Poetic Thought, the Intelligent Universe, and the Mystery of Self: The Tantric Synthesis Ofrdzogs Chen in Fourteenth Century Tibet

Dissertation, The University of Wisconsin - Madison (1992)
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Abstract

The rDzogs-Chen tradition is an innovative philosophical and contemplative system originating from Buddhist Tantric mysticism within the 8th-10th centuries. Its literature exists only in Tibetan "translations" of controversial origin, and subsequent secondary literature of Tibetan scholars. The tradition implicitly develops a model of philosophically rigorous "poetic thought" treating Buddhist Tantra as a philosophical innovation transforming traditional scholasticism, while in its complex emphasis on an "intelligent Universe" and multi-dimensional evolution, it represents the most sophisticated Indo-Tibetan interpretation of "Buddha nature" theory, and is thus important for research into classical philosophic systems such as Madhyamaka and Yogacara, and the relationship of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism to East Asian Buddhism, as well as to non-Buddhist developments in India such as non-dual Shaivism. The "classical" Great Perfection is encapsulated by eleven topics ranging from the Universe's "early history" to the climaxing heights of a Buddha's enlightenment, and is most brilliantly articulated by the Tibetan scholar kLong-Chen Rab-'Byams-Pa . ;This dissertation thus bases itself on Longchenpa's mDzod bDun and sNying-Thig Ya-bZhi, as well as his own sources in The Seventeen Tantras, Padmasambhava's mKha'-'Gro sNying-Thig, and Vimalamitra's Bi-ma sNying-Thig, while in particular focusing on his comprehensive survey of the Great Perfection entitled Tshig Don mDzod. Part I is a systematic overview of the eleven topics; part II translates Tshig Don mDzod's first five chapters, which correspond to the first five of these eleven topics ; and Part III provides a lengthy commentary on those five chapters in the form of annotations systematically analyzing the above related texts. Although some have attempted to marginalize the Great Perfection tradition, this dissertation clarifies its essential structure, orientation, and content in order to show that it in fact represents the culmination of Indo-Tibetan Buddhism

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