Kulayarāja Tantra—The Motherly Buddha

Firstly, I’d like to commend Jonathan for forwarding me the link to the E. K. Neumaier-Dargyay’s translation (The Sovereign All-Creating Mind-The Motherly Buddha:A Translation of the Kun byed rgyal po’i mdo) of this majestic-work. Am most familiar with her erudite skills as another of her books, The Rise of Esoteric Buddhism in Tibet, was the main source of inspiration for my Bodhi-film, Terma: A Mind Film by Vajragoni. From a traditional standpoint, this tantra (extant in Tibetan) presents and focuses on the Supernal-Mind Teaching of the Primordial Buddha, Samantabhadra, who is personified in the text as Bodhicitta, or the Awakened Buddha Mind. We will shortly discuss how for E. K. Neumaier-Dargyay, the text is better rendered as the feminine-side of the Primordial Buddha, or Samantabhadrī—thus the subtitle of this Blog, The Motherly Buddha. First though, how is Bodhicitta best understood in the context of this tantra? Another resource we will be using side by side with the E. K. Neumaier-Dargyay translation is the Dominantly Superb, The Supreme Source:

In Mahayana Buddhism the term bodhicitta designates the mind (citta), or intention addressed to the attainment of enlightenment (bodhi), and at the same time the fundamental nature of mind that is the very essence of enlightenment.

Relative bodhicitta entails training the mind in the altruistic aspiration towards enlightenment while absolute bodhicitta is direct or intuitive knowledge of the true nature of phenomena, that is, emptiness, or sunyata.

In Tantra the term bodhicitta assumes a more specific connotation. The essence of enlightenment or “Buddha-nature,” revealed in the sutras of the third turning of the Wheel of Dharma, is equated to the subtle essence (thig le) of the human body, the coarse aspect of which is present in the seminal fluid and in the ovum. Thus in Tantra, bodhicitta is recognized as the seed of the manifestation of the infinite mandalas and deities who are all already contained in potentiality in the energy structure of the physical body itself, what is known as the “vajra body.”

And lastly, in Dzogchen, the primordial state of bodhicitta is the source of all the manifestations of energy: it is not only a condition of emptiness as in the sutras, nor does it depend on the transformational methods of the Tantras for its realization. The way to cultivate and to reintegrate one’s existence into this state is called “self-liberation,” remaining in pure non-dual recognition without being conditioned by the flow of thoughts.

Chogyal Namkhai Norbu;Andriano Clemente. The Supreme Source: The Fundamental Tantra Of Dzogchen Semde Kunjed Gyalpo (Kindle Edition)

The full working-title of the original work in Sanskrit is the Sarvadharma Mahasandhi Bodhichitta Kulayarāja Tantra:

Sarvadharma mahasandhi: sarva means all, everything; dharma in this case designates not the teaching, but existence, everything that exists. Thus sarva dharma indicates the totality of phenomena of existence. Maha, in Tibetan chenpo, means great, or total; sandhi corresponds to the Tibetan dgozpa, meaning perfection or completeness: mahasandhi or dzog pa chenpo means that everything is perfect or complete, nothing is lacking. Thus the expression sarvadharma mahasandhi signifies that all existence is perfect, complete in all the aspects that we deem good or bad, of both transmigration in samsara and of the liberation of nirvana. (ibid, Kindle Edition)

Another dominant term to watch for is that of Atiyoga:

Atiyoga is the path that leads to the realization of the state of Dzogchen and, as such, is synonymous with it. Ati means primordial, and yoga, in this context, denotes living, concrete knowledge of the real condition. (ibid, Kindle Edition)

In atiyoga the fundamental method is that of self-liberation, the effortless path of the recognition of pure non-dual presence. This is the message that Kunjed Gyalpo transmits to Sattvavajra, and, consequently, to all those to this day who read this tantra. (ibid, Kindle Edition)

E.K. Neumaier-Dargyay highlights Atiyoga as:

The Atiyoga is also known as rdzogs chert or Great Perfection.

Every moment presents itself anew in its total integration. The adepts of Atiyoga are in harmony with this. Their acts come forth spontaneously and not as a reaction to something else, nor are their acts destined to change or produce anything.

The state of mind typifying the Atiyoga is beyond the scope of conceptual thinking as all distinctions become irrelevant. The adepts of Atiyoga refrain from doctrinal debates as well as from ritualism as both are based on a distinction-making attitude. The adepts will accept every event in its own right without imposing definitions or judgments on it. In a figurative way they become speechless in a nameless world of blissful silence in integrated being.

In contrast to the scriptures, Atiyoga is not a teaching taught by the Buddha, it is the matrix of Buddhahood. (this does not mean to exclude the sutras, but to fulfill them.—inclusion mine)

(The Sovereign All-Creating Mind-The Motherly Buddha: A Translation of the Kun byed rgyal po’i mdo)

Returning now to the text, it is written in the form of a dialogue between Buddha Kunjed Gyalpo (All Sovereign-Source ) and Sattvavajra (Diamond-Being). For our purposes, The Supreme Source will be substituted for All-Creating Sovereign and Vajrasattva will be substituted for Neumaier-Dargyay’s, Sems-dpa’ rdo-rje.

Also, our focus, following Neumaier-Dargyay’s lead and text, will be exclusively on the Root Tantra, not the adjacent two additions called “later tantras”. This Root Tantra addresses those of a Higher-Capacity for Buddha-Gnosis, indeed, it unequivocally defines the view of the “primordial state” that is singular to Dzogchen, and for that matter, Unborn Mind Zen.

For E. K. Neumaier-Dargyay, the text reveals a most feminine dimension, thus Samantabhadrī vs. exclusively Samantabhadra. This is not to be confused with a feminist stance, as some scholars wrongly accuse her of; for Neumaier-Dargyay:

The All Creating-Sovereign is not a male god presiding as judge over the world but its governing life force which is beyond any gender related distinction…

In the root-text the Sovereign Mind is seen as “father” and “mother” of all that exists. In the second appendix the issue of gender equality is taken one step further. In a chapter dealing with the different names given to the Sovereign Mind it is said: Because all the Buddhas of the three times (past, present and future) merge from Me, I am called the Buddha-Mother. (Neumaier-Dargyay, ibid)

We shall see as our series progresses that this persona becomes decidedly feminine in nature. For me, it is actually Arya Tara (Arya Tara AS Samantabhadrī Yin aspect) speaking through her primordial identity as Samantabhadrī, or more specifically, Supreme Source. Neumaier-Dargyay also states that this “Sovereign is the intelligent ground of the universe.” Yea, IT’s an intelligent force:

Thus the force is an intelligent one. This force is said to be in balance, as it is free of any partiality, particularity or peculiarity. It rests squarely in itself. Thus the text calls it “self-originated”; it knows neither cause nor conditions nor results. It is not tainted by subject-object dichotomy, thus its nature is “pure” and “limpid.” It transcends the parameters of time and place; it is from the primordial.

The intelligent ground is self-originated pristine awareness (rang byung ye shes) which abides in its own lucid nature. It is not dependent on anything. The ground s oneness is its decisive characteristic but it presents itself in a threefold way. These two statements are not mutually exclusive but complementary. The intelligent ground is one, immutable and timeless, but it is present in all that exists in a such way that we as human beings can speak of its three aspects or three natures Both statements are equally true and valid.

From the perspective of the ground it is one and nothing but one, but from the perspective of the world and its creatures it is sensed in a threefold manner.

1. The own being (rang bzhin) of the intelligent ground as pristine awareness;
2. The actuating force or essence (ngo bo) inherent in the intelligent ground and which is the factor responsible for the existence of the universe;
3. Compassion (snying rje) which is the sole force determining the interaction among the different components of the world.
The pristine awareness imprints its own luminous nature upon the universe which becomes thereby intelligible. (Neumaier-Dargyay, ibid)

All this takes on a most salient dimension, for this “mind of perfect purity” is the Primordial-Awareness Principle Itself, THAT Principle which was fine-tuned in our Dharma-series based on Atiyoga, The Lankavatarian Book of the Dead, “The elixir of Primordial Bodhi restores the innate knowledge and capacity of the original essence—going back to the fundamental, primordial-principle; returning to the root-source.”

The text and commentary will be forthcoming soon but it will be most helpful if the principles outlined in this opening blog be digested and assimilated into one’s very being. In so doing, the sutra itself will become a process of a most exquisite supernal-assimilation.

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11 Responses to Kulayarāja Tantra—The Motherly Buddha

  1. Vyartha says:

    Friendly reminder to the readers that the same Namkhai Norbu cited above also tirelessly repeated how Guruyoga was the central practice of his Dzogchen teachings, and he also stressed there are fundamental differences between Zen and Dzogchen.

    HYT of Mahāmudrā/Dzogchen requires empowerment and pointing out instructions by a qualified Guru. Without this, there is no Tantric practice. It only can come through the blessings of the lineage.

    Thank you for taking an interest in the path of the Secret Mantra. Mantrayāna is not unreachable but requires honest devotion and blessings of the lineage. It all starts with abhiṣeka, which is the sine qua non of entering the mandala of this path

    sarva mangalam!

    • Jonathan says:

      I think Vajragoni is well aware that complete practice of Dzogchen requires a guru (and the essence of Guru Yoga is devotion to the Supreme Source, which takes its support in the initiatory guide). Moreover, formal ‘lineage’ initiation is not sufficient; the guide needs to have the living power and realization as well. Since many of the lineage holders today are not deeply realized at all, their initiates are at no greater advantage for it. The proof of this is to be seen everywhere, devout propaganda notwithstanding. You seem to be confusing Dzogchen with Highest Yoga Tantra. They’re not the same, as the honourable Namkhai Norbu (who passed on from this life recently) was quick to point out. While tantric practices have come to be closely integrated with Dzogchen as often a serve as preparation for it, Namkhai Norbu distinguished Dzogchen from Tantra, “the way of transformation”. Dzogchen in its pure and radical form, in which it was found more often in the early days, can be practiced independently of the graduated tantric path, and in that direct and radical form, it is not so very different from some forms of Zen (‘Zen’ throughout its history has not been just one thing, and the Zen represented on this blog is far from what often goes for Zen today). The practice approach and formulation of doctrine are unique to each tradition, but what they have in common is essentially that both point directly to That which this blog names the Unborn Mind. In this Dzogchen, Essence Mahamudra as taught by Gampopa and the most profound Zen meet in that one centre. So instead of sectarian possessiveness, maye one should appreciate that someone like Vajragoni is a panel if appreciating the deep import of this sublime scripture. The Light cannot be owned by any tradition or human group. Peace out.

      • Vajragoni says:

        Jonathan is spot-on! He has articulated my own position on this very clearly. No one lineage has exclusive rights over the Primordial Light that animates our very being.

        • Jonathan says:

          I see that there some autocorrect typos in my reply. I meant “capable of appreciating” of course.

          Regarding Namkhai Norbu again, he was one of those who gave Dzogchen transmissions quite freely, without all the formal requirements (extensive tantric programs etc) that in the Nyingma tradition became associated with it. So he was ‘liberal’ in that manner, which isn’t without historical precedence. But as we can see even in the scripture dealt with in this article series, the pure Dzogchen approach isn’t for the most common types unless they be rigorously prepared for it. Milarepa tried a direct introduction to Dzogchen practice before he met Marpa, but it didn’t work for him in his condition.

          • Vyartha says:

            ” the pure Dzogchen approach isn’t for the most common types unless they be rigorously prepared for it”

            That’s all I wanted to say.

      • Vyartha says:

        Namkhai Norbu wrote a book about Dzogchen and Zen, the book points out the difference. I’m not a fan of the ecumenic ‘all traditions point to the same’ spirit because as soon as you blend everything together, each approach loses its edge.

        “The Light cannot be owned by any tradition or human group” – sure, but it comes to us through traditions, and groups. Very rarely it comes directly from the Saṃbhogakāya. Only to special, should I say “chosen” individuals.

        True, there are some schools of Dzogchen that disassociate it from Tantra, but then after the pointing out instructions and your realization of rigpa, they will tell you to go back to the 84000 and pick whatever you need to work on. So all of those practitioners will then go to Hinayana, Mahayana and Tantric practices and practice for decades.

        Your post’s intention was mistaken, you projected on my comment something that wasn’t there, ie. a critique addressed at Vajragoni. Go back to my initial comment and you will see it is addressed at the (casual) reader. The casual reader has to be reminded of certain things. For 99.9% of people, reading Tantras is a complete waste of time, without having personal instructions of a qualified Guru.

        • Vyartha says:

          You can start with pointing out instructions via empowerment, but sooner or later you will go back to vipaśyanā and śamatha, I assure you, and then realize the importance of practicing bodhicitta, and the Four Thoughts, and purification. The question of Dzogchen with or without “transformation” is not a question of a separate transmission. Instead, it’s just about where one begins. One can begin “at the end”: with rigpa. And then go back to all those things. Or one can begin with lamrim like the Gelugs and get there at the end.

      • Vyartha says:

        “Essence Mahamudra as taught by Gampopa and the most profound Zen meet in that one center.”

        I would say Zen would be closest to what is called “Sūtra Mahāmudrā”. If you think otherwise, go check that book. You seem to have great respect for ChNN, so why not check what his opinion was on the matter? Do you think your own opinion on this is wiser than him? That would be quite hubric.

        The main point is to ask yourself: Why has the Buddha taught 84000?

        Sure, in some sense, all ultimately lead to the same (to Vidyā) – but the reason he didn’t just teach 1 panacea is that different approaches are suited for different people. That’s why it’s important to keep them separate and to teach the differences, too.

        Gampopa was an ordained monk, went through all the preliminaries of the Kadampa curriculum, and learned the Vajravārahī and tummo practices from Milarepa.

        If the thought: “I don’t want all those preliminaries, I want to go straight to sudden enlightenment” occurs to one, then he will have a very long and gradual path to undergo, in my opinion. Taking many lifetimes.

        If the thought: “I look forward to the slow, gradual path and I am willing to learn and practice the preliminaries assiduously” – then he might be closer to buddhahood than he realizes.

        My 2cents. Hopefully useful to some readers.

        I have nothing more to add, so I’ll probably not comment for another year or two. Then I’ll come back again, probably. All of you should practice assiduously as life is impermanent as death can come at any time!

        Arouse great aspiration and the mind of bodhicitta, and then do all that is necessary.

        • Vajragoni says:

          Hello, Jure

          I see you’ve advanced to the Vajrayana path now, quite a far cry from your last venture–Lutheranism, was it not? So, how long have you ventured here? At any, rate, good to read your posts and wishing you the very best in your continued quest.

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