“Everything that we perceive and conceive of now is deluded. All of the appearances that the beings of the six realms experience are deluded. Wisdom will never come from delusion; we cannot remove delusion through delusion. Also, we cannot develop anything new from the state of delusion because the original nature is pure. The deluded nature is empty and pure from the beginning since there is no true, solid core that exists in anything. Everything is emptiness. In other words, we can say that delusion is emptiness. Emptiness is free from all labels, imputed phenomena, and mistaken perceptions. It is therefore called originally pure. We only have temporary mistakes in our mind. But where are these mistakes really? They are only in our mind. If we start searching for these mistakes in our mind, eventually we will realize that there are no permanent mistakes that we can find because their nature is emptiness.
What we are pointing out is our grasping. But where does grasping exist? There is no substantial, solidly existing grasping. Grasping and all of our mistakes are originally empty. We don’t have to go far away to find this emptiness. It is right here. Our grasping and dualistic conceptual mistakes are empty. They have no true foundation. That is why the Buddha and so many great masters said that grasping and obscurations are like clouds in the sky. They develop temporarily without any base. They are just hanging over the sky-like nature of mind. If we recognize this nature and abide in the nature as it is, then grasping will naturally be removed and cleared away.
In the Beacon of Certainty [nges shes sgron me], Mipham Rinpoche said that obscurations do not truly exist because they are empty. The nature of obscurations is empty, and the nature of emptiness is pure. Impure emptiness does not exist. Therefore impurity does not actually, solidly exist. It is empty.
Mistakes and obscurations are merely misconceptions that sentient beings hold onto. The nature is pure and free from these obscurations. For that reason, Buddha Shakyamuni taught that form is emptiness by form, sound is emptiness by sound, smell is emptiness by smell, and thought is emptiness by thought. Forms, sounds, smells, thoughts, everything is naturally empty. The nature of obscurations is empty, so we can purify them. If they were not empty, we could not purify them. Of course, ‘pure’ and ‘impure’ are just labels of duality mind. In truth, obscurations are self-empty. They do not become empty through practice—they have always been empty and pure from the beginning. This is why in Tibetan Buddhism there is a philosophy called Rangtong, which means self-empty or naturally empty.
In Dzogchen, every teaching always says that things are self-liberated or originally liberated. There is not a single word in the Atiyoga yana about things being liberated by others, or that somebody else has to liberate our duality conceptions. They are self-liberated, originally liberated. These are the famous pointing out teachings. Therefore, there is nothing that has to be removed from this deluded state because delusion itself is in the state of emptiness. Every delusion is in the originally pure state of the Buddha and is empty. There is nothing to be removed from this. Relaxing our mind in this state of emptiness—the original state of one’s own mind—that is the Buddha. While we rest in this natural state, we will begin to perceive things. These are known as the pure, divine, original appearances of the nature, or the body, speech, and mind of the Buddha.
Once our mind is the natural state of purity and great emptiness free from all duality and grasping, then all of our perceptions will arise in that state, and all appearances will be experienced as pure expressions of great emptiness. This is called chilkhor in Tibetan and mandala in Sanskrit. Mandala refers to the pure body, speech, and mind of the Buddha—one’s original nature. In Tibetan, chil means “center” and khor means “circle,” so we can roughly translate this into English as “coiling to the center.” The entire display of body, speech, and mind are always coiling to the center of the nature, which is emptiness. For sentient beings, all tangible appearances, intangible sound systems, and the entire spectrum and variety of thoughts and emotions, without exception, are coiling to the emptiness nature. In terms of the pure perception of the buddhas, all enlightened forms, sounds, and awareness, or deity, mantra, and dharmakaya, are coiling to and within the divine, pure state of the buddha-nature. It’s not that emptiness is in the center, and everything is moving toward it. Everything—from the center to the edge—is within the state of emptiness.”
Learn more about the “Meaning of Mandala” from Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Rinpoche during the 2013 Vajrayana Ritual Review Retreat at PSL:
Venerable Khenpo Rinpoches
Turning the Wisdom Wheel of the Nine Golden Chariots:
Chapter 14: Summary of the Nine Yanas According to Atiyoga (pgs 191-193)
Photo of a sand mandala created by the PBC Puerto Rico Sangha for the 2013 Vajrasattva Retreat led by Ven. Khenpo Tsewang Dongyal Rinpoche at Pema Tsokye Dorje Ling. Photo by Pema Nyingje.
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