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Blavatsky and --- the Jonangpa versus the Gelugpa (Tsong-Khapa)

Feb 15, 2011 09:25 AM
by M. Sufilight

Dear friends

My views are:

The following on the Jonangpa versus the Gelugpa (Tsong-Khapa) seems quite interesting to consider.
I will throw a few quotes for the readers to contemplate. And I will write a short conclusion in the end of this rahter lengthy email. Let each reader decide for themselves, how they will react to the below words.
I am merely stating my view and nothing else.

David Reigle writes:
"Tsong-kha-pa's Critique of the Jonangpa Teachings

The Jonangpa teaching of a permanent, stable, quiescent, and eternal dhatu or tathagata-garbha or dharma-kaya which is "empty of other" (gzhan stong) and therefore ultimately beyond the range and reach of thought, was apparently criticized by Tsong-kha-pa, founder of the Gelugpa or "Yellow Hat" order. One of Tsong-kha-pa's most famous books is the Legs bshad snying po, or "Essence of True Eloquence," which he wrote after emerging from his highest enlightenment experience, so it is thought to give his final insights. [21] While it never mentions names, the object of much of its critique is identified by Gelugpa exegesis as Dolpopa and the Jonangpa teachings. Tsong-kha-pa, 1357-1419, lived just after Dolpopa, 1292-1361. This critique is of much importance to Theosophists, since Dolpopa apparently teaches the first fundamental proposition of The Secret Doctrine, and Tsong-kha-pa apparently refutes it; yet Tsong-kha-pa is regarded by Theosophists as "the reformer of esoteric as well as of vulgar Lamaism," [22] and as "the founder of the Gelukpa ("yellow-cap") Sect, and of the mystic Brotherhood connected with its cheifs," [23] "the founder of the secret School near Shigatse, attached to the private retreat of the Teshu-Lama." [24] "
"Thus Tsong-kha-pa may well have chosen to give public teachings which his insight showed him would be most effective in meeting the spiritual needs of his future audiences, while at the same time keeping his esoteric teachings from public view. His public teachings did indeed radically transform Tibetan Buddhism, being aptly compared to the Copernican Revolution wherein Europeans discovered that the earth revolves around the sun rather than vice versa. [27] His His on esoteric teachings was reported by H.P. Blavatsky's Tibetan correspondent: [28] 
  Our world-honored Tsong-kha-pa closing his fifth Dam-ngag reminds us that 'every sacred truth, which the ignorant are unable to comprehend under its true light, ought to be hidden within a triple casket concealing itself as the tortoise conceals his head within his shell; ought to show her face but to those who are desirous of obtaining the condition of Anuttara Samyak Sambodhi' â the most merciful and enlightened heart.

We have another somewhat analogous situation in our own time with Helena P. Blavatsky, 1831-1891, primary founder of the Theosophical Society, and Jiddu Krishnamurti, 1895-1986, who left the Theosophical Society in 1929 and spent the rest of his life teaching that people should not rely on authority. For Theosophists, he did not deny the Theosophical teachings, but only repudiated the role of the Theosophical Society and the beliefs accepted by Theosophists on authority as leading to truth. He taught that one cannot come to truth through any organization or belief. [29] For most followers of Krishnamurti's teachings today, however, he also refuted the Theosophical teachings, such as that of an omnipresent, eternal, boundless and immutable principle which transcends the power of human conception; just as for his own Gelugpas, Tsong-kha-pa refuted the Jonangpa teaching of a permanent, stable, quiescent and eternal dhatu or tathagata-garbha or dharma-kaya which is devoid of anything but itself (gzhan stong) and so transcends even the most subtle conceptualization. "

David Reigle writes:
"The Shentong or Great Madhyamaka doctrinal position,
like that of Rangtong Madhyamaka, and in agreement with that
of Theosophy, says the entire phenomenal universe is empty of
any inherent nature that would make it ultimately real, or exist
in the ultimate sense. But for Shentong the real ultimates for
which we have no adequate words do exist in the ultimate sense,
being empty of everything other than themselves. This teaching
is very much in agreement with what is taught in Theosophy. In
its most basic statement, âThe Secret Doctrine establishes three
fundamental propositions,â the first of which is:

An Omnipresent, Eternal, Boundless, and Immutable PRINCIPLE
on which all speculation is impossible, since it transcends the
power of human conception and could only be dwarfed by
any human expression or similitude. It is beyond the range
and reach of thoughtâin the words of Mandukya Upanishad,
âunthinkable and unspeakable.â17

Thus, both Great Madhyamaka and Theosophy are willing to
postulate something that is ultimately real beyond the dualities
of thought, beyond concepts."
"We now see how
the âStanzas of Dzyanâ may use the distinctive Yogacara terms
alaya and pariniÃpanna, and yet not teach âConsciousness-Only,â
but rather a boundless and immutable principle beyond the
range and reach of thought. Indeed, like Great Madhyamaka,
the origin of these stanzas, too, is traced to Maitreya."
"We may say, in brief, that the doctrinal position
of Theosophy is Great Madhyamaka."

M. Sufilight says:
No indeed not Shentong as the below quotes by Blavatsky etc. should be able to put light on, because the theosophical teachings given by Blavatsky follows a dual-approach as well as a non-dual one. The above view by David Reigle can be called a misinterpretation and be opposed by some theosophists, who find that Theosophy does neither teach the Shentong nor the Rangtong view, but a higher synthesis of them. Blavatsky talks about that something can exist without existing etc. in her Secret Doctrine.
The Absolute also known as Parabrahm "is"  beyond time and thought and beyond duality - and -  "is" neither something nor nothing says Blavatsky at various places in The Secret Doctrine and elsewhere.
So Parabrahm cannot be said to exist at all or non-exist - and - is also given with Blavatsky's words as: an absolute negation (Secret Doctrine Vol. I, p. 15). Because that which do not exist cannot have any existence or reality at all in the innermost sense of the word. What is called Absolute Reality is another word for a reality, which is neither non-existing nor existing and both at the same time. (See the two diagrams on the teachings given in The Secret Doctrine her: BCW, vol. XII,
- p. 524 -  and Master K.H.'s diagram ) The below quotes could be helpful in making these views more clear. 

One can say, that Blavatsky sought to make a synthesis on the teachings between Jonangpa (Dolpopa) and Tsong-Khapa by forwarding it like she did. And at the same time to give the Esoteric Stanzas of Dzyan teachings the upper hand.

The Buddha within: Tathagatagarbha doctrine according to the Shentong ...
 Von S. K. Hookham
"Chapter 8
The Shentong Tradition
8.1 The Jonangpas

Having discussed the issues involved in a Shentong interpretation of RGV Tathagatagarbha doctrine, let us consider the background, influence, opposnents, and distinctive points of doctrine of Dolpopa and the Jonangpa school; they were the first to popularize the term Shentong.

i. The Jonangpa Lineage"
"The school flourished for about three hundred years until, in the seven-teenth century, after the time of Taranatha Kunga Nyingpo (Taranatha kun dga' snying po; 1575-1650's), almost all the Jonangpa monasteries and institutions were forcibly closed down (and often, converted into Gelugpa monasteries).
 Since that time, the Jonangpa lineage has continued to transmit its teachings through Lamas of the Nyingma, Kagyu, and Sakya schools. The late Kalu Rinpoche is a great representative of this tradition (as well as of many others) and includes the Jonangpas as a branch of the Kagyupas. He has given the Jonangpa Tantric initiation of the Kalacakra several times in the East and the West."
"  During the 400 years or so that the Jonangpa school flourished, it enjoyed considerable prestige and influence in Tibet. It also attracted a lot of criticism from various quarters2 and from the Gelugpa school in particular.

Gene smith's account in his introduction to the Shes bya kun khyab concerning the political reasons for closing down the Jonangpa monasteries and banning their books sounds credible when one considers that it is not very characteristic of Buddhists to fight over purely doctrinal matters. Be that as it may, ever since that time the Jonangpas have become, for the Gelugpas, an epitome of thos who held wrong views. Most often the arguments levelled against Dolpopa were anticipated by him and answered in his Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho (RC). More often than not, however, his Gelugpa opponents do not address his arguments as such, contenting themselves with refuations based on misunderstanding of what he is saying.
   Dolpopa's Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho is the definitive work on his Shentong doctrine. It is through this work and his great influence among his contemporaries that the term became famous and closely associated with the Jonangpa school of Tibetan Buddhism.

ii. Some Opponents and Supporters of Shentong"
"Among Dolpopa's strongest opponents were Buton (1290-1364), Gyalt-sab (1364-1432) and Ketrub (1385-1483), the latter two being the foremost disciples of Tsongkhapa."

or search 

It is difficult to understand how the Jonongpas as mentioned in the above can be reconciled with the Esoteric Buddhist doctrines given by Blavatsky in the Secret Doctrine as well as other articles by her hand - and some of the words given by her Masters friends. Especially because Blavatsky for instance place very great value on Tsong-Khapa's teachings and the esoteric Prasangika doctrines.

Blavatsky for instance wrote in BCW, Vol XIV, p. 438-440:
"The Prasanga school obtained its name from the peculiar mode which it adopted of deducing the absurdity and erroneousness of every esoteric opinion. * 
Correct interpretations of Buddhist Philosophy are crowned by that gloss on a thesis from the Prasanga School, that

Even an Arhat goes to hell in case he doubt anything,â

thus making of the most free-thinking religion in the world a blind-faith system. The âthreatâ refers simply to the well-known law that even an Initiate may fail, and thus have his object utterly ruined, if he doubt for one moment the efficacy of his psychic powersâthe alphabet of Occultism, as every Kabalist well knows.
The Tibetan sect of the Ngo-vo-nyid-med par Mraba (âthey who deny existence,â or âregard nature as MÃyÃâ)â can never be contrasted for one moment with some of the nihilistic or materialistic schools of India, such as the ChÃrvÃka. They are pure VedÃntinsâif anythingâin their views. And if the Yoga-charyÃs may be compared with, or called the Tibetan ViÅishËadvaitÃs, the Prasanga School is surely the Advaita Philosophy of the land. It was divided into two: one was originally founded by BhÃvaviveka, the SvÃtantrika MÃdhyamika School, and the other by BuddhapÃlita; both have their exoteric and esoteric divisions. It is necessary to belong to the latter to know anything of the esoteric doctrines of that sect, the most metaphysical and philosophical of all. Chandrakirti (Dava Dagpa) wrote his commentaries on the Prasanga doctrines and taught publicly; and he expressly states that there are two ways of entering the âPathâ to NirvÃna. Any virtuous man can reach by Naljor-ngonsum (âmeditation by self-perceptionâ), the intuitive comprehension of the four Truths, without either
* Ibid.
â Buddhism in Tibet, p. 44.
â They maintain also the existence of One Absolute pure Nature, Parabrahman; the illusion of everything outside of it; the leading of the individual Soulâa Ray of the âUniversalââinto the true nature of existence and things by Yoga alone. 

Page 439

belonging to a monastic order or having been initiated. In this case it was considered as a heresy to maintain that the visions which may arise in consequence of such meditation, or VijÃÃna (internal knowledge)*, are not susceptible of errors (Namtog or false visions), for they are. Ãlaya alone having an absolute and eternal existence, can alone have absolute knowledge; and even the Initiate, in his NirmÃnakÃyaâ body may commit an occasional mistake in accepting the false for the true in his explorations of the âCauselessâ World. The DharmakÃya Bodhisattva is alone infallible, when in real SamÃdhi. Ãlaya, or Nying-po, being the root and basis of all, invisible and incomprehensible to human eye and intellect, it can reflect only its reflectionânot Itself. 

Thus that reflection will be mirrored like the moon in tranquil and clear water only in the passionless DharmakÃya intellect, and will be distorted by the flitting image of everything perceived in a mind that is itself liable to be disturbed.
In short, this doctrine is that of the RÃja-Yoga in its practice of the two kinds of the SamÃdhi state; one of the âPathsâ leading to the sphere of bliss (SukhÃvatà or Devachan), where man enjoys perfect, unalloyed happiness, but is yet still connected with personal existence; and the other the Path that leads to entire emancipation from the worlds of illusion, self, and unreality. The first one is open to all and is reached by merit simply; the secondâa hundredfold more rapidâis reached through knowledge (Initiation). Thus the followers of the Prasanga School are nearer to Esoteric Buddhism than are the YogacharyÃs; for their views are those of the most secret Schools, and only the echo of these doctrines is heard in the [texts by] Jam-yang-shay-baâ and other works in public
* Ibid. p. 44.
â NirmÃnakÃya (also NirvÃnakÃya, vulg.) is the body or Self âwith remains,â or the influence of terrestrial attributes, however spiritualized, clinging yet to that Self. An Initiate in DharmakÃya, or in NirvÃna âwithout remains,â is the JÃvanmukta, the Perfect Initiate, who separates his Higher Self entirely from his body during SamÃdhi. 
â [H.P.B. is possibly referring to his textbook Great Exposition of the Tenets; commented on and partially translated by Jeffrey Hopkins in his Meditation on Emptiness, London, Wisdom Pubs., 1983.-Compiler.] 

Page 440

circulation and use. For instance, the unreality of two out of the three divisions of time is given in public works, namely (a) that there is neither past nor future, both of these divisions being correlative to the present; and (b) that the reality of things can never be sensed or perceived except by him who has obtained the DharmakÃya body; here again is a difficulty, since this body âwithout remainsâ carries the Initiate to full ParinirvÃna, if we accept the exoteric explanation verbally, and can therefore neither sense nor perceive."
"But who has read the original book on Dus-Kyi Khorlo, re-written by Tsong-kha-pa, with his Commentaries? Considering that this grand Reformer burnt every book on Sorcery on which he could lay his hands in 1387, and that he has left a whole library of his own worksânot a tenth part of which has ever been made knownâsuch statements as those above quoted are, to say the least, premature."

H. P. Blavatsky wrote in the Secret Doctrine vol. I, p. 44:
"In the words of a Master, "I feel irritated at having to use these three clumsy words â Past, Present, and Future â miserable concepts of the objective phases of the subjective whole, they are about as ill-adapted for the purpose as an axe for fine carving." One has to acquire ParamÃrtha lest one should become too easy a prey to Samvritiâis a philosophical axiom.*"
"* In clearer words: "One has to acquire true Self-Consciousness in order to understand Samvriti, or the 'origin of delusion.'" ParamÃrtha is the synonym of the Sanskrit term Svasam-vedana, or "the reflection which analyses itself." There is a difference in the interpretation of the meaning of "ParamÃrtha" between the YogÃchÃryas and the Madhyamikas, neither of whom, however, explain the real and true esoteric sense of the expression. See further, sloka No. 9."

M. Sufilight says:
So not even the Madhyamikas explain the true esoteric version of existence and non-existence, and time.

H. P. Blavatsky wrote BCW, Vol. IV, p. 11:
"The regular system of the LamaÃc incarnations of âSanggyasâ (or Buddha) began with Tsong-Kha-pa. This reformer is not the incarnation of one of the five celestial Dhyanis, or heavenly Buddhas, as is generally supposed, said to have been created by Sakya Muni after he had risen to Nirvana, but that of âAmita,â one of the Chinese names for Buddha. The records preserved in the Gompa (lamasery) of âTashi-LhÃnpoâ (spelt by the English Teshu Lumbo) show that Sang-gyas incarnated himself in Tsong-Khapa in consequence of the great degradation his doctrines had fallen into. Until then, there had been no other incarnations than those of the five celestial Buddhas and of their Bodhisattvas"

And Buddha (Sang-gyas) incarnated himself in Tsong-Khapa, and Tsong-Khapa opposed the Jonangpa doctrine.

Prasaágika (also known as Prasanga Madhyamika Buddhism)
"When Buddhism was established in Tibet, however, the primary philosophic viewpoint established there was that of Shantarakshita â a synthesis of Yogacara and Madhyamaka â in the 9th century. Much later Je Tsongkhapa established Candrakirti's work as primary and it continues as the main approach to Madhyamaka in the Gelug school. Other lineages of Tibetan Buddhism also contemplate Prasaágika views but there is disagreement concerning which approach is the most expeditious for students on a path."

A short concluding comment by M. Sufilight:
Could it be, that the basis of Tsong-Khapa's (according to Blavatsky the reincarnated Sang-gyas, the Buddha's) criticism of Dolpopa and the Jonangpa was based on, their use of the Heart Doctrine in a false manner, and that Dolpopa's version was incorrect in certain respects?
The question must then be which ones? Was it at least in part the Shentong view which was opposed? 
I certainly think so, because of the above words and quotes. I am saying that we and all the universe are all of us what some would call embodiments of compassion, while we at the same time are compassion in it self, and at the same time are neither of these and in inner essence beyond thought absolute negation of thought as well existence+non-existence. It is here I find that what I understand Shentiong to be is departing from my view as well as the view given by Blavatsky, Tsong-Khapa and the esoteric teachings given in Stanzas of Dzyan.

So, the very open praise of the Jonangpa teachings, which the Nyingma, the Kagyu and the Shakya often allude to might be erronous in certain respects?
And Blavatsky seem to never mention Dolpopa, and we ask why?

- - -
I think, that the difference in politics was only one part of the problem. There were also a difference in doctrine. The difference was perhaps related to how to avoid traps in the Shentong doctrine. and Rantong doctrine
Blavatsky used 7 keys to the Mystery Language, and mentioned the language called Senzar.

All the above are however just my views - and - I might be in error.

M. Sufilight

[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]

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