This book is an introduction to the philosophy of mind that developed within the syncretistic rDzogs chen (Great Perfection) tradition of the rNying ma (Ancient Ones) school of Tibetan Buddhism between the 8th and 14th centuries CE. Despite the growing interest in this tradition in recent decades, there has hitherto been no systematic appraisal of its views on mind that traces their evolution and complex relationships with antecedent Buddhist philosophies of mind. These views merit attention not only because of their intrinsic interest and relevance to contemporary consciousness studies but also because they provide an essential key to understanding the tradition’s leading ideas and practices in light of their historical development. To this end, the book investigates the doctrinal foundations of rDzogs chen through the lens of two principal distinctions that the tradition has considered indispensable for understanding its distinctive views and practices: dualistic mind (sems) versus primordial knowing (ye shes) and dharmakāya versus the ‘ground of all’ (kun gzhi) conditioned experience. Arguing that these distinctions provided classical rDzogs chen scholars with a crucial framework not only for (a) articulating the conditions of delusion and liberating knowledge, but also for (b) schematizing the relationship between the exoteric and esoteric vehicles of Indian Buddhism within a unifying conception of the Buddhist path as the progressive disclosure of primordial knowing, the author shows how the rDzogs chen philosophy of mind has been, in all stages of its development, inseparable from its distinctive soteriology.
The book consists of two parts: (1) a detailed philosophical investigation of the distinctions and (2) an anthology of previously untranslated Tibetan materials on the distinctions accompanied by critical editions and introductions. The first part systematically investigates the nature and scope of the distinctions and traces how they developed in relation, and sometimes reaction, to Indian Buddhist Cittamātra, Madhyamaka, Pramāṇavāda, and Vajrayāna views. It concludes with an exploration of some soteriological implications of the mind/primordial knowing distinction that became central to rDzogs chen path hermeneutics in the classical period as authors of rDzogs chen path summaries used this distinction to reconcile progressivist sūtric and non-progressivist tantric models of the Buddhist path. The translations and texts included in part two of the book consist of (a) a short treatise from Klong chen pa’s Miscellaneous Writings entitled Sems dang ye shes kyi dris lan (Reply to Questions Concerning Mind and Primordial Knowing), (b) selected passages on the distinctions from this author’s monumental summary of the rDzogs chen sNying thig (Heart-essence) system, the Theg mchog mdzod (Treasury of the Supreme Vehicle), and (c) an excerpt on rDzogs chen distinctions taken from ’Jigs med gling pa’s (1729-1798) 18th century Klong chen sNying thig path summary entitled Treasury of Qualities (Yon tan mdzod) along with a word-by-word commentary by Yon tan rgya mtsho (b. 19th c.).