Oral Translation by Ken and Katia Holmes Final Translation by Dr. Cornelia Weishaar-Gunter
The Ornament of Clear Realization summarizes the vast Prajnaparamita text of 100,000 verses.
This Prajnaparamita text along with its shorter versions of 25,000 and 8,000 verses came from the great tantric practitioner Nagarjuna who lived in the first century A.D. The Ornament comprises 80 distinct points and these points are memorized in Tibetan monastic colleges and are an integral part of a Buddhist education. For this reason, each of these points and their reason, each of these points and their Tibetan names have been included in the extensive outline of this book. The present book is a commentary by Ven. Thrangu Rinpoche Geshe Lharampa on the Prajnaparamita of the Maitreya Buddha.
About two thousand five hundred years ago the Buddha attained enlightenment and began delivering a remarkable set of teachings at the age of thirty-five. His first teaching was that all beings seek happiness, but that they do not achieve a state of permanent happiness because of their attachment to objects.
These are, of course, the teachings of the Four Noble Truths which was a formal discourse to five of his disciples which laid down the fundamentals of the Buddhist path. For the next forty-five years the Buddha taught much differently; he would usually meet in a large gathering and then he would accept questions and answer these questions. His answers varied depending on the capacity and understanding of who asked the question and the answer was specific to that particular individuals needs. When the Buddhist teachings were collected together after his passing away, his students made a collection of discourses which were essentially question and answers to individuals questions and were not organized in any systematic way. These teachings called the sutras fill over 30 volumes and it was difficult for the average Buddhist to extract the essential meaning from these discourses.
As a result of this some enlightened individuals in later centuries studied these sutras and meditated upon them for a long time and then wrote very carefully written commentaries or shastras which organized these sutras into basic themes. Thrangu Rinpoche emphasizes that the authors of the shastras did not expressed their personal theories and beliefs as university professors do today, but they were extraordinary individuals who received transmissions from supramundane sources. This may seem far-fetched to the “estern scholar, but anyone who has spent any time with Buddhist lamas knows that this communication goes on even today with the most realized lamas.
In the fourth century C.E. there were a pair of remarkable brothers who lived in India. The younger brother Vasubandhu spent years studying under the great gurus in India and Kashmir and upon reaching enlightenment wrote an extraordinary shastra on the Abhidharma called the Abhidharmakosha. The Abhidharma, to greatly simplify, is the Buddhist cosmology and classification of knowledge which tries to systematize the dharma in a highly structured set of concepts. This book written in Sanskrit was almost lost with the Moslem invasion of India in the eleventh century, but was fortunately copied, and taken to Nepal and Tibet and translated into Tibetan. There it remained essentially unchanged from the ninth century on to today where it is still studied by all Tibetan sects in their monastic colleges. This work is classified as a major work of the Hinayana school.
The older brother, Asanga was even more remarkable. Asanga spent a period of twelve years meditating on Maitreya who was an original disciple of the Buddha who achieved such high spiritual achievement that Maitreya dwells in the sambhogakaya. After these twelve years, which involved many trials, Asanga was able to “meet” with Maitreya. To be able to contact the sambhogakaya requires an extraordinarily pure and realized being. From Maitreya Asanga was able to receive the transmission of five shastras. These shastras were: The Uttaratantra which is a treatise on Buddha- nature. When Thrangu Rinpoche first came to the West he chose this as his first text to teach to Westerners. This teaching is now available from Namo Buddha Publications.
The second treatise is the Abhisamaya-lankara which is this particular text on the vast Prajnaparamita teachings. The third treatise is the Madhyanta-vibhaga or Distinguishing the Middle from the Extremes. This text describes expands on the tenets of the Middle-way school. This teaching of Maitreya was also taught by Thrangu Rinpoche and is available from Namo Buddha Publications. The fourth treatise is the Dharma-dharmata-vibhaga or Distinguishing Dharma and Dharmata. This work also discusses Buddha-nature and is available from Namo Buddha Publications. Finally, there is the Mahayana-sutra-lankara or the Ornament of the Mahayana Sutras.
The Buddha taught three paths or three vehicles. The first path is the Hinayana which stresses to generalize greatly the examination of mind through meditation and the accumulation of merit. The accomplished practitioner of this path is called an arhat. The second vehicle is the Mahayana path which includes everything in the
Hinayana vehicle with a special emphasis on the concept of emptiness of phenomena and the emptiness of self. The accomplished person of this path is called a bodhisattva. The concept of emptiness is the Prajnaparamita teachings. So we can see that this commentary on the Abhisamayalankara is one of the loundations for the Mahayana teachings. This is why this text as well as the other four texts of Maitreya are taught throughout Tibet and among all sects of Tibetan Buddhism.
The Ornament of Clear Realization summarizes the vast Prajnaparamita text of 100,000 verses. This Prajnaparamita text along with its shorter versions of 25,000 and 8,000 verses came from the great tantric practitioner Nagarjuna who lived in the first century of our era. The Ornament comprises 80 distinct points and these points are memorized in Tibetan monastic colleges (Tib. shedras) and are an integral part of a Buddhist education. For this reason we have included each of these points and their Tibetan names in the extensive outline of this work.
Unfortunately, the root text of the Ornament has been translated only a few times into English. We are now preparing a text of this commentary with a translation of the root text. The root text is for the most part simply long lists of words (very similar to the 80 points) and this makes the root text without a commentary fairly incomprehensible. We are especially fortunate to have the great scholar Thrangu Rinpoche commentary on this important work.
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