Friday, November 19, 2021

Black Snake Discourse, by Rongzom Chökyi Zangpo - 154

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Black Snake Discourse, by Rongzom Chökyi Zangpo - 154

[𝔸𝕔𝕔𝕠𝕣𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕠 ℝ𝕠𝕟𝕘𝕫𝕠𝕞, 𝕥𝕙𝕖𝕣𝕖 𝕚𝕤 𝕒 𝕡𝕣𝕠𝕘𝕣𝕖𝕤𝕤𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕚𝕟 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕣𝕖𝕒𝕝𝕚𝕤𝕒𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕌𝕟𝕚𝕠𝕟 𝕠𝕗 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕋𝕨𝕠 𝕋𝕣𝕦𝕥𝕙𝕤 𝕒𝕝𝕠𝕟𝕘 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕧𝕒𝕣𝕚𝕠𝕦𝕤 𝕄𝕒𝕙𝕒𝕪𝕒𝕟𝕒 𝕊𝕔𝕙𝕠𝕠𝕝𝕤 -- 𝕒𝕟𝕕 𝔻𝕫𝕠𝕘𝕔𝕙𝕖𝕟 𝕙𝕒𝕤 𝕥𝕙𝕖 𝕞𝕠𝕤𝕥 𝕔𝕠𝕞𝕡𝕝𝕖𝕥𝕖 𝕦𝕟𝕕𝕖𝕣𝕤𝕥𝕒𝕟𝕕𝕚𝕟𝕘 𝕠𝕗 𝕚𝕥.]

(Warning: This is a controversial text because it critiques the early Madhyamaka presentation, and promotes Dzoghcen as the summum. So you have to read between the lines in the light of the context of that time period.)

(Note: Rongzom Chokyi Zangpo (1012-1088 or 1042-1136) was an eleventh-century Tibetan translator, author, and exegete of Buddhist literature. Among his translations and commentarial works are important scriptures transmitted as part of the first and second period of Buddhist diffusion in Tibet. He is a seminal figure for the Nyingma, traditionally described as the last translator of the early translation period. His work as a translator and exegete is nevertheless also important to the later translation period and the so-called New Schools of Tibetan Buddhism. His prodigious literary output––including his early and influential commentary on Guhyagarbhatantra and his vociferous defense of Tibet's Dzogchen tradition––affirm his place as the first of the three luminaries of the Nyingma tradition, alongside Longchenpa and Ju Mipam Gyatso.)

The specific views and conducts of the higher and lower vehicles may be understood, in short, as follows. Their various views are posited based on the appearance of bodies, environments, and spheres of activity, all of which can be subsumed under body, speech, and mind (or subject, relation / action, object). However, as to the question of whether things do or do not appear: No matter if you are an individual who upholds the various textual traditions, or someone ranging from a beginner up to a bodhisattva on the tenth bhūmi, there is no debate. This is because no one can exaggerate or denigrate direct, immediately experienced appearances. Therefore, all debates about this arise from the status of the defining characteristics of appearances.

[ANALOGY:] In brief, there are five positions. Let us first offer an example.
Consider, by way of analogy, a black snake reflected in water.

  1. One type of individual regards this as an actual snake and, driven by fear, actively seeks to get rid of it.

  2. One type of individual recognizes the snake as a reflection. Even though they know that it is not actually a snake, they see the reflection as capable of harm and, therefore, exert themselves in applying a remedy with skilful means.

  3. One type of individual recognizes the snake as a reflection, without the material support of the coarse elements and, therefore, lacking the ability to perform any action. However, driven by the force of previous anxiety, this individual is unable to touch or destroy it.

  4. One type of individual realizes the snake is a reflection and therefore incapable of performing any action. But, in order to swiftly free themselves of anxious thoughts, such individuals rely on ascetic discipline to touch and destroy the reflection.

  5. One type of individual knows the snake is a reflection  [U2T] and therefore has no thoughts of rejection or acceptance [Middle Way], and does nothing whatsoever.

[IN TERMS OF THE TWO TRUTHS:] In this way, the philosophical tenets of the various Buddhist vehicles correspond with the meaning of the previous examples.

  1. The first of these is the tradition of the Śrāvakas. The Śrāvakas posit that phenomena, such as suffering and its sources, exist both relatively and ultimately, and exist as substantial entities. This belief compels them to see phenomena as genuinely real and to accept and reject them. This is like seeing the snake’s reflection as real and trying to get rid of it. In this system, among the four kinds of existence, the Śrāvakas affirm three: “ultimate existence,” “relative existence,” and “the substantial existence of both.” (i.e. Grasping at the duality of the Two Truths [2T]; accepting both.)

  2. The second example corresponds to the Mādhyamikas of the Mahāyāna, since, for them, appearances are not substantially established but are like illusions [T2]. However, just as illusory poison can perform a function [T1], thoroughly afflicted phenomena are likewise capable of harm if they are not embraced with skillful methods. When they are so embraced, phenomena perform beneficial functions. Because phenomena substantially exist at the relative level (No, not absolutely, only merely conventionally) (i.e. Nuance: The three spheres -- subject / mind, relation / action, object / phenomena -- are like a Union of being conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances [T1], not completely non-existent <==> thus/because being empty of inherent existence [T2], not really existent. One aspect implies the other (<==>). This is called the Union of the Two Truths [U2T]. That is the Madhyamaka as I know it.), the Mādhyamikas assert that they should be accepted and rejected (No, not absolutely, only merely conventionally). (i.e. Nuance: The Middle Way: there is nothing to accept / affirm / seek / add / do in absolute terms, nothing to reject / negate / abandon / eliminate / subtract / not-do in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively / inter-subjectively if it helps someone to get closer to the inconceivable liberating Truths: the Union of the Two Truths [U2T].) This is like asserting that although the snake is a reflection [T2 - empty of inherent existence], its ability to perform a function substantially exists [T1 - dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances]. Of the four kinds of existence, this system negates “ultimate existence” [T2] but retains [mere] “relative existence” and “imputed existence.” (merely conventionally) [T1]
    (Note: From this paragraph, I am not sure Rongzom presented the Madhyamaka as taught by Nagarjuna & all … because then it would be exactly as the view of the Great Perfection. The only difference is the way / path to directly perceive / realise / experience it. One uses logical reasonings, the other uses direct observation of intrinsic-awareness.)

(From Wikipedia: Rongzom held that the views of sutra such as Madhyamaka were inferior to that of tantra, as Koppl notes: “By now we have seen that Rongzom regards the views of the Sutrayana as inferior to those of Mantra, and he underscores his commitment to the purity of all phenomena by criticizing the Madhyamaka objectification of the authentic relative truth.” -- But that is a misrepresentation. Madhyamaka does not objectify relative truth. The idea of the inseparability / interdependence / harmony / Union of the two Truths about all dharmas, including the two truths themselves, is well present in the early Madhyamaka teachings, but it may not be as explicit or well developed as in the Dzogchen or Mahamudra teachings. There was an evolution over the centuries about the explanation about the Union of the Two Truths.  Maybe it is still evolving.)

  1. The third example corresponds to the outer ascetic tantras, Kriyā and Yoga. As all apparent phenomena are illusion-like, they are utterly without substance. Despite phenomena posing no fault or problem, through the force of previous anxiety, yogis in this tradition dare not act themselves, but they are able to summon an external hero. This is like knowing the snake’s reflection to be harmless, yet still being unable to touch it. In this system, among the four kinds of existence, “ultimate existence” and “substantial relative existence” are both refuted. However, “imputed relative existence” is retained. On top of asserting merely this system of the commonly held two truths, proponents of this tradition know there is no substantial relative existence. Through this system, one first attains, to a small degree, the view of equality in which the relative and the ultimate are realized to be inseparable.
    (i.e. An inferior understanding / realisation of the inseparability / Interdependence / harmony / non-duality / Union of the Two Truths.)

  2. The fourth concerns the view of the inner tantras of Mahāyoga. Having mostly realized that all thoroughly afflicted phenomena are like illusions, and in order to swiftly put into practice the view of equality, the yogi engages in wonderous conduct. This is like swiftly eliminating fear for the mere reflection of the snake by practicing asceticism to destroy it. In this system, any grasping to imputed relative existence is extinguished even further, and these individuals are mostly free from grasping which views the truth dualistically. The yogis of this system attain, to a middling degree, an understanding of the inseparability of the two truths.
    (i.e. A middle understanding / realisation of the inseparability / Interdependence / harmony / non-duality / Union of the Two Truths.)

  3. The fifth relates to the view of the Great Perfection. Here, as everything is like an illusion, the proponent realizes that every action, such as rejection or fear, or actual destruction, arises from a view that clings to things as real. As phenomena are illusion-like, the yogi realizes they are without any basis to act upon; one neither rejects nor strives for anything whatsoever [i.e. true Middle Way]. In this system, the understanding of the illusion-like reaches its pinnacle through the awareness of the absence of defining characteristics of appearance. The yogi is liberated from even the subtlest clinging to ultimate or relative truths (i.e. Union of the Two Truths about all dharmas, the three spheres, all dualities, including the two truths themselves.) and is thereby liberated from any view whatsoever. This is termed the “view of the inseparability of the ultimate and relative, the realization of equality [Union] itself.”
    (i.e. A superior understanding / realisation of the inconceivable inseparability / Interdependence / harmony / non-duality / Union of the Two Truths, of the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle, free from all dualistic conceptual proliferations, free from all limits, free from all conditioning / karma.)
    (Note: This is how I see the Madhyamaka as taught by Nagarjuna & all …)

(i.e. Version 2021-11-28: The true nature & dynamic of any & all dharmas -- ex. all appearances / fabrications / composites (the five aggregates; body, speech, mind; physical, conceptual, mental fabrications; individual, collective, cosmic; of samsara / impure and nirvana / pure), the three spheres (subject, relation / action, object for any type of relation or action), the opposites of any duality / triad / quad /etc, even the two truths themselves --
is indescribable / inconceivable for our flawed conditioned dualistic conceptual mind(s) based on two erroneous basic assumptions -- inherent existence and opposition / duality --;
it has to be spontaneously personally non-conceptually non-dualistically directly perceived / realised / experienced / abided in.
--
[Uall: ALL DHARMAS ARE EQUAL PURE PERFECT INSEPARABLE MANIFESTATIONS OF THE GROUND:]
All dharmas are spontaneous natural non-dual manifestations of the Ground, inseparable from the Ground: this inconceivable unique unborn unchanging unconditioned unceasing pristine Ground / Basis / Source / Suchness / Dharmata / Dharmadhatu / Buddha-nature / Genuine-emptiness / Ati / Dzogchen / Mahamudra / Intrinsic-awareness / Primordial-awareness / Awakened-mind / Naturally-coemergent-timeless-awareness / Empty-awareness / Union of the Two Truths [U2T] … the inconceivable unique true nature & dynamic of all dharmas beyond all extremes & middle, beyond all dualistic conceptual proliferations, beyond all limits, beyond all conditioning / karma; beyond all views, methods and goals; beyond all desciption / conceptualisation, discrimination / dualities, causality / production, matter-energy, space & time; beyond both samsara & nirvana.
--
[U2T-All: UNION OF THE TWO TRUTHS ABOUT ANY & ALL DHARMAS:]
[Uopp] Apparent opposites are not really in opposition, but more like inseparable (one cannot exists without the other(s)), interdependent (one implies the other(s)), co-defined (the definition of one defines the other(s)), co-relative, co-dependent, co-emergent (they arise together), co-evolving (they change together), co-ceasing / co-transcended (they cease together), in harmony (not in real opposition) (in the non-dual sense of those terms: ex. not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither).
The true nature & dynamic of any & all dharmas -- ex. the three spheres (subject / mind, relation / action, object / phenomena) [U3S], the opposites of any duality / triad / quad /etc. [Uopp], even the two truths themselves [U2T-2T] --
is like an ineffable / inconceivable Union of being conventionally dependently co-arisen / interdependent relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances [T1 - first truth], co-dependent with their parts (when applicable), with their causes & conditions (when applicable), their conceptual opposite(s) (always), and especially co-dependent with the mind merely labelling / imputing / conceptualising / classifying them [U3S] in dependence of its past / conditioning / karma, not completely non-dependently-arising / non-existent / non-changing / non-functional / non-ceasing / useless / meaningless
<==> and being empty of inherent existence [T2 - second truth], never fixed / independent / separate / universal / absolute, but more like open / free, like illusions / dreams / reflections / rainbows / like the displays of a magical show or cosmic dance of luminosity, not really dependently-arisen / existent / changing / functional / ceasing.
One aspect / truth implies the other (<==>) [U2T], one aspect / truth proves the other (<==>).
All dharmas are appearing <==> but still empty; empty of inherent existence <==> but still conventionally dependently co-appearing & relatively functional. And that is not grasping at the conventional / relative, or at the ultimate / emptiness, or both together, or neither.
[TETRALEMMA:] All dharmas are not inherently existent (still empty) <==> but still not completely non-existent (still appearing), not both existent & non-existent together, not neither existent nor non-existent, and there is no fifth. This is another way to express the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths [U2T].
[BEYOND:] Meaning their true nature is indescribable / inconceivable, beyond all extremes & middle, beyond all dualistic conceptual proliferations, beyond all limits, beyond all conditioning / karma (physical, conceptual, mental) x (individual, collective, cosmic).
[U2T-2T:] Theses two aspects / truths -- dependent origination [T1] and emptiness of inherent existence [T2] --, like any group of apparent opposites, are inseparable (one cannot exists without the other), interdependent (one implies the other), co-defined (the definition of one defines the other), co-relative, co-dependent, co-emergent (they arise together), co-evolving (they change together), co-ceasing / co-transcended (they cease together), in harmony (not in real opposition) (in the non-dual sense of those terms: not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither) [T1-2T] <==> thus themselves empty of inherent existence [T2-2T].
The two truths are not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth. So all dharmas are not really arising [T1] or not, not really empty of inherent existence [T2] or not, not really both together [2T], not really neither [1T], and there is no fifth.
The two truths themselves and their Union are mere pointers to the inconceivable, mere tools, mere imperfect temporary adapted skillful means. So there is nothing left to grasp as absolute here. Everything is like luminous space, an ocean of interdependence and emptiness.
The emptiness of inherent existence [T2] is called the essence of the Ground; the conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances [T1] is called the nature of the Ground; the inseparability / interdependence / harmony / Union between those two aspects [U2T] is called the dynamic-energy / compassionate-energy of the Ground. Those are the three inseparable qualities of the Ground.
This primordial unborn unchanging unceasing ‘dynamic-energy’, or inseparability of the two aspects / truths, is the creative potential that accounts for everything in both samsara & nirvana.
When directly seen as they really are [U2T], appearances (all dharmas) are said to be pure like the three inseparable pure kayas; this is nirvana. But when seen with ignorance of their true nature & dynamic [U2T], appearances are said to be impure, dependent on karma, and causing more karma; this is the limitless karmic cycle. But, ultimately, Reality is beyond all dualities like: pure & impure, wisdom & ignorance, samsara & nirvana.
--
[BEST POINTERS TO THE INCONCEIVABLE:]
The true nature & dynamic of any & all dharmas -- ex. the three spheres (subject / mind, relation / action, object / phenomena), the opposites of any duality / triad / quad /etc, even the two truths themselves --
is pointed by concepts like:
the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths about all dharmas [U2T],
the inconceivable Union of the three spheres about all dharmas [U3S / U2T-3S],
the inconceivable Union of opposites about all dharmas [Non-duality / Oneness / Uopp / U2T-opp],
the inconceivable Middle Way about all dharmas,
the tetralemma about all dharmas,
freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all dualistic conceptual proliferations, freedom from all limits, freedom from all conditioning / karma,
the Ground / Basis / Source / Suchness / Dharmata / Dharmadhatu / Buddha-nature / Genuine-emptiness / Ati / Dzogchen / Mahamudra /
Enlightened-mind / Intrinsic-awareness / Primordial-awareness.
--
[TETRALEMMA:] All dharmas -- ex. the three spheres (subject / mind, relation / action, object / phenomena), the opposites of any duality / triad / quad /etc., even the two truths themselves -- are
-- not inherently existent, not completely non-existent, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not different / separate / multiple / dual, not identical / united / one / non-dual, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not permanent / continuous / eternal, not impermanent / discontinuous / annihilated, and there is no fifth;
-- not purely objective / physical / body, not purely subjective / mental / mind, not purely relational / process / conceptual / speech, not two or three of them together, not none of them, and there is no other possibility;
-- not dependent / caused / produced / functional, not independent / uncaused/spontaneous / unproduced / non-functional, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not composite / contextual / conditioned, not non-composite / non-contextual / unconditioned, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind, not not-merely labelled / imputed / conceptualised by the mind, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not self-caused, not other-caused, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not changing / evolving, not completely non-changing / evolving, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not empty, not non-empty, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not conventional / relative / false, not absolute / universal / true, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not dependently co-arisen / interdependent / mere-interdependence [T1], not empty of inherent existence / mere-emptiness [T2], not both together [2T], not neither [1T], and there is no fifth;
-- not unequal / impure / imperfect / ordinary / bad, not equal / pure / perfect / divine / good, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not unreal / identical to illusions / dreams / mirage / magic tricks, not real / different from illusions / dreams / mirage / magic tricks, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not describable / conceivable / meaningful, not indescribable / inconceivable / meaningless, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth;
-- not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth -- for whatever ‘this’ could be -- (this could be generalised for groups of more than two apparent opposites; ex. the three spheres, the three kayas, the three gems, the three times, the four cardinal directions, the five …, the six ...).
-
[MIDDLE WAY:]
So the best attitude toward all dharmas is the Middle Way free from all extremes & middle: nothing to accept / affirm / seek / add / do / cause / produce / change / improve / cultivate / perceive / know / experience / acquire / possess / purify / liberate / achieve ... in absolute terms, nothing to reject / negate / abandon / eliminate / subtract / not-do / not-cause / not-produce / not-change / not-improve or deteriorate / not-cultivate / not-perceive / not-know / not-experience / not-acquire / not-possess / not-purify or stain / not-liberate or enslave / not-achieve ... in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively / inter-subjectively if it helps someone to get closer to the inconceivable liberating Truth: the Union of the Two Truths [U2T].
Extremes like: i) existence / realism, ii) non-existence / nihilism, iii) both together / dualism, iv) neither / monism; or extremes like v) subject-only / mind-only / idealism / subjectivism, vi) object-only / naïve realism / objectivism, vii) relation-only / process-only / action-only / relationism / processism, viii) two or three of them together / pluralism, ix) none to them / monism.)

Actual, direct appearances arise through the force of latent tendencies and, therefore, do not immediately subside. Clinging, on the other hand, arises from adventitious, mistaken conceptions, and is easily reversed. Furthermore, clinging comes from grasping at defining characteristics, and this comes from a view of real entities [inherent existence]. If these three concepts are overturned, a dualistic view of the truth will not arise, even if the appearances of intrinsically real entities are not reversed.

Here, some might say, “The Mādhyamaka scriptural tradition does not ultimately divide the truth into two, and the Secret Mantra scriptural traditions do not refute appearance.” To this, we would answer:

  • Individuals might evaluate objects of knowledge while keeping in mind that the defining characteristics of the two truths are truly established [2T], but by doing so, they will never be able to abandon dualistic thinking.
    -
    (i.e. One should not grasp at one truth & reject the other, nor vice versa, nor grasp at the two truths together / like in a duality, nor reject both truths. The Two Truths themselves are subject to the Union of the Two Truths tool: they are themselves dependently co-arisen / interdependent <==> and thus both empty of inherent existence, and vice versa. So there is nothing to accept and/or reject in absolute terms here. That is freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all dualistic conceptual proliferations, freedom from all limits, freedom from all conditioning / karma.)

  • When they evaluate the position, “ultimately, the two truths are indivisible [U2T],” even the assertion that the relative truth exists as mere illusion has not been relinquished due to their strongly held belief in true establishment. Therefore, even when establishing the nondual nature of reality, their thinking arises dualistically.
    -
    (i.e. A mere conceptual understanding of the Union of the Two Truths is very useful, but ultimately it is not enough; it is still a dualistic conceptual understanding. A complete liberating realisation of the Union of the Two Truths has to be done spontaneously personally non-dualistically non-conceptually directly in the here & now. That may be what Rongzom reproached to the Mādhyamikas of the Mahāyāna of his time: he thought it was still too conceptual. But that is not the way I see Madhyamaka as taught by Nagarjuna & all. Madhyamaka goes further than a simple dualistic conceptual understanding of the Union of the Two Truths, and goes to the ultimate freedom from all extremes & middle, freedom from all dualistic conceptual proliferations, freedom from all limits, freedom from all conditioning / karma.)

  • When evaluating the statement, “relatively, like an illusion,” we can see that “illusion-like” refers to conceptual elaborations, since the imputations of ultimate existence made by the Śrāvakas and Yogācārins have been pacified. However, “illusion-like” does not mean that phenomena are devoid of substantial functionality on a relative level.
    -
    (i.e. True-emptiness / Genuine-emptiness doesn’t mean complete non-existence, non-functionality, uselessness, meaninglessness. It means the inconceivable Union of the Two Truths [U2T] beyond all extremes & middle. It means empty of inherent existence [T2] <==> but still conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances; and vice versa. One aspect implies the other (<==>). It means, the Middle Way: not existence, not complete non-existence, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth [Tetralemma].)

  • Here, even at the time of such evaluation, directly focusing on defining characteristics that are relatively established as substance, it is then claimed that “these are not actually established as real entities.” Therefore, the mind at this moment has not even given up the two systems.[1] This means that appearance—a property-possessor (Skt. dharmin, Tib. chos can)—is posited as an instance of characteristics (Skt. dṛṣṭānta, Tib. mtshan gzhi). As long as there exists in the mind the notion of being free from the properties or the conceptual elaborations of the instance, and as long as the property-possessor is perceived to exist as mere illusory appearance, then the obsessive mind that grasps to the defining characteristics of appearance has not been reversed. Someone like this cannot be said to possess the view of great equality [Union].
    -
    (i.e. Direct perception is non-dualistic, non-conceptual. The true nature of anything is beyond the duality subject / actor / perceiver / known vs. object / result / perceived / known. The three spheres -- subject, relation / action, object -- are themselves interdependent <==> thus empty of inherent existence, and vice versa. This is the Union of the three spheres [U3S], or Union of the Two Truths about the three spheres [U2T-3S]. And this applies to the two truths & their relationship as objects of knowledge.)

  • Consequently, investigating objects of knowledge by focusing the mind on the distinction between the two truths was taught as an antidote (i.e. a tool, and adapted skillful means, not an absolute truth) for those people with excessive, obsessive clinging to real entities. However, in the very nature of phenomena, there are no dual characteristics. Whosoever reverses grasping to characteristics is free from this obsessive clinging. When one experiences no craving or wishful thought toward anything that appears, this is called “the view of great equality [Union].”
    -
    (i.e. The Union of the Two Truths has to be released gradually in steps. ex. First one has to understand conventional truth / dependent origination / relative functionality / causality / karma [T1]. Then one has to understand the emptiness of inherent existence of everything [T2]. Then one has to understand that this emptiness of inherent existence [T2] does not deny conventional truth / dependent origination / relative functionality / causality / karma [T1]; but that these two truths are inseparable, interdependent, co-defined, co-relative, co-dependent, co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing / co-transcended, in harmony, non-dual [U2T]. And finally one has to directly perceive / realise / experience this in meditation again and again until it becomes a certainty. One could use many different paths to realise this: from Madhyamaka to Dzogchen, etc.)

  • There might be a further question: “Is not mere appearance itself relative?” This was already explained above with regard to any person who believes appearance to be relative and that freedom from conceptual elaborations regarding this is the ultimate. For the mind that does not believe in the reality of the two truths, the scriptures teach that to ask whether the truths are one or two is analogous to asking whether the son of a barren woman is blue or white.
    -
    (i.e. Apparent opposites, like the two truths themselves, are always: not many, not one, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth. Meaning they all ultimately need to be transcended: not accepting, not rejecting.)

  • Someone might then ask: “Well then, what does your tradition assert?” We merely refute your wrong views without at all establishing any point of our own. This, conventionally speaking, is called “the view of great equality [Union],” but there is no clinging whatsoever to it as a metaphysical view.
    -
    (i..e Nothing independent / universal / absolute / inherently existing to grasp here: not the conventional / dependently co-arisen relatively functional appearances, not emptiness of inherent existence, not both together, not neither; and not their Union. That is why we call it the ineffable / inconceivable Union of the Two Truths.)

Note: Rongzom Chökyi Zangpo — who is also known by his Sanskrit name Dharmabhadra, his title as the ‘Great Scholar’ Rongzom Mahāpaṇḍita, or simply Rongzompa — was one of the most important scholars and earliest systematizers of the Nyingma tradition. A genius polymath, he was both a lotsāwa, renowned for his exceptional Sanskrit-to-Tibetan translations, and an author of many original treatises. The texts he composed demonstrate a rare depth and breadth of erudition and cover topics ranging from Sanskrit grammar to agriculture and animal husbandry. He is mostly remembered, however, for his lion-like defense of Nyingma scriptures, practices, and philosophy, all of which were under attack from adherents of the New Schools. His writings provide an exegetical foundation for Nyingma philosophy and served as an essential source of inspiration to his successors Longchen Rabjam (1308–1364) and Ju Mipham (1846–1912). The Nyingma tradition regards all three of these masters as omniscient (kun mkhyen), but as the earliest defender of the school, Rongzompa holds a unique position in its history. A brief introduction to his life and times may shed further light on his status within the lineage and help to contextualize the brilliant, somewhat polemical, and highly distinctive text translated below.

Source: https://www.lotsawahouse.org/tibetan-masters/rongzom-chokyi-zangpo/black-snake-discourse


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Quotes

Union of functionality and emptiness [U2T] ~ 14th Dalai Lama

Nagarjuna said that for a system where emptiness [T2] is possible, it is also possible to have functionality [T1], and since functionality [T1] is possible, emptiness [T2] is also possible. So when we talk about nature, the ultimate nature is emptiness. What is meant by emptiness, or shunyata? It is not the emptiness of existence but rather the emptiness of true or independent existence, which means that things exist by dependence upon other factors. (i.e. U2T - Union of the Two Truths: one implies the other (<==>). They are not different / separate / dual, not identical / united / one, not both together, not neither.)

(i.e. Mulamadhyamakakarika 24.14.
When emptiness "works", then everything in existence "works". (A)
If emptiness "does not work", then all existence "does not work". (B))

– 14th Dalai Lama
https://quotes.justdharma.com/functionality-and-emptiness-dalai-lama/ 

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Examination of Time -- Union of the three times [U3T], Union of opposites [Uopp], Union entities, space and time ~ Nagarjuna

If the present and the future

Depend on the past,

Then the present and the future

Would have existed in the past.

 

If the present and future

Did not exist there,

How could the present and the

Future be dependent on it?

 

Without depending on the past,

Neither of the two could be established.

Therefore neither the present nor

The future could exist.

 

By this very method, without substitution,

The remaining two; as well as …

Superior, inferior, average, etc.; and

Unity [Union], etc., should be understood. (i.e. Uopp - Union of opposites in general, including the two truths: one implies the other (<==>). They are not different / separate / dual, not identical / united / one, not both together, not neither.)

 

A non-enduring time is not grasped

Nothing one could grasp as time

Could exist as enduring.

If time is not grasped, how it is known?

 

If time depends on a entity

Then without an entity how could time exist?

Since there are no entities at all,

How could time exist?

 

-- Nagarjuna
from the book The Fundamental Wisdom of the Middle Way: Nagarjuna's Mulamadhyamakakarika
https://quotes.justdharma.com/examination-of-time/ 

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The Union of the Two Truths in the Heart Sutra

O Shariputra,

Form (the 5 aggregates / all appearances) [T1] does not differ from emptiness [T2];

Emptiness [T2] does not differ from form (the 5 aggregates / all appearances) [T1].

(Note: In Madhyamaka logic, not different doesn’t mean identical, but not different, not identical, not both together, not neither. Here it means that the two truths -- form & emptiness -- are inseparable, interdependent, co-defined, co-relative, co-dependent, co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing, in harmony, non-dual, in Union -- in the non-dual sense of those terms.)


That which is form is emptiness;

that which is emptiness, form.
(Note: Meaning one truth implies the other; they are inseparable, interdependent, in harmony, in Union)

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Directly realising the Union of appearances and emptiness about the mind, phenomena & actions

Ultimate reality [U2T] cannot be apprehended by concepts.
We can, however, in an experiential way [direct perception / realisation / experience]
that transcends the ordinary [dualistic] conceptual mind,
achieve a genuine understanding of reality as being the Union of appearances and emptiness [U2T].

-- Shechen Rabjam Rinpoche
from the book The Great Medicine That Conquers Clinging to the Notion of Reality: Steps in Meditation on the Enlightened Mind
https://quotes.justdharma.com/the-union-of-appearances-and-emptiness-shechen-rabjam-rinpoche/

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Madhyamaka logic is like this:

Because everything is 𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗹𝘆 𝗰𝗼-𝗮𝗿𝗶𝘀𝗲𝗻 & 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝘃𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗳𝘂𝗻𝗰𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗮𝗹 [𝗧𝟭] (co-dependent with something else, ex, with its parts, with its causes & conditions, with its conceptual opposite(s), with its context, and
𝗰𝗼-𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗶𝘁𝗵 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝘂𝗯𝗷𝗲𝗰𝘁 / 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗱 𝗺𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗹𝘆 𝗹𝗮𝗯𝗲𝗹𝗹𝗶𝗻𝗴 / 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝘂𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 / 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝗶𝗻𝗴 / 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗶𝗻𝗴 / 𝗰𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗳𝘆𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘁 in dependence of its past / experiences / accumulated conditioning / karma [U3S])

<==> then everything is 𝗲𝗺𝗽𝘁𝘆 𝗼𝗳 𝗶𝗻𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 [𝗧𝟮]; Note: those two first points make the Inseparability / Interdependence / Harmony / Non-duality / Union of the Two Truths [U2T];

<==> then there are 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝘀𝘁𝗮𝗴𝗲𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝗯𝗲𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗴 -- dependent origination / beginning / birth / coming, duration / middle / life, cessation / ending / death / going -- for anything;
there are 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝘁𝗵𝗿𝗲𝗲 𝘁𝗶𝗺𝗲𝘀 - ex. before / past, during / present, after / future --;
there are 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝘀𝗽𝗮𝗰𝗲 - ex. before / in-front / higher, at-the-same-place, after / in-the-back / bellow --;
there are 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗰𝗵𝗮𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰𝘀 / 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗽𝗲𝗿𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 / 𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 - ex. superior, average, inferior; positive, neutral, negative; good, neutral, bad --;

<==> then there is 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 / 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗶𝘁𝘆 / 𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆, 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 / 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗶𝘁𝘆 / 𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 of anything; nothing exist and change (movement), or remain the same (stillness), or both together, or neither;

<==> then 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁, 𝗻𝗼𝗻-𝗲𝘅𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗻𝘁, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝘁 / 𝘀𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗲 / 𝗺𝘂𝗹𝘁𝗶𝗽𝗹𝗲 / 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹 / 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝗲𝗱 / 𝗼𝗻𝗲 / 𝗻𝗼𝗻-𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗲𝗻𝘁 / 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗼𝘂𝘀 / 𝗲𝘁𝗲𝗿𝗻𝗮𝗹, 𝗻𝗼𝘁 𝗶𝗺𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗺𝗮𝗻𝗲𝗻𝘁 / 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗼𝗻𝘁𝗶𝗻𝘂𝗼𝘂𝘀 / 𝗮𝗻𝗻𝗶𝗵𝗶𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗲𝗱, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
not unequal / impure / imperfect / ordinary, not equal / pure / perfect / divine, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
not dependent / causal, not independent / acausal, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
not empty, not non-empty, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
not dependently co-arisen [T1], not empty of inherent existence [T2], not both together [2T], not neither [1T] and there is no fifth;
not this, non-this, not both together, not neither and there is no fifth;
𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘀 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗲𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗯𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 / 𝗶𝗻𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗶𝘃𝗮𝗯𝗹𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗳𝗹𝗮𝘄𝗲𝗱 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗱 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗶𝗻𝗮𝗿𝘆 𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗱(𝘀), 𝗯𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗲𝘅𝘁𝗿𝗲𝗺𝗲𝘀 & 𝗺𝗶𝗱𝗱𝗹𝗲, 𝗯𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘀𝘁𝗶𝗰 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁𝘂𝗮𝗹 𝗽𝗿𝗼𝗹𝗶𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝘀, 𝗯𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝘀, 𝗯𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗰𝗼𝗻𝗱𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻𝗶𝗻𝗴 / 𝗸𝗮𝗿𝗺𝗮 (individual, collective, cosmic) (physical / body, conceptual / speech, mental / mind);

<==> then there is 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗱𝗶𝗳𝗳𝗲𝗿𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 / 𝘀𝗲𝗽𝗮𝗿𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 / 𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 / 𝗿𝗲𝗹𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 / 𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 / 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆, 𝗻𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗹 𝗶𝗱𝗲𝗻𝘁𝗶𝘁𝘆 / 𝘀𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 / 𝘂𝗻𝗶𝘁𝘆 / 𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 / 𝗻𝗼𝗻-𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝘆 / 𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗻𝗲𝘀𝘀 / 𝗶𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗽𝗲𝗻𝗱𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲 either;

<==> then 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘀 𝗯𝗲𝘆𝗼𝗻𝗱 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗼𝗽𝗽𝗼𝘀𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 / 𝗱𝗶𝘀𝗰𝗿𝗶𝗺𝗶𝗻𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 / 𝗱𝘂𝗮𝗹𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗲𝘀 / 𝗰𝗹𝗮𝘀𝘀𝗶𝗳𝗶𝗰𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 / 𝗹𝗶𝗺𝗶𝘁𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 in absolute terms;

<==> so 𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 𝗶𝘀 𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗮𝗰𝗰𝗲𝗽𝘁 / 𝗮𝗳𝗳𝗶𝗿𝗺 / 𝘀𝗲𝗲𝗸 / 𝗱𝗼 / 𝗮𝗱𝗱 in absolute terms, 𝗻𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘁𝗼 𝗿𝗲𝗷𝗲𝗰𝘁 / 𝗻𝗲𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗲 / 𝗮𝗯𝗮𝗻𝗱𝗼𝗻 / 𝗻𝗼𝘁-𝗱𝗼 / 𝘀𝘂𝗯𝘁𝗿𝗮𝗰𝘁 in absolute terms, just conventionally / relatively / intersubjectively if it helps someone to get closer to the inconceivable liberating Truth: the Union of the Two Truths [U2T];

<==> so, we say that 𝗲𝘃𝗲𝗿𝘆𝘁𝗵𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝗶𝘀 𝗮𝗹𝗿𝗲𝗮𝗱𝘆 𝗲𝗾𝘂𝗮𝗹, 𝗽𝘂𝗿𝗲, 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗲𝗰𝘁, 𝗱𝗶𝘃𝗶𝗻𝗲, 𝗵𝗲𝗿𝗲 & 𝗻𝗼𝘄. (in the non-dual sense of those terms using the tetralemma: not this, not non-this, not both together, not neither, and there is no fifth).

Note: ‘Union’ or ‘<==>’ means one implies the other. It works both ways: ==> and <== . Proving one point is proving all the other points since they are inseparable, interdependent, co-defined, co-relative, co-dependent, co-emergent, co-evolving, co-ceasing, in harmony, non-dual, in Union ...

Adapted from: Madhyamaka logic is like this - 065
https://www.gilehtblog.com/2021/01/madhyamaka-logic-is-like-this.html

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See also

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A presentation of Madhyamaka that is incompatible with what I think is true Madhyamaka

In the Black Snake Discourse, Rongzom explains the differing approaches found within the Buddhist vehicles through the example of a black snake’s reflection appearing in water. This discussion illustrates well Rongzom’s critique of the Madhyamaka for failing to recognize the indivisibility [Union] of the two truths. (i.e. That is not the Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka that I know.) 

Rongzom argues that the Madhyamikas claim that, although in reality the snake’s reflection is not substantially established [T2 - ultimate truths: emptiness of inherent existence, not complete non-existence] and thus a mere illusion, it can nevertheless perform a relative function [T1 - conventional truth: conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its past / conditioning / karma, not complete non-existence]. Therefore, a Madhyamika will only dare to approach the (mere conventional) snake’s reflection if he possesses a (mere conventional) remedy or skillful means that can be applied against the (mere conventional) illusory snake. 

In this way, Rongzom argues that, among the four types of existence (yod pa, bhava), the Madhyamikas do not accept ultimate existence [T2 - ultimate truths: emptiness of inherent existence, not complete non-existence] (don dam par yod pa), yet they do believe in relative existence (kun rdzob tu yod pa) and imputed existence (btags su yod pa) [T1 - conventional truth: conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its past / conditioning / karma, not complete non-existence].

Rongzom explains that the view of the inseparability of the two truths begins to dawn with the tantras, yet it is only fully perfected in the Great Perfection. When an imaginary opponent inquires why the Madhyamaka does not set forth such a view of inseparability, Rongzom states that as long as one believes both truths to be true, one will never succeed in discarding the dualistic mindset. (i.e. That is not the Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka that I know.) One could propose that ultimately the two truths are inseparable without giving up the idea that illusory phenomena exist on the relative level. Thus, even when attempting to establish dharmata as nondual, one would still retain a dualistic perspective. The person who falls into this trap, Rongzom continues, might argue that what exists by way of imputation is ultimately free from mental constructs and therefore similar to illusion, yet he will not assert the same on the relative level, for he cannot accept that phenomena should lack substantial efficacy even conventionally

Thus, even while examining the characteristics of substantial existence and concluding that indeed such existence is unestablished [T2 - ultimate truths: emptiness of inherent existence, not complete non-existence], one will still not have mentally discarded the two ontological modes. Rongzom illustrates his point by referring to appearances (snang ba): as long as one assumes that there is an appearance that can be taken as the subject (chos can, dharmin) or used as an illustration (mtshan gzhi, drstanta) in argument, and as long as one considers this property or illustration to be free from mental constructs (spros bral, nisprapañca) and thus mere illusion, one still conceptualizes the characteristics of appearances. Therefore, the view of great equality remains yet to be accomplished, for by identifying a particular appearance and then concluding that this indeed is beyond mental constructs, the appearance aspect [T1] (snang ba’I cha) and the empty aspect [T2] (stong pa’I cha) become temporarily separated.

These explanations on the Madhyamikas’ lack of realization of the inseparability of the two truths are very telling, for they specify that appearances’ aspect [T1 - conventional truth: conventionally dependently co-arisen relatively functional ever-changing impermanent appearances, merely labelled / imputed by the mind in dependence of its past / conditioning / karma, not complete non-existence] and their empty nature [T2 - ultimate truths: emptiness of inherent existence, not complete non-existence] must be seen as inseparable for the view to qualify as great equality [Union of the Two Truths]. Thus any objectification of the relative truth that specifies “authentic” (yang dag) relative principles would separate the two truths and prevent one from the sudden, full, and direct realization of the actual nature.

The view of equality is also explained as equality inseparable from purity. Let us consider a statement from Rongzom’s commentary to the Garland of Views as Oral Instructions: “The Madhyamikas are attached to the relative truth as being the experiential domain of impure characteristics.”

Here Rongzom not only objects to the Madhyamaka belief in an authentic relative truth and its view of the two truths as separate identities, but also to the view of the relative as impurity. (i.e. That is not the Nagarjuna’s Madhyamaka that I know.) This underscores Rongzom’s tantric perspective and his commitment to purity. 

Rongzom draws the dividing lines between Sutra and Mantra based on 

  • a) whether relative truth is reified as distinct from the ultimate, as in the case of Madhyamaka, and 

  • b) whether, on the relative level, appearances are perceived as purity (Mantra) or impurity (Sutra). 

Thus, for Rongzom, there is a clear connection between objectification of the relative and the view of impurity. For a tantrika like Rongzom, the Madhyamaka separation of ultimate and relative truths and the ensuing division of the relative into authentic and inauthentic aspects disparage the central esoteric notions of unity, equality, and purity. By setting forth an authentic relative and ascribing it a more genuine mode of existence than what is dismissed as the mistaken relative, one is blinded to the ultimate truth of great equality. Moreover, this equality is not realized, as the Madhyamikas would have it, by a negation of relative phenomena. The ultimate equality, the nature of all phenomena, is inseparable from relative appearances, the appearances of great purity. 

In conclusion, according to Rongzom’s tantric perspective, appearances are by nature pure and therefore need not be negated. As there is nothing to discard within their purity, everything remains as great equality. If phenomena were not universally pure they could not be equal, and unless everything is absolutely equal, one cannot establish the truth of purity.

From Establishing Appearances as Divine: Rongzom Chökyi Zangpo on Reasoning, Madhyamaka, and Purity by Heidi I. Köppl
https://www.shambhala.com/snowlion_articles/establishing-appearances-as-divine/ 

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