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Dzogchen, Chinese Buddhism and the Universal Mind - Chittamatra
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Dzogchen, Chinese Buddhism and the Universal Mind
Hsuan Tsang
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Among Tibetan Buddhists, the doctrine of Chittamatra, "Only the mind is real," is considered to be a provisional teaching and not the ultimate teaching of the Buddha. If this is so, and it is not the ultimate view, then why did Shakyamuni Buddha teach this view of "mind only"? When the Buddha delivered his discourse on the Prajnaparamita, the Perfection of Wisdom, at the Vulture Peak near Rajagriha, many of his Shravaka disciples became terrified at the prospect of Shunyata or emptiness--- the assertion that there is no substantial reality in or behind what we perceive as phenomenal existence. These Shravakas had rejected the commonsense view that the phenomena of the world are discrete entities made up of "stuff" or self-existing substances, such as flesh, wood, stone, and so on, but they clung to the view that momentary elemental events in the stream of consciousness (dharma-atmavada) are somehow real. They asserted that the self in the individual is not real, but that these dharmas or phenomenal events are real. This represented the ground of reality to which these Shravakas clung, the thought that at least dharmas are real although the phenomena of world are mere illusions. So, as an expression of his compassion and his skillful means, Shakyamuni later taught to them at various locations a lesser doctrine, which, although representing only a portion of the truth, yet was something that would help lead them toward the ultimate truth for which they were not ready at that time.


As we have explained elsewhere, the various teachings found in the Sutras came to be classified according to the Three Turnings of the Wheel of the Dharma. The First Turning is represented by the Buddha's discourse on the Four Holy Truths delivered to five ascetics at the Deer Park near Varanasi. Within this category are found all the discourses known as the Hinayana Sutras. Originally in Ancient India, the Hinayana approach comprised eighteen different schools, of which the Theravadins in Southeast Asia are the lone survivor. The Second Turning is represented by his discourse on the Perfection of Wisdom at the Vulture Peak near Rajagriha. This class includes all of the Mahayana Sutras relating to the view and methodology of the Prajnaparamita, and it is upon these scriptures that the literature of the Madhyamaka school is based. The Third Turning occurred later at various different locations and this class includes those Mahayana Sutras, such as the Lankavatara Sutra, the Sandhinirmochana Sutra, and so on, which teach Chittamatra (mind-only) doctrine and related teachings such as the Tathagatagarbha (the embryo of Buddhahood) in all sentient beings, which were later systematically elaborated by the Yogachara school. The doctrines of the Yogachara system were first systematically outlined in the extensive writings of the brothers, Asanga and Vasubandhu, in the third century of our era.