The Quintessence of Rangtong

A long time coming, actually a year to the day since my last January 13th posting, The Quintessence of Zhentong from the collection of 108 Quintessential Instructions, I thought to revisit these instructions with a complimentary post.

Each of these instructions was meant to act as a pith directive to the practitioner about how to cultivate a particular outlook on the nature of reality through contemplative experience. These 108 Quintessential Instructions of the Jonang continue to be taught and transmitted within the living tradition, and the range of these instructions is testament to the diversity of Buddhist practices preserved within Tibetan literature.[1]


Below is my draft translation of the instruction on rangtong or the understanding of the view of the intrinsically empty nature of phenomena as it was compiled by the Jonang master Kunga Drolchok (1507-1566) in his collection of essential guidance instructions.

As it reads in translation,

Here is essential guidance on the view of rangtong [Drolchok's preface]:

One begins by going to refuge and by generating the mind of awakening.

The basis for Madhyamaka is integrating into experience [an understanding of] merely apparent consensual designations, what is wholesome and unwholesome, and that which is most subtle. This is meditative equipoise without obstructions, without arising, without ceasing, without persisting, without arriving, without going, without difference, and without sameness — free from the eight extreme fabrications.

During post-meditation, contemplate for extended periods on how things are like an illusion. Then while meditating, when you hear sounds of emptiness, great bliss will arise within your mind and the hairs on your body will stand straight up. Your eyes will swell with tears as you join the Mahāyāna family.

Have immediate realization of this essential point:

 

Free from what is to be relinquished and from emotional upset, sustain experience separate from fabrications without fixating and without clinging.

Without engaging in the principle spiritual practices of body and speech, remain stable in the actuality that is separate from fabrications without attainment.

While necessarily engaging in the principle spiritual practices of body and speech, the entirety of the collective fabrications will be extremism.

The extent of this fascination is like a sky separate from clouds.

 

As editor and compiler, Kunga Drolchok writes a short colophon at the end that reads "Again, this is the arrangement of the text on the supreme view that is apart from seizing while naturally free," and attributes an author by the name of Patshab.[2] Though I can't be sure with such a cryptic line, my guess at the moment is that its probably the eleventh century Tibetan translator Patshab Lotsāwa Nyima Drakpa (b. 1055) who wrote a commentary on Candrakirti's classic Madhyamakāvatāra.

As always, your comments are most welcome.





 

Endnotes:

1. An outline of The 108 Quintessential Instructions can be found in the last volume (18) of Kongtrul's Gdams ngag mdzod on the TBRC website, Jo nang khrid brgya [TBRC# O01CT0013]. For a related post see, What Is / Isn't Rangtong?

2.The colophon reads simply, Pa tshab kyi khrid dpe las btus so. This is probably Pa tshab Lo tsā ba Nyi ma grags pa [TBRC# P5651]?


 

 

 

Administrative Notes: 
Byang sems Zla rgyal is Byang chub sems dpa' Zla ba rgyal mtshan, who was a disciple of Sa chen Kun dga' snying po, among others. He recorded one of Sa chen's 11 commentaries on Virupa's Rdo rje tshig rkang (of the Lam 'bras tradition). He is mentioned in my two books about the Lam 'bras. He was the source of one of the famous dmar khrid that focus on Avalokitesvara, which is also in Grol mchog's Khrid brgya. More info about him in the Blue Annals too. Note that the term Dbu ma chen po does not always refer to nges don/gzhan stong topics. Other traditions (even the Geluk) use it also, as in the case of the Dbu ma chen po lta khrid that you mention.
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