Practicing the Levels for Normal People
GNYIS PA NI, GAL TE BSTAN BCOS ‘DIR BYANG SEMS KYI LAM ZAB PA DANG RGYA CHE BA GNYIS KA DANG, DES THOB PAR BYA BA’I ‘BRAS BU GTAN LA ‘BEBS NA, BYANG SEMS LA GAL SHIN TU CHE BA’I SO SKYE’I SA’I LAM GYI RIM PA RNAMS, MCHOD BRJOD KYI ‘OG ‘DIR BSTAN DGOS PA LAS, DER MI STON PAR ‘PHAGS PA’I SA NYID NAS ‘CHAD PA JI LTAR RIGS SNYAM NA,
This brings us to the second division in our presentation of the levels which act as a cause, which is a more specific explanation of how we practice upon the levels for normal people. One may begin with the following question:
Let’s assume then that the purpose of the classical commentary we are covering here is to set forth both the profound and widespread divisions of the path of the bodhisattva—as well as the goal which we achieve by following these divisions. It would seem necessary, since they are so crucial for bodhisattvas, to present here, right after the offering of praise, the steps of the path contained in the levels for normal people. And yet the text does not follow this approach, but rather begins the discussion from nothing less than the levels of the bodhisattva. How could this be right?
‘DI NI MCHOD BRJOD KYI SKABS NYID DU BSHAD PAS, SKABS ‘DIR MA BSHAD DO, ,DE’I DGOS PA NI GANG BSGOMS PA LA BRTEN NAS BYANG SEMS SU ‘GYUR BA’I RGYU’I GTZO BO GSUM BSTAN PAS, THEG CHEN DU ‘JUG PAR ‘DOD PAS DE GSUM THOG MAR NYAMS SU BLANG DGOS PAR [@20b] BSTAN PA’I PHYIR RO,,
This question has already been covered, in the section on the offering of praise itself; as such, we will not go through it again here. The point of doing it this way though is that the text first presents the three principal causes which—once one meditates upon them—lead one to become a bodhisattva. This is in order to indicate that those who wish to enter the greater way must first put into practice these three.
DE GSUM NI SNGON DU NYAMS SU LEN DGOS PAR MA ZAD, BYANG SEMS SU GYUR NAS KYANG NYAMS SU BLANG DGOS PA LA, GNYIS LA MI RTEN PA’I YE SHES NI SPYOD PA’I GTZO BO YIN PAS, DES MTSON NAS SBYIN SOGS KYI SPYOD PA GZHAN LA SLOB PA YANG GO DGOS SO,,
Not only must one put these three into practice before becoming a bodhisattva—they must also be practiced even after one has already become one. The primary practice within all the activities of a bodhisattva is that of the wisdom which no longer rests in the two extremes. The practice of this wisdom then represents the practice of all the other bodhisattva activities—giving and the rest. When the presentation is done as it is, it is meant to help us understand this fact.
DE YANG MDO KUN LAS BTUS PA LAS, BYANG CHUB SEMS DPA’ THABS LA MKHAS PA DANG BRAL BAR CHOS NYID ZAB MO LA SBYAR BAR MI BYA STE, ‘DI LTAR THABS DANG SHES RAB ZUNG DU ‘BREL BA NI, BYANG CHUB SEMS DPA’ RNAMS KYI SBYOR BA YANG DAG PA’O, ZHES GSUNGS PA LTAR
This follows the Compendium of the Sutras, where it states—
A bodhisattva who is without skillful means fails to apply themselves to the profound nature of things. When one rather combines both method and wisdom in the way we’ve described, this becomes the perfect practice of a bodhisattva.
TSOGS GNYIS ZUNG DU ‘BREL BA LA BSLAB DGOS KYI, THABS SHES PHYOGS RE BAS CHOG SHES BYED PA DANG, THABS SHES KHYAD PAR CAN GANG YANG MED PA’I SEMS RTZE GCIG PA TZAM LA YID BRTAN PAR MI BYA’O,,
The point is that we must practice the two accumulations in tandem: we must not satisfy ourselves with practicing just one side or the other—method or wisdom; and we must not put all our faith in a single-pointed state of mind alone—in one which lacks any extraordinary form of method and wisdom.
DE KHO NA NYID LA DPYOD PA’I RIGS PAS DGAG BYA ‘GOG PA’I SA MTSAMS MA ZIN PAR THAMS CAD BKAG PAR MTHONG STE, RTOG PA GANG YIN THAMS CAD BDEN ‘DZIN DU ‘KHRUL BAS,
We do see people who fail to draw the correct line concerning how far we should go in denying the existence of what the concept of emptiness negates; that is, they fail in how they apply the various forms of reasoning which explore the idea of suchness. And then they end up denying the existence of everything: they mistake all forms of discursive thought for the tendency to hold things as real.
THA SNYAD KYI RNAM GZHAG THAMS CAD GZHAN NGO KHO NA LA SKYEL BA DANG, ‘BRAS BU’I SKABS SU YE SHES KYIS STONG PA’I DE BZHIN NYID TZAM ZHIG GI CHOS SKU LAS MED CING, GZUGS KYI SKU GDUL BYA’I SHES RGYUD KYIS BSDUS PAR ‘DOD PA RNAMS LA NI,
Because of this they assert that the entire presentation upon how things do exist nominally was made only to satisfy those of other schools. And they must also then assert that—at the stage where we have reached the final goal—there is nothing left but a body of reality which consists only of the ultimate nature of things, devoid of the attribute of wisdom. At this point as well they must assert that the body of form is actually subsumed by the mental continua of the disciples experiencing it.
NYAN RANG GNYIS THUB DBANG LAS SKYES PA DANG, SANGS RGYAS BYANG SEMS LAS ‘KHRUNGS PAR LUNG RIGS KYIS BSGRUBS PA SOGS THAMS CAD DBU MA [@21a] LA ‘JUG PA’I LUGS MIN PAR ‘GYUR ZHING,
And by that point, nothing like this whole exercise where we use both scriptural authority and logical reasoning to establish that the two of listeners and self-made buddhas are born from the Lords of the Able—and that Buddhas themselves take their holy birth from bodhisattvas—can any longer represent the system of Entering the Middle Way.
CHOS GSUM BSGOM PA YANG BYANG SEMS DBU MA PA’I LUGS MIN PAR GZHAN NGO TZAM DU BZHAG PA’O, ZHES PAS RANG NGOS NAS LAM NYAMS SU BLANG DGOS PA THAMS CAD LA SKUR BA BTAB CING,
There are also those who say that “even following those three practices is something that was taught for those of other schools, and is not the system followed by bodhisattvas who belong to the middle way.” These kind of people are failing to show any respect for the path that they themselves will eventually need to walk.
RANG BZHIN GYIS GRUB PAS STONG PA’I SEMS CAN ZO CHUN DANG CHOS MTHUN DRUG GIS ‘KHOR BAR BSHAD PA RNAMS ‘GAL ‘DU ‘BA’ ZHIG TU ‘GYUR BAS,
Their thinking stands in total contradiction to the presentation on how living beings who are devoid of any natural existence spin through the cycle of life in a manner which is similar, in six different ways, to the way in which a water wheel turns.
DBU MA LA ‘JUG PA’I MCHOD BRJOD NAS BZUNG STE, GZHUNG GI DON LOG PAR ‘CHAD PA LA ZHUGS PAR SHES PAR BYA’O,,
And so our readers should understand that they way they explain the entire text of Entering the Middle Way, from the offering of praise down to the last page, is completely mistaken.
SBYIN SOGS LA SLOB TSUL ‘PHAGS PA’I SA’I SKABS SU BSHAD PA RNAMS LA’ANG SO SKYE’I SA NAS KYANG, NYAMS SU BLANG BYA’I SPYOD PA MANG DU YOD PA RNAMS SHES PAR BYAS NAS, DA LTA NAS KYANG NYAMS SU BLANG BA LA ‘BAD PAR BYA’O,,
They should also understand that there are a great many activities that come from the levels of normal people and which should still be followed as we undertake the practice of giving and the rest, as these are described for individuals who have reached the levels of those who are realized. These are practices which our readers can in fact begin to work on immediately.
 The perfect practice of a bodhisattva: See f. 207a of Arya Nagarjuna’s work (%S27, TD03934).