Friday, January 24, 2014

Buddhology-Related Typology

Rong-zom-pa (RZ2: 38) seems to recognize the following typology of buddha:

(a) ontological buddha (sc. dharmatā = buddha)
(b) gnoseological buddha (sc. advayajñāna = buddha)
(c) physiological buddha (sc. rūpakāya = buddha)

He maintains that this concept is found in Sūtric scriptures. Note that, as pointed out in Almogi 2009: 224, n. 121, for Rong-zom-pa, one of the arguments for positing that all phenomena are already/primordially/inherently/immanently awakened is that all dharmas can impossibly be not buddha if dharmatā is buddha. And for him, dharmas and dharmatā are essentially connected.


  1. Yes, if dharmas (being / “Seiende”) and dharmata (beingness or being itself / “Seinheit”) were not essentially connected, buddhata (buddha-hood) would be simply a “fake” or a “folly” because we could strive as hard as we want, we never would “arrive at buddha-hood” (Dharmadharmatavibha[n]ga). Naturally, thereby emerges the more or less philosophically painstaking and provocative question:
    “If our cognitive pervasion of reality is already rooted in buddha-hood, then, why we cannot recognize this immediately (note here the temporal aspect of our consideration!)?”
    The apparent, yet most probably disappointing answer is: “Because it´s simply impossible!”
    That´s the metaphysical hard nut to crack!
    What is at stake here is that precisely the ontical immediacy of buddha-hood itself entails “cognitive unseeing” because only in the “unseen naturalness (tathata)” of beingness (dharmata) we can assure the purity of being (visuddhi-svabhavika-kaya) – we could say, that´s the metaphysical secret.
    The complexity lies precisely in this “seeing”, inasmuch as “seeing” represents an infringement of the inherent cleanness of cognition itself. Since, as soon as we “see” it (or even try/want to see it), we are already out of it (by our own fancy quest to see it)! That´s the seeming paradox which indeed is none because it´s this “striking simplicity” itself which so incredibly and deeply intrigues our cognition.
    The essentiality of beingness (dharmata) requires, for overcoming cognition´s own-recognition, a soteriological splitting of reality as such (tathata) in the “two truths” (satyadvaya) – otherwise how could we have even an idea of “reality-seeing” (sunyata direct perception) or reflecting on “seeing” the “unseen”. Hence, the original fusion of the two truths (in fact, reality) must become con-fusion for the ordinary cognition as such (prthagjana) precisely owing to the natural dynamism of fusion itself and in this sense we must speak of confusion (“fusion becomes confusion and confusion becomes fusion” – the metaphysical circle and “seeming awkwardness” of being). With this in mind, the pedagogically designated scission of fusion (considered epistemologically) and confusion (considered ontologically) becomes harmonizied through unawareness or unknowingness (avidya) and just that´s the innocence (the “paradoxical purity”) of being itself (the potentially considered/determined buddha-hood).
    We conceive here the metaphysical necessity and double-sacrifice (mahakaruna = unending, great compassion) of being (dharmata): At the one side we have the sacrifice of unknowingness (the “unseen”) animated through ordinary cognition (prthagjana) and on the other side, at the same time (here the motivationg factor of “bodhicitta” reveals it´s fundamental validity and functional dynamic), we notice that (the so ardently aspired) “seeing” also implies a cognitive sacrifice (in fact the very gnoseological “price” to pay), namely: With our “seeing” we are spontaneously catapulted out of “naturally cognizing and acting” (which indeed means “unseeing”) and thereby involontarily are loosing our operating cognitive innocence in being. This must happen so because while reality (ontic reality) as such is “untouchable”, we nevertheless revoltingly want to penetrate it “intellectually” (and just here we should be attentive: the quite valuable “philosophical quest” could easily become the “philosophical trap” of conceptual obsessions…), and by this intellectual research-operation itself we try (“the quest”) to come out of the hidden disguise of reality for becoming able to “see” it. That´s the philosophical hard challenge of projection and naturally, just by this inner revolting experiment we become increasingly assured to manage the challenge of buddha-hood exploration through the pseudo-revolutionary transformation of thinking itself (asrayaparivrtti) but simultaneously we must admit the increasing complexity of a tentative communication to others; sincerely, mikael

  2. It would be interesting to know how Rong-zom-pa conceives the notional difference of buddha and buddha-hood (buddhata). I think that would be important to understand/emulate adequately the practical value of the bodhisattva-ideal (in contrast to Sravakas and Pratyekas)! Perhaps, some day, you will find sufficiently time to publish a translation of one of Rong-zom-pa´s philosophical works; I could imagine, that would be surely very stimulating for the philosophical world of learning; sincerely, mikael.

  3. Dear Mikael, sincere thanks for your interest and for all your thought-provoking comments and reflections. I would have wished to take each major point you raise and try to comment or express my own thoughts or explanations on it. But it is far beyond the scope of my hobby. If I may just make one brief general comment. To comment on the issues raised by you above, I will require to first make sure that I precisely understand what you mean (which is admittedly not always easy) and to try stratify, classify, and explain the various systems and models of thinking that I believe the sources that you mention presuppose. As I am wont to claim, any given system or scholar would it have its own presuppositions regarding Buddhist epistemology, ontology, gnoseology, soteriology, Buddhology, axiology, psychology, eschatology, cosmology, and so forth. Our first challenge is whether we can reasonably determine and explain such positions and presuppositions. Second, do these differ from other positions and presuppositions and if so how and why. Third, how do these positions and presuppositions relate to, if at all, similar Western philosophical concepts. Fourth and finally, do they conform my own personal philosophy (or my personal understanding of those issues). But such attempts are far beyond the scope of my competence and time. Sincerely, Dorji