Lord Gampopa’s Sunlight of the Scriptures: A Teaching by Gyaltsab Rinpoche

Lord Gampopa’s Sunlight of the Scriptures: A Teaching by Gyaltsab Rinpoche

Kagyu Gunchoe

11/12 January 2023

On the 11 and 12 January, as the completion of the oral transmission of Gampopa’s Collected Works approached, HE Goshir Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the oral transmission and a commentary on Gampopa’s Sunlight of the Scriptures. He offered some profound comments. Gyaltsab Rinpoche has said previously that this text is probably the foundation of Dhakpo Tashi Namgyal’s Moonbeams of Mahāmudrā (Tib.  ཕྱག་ཆེན་ཟླ་ཟེར་  [Chagchen Da-Ser]) as they both have the same layout or framework.

The text contains a set of quotations from sutras and tantras, written interspersed with Gampopa’s own introductions to the topics discussed. Depending on the edition, it is usually about 46 pages long and it was composed in the same way as The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, so there is no doubt that Gampopa wrote it himself (unlike most other texts which were written down by his disciples).

The text begins with Gampopa’s teaching on why it is important to practice the instructions on the nature of mind. He explained this by teaching why our mind is the root of both defects and merits, the problem of not meditating on the nature of mind and the benefits of meditating on it.

As is the custom, Rinpoche first read through parts of the text then offered his own commentary. He opened today’s teaching by saying that the text is so profound that he himself didn’t have a lot to say about it.

The essential points Rinpoche made concern the line that reads, “An individual who wishes to abandon the sufferings of samsara and nirvana and achieve happiness should only meditate upon the essence of the mind itself.”

First, Rinpoche explained that the Buddha taught that one should focus on the mind itself - to turn inwards and look within at the mind itself. This is unique to Buddhism. Before the Buddha, there were many teachers in India and they all spoke of looking at external things. In contrast, the Buddha taught looking within at the nature of  mind. Therefore, this is the basis of Buddhism - looking within to see what the nature of mind is, rather than looking externally.  All the teaching of the Buddha comes down to this —looking at the nature of mind by looking at the mind itself and seeing what it is like.

Rinpoche then pointed out how all of Buddhism and all of the Dharma arise from this. That is what all Dharma is really about: looking at the mind itself, and looking at the five aggregates. Of course, the [first] aggregate of form is physical, but the other four [sensations, perceptions, formations and consciousness] are mind – and the mind arises from karma - so it arises from mind because karma comes from the mind.

Rinpoche shared some quotations from different scriptures like the Treasury of Abhidharma by Vasubandhu and others. He emphasised that focusing on the nature of mind is what we really meditate upon— what we practice.

Another crucial point Rinpoche made is that we talk about the Buddha’s activity and blessing – but it is actually the nature of your own mind that causes everything. It is not the Buddha outside, it is your own mind. The Buddha activity and the activity of the teachers and so forth are all about looking at the nature of your mind. The activity of the Buddha is actually working with your own mind. It is on your own mind that you have to meditate and work.

Further, Rinpoche spoke in brief about the history of the Buddhadharma, how it spread in India, then in Tibet and everywhere because the activity of the Buddha is unceasing and continuous.

On the following day, HE Gyaltsab Rinpoche continued in the same manner, giving the reading transmission and elucidating on the text.

He first elaborated on the quotation which says that the Buddha-nature would not change, whether the Buddha appeared in the world or not. He explained that, regardless of the spreading of Buddhism in a particular country, the nature of how things are, the actual nature, the Buddha-nature or the nature which is free of all elaborations, emptiness or middle way is the same.

The mere difference is that when the teachings are spread, it is because some people have recognised this and teach it. When people see it, they have faith and so forth. This, however, has no effect on the actual nature. The actual nature, the Dharma-nature, or the Dharmatā or the Four Noble Truths - stays exactly as it is. The Buddha-nature, Middle Way, all of the logic and so forth stay exactly the same irrespective of people’s realisation of it.

It also happens that some people spread false teachings while not recognising it themselves, but that does not affect the nature. This Dharmatā, the nature, the Middle Way, is not made better by the buddhas. They have the good qualities but that does not imply that their nature is better nor that the nature of things is better owing to them. Likewise, it is not made worse by ignorant people who know nothing. It is exactly the same - the same for the Buddha and the same for all beings.

In point of fact, the difference comes down to the difference of circumstances, good or bad circumstances - not to the difference of nature.

He then spoke about all six paramitas being complete within the nature of the mind. If you realise the nature of the mind, then you’re actually practising all six paramitas. This is very clearly described in the Sublime Continuum (Skt. Uttaratraśastra, Tib. Gyu Lama).

Further, he pointed out how everything becomes the five wisdoms of the Buddha when we achieve buddhahood. We receive instructions, we receive empowerments and these are ways to realise the five wisdoms of the Buddha or to gain partial realisation. So the Buddha uses whatever languages people speak, there is no special Buddha language.

You study and if you are diligent, and it works, Rinpoche stated, you achieve it. If you are not diligent, then you won’t get anywhere. It all depends on your mind, but eventually you get to the point when you attain Buddhahood and there is no more mind. The Buddha does not have mind such as we know it - the Buddha instead has wisdom.

To our understanding, having no mind would mean knowing nothing, having no ability for knowledge and being blank, like a rock. But that is not so because, even though there is no mind - no essence of mind to be found, nothing to be found – nonetheless, the buddhas know everything distinctly.

And so he described how this develops into the presentation of the 5 wisdoms as is most clearly described in Rangjung Dorje’s Treatise on the Buddha Essence.

With this teaching, Rinpoche brought the transmission of the Collected Works of Gampopa to a close.

2023.01.11-12 Lord Gampopa’s Sunlight of the Scriptures:  A Teaching by Gyaltsab Rinpoche