Why Compassion is the Root of the Roots

Why Compassion is the Root of the Roots

 

GNYIS PA NI, BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS DANG GNYIS SU MED PA’I YE SHES GNYIS KYI RTZA BA YANG SNYING RJE YIN PAS NA, DE GSUM GYI NANG NAS SNYING RJE GTZO BO NYID DU BSTAN PAR BZHED NAS, GANG PHYIR ZHES SOGS GSUNGS SO,,

 

This brings us to the second point from above: describing how it is that compassion is the very root of the other two causes of a bodhisattva as well.  The very root of both the Wish for enlightenment and the wisdom beyond duality is, in turn, compassion.  Master Chandrakirti—wishing to express how compassion is the very most important of the three—thus next composes the lines which include “For I believe…”[1]

 

GANG GI PHYIR SNYING BRTZE BA NI RGYAL BA’I LO TOG PHUN TSOGS ‘DI’I THOG MAR SKYED PA LA GAL CHE BA SA BON DANG NI ‘DRA LA, BAR DU GONG NAS GONG DU SPEL BA LA CHU DANG ‘DRA ZHING, THA MAR GDUL BYAS YUN RING DU LONGS SPYOD PA’I GNAS LA, ‘BRAS BU’I SMIN PA LTA BUR ‘DOD PAR GYUR PA DE’I PHYIR, ZLA BA’I ZHABS BDAG GIS NYAN RANG DANG SANGS RGYAS DANG, BYANG SEMS DANG DE’I RGYU GZHAN GNYIS LAS KYANG THOG MAR RAM, BSTAN BCOS RTZOM BA’I THOG MAR SNYING RJE CHEN PO LA BSTOD PAR BGYI’O,,

 

And so here at the beginning of the act of composing this classical commentary, I—that is, the great Chandrakirti—shall sing the praises of great compassion.  (One could also read “beginning” here as referring to compassion itself, which precedes even the other two causes of a bodhisattva, and thus both full Buddhas and the listeners and self-made buddhas.) 

 

This I do for I believe that love is crucial, like the seed which—at the outset—produces those excellent crops of the Victors.  And then in the interim love is like the water which makes these crops grow ever higher.  And then at the end, finally, it is like the ripened fruit, which long afterwards is something that we disciples can enjoy. 

 

 

DE YANG DA GZOD BSTOD PA MIN GYI DE MA THAG TU RGYAL BA’I LO TOG BSKRUN PA LA, THOG MTHA’ BAR GSUM DU GAL CHE BAR BSTAN PA DE NYID DE, ,NYID KYI SGRAS NI DPE’I SKABS SU PHYI’I LO TOG LA THOG MTHA’ BAR GSUM DU GAL CHE BA GSUM, SO SO BAR SONG BA LTA BU MIN PAR, DON GYI SKABS SU RGYAL BA’I LO TOG LA SNYING RJE KHO NA THOG MTHA’ BAR GSUM DU GAL CHE [@12a] BAR BSTAN NO,,

 

At this point Master Chandrakirti is not yet actually singing the praises; he is only pointing out that the crops of the Victors grow just after one has developed compassion—and that it is extremely important at all three stages: at the beginning, at the end, and in between.  The way he repeats the word “love”—“love, and only love”—is meant to indicate that the context of the metaphor does not exactly match that of the actual case it refers to.  That is, in the metaphor we have three different things that are crucial for three different stages—the beginning, the middle, and the end—in the growth of outer crops.  Here though it is only one thing—compassion—which is crucial at all three of these stages in the growth of the crops of the Victors.

 

 

THOG MAR GAL CHE BA LA SA BON LTA BU YIN TSUL NI, ‘DI LTAR SNYING RJE CHEN PO CAN NI SEMS CAN GYI SDUG BSNGAL GYIS SDUG BSNGAL BAS, SDUG BSNGAL CAN GYI SEMS CAN THAMS CAD BSKYAB PA’I PHYIR DU, BDAG GIS SEMS CAN ‘DI THAMS CAD ‘KHOR BA’I SDUG BSNGAL NAS BTON TE, SANGS RGYAS LA NGES PAR SBYAR BAR BYA’O SNYAM DU CHED DU BYA BA LA DMIGS PA’I SEMS BSKYED LA,

 

Let’s talk about the way in which compassion is crucial at the beginning—in the same way that as a seed is.  A person who possesses great compassion as it is described here is tormented by the way that living beings are tormented; and they hope to shelter all of those who live in such torment.  They develop a Wish for enlightenment with a goal expressed in the following train of thought: “I will remove each and every one of these beings from the torment of the cycle of life, and with absolutely certainty deliver them to the state of enlightenment.”

 

 

DE YANG RANG GIS SANGS RGYAS THOB PA LA RAG LAS PAR MTHONG NAS, BDAG GIS ‘DI RNAMS KYI DON DU BLA MED BYANG CHUB CI NAS KYANG THOB PAR BYA’O SNYAM DU, BYANG CHUB LA DMIGS PA’I SEMS NGES PAR BSKYED DO,,

 

They recognize though that achieving this goal depends upon their achieving enlightenment themselves.  As such, they necessarily reach as well a Wish for enlightenment where they think, “No matter what, I will achieve matchless enlightenment, for the sake of all these suffering beings.”

 

 

DE ‘DRA BA’I DAM BCA’ BA DE YANG GNYIS SU MED PA’I YE SHES KYIS MTSON PA’I SBYIN SOGS KYI SPYOD PA DOR NA MI ‘GRUB PAR MTHONG NAS, YE SHES GTZO BOR GYUR PA’I SPYOD PA LA YANG NGES PA KHO NAR ‘JUG PAS NA, SANGS RGYAS KYI CHOS KUN GYI SA BON NI SNYING RJE CHEN PO YIN NO,,

 

They recognize another thing as well: that they will never be able to fulfill this commitment if they give up on the way of life represented here in the expression “wisdom beyond duality”—that is, giving and the rest.  As such they know that they have no choice but to engage in this way of life, where wisdom plays the principal role.  Thus it is that great compassion is the seed of all the qualities of an Enlightened Being.

 

 

DON ‘DI LA DGONGS NAS RIN CHEN ‘PHRENG BA LAS,

,THEG PA CHEN PO GANG ZHIG LAS,

,SNYING RJE SNGON BTANG SPYOD KUN DANG,

,YE SHES DRI MA MED BSHAD PA,

,SEMS YOD SU ZHIG DE LA SMOD,

 

The String of Precious Jewels is talking about the same idea when it says,

 

What person

With any brains at all

Would ever speak badly

Of the greater way—

Of the teachings which describe

That entire way of life

Ushered in by compassion,

And immaculate wisdom?[2]

 

 

CES SNYING RJE SNGON DU BTANG BA’I SEMS BSKYED KYIS DRANGS PA’I SPYOD PA SPYI DANG, KHYAD PAR DU MTHA’ GNYIS KYI DMIGS GTAD KYI DRI MA MED PA’I YE SHES KYI SPYOD PA GSUM GYIS THEG CHEN GYI DON KUN BSDUS PAR GSUNGS [@12b] SO,,

 

The point here is that all the points of the greater way are covered in three concepts: in the general way of life inspired by the Wish for enlightenment, ushered in itself by compassion; and more particularly in the way of life of a wisdom which is free of the stain of allowing the mind to focus upon either of the two extremes.

 

 

BAR DU GAL CHE BA LA CHU DANG ‘DRA TSUL NI, SNYING RJE’I SA BON GYIS BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS KYI MYU GU THOG MAR BSKYED DU ZIN KYANG, DUS PHYIS SNYING RJE’I CHUS YANG DANG YANG DU MA BCUS NA, ‘BRAS BU SANGS RGYAS KYI RGYUR GYUR PA’I TSOGS GNYIS YANGS PA MA BSAGS PA ‘DI, NGES PAR NYAN RANG GANG RUNG GI MYA NGAN LAS ‘DAS PA MNGON DU BYED LA, SNYING RJE’I CHUS YANG YANG BCUS NA DE LTAR MI ‘GYUR RO,,

 

Let’s discuss next how it is that compassion is crucial during the middle period, in the same way that water is.  It may well be the case that the seed of compassion has already, during the initial period, produced the fresh sprout of the Wish for enlightenment.  If though during the time which follows we fail to apply the water of compassion to this sprout over and over, then we fail to accumulate any massive form of the two collections[3] which serve as the cause of an Enlightened Being.  This situation will then lead us, with certainty, to actualize only nirvana—either that of a listener, or of a self-made Buddha.  This is not the case when we do apply the water of compassion continuously.

 

 

THA MAR GAL CHE BA LA SMIN PA DANG ‘DRA TSUL NI, ,RGYAL BA’I GO ‘PHANG THOB TU ZIN KYANG SNYING RJE’I SMIN PA DANG BRAL NA, ‘KHOR BA JI SRID KYI BAR DU SEMS CAN RNAMS KYIS NYE BAR LONGS SPYOD PA’I RGYUR MI ‘GYUR ZHING, NYAN RANG DANG BYANG SEMS ‘PHAGS PA’I TSOGS GCIG NAS GCIG TU BRGYUD PA BAR MA CHAD PA ‘PHEL BAR YANG MI ‘GYUR LA, ‘BRAS BU’I SAR SNYING RJE CHEN PO RGYUN LDAN DU ‘JUG NA DE LAS BZLOG STE ‘BYUNG BA’O,,

 

Let’s look finally at how it is that compassion is crucial at the end, like the ripened fruit.  One may have already attained the state of a victorious Buddha; but if they were to lack the ripened fruit of compassion, then there would be nothing there for living beings to enjoy for all the time up to the last day of the cycle of pain.  In this case, the continued accumulation of the causes for enlightenment by listeners and self-made buddhas, and realized bodhisattvas, could never proceed one to the other, growing in an uninterrupted stream.  If though at the level of the final result one goes on with a continuous stream of great compassion in their heart, then the opposite occurs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

DE LTAR NA GANG PHYIR ZHES PA BZHI’I DON BKRAL BAS NI, THEG CHEN PA BYED PAR ‘DOD NA THOG MAR YID SNYING RJE CHEN PO’I GZHAN DBANG DU GYUR PA ZHIG DANG, DE NAS DE LA BRTEN NAS BYANG CHUB KYI SEMS MTSAN NYID TSANG BA CIG SNYING THAG PA NAS BSKYED PA DANG,

 

Given all this, a proper explanation of the four lines which include “for I believe” should inspire in us a certain understanding.  We should be thinking to ourselves how—if we have any hopes of becoming a follower of the greater way—then at the outset we must lose our heart to the emotion of great compassion.  And we should be thinking how, after that, we must build on this emotion to grow, from the very depths of our heart, a Wish for enlightenment which is complete in every necessary respect. 

 

 

SEMS BSKYED PAS NI GDON MI ZA BAR BYANG SEMS KYI SPYOD PA SPYI DANG, KHYAD PAR DU ZAB MO’I LTA BA PHU THAG GCOD DGOS PAR ‘DUG SNYAM NAS DE DAG LA SLOB PA CIG DGOS PAR BSTAN PA LA NGES PA BRTAN PO RNYED DGOS [@13a] SO,,

 

And then finally we should be thinking how—once we have developed the Wish—we will without the slightest doubt need to follow the way of life of a bodhisattva in general; and more especially a truly pure form of the view of the profound.  In short, we must come to an unshakable belief in the teaching which says that we absolutely have to train ourselves in each of these points.



[1] For I believe: The full lines have been given earlier, but we repeat them in this footnote for the reader’s convenience (from f. 201b, %S2, TD03861):

And so here at the beginning,

I shall sing the praises of compassion—

For I believe that love, and only love,

Is like the seed which produces

Those excellent crops of the Victors;

 

And like the water which makes them grow,

And like the ripened fruit

Which then long afterwards

Is something we can enjoy.

[2] Immaculate wisdom: See f. 121a of Arya Nagarjuna’s classic epistle, at %S16, TD04158.

[3] Two collections: That is, the collection of merit and the collection of wisdom.