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Rangtong & Shentong Views: A Brief Explanation of the One Taste of the Second and Third Turnings of the Wheel of Dharma

The principal subject of the 2007 Shedra is a famous text by Mipham Rinpoche entitled the Tongthun Senge Ngaro (Lion’s Roar That Explains Tathagatagarbha). This treatise explores such topics as the provisional (drangdon) and definitive (ngedon) meaning of the teachings presented in the three turnings of the Wheel of Dharma; the distinguishing features of the Rangtong and Shentong views; and the differences between the Prasangikas and Svatantrikas in terms of the methods they use to approach and explain the ultimate nature. Of course the main focus of Mipham Rinpoche’s work is tathagatagarbha, or buddha-nature.

Many Tibetan Buddhist masters have extensively debated the authentic nature of mind known as tathagatagarbha. Generally speaking Rangtongpas believe tathagatagarbha to be free from all dualities and extremes claiming that it is empty of intrinsic reality. Thus they assert buddha-nature to be “empty of itself.” In contrast, Shentongpas claim that buddha-nature is actually full of the beautiful natural qualities of mind which shine forth unobstructedly after the temporary defilements and obscurations have been removed. Shentongpas therefore believe buddha-nature to be “empty of other;” or empty of the habitual negativities and obscurations that cloud the beauty of our inherent nature.

As explained by the great Mipham Rinpoche in the Tongthun Senge Ngaro, the Nyingma school does not see any essential contradiction between these two positions. By uniting these views, Mipham clarifies how Buddha Shakyamuni’s three turnings of the Wheel of Dharma are perfectly compatible and harmonious.

First Edition published by Dharma Samudra in August 2007.


140 pgs.