The Difference Between a Sentient Being and a Buddha: ’Jig rten gsum mgon’s Instruction on the Process of Confusion
This paper will present the text Phyag chen ’khrul pa rtsad gcod ’khrul lugs ngos ’dzin gyi gdams pa (A Mahāmudrā Investigation into Confusion: An Instruction for Identifying the Process of Confusion) by ’Jig rten gsum mgon. This text explains what differentiates sentient beings from buddhas and how they are ultimately inseparable. The disciple Mkhan po Bzod pa asks his teacher to clarify where confusion comes from and which came first: a buddha or a sentient being. ’Jig rten gsum mgon answers that neither came first, that there is no difference in terms of time between the two, and that the first buddha is the primordial buddha (ādibuddha), which is the dharmatā (chos nyid), and the first sentient being is the dharmin (chos can). The dharmatā and dharmin is the basis of all (kun gzhi). He explains that the dharmatā exists within all sentient beings, and their confusion is caused by not recognizing that this dharmatā exists within them. Recognizing this dharmatā is to become a buddha according to ’Jig rten gsum mgon. This is a profound text that shows how sentient beings and buddhas are related, how confusion arises that leads to saṃsāra, and how recognition of the true nature of sentient beings is the way to enlightenment. We will discuss the major points of this text and how dharmatā is related to the idea of buddha-nature of the Uttaratantra.
University of Vienna
Khenpo Tamphel is a highly knowledgeable Buddhist scholar and translator. He is the main translator for the Ratnaśri Translation Group, headed by His Holiness Drikung Kyabgon Chetsang Rinpoche, which regularly translates for 84000. He is also the Research Officer for the Songtsen Library, an important institution and resource for Buddhist Studies.