Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche


Instructions on

“The Ocean of Definitive Meaning of Mountain Dharma”

by Dolpo Sangye
& on Singing

Translated by Ari Goldfield

Before listening to the Buddha’s teachings, I sincerely ask you to give rise to the precious attitude of bodhicitta. The attitude of bodhicitta is that we aspire to realize mind’s pure reality, which is clear light, the Buddha nature and, having done so, to be of immeasurable benefit to all sentient beings who are as limitless in number as the sky is vast in its extent. This is the precious attitude of bodhicitta. Please give rise to it when you receive the instructions.
You have hopefully picked up a copy of the quotations from the text by the omniscient Dolpo Sangye, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen. The text he wrote is called Richos Nyedon Gyatso in Tibetan and means "The Ocean of Definitive Meaning of Mountain Dharma."1 The reason this sacred text is called Richos, "Mountain Dharma" is that in the past, present, and in the future, too, many male and female bodhisattvas, many yogis and yoginis went and will continue going to the mountains to practice in secluded places. Practice in solitary places like mountain retreats can lead to realization quite easily and that is why several texts are called “Mountain Dharma.”2
The first verse in the Glorious Vajra Peak says: "The vajra expanse is extremely stable. That itself is wisdom and manifest enlightenment." The term “vajra expanse” refers to the expanse of reality, also known as dharmadhatu. Dolpopa calls it vajradhatu. Dharmadhatu is referred to as the vajra expanse in this text because it highlights its quality of being changeless, i.e., it is just like a vajra that is adamantine. A vajra is perfectly stable. In fact, it is incredibly stable.3 When the vajra expanse has been directly realized after all adventitious stains that conceal mind’s true nature have been cleared away through practice, then the vast expanse itself is realized and primordial wisdom is free - spros-pa-thams-cad-dang-bral-ba'i-ye-shes. In other words, when all adventitious and temporary stains have been completely dispelled, then the vajra expanse becomes manifest, which is the same as enlightenment that all buddhas of the three times have.
Our ordinary notions of "stable" and "unstable" only arise in dependence upon each other, i.e., we can only have a concept of something that is stable based upon the idea of what does not seem stable and vice versa. Therefore, both mental constructs (i.e., concepts) have no inherent nature of their own and are not independent. Just like locks are invitations to thieves, one idea points to the other and therefore both suppositions of stable and unstable depend upon each other. The verse states that the vajra expanse is incredibly stable, which means that it transcends the concepts "stable" and "unstable." Transcendence of any imputations whatsoever is a way of describing the vajra expanse, while the term “transcendence” actually refers to wisdom that is beyond conceptual imputations that mistakenly solidify ideas concerning what is or is not.
In the text known as Gyulama, the Tibetan abbreviation of the Sanskrit title, which is Uttaratantrashastra ("A Treatise on Buddha Essence”),4 Buddha Maitreya speaks about ten aspects of the Buddha nature, which is the enlightened essence of every single living being without exception. The ninth aspect is the fact that the Buddha nature is changeless ('gyur-ba-med-pa, “unswerving, immutable, unchangeable, constant”). While all apparent changes take place through birth and death, through arising and decay of the skandhas and dhatus,5 the ground that is the Buddha nature does not change or become altered in the least, because it is totally devoid of fleeting stains (glo-bur-gyi-dri-ma-med-pa).
The example of the arising, change, and decay of the four elements (earth, water, fire, and wind) that occur in the vast expanse of space can help us understand the changeless Buddha nature that all living beings have. No matter in which manner or form the four elements arise, move about, change, and disintegrate again, space never changes - it always remains the same. Similarly, the magnificence and expanse of clear light is never affected when the skandhas and dhatus arise, move about, and cease again. Discussions of the skandhas and dhatus, etc. are different ways of classifying the body and mind of every individual. No matter in which manner or form mental and physical attributes arise, move about, and cease again, mind’s true nature, which is clear light, never changes - it always remains untouched. Mind’s various fleeting attributes that occur within mind’s expanse never affect mind’s magnificent clear light, because the true nature of the mind is devoid of adventitious, fleeting thoughts (glo-bur-gyi-rnam-rtog-med-pa). Mind’s true nature remains untouched by any thoughts that occur and that change from one moment to the next. Let us take dreams as an example (rmi-lam being the Tibetan word for “dream”). While dreaming, the five sensory consciousnesses are engaged with the five sensory objects in a rapid and fluctuating way and the sixth mental consciousness identifies those mistaken apprehensions that change constantly and clings to them as real. But the expanse of clear light in which dreams take place never fluctuates or changes.
The path of practice begins when a disciple first directly experiences mind’s true nature, the enlightened essence, and the path of practice continues until the moment directly before a diligent practitioner attains the perfect result, which is complete enlightenment. The path is marked by a successive and progressive elimination of fleeting stains (glo-bur-gyi-dri-ma) that conceal mind’s enlightened essence. Other than the fact that the adventitious stains that conceal mind’s pure essence diminish and finally cease through practice, the nature of mind does not change while a disciple proceeds along the path. Even though it may seem as though a change is taking place through practicing the instructions, adventitious stains that conceal the true nature are simply being dispelled. Mind’s true nature never changes, not even slightly. Mind’s radiant essence remains the same, because it always was and already is perfect and pure.
A sincere practitioner, whether male or female, who experiences mind’s abiding nature is called “a noble being,” arya in Sanskrit, ‘phag-pa in Tibetan. A noble man or woman has transcended birth, ageing, sickness, and death that ordinary beings endure. Yet, due to their great compassion for living beings and due to their realisation of skilful means, noble sages and saints manifest birth, ageing, sickness, and death. We need to know and remember that a noble one’s manifestation of birth, ageing, sickness, and death are mere appearances that they bring forth out of immense compassion for us. We should also be prepared to do as they do by becoming noble, too. If our wonderful masters and saints did not and do not appear in the world the way they do, then disciples would remain bound by clinging to appearances as permanent and real and they would not be inspired to generate and develop renunciation of samsara. As long as someone thinks appearances and experiences do not change and pass and as long as someone does not give up clinging to them as though they were permanent and real, renunciation cannot possibly be born in the mind of that person. As a result, he or she would defy any reason to seek liberation.
When complete liberation has been perfected (grol-ba-yongs-su-rdzogs-pa), then the two obscurations and habitual imprints6 that obscure the true mind have been completely dispelled - 100 %. Such a noble person can perform amazing beneficial activities in unfathomable ways for the welfare of a limitless number of sentient beings. And all the while, his or her mind’s true nature, the enlightened essence that is Buddha nature, never wavers or wanes.
In the glorious and supreme first Tantra, Lord Buddha said: "Great bliss, the great vajra, perfectly adorned with all vajras.” The descriptions “great bliss, the great vajra" are also synonyms for dharmadhatu that is vajradhatu, the "adamantine expanse." Both Sanskrit terms refer to the nature of genuine reality. Great bliss is another way of describing the experience of dharmadhatu and vajradhatau; all three terms have the same meaning. And this great vajra is “perfectly adorned with all vajras.” This means to say that the essence is perfectly adorned with all genuine, virtuous qualities. These ultimate qualities are like vajras, because they, too, never change and are just as immutable as the essence that they adorn. It wouldn’t be good if the object were not adorned with many, many vajras - that wouldn’t be a good situation. In fact, the vajras that adorn the enlightened essence are just as stable as the essence. In short, the ultimate dharmakaya is the changeless vajra that is adorned with ultimate qualities of vajras, qualities that are just as changeless as the essence that they adorn. So, that’s how to understand this teaching.
Should genuine reality, described as great bliss and the great vajra here, change, it would decay and cease at some point, because whatever changes does disappear and end. If the essence were subject to change, then the dharmakaya would end at the time of fruition and would not be a very worthwhile object of devotion and respect. It surely is not very encouraging to think that all one’s endeavours disappear at fruition. Fruition is changeless, which does not mean that everything ends. Anything that is subject to change arises in dependence upon other things. In this context, changeless does not mean the opposite of change. Change always pertains to a dependently arisen phenomenon that arises in dependence upon other things. We are not flipping the concept “change” when speaking about the changeless nature.
The next line reads: "The abode of all vajra-holders, the great vajra of great bliss." Vajra here again means “adamantine,” i.e., changeless and immutable. A sincere practitioner can see the vajra of great bliss and recognize its nature if he or she has perfected skilful means. Then he or she can hold it. All vajra-holders abide in the great vajra of great bliss. Again, these descriptions are synonyms. One should understand that great bliss is like a vajra, because it is changeless bliss and emptiness, non-differentiate.7
In the oral transmission-instructions of the Bhagavan, Noble Avalokiteshvara said: “I bow to Mahamudri, who is endowed with all supreme aspects that are beyond the nature of subtle particles and who has the nature of images that appear in a mirror-divination.” This short verse is a praise to the One who represents all appearances that can reflect in a mirror while being empty of substantial existents, compared to an image appearing in a mirror-divination. Images are empty of substances while appearing, i.e., they are appearance-emptiness, undifferentiated from each other. Mahamudri is endowed with all supreme aspects and therefore Noble Avalokiteshvara said, “I bow to Mahamudri.” The best that is true (namely that all appearances are indivisible with emptiness) is the supreme aspect, called ‘phyag-ga’i-chen-mo, “Mahamudri.” And so the prayer is: “I bow to Mahamudri” - indivisible appearance-emptiness.8
When contemplating the true nature of reality, one needs to understand that nothing appears apart from emptiness and that emptiness is not separated from what appears anywhere and at any time. Appearance-emptiness is indivisible, completely free of any particles or substances. Perhaps the best way to exemplify this is to consider dreams, in which case it is quite evident that appearances arise due to emptiness. Every appearance and experience that arises in a dream is the indivisibility of appearance-emptiness. However, one thinks that appearances and experiences that arise in a dream are real and as a result remains obscured from seeing their true nature by clinging to one’s mistaken and fleeting thoughts. Since obscurations have no inherent nature and are not intrinsic to the essence, they are adventitious, momentary, and temporary defilements that pass, just like clouds in the sky.
In The Vajra Song of the Dakini it is said: "Wherever the space element is found, there are thousands of world-realms. Complete and perfect great bliss, Mahamudri, dwells in space-like enlightenment." Just as there are countless worlds within the space element, great and perfect bliss pervades everything that exists. Great and perfect bliss means freedom from all stains (bco), and someone who has attained great and perfect bliss is spontaneously and naturally replete with inconceivable qualities (ldan). This means to say that great and perfect bliss pervades and transcends all things ('das). A noble being who is free of stains and has immeasurable qualities is an Illuminated One - bcom-ldan-‘das.
The example Buddha Maitreya presented in the Gyulama ("A Treatise on Buddha Essence”) to illustrate the way in which the Buddha nature pervades everyone is that of many different containers in space. Some containers are filled with less valuable substances, others with nice substances, and yet other containers are filled with very valuable substances. Filled with different things, the containers look alike from the outside, while, in truth, all are pervaded by space. Similarly, sentient beings look different and have varying outer features, but the Buddha nature is fully present in every single living being without exception.
The Mahamudra instructions also tell us that Mahamudra pervades and transcends all appearances and existents in the many world-realms. This does not mean to say that Mahamudra is only in one and not in another, rather Mahamudra pervades and transcends everything, i.e., since it is everywhere, it is here as well as there but it can never be restricted and called “this” or “that.” Since it is the nature of every single living being, it pervades all sentient beings, whether seemingly inferior, or superior, or in between both. Therefore, no living being is really good, bad, or middling. Such distinctions are unfounded since they do not really exist. Concepts such as “male,” “female,” or “hermaphrodite” (I guess one would say that) do not exist from the perspective of the true nature.
Furthermore, it is important to know that the Buddha nature pervades all six realms of existence and is not restricted to one or the other. The enlightened essence is not only that of a hell being, it is not only that of a hungry ghost, animal, human, demi-god, or god. The Buddha nature cannot be described in such a way. It is the nature of every single living being.
The explanation on how Mahamudra pervades and transcends everything is very important. One could ask, “Well, is Mahamudra something that can be expressed or a means of expressing something? Is Mahamudra like a phrase or is it the context of a phrase?” Conventionally, we would say that it is what is expressed in a phrase. Ultimately, Mahamudra transcends both an expression and what is expressed.
The seventh quotation says: "From the short Tantra: ‘Being the great secret of supremely joyful, it always abides as the nature of all.’" The great secret refers to the incredible profundity of the enlightened essence, the vajra expanse. It is only secret because it is so profound. The true nature is supremely joyful for those who realize it, for the Noble Ones. Mind’s true nature always abides as the nature of all, so it is said that the great secret is the true nature. When? Already and always.
The last quotation is from a text called Denyi-Drospa, which could be translated as “The Compendium of the Precise Nature.” The quotation is very short and reads: “A Tathagata – Mahamudra.” Tathagata is an epithet for the Buddha and means "Thus Gone One."9 Tathagata means Mahamudra. As stated in the quotation, they are indivisible. The honorific term “Tathagata” is used when speaking of fruition. The highly honorific term “Mahamudra” is used when referring to the perfect result.
The text continues: “The vajra-holder manifests as the nature of Mahamudra.” The nature of Mahamudra in this line means direct realization of Mahamudra, i.e., actually experiencing genuine reality. When a noble man or woman experiences genuine reality, he or she becomes a vajra-holder, rdo-rje-'dzin-pa in Tibetan, an accomplished master who holds awareness of the indivisibility of bliss and emptiness. A noble individual who has realized the true nature of reality and the true nature of his or her own mind manifests the indivisibility of both, which is Mahamudra. And, in fact, it has to be this way. Should a vajra-holder be different than Mahamudra, then even if both seem profound when explained, they would still be divided into someone who realized what has been realized. And anything that is divided is subject to change and will fall apart. Mahamudra is freedom from duality, which means that it transcends a perceiver and what is perceived. Realization of Mahamudra is a result that does not disintegrate or fall apart when it is accomplished. Let us look at the result of Mahamudra in order to understand that it is not something that is subject to change nor that it can disintegrate or disappear like ordinary things.
Transcendence of what is subject to disintegration means that mental constructs about what lasts and doesn’t last have been overcome, and that is great stability. The teachings Lord Buddha presented when he turned the Wheel of Dharma a second time explain this topic a bit differently. Disciples of the Second Dharmachakra investigate dissolution and its absence, in which case all mental fabrications are actually experienced in the expanse of space. The instructions neither assert nor deny such things as dissolution but call realization “the absence of dissolution, perfect immutability.”
The next quotation is words of reverence that Mahapandit Naropa once spoke. He said: “I bow down with deep respect to the essence that is realized through illusory examples and so forth, the very Mahamudri herself.” He continued by offering a devotional prayer to Mahamudri and said: "Always I bow down with deep respect to non-differentiable appearance-emptiness, which is endowed with the supreme of all aspects. Examples for non-differentiable appearance-emptiness are explained as illusions, like dreams, mirages, and rainbows. They help us realize the essence nature." Chandrakirti offered a similar prayer of devotion to great compassion. Mahasiddha Saraha also offered a similar prostration to mind’s true nature. Dolpo Sangye includes many quotations in his text on Mountain Dharma to help us gain certainty in the meaning of what he sought to teach. I have chosen these quotations for us, too, so that it is easier to gain certainty. And the way we can use them in order to gain certainty is to memorize them, to recite them again and again, and to reflect their meaning. So we should begin doing that now by reading them through together:
"The vajra expanse is extremely stable. That itself is wisdom and manifest enlightenment. Great bliss, the great vajra, perfectly adorned with all vajras, the abode of all vajra-holders, the great vajra of great bliss, beyond the nature of subtle particles, having the nature of images appearing in mirror-divination, she is endowed with the supreme of all aspects. To that Mahamudri I bow down.”
            “Wherever the space element is found, there are thousands of world-realms. Complete and perfect great bliss, Mahamudri, dwells in space like enlightenment. Tathagata, Mahamudra, the vajra-holder manifests as the nature of Mahamudra, to that whose essential nature is realized through the examples of illusions and so forth, to that very Mahamudri herself I always bow down with deep respect. As the great secret, supremely joyful, it always abides as the nature of all."
We should now sing the song that Jetsun Milarepa once sang, called The Profound Definitive Meaning Sung on the Snowy Range, because this song about clear light is very concise. Meditation is a river of clear light, conduct is clear light, and clear light is what is realized at the time of fruition. So, I will sing a verse and then we can start from the beginning.
“The Profound Definitive Meaning Sung on the Snow Range by Jetsun Milarepa
"For the mind that masters view the emptiness dawns
In the content seen not even an atom exists
A seer and seen refined until they’re gone
This way of realizing view, it works quite well.
When meditation is clear light river flow,
There is no need to confine it to sessions and breaks
Meditator and object refined until they’re gone
This heart bone of meditation, it beats quite well.
When you’re sure that conduct’s work is luminous light
And you’re sure that interdependence is emptiness
A doer and deed refined until they’re gone
This way of working with conduct, it works quite well.
When biased thinking has vanished into space
No fony facades, eight dharmas, nor hopes and fears,
A keeper and kept refined until they’re gone
This way of keeping samaya, it works quite well.
When you’ve finally discovered your mind is dharmakaya
And you’re really doing yourself and others good
A winner and won refined until they’re gone
This way of winning results, it works quite well."10

Singing    gLu-dbyangs-len-pa

Singing is a very good way to rest. It is a very good way to take a break, to take a break from meditation, to take a break from working, to take a break from listening to Dharma teachings, and from explaining the Dharma. To sing a song is a very good way to rest, especially when you feel, "I’m really tired." When your head is nodding off, that’s when it’s most important to sing. So, if you don’t nod off and are observant by sitting up straight, by making your mind very clear and sharp, and by singing a song, then you will rest on the inside.
And singing is good rest when you get sick, too. When you get sick and then sing, it makes you feel better. And when you are dying, it is especially good to sing because then you will recognize the deathless expanse of reality. This is what Gyalwa Gotsangpa11 did right before he passed into nirvana. He was surrounded by students who were crying while he was lying on his deathbed. He opened his eyes, sang a song, laughed, and then passed away into nirvana. So, if we can go like that, it would be great.
Once the King of Translators, Marpa, was very sick and his teacher Mahapandit Naropa sent him something like a get-well card, except this was in the form of a vajra song on the six Dharmas. Normally, you might send flowers or something like that to somebody who is sick to make him or her feel better, but not in the Dharma. In the Dharma, you want to give someone something that helps them increase their realization, so that’s what Naropa did for Marpa by singing a Dharma song, and Marpa got very good teachings out of it, so he was extremely happy to receive such an excellent get-well present.
When we are miserable, we have to sing. When we feel horrible, we have to sing. This was also demonstrated in the story of Marpa, who had seven sons. If you count them, his sacred consort, and himself, then there were nine members in his family, and there are nine main deities in the mandala of Hevajra, so this is one reason why Marpa was recognized to be an emanation of Hevajra. What happened was that from among Marpa’s seven sons, Dharma Dode was the one who had the most qualities, who had the greatest faith, diligence, and knowledge. One day Dharma Dode went out riding his horse, was thrown off, and the horse stepped on his head, crushing it so that it broke into eight parts. Dharma Dode died. Marpa came, placed his son on his lap, and sang a vajra song. He felt such intense sadness and grief. Therefore, when we feel sad, the best way to dispel our sorrow is to sing vajra songs.
In the world, the normal thing to do if somebody is suffering is to say to them, "Oh yes, it is so awful and it is too bad that this is happening to you. Poor you!" and that kind of thing, but it doesn’t really help very much. That way of consoling somebody isn’t of much benefit. In fact, it just makes people feel sadder because everybody hears about what happened. How does that help you get over sorrow and pain? It just makes you feel worse. So, in order to transcend sadness, to get beyond it, to dispel it, we should sing vajra songs.
Jetsun Milarepa also went through a hard time and was very sad. It happened when he returned home for the first time after having left his teacher Marpa. The first thing he saw was that his house was in ruins. In Tibetan, they say his house resembled donkey’s ears. If you have a pillar standing here and a beam left standing somewhere else, with nothing in between, without anything left of the house except for things sticking up here and there, then it looks like donkey’s ears. Milarepa entered the ruins of his house and found his mother’s bones. He looked around for his sister, but she was gone and he had no idea where she could be. Then he saw that the Dharma texts, the Sutras that his family owned and traditionally recited together, were eaten by mice and what was left of the pages served as their nest, so the texts were completely ruined. There is the tradition of having someone come to one’s house to read the Sutras and the person who used to read in Milarepa’s home had left because there was no work for him now that the house was destroyed and nobody was around. He became an ordinary servant in someone else’s house. All of this made Milarepa very, very sad, but it gave him even more determination to practice the Dharma, so he sang a song entitled The Solemn Commitment to Leading a Meaningful Life by Practicing the Dharma. Then everything went very well. I want the translator to now sing the song while you listen. Sometimes we can sing together, but it may not sound as good as when somebody else sings and we listen, so we have to alternate.
"The Solemn Commitment to Leading a Meaningful Life by Practicing the Dharma” by Jetsun Milarepa
"Compassionate master of noble heart, the essence of Akshobhya,
As you, oh Marpa the translator, have so rightfully foretold
In this prison yard of mara, this demon of fatherland,
I’ve come to know impermanence, the master illusionist,
What an excellent teacher he is, his message leaves no doubt!
Phenomena of every kind appearing to exist
They cannot last, cannot stand their ground, they change and go their way;
Especially samsaric phenomena have no substantial core.
Because the deeds I have done before have lacked substantial pith,
I’m going now to practise Dharma that has substantial pith.
At first the father was alive but I the son was not.
By the time the son was on his feet, the father was no more.
But even when they were both alive they had no substantial pith,
I, the son, choose sacred Dharma with its substantial pith,
I’m going now to meditate at White Rock Horse Tooth Cave.
At the time the mother was around, then I, the son, was gone.
By the time that I, the son, came back, the mother’d grown old and died.
But even when they were both around they had no substantial pith,
I, the son, choose sacred Dharma with its substantial pith,
I’m going now to meditate at White Rock Horse Tooth Cave.
At the time the sister was around, the brother was nowhere near.
By the time the brother had come back, the sister had gone - but where?
But even when they were both around they had no substantial pith,
The brother chooses sacred Dharma with its substantial pith,
I’m going now to meditate at White Rock Horse Tooth Cave.
At the time we had some Dharma things no caretaker was around.
By the time the caretaker had come back, they were spoiled by a leaking roof.
But even when they were both around they had no substantial pith,
Their keeper chooses sacred Dharma with its substantial pith,
I’m going now to meditate at White Rock Horse Tooth Cave.
At the time there was a house to own, the owner was nowhere near.
By the time the owner had come back, the house was beyond repair.
But even when they were both around they had no substantial pith,
The owner chooses sacred Dharma with its substantial pith,
I’m going now to meditate at White Rock Horse Tooth Cave.
At the time there was a fertile field the farmer was nowhere near.
By the time the farmer had come back, it was overgrown with weeds.
But even when they were both around they had no substantial pith,
I, the heir, choose sacred Dharma with its substantial pith,
I’m going now to meditate at White Rock Horse Tooth Cave.
My fatherland, my father’s house, my father’s fields and all
Samsaric kinds of phenomena without substantial pith,
Whoever wants it, take it, beings without substantial pith,
I, the yogi, am on my way, it’s freedom I’ll achieve.
Oh Father in your kindness, Marpa Lotsawa,
Grant your blessings that this beggar in mountain retreat will stay."12
May all of you realize the true nature of mind that is steadfast, peace, and unchanging and through that be of great benefit to all of the limitless number of sentient beings.
Instructions presented at Vajra Vidya Thrangu House in Oxford, 2000. Transcribed (in 2001) and edited by Gaby Hollmann (in 2007).

1 The full title is Ri-chos-nges-don-rgyam-tsho-zhe-bya-wa-mthar-thug-thun-mong-ma-yin-pa’i-man-ngag bzhugs-so. - See Jeoffrey Hopkins, Mountain Doctrine: Tibet's Fundamental Treatise on Other-Emptiness and the Buddha Matrix by Dolpopa, Snow Lion Publications, Ithaca, 2006. See also Cyrus Stearns, “The Buddha from Dolpo: A Study of the Life and Thought of the Tibetan Master Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen,” in: Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. 121, no. 3, 2001. - Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen (1292- 1361) is known as "The Buddha from Dolpo." He was one of the most important and original thinkers in Tibetan history and perhaps the greatest expert on the teachings of the Kalachakra, the "Wheel of Time." Dolpopa emphasized two levels of the Buddhist teachings of emptiness: "emptiness of self-nature" (rang-stong) and "emptiness of other" (gzhan-stong). Dolpopa realized ultimate reality as the Buddha nature inherent in all living beings. The view of an "emptiness of other," known in Tibetan as Shentong, is Dolpopa's immense spiritual legacy. - See Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche, “Shentong,” in: Thar Lam, August 2008.
2 Ri-bo is the Tibetan term for “mountain.” Words that a notable Lama once spoke when he praised the lofty heights of the Himalayas, ri-bo-che: “To see the greatness of a mountain, one must keep one’s distance. To understand its mood, one must experience it from above and below, at sunrise and sunset, in all weather and during the various seasons. The life of a mountain is as intense and varied as that of a monastery. There is a deep inner relationship between the mountains and monasteries, the true embodiment of the spirit of the Himalayas. What monasteries and mountains have in common are greatness, simplicity, strength, aloofness, and endurance. What beauty, solitude, and grandeur conspire to produce an atmosphere of awe and religious inspiration there will be found a sanctuary, a hermitage, or monastery, or a place of pilgrimage. These citadels of faith amidst the most challenging forces of nature are the fulfilment of nature on a higher plane, expressing its transcendent spirit through the ascending aspirations of man.” The 1300 years old Thrangu Monastery, Qinghai, China, in the site:, Jan. 2006.
3 Dharmadhatu is chos-kyi-dbyings in Tibetan, and means “the realm of phenomena, absolute expanse of reality, basic space of phenomenal reality.” It is synonymous with de-bzhin-nyid, which means “expanse of Dharma, Dharma-element, suchness, voidness or openness, totality of existents, all-encompassing and boundless space.” Dhatu is Sanskrit and means “totality field, continuum, reality field, expanse,” also “element.” Vajra is Sanskrit and was translated into Tibetan as rdo-rje. It means “diamond, king of stones.” As an adjective vajra means “indestructible, invincible, firm,” etc. So Vajradhatu is literally translated as “indestructible, innate space.” brTan-pa means “stable, dependable, firm, steadfast, steady, safe.” Khya-ri-khyo-ri means “unstable, unsteady, precarious, wavering.”
4 See Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, The Uttaratantra - A Treatise on Buddha-Essence. A Commentary on “The Uttaratantra Shastra of Maitreya,” Zhyisil Chokyi Ghatsal Publications, Auckland, N.Z., 2003. In the foreword, Ven. Choje Lama Shedrup wrote, "The Uttaratantra elucidates the Third Turning of the Buddha's teachings on Buddha-essence - the inherent qualities and potential for Buddhahood present in all beings. The elucidation of this potential, emptiness and luminosity inseparable, is the bridge between the Sutra and Tantric paths, the view of Vajrayana and the ground of Mahamudra, thus it is an essential text for all practitioners of the Buddhadharma. The root verses of the text are in prose and thus require an oral transmission and commentary to explain their vast and profound meaning. In addition to the theoretical transmission is the meditative approach to this text, the lineage of which has continued through the Kagyu tradition, received first by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje and continuing unbroken to the present day. This is what is transmitted here through the great wisdom and compassion of Khabje Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, the supreme abbot, scholar, and highly realized master of the Kagyu Lineage. May all beings receive, practice, and realize this." See also Changeless Nature. The Mahayana Uttara Tantra Shastra by Arya Maitreya and Acarya Asanga, translated by Ken & Katia Holmes, Karma Drubgyud Darjay Ling, 2nd edition, 1985.
5 Skandha is the Sanskrit term for “aggregate.” The plural in Buddhist texts refers to phung-po-lnga in Tibetan, “five aggregates” that are the five aspects which comprise the physical and mental constituents of a sentient being. The five skandhas are: physical forms, sensations, conceptions, formations, and consciousnesses. The Sanskrit term dhatu, “element” here refers to khams-bco-brgyad, “the eighteen elements.” The eighteen elements are the six sense powers as the reliance (nang-gi-khams-drug), the six objects as the bases (phyi’i-khams-drug), and the six consciousnesses that rely upon sensory powers (rnam-par-shes-pa’i-khams-drug).
6 gLo-bur-ba'i-sgrib-pa-gnyis (“the two types of adventitious and fleeting obscurations”) are nyon-mongs-pa'i-sgrib-pa (“emotional obscurations”) and shes-bya'i-sgrib-pa (“obscurations of knowledge”). sGrib-pa means “obscurations” that are the veils that cover one's direct perception of mind’s true nature. In the general Buddhist teachings, a few types are mentioned: the obscuration of karma preventing one from entering the path of enlightenment, the obscuration of disturbing emotions (nyon-mongs-pa'i-sgrib-pa) preventing progress along the path, the ingrained obscuration of habitual tendencies (bag-chags) preventing the elimination of confusion, and the final obscuration of dualistic knowledge (shes-bya'i-sgrib-pa) preventing full attainment of buddhahood.
7  Vajra-holder is rdo-rje-'dzin-pa and is also a respectful title for an accomplished master. Great bliss is mahasukha in Sanskrit, bde-ba-chen-po in Tibetan. bDe-ba-chen-po’i-ye-shes is “wisdom of great bliss.” The word for “inseparable” is dbyer-med, i.e., “indivisible, undifferentiated, undivided, not to be distinguished, quite the same, identical, inseparably united.” dbYer-med-gnyug-ma'i-rang-'gros means “natural mode of innate inseparability.”
8  Bhagavan (m.) and Bhagavati (f.) are the Sanskrit terms that were translated into Tibetan as bcom-ldan, which means “blessed.” bCom-ldan-‘das means “the transcendent, endowed victor,” an epithet for Lord Buddha. A few translations into English are:The Perfect Free Conqueror, Blessed One, Honoured One, Illuminated Conqueror, Subduer, Supramundane Victor, the Lord.”
9  Peter Roberts tells us that Tathagata is comprised first of the syllable tatha, which means “in that manner, in that way, so, thus.” The second half of the word has been interpreted to be both gata, “gone,” and agata, “come,” as the same result comes from the combination of tatha with either word. However, gata as the conclusion of the compound word normally has the meaning of “to be” something or somewhere, so that the term would mean “one is thus” or “like that.”  Therefore, although the Sanskrit can mean, “to be in such (a state or condition),” it has been glossed and translated literally as “one who has come and/or gone like (the previous Buddhas),” i.e., a Buddha. The Chinese translation of the term tatha followed the interpretation “one come in that way,” while the Tibetan de-bzhin-gshegs-pa followed “one gone in that way.” The Standard English translation of either the Sanskrit or Tibetan is “Buddha nature.” See Ven. Khenchen Thrangu Rinpoche, The Buddha Nature. Instructions on A Treatise entitled: “A Teaching on the Essence of the Tathagatas (The Tathagatagarbha)” by the Third Karmapa, Rangjung Dorje, according to An Illumination of the Thoughts of Rangjung (Dorje): A Commentary to “The Treatise that Teaches the Buddha Nature” by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye the Great, translated by Peter Roberts and presented at the Namo Buddha Seminar in Oxford, 1990.
10 Translated by Jim  Scott, Marpa Translation Committee, 1993. Printed by International Press, Singapore, pages 35 – 37.
11  Gyalwa Gotsangpa spread the Kagyu Drukpa tradition in West Tibet and his followers came to be known as disciples of the Upper Drukpa School. A 13th century shrine was erected in the mountains behind the Monastery of Hemis in Ladakh where Gyalwa Gotsangpa meditated in a cave. His footprint and handprint can still be seen on a rock there. Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche presented teachings on the The Eight Cases of Basic Goodness not to be Shunned by Gyalwa Gotsangpa in the course of this seminar and tells us that Gyalwa Gotsangpa was an emanation of Jetsun Milarepa. The first verse of the song reads: The illness and its painfulness have neither base nor root. Relax into it, fresh and uncontrived. Revealing dharmakaya, way beyond all speech and thought, don’t shun them. Pain and illness are basically good. Khenpo explained, "Meditating on the essential nature of sickness itself is the tradition of Rangtong. Meditating on the essential nature of the thought, ‘I am sick,’ is the tradition of Shentong. Realizing the indivisibility of appearance and mind is Mahamudra, i.e., realizing that there is no duality in terms of mind and appearances is Mahamudra. Therefore, from among the eight cases of basic goodness not to be shunned, it is important not to shun the basic goodness of sickness.” Khenpo continued, “When Gyalwa Gotsangpa was meditating in the mountains, he got sick a lot. There were no doctors up there and certainly no hospitals. He didn’t leave his cave to find help but stayed where he was and meditated upon the essential nature of his sickness. By doing so, he had wonderful support for his meditation - he attained realization, and when he attained realization, he got well. He sang many songs about taking sickness on the path. Jetsun Milarepa, on the other hand, underwent austerities while he was serving his teacher. He had to build four towers, which symbolize the four karmic activities of pacifying, enriching, magnetizing, and destroying. When he went off to practice, he didn’t get sick, so he didn’t sing many songs about taking sickness on the path.” Khenpo Tsultrim Gyatso Rinpoche, Vajra Songs, forthcoming in Thar Lam.
12  Translated by Jim Scott, Marpa Translation Committee, 1995, pages  2-6.