Ultimate Reality in Tibetan Buddhism Author(s): Jeffrey Hopkins Source: Buddhist-Christian Studies, Vol. 8 (1988), pp.

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UltimateReality in TibetanBuddhism
JeffreyHopkins Universityof Virginia

In Vancouver,when it was suggested that the next topic be "ultimate reality," someone questioned whether the Buddhist representativeswould accept the topic. I guessed that the question arosebecauseit was presumed that Buddhists would assertthat everythingis illusion and thus there can be no reality.My conjecture led me beyond the immediate and obvious identification of "ultimate reality" as emptiness, the "ultimate truth," into thinking about the many meanings of terms in Sanskrit and Tibetan that could be loosely included within "ultimate reality,"especially in the light of John Cobb's identification of many possible meanings of the term in Buddhist-ChristianStudies (1983, 3: 39). Thus, I propose to speak about "ultimate reality" in Buddhism from several points of view including: (1) the phenomena that actuallyexist as opposed to merely being imagined, (2) the ultimate truth that is the final nature of all phenomena, (3) the ultimate existence that phenomena lack, (4) the ultimate types of consciousnessthat realize the truth, and (5) the final goal and state achieved by a practitioner.Following Maitreya's Differentiation of the Middle and the Extremes,I shall structurethese and other meanings around the familiar Buddhist triad of the basis, the path, and the fruit. My sourcesare primarily,but not exclusively,texts and oral teachings of the Ge-luk-ba order of Tibetan Buddhism., This order was founded by the polymath and yogi Dzong-ka-ba (1357-1419), who was from the easternmost region of Tibet. It came to have great influence throughout a region stretching from KalmuckMongolian areasnear the Volga River(in Europe)where it empties into the Caspian Sea, Outer and Inner Mongolia, the Buriat Republic of Siberia, as well as most parts of Tibet and Ladakh. Dzong-ka-ba established a system of education centered in large universities, eventually in three areasof Tibet, but primarilyin Lhasa,the capital, which was like Rome for the Catholic Church. Young men came from all of the above-mentioned regions to Lhasato study, usually (until the Communist takeovers)returning to their native lands after completing their studies. With respectto my viewpoint, I am a Buddhist but not a Ge-luk-ba, because
Studies 8 (1988). ? by Universityof HawaiiPress.All rightsreserved. Buddhist-Christian

HOPKINS JEFFREY I find such an identification too limiting. I make use of whateverseems valuable among what I encounter in the varioussectarianand national Buddhisms, and it is with this spirit that I am increasingly enjoying the encounter with Christianity.Since the Buddhism from which I speak is concernedfor the most part with very profound levels of realization, I cannot claim to have firsthand experience of these topics. It would amount to overweening pride, or hubris, were I to claim that all that I am about to say about ultimate realityis a matter of validly induced conviction. However, at the minimum, I have inklings that these presentationsare helpful in arrivingat the truth. Thus, although in some respectsI am merely assumingthe voice of a long tradition of explanation, I am fascinatedby these doctrinesand aspireto experiencetheir meaning. I shall be speaking largelyfrom standardGe-luk-ba perspectiveson sutraand tantra. It is important to make this clear becauseit means that I can speak from a highly developed, living, conceptual system without the primaryfocus being the ancient Indian sourcesfor these perspectivesand their subsequent development and controversies in the variousforms of Buddhism. This is not to say that neither I nor Ge-luk-ba scholarsare concernedwith the Indian sourcesof their views, for we are. Rather,when the focus of exposition is put on those sources and the varying interpretationsof them, one is overburdenedwith a sense of tentativeness that does not accuratelyreflect the larger, dynamicallyfunctioning world-viewof the system. Conversely,when too much emphasis is put on the model system, a sense of the rich criticalperspectiveembodied by many of these scholar-practitioners is not conveyed. At this point in our study of BudI to run choose the latter risk. dhism, usually Let us turn to a Buddhist interpretationof "ultimate reality" in terms of the basis, the path, and the fruit of the path.

Ultimate as WhatExists Reality
The broadestpossible meaning of "ultimate reality" is what exists, as opposed to what seems to exist but does not. "Ultimate" here has a ratherweak sense of "when you get right down to it"; and "reality" has the sense of what is-as opposed to what merely seems to be. When you get right down to it-when you look into it-what exists?What is able to withstand analysisof whether it meets the criteriaof existence? An existent is defined as something observed by valid cognition. Briefly stated, valid cognition is directperception and inference. Direct perception can be either sense or mental directperception; and inferential cognition is conceptual, non-delusive knowledge of a hidden, or obscure, object that is gained in dependence upon a correctlogical sign. There are many synonyms of "existent." With their respective definitions, these include:

REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM ULTIMATE 1) established base: something establishedby valid cognition; 2) object of knowledge: something fit to be taken as an object of an awareness; 3) phenomenon: something holding its own entity; 4) object of comprehension:something realized by valid cognition; 5) object: something known by an awareness; 6) object of comprehension by an omniscient consciousness:something realized by an omniscient consciousness. That these are synonyms entails that whatever is one of them is all the rest. Hence, an existent is an established base, an object of knowledge, a phenomenon, an object of comprehension, an object, and an object of comprehension by an omniscient consciousness.Similarly,an existent is necessarilyestablished by valid cognition, fit to be taken as an object of an awareness,holds its own entity, is realized by valid cognition, is known by an awareness,and is realized by an omniscient consciousness. In GreatVehicle Buddhism, the most famous list of existents(taken from the Perfectionof Wisdom Sutras)begins with forms and ends with omniscient consciousnesses.It is a list of one-hundred and eight phenomena broken into two categories:fifty-three in the thoroughly afflicted class, and fifty-five in the very pure class. (Anything that exists can be included in at least one of these onehundred eight categories. The meaning of the list is not that things such as chairs, which are not explicitly listed, do not exist; rather,chairs, for instance, are subdivisionsof forms.) Another list divides the existent into the permanent and the impermanent. The permanent are divided into four classes; and the impermanent are divided into three classes, which are then divided and subdivided in manifold ways.2 Ultimate Realityas Ultimate Truth The division of phenomena into 108 categoriesis important but not as vital as the division of those same phenomena into the two truths, ultimate truths and conventional truths (or truths-for-a-concealing-consciousness). Everythingthat exists is one or the other of the two truths, and anything that is either of the two truths necessarilyexists. Hence, the horns of a rabbit (barringgenetic engineering) areneither of the two truths. In the context of the two truths, "ultimate reality"is the final nature of what exists; although it exists, it is not-like the first interpretation of "ultimate reality" given above-everything that exists. Rather,it is the final mode of subsistence, the mode of being, of what exists. This is emptiness, an absence of inherent existence,3 called "ultimate truth" (paramarthasatya).A truth is something that exists the way it appearsin direct perception and thus is a true object. It is something that does not deceive. An emptiness is an ultimate truth in that it is a truth (satya), existing the way it appearsin direct perception, for

HOPKINS JEFFREY an ultimate (paramartha)consciousness.4In this context, an ultimate consciousnessrefersnot to the final consciousnessattained through practiceof the path, that is to say, a Buddha's omniscient consciousness, but to a reasoning consciousness realizing emptiness. Such ultimate consciousnessesare of two varieties: non-conceptual and conceptual. A non-conceptual ultimate consciousnessis one of meditative equipoise in which a yogi directlyrealizesemptiness, whereas a conceptual ultimate consciousnessis one that realizes emptiness through the medium of a conceptual image. Both are called "reasoning consciousnesses,"probably because they are generated from having analyzed with reasoning to determine whether an object exists from its own side or not. It should be clearfrom the above explanationthat even though an emptiness is an ultimate truth, it is not all that exists and it does not negate other phenomena. For, conventional truths also exist, and an emptiness is merely an absence of inherent existence in a phenomena, not the non-existence of that phenomenon. Thus, emptiness is the ultimate truth, but not in the sense that finally, when you get right down to it, it and only it exists and everythingelse only exists for ignorance. Rather, it is the mode of subsistence of things that appearsnon-delusively to a consciousnessof meditative equipose and thus is a truth-for-an-ultimate-consciousness. Everything else appears delusively, even in direct perception, except to a Buddha. Aside from emptiness, everythingappearsto exist in its own right but does not. Everythingappearsto be inherentlyestablished but is actuallynot so. Thus, all phenomena except emptinesses are truths-for-a-concealing-consciousness (samv.rtisatya)-things that seem to exist the way they appearfor an ignorant consciousnessthat concealsthe truth. These objects are taken by ignorance to exist the way they appear,and hence aretruthsfor ignorance, or truths-for-aconcealing-consciousness. Still, in the Ge-luk-ba interpretation,this does not mean that objects other than emptiness exist only for ignorance and therefore do not actually exist. means that the truthRather,the name "truth-for-a-concealing-consciousness" ness of such objects-their existing the way they appear-is posited only by ignorance, a consciousnessconcealing the way things actually exist; and this truthnessdoes not exist at all. Rememberthat the basis of division into the two truths is existents; hence, both ultimate truths and conventinal truths (or exist, although only ultimate truths are truths-for-a-concealing-consciousness) actualtruths. Becausethe term "ultimate truth" seems to suggest that only it finally exists and because the term "truth-for-a-concealing-consciousness" seems to suggest that objects such as tables exist only for an ignorant, concealing consciousness, many scholarshave understandably,but mistakenly,thought that the doctrine of the Middle Way School is excessivelynegative, unable to affirm the existence of anything except emptiness, which they take to be nothingness.


as Thatof Which AreEmpty Ultimate Phenomena Reality
Given that another meaning of "ultimate reality" is ultimate existence (which phenomena are said to lack), it again is no wonder that many scholarshave thought that Great Vehicle Buddhism is nihilistic to the point of denying that phenomena exist or, at best, agnostic in the sense that nothing can be posited about anything. For emptiness negates ultimate existence; in other words, ultimate existenceis the object of negation in the view of emptiness. An emptiness is a negative or absenceof ultimate existence. Once ultimate existenceis denied of everything, emptiness included, it might seem that it was being claimed that, finally, when you get right down to the facts, nothing exists. But this is not what is being indicated. Rather,phenomena lack a certain status of being, called ultimate existence, inherent existence, existence from their own side, existence right with their bases of designation, existence as their own reality,existence as their own suchness, existence by way of their own character,substantial existence, true existence, existence through their own entityness, existence in the manner of covering their basis of designation, and so on. Rather than existing in any of these ways, phenomena are subjectivelydependent. They depend even for their existence upon a conceptual consciousnessthat designates them; hence, they do not exist in their own right. This absence of inherent or ultimate existence is the emptiness of phenomena-their final nature, but this does not mean that when you get right down to it, phenomena do not exist. Rather,it means that when you analyze whether phenomena exist from their own side as they seem to do, an emptiness of such existence-an absence of such establishment-is found. This emptiness, in fact, is the very key to an object's existence; without it, the object would be impossible. Cause and effect are possible because things do not exist from their own side. If they did exist in their own right, they would not need to depend on causesand conditions. Thus, there is nothing contradictory, incompatible, inscrutable,or paradoxical about the assertionthat the emptiness of ultimate existence is the ultimate truth, since "ultimate existence" refersto a falsely reified status of phenomena, whereas "ultimate truth" refersto what exists the way it appearsto the highest type of consciousness.The term "ultimate," therefore, does not have the same meaning in these two usages. The first meaning is the object of negation of emptiness, and the second meaning is the highest consciousnessthat realizes emptiness. The difficult (but not paradoxical)point is that although an emptiness is what is finally found when you search to determine whether an object exists from its own side or not, what finally exists is not just emptiness. Existents (objects of knowledge) are what are divided into the two truths. Thus, truthssuch as chairs,tables, and bodies exist, and their for-a-concealing-consciousness

HOPKINS JEFFREY existence is certified by conventional valid cognition. If this is kept in mind, you will not think that just becauseemptiness is the ultimate truth, only emptiness exists. But, one may ask, if this non-finding of an object, such as a chair,as existing from its own side is the object of the ultimate consciousness,why should we accept the evidence of some other, non-ultimate consciousnessthat the object itself exists? Put another way, the question is: If you yourself say that an ultimate consciousnessinvestigating the nature of an object does not certify the existence of the object but instead certifies emptiness (the non-finding of that object under such analysis), how can you claim that the object nevertheless exists for anything but ignorance?Do you not call this ultimate consciousness wisdom? The answerto this qualm is that the spheres of ultimate and conventional consciousnessesare different. For instance, that an eye consciousnessdoes not confirm the existence of sounds does not mean that sounds do not exist. Similarly,that an ultimate consciousnesssearchingto find whether an object inherently exists or not does not find the object does not mean that the object does not exist in general. The ultimate consciousnessis qualified with respect to determining the status of inherent existence of the object but not qualified with respect to determining the mere existence of the object. Thus, finding something and finding it to be non-existent are two different things. When an ultimate consciousnessreasons: 1) whether a chair,for instance, is one with the seat, back, legs, and so on which are its basisof designation; 2) whetherit is a different entity from its basisof designation; 3) whetherit inherentlydepends upon its basisof designation; 4) whetherits basisof designation inherentlydepends upon it; 5) whetherit inherentlypossessesits basisof designation; 6) whetherit is the shape of its basisof designation; 7) or whetherit is the collection of its basisof designation, it finds that the chair is none of these and hence does not inherently exist. However, this does not constitute finding that the chair does not exist. The chair is not established, or does not exist, for such a reasoning consciousness, but this does not mean that it does not exist in general. Rather,the chair exists in the face of a conventional, valid consciousnessthat does not engage in such analysis; it exists in the face of an eye consciousness, or a body consciousness, and so on. Does this mean that when we act in the world, we should remain in ignorancewithout analyzing; but that in profound meditation, we should analyze, whereupon activitywith objects becomes impossible?No. A practitionerneeds to analyze with this sort of reasoningin order to realize that objects are empty of inherent existence whereupon, after leaving cognition of emptiness and

ULTIMATE REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM when objects reappear,they are understood as qualified with a lack of inherent existence, as empty. Objectsthen and only then areseen to be like illusions, not because they appearto exist but do not, but because they appearto be existent from their own side but are not. A magical illusion of an appealing woman or man appearsto be such a person but is not, and objects similarlyhave a lack of correspondencebetween how they appear and how they exist. They appear to of phenomena with the exist in their own right but do not. The correspondence example of a magician'sillusion (or other types of illusions) is not on the level of appearing to exist but not actually existing; hence, the doctrine that phenomena are like illusions points to a falseness of objects, not to their non-existence. The doctrine of illusion is, therefore, that phenomena are like illusions, not that they are illusions. This is why all objects except emptiness are called falsities. They appear one way and exist another, even in direct, non-conceptual perception by sense consciousnessessuch as an eye consciousness.Within existing, they falsely appear to exist from their own side but actually do not; and from this viewpoint, they are described as falsely existent, falsely established. This false appearanceis due not to a fault in the object, but to a fault in the subject. The appearanceof inherent existence, as well as latent predispositions for it that reside in the mind, are the obstructionsto omniscience that must be overcome in order to attain Buddhahood. Due to faults in our own consciousnesses,objects falsely appear to have a status that they do not have. The objects themselves are said to be falsely established or falsely existent. In this vein, everythingexcept emptiness is said to be deceptive: O monks, this which is nirvana,having the attributeof non-deceptiveness, is the ultimate truth. All conditioned things are false, having the attribute of deceptiveness.5 Many scholarshave misinterpretedthese teachings to mean that, accordingto Great Vehicle Buddhism, objects such as tables, chairs, minds, bodies, and people do not exist. Admittedly, much commentary is needed in order to understandthe perspectivefrom which the teaching about illusion, falsity, and not being found when analyzedaremade. Emptiness not only does not negate the functionality of objects but also is the very key to their functionality. For, if objects such as the mind were not empty of inherent existence, they could not change. From this viewpoint, the emptiness of inherent existence of the mind is called the Buddha nature-that which allows transformationof an ordinary,afflicted mind into the altruistic omniscienceof Buddhahood. The apprehensionof inherent, or ultimate, existence is what binds beings in cyclic existence; hence, inherent existence cannot be merely something superimposed by mistaken philosophies. It must be a false status of objects that uneducated persons, babies, animals, and so on apprehend. Inherent existence

must be something that is very difficult to distinguish from the object itselfsomething of which we would feel, if we negated it, that we were negating the very object itself. Inherent existence must seem to be part and parcel of the object such that when we affirm the object, we feel that we affirm it. Hence, although a consequence of inherent existence is that objects would have to be unchanging, not produced by causes and conditions, and independent of a positing consciousness,these entailments do not mean that to conceive inherent existenceis to conceivethat objects areunchanging, not produced by causes and conditions, and independent. Otherwise, it would be very easy to realize emptiness indeed! To conceive of inherent existence, therefore, does not necessarily involve conceiving these either explicitly or implicitly; rather, if objects were inherently existent as we usually conceive them to be, then they would have to be unchanging, not produced by causes and conditions, and independent of a positing consciousness. Conceiving objects to be inherently or ultimately existent is merely to conceive, to apprehend, that they exist from their own side. Furthermore,this apprehensionis merely an affirmation of the way objects appearin rawsensation. Since objects appearat even the sensorylevel as if they exist in their own right, it is not surprisingthat we assentto this seeming status. Indeed, it would take great force of mind, a bit like recognizing dreams as dreams, to turn the mind away from habitual assent to this falsely appearing, solid statusof objects. UltimateRealityIs Not UltimatelyEstablished Emptiness, the ultimate truth and ultimate reality,is the absence, the negative, of an inherently existent status. It is a quality of objects, their final mode of subsistence, their final nature. However, it is said that ultimate truth does not itself ultimately exist. This means that emptiness, which exists the way it appears for an ultimate reasoning consciousnessof meditative equipoise and thus is an ultimate truth, is not found upon analyzingwhether emptiness exists in its own right. Even emptiness is not found in the face of an ultimate, analytical consciousnessthat investigates whether it is established from its own side. What is found is the emptiness of emptiness. Not even emptiness is an independent entity. It depends upon the objects that it qualifies, even though it is permanentin the sense that the causesof the object do not make it. An emptiness of an apple, for instance, comes into being when the apple is produced by causes and conditions, but it itself is uncompounded, not produced by causesand conditions. The dependence of an emptiness on the object that it qualifies indicatesits own lack of inherent existence, its own emptiness; this is the emptiness of emptiness, ad infinitum. Hence, emptiness is not an absolute, since an absolute must be independent. Nagarjuna'sstatement that the final nature of things is "non-fabricatedand does not depend on another"6is interpretedas meaning that, unlike the heat

REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM ULTIMATE of water, it is not something that did not exist earlierand is newly produced, and thus it is unfabricated;also, it does not depend on other causesand conditions as do here and there, or long and short. Even if the emptiness of inherent existence of the first moment of a sprout does not exist before that sprout and does not exist after that moment of the sprout and hence is indeed a case of something non-existent earlierthat is newly existent and newly established, it is not something that is newlyproduced or newly made. Similarly,although the emptiness of the first moment of a sprout is, after that one moment of the sprout, something that earlierexisted and newly disappeared,it did not newly disintegrateand was not newly ceased. In this sense, emptiness, the final nature of things, is unfabricated. Also, although an emptiness is relative-dependently established-in that it is establishedin dependence upon its basis of designation, it does not have the same type of dependence and relativityas does a yard-longrope which is posited as long relative to a rope only a foot long, but is short relative to a rope six yards long, and thus has no one-pointed definiteness as long or short. The positing of the absence of inherent existence as the final nature of fire, rope, or whateverphenomenon, in contrast, does not depend on other phenomena in that way, but instead is one-pointedly the final nature of those phenomena. In these senses of not depending on a special object of dependence and not depending on causes and conditions to produce it, an emptiness, an ultimate truth, is independent, but neverthelessdepends on its own basis of designation as well as on the phenomenon that it qualifies. In this way, the two truths-ultimate truths and conventional truths (or truths-for-a-concealing-consciousness)-are mutually dependent. Still, one etymological meaning of samvrti (also translatedas "conventional" and "concealer") is "mutual dependence," and thus, this also might lead one to think that only truths-for-a-concealing-consciousness and not ultimate truths are dependent and relative. However, it is said7 that the etymology is wider than the actual meaning of samv.rtisatya, which is limited to all objects except emptinesses, because emptinessesalso are dependent, relative. Emptinessesdepend on the truths-for-a-concealing-consciousness of which they are the final nature; also on a they depend conceptual designating consciousnessand perhaps even on the emptinesses of the parts of the objects that they qualify. Thus, it would be a mistaketo conclude that ultimate truthsare not dependent or relative,just because a word for mutual dependence or relativity,samvrti, is used frequently for all other objects. Otherwise, there would be no way to posit the emptiness of emptiness. As the Dalai Lamasaysin his Key Tothe Middle Way: An emptiness is the way of being, or mode of existence, of the phenomenon qualified by it. Therefore,if the phenomenon qualified by it does not exist, there is no emptiness of it. The empty nature of a phenomenon is established in relation to that phenomenon which is qualified by this empty nature, and a phenomenon qualified by an empty nature is estab-

HOPKINS JEFFREY lished in relation to its empty nature.Just as when a phenomenon qualified by an empty nature is analyzed, it is not found, so too when this phenomenon's empty nature itself is analyzed, it is unfindable as well. Therefore, when we seek the object designated as 'an empty nature', this empty nature is also not found. It merely exists through the force of subjective designation done without analysis. Thus it does not inherently exist... Therefore,when a tree, for instance, is analyzed, the tree is not found, but its mode of being or emptiness is found. Then, when that emptiness is analyzed, that emptiness also is not found, but the emptiness of that emptiness is found. This is called an emptiness of an emptiness.8 Thus, it is clearthat even an ultimate truth is posited in dependence upon the conventional truth it qualifies and is relative in this sense. As was mentioned earlier, all phenomena, including emptinesses, are dependent-arisings; not even ultimate truth can withstand analysisinto whether it exists from its own side. The relativityof emptiness does not mean, however, that realization of it is somehow shaky or partial. When emptiness is realized non-dualistically, all emptinesses in all world-systems are realized simultaneously without the slightest sense of difference and without the slightest appearanceof any conventional phenomenon. It is only at Buddhahood that emptiness can be realized directlywithin simultaneouslyrealizingall conventionalphenomena. This latter fact makes it clearthat even direct realizationof ultimate truthemptiness-is not realizationof the ultimate state. Much misinterpretationof Buddhism has come from the suppositions (1) that since emptiness is the ultimate truth, realizationof it must be the final state and (2) that since directrealization of emptiness requires withdrawing from phenomena, Buddhists are ultimately seeking an isolated state at best and obliteration at worst. The fact is that direct realizationof emptiness takes place at the beginning of the path of seeing, at which point the first of the ten Bodhisattva stages or grounds (so called because they are the basis on which other great mental qualities grow) is attained. Thus, it is clear that direct realization of the ultimate truth, emptiness, is not the final goal. Neither ultimate truth nor the ultimate consciousness realizing it are the final goal. The goal is Buddhahood-a state of fully empoweredcapacityeffectivelyto help others. Still, emptiness (ultimate truth) is not a positive phenomenon; it is a mere negative. Some negations imply a positive phenomenon in their place, such as when we say about a very corpulent person called Devadatta, "Fat Devadatta does not eat during the day."9The meaning implied is that Devadatta eats, even a great deal, at night. Devadatta'snot eating during the day is a negative phenomenon but one that implies something in place of its object of negation. Devadatta is the basis of negation; eating during the day is the object of negation; and eating at night is a positive phenomenon implied in place of the object of negation. Such a negation is called an affirming negation.10Thus, fat Devadatta's not eating during the day is an affirming negative, since we are

REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM ULTIMATE speaking about phenomena and not about the wordsexpressingthose phenomena. Within affirming negatives, it is one that implicitly suggests a positive phenomenon in place of its object of negation. A mountainless plain, on the other hand, is an affirming negative that explicitly suggests or indicates a positive phenomenon (a plain) in place of its object of negation (mountains). Another type of affirming negative is one that by context suggests a positive phenomenon in place of its object of negation; for instance, being told that Shakyamuni was either a brahmin or ksatriya (member of the royal or warriorclass) and was not a brahmin suggests, by conis text, that he was of the royalcaste. A positive phenomenon (being a kSatriya) in of the of a suggested place object negation (being brahmin). An emptiness, however,is none of these, since all of them suggest something positive in place of the negation of the objection of negation, whereasan emptiness does not. An emptiness is a non-affirmingnegative," defined as: a negative which is such that the term expressing it does not suggest in place of the negation of its own object of negation another, positive phenomenon that is its own object suggested. For example, the non-existence of the horns of a rabbit is expressedby the sentence, "The horns of a rabbit do not exist," and this does not suggest anything positive in place of the horns of a rabbit. Though it can suggest another nonaffirming negative such as the non-existenceof the beauty of the horns of a rabbit, it does not suggest any positive phenomenon in place of its object of negation. In the same way, an emptiness merely eliminates inherent existence. It does not imply anything positive in its place. The basis of negation is any phenomenon. The object of negation is inherent existence, and nothing is implied in place of the object of negation. For instance, in the case of the emptiness of the body, the body-the basis of negation-is a positive phenomenon; but it is not implied in place of the object of negation; rather, it is that which is empty of inherent existence. An emptiness is the mere elimination of inherent existence or of the establishment of an object by way of its own character;thus, it is a mere negative, a non-affirming negative, a mere absence of its object of negation. Non-affirming negatives are divided into two classes-those whose object of negation does occur among objects of knowledge, and those whose object of negation does not occur among objects of knowledge. For example, the nonexistence of the horns of a rabbit negates the horns of a rabbit which do not exist anywhere;similarly,the absence of inherent existence eliminates inherent existence which never has nor will occur anywhere. Thus, these two are nonaffirming negatives whose object of negation does not occur among objects of knowledge-that is to say, among existents. On the other hand, the non-existence of a pot, such as on a certaintable, eliminates the existence of a pot there and does not suggest that anything else is on that table. Therefore, the non-


HOPKINS JEFFREY existence of a pot is a non-affirming negative whose object of negation, pot, does occuramong objectsof knowledge. Through making this division in terms of whether the object negated is, in general, an existent or not, it is being stressed that an emptiness is a lack of something-inherent existence-that never did nor will exist. Though an emptiness exists, its object of negation never does. Realization of an emptiness, therefore, is not a case of destroyingsomething that once existed, nor of realizing the passing away of something that did exist. Rather,it means to realize a quality of objects, a negative attribute, that is the mere absence of something that never existed but nevertheless was imagined to occur, with the consequence being tremendoussufferingin the round of cyclicexistence. Even though nothing is more negative than a non-affirming negative, and even though emptiness, the nature and ultimate reality of all phenomena, is such a non-affirming negative not implying anything positive in its place, it is central to the realization of emptiness that it is compatible with dependentarising. All phenomena aremere dependent-arisingsbecauseof being empty of inherent existence and thus empty of independence. In turn, all phenomena are empty of inherent existence because of being dependent-arisings-arising in dependence upon their causesand conditions, their parts, and a designating consciousness. Though in the perspective of a consciousnessrealizing emptiness, nothing, including dependent-arising,is implied in place of the inherent existencethat is its object of negation, the understandingof emptiness is said to assistin understandingdependent-arising.For,when it is eliminated that phenomena exist in their own right, one can appreciateto the fullest their being mere dependent-arisings.(This distinction is obviously an attempt to have your cake and eat it too-to have emptiness as a mere negative and yet allow realizing it to assistin understandingdependent-arising.) Even though in this way emptiness and dependent-arisingarevitally compatible, it is emphasized that emptiness is a non-affirming negative because in direct realizationof emptiness, except at Buddhahood, all that appearsis emptiness. A mere vacuity that is the elimination, the negative, of inherent existence dawns, and the meditatorremainsin space-likemeditative equipoise contemplating and comprehending this absence of inherent existence in a totally non-dualistic manner. It is said that to develop an antidote to our habitual assent to the seeming inherent existence or concretenessof objects, it is necessaryto cultivate a wisdom consciousnesscapable of paying attention to just the absence of inherent existence. Therefore, the emphasis on the fact that emptiness is a non-affirming negative indicates the degree to which we must understand the absence of a wrongly imputed status of phenomena on which we build emotions of desire, hatred, bewilderment, enmity, jealousy,and so forth. A consciousnessconceiving phenomena to inherently exist servesas the underpinning of these afflictive emotions which bind us in cyclic existence; hence, a wisdom consciousnessperceiving the same phenomena in an opposite way is needed. The existence of an object right in its own basis of designation never did nor

REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM ULTIMATE could occur,but beings conceive the opposite and thus have been drawnbeginfrom that misconceptioncan happen ninglesslyinto cyclicexistence. Extrication the of such reified existence, becoming accusabsence only through realizing tomed to it in intense meditation, realizing it directly in meditative equipoise in which nothing but emptiness appears and the mind is merged with it like fresh water poured into fresh water. Such direct cognition must be reentered over and over again. Meditation on emptiness is the medicine that, when accompanied by compassionate method, can clear away all obstructions such that unimpeded altruistic activity is manifested. Thus, though emptiness is a mere negative, it is a doctrine neither of nihilism nor of agnosticism, but a confident affirmation of a basic nature, the realization of which yields powerful, beneficial results. Understood this way, realization of emptiness-the non-affirming negative that is the ultimate reality (not in the sense of being all that exists but in the sense of being something that exists the way it appearsin direct perception)not only indicates compatibility with knowledge of phenomena and activity but also is the very key, when accompaniedby practiceof great compassion, to into a supremelyeffective altruisticstate. transformation


Ultimate Realityas a Wisdom Consciousness Emptiness, the final nature of phenomena, is the actual ultimate, but the reasoning consciousnessthat realizes emptiness is also called an ultimate. Thus, the meaning of "ultimate reality" can be taken as the prime wisdom consciousnessesthat realize the ultimate truth. This twofold treatment of the ultimate-as the emptiness that is the object of the wisdom consciousness,and as the consciousnessrealizing emptiness-is called "the ultimate as object" and "the ultimate as subject." Since reasoningconsciousnessesare conceptual and non-conceptual, the ultimate as subject is also of two types, concordantultimates and actual ultimates. A conceptual reasoningconsciousnessthat realizesemptiness in dependence on a reasoning process is able to eliminate the elaborationsof the conception of inherent existence but is not able to eliminate the elaborations of dualistic appearance.Therefore, it is called a concordantultimate since it is similar to the highest type of wisdom consciousnessbut not quite complete. A non-conceptual "reasoning"consciousness,however, is an exalted wisdom of non-conceptual meditative equipoise no longer operating through the medium of generic images but directlyperceivingemptiness in a totally non-dualisticmanner. Such a consciousnessis non-dualisticin five senses: 1) There is no conceptual appearance. 2) There is no sense of subject and object. Subject and object are like fresh waterpoured into fresh water.


HOPKINS JEFFREY 3) There is no appearanceof inherent existence. 4) There is no appearance of conventional phenomena. Only emptiness appears. 5) There is no appearanceof difference. Although the emptinesses of all phenomena in all world systems appear, they do not appear to be different.12 This non-dual wisdom consciousness(still called a "reasoning"consciousness, as mentioned earlier, probably because it depends upon earlierusage of conceptual reasoning)is called an actualultimate.

as the Ultimate Ultimate Reality Deity
This extension of the vocabularyof the object to designate the subject is taken further in tantra. In Action Tantra, the process of generating, or imagining, oneself as a deity (an ideal being) begins with a step called the "ultimate deity." It is a realizationthat one's own final nature and a deity's final nature are the same. Here "ultimate" is used not just for the emptiness of inherent existenceof oneself and the deity or for the samenessof these two, but also for a consciousnessthat realizesthis sameness. In the subsequent steps of deity yoga, the practitioneruses this consciousness,called the ultimate deity, as the basisof emanation in physical form. The consciousnessis the stuff out of which the subsequent form appears.

Ultimate as the Mindof Clear Reality Light
Similarly, but at a more profound level, in Highest Yoga Tantra, the actual mind of clear light within the stage of completion is designated the stage of completion of ultimate truth. In this case, the most subtle and powerful level of consciousness, the mind of clear light directly realizing the emptiness of inherent existence, is the ultimate truth. Here, not just emptiness, which is a mere negative, but also a positive phenomenon, the fundamental innate mind of clearlight, is identified as "ultimate truth." This identification of "ultimate truth" as the most profound level of the mind is similar to the identification in the Tibetan Old TranslationSchool of pa) as the ultimate truth that is the mode of subNying-ma of basic mind (rng sistence of all phenomena. In the Nying-ma presentation, a mere negation of inherent existence is not recognized as the final nature of phenomenon; rather, basic mind, which is a unified, inseparable combination of emptiness and appearance,is the basicrealityof everything. In both the New TranslationSchool'spracticeof manifesting the fundamental innate mind of clearlight and the Old TranslationSchool'spracticeof manifesting basic mind, the practitioner is attempting to differentiate levels of mind. In the formercase, the practitioneris seeking to cease all coarserlevels of

ULTIMATE REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM consciousness,thereby allowing the fundamental innate mind of clear light to manifest. In the latter, the practitioneris seeking to differentiate between mistaken mind and basic mind, in order to recognize the fundamental reality and gradually dissolve mistaken minds. This type of emptiness is called "otheremptiness." The most subtle level of mind is empty of being the other, coarser levels of consciousness,and basicmind is empty of being the other types of mistaken minds. This type of emptiness in which a processof separationis being meditated is different from the emptiness of inherent existence described earlier, which is a "self-emptiness" not in the sense that a practitioneris realizing that an object is empty of being itself (since that would mean that the object did not exist at all), but in the sense of realizing that the object lacks its own inherent existence. Both of these types of meditation are cases of "emptying," the first type ceasing coarserlevels of consciousnessor dissolving mistaken consciousnesses,and the second type involving a withdrawalfrom appearancedue to attending to the non-finding of an object under analysis.

Ultimate as Nirvana Reality
Just as the name "ultimate" which is primarilyused for emptiness (the object realized by the wisdom consciousness)is also, by extension, used for the realizing subject, so the nirvana that is attained through cultivation of such a wisdom consciousnessis also called "ultimate." In this vein, Maitreya's Differ-

entiationof the Middleand the Extremes says:
The ultimate is assertedas of three aspectsObject, attainment, and practice.13

The object-ultimate is emptiness; the attainment-ultimate is nirvana;and the practice-ultimateis the wisdom consciousnessrealizing emptiness, either conceptual or non-conceptual. The highest type of nirvana-the non-abiding nirvana which is so called because it is a state that abides neither in cyclic existence nor in solitary,inactive peace-is Buddhahood.

Ultimate as the FinalGoal Reality
The final reason for generating or manifesting these profound consciousnesses realizing the actual status of phenomena is to be of service to others. As Dzong-ka-ba says about persons practicingthe Great Vehicle in both its sutra and mantraforms: The chief aims sought by both types of Mahayanistsare those of others, not the enlightenment that is the aim of one's own attainment. For,


HOPKINS JEFFREY seeing Buddhahood as a means to achieve others' aims, they seek highest enlightenment as a branchof the aims of others.14 The highest level of such altruisticservice is attained in the state of Buddhahood which is comprised by both constant non-dualistic realization of emptiness and also constant dualistic cognition of sentient beings' needs and the techniques appropriateto their situation, within simultaneous appearancein myriad forms to assist those beings. The final goal, therefore, is not realization but helpfulness to other beings. The entire course of Bodhisattvas'practice is marked by great compassion, the wish to relieve all sentient beings of suffering and the causes of suffering. Buddhahood, the ultimate state, is seen as a means to enact their intense altruism. The primaryintention, the ultimate goal, of Bodhisattvasis to bring about others' welfare. Their own enlightenment is viewed as the means to accomplish this, since a Buddha has omniscience knowing all possible techniques for advancement and knowing in detail the predispositionsand interests of other beings. Between the two bodies of a Buddha, Truth Body and Form Body15(the latter including the Complete EnjoymentBody and Emanation Bodies), Bodhisattvas primarily seek Form Bodies, since it is through physicalform that the welfare of others can be accomplished(mainly through teaching what is to be adopted in practice and what is to be discarded in behavior). Though Truth and Form Bodies necessarilyaccompanyeach other and thus are achieved together, Bodhisattvas'emphasis is on achieving Form Bodies in order to appear in myriad forms suitable to the interests and dispositions of trainees and to teach them accordingly.In this sense, "ultimate reality" in Great Vehicle Buddhism is a state of altruisticallyeffective purity from all inhibiting factors, in which body, speech, and mind are spontaneously and without effort dedicated to the service of others. As the goal or fruit achieved through practice of the paths that realize the actual basis devoid of fabrications, "ultimate reality" in this sense is fully active and efficacious love and compassion.

Because the English term "ultimate reality" carrieswith it many and various meanings, I have not limited this discussionof ultimate realityin Buddhism to just the emptiness of inherent existencewhich is usually identified as "ultimate truth." I have tried to show how many varyingmeanings arepresented in Great Vehicle Buddhism (at least as interpretedby a majorsystem in the Tibetan cultural area).Eight meanings have emerged: 1) Ultimate realityas what exists. 2) Ultimate realityas ultimate truth, emptiness. 3) Ultimate reality as that of which phenomena are empty, inherent existence.

REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM ULTIMATE 4) 5) 6) 7) 8) Ultimate realityas a wisdom consciousness. Ultimate realityas the ultimate deity. Ultimate realityas the fundamental innate mind of clearlight. Ultimate realityas the final state of nirvana,Buddhahood. Ultimate realityas the final goal, serviceto others.


Many errorsin the interpretation of Buddhism stem from assuming that any one of these meanings necessarilyexcludes the others. It strikesme that a booklength presentationof the many meanings of "ultimate reality" in Buddhism, would indeed clear awaymany misinterpretationsof Buddhist doctrine at least from the viewpoint of this influential Tibetan school of interpretation. In sum, what emergesfrom these many meanings is a picture of a world-view of great pain and great potential. For GreatVehicle Buddhists, we are in a situation of stifled potential due to misapprehending the nature of persons and other phenomena. Whereasobjects do not exist in their own right, we see them that way and are therefore drawn into emotions that further afflict and distort our attempts at mental, verbal, and physical expression. These expressions,in turn, deposit potencies in the mind that ripen as myriad forms of suffering in the cyclic existence of birth, aging, sickness, and death. Failing to realize the absence of inherent existence that is our own ultimate nature, we and what we perceive are caught in a web of the superimpositionof a concretestatus of phenomena beyond what exists, granting to the superficialan ultimacy that it does not have. We are so distorted from our own reality that when, at death, the mind of clear light dawns, we are frightened by this manifestation of the deeper nature of our own minds such that, fearing our own annihilation, we lapse into unconsciousness,exiting the scene of our own profundity.A cure for this diseased state is reflection on the lack of such concreteness-the emptiness of inherent existence-and the development of love and compassion. When these are coupled with deep meditative stabilizationand intimate experienceof their import over a long period of practice, it becomes possible for compassion and wisdom to become fused in the practiceof deity yoga, an imitation of the ideal state of altruisticallydirected pure body, speech, and mind. Eventually, the fundamental innate mind of clear light that has been with us beginninglessly as the foundation of consciousnesscan manifest in powerful realization of the emptiness of inherent existence such that, in time, without regressing through coarserlevels of consciousness,phenomena can neverthelessappear from within the mind of clearlight, and acts of love and compassioncan emanate without exertion, spontaneouslyand unimpededly.


Distortion in TibetanBuddhism: and to Altruistic Endeavor to DavidTracy's Response
" 'The ChristianUnderstandingof Salvation-Liberation,' given at the Second BuddhistChristianTheologicalEncounter,Vancouver(March1985).

1. These three paragraphsare largely repeated from my "Liberationfrom Systemic


2. For discussionsof both lists of existents, see my Meditation on Emptiness (London), pp. 197-304. 3. rang bzhin gyisgrub pa, svabhavasiddhi. 4. The Sanskritterm for "ultimate truth," paramarthasatya,is etymologized three wayswithin identifyingparama as "highest" or "ultimate," arthaas "object," and satya as "truth."In the first way,parama (highest, ultimate) refersto a consciousnessof meditative equipoise directly realizing emptiness; artha (object) refersto the object of that consciousness,emptiness; and satya (truth) also refersto emptiness in that in direct perception, emptiness appearsthe way it exists; i.e., there is no discrepancybetween the is mode of appearanceand the mode of being. In this interpretation,a paramarthasatya a "truth-that-is-an-object-of-the-highest-consciousness." In the second way, both parama (highest, ultimate) and artha (object) refer to a consciousnessof meditative equipoise directly realizing emptiness in that, in the broadest meaning of "object," both objectsand subjectsareobjects, and a consciousnessof meditative equipoise directlyrealizing emptiness is the highest consciousness,and therefore, the highest object; satya (truth), as before, refersto emptiness. In this second interpretais an emptiness that exists the way it appearsto a highest contion, a paramarthasatya sciousness,a "truth-of-a-highest-object." In the third etymology, all three parts refer to emptiness in that an emptiness is the highest (the ultimate) and is also an object and a truth-a "truth-that-is-the-highestSchool of Mahayana object." See Donald S, Lopez,Jr. in The Svatantrika-Madhyamika Buddhism (Ann Arbor: University Microfilms, 1982), pp. 484-485. Chandrakirti,the chief Consequentialist,favorsthe third etymology in his ClearWords;seeJang-gya Rolbay-dor-jay(Icang skya rolpa'i rdo rje, 1717-1786), The Presentationof Tenets (grub mtha'irnam bzhag). (Sarnath:Pleasureof Elegant SayingsPress, 1970), 467.18. ClearWords;see Malamadhyamakakarikas 5. This passage is cited in Chandrakirti's Commentairede Candrakirti de Nagarjunaavec la Prasannapada publiee par Louisde la Vallee Poussin, Bibliotheca Buddhica IV (Osnabruck:Biblio Verlag, 1970), 41.4. For discussion of why Nagarjuna the Tibetan, the passage beginning from Chandrakirti's composed his Treatiseon the Middle Wayis P5260, vol. 98 7.5. 6. Nagarjuna'sTreatiseon the Middle Way,XV. 2cd: "Such a nature is non-fabricated/And does not depend on another."The following discussionis drawn from Shamar Gen-dun-den-dzin-gya-tso(zhwa dmar dge bdun bstan 'dzin rgya mtsho, 18521910), Lamp Illuminating the Profound Thought, Set Forth to Purify Forgetfulnessof the Difficult Points of (Dzong-ka-ba's) "Great Exposition of Special Insight" (lhag mthong chen mo 'i dka' gnad rnams brjed byang du bkodpa dgongs zab snang ba'i sgron me), (Delhi: MongolianLamaGuru Deva, 1972), 129.4-133.5. 7. The sourcehere is the KalkhaMongolianscholarNgak-wang-bel-den(ngag dbang "GreatExpositionof Tendpalldan, born 1797), Annotationsfor (Jam-yang-shay-ba's) ets," Freeing the Knots of the Difficult Points, PreciousJewel of Clear Thought (grub mtha' chen mo 'i mchan 'greldka' gnad mdudgrolblo gsalgces nor), (Sarnath:Pleasure of Elegant SayingsPress, 1964), dbu 185.4. He, in turn, is citing Dzong-ka-ba's Ocean on the Middle Way." ofReasoning, Explanationof (Nagarjuna's)"Treatise 8. Tenzin Gyatso, The Buddhism of Tibet and The Key to the Middle Way(London: George Allen and Unwin, 1975), pp. 75-76. 9. The following presentation of negatives is standard to the topic of The Collected Topics of Prime Cognition (epistemology) in Ge-luk-ba education. Here, it is adapted from an appendix in my Meditationon Emptiness, pp. 721-727. 10. ma yin dgag, paryuddsapratiSedha. 11. med dgag, prasajyaprati4edha. 12. The sourcefor this list is Kensur Yeshi Thupten, former abbot of the Lo-sel-ling College of Dre-bung MonasticUniversity,presently resettled in Mundgod, Karnataka

ULTIMATE REALITYIN TIBETANBUDDHISM State,SouthIndia.The contentsof the list arecommonknowledge amongGe-luk-ba scholars. III. 1lab and 12cd. 13. Madhyantavibhanga, 14. Tsong-ka-pa, in Tibet(London: Tantra AllenandUnwin,1977),p. 114. George 15. chossku,dharmak2ya andgzugssku,rupakaya.


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