The Universal Inclusiveness. By Karen Liljenberg

The Universal Inclusiveness [of Perfection] — Spyi bcings
On the Thig le drug pa and the sPyi chings

Homage to glorious Samantabhadra!117

Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian), 12th–14th century, China

[This] is the clarification, without confusion, of the all-inclusive Mantra[yāna] scriptural transmissions.

The self exists. There is no other. Spontaneous perfection exists, as the Great Self. Because it is one with the state of Samantabhadra, there is no other. In [the notion of] no-self, one falls into the error of nihilism.

As sentient beings’ conceptual thoughts increase, [those] thoughts spin [them in Saṃsāra]. Once concepts have left their karmic imprint, [they] become [caught] in the conceptual state.

The Sūtra section and treatises that are provisional in meaning explain [phenomena] as empty. Moreover, they explain them as non-existent. Even more than that, emptiness [itself] is explained as non-self. This, unless comprehended by scriptural transmission, is not proper, and is the non-Buddhist view of nihilism, which is difficult to alter, and a serious misdeed. Therefore it is taught that a conceptual view, which is easier to alter, is less dangerous.

Even meditation on non-thought is a mental process, with a great risk of leading to [a view of] mere nothingness, which is difficult to correct. Therefore, grasping at a visualized swift118 cause119 is easier to correct, because grasping arises from obtaining.120

What shows this?

Just as grasping a snake is bad, so is a mistaken approach [to] knowledge mantras. Emptiness is hard to censure, [but] conceptual thoughts are basically easy.

But if so, [you] may say, doesn’t [this] become a concept? In this sense it is not a concept: because permanence does not exist, therefore [the concept of] “other” is negated. Because nothingness does not exist, therefore the self is included; and so both eternalism and nihilism are purified.

Since there is no production or cessation, they are also negated, and because there is no self or duality, there is also purity. The whole universe in its identity with the self is the spontaneous accomplishment of Great Perfection in oneself.

Revue d’Etudes TibétainesOn the Thig le drug pa and the sPyi chings, two of the Thirteen Later Translations of the rDzogs chen Mind Series.

In this paper I [Karen Liljenberg, SOAS University of London] set out the case for new identifications of two of the Thirteen Later Translations, with editions and translations of the two texts.

Revue d’Etudes Tibétaines
numéro vingt-quatre — Octobre 2012
Studies in the Sems sde tradition of rDzogs chen
Edited by Jean-Luc Achard

Read the whole article here at

117 There is no end-quote particle after the homage, but even so I take it to be part of the root text.
118 drag dal appears in the Man ngag lta ba’i ‘phreng ba as part of a longer phrase drag dal du ‘gro ba “to go with firm steps”, which Karmay (1988, p. 161, n. 99) notes is explained as “to go with fast steps means to go simultaneously and not gradually”.
119 The word “rgyu” here could simply mean “cause”, but it is also the name of the second of the three samādhi of Mahāyoga, the causal samādhi.
120 The word “obtaining” (lon) may have a special technical meaning here as found perhaps in the title of the Chan text “sems lon” that is frequently referred to in the bSam gtan mig sgron. It also occurs in Dunhuang text PT 117, in the title of the bSam gtan gyi lon, a work attributed by Sa skya Paṇḍita to Hva-shang Mahāyāna. See Karmay, 1975, p. 153.


Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian), 12th–14th century, ChinaImage: Bodhisattva Samantabhadra (Puxian),
12th–14th century, China.
© The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Categories: Book reviews, Buddhism, Mahayana, Texts, Tibetan Buddhism

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