"However, the Dharmakaya is not to be understood as a Divine Being, or an Absolutely Existent Permanent Entity.
The problem we are facing, as students in the Kagyu lineage, it seems, is the seeming contradiction between the teachings of the
second and third turnings of the Dharmachakra. Briefly put, the second turning emphasizes the emptiness of self and phenomena, the
absolute nonexistence of any permanent, unchanging essence. This is the Madhayamaka view. Yet, the third turning, as exemplified by the
Uttaratantra Shastra, espouses a permanent, unchanging Buddha Nature, inherent in all sentient beings,
which is both the cause for their eventual enlightenment, and the fruit of said enlightenment.
It must be understood that these teachings, though apparently contradictory, are actually not. The Dharmakaya, or Truth Body of
the Buddha, is empty. It is beyond conceptual elaboration, and cannot be posited as a Thing, a Being, or anything else. It is
really beyond existence and non-existence. Yet it is posited as "having qualities," and of being of the nature of "clear light."
It must be understood that these two points of view are not mutually
Khenpo Tsultrim Gyamtso (Buddha Nature. Snow Lion Pub., 2000) states,
"The terms "dharmadhatu," "suchness," and "absolute truth" are synonymous in that both "dharmadhatu" and "suchness" denote emptiness
and the absolute truth is the way everything exists, which is also emptiness.
In the context dealt with here, which is to say in the (Shentong) view, this emptiness is to be understood mainly in the
sense of ultimate emptiness or the ultimate expanse. This is the nature of mind or the way the mind truly exists, being the
inseparable union of spaciousness and awareness or of emptiness and clear light.
According to the Madhyamaka, however, that nature of mind is to be understood solely from the point of view that all
phenomena do not truly exist. In this view it is nothing but empty in the sense of not being accessible to any conceptualization.
It is very important to gain a proper understanding of these two different
views. What is mainly taught in the system to which the Uttaratantra Shastra belongs is the aspect of awareness (Tib. rig pa)
or clear light (Tib. od gsal), whereas in the system of the Madhyamaka the aspect of emptiness in the sense of freedom from
conceptual elaboration is exclusively taught.
If one understands well what is meant by the inseparable union of emptiness and clear
light, one comes very close to the path of the Vajrayana (305.)"
So, although the views can be called different, it appears that a union, or synthesis, of aspects of these views is to be desired.
Khenpo Tsultrim Rinpoche also comments on the difference between the Hindu notion of eternal atman and the Mahayana idea of Buddha
"There is a great difference between "true self" as taught
in the Hindu traditions and as taught in the Mahayana system. In the first sense the term "true self" denotes a self that is eternal,
unique, and independent. "True self" as taught in the Uttaratantra Shastra is equivalent to the state of peace in
terms of complete freedom from any conceptual elaboration ... . The Mahayana system does not hold to the view of an eternal, unique, and
independent self (343-4)."
If another tradition explains the Absolute in terms similar to Rinpoche's explanation of mind, which is after all the Dharmakaya in
its absolute nature, then I join hands and prostrate to such a tradition.
... meanwhile, I rejoice in those who practice any path which leads away from suffering and towards peace and compassion, to
~ Cone to the Kagyu email list, 2002. [The spacing of
Tsultrim text is edited for easier online reading.]
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