Ultimate truths are enumerated in accordance with the Entering the Middle Way Autocommentary, which sets forth sixteen emptiness when emptiness is is divided in detail, four in the intermediate division (the emptiness of things, nonthings, self nature, and other nature), and two when summarized (the selflessness of persons and phenomena). Other texts set forth to: actual ultimates and concordant ultimates. Illumination of the Middle Way says:

Nonproduction accords with the ultimate and is
therefore called an “ultimate,” but it is actually
not because in reality the ultimate is beyond all
elaborations. [276]

And Ornament for the Middle Way (Madhyamakalamkara) also says:

This is referred to as “ultimate”
for it is compatible with the ultimate.
If it really were [ultimate], it would be
free from all number of elaborations.

Distinguishing the Two Truths states this similarly, and Distinguishing the Two Truths Autocommentary (Satyadvayibanghavrtti) and Ornament for the Middle Way explain that the negation of ultimate production and the like is conventional.

With respect to the meaning of those statements, many earlier masters differentiate two ultimate truths: enumerated and unenumerated ones. They assert that the emptiness that negates ultimate production and so forth with regard to form and the like is the former (an imputed ultimate truth yet fully qualified conventional truth) and that the latter cannot be made the object of any mind whatsoever, so it is not an object of knowledge. Since that is not the meaning of those texts, they should be explained like this: the object, a reality, must indeed be taken as an ultimate, but the subject, a reasoning consciousness, is also often explained as such. Distinguishing the Two Truths says:

Since it is without deception, a reasoning
consciousness is an ultimate.

It is just as stated in Illumination of the Middle Way as well:

The meaning [of ultimate] in propositions such as
“Ultimately there is not production whatsoever”
is asserted to be that all consciousness arisen
from correct studying, contemplating, and
meditating are subjects without error and therefore
called “ultimate,” because of being the ultimate
among those [subjects].

Of the two types of reasoning consciousness, the nonconceptual wisdom of an arya’s meditative equipoise is without conceptions, whereas the conceptual reasoning consciousness comprehending suchness is based on signs and so forth. The explanation in Blaze of Reasoning that the ultimate includes both a conceptual wisdom, and a concordant wisdom has the same intention as the explanation of two ultimates in Illumination of the Middle Way. Therefore the meaning of the texts is not that the explanation of two ultimates should only be applied to ultimate objects and not subjects. In this regard the first is an actual ultimate because when engaging in suchness, it is able to eliminate simultaneously the elaborations of true existence and dualistic appearance with respect to its object. [277] That is also what is meant by “beyond all elaborations”. A conceptual reasoning consciousness is able to negate the elaboration of true existence with respect to its object, but it cannot eliminate the elaborations of dualistic appearance. Therefore it is an ultimate that is concordant in aspect with the supramundane ultimate.


It is necessary to explain two modes also with respect to ultimate objects such as the negation of ultimate production and so forth for forms and the like. For a nonconceptual reasoning consciousness, that object’s emptiness is the actual ultimate always free from the two elaborations. For a conceptual reasoning consciousness, on the other hand, it is not an actual ultimate always free from the two elaborations because it is only free from one type of them. Still, this is not to say that in general it is not an actual ultimate truth. So, except for some minds from whose perspective all the elaborations of dualistic appearance are gone, the emptiness of true existence cannot be free from all elaborations of appearance. Therefore the meaning of the texts is not that if something is an ultimate truth, it must be free from all elaborations of dualistic appearance. This being so, those who propound the establishment of illusions by a reasoning consciousness assert that the composite of two appearances (a basis such as an aggregate and its emptiness of true existence), being a mere object established by an inferential reasoning consciousness, is an ultimate truth. It is concordant with the ultimate, but it is not an ultimate truth.

Also, there is no benefit to proving that sprouts and the like appear to lack true existence because they appear to be free from being one or many to an intelligent person who has not eliminated doubt as to whether that basis truly exists. And for those who have eliminated that doubt, that reason is not a valid reason. Illumination of the Middle Way says that both the reason “free from being one or many” and the predicate are mere eliminations and that it is the same whether the reason is “It is neither one nor many” or “It does not exist as one or many”. From those very examples, you can tell that the statements do not refer to affirming negations. Therefore this is not at all the assertion of Master Santaraksita, his spiritual son Kamalasila, or Master Haribhadra.

With respect to the elimination of the object of negation – the conceptual elaboration [of true existence] – in relation to appearances, a distinction can be made between two aspects: a negative determination and a positive determination. But there is not a single great Madhyamika who would assert that the second, what is merely cognized by inferential cognition, constitutes ultimate truth. The explanation of their presentations in my longer Stages of the Path should be understood in detail along these lines.


In the course of explaining the negation of production and so forth as concordant with ultimate truth, Jnanagarbha says in his Distinguishing the Two Truths Autocommentary: 

Others hold it to be only real. Therefore “also”
has the meaning of “and”. In fact, if analyzed with
reasoning, it is only conventional. Why? Since the
object to be negated does not exist, it is clear that,
in reality, its negation does not exist.

He is saying that others, Cittamatrins, assert that the emptiness negating as a self of phenomena in the basis of negation is established in reality whereas his own system teaches that since the object of negation, the self of phenomena, does not exist, the negation that negates it is not established in reality. Therefore the explanation that the negation of ultimate production and so forth is conventional means that it exists conventionally rather than indicating that it is conventional.

The same commentary also says:

[Objection;] “Since real production and the like does not appear when a thing appears, it is an unreal conventionality. Likewise, the negation of real production and the like is an unreal conventionality: when the thing, the basis of negation, appears it does not appear”.
Reply: “It is not the case that it does not appear because it is not different from the nature of the thing”.

The explanation that whenever something like blue appears its emptiness of true existence also appears does not imply that a mere elimination, the negation of true existence, appears to the eye consciousness and so forth. Rather, what is implied here is an affirming negation. Therefore something like that is a fully qualified conventionality, yet this does not contradict that an emptiness, the mere elimination of true existence, is an ultimate truth.  

Ornament for the Middle Way explains that although the negation of ultimate production and the like is included among real conventionalities, it is a concordant ultimate because it accords with the ultimate. In the statement that the ultimate is the elimination of the entire web of elaborations such as the existence and nonexistence of things, “web of elaborations” accords with the Distinguishing the Two Truths Autocommentary, which explains the web of conceptuality as a web of elaboration. It says:

Thus the Blessed One taught,
“It is not empty, not nonempty,
not existent nor nonexistent,
neither produced nor nonproduced”.


Why is that? It is without elaborations. Suchness
is free from the entire web of conceptuality.

That is the actual ultimate because those [elaborations] cease from the perspective of the direct realization of suchness. A reasoning consciousness along with its object, which are not like that, are concordant with the former, and so forth, as explained above. There are also two components to the negation of real production and the like: the reasoning consciousness that negates it and its object of comprehension. So the way in which it is included among real conventions should also be understood on that basis. This manner of explaining the freedom from the web of all elaborations with respect to the two truths is needed on many occasions.



If a given basis is determined to be a false deceptive object, its being a nondeceptive object is necessarily eliminated. Therefore deceptive and nondeceptive are mutually exclusive; their presence is contradictory. Since they pervade all objects of knowledge in a mutually exclusive manner, they also exclude the possibility of a third category. For that reason you should know that the enumeration of truths is definitely two with respect to objects of knowledge. The Meeting of Father and Son Sutra (Pitaputrasamagamasutra) says that objects of knowledge of the two truths are exhaustive. It says:

In this manner the Tathagata realizes the two
truths, conventional and ultimate. Objects of
knowledge of these conventional and ultimate
truths are exhaustive.

The Concentration Definitely Showing Suchness (Tattvanirdesasamadhi), also clearly enumerates the truths as definitely two:

Everything is a convention or an ultimate;
a third truth does not exist.

It is said that if you know the division between the two truths, you will not be confused about the words of the Sage, whereas if you do not know it, you will not know the essence of his teaching. Moreover, you need to know it in accordance with how the protector Nagarjuna determined it. Entering the Middle Way (6.79-80) says:

Methods for pacification do not exist
for those outside Lord Nagarjuna’s path.
They have strayed from the truths of conventions and suchness,
and through their corruption, they cannot attain liberation.

Conventional truths become the methods,
and ultimate truths arise from those methods.
Those who don’t know the distinction between the two [280]
enter bad paths because of flawed conceptualization.

Therefore it is extremely important for those who want liberation to be skilled in the two truths.



You should cultivate special insight once you have gained the view that realizes the two types of selflessness after attending to the prerequisites of special insight as explained above. Now how many types of special insights are there? Here, I will mainly teach the special insights you should cultivate while still an ordinary being and not the special insights of exalted levels. If you carry out a complete division of these special insights, there are the special insights of the four natures, the three doors, and the six modes of inquiry.

The four are differentiation and so forth mentioned in the Unravelling the Intent Sutra. In this regard, differentiation observes things in their variety, and thorough differentiation observes their ultimate mode of being. The first has two types, full investigation and full analysis, and the second also has two types, [full] investigation and [full] analysis, which differentiate coarse and subtle objects. The identification of those four is set forth in Sravaka Levels, Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom, and other scriptures.

The Unravelling the Intent Sutra states the three doors as arisen from a sign, arisen from thorough searching, and arisen from fine investigative analysis. To illustrate them with respect to the meaning of selflessness, for example those three are identified as follows. The first observes the selflessness already ascertained and attends to its signs but does not determine very much. The second makes determinations for the sake of ascertaining that which has not been ascertained previously. The third carries out an analysis, as was done before, of the meaning already ascertained.  

The six modes of inquiry carry out a thorough search into the meanings, things, characteristics, categories, times, and principles and, having sought them, also individually analyze them. With regard to those six, the inquiry into meanings is the search “The meaning of this word is this”. The inquiry into things is the search “This is an internal thing, and that is an external thing”. There are two modes of inquiry into characteristics: “This is the defining characteristic of something, and that is a general characteristic,” [281] or “This is unique, and that is shared”. The inquiry into categories looks at the category of non-virtue in terms of faults and shortcomings and the category of virtues in terms of excellent qualities and benefits. The inquiry into time is the search “This thing occurred in the past, that thing will occur in the future, and this thing is presently occurring”.

The inquiry into principles is of four types. First, the principle of dependence is that the occurrence of effects depends on causes and conditions. It is also an inquiry in terms of the conventional, the ultimate, and their bases taken individually. Second, the principle of the function is that phenomena perform their own functions, such as fire performing the function of burning. It is a search in terms of “This is the phenomenon, and that is the function; this phenomenon performs that function”. The principle of evidence is to establish a meaning without contradicting valid cognition. It is a search that reflects on whether direct perceptions, inferences, or reliable scriptures (the three types of valid cognition) exist with regard to a given object. The principle of nature is to examine (1) natures that are well known in the world, such as heat being the nature of fire, moisture being the nature of water, and so forth, (2) inconceivable natures, and (3) abiding natures. They are sought without searching for further reasons for their being as they are.

Through the sixfold presentation in this way, there are three objects to be known by a yogi: the meanings of expressions, the varieties of objects of knowledge, and their ultimate mode of being. The first inquiry is posited in terms of the first object. The inquiry into things and the inquiry into defining characteristics is posited in terms of the second one. The remaining three and the inquiry into general characteristics are posited in terms of the third one. The four special insights explained first have three gates and six modes of examination. Thus the three doors and the six search modes are included in the initial four.

Sravaka Levels teaches that the four types of attention that were explained above, tight engagement and so forth, are common to both samatha and special insight. Therefore the four attentions are also present in special insight.




This has three points: the meaning of the statement that special insight is cultivated in reliance upon samatha; the paths of which vehicle, Hinayana or Mahayana, this system relates to; and the actual way to cultivate special insight in reliance upon samatha. [282]


The Unraveling the Intent Sutra says that special insight should be cultivated later, after samatha has first been accomplished. This is also stated similarly in many other instructions, such as those by the venerable Maitreya, Asanga’s Bodhisattva Levels and Sravaka Levels, those of Bhaviveka and Santideva, Kamalasila’s three volumes of Stages of Meditation, and Ratnakarasanti’s Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom

The intended meaning of these texts is not that special insight is understood as just maintaining the observation of selflessness after previously generating the samatha that observes any object without observing the meaning of selflessness. This is because samatha and special insight are not differentiated by way of their object. Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom also explains that after observing suchness (the emptiness of duality between subject and object) and upon generating samatha, you generate special insight through analytical meditation observing the same object. Arya Asanga also discusses a special insight that observes things in their variety, saying that after samatha has been generated, a special insight with peaceful and coarse aspects is cultivated in reliance upon it. Moreover, he says that it is a path common to both non-Buddhists and Buddhists as well as to ordinary beings and aryas.

That being so, it is inappropriate for someone who has not attained samatha and who is newly accomplishing it to not practice placing the mind single-pointedly on whatever object of observation it may be and to instead practice analysing diverse aspects of his object of observation. The reason for this is that samatha is achieved by the former method and is unachievable in the latter manner. If instead of extending your earlier habituation to mere placement meditation, you use the samatha you achieved previously to carry out analytical meditation that, with wisdom, individually distinguishes whichever object is appropriate to the occasion – the ultimate mode of being or things in their variety – you can eventually induce a special single-pointed concentration. Since the extremely powerful kind of single-pointed concentration achieved through that cannot be achieved through the former method of mere placement, analytical concentration is praised.

The way to accomplish it is to first seek samatha and then afterward cultivate special insight in reliance upon it. So that is the general reason why there are the two different ways of maintaining samatha and special insight even if the object of observation – for instance, selflessness – is the same. In particular, the requirements for the arising of a strong and stable ascertainment are the cultivation of the special insight that has the peaceful and coarse aspects of individually distinguishing the faults and excellent qualities of higher and lower realms, [283] and the cultivation of the special insight that has the aspect of selflessness in which the meaning of selflessness is investigated and then maintained by means of fine investigative wisdom. Therefore they have great power with respect to eliminating their individual objects of elimination.

The special insight that observes things in their variety is not merely the meditation that has the peaceful and coarse aspects for the sake of eliminating manifest mental afflictions. According to the explanation in Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom, it is also the analytical meditation that thoroughly differentiates the characteristics of the eighteen elements (dhatu). From that illustration, you should know that there are still other special insights, meditations that differentiate objects associated with things in their variety.

Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom explains that before you generate samatha and special insight that observe the ultimate mode of being, you must first generate samatha and special insight on the level of the yoga that observes things in their variety. However, here, following the assertions of Santideva, Kamalasila, and so forth, some kind of samatha is developed first and then special insight is developed. In fact, just that special insight that observes the ultimate mode of being will be taught here.



Now, does this sequential approach to the generation of samatha and special insight relate to Mahayana or Hinayana, sutra or mantra? It is common to the vehicles of sravakas and pratyekabuddhas, to the vehicle of the perfections, and in fact to each of the four tenet systems. In my Great Treatise on the Stages of Mantra, I have already explained the assertions of individual tantras and their great commentators to the effect that it is similar for the lower classes of tantras of secret mantra.

With regard to highest yoga tantra, Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom quotes the Guhyasamaja Tantra as saying:

When you examine your own mind,
all phenomena dwell in the mind.
Phenomena dwell in that vajra space.
They do not exist, and nor does reality.

Also, the Descent to Lanka Sutra says:

Relying upon mind only,
external things are not conceived.
Relying on nonappearance,
One transcends mind only.

Relying on observing suchness,
one transcends nonappearance.
If yogis stay in nonappearance,
they do not see the Mahayana.

With these and other statements, Ratnakarasanti explains that the three levels of yoga are taught to be observing mind only, observing suchness, and nonappearance. It appears that he is explaining that the way of attaining samatha and special insight on the first two levels is through placement and analytical meditation as explained above. [284] Therefore he maintains that the way they are generated in a mindstream that focuses on the ultimate mode of being is similar [in both highest yoga tantra and the Perfection Vehicle].

Our own position is that, even in the context of highest yoga tantra, one’s method for developing an understanding of the view must be compatible with what appears in the Madhyamaka texts. As for how it is maintained, there is analysis of and then mental attention to suchness during some post-meditation phases of the generation and completion stages. However, those practicing the completion stage who have attained the ability to penetrate vital points of the body certainly must meditate placing the mind within the view when maintaining the meditative equipoise on suchness; nevertheless they do not perform the analytical meditation of special insight the way it is presented in other texts. Therefore, at that point, do not stop your single-pointed meditation on suchness within the view when you stop analytical meditation. Since this is not the right context to clarify the reasons why proceeding like that is sufficient [in highest yoga tantra], I will explain here the reasons for proceeding like that on the other paths.



If you have not found the view of selflessness, then no matter what system of meditation you perform, that meditation will not abide in the meaning of suchness. That is why it is necessary to find the view.

If you have an understanding of the view but are not mindful of it and do not place the mind upon it during meditation on suchness, the latter will not be a meditation on suchness. Therefore placing the mind without reflecting on anything at the end of some little preparatory analysis of the view does not constitute maintaining suchness either. Becoming mindful of the view and familiar with it by merely placing the mind within it also amounts to nothing more than the above method for maintaining samatha. Hence, that is not the meaning of the texts explaining a distinct method for maintaining special insight.

That is why you should individually analyze the meaning of selflessness by means of wisdom as explained above and then maintain it. If you only do analytical meditation, however, your previously developed samatha will deteriorate. Therefore you should mount the horse of samatha, maintain analysis, and occasionally alternate it with placement meditation.

More specifically, if the stability lessens because of too much analytical meditation, do more placement meditation and refresh the stability. If you do not really want to analyze because of too much placement meditation, or if despite analysis your mind is not fit to go anywhere and becomes engrossed in stillness, you should do more analytical meditation. Since it is very powerful if you cultivate both samatha and special insight in continuous equality, [285] you should do it that way. The third Stages of Meditation says: 

Samatha weakens when cultivating special insight
causes wisdom to predominate. Therefore,
since the mind will flicker like a butter lamp in the
breeze, it will not perceive suchness very clearly.
That is why you should cultivate samatha at those
times. Likewise, whenever samatha predominates,
you are like a sleeping person and do not see
suchness clearly, so at those times, you should
cultivate wisdom.

Like that, it is inappropriate to stop any and all conceptuality when sustaining analysis because you consider it to be apprehension of true existence. This is because, as I demonstrated several times above, conceptions that are apprehensions of true existence are only one category of conceptions. The view that anything apprehended by conceptuality is damaged by reasoning is a denial with an excessive object of negation; it has been proven that this is not the meaning of the scriptures either. You might say, I do not assert this in relation to all phenomena, but whatever is conceived by the mind in relation to suchness is necessarily an apprehension of true existence. But here, too, the fault arises from the manner in which it is apprehended, not from apprehension in and of itself. For it has been stated, ordinary people who aspire for liberation need to inquire into suchness by way of multiple avenues of scripture and reasoning.

Someone might object that if meditation on suchness is for the sake of generating nonconceptuality, it will not arise from fine investigative analysis, for cause and effect must accord with each other. The Blessed One himself gave a clear answer to that. He says in the Kasyapa Chapter:

Kasyapa, it is like this. Fire springs from two
trees rubbed together by the wind, and once it
has sprung up, both trees are consumed by it.
Likewise, Kasyapa, when there is correct fine
investigative analysis, an arya’s wisdom faculty
develops, and that fine investigative analysis itself is
consumed through its development. 

Thus he is saying that an arya’s wisdom arises from fine investigative analysis. The second Stages of Meditation also says:

That is how they [286] analyze with wisdom.
When yogis definitely do not apprehend any
nature of things as ultimate, they enter the
concentration of complete nonconceptuality. They
also realize that the natures of phenomena are
nonexistent. Those who fail to individually analyse
the nature of things with wisdom and to
meditate on that, who instead cultivate just the
mere elimination of attention, will never stop
conceptualizations. Neither will they ever realize
the nonexistence of a nature because they will
lack the light of wisdom. The Blessed One said,
“When the fire of knowing reality just as it is thus
springs from correct fine investigative analysis, it
consumes the wood of conceptuality, like the fire
that springs from wood rubbed together”.

If it were not like that, the uncontaminated could not possibly arise from the contaminated, nor the supramundane from the mundane, nor a buddha from a sentient being, nor an arya from an ordinary being, and so forth because the causes and their effect are not alike.


Essay on the Mind of Enlightenment says:

Where conceptualization appears,
How could there be emptiness?

Tathagatas do not see minds
in terms of agents and objects of investigation.
Where there are agents and objects of investigation,
enlightenment does not exist.

What is being pointed out is that someone who apprehends agents and objects of investigation as truly existent has not attained enlightenment. If fine investigation wisdom were refuted and if the mere agents and objects of investigation were refuted, this would contradict this text’s determination of suchness through many avenues of analysis associated with fine investigation. Also, if those two were not seen by buddhas, they would be nonexistent.

That same text says:

To meditate on emptiness by
calling it “nonproduction,” “emptiness,”
or “selflessness” is meditation
on what is a lesser truth.

This does not refute the meditation that observes selflessness, the emptiness that is the nonexistence of inherent production. Rather, it refutes the meditation on an emptiness that is a lesser nature, one apprehended as truly existent. [287]

Praise of the World-Transcending One says: 

When you teach the nectar of emptiness
to clear away conceptual thinking,
whosoever adheres to it
is very much reproved by you.

In the same way Precious Garland (2.3) says:

Accordingly, self and selflessness
Are not observed to be reality as it is.
Therefore the Great Sage rejected
the views of a self and selflessness.

Since neither self nor selflessness are established in reality, the Buddha rejected the view that the two exist in reality but did not refute the view of selflessness. This is because according to the above quotation from Refuting Objections, if phenomena did not lack the inherent existence of inherent establishment, they would exist as inherently established.

The Verse Summary of the Perfection of Wisdom (1.9) says: 

Although the bodhisattva thinks, “This aggregate is
he employs signs and still distrusts the basis of

And the Perfection of Wisdom in One Hundred Thousand Lines says: 

One employs signs when using what is called
“empty and selfless form” but does not employ the
perfection of wisdom.

The meaning of these statements refers to the apprehension of emptiness and so forth as truly existent. Otherwise the phrase “distrusts the basis of nonproduction” would also be unreasonable, for trust it would also be to employ signs.

The same sutra says:

Whoever perfectly knows that phenomena lack
inherent existence
employs the supreme perfection of wisdom.


When wisdom shatters uncompounded,
virtuous, and nonvirtuous phenomena,
and not even dust remains to be seen,
the world counts this as the perfection of wisdom. 

The King of Concentration also says:

If phenomena are analyzed to be selfless [288]
and are meditated on after being analyzed,
that is the cause for attaining the fruit nirvana.
You won’t find peace through any other cause. 


Also, in Essence of the Perfection of Wisdom, Sariputra asks how a bodhisattva who wishes to engage in the profound perfection of wisdom should train, and Avalokitesvara replies that he should thoroughly and correctly view even these five aggregates to be empty of their intrinsic nature. There are many statements like these that would otherwise be contradicted. That is why Praise of the Sphere of Reality says:

The Dharma that supremely purifies the mind
is the lack of inherent existence.


As long as one apprehends “I’ and “mine,”
one externally imputes aspects.

The seeds of existence cease to be
when you see the two aspects of selflessness.

Entering the Middle Way (6.165) also says:

Therefore, by viewing “I’ and “mine’ as empty,
the yogi is completely liberated. 

You should understand this in accordance with the statements and maintain a continuous ascertainment of selflessness and the absence of inherent existence.

Here the first Stages of Meditation says:  

The Dharani of Entering Nonperception (Avikalpapravesadharani)
says that the signs of form and so
forth are abandoned by not attending to them. 
This teaches that if you examine with wisdom,
you do not mentally attend to what is not observed.
it does not imply the mere absence of
attention. It is not an elimination through merely
eliminating the attention that is the beginning-less
adherence to form and so forth, like in the
absorption of nonperception.

These excellent passages are saying that the apprehension of signs should be eliminated through a meditation in which the mind does not attend to anything. Yet the intended meaning set forth is that you correctly examine with analytical wisdom and then establish meditative equipoise on the meaning of your realization that not even a particle of the referent object, the apprehension of true existence, is observed.


The second Stages of Meditation says: [289]

It is said, “When you investigate what the mind is,
you realise that it is empty. When you thoroughly
search for the mind realising that, its nature, you
realise that it is empty. Through such a realization
you enter the yoga of signlessness”. This indicates
that preparatory reflection is necessary to enter
signlessness. It very clearly indicates that it is
impossible to enter into complete nonconceptuality
by merely eliminating mental attention altogether,
without analyzing the nature of things
by means of wisdom.

That statement from the Cloud of Jewels of Sutra means if you have not found the view of suchness through correct prior analysis, you will not be able to engage in the meaning of suchness nonconceptually.

The third Stages of Meditation says that in order to refute the presumptuous claim that you can realize what is said to be inconceivable, beyond mind, and so forth by merely hearing and reflecting on the profound meaning, it was taught that these are objects known by individual aryas themselves and thus inconceivable by others and so on. This was also set forth to refute the improper reflection that apprehends the profound meaning as truly existent. However, it does not refute correct analysis by means of fine investigative wisdom. It is said that many reasonings and scriptures would be contradicted if that were refuted. Although [fine investigative wisdom] is considered conceptualization, nonconceptual wisdom arises from it because it is correct mental attention. Therefore those who want that wisdom should rely on it.

It is very important to understand the way in which these statements refute the Chinese master’s [Heshang’s] proposition that the view that determines suchness is not found in reliance upon scripture and reasoning and rather suchness is realized by meditative equipoise without any mental attention whatsoever.

These methods of meditation also appear in earlier instructions on the stages of the path. Potowa’s Jewel Box says: [290] 

Some say when you study and contemplate, you
through logic that there is not inherent existence,
but during meditation you cultivate nonthought.
Yet if you do that, this unconnected emptiness,
cultivated separately, will not become an antidote.
Thus, even while you meditate, you must finely
by means of the reasonings you are familiar with:
not one not many, dependent arising, and so forth.
Also briefly abide in nonconceptuality.
Meditation like that is an antidote for the afflictions.
For those who wish to follow the one lord [Atisa]
and wish to practice the way of the perfections,
that is the way to cultivate wisdom.
Having become familiar with the selflessness of
you should train in it accordingly.

The Elder, Atisa, also said this [in Entering the Two Truths]:

If you ask: who realized emptiness?
Nagarjuna, who saw the truth of reality
and was prophesied by the Tathagata,
and his student Candrakirti.
Through oral instructions transmitted from them,
the truth of reality will be realized.

Here I have expanded those instructions set forth by Atisa as well as master Kamalasila’s considerations, which appear to be the same.

In order to maintain special insight in that manner, you should know how to observe the six preparatory practices and how to act during the actual meditation session, afterward, and in between sessions. In particular, you should know the above methods for maintaining it free from laxity and excitement.



Until the pliancy explained above arises in your meditation while analyzing with fine investigative wisdom, it is a similitude of special insight. It is fully qualified special insight after pliancy arises. The nature of pliancy and the way it arises are as explained above. Yet since the samatha already accomplished has not deteriorated and also induces pliancy, the presence of pliancy alone is not the measure of having accomplished special insight. Well then, what is it? When the power of analytical meditation itself is able to induce pliancy, then it has become special insight. It is the same for both the special insight observing things in their variety and the special insight observing the ultimate mode of being. [291]

In accordance with that, the Unraveling the Intent Sutra also says:

“Blessed One, before a bodhisattva achieves physical
and mental pliancy, what do you call his mental
attention that mentally attends to internal images,
to the objects of concentration relative to
phenomena he has properly thought about?”
“Maitreya, it is not special insight. It should be
described as possessing a type of attention that is
similar to special insight”.

And Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom also says:

Thereby he abides in that physical and mental pliancy
he has attained. He should finely investigate
with special belief the meaning of precisely what
he has reflected on, the object that is the internal
image of his concentration. It is a mental attention
in accordance with special insight before
physical and mental pliancy have arisen. When
they have arisen, at that point it is special insight.

When [analysis] is able to induce pliancy by its own power, it is also able to induce single-pointedness of mind. Therefore inducing samatha like this through the power of analytical meditation that finely investigates is an excellent quality of having already accomplished samatha.

For someone well accomplished in samatha, analytical meditation practice makes samatha even more excellent. That is why you should not believe that the stability of your meditation will lessen if you practice the analytical meditation of fine investigative analysis.



If samatha and special insight have not been achieved as explained in the context of the measure for their accomplishment, there will be nothing to unify. That is why, to be unified, both must have definitely been achieved. Now, from the point where special insight is first achieved, the unity is also achieved. The method for that is as follows. They are unified when, by the power of having done analytical meditation in reliance on earlier samatha, you have attained mental application that operates naturally without fabrications and according to the explanation of samatha above.

Sravaka Levels says:

At what point do samatha and special insight mix
and unite evenly, and why is it called the “path
where they enter into union”? [292] From nine
mental abidings, it proceeds like this. One attains
that which constitutes the ninth abiding associated
with meditative equipoise, and in reliance
upon that full accomplishment of concentration,
one puts great effort into superior wisdom, the
thorough differentiation of phenomena. At that
point, the path of that thorough differentiation
of phenomena will operate naturally and effortlessly.
Since it is without fabrication, just like the
path of samatha, the special insight will be completely
pure and completely refined; it will follow
samatha and will be completely conjoined with a
sense of bliss. This is why samatha and special insight
mix and operate evenly and why it is called
“the path where samatha and special insight enter
into union”.

The third Stages of Meditation also says:

When the mind is balanced owing to freedom
from laxity and excitement and become extremely
clear with respect to suchness because it
operates naturally, at that point you should establish
equanimity by relaxing and giving up effort.
You should know that at that point, you have
accomplished the path of the union of samatha and
special insight.

It is as stated before: from the juncture where fully qualified special insight has been achieved, there is union.

Instructions on the Perfection of Wisdom also says:

Then you observe that very image connected with
conceptualization. When you experience both of
them in your mind through continuous uninterrupted
and unobstructed attention, it is called the
path of union of samatha and special insight. That
is to say, samatha and special insight. That
is to say, samatha and special insight are a pair,
and their relation is one of conjunction; they operate
bound to each other.

“Unobstructed” means that there is no need to stop the process of analytical meditation and place the mind in nonconceptuality. Nonconceptuality is induced by that analytical meditation itself. To “experience both” is to experience both the samatha that observes the nonconceptual image and the special insight that observes the image connected with conceptualization. [293] “Through continuous” should be understood from the point of view that the analytical special insight and the samatha at the end of the analysis do not arise simultaneously. However, when there is actual samatha induced by the power of analysis, both special insight, the discernment of phenomena that observes the ultimate mode of being, and samatha, the concentration that firmly and single-pointedly abides on the ultimate mode of being, operate in association. At such time samatha and special insight are mixed and operate equally. For that, it is necessary to gain a realization arisen from meditation. Therefore a collection of the two that allows one to finely investigate the meaning of selflessness from within a nonconceptual state of firm stability, like a little fish moving through water that remains still, may be posited as a similitude of samatha and special insight.

You should understand this manner in which samatha and special insight unite in accordance with what appears in those authentic texts rather than trusting explanations that fabricate it in some other way. Reasoned conclusions, scriptural source passages, and detailed methods for cultivating the stages of the path to enlightenment should be known from the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path.



Now I will present a brief summary of topics of the general path. First of all, the root of the path rests on the way you rely on a spiritual teacher, so be clear and decisive about that. Then, if an uncontrived desire to take the essence of your freedom has arisen, it will urge you from within to practice. Therefore, in order to generate it, you should meditate on the topics of the freedoms and endowments. Then, if your effort for things of this life is not countered, a serious effort for future lives will not arise. Therefore apply yourself to meditation on impermanence, the fact that the body you have obtained will not last long, and the way you will wander in the lower rebirths after death. Mindful of this, an attitude of genuine fear will arise, so you should sincerely develop certainty about the excellent qualities of the Three Refuges, abide by the vow of the common refuge, and train in its trainings. Then you should develop – from many angles – the faith of conviction in karma and its effects, the foundation of all virtuous Dharma. Having made it firm, earnestly work to engage in virtue and desist from nonvirtue, always entering the path of the four powers. [29

Once you have thus garnered the Dharma cycle of persons of lesser capacity, you should think extensively about the general and specific faults of cyclic existence and turn your mind away as much as you can from cyclic existence in general. Then identify the causes from which cyclic existence arises, karma and mental afflictions, and develop the uncontrived desire to eliminate them. Apply yourself to the three trainings in general, the path of liberation from cyclic existence, and in particular to the pratimoksa vow that you yourself have undertaken.

Once you have thus firmly established the cycle of training of persons of medium capacity, contemplate the many others just like you who have fallen into the ocean of existence. Train in bodhicitta, which has its root in love and compassion. You must try as hard as you can for it to arise; without it, the six perfections, the two stages [of tantra], and so forth are like a roof without supports. When you have had some small experience of it, adopt it through the ritual and put effort into its trainings so that you make your aspiring bodhicitta as stable as you can. Then explore the great waves of bodhisattva conduct. As you get to know the boundary between what you should desist from and what you should engage in, generate the desire to train in it. When that has arisen, take the vow of engaging bodhicitta through the ritual. Train in the six perfections that ripen your own mindstream and in the four ways of gathering disciples and so forth that ripen the minds of others. In particular, avoid a root downfall even at the risk of your life. Try hard not to be tainted by small and medium transgressions or misdeeds either. If you are, try hard to restore your vow.


Also, cultivating the lower paths, you should grow more and more keen on attaining the higher ones, and hearing about the higher ones, you should increasingly wish to accomplish the lower ones. When you meditate on them, you also need to purify your thoughts and balance your mind.
Thus, if your respect for the spiritual teacher who guides you on the path appears to be low, put effort into your manner of relying on him, for the root of your collection of goodness would otherwise be cut off.
Likewise, if your enthusiasm for practice is weak, emphasise meditation on the topic of freedom and endowments, [295] whereas if your clinging to this life increases, meditate mainly on the topics of impermanence and the faults of the lower rebirths.
If you tend to neglect the ethical boundaries you have accepted, meditate mainly on karma and its effects.
If your disenchantment with cyclic existence is weak, your effort for liberation will be nothing but words, so you should reflect on the faults of cyclic existence.
If you do not seem to have the strength of mind to make everything you do into something for the benefit of sentient beings, the root of the Mahayana will be cut off, so train in aspiring bodhicitta along with its causes. 

In the event you have taken the vow of the victors’ children and are training in their conduct, then if the bondage that is the apprehension of signs appears to be very strong, break down the referent object of that apprehension with a reasoning consciousness and train in space-like and illusion-like emptiness.
If your mind does not stay on its object and appears to become a slave to distraction, train mainly in the stability of your single-pointed meditation. This is what the masters of the past have taught.

From these examples you should also understand situations that have not been explained. In brief, you should not become imbalanced. Your mindstream should be serviceable for all virtuous initiatives.



Having thus trained in the paths that sutra and mantra share in common, you should no doubt become engaged in mantra because that path is extremely rare compared with other Dharma and makes you complete the two accumulations quickly. When you engage in it, as described in Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment, you should first please your guru beyond what was explained above. It should be someone who has at least all the characteristics explained there.

Then you should first have your mindstream ripened by means of an initiation explained in the authentic tantras. Then listen to and understand the commitments and vows taken on that occasion and guard them. If a root downfall occurs, even if the vow can be renewed, the development of excellent qualities of the path in your mindstream will be greatly delayed, so endeavour not to be tainted by that. Try not to be stained by the serious infractions, but if you are stained nevertheless, apply the means of restoring your commitments because they are the root for cultivating the paths. Without them it will be like a decrepit house whose support walls are collapsing.

The Root Tantra of Manjusri says, “The King of Sagees did not teach mantra attainments for those of loose ethics”. [296] Statements such as this are saying that there will be no great, medium, or small accomplishments whatsoever. The highest yoga tantras also say that those who do not guard their commitments, those who have an inferior empowerment, and those who do not understand suchness will not accomplish anything despite their practice. Therefore someone who claims to cultivate the path but does not keep the commitments and vows is straying far from the principles of mantra. 

That being so, those who guard their commitments and vows should train in stages in the yogas with and without signs according to the three lower tantra classes and in the two stages of yoga according to the highest one in order to cultivate the paths of mantra.

Here the topic of becoming engaged in mantra is presented just nominally, so you must get to know these in detail in works on the stages of the mantra path. If you train in such a way, you will be training in a perfectly complete body of a path that includes all the essential points of sutra and tantra, and you will make the opportunities you have achieved in this life meaningful through your training. You will be able to make the Victor’s precious teachings flourish in your own mindstream and in that of others. 



Of the two paths – sutra and tantra – taught by the
a fearless confidence in all the sutra paths
of scripture and treatises ensures that
they effortlessly arise as direct instructions.

The shared Mahayana paths, as explained in the
are all made clear, which makes this the supreme purifier
of the mindstream.

The concentrations common to Buddhists and
the Greater and Lesser Vehicles, both kinds
of Mahayana,
the higher and lower tantras, and the two stages
are correctly explained according to very clear texts by
many scholars,
allowing yogis to realize well the errors of paths they

Therefore for those who seek liberation,
I have arranged this abridged work on the stages of the
the path of the profound view and vast conduct
passed on from the regent Maitreya and the noble
transmitted by the protector Nagarjuna, Asanga,
and Santideva, three rivers merged as one
in the supreme instructions of the glorious Atisha. [297]
Through the virtue gained here by my effort,
may the Victor’s teachings, root of welfare of all beings,
prosper, uncorrupted, for a long time. [until the end of samsara]


This was a summary of essential points of all the scriptures of the Buddha, the tradition of the great trailblazers Nagarjuna and Asanga, the Dharma system of supreme beings who progress toward the level of omniscience. It was a presentation of the stages of the path to enlightenment that teaches in full all the stages to be practiced by the three types of persons, the meaning of instructions that I have received and that were transmitted to Neusurpa from both Gonpawa and Chengawa, to Sharawa from Potowa, and to Dolpa from Potowa. This additional distillation of an extensive presentation of the stages of the path was composed by the learned and renounced fully ordained monk Tsongkhapa Losang Drakpai Pal on Mount Geden.

(to be continued…)