with no basis and no root.

Others should come to rest in space,

and within three weeks they will certainly awaken and enter the path.

Simply by determining the ultimate nature of the mind as having no basis and no root, individuals with superior faculties, who are of the simultaneous class,59 identify the vast, unimpeded consciousness that remains after discerning wisdom has naturally vanished. Since this is primordial consciousness, which transcends the mind, they enter the authentic path. [353]

B' How Individuals of Middling and Inferior Faculties Enter the Path

This section has two parts: (1') how individuals of middling faculties enter the path and (2') how individuals of inferior faculties enter the path.

1' How Individuals of Middling Faculties Enter the Path

The first of these two kinds of individuals, namely, others who do not have the fortune to identify primordial consciousness in that way, should retire to a solitary place, practice guru yoga, and take the four empowerments.60 Then they should meditate on the domain of space,61 a pebble, a stick, or such things as a Buddha image or seed syllable, or at their heart they may visualize51 a radiant orb of five-colored light. By sustaining their attention and resting in meditative equipoise, within three weeks they will see with the eye of wisdom the primordial nature of existence. Then they will certainly awaken and enter the path of the Great Perfection.

2' How Individuals of Inferior Faculties Enter the Path

This section has two parts: (a') taking aspects of the mind as the path and (b') taking the essential nature as the path.

a' Taking Aspects of the Mind as the Path

This section has three parts: (i') the teaching, (ii') the explanation, and (iii') the synthesis.

i' The Teaching

Those of the class with inferior faculties

identify stillness and movement,

and by taking the mind as the path, they are led to the absolute space of pristine awareness.

Those of the class with inferior faculties, not having the fortune to identify [primordial consciousness] in that way, first recognize the difference between stillness with respect to consciousness and the movement of thoughts. And, by first taking the aspects of the mind as the path, finally they are led to the absolute space of pristine awareness.

ii' The Elaborate Explanation of How This Occurs

This section has four parts: (A") mindfulness of the essential nature of the path, [354] (B") specific meditative experiences to be purified, (C") the essential nature of that which is to be abandoned and its remedy, and (D") how never to be separated from the experience of the pith instructions.

A'' Mindfulness of the Essential Nature of the Path

First is single-pointed unification of the two.

Then by resting without observing, its natural power manifests.

Abide loosely without mindfulness in a vacuous, wide-open clarity.

And resting in a luminous vacuity is called self-illuminating mindfulness.

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According to the teachings, there are four types of mindfulness of the essential nature of the path. The first entails distinguishing between stillness and movement, and by the power of familiarizing yourself with their different appearances, there is single-pointed mindfulness of the unification of the two. Then, even while resting without strenuously observing them like before, as its natural power manifests, there is manifest mindfulness. Abiding loosely without mindfulness in a vacuous, wide-open clarity, a spacious vacuity, constitutes lying down on a bed that is devoid of mindfulness, which is the substrate.62 Once coarse mindfulness has subsided, resting in a luminous vacuity is called self-illuminating mindfulness, or the substrate consciousness.

The former two kinds of mindfulness [single-pointed mindfulness and manifest mindfulness] directly perceive whatever creative displays arise, while during the latter two [the absence of mindfulness and self-illuminating mindfulness], apart from abiding solely in dependence upon a subtle mode of apprehension, all radiant appearances and creative displays of thoughts cease, so there is only nonconceptuality. These kinds of mindfulness are aroused by the path, and since they descend to the two types of substrate,63 they are called the substrates of descent. [355] Some teachers regard the first as the “one taste” and the second as “freedom from conceptual elaboration.”64 53 Others claim it is ethically neutral, but whatever they call it, you have arrived at the essential nature of the mind.65

B'' Specific Meditative Experiences to Be Purified

For everyone the various experiences of bliss, vacuity, and luminosity

become objects of craving and attachment;

and meditative experiences of illnesses and discomfort in the body, speech, and mind

sporadically arise over time.

Occasionally on this path, due to being bound by the coarse and subtle grasping of mindfulness, there certainly arise various experiences for everyone, such as bliss like the warmth of a fire, luminosity like the breaking of the dawn, and vacuity, or nonconceptuality, like an ocean unmoved by waves. However, if you don’t know that these deceptive meditative experiences are not to be believed or trusted, and if you fixate on them as the highest virtues such that they become objects of craving and attachment, they will become nothing more than causes of rebirth in the three realms of mundane existence. Therefore, even if you cultivate them for a long time, you will not rise above saṃsāra. Moreover, from your guru’s teachings, you must thoroughly understand how outer upheavals of apparitions of gods and demons, inner upheavals of physical illnesses, and secret upheavals of various joys and sorrows and so on sporadically arise over time as various meditative experiences of illnesses and discomfort in the body, speech, and mind. [356]

C'' Recognizing the Essential Nature of That Which Is to Be Abandoned and Its Direct Remedy as the Foremost Path

This section has two parts: (1") recognizing the essential nature of that which is to be abandoned and (2") presenting the direct remedy as the foremost path.

1'' Recognizing the Essential Nature of That Which Is to Be Abandoned

Whenever you proudly hope for good things and cling to them,

and fear bad things and reify inflictors of harm,

you have stumbled upon a dangerous juncture that can lead you astray.

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Whenever you have fallen under the influence of proudly hoping for and clinging to things that seem to be good, such as material gain, respect, and renown, and fearing things that seem to be bad, such as misconduct, abuse, and slander by your enemies — this makes for misery and suffering...

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