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What Is / Isn't Rangtong?

From Chinese Buddhist Encyclopedia
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 Rangtong (Wyl. rang stong) literally means 'empty of self' - The followers of the Rangtong Madhyamika approach say that all phenomena, including the Buddha nature, are empty of their own essence. They therefore disagree with the Shentong approach, which, they say, falls into the extreme of eternalism.
Criticism

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From the Shentong perspective, the Rangtong view falls into the extreme of nihilism. The Shentongpas say that underlying everything there must be the uncompounded luminosity of the buddha nature, as the basis for samsara and nirvana and all the qualities of enlightenment.

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 Submitted by Michael R. Sheehy on Fri, 2008-08-01 12:07

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Dolpopa, like many great Tibetan scholars, was interested in making distinctions. Within his writings, we find several terse compositions that employ rich Buddhist lingo in order to succinctly and deliberately analyze critical subjects such as emptiness, existence, consciousness, and the wholeness of buddhahood.

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What strikes me about these writings is that they are so unambiguous. Its as if Dolpopa knew there would be speculation, and he didn't want to leave his words too open to interpretation from others.

Having mentioned rangtong in contrast with zhentong in an earlier post, I wanted to step aside and let a work by Dolpopa speak for itself.[1] What follows is my translation of an excerpt from a short text by Dolpopa that defines rangtong ― denoting what it is and what it isn't in mutually exclusive terms ― called, Seizing the Crucial Point,



    Seizing the Crucial Point of Every Utterly Perfect Discourse

    Oṃ. May all be auspicious!

    This is the crucial point to seize from every utterly perfect discourse:

    To the masters imbued with sublimity,
    And the entire perfected nature of the sublime,
    I prostrate and go to refuge.

    With tremendous care, at all times, may I seize hold of this!

    If it’s ultimate, it can’t be rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it can’t be ultimate.

    If it’s the expanse of phenomena, it can’t be rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it can’t be the expanse of phenomena.

    If it’s the nature of phenomena, it can’t be rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it can’t be the nature of phenomena.

    If it’s the ultimate dimension, it can’t be rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it can’t be the ultimate dimension.

    If it’s the perfected nature, it can’t be rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it can’t be the perfected nature.

    If it’s actuality, it isn’t rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t actuality.

    If it’s the ultimate real, it isn’t rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t the ultimate real.

    If it’s the abiding of phenomena, it isn’t rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t the abiding of phenomena.

    If it’s a flawless dharma protecter, it isn’t rangtong.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t a flawless dharma protector.

    Rangtong is not the profound prajñāpāramitā.
    If its rangtong, it isn’t the profound prajñāpāramitā.

    Rangtong is not the profound madhyamaka.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t the profound madhyamaka.

    Rangtong is not mahāmudrā.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t mahāmudrā.

    Rangtong is not self-manifesting pristine awareness.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t self-manifesting pristine awareness.

    Rangtong is not the profound truth of cessation.
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t the profound truth of cessation.

    Rangtong is not the yoga of co-emergence.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the yoga of co-emergence.

    Rangtong is not the genuine ultimate.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the genuine ultimate.

    Rangtong is not ultimate buddha.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't ultimate buddha.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate dharma.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate dharma.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate saṇgha.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate saṇgha.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate refuge.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate refuge.

    Rangtong is not ultimate pristine awareness.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate pristine awareness.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate retinue of deities.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate retinue of deities.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate maṇḍala.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate maṇḍala.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate secret mantra.
    If it's rangtong, it isn't the ultimate secret mantra.

    Rangtong is not the ultimate mother series tantra,
    If it’s rangtong, it isn’t the ultimate mother series tantra.

    [ ... ]

    If it is and/or isn’t rangtong,
    It’s not due to every perpetual phenomena of the ultimate.

    In this way, through realization, through realizing the distinctions between rangtong and zhentong, the teachings can be clear.[2]

Source

www.jonangfoundation.org