Dalai Lama on the Clear Light

Dalai Lama“According to Dam-tsik-dor-jay, a Mongolian from Kalka, when the [tantric] view of the Great Perfection is taught, it also is divided into two categories, objective and subjective. The former can be understood in the vocabulary of the New Translation Schools [Kagyud, Sakya, & Gelug], just explained, as the objective clear light, that is to say, as emptiness which is the object of a wisdom consciousness. In the Great Perfection [tantras of the Nyingma school,] the term ‘view’ most frequently refers not to the object emptiness, but to the subject, the wisdom consciousness and , more or less, a union of the object – emptiness – with the subject – the wisdom consciousness realizing it. This innate fundamental mind of clear light is emphasized equally in the Highest Yoga Tantra systems of the New Translation Schools and in the Nying-ma system of the Great Perfection and is the proper place of comparison of the old and new schools.

In the Great Perfection, however, the subjective view, that is to say, the mind which takes emptiness as its object – is not the ordinary of coarse mind described in the Perfection Vehicle of the Great Vehicle but a subtle mind. It is basic knowledge (rig pa), clear light (‘od gsal), the fundamental innate mind of clear light (gnyug ma lhan cig skyes pa’i ‘od gsal) which is the final status (gnas lugs) of things…

The fundamental mind which serves as the basis of all phenomena of cyclic existence and nirvana is posited as the ultimate truth or nature of phenomena (dharmata, chos nyid); it is also called the ‘clear light’ (abhasvara, ‘od gsal) and uncompounded (asamskrta, ‘dus ma byas). In Nying-ma it is called the ‘mind-vajra’; this is not the mind that is contrasted with basic knowledge (rig pa) and mind (sems) but the factor of mere luminosity and knowing, basic knowledge itself. This is the final root of all minds, forever indestructible, immutable, and unbreakable continuum like a vajra. Just as the New Translation Schools posit a beginningless and endless fundamental mind, so Nying-ma posits a mind-vajra which has no beginning or end and proceeds without interruption through the effect stage of Buddhahood. It is considered ‘permanent’ in the sense of abiding forever and thus is presented as a permanent mind. It is permanent not in the sense of not disintegrating moment by moment but in the sense that its continuum is no interrupted…

With respect to identifying the clear light in the Great Perfection: when, for instance, one hears a noise, between the time of hearing it and conceptualizing it as such and such, there is a type of mind devoid of conceptuality but nevertheless not like sleep or samadhi, in which the object is a reflection of this entity of mere luminosity and knowing. It is at such a point that the basic entity of the mind [clear light] is identified.

“Union of new Old Schools” in Kindness, Clarity, & Insight (trans. Hopkins)


Dalai Lama II

5 comments on “Dalai Lama on the Clear Light
  1. Francesca says:

    I experienced the öd gsal in 1992, 16 ears old. It is empty in the meaning of being the Essence of all living forms or manifestations, and indeed it is plently of itself [Light inside and Light outside]; it is living, alive and moving, and it is almighty and ”all knowledgeable” or better ”all wise”. Experiencing it [through Sight, View (3. eye)], this delivers the sudden Understanding of Phenomenas [i.E. Behaviours] and their Meaning. In the end or at the beginning, ”the Light” is inner Good and outer Strength together, it is the [Source of] Life [Quality of being alive], and it is the Source we could get inspired by, in order to live a sustainable Life [and intelligent Life (in-telligent = which tells from within, what’s right/correct to do and what’s wrong/incorrect to do)]. I would call it a totipotent Entity [for those who are more inclined to understand Biology or other so called hard Sciences]. öd gsal represent Happiness inside [Good] and Happiness outside [Strength], where [probably!] the inner aspect is tied to the Heart/Core and, the outer aspect is tied to the Vehicle [Mind-Body].

  2. Christine says:

    Has anyone ever heard of a person experience visions of bright white light that became physically incapacitating? When I first started cleaning ‘spiritually toxic’ people and habits out of my life, about ten years ago, I would have ‘white outs’ come upon me without warning – they started with me feeling sick to my stomach, having to lie or sit down, and then having my mind completely ‘cleared’ of thought or orientation. All I saw was white light, and while I never fainted, it was like losing consciousness. After the sickness and disorientation wore off, I’d ‘wake up’ feeling as if large chunks of toxic ‘energy’ had been cleared, and that I was restored on a higher or more purified spiritual level. It felt like I was being cleaned out and ‘re-set’. I don’t get them very often anymore, but they came often when I first started making large sacrifices in my normal life so that I could live in better alignment with spiritual principles that I increasingly valued. Any thoughts or similar experiences out there?

  3. Christine says:

    p.s. I didn’t have any epiphanies or realizations about spiritual truths during these white outs, mainly I felt incapacitated, cleared of spiritual ‘toxins’, and restored on a higher level. There were no particular meanings communicated to me during these experiences, it really felt like losing consciousness while I was still awake, somehow.

  4. Jackson Peterson says:

    The benefit here is recognizing the nature of the aware empty “gap” between the first moment of appearance, just before the mind kicks in starts to define and think about it.

  5. Dear Christine, Thanks for your comment. Purification drops off filtering, just like mystical and near death and some drug experiences do. My suspicion is that people get reflected back to them out of these experiences either what they are looking for or what they need, as a form of compensation. Since most people need acceptance, nurturing and compassion, that is the affective content of the vast majority of mystical and near death experiences. However, in Tibetan and non-dual traditions, one is taught to look for and therefore more likely to experience, clarity and luminosity. The question would be where and how you park your emotions and more broadly, the affective side of life? How you relate to it, if you do so differently from most others in today’s world culture and if so, why?

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