Perfect or Perfected? Rongtön on Buddha Nature

Rongtön Sheja Künrig. Perfect or Perfected? Rongtön on Buddha Nature: A Commentary on the Fourth Chapter of the Ratnagotravibhāga.

Translated and introduced by Christian Bernert. Kathmandu: Vajra Publications, 2018.

Perfect Perfected cover

As the most important canonical treatise on Buddha-nature, the Ratnagotravibhāga (also known as Uttaratantraśāstra, Tib. rgyud bla ma) established the doctrinal foundations for the Mahayana philosophy of tathāgatagarbha, the doctrine according to which all sentient beings are either inherently buddhas or endowed with the potential for awakening. Among the most prominent Tibetan commentaries on this text figures that of the Sakya master Rongtön Sheja Künrig, a prolific writer who was active during the golden age of Tibetan Buddhist philosophy. Refuting on one hand the notion that Buddha-nature is synonymous with mere emptiness, and on the other that the mind is inherently endowed with the Buddha qualities, Rongtön argues for an understanding of Buddha-nature that embraces both aspects of the nature of mind: cognizance and emptiness.

RONGTÖN SHEJA KÜNRIG (1376-1449) figures among the greatest teachers of the Sakya tradition. Particularly renowned for his commentaries on the Five Treatises of Maitreya, his vast erudition and extensive teaching career made him one of the most influential
masters for the scholastic lineages of all schools of Tibetan Buddhism.
This volume contains an annotated translation of Rongtön Chenpo’s commentary on the central chapter of this treatise (including the relevant stanzas of the root text), along with an extensive introduction to the historical development of this doctrine and an analysis of Rongtön’s position.

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Contents:

Contents
Foreword ………………………………………………………………………………….. vii
Preface and Acknowledgments …………………………………………………….. ix

I – Translator’s Introduction
The Doctrine of Buddha-nature …………………………………………………….. 1
Overview ………………………………………………………………………………… 1
Sources …………………………………………………………………………………… 4
The Sūtras …………………………………………………………………………… 4
The Śāstras ………………………………………………………………………….. 8
The Ratnagotravibhāga ………………………………………………………………. 11
The Text of the Ratnagotravibhāga ………………………………………….. 11
The Question of the Authorship of the Ratnagotravibhāga ………….. 12
The Ratnagotravibhāga in India ………………………………………………. 13
The Ratnagotravibhāga in Tibet ………………………………………………. 15
The Analytical School of Loden Sherab ………………………………… 15
The Meditative School of Tsen Khaboché ……………………………… 19
Previous Studies and the Aim of the Present work ……………………… 20
Rongtön and His Presentation of Buddha-nature ……………………………. 22
A Brief Biography of Rongtön Sheja Künrig ……………………………… 22
Rongtön’s Presentation of Buddha-nature ………………………………….. 23
Introduction ……………………………………………………………………….. 23
The Buddha Qualities and the Dharmakāya …………………………… 26
The Dhātu as a Cause …………………………………………………………. 28
The Gotra and the Luminous Nature of the Mind …………………… 29
Rongtön and the Ratnagotravibhāgavyākhyā …………………………. 33
Summary…………………………………………………………………………… 34
Notes on the Translation …………………………………………………………. 35

II – Translation: An Extensive Exposition of the Dhātu
All Sentient Beings Have Buddha-Nature ……………………………………… 37
Determining the Dhātu by Means of a Tenfold Presentation ……………. 44
Essential nature and cause ……………………………………………………….. 44
Result and function …………………………………………………………………. 50
Connection …………………………………………………………………………….. 62
Manifestation …………………………………………………………………………. 65
States …………………………………………………………………………………….. 67
All-pervasiveness ……………………………………………………………………. 69
Immutability ………………………………………………………………………….. 71
Inseparable qualities ……………………………………………………………….. 97
Summary ………………………………………………………………………………… 106
Appendix: Detailed Outline of the Commentary ………………………….. 107
Glossary …………………………………………………………………………………..113
Tibetan Names and Places ………………………………………………………… 125
Bibliography ……………………………………………………………………………. 129
Index ……………………………………………………………………………………… 137