The Jonangpa Blog

Dzogchen & Zhentong

Reading through the miscellaneous guidance texts ( khrid yig ) of Khenpo Lodrö Drakpa , I came across a brief instruction that he gave on clarifying the distinctions between the 4 predominant Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna views: (1) zhentong, (2) rangtong, (3) mahāmudrā, and (4) dzogchen. [1]

Of particular interest to me is the question, "What are the differences between the zhentong and dzogchen views?" This is a question of recurring interest in learned Buddhist circles. Not only have several friends in New York and elsewhere asked me this question, but I remember that while living in the monastery, monks would occasionally come to see my Tibetan teacher and ask him this very same question. Rinpoche would smile and assure the monks by saying, "There are slight differences."

Since Khenpo Lodrak makes such clear distinctions between these 4 views ― and since his instructions are so short and sweet, I thought to translate the excerpt here,

Whose Svabhāva is It?

jf_taranatha_thangka_2.jpg Taranatha

One of the major tripping points in Mahāyāna Buddhist philosophy is identifying what is intrinsically existent ― what is referred to in Sanskrit as "svabhāva" ( rang bzhin ), and what is not ( nisvabhāva , rang bzhin med ).

Svabhāva is the central target of the Svātantrika and Prāsaṅgika Rangtong Madhyamaka enterprise, and is essential in understanding zhentong. [1] However, what is considered svabhāva is not the same within the major Mahāyāna philosophical systems. Since this is a source of possible confusion, I thought to make a few notes here in order to help clarify what is "svabhāva" or intrinsically existent, according to who.

To begin, we must first identify the contexts in which svabhāva is defined. According to Mahāyāna thought, there is what is established to be real or truly existent ( bden grub ), and what is not. In other words, there is the real and the unreal. What is real and what is unreal are further defined as being threefold in nature: (1) the imaginary nature ( parikalpita , kun btags ); (2) the relational nature ( paratantra , gzhan dbang ); (3) the perfected nature ( pariniṣpanna , yongs grub ).

Winter Newsletter

We at Jonang Foundation invite you to read the spring issue of our annual online newsletter.

Contents in this issue include:

What's Happening at JF Aspiration for the Jonangpa The JF Blog Fundraiser Jonang Nuns Project Ngedon Thartuk Translation Initiative

New Translations

4 New Translations from Cyrus Stearns

Courtesy of Cyrus Stearns, author of "The Buddha from Dolpo" and a member of Jonang Foundation's Board of Directors , we have recently added four new short translations to our expanding online library. These additions include 2 texts by Dolpopa, one by the 16th century Jonang and Shangpa Kagyu master Kunga Drolchok, and one by Drolchok's own teacher Lochen Ratnabhadra.

Tibetan Tanjur

Collated Edition of the Tripitaka: Tibetan Tanjur

jf_tanjur_1.jpg Tanjur Set

This edition of the Tibetan Tanjur was put together by the Tripitika Collated Bureau at the Chinese Center for Tibetan Studies. The product of more than 20 years of careful compilation by erudite Tibetan scholars and over 100 specialists, these works incorporate the different editions of the Tibetan Tanjur including the Beijing, Narthang and Dzoni editions.

Jonang Nuns Project

照片 109.jpg Jonang Nunnery under Construction

Jonang Foundation has recently embarked upon the Jonang Nuns Project .

This project was initiated during the Summer of 2007 in order to provide greater care for women Buddhist practitioners in Tibet. In particular, the project is concerned with raising funds in order to provide Jonang nuns with the necessary resources for housing, education, and meditation practice.

The "Other" Emptiness

The technical Tibetan term "zhentong" ( gzhan stong , often mis-phoneticized "shentong") suggests a particular view of reality, one that can be misconstrued due to the word itself. To give a simple gloss of the term, "zhentong" is: that which is empty ( stong ) of the other ( gzhan ). The word is often translated into English as "other-emptiness," begging the question: "Is there an 'other' emptiness?" That is, an emptiness other than the one we all know and love?

To begin, the term "zhentong" was coined by the 14th century Kālachakra master and Jonangpa scholar, Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen who employed it to contextualize his understanding...

Taranatha's "Essence"

The Essence of Zhentong

Composed by the Jonang scholar Taranatha (1575-1635), the "Essence of Zhentong" ("Essence of Shentong;" other-emptiness) offers a succinct presentation of both non-Buddhist and Buddhist philosophical systems, culminating in a discussion on the significance of Madhyamaka in general and the Great Madhyamaka tradition more specifically. A clear and precise introduction to " zhentong " as a view and system, the "Essence of Zhentong" is a classic reading drawn from the repository of Jonang philosophical literature.

Story of Shambhala

Though the story of the mythic land Shambhala as related from the Kālachakra Tantra is well known, I thought to recount a portion of the legend here. What follows is an edited excerpt taken from my translation of the introduction to the Kālachakra empowerment, as it was conferred in Italy a few weeks ago. [1]

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Bestowal of the Kālachakra:

The Buddha Shakyamuni taught this [Kālachakra] system on the 15th day of the black-star month [2nd month according to Kālachakra astrology] at the great and glorious Danyakataka Stupa in South India. At that time, he was surrounded by an unfathomable retinue...

Rngog Collection

The Rngog Collection

Now available for purchase is the 10 volume Rngog Collection. This collection was reproduced by Paltseg Publications along with the 7 volume Kalachakra commentary series (also available for purchase). These two collections make a complete set titled, " Phyag bris gces btus " in 17 volumes (sold separately here).

To view and purchase these fine Tibetan language ( dbu med ) texts, visit the Assorted Tibetan Books page in JF's online Shop.