Thursday, November 5, 2020

The Two Obscurations — emotional and cognitive obscurations - 027


The Two Obscurations — emotional and cognitive obscurations

Mind is eclipsed by many different obscurations; if they are removed, mind’s fundamental nature, like the sun shining brightly in a clear, open sky, can manifest all the qualities of wisdom, compassion, and a Buddha’s abilities.

~ Kalu Rinpoche

Luminous Mind: Fundamentals of Spiritual Practice


Afflictive and cognitive obscuration ~ Maitreya

Any thought such as miserliness and so on

Is held to be an afflictive obscuration.

Any thought of ‘subject’, ‘object’ and ‘action’

Is held to be a cognitive obscuration.

– Maitreya

Uttaratantra Shastra - V, 14 

(i.e. Enlightenment is directly realising the inconceivable Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / 

Union of the Two Truths about the three spheres -- subject / self, relation / action / process, object / phenomena --. Not just the no-self, not just mere-emptiness. A Union beyond all extremes & middle, also called Genuine Emptiness, Buddha-nature, Dharmata, Suchness, Trikaya ...) 


Afflictive and cognitive obscuration ~ Maitreya

Any thought such as miserliness and so on

Is held to be an afflictive obscuration.

Any thought of ‘subject’, ‘object’ and ‘action’

Is held to be a cognitive obscuration.

– Maitreya

Uttaratantra Shastra - V, 14


💖 Nuance: thoughts of ‘subject’, ‘object’ and ‘action’ are so-called cognitive obscuration only when they are not accompanied by awareness; when they are accompanied by ignorance of their true nature & dynamic.

Otherwise, with direct wisdom, they are called pure spontaneous displays inseparable from our true nature / primordial awareness. 

So the problem is not the three spheres -- subject, object, action -- but the ignorance, the grasping, the attachment, thinking they are inherently existing, independently separately, in opposition ...

A Buddha can still have thoughts of subject, object, and action, but he is fully aware of their true nature while using them as simple tools; he is not fooled by them; he is free from them, not without them.

Inspired from:

"Emotions become so-called emotions when they are not accompanied by awareness. (i.e. with ignorance)" ~ Dzongsar Khyentse Rinpoche


(i.e. With wisdom they are called pure spontaneous displays inseparable from our true nature / primordial awareness.) 


[The two levels of mental obscuration] ~ Kalu Rinpoche

Buddhist texts do not exaggerate when they say that our greatest enemy is clinging to a self. Why? We are caught in a situation where mind is incapable of directly experiencing its own essential emptiness, and instead posits a SELF that must be sustained. We thus develop all the needs and wants that must be gratified in order to maintain such a self. Suffering comes from the endless search to satisfy that which cannot be satisfied. "I'' leads to "I am" which leads to "I want" and so on. 

1. The fundamental level of ignorance, // THE FIRST LEVEL OF OBSCURATION // in the mind, is the mind's inability to recognize its own nature. Moreover, mind is not simply EMPTY. It has another aspect, its CLARITY, which is its ability to experience all sensory impressions, thoughts, emotions and ideas. 

(i.e. First problem: Ignorance of the mind's true nature. Ignorance of the UNION OF THE TWO TRUTHS about the mind / subject itself. Union of being conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional impermanent appearances <==> and being empty of inherent existence. Union of clarity / luminosity / relative functionality <==> emptiness of inherent existence. Functional but empty, empty but functional. One aspect implies the other (<==>).)

2. Because of fundamental ignorance, this aspect of the mind is also taken to be something different: the OBJECTS we perceive are seen not as expressions of the mind's Clarity, but as existent in and of themselves, separate from the mind (SUBJECT). A dualistic split has occurred between the self (SUBJECT) which is posited, and an OBJECT understood to be separate from it. This duality and the clinging to it is the obscuration of habitual tendencies, // THE SECOND LEVEL OF MENTAL OBSCURATION //. 

(i.e. Second problem: Ignorance of the UNION OF THE THREE SPHERES, or UNION OF THE TWO TRUTHS ABOUT THE THREE SPHERES. ex. Union subject / actor / perceiver / knower <==> relation / action / perception / cognition / awareness <==> object / result / perceived / known / apparent world. The three spheres are empty of inherent existence <==> because interdependent / co-dependent / co-emergent / co-evolving, co-ceasing ...The three spheres are inseparable (one cannot exists without the other), interdependent (one implies the other, <==>), co-defined (one defines the other), co-relative, co-dependent, co-contingent, co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing, in Union / coalescence, equal / non-dual / one -- in the non-dual sense of those terms using the TETRALEMMA: ex. not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither; not existent, not non-existent, not both together, not neither.)

Thus in our present situation, we already have a degree of IGNORANCE which causes us to experience a self as something ultimately real (1st problem). 

Further, the Clarity of mind has been distorted into something OBJECTIVE, seen as completely separate from the mind and ultimately real (2nd problem). 

This condition will continue forever if we do not attain Enlightenment. We cannot expect it simply to fade away. On the contrary, if we do not transcend the obscurations which led to this distortion, the state is permanent. It will continue to reinforce itself as long as we do not attain Enlightenment.

(i.e. Third problem, not mentioned here: Ignorance of the UNION OF OPPOSITES.)


The four levels of obscurations ~ Kalu Rinpoche

  1. The failure of the mind to recognize its own nature is what is meant by the term "ma-rik-pa," or ignorance, the first level of obscuration or defilement in the mind. As a result of this ignorance, there arises in the mind the imputation of an "I" and an "other," something that is other than the mind. 

  2. This dualistic clinging, something that we have had throughout beginningless time and that never stops, is the second level of obscuration, the obscuration of habits. Based upon this dualistic clinging arise the three root mental afflictions: mental darkness, desire, and aggression. 

  3. Based upon those three afflictions are the 84,000 various mental afflictions, the third level of obscurations, called the obscuration of mental affliction

  4. Under the influence of this, we perform actions that are obscured in their nature - the fourth level, called the obscuration of actions or karma

These four levels or types of obscurations are the cause for all sentient beings to wander in samsara. If these are removed or cleaned, then the inherent qualities of mind's nature, which we refer to as wisdom or "yeshe," will naturally manifest and spread like the rays of the sun. The word in Tibetan for the removal of these obscurations, "sang," means "cleansing," and the word for the spreading of the inherent qualities of the mind that occurs as a result of that is "gye," or "increasing." "Sang-gye," these two words together, is the Tibetan word for a Buddha. Therefore what is meant by Buddhahood is the recognition and realization of the complete purity of the mind.

– Kalu Rinpoche 


The two obscurations ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche 

We continue in samsaric existence as long as we are covered by the emotional obscurations and the cognitive obscurations. These two obscurations are precisely what hinder us from attaining the state of omniscient buddhahood.

-- Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

from the book Repeating the Words of the Buddha 


Two obscurations — emotional and cognitive obscurations -- RigpaWiki

Emotional obscurations are defined according to their essence, cause and function.

  1. In essence, they are the opposite of the six paramitas, as described in the Gyü Lama:

  2. "Thoughts such as avarice and so on,
    These are the emotional obscurations."

  3. Their cause is grasping at a personal ego, or the “self of the individual”.
    They function to prevent liberation from samsara.

Cognitive obscurations are also defined according to their essence, cause and function.

  1. In essence, they are thoughts that involve the three conceptual ‘spheres’ of subject, object and action. The Gyü Lama says:

  2. "Thoughts that involve the three spheres,
    These are the cognitive obscurations."
    Their cause is grasping at phenomena as truly existent, or, in other words, the “self of phenomena”.

  3. Their function is to prevent complete enlightenment. 


Four obscurations -- RigpaWiki

There are four obscurations that hinder us from realizing our true nature. They are:

  1. karmic obscurations,

  2. emotional obscurations,

  3. cognitive obscurations and

  4. habitual obscurations.

Yukhok Chatralwa Chöying Rangdrol says:

  1. Karmic obscurations include naturally negative actions and infringements of vows. Naturally negative actions block or 'obscure' the temporary attainment of the higher realms. Infringements of vows block the temporary attainment of the higher realms and the ultimate attainment of the three kinds of enlightenment.

  2. Emotional obscurations were defined by Lord Maitreya as:
    Any thought involving avarice and so on
    Is held to be an emotional obscuration.
    Any thought involving avarice, lack of ethical discipline and so on, which impedes the pure enactment of the transcendent perfections, is held to be an emotional obscuration.

  3. Regarding cognitive obscurations, Lord Maitreya says:
    Any thought involving subject, object and action,
    Is held to be a cognitive obscuration.
    Any thought involving the three conceptual spheres of subject, object and action, which impedes the complete accomplishment of the transcendent perfections, is held to be a cognitive obscuration.

  4. The habitual obscurations are explained according to the sutras as extremely subtle forms of cognitive obscuration, like the scent left behind in a container which once held musk. In the mantra tradition, they are the habitual tendencies of the transference of the three appearances, which are to be overcome by vajra-like primordial wisdom.

What do these four kinds of obscuration obscure?

  1. Naturally negative actions obscure the temporary attainment of the higher realms.

  2. Infringements of vows obscure the temporary attainment of the higher realms and the ultimate attainment of the three kinds of enlightenment.

  3. Emotional obscurations obscure liberation.

  4. Cognitive obscurations and habitual obscurations obscure the level of omniscience. 


Enlightenment vs. the two obscurations -- Rigpawiki

Enlightenment or Awakening (Skt. bodhi; Tib. བྱང་ཆུབ་, changchup; Wyl. byang chub, Tib. སངས་རྒྱས་, sangyé; Wyl. sangs rgyas)

Sangyé: The Tibetan term for Buddha, Sangyé, is explained as follows:

  1. Sang means ‘awakening’ from the sleep of ignorance, and ‘purifying’ the darkness of both emotional obscurations and cognitive obscurations.

  2. Gyé means ‘opening’, like a blossoming lotus flower, to all that is knowable, and ‘developing’ the wisdom of omniscience—the knowledge of the true nature of things, just as they are, and the knowledge of all things in their multiplicity.

Changchub: Chang means purified and chub means replete. As Khenpo Kunpal says:

Since all that is to be abandoned, the two obscurations together with any habitual tendencies, has been cleansed away, we say that it is 'purified' (chang), and since all the qualities of wisdom that are to be realized are fully present, we say that it is 'replete' (chub). 


The state beyond all obstacles ~ Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

Enlightenment, or Nirvana, is nothing other than the state beyond all obstacles, in the same way that from the peak of a very high mountain one always sees the sun. Nirvana is not a paradise or some special place of happiness, but is in fact the condition beyond all dualistic concepts, including those of happiness and suffering. 

When all our obstacles have been overcome, and we find ourselves in a state of total presence, the wisdom of enlightenment manifests spontaneously without limits, just like the infinite rays of the sun. The clouds have dissolved, and the sun is finally free to shine once again.

-- Namkhai Norbu Rinpoche

from the book Dzogchen: The Self-Perfected State 


Eclipsed by many different obscurations ~ Kalu Rinpoche

Mind is eclipsed by many different obscurations; if they are removed, mind’s fundamental nature, like the sun shining brightly in a clear, open sky, can manifest all the qualities of wisdom, compassion, and a Buddha’s abilities.

-- Kalu Rinpoche

from the book Luminous Mind: The Way of the Buddha 


Our mind Is like the open sky ~ Thubten Chodron

The sky is pure, open space, free from all obstructions. The nature of our mind is similar: the afflictions, self-centered attitude, and other obscurations are not in its essential nature. Just as clouds may temporarily obscure the open sky, anger, attachment, and confusion can temporarily obscure our mind. When they do, the pure, open nature of the mind still remains; we just can’t see it at the time.

By generating the wisdom realizing the emptiness of inherent existence (i.e. Genuine Emptiness free from all extremes & middle = Union of the Two Truths about the three spheres), we will be able to eradicate obscurations from our mind forever and enjoy the sky-like spaciousness of a purified mind.

-- Thubten Chodron

from the book Awaken Every Day: 365 Buddhist Reflections to Invite Mindfulness and Joy 


Buddha Nature ~ Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

Buddha-nature is pure, undefiled, unelaborated, unconditioned, transcending all concepts. It is not an object of dualistic thought and intellectual knowledge. It is, however, open to gnosis, intuition, the nondual apperception of intrinsic awareness itself, prior to or upstream of consciousness. Adventitious obscurations temporarily veil and, like clouds, obscure this pristine, sky-like, luminous fundamental nature or mind essence—also known as tathagatagarbha, buddha-nature.

All conventional practices along the gradual path to liberation and enlightenment aim to uncover this innate wisdom by removing and dissolving the obscurations, revealing what has always been present. This is the relation between how things appear to be and how things actually are: in short, the two levels of truth (i.e. another model for two truths), absolute and relative or conventional truth. According to these two truths, there are different levels of practice.

-- Nyoshul Khen Rinpoche

from the book Natural Great Perfection: Dzogchen Teachings And Vajra Songs 


Obscurations and negative karma ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Sentient beings fixate on thoughts (grasping them as if absolute), the true Yogi does not. Sentient beings’ thought are like carving on stones; whatever is thought stays, leaving a trace. Whatever the mental act, a trace remains. This is why we must accept that there is karma, there are disturbing emotions and there are habitual patterns

But, on the other hand, the thoughts occurring in a true Yogi’s mind are like drawings in air. There is an apparent movement, but it is only seeming because he perceives the nature of his mind (i.e. more completely: he is fully aware of the Union of the Two Truths about the three spheres -- subject / actor / perceiver / knower, relation / action / perception / cognition, object / result / perceived / known world --; that all appearances are mind's luminosity). 

There is no clinging (grasping) to perceiver (SUBJECT) and perceived (OBJECT) and (and RELATION / ACTION / PERCEPTION), hence, no karma accumulation whatsoever. This is the meaning of unceasing, self-occurring self liberation.

It is not possible to be enlightened while still having obscurations and negative karma. They need to be interrupted and purified, and that is why one does the purification practices and apologises for any negative deeds one has done. 

There is also another way to thoroughly and perpetually bring an end to negative karma and obscuration. The moment of recognizing mind essence totally interrupts the karma and obscurations, for that moment. It purifies the negative karma that has been continued from the past and it interrupts any creation henceforth. As long as this recognition lasts, karma and obscurations are completely ended. Complete stability in the recognition of empty cognizance (i.e. Union of the Two Truths about the subject / mind), therefore, involves the total elimination of all obscurations and negative karma.

-- Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche 


Buddha nature cannot be fabricated ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

If our nature wasn’t already enlightened, we couldn’t awaken to it no matter how hard we tried. Buddha nature cannot be fabricated. Our nature is primordially enlightened, but at present our ordinary body, speech and discursive thinking obscures it. The nature of our mind, buddha nature, is like space itself, but it is space obscured by clouds. The whole point of Dharma practice is to remove the clouds and allow the actualization of what already is – the awakened state of mind, the buddha nature. The nature of our mind is primordially pure, primordially enlightened. The way to remove our two obscurations is to train in conditioned virtue and the unconditioned training in original wakefulness – the two accumulations.

(i.e. Note: The path consists of two accumulations: the accumulations of merit (using more and more subtle virtuous conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional adapted skillful means like loving-kindness & compassion & mindfulness & meditation) and wisdom (with more and more wisdom / emptiness). Ultimately with no di-vision between subject, relation / action & object; with full awareness of the Union of the Two Truths about the three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object --.)

-- Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

from the book As It Is, Vol. 2 


Pretending enlightenment ~ Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

Our basic nature is in no way different from that of a buddha. It’s like pure space, which, whether it is obscured by clouds or is a cloudless and clear sky, remains the same in its basic, essential nature. But if you pretend that your nature is already enlightened and don’t progress along the path of removing the obscurations, then your enlightened nature doesn’t become realized. Therefore, we must truly consider what is actual, what the facts are. Do we have obscurations or not? If you see that there still are obscurations, there is no way to avoid having to remove them by gathering the two accumulations.

-- Tulku Urgyen Rinpoche

from the book As It Is, Vol. 2 


Although ~ Padmasambhava

Although your realization is equal to that of the buddhas’, make offerings to the Three Jewels. Although you have gained mastery over your mind, direct your innermost aims towards the Dharma. Although the nature of the Great Perfection is supreme, don’t disparage other teachings.

Although you have realized that buddhas and sentient beings are equal, embrace all beings with compassion. Although the paths and bhumis are beyond training and journeying, don’t forsake purifying your obscurations through Dharma activities. Although the accumulations are beyond gathering, don’t sever the roots of conditioned virtue.

Although your mind lies beyond birth and death, this illusory body does die, so practice while remembering death. Although you experience dharmata free from thought, maintain the attitude of bodhichitta. Although you have attained the fruition of dharmakaya, keep company with your yidam deity.

Although dharmakaya is not some other place, seek the true meaning. Although buddhahood is not anywhere else, dedicate any virtue you create towards unexcelled enlightenment. Although everything experienced is original wakefulness, don’t let your mind stray into samsara.

Although your mind essence is the awakened one, always worship the deity and your master. Although you have realized the nature of the Great Perfection, don’t abandon your yidam deity. Those who, instead of doing this, speak foolishly

with boastful words only damage the Three Jewels and will find not even an instant of happiness.

-- Padmasambhava

from the book Advice from the Lotus-Born 


The Noble Mahayana Sutra - The Purification of Karmic Obscurations

In this way, immature ones engage in lust, 

Combat, resistance, and also butchery.

Their minds deluded, they are frightened and dull,

With thoughts of “I must have this” they grasp at joy. 

These worldly preoccupations are like dreams,

Such phenomena are worthless, void, of no essence

Like a mirage and similar to a cloud,

Lust is without sign and delusion is peace.

Phenomena resemble grass straws and walls.

Mind can be found neither inside nor outside.

Lust is no living creature, nor sentient person;

Hate is neither an individual nor a thing.

Causes and conditions form phenomena;

Illusions neither confuse nor act; 

Like a moon in a pool of water, they are unproduced.

The body, too, is not there; attachment to it is is worthless.

It stems from illusion and is emptiness;

Grasping at matter, immature ones dissect and construct.

Illusions are worthless, absent, empty;

There is no lust, hatred, and ignorance.

All phenomena are void of attributes;

With no root seen, they are at peace from the first;

Without end, they are void and lack all essence.

Lust is clear light, ignorance is perfect peace.

When childish ones see reflected images,

They believe in their identity as truth;

Of no worth and ungraspable, things do not exist,

Yet beings wrongly view what is without essence.

These phenomena, optical illusions: 

Lust, delusion, and hatred, all ungraspable,

Like mirages, dreams, and the moon in a pool of water,

No-one should crave or hate them.

They are harmless and empty.

No perception of anything can be found;

None of these constructions exist.

Things are unobservable and perfectly at peace.

Delusion, lust, and hatred do not exist.

These illusions will never be real.

All phenomena, like illusions or dreams,

With no apparent origin, none exist.

Likewise, though it is seen in a pool,

The moon never enters any water.

Just so, though the infantile hate and lust,

Their desire and hatred are never real.

Lust cannot be grasped and hate does not exist.

Ignorance is clear light, conditions are empty.

Beings are not perceived and there is no life.

All things are of no import, peaceful, and without essence.

There are no eyes, nor are there ears.

The nose cannot be found and nor can the tongue;

Nothing material has any essence.

Intoxicated, childish ones are confused.

Space is boundless, limitless, endless,

Inexhaustible, and unproduced.

So, too, are all phenomena:

They are like rain in the sky, pristine and crystal clear.

Manifold phenomena are all fabricated,

But none of those fabrications are ever real.

The infantile grasp at the skandhas like that, too;

But none of them, either, are ever real.

The wise do not think of real and unreal,

But see the true nature of all things as peace,

Unarisen and ungraspable.

Nor have their own bodies ever existed.

All things are luminous, unfettered and free,

Peaceful, non-abiding, beyond misery;

None of them can be seized.

When they know this, the wise will be free.






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