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Home > Fundamentals of Tibetan Buddhism > Level 5: Analysis of the Mind and Reality > A Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network

A Deluded Outlook
toward a Transitory Network

Alexander Berzin
February 2004, revised April 2008
[based on explanations by Geshe Tenzin Zangpo (Tutor of Tsenzhab Serkong Rinpoche II) and Geshe Wangchen (Tutor of Ling Rinpoche VII)]

Basic Definitions

A deluded outlook toward a transitory network (‘jig-lta) concerns how we view ourselves as persons (gang-zag) in relation to the aggregate factors of our experience (phung-po). It deals with only ourselves as persons and not with any other persons. It has both doctrinally based (kun-brtags) and automatically arising (lhan-skyes) forms, depending on whether it is based on grasping for a coarse or a subtle impossible soul of a person (gang-zag-gi bdag-‘dzin rags-pa and phra-mo, grasping for a coarse and subtle self of a person). The doctrinally based form comes from learning and accepting the teachings on a soul (bdag, Skt. atman) of one of the non-Buddhist Indian tenet systems.

  • In general, according to Mahayana, grasping for an impossible soul may be for an impossible soul of a person or of all phenomena. A deluded outlook toward a transitory network is based on grasping for the impossible soul of only a person.
  • Grasping for an impossible soul interpolates (sgro-‘dogs) an impossible mode of existence to its object, and is therefore neither a primary consciousness (rnam-shes) nor a mental factor (sems-byung, subsidiary awareness), although it accompanies both of them. Moreover, because it is not a mental factor, it is not a disturbing emotion or attitude (nyon-mongs, Skt. klesha). A deluded outlook toward a transitory network is both a mental factor and a disturbing attitude. As such, it does not interpolate anything.
  • According to Gelug, grasping for an impossible soul may accompany either a conceptual or a nonconceptual cognition, although it is not in a manifest form during nonconceptual cognition of voidness. A deluded outlook toward a transitory network accompanies only conceptual cognition.

[See: Mind and Mental Factors: The Fifty-one Types of Subsidiary Awareness.]

Only the doctrinally based deluded outlook toward a transitory network that is based on doctrinally based grasping for a coarse impossible soul of ourselves as persons is divided into the twenty deluded outlooks toward a transitory network (‘jig-lta nyi-shu). This is the case regardless of the definitions of the coarse and subtle impossible souls of persons. All other forms of a deluded outlook toward a transitory network lack a division into twenty deluded outlooks.

[See: The Distinction between Self-sufficiently Knowable and Imputedly Knowable Phenomena.]

Overview of the Assertions of the Various Indian Tenet Systems According to the Gelug Presentation

Definitions of Coarse and Subtle Impossible Souls

According to all Indian Buddhist schools other than the Gelug interpretation of Prasangika, the coarse impossible soul of a person is one that is static, monolithic, and independent of the five aggregates (rtag-gcig-rang-dbang-gi bdag). Grasping for the coarse impossible soul of a person is only doctrinally based; it does not automatically arise. The subtle impossible soul of a person is one that is self-sufficiently knowable (rang-rkya thub-‘dzin-pa’i bdag). Grasping for the subtle impossible soul of a person automatically arises and does not occur in a doctrinally based form.

According to Gelug-Prasangika, the coarse impossible soul is one that is truly findable as a self-sufficiently knowable entity. The subtle impossible soul of a person is one that is simply truly findable (has true findable existence, bden-par grub-pa). Both grasping for a coarse and for a subtle impossible soul of a person occur in both doctrinally based and automatically arising forms.

Basis for a Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network

Vaibhashika asserts that a deluded outlook toward a transitory network is based only on grasping for the coarse impossible soul of a person.

Sautrantika, Chittamatra, Svatantrika, and Prasangika assert that it may be based on grasping for either a coarse or subtle impossible soul of a person. 

Overview of These Assertions in Chart Form

The Vaibhashika System

  Doctrinally Based Automatically Arising
Grasping for an Impossible Soul
of Ourselves as Persons
coarse impossible soul subtle impossible soul
Deluded Outlook toward
a Transitory Network
coarse impossible soul  
Twenty Deluded Outlooks toward
a Transitory Network
coarse impossible soul  

 

The Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika Systems

  Doctrinally Based Automatically Arising
Grasping for an Impossible Soul
of Ourselves as Persons
coarse impossible soul subtle impossible soul
Deluded Outlook toward
a Transitory Network
coarse impossible soul subtle impossible soul
Twenty Deluded Outlooks toward
a Transitory Network
coarse impossible soul  

 

The Gelug Prasangika System

  Doctrinally Based Automatically Arising
Grasping for an Impossible Soul
of Ourselves as Persons

coarse impossible soul

subtle impossible soul

coarse impossible soul

subtle impossible soul

Deluded Outlook toward
a Transitory Network

coarse impossible soul

subtle impossible soul

coarse impossible soul

subtle impossible soul

Twenty Deluded Outlooks toward
a Transitory Network
coarse impossible soul  

 

The Non-Prasangika Indian Buddhist Assertion

In all Indian Buddhist systems other than Gelug-Prasangika, a transitory network refers to any of the five aggregate factorsforms of physical phenomena, feelings of levels of happiness, distinguishings, other affecting variables, and types of consciousness. A deluded outlook toward a transitory network focuses on a specific network of our aggregates and regards them as having a certain relationship with either a coarse or a subtle impossible soul. Roughly speaking, it regards the aggregates as either an impossible "me" (nga) or an impossible "mine" (nga’i -ba).

Coarse Doctrinally Based Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network – the Twenty Deluded Outlooks

Based on doctrinally based grasping for a coarse impossible soul of ourselves as persons, the doctrinally based deluded outlook toward a transitory network entails twenty deluded outlooks. The twenty are comprised of four deluded outlooks for each of the five aggregates. With respect to our bodies, for example, we may regard

  • our bodies as a static, monolithic, independent "me,"
  • our bodies as the possessions of a static, monolithic, independent "me,"
  • our bodies as things that a static, monolithic, independent "me" controls or bosses,
  • our bodies as the habitats of a static, monolithic, independent "me."

The first of the four is based on grasping at our aggregates as "me" and thus at our aggregates and our coarse impossible soul to be totally identical, to be "one." This is the assertion of the non-Buddhist Charvaka school: namely, that a person or a soul is simply the body and mind. Here, the Charvaka assertion of a person may be included as an assertion of a coarse impossible soul. The other three deluded outlooks regard our aggregates as "mine" and thus regard our aggregates and our coarse impossible souls to be "different" (tha-dad, many), as asserted by the other seven non-Buddhist Indian tenet systems.

Subtle Automatically Arising Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network

In the Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika systems, when a deluded outlook toward a transitory network arises based on grasping for a subtle impossible soul – one that is self-sufficiently knowable – it has only an automatically arising form. This is because grasping for a subtle impossible soul is only automatically arising. Thus, in Sautrantika, Chittamatra, and Svatantrika, the doctrinally based and automatically arising deluded outlooks toward a transitory nature do not concern the same level of impossible soul.

The automatically arising deluded outlook toward a transitory network also focuses on a specific transitory network of our aggregates, but does not have twenty forms. It either regards those aggregates and our supposedly self-sufficiently knowable soul to be totally identical (ngo-bo gcig, to have the same essential nature, to be "one"). Alternatively, it regards those aggregates and our supposedly self-sufficiently knowable soul to be totally separate (ngo-bo tha-dad, to have different self-natures, to be "many"). The two alternatives are, respectively, the automatically arising deluded outlook toward a transitory network as "me" or as "mine."

Only after we have rid ourselves of the automatically arising deluded outlook toward a transitory network, do we attain liberation. Ridding ourselves of the doctrinally based form is merely a step on the way to liberation.

The Gelug Prasangika Assertion

In the Gelug Prasangika system, a transitory network refers to our validly knowable "me," since it is an ever-changing network of parts, facets, and moments. A deluded outlook toward a transitory network focuses on our validly knowable "me" and regards it as our coarse or subtle impossible soul having a certain relationship with our aggregates. Roughly speaking, it regards the validly knowable "me" as either an impossible "me" or as an impossible "myself, the possessor" in relation to the aggregates.

Whether a deluded outlook toward a transitory network arises based on grasping for a coarse impossible soul (a findably existent one that is self-sufficiently knowable) or arises based on grasping for a subtle impossible soul (simply a findable existent one) makes no difference in the following regard. In both cases, the deluded outlook has both doctrinally based and automatically arising forms. This is because grasping for a coarse and a subtle impossible soul, as defined in Prasangika, both occur in both doctrinally based and automatically arising forms. Thus, in Prasangika, the doctrinally based and automatically arising deluded outlooks toward a transitory nature both concern both levels of impossible soul.

  • For Gelug Prasangika, "doctrinally based" refers to disturbing emotions and attitudes derived from learning and accepting the teachings of also a non-Prasangika Buddhist tenet system.

Coarse Doctrinally Based Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network – the Twenty Deluded Outlooks

As in the non-Prasangika systems, the twenty deluded outlooks toward a transitory network occur only with doctrinally based grasping for a coarse impossible soul of a person. Thus, the twenty do not occur with automatically arising coarse grasping or with either doctrinally based or automatically arising subtle grasping.

As in the non-Prasangika systems, Prasangika divides the twenty deluded outlooks toward a transitory network into four with respect to each of the aggregates. For example, with respect to our bodies, we may regard our validly knowable "me" as

  • a findable self-sufficiently knowable "me" (a findable imputedly and validly knowable "me" according to the common definition) that is this body,
  • a findable, self-sufficiently knowable "me" that is the possessor of this body,
  • a findable, self-sufficiently knowable "me" that is the controller or boss of this body,
  • a findable, self-sufficiently knowable "me" that is the inhabitant of this body.

The first position regards the unfindable validly knowable "me" as a findable validly knowable "me" that is one or another of the five aggregates. This is the Vatsiputriya (gNas-ma'i bu-pa) position. Vatsiputriya, one of the eighteen Hinayana schools, does not even assert that a findable validly knowable "me" that is identical ("one") with one of the findable aggregates is imputedly knowable. According to it, the validly knowable "me" is self-sufficiently knowable and therefore, Vatsiputriya does not assert the lack of a subtle impossible soul of a person.

The other non-Prasangika systems assert that the validly knowable "me" is a findable imputedly and validly knowable "me" that is imputed on the findable network or findable continuity of all five aggregates. Or they assert that it is a findable "me" that is imputed on one specific findable member of one of the aggregates – namely, on mental consciousness or alayavijnana (kun-gzhi rnam-shes, foundation consciousness), as findable members of the aggregate of consciousness. If any of these possibilities were the case, the validly knowable "me," as a findable validly knowable "me," would need to be totally different ("many") from any other findable member of the five aggregates. This leads to doctrinally based grasping for the validly knowable "me" – as a findable validly knowable "me" imputed on findable mental consciousness or on findable alayavijnana – to be the findable possessor, controller, or inhabitant of that other findable member of the aggregates.

Coarse Automatically Arising Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network

The coarse automatically arising deluded outlook toward a transitory network is based on automatically arising grasping for a self-sufficiently knowable soul of a person according to the common definition. It regards the validly knowable "me" as a findable self-sufficiently knowable soul that either is totally identical with the findable aggregates or is the totally different findable possessor of the findable aggregates.

Subtle Doctrinally Based Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network

The subtle doctrinally based deluded outlook toward a transitory network is based on subtle doctrinally based grasping for a true findably existent soul of a person. It is acquired from learning and accepting the assertions of true findable existence made by the non-Prasangika Buddhist tenet systems. Based on this grasping, it regards the validly knowable "me" as a findable soul that either is totally identical with the findable aggregates or is the totally different findable possessor of the findable aggregates.

Subtle Automatically Arising Deluded Outlook toward a Transitory Network

The subtle automatically arising deluded outlook toward a transitory network is based on subtle automatically arising grasping for a true findably existent soul of a person. It too regards the validly knowable "me" as a findable soul in the same ways as the subtle doctrinally based form.