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Door of Liberation

by Sangharakshita

The Door of Liberation Seminar
Those present: The Venerable Sangharakshita, Dhammadinna, Chintamani, Sagaramati,
Malini, Sona, Sulocana, Ananda, Ashvajit, Aryamitra, Uttara, Mangala, Devamitra
S: Well, first of all let me say that I'm hoping we can get through the whole of the volume in
the course of the next ten days. Which is quite a tall order, but I think we can do it. Towards
the end of the seminar we may be having to have quite lengthy sessions, at least four hours,
but anyway - we shall see. Fortunately for us we can start off in a rather easy, if not leisurely
manner in as much as the first two or three sections of the book are more or less of the nature
of background material. So what I propose is that we go through these first few sections
rather more quickly. I don't think there will be all that much to discuss, though a few points
on every page may need to be clarified or further information supplied. But, when we come to
the chapter on the precepts after that the translations of some of the works of Tsongkapa, then
we shall have to go very slowly and very thoroughly and in a very detailed manner indeed.
And this will all be very much more demanding and also, I hope even more interesting. So,
we'll start off quite easily, quite smoothly, just reading through the introduction and stopping
at the end of each paragraph just in case there is any point that isn't clear to anybody. As we
usually do, we'll read round the circle, Chintamani leading off, reading a paragraph at a time.
First of all, perhaps, I should mention that Geshe Wangyal's approach is profoundly
traditional and the work as a whole, quite apart from its actual content gives one a very good
idea of the extremely sincere and reverent approach of the Tibetan Buddhist to the Dharma
and to material of this kind. So this is reflected in the introduction. In fact, from the very first
"I bow down to Buddha Sakyamuni, the teacher without equal, who attained the highest state
and possession of the Four Aspects of Fearlessness, through his perfect accomplishment of
the Six Paramitas and the Four Ways of Assembling. He is the originator of the Teaching, the
great Compassionate One, who, in order to deliver all living beings, has shown the path that
he himself travelled to liberation."
S: Anybody not familiar with these lists? Some of them are explained in the appendix.
There's a glossary at the end and some of the translations that he gives for some of these
terms don't quite correspond to other translations though they are very good in themselves.
The Six Paramitas, of course everybody is familiar with, yes?
V: The four ways of assembling.
S: The four ways of assembling. These are the Sangrahavastus; very often translated the four
means of conversion. I assume that Geshe Wangyal translates 'assembling' because the
Sangrahavastus suggests bringing together, presumably bringing people together, you bring
them together by the means of conversion, as it were.
First of all there is, I hope I can remember them all, Dana - giving, generosity. Then there is
pleasant speech - priyavadita. The third one escapes me at the moment, I will have to come
back to it, leave a space for it.
The last one is samanarthata, which means - it's quite difficult to translate this - it means, as it
were, treating others like oneself. Or even working for others as one would for oneself. I
mean, the Bodhisattva is supposed to be equipped with these four Sangrahavastus. Working
for the good of others just as one would work for ones own good, yes that's probably a quite
adequate paraphrase.
V: What are the Four Aspects of Fearlessness, there's no mention in the back?
S: This is usually translated as four confidences. These are all different expressions of the
Buddha's confidence that he has attained Enlightenment. First of all he is confident that no
one could reproach him as not having gained what he professed to have gained, i.e.
Enlightenment. Then the confidence that no one could have reproached him with not having
destroyed the asravas totally. And also the confidence that no one could reproach him for
having described as hindrance to Enlightenment what in fact was not a hindrance and vice
V: I don't understand.
S: Well, the Buddha has said, for instance, that craving is a hindrance to Enlightenment. So
craving is a hindrance to Enlightenment. So there is the confidence that no one could
reproach him with having said that craving was a hindrance to Enlightenment when in fact it
was not a hindrance to Enlightenment. In other words, the confidence that he knows what
helps the progress to Enlightenment and what doesn't help it, this confidence, he has. That no
one could reproach him with not knowing, or having declared something to be a hindrance
when it was not a hindrance.
Again the forth one here I do not remember for the moment, I shall have to look it up.
So sometimes translated as the four confidences, sometimes as the four fearlessnesses. In
Sanskrit it is vaisadya.
So Geshe Wangyal opens his introduction in the completely traditional manner by saluting
the Buddha. He points out that the Buddha is the originator of the teaching who in order to
deliver all living beings has shown the path that he himself travelled to liberation. So you
notice that though this is on the whole a work about Tibetan Buddhism the note struck is,
quite characteristically, just Buddhist. It is practically the same thing, or one might say
exactly the same thing as [3] a Theravada Buddhist might have said at the opening of a book
in Theravada Buddhism. All these lists are found in Theravada Buddhism, the Four Aspects
of Fearlessness, the Six Paramitas, the four Ways of Assembling. The Theravadins also
believe that the Buddha is the originator of the teaching, they also regard him as greatly
compassionate and they also regard the Buddha as having shown the path that he himself
travelled to liberation. So this is very standard, basic Buddhist teaching, at least to begin with.
All right, let's go on to the second paragraph then.
"Buddha taught two great paths: to the Bodhisattva Manjushri he taught the path of Profound
View and to the Bodhisattva Maitreya, the path of Extensive Deeds. After several hundred
years, as Buddha had prophesied, these two paths were extended by Nagarjuna and Asanga.
From them, these undefiled teachings descended in an unbroken succession through many
great Indian and Tibetan scholars, such as Atisa and Tsongkapa. Remembering their kindness
in extending the Teaching, I bow down to these great beings."
S: According to Tibetan tradition, there were, in Indian Buddhism itself, in Indian Mahayana,
two great traditions, which went back to the Buddha and in terms of human teachers, these
were represented by Nagarjuna and Asanga. Nagarjuna was the founder, virtually, of the
Madhyamika tradition and Asanga was the founder, as it were, of the Yogacara tradition.
The Madhyamika school of Nagarjuna speaks more in terms of wisdom, more in terms of
Sunyata. Whereas the Yogacara School speaks more in terms of meditation, more in terms of
mind - the one mind, mind only, the pure mind and so on. The Tibetan tradition itself unifies
these two schools.
Very often the Yogacara school or the Yogacara point of view is regarded as a stepping stone
to the Madhyamika point of view. Sometimes, though, they are regarded as complementary.
V: Would you say, therefore, that the Madhyamika teaching goes further?
S: This is the view of those who hold that the Yogacara is a stepping stone to the
Madhyamika. On the whole, one might say, this is the view of the Gelugpas, as we shall see
later on. This is the view of Tsongkapa.
Does anybody remember the story, what in the West would be called a legend, about the
origins of the Yogacara school? Asanga is mentioned here as the human teacher but does
anyone remember any sort of account, story, legend, about the origins of the school?
V: Didn't it come from Maitreya.
S: From Maitreya, yes. There is the account in the life of Asanga that Asanga ascended into
the Tusita devaloka and there received teaching from Maitreya Bodhisattva who is to be the
next Buddha. He is spending his last life prior to his attainment of Enlightenment on earth as
Maitreya Buddha in that Tusita devaloka. This is the Mahayana tradition. [4] So according to
this tradition, handed down, of course, from Indian sources, Asanga visited Maitreya in the
Tusita devaloka and received from him teachings which are usually referred to as the Five
Books of Maitreya. I have mentioned about these in the Survey, they are all listed there, with
this story in brief. I have mentioned there that one can regard this as representing the fact,
probably, if one doesn't want to accept the traditional account entirely at face value, one can
regard this as representing the fact that Asanga had access to certain very exalted sources of
spiritual inspiration. Perhaps he ascended in meditation to a very high level, high plane,
where he had certain spiritual experiences which forms the basis of his interpretation of the
Buddha's teaching in the form of the Yogacara doctrine.
On the other hand there are some Western scholars who regard Maitreya as the name of a
human teacher, who was not the Bodhisattva Maitreya but who was Asanga's actual human
teacher. The Tibetan view is definitely the traditional one, that Asanga's ...

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