What Is the Three Dharma-Seals About? (8)


© Anonymous, July 19, 2013 at 11:02 PM (http://tantrismuskritik.blogspot.tw/2013/07/what-is-three-dharma-seals-about-7.html?showComment=1374246154734#c5945633129336637393")

We have gone over the basics of the Three Dharma-Seals, and the Buddha dharma has to be examined from every possible facet. 

Some people would wonder, among the Three Dharma-Seals (all formations are impermanent, all dharmas are of no-self, and nirvana is tranquil), can one of them subsume the rest such that the Three Dharma-Seals can be condensed into one overarching principle? They would wonder whether it is possible to use “all formations are impermanent” to subsume the other two dharma-seals? Or using “all dharmas are no-self.” Or using “nirvana is tranquil.”

However, subsuming the other dharma-seals under “all formations are impermanent” and “all dharmas are no-self” would be erroneous. For one, it would be correct to subsume “all dharmas are no-self” under “all formations are impermanent,” but it would be problematic to use an impermanent dharma-seal to subsume the dharma seal of nirvana. Why so? Because nirvana is a permanent dharma that is neither arising nor ceasing. It is the state of ultimate liberation and cannot be subsumed under an impermanent dharma-seal. This is the fault of subsuming the Three Dharma-Seals under an impermanent dharma-seal.

Alternatively, some may consider subsuming the Three Dharma-Seals under the dharma-seal of the no-self dharma. This too is faulty. Why? When we talk about the “self,” what this “self” means is one that can control and master oneself. Only a dharma that is capable to master and exert control over oneself can be called the “self.”

However, we can observe that “all formations are impermanent” and “all dharmas are no-self” refer to the no-self nature of these dharmas. Only the nirvana in the dharma-seal of “nirvana is tranquil” is the master of everything in the three realms, for the firm and indestructible law of causality is its dharma-nature. Because of this nature, it can exert control over everything within the three realms.

All sentient beings’ transmigration within the six paths of rebirth in the three realms, their liberation from births-and-deaths or achieving Buddhahood are all circumscribed by the dharma-natures of Tathagatagarbha. Thus, anyone wishes to liberate themselves from births-and-deaths or attain the ultimate Buddhahood must rely on and abide by the dharma-natures of Tathagatagarbha. Therefore, we can see that the Tathagatagarbha is actually the master of the dharma-realm. To subsume the Three Dharma-Seals under a no-self dharma would be inappropriate for the dharma-seal of nirvana, or Tathagatagarbha. In conclusion, neither the impermanent or no-self dharma can subsume all Three Dharma-Seals. (Part 8)


  1. Then can we use the dharma-seal of “nirvana being tranquil” to subsume all dharma-seals?

    Well, let us first take a closer look of the content of the Three Samadhis.
    Like what we have done before, we will group the Three Samadhis into two types for the sake of our discussion. How are we going to divide them?

    The dharma-seal of nirvana corresponds to Emptiness whereas “all formations being impermanent” corresponds to that of No-Appearance and Wishlessness (or, No-Appearance and No-Fabrication, Part 2).

    But why would we characterize nirvana as emptiness? This is actually a very crucial point for the understanding of the Three Dharma-Seals, Three Samadhis, or Three Liberation Ways. Some people say that the sound-hearer dharmas refer to “emptiness due to impermanence.” So, to them, the Emptiness Samadhi in the Three Samadhis means “emptiness due to impermanence.”

    Owing to this understanding, they believe that once they have thoroughly observed the emptiness in all dharmas they would have realized the Emptiness Samadhi. Yet, this view is fallacious.

    When a non-Buddhist practitioner who believes in nihilism observes and confirms that all dharmas in the aggregates [skandhās], sense-fields [ayatanās] and sense-realms [dhātavas] are indeed “emptiness due to impermanence” and will eventually become extinguished, he would come to the conclusion that no dharma exists in the three realms and that the No-Appearance and Wishlessness Samadhis in the Three Samadhis refer to the elimination of appearances and wishes.

    In this case, would all of the Three Samadhis not be rendered as empty, nothing, and impermanent? Wouldn’t all of them have to be eliminated? If that were correct though, this dharma would be no different from that of those non-Buddhist nihilists. If Emptiness Samadhi is explained in terms of “emptiness due to impermanence,” then non-Buddhist nihilists should be regarded as enlightened saints in the Buddha dharma. Yet obviously, this is not the case.

    It is perfectly normal if you have to do repeat readings, as I wrote earlier, this sujbect is a bit advanced Buddha dharma.

    Try to connect and weave all info you have gained from this thread, as these basics will enhance your Buddhist knowledge even till future lifetimes. (Part 9)

  2. Then how should we understand the meaning of Emptiness Samadhi? (This is very important)

    This Emptiness Samadhi is in fact related to “the truth about the cessation of sufferings 滅諦,” one of the Four Noble Truths.
    Since “the truth about the cessation of sufferings” is related to the Emptiness Samadhi, sound-hearers understand the Emptiness Samadhi through this particular noble truth. How about solitary-realizers [pratyekabuddhas]? They can also realize the Three Samadhis, including the Emptiness Samadhi. How do they understand these Samadhis? They observe the ten links of dependent arising.

    The noble truth about the cessation of sufferings does not mean eliminating all dharmas and ending up with nothingness. Then why is the noble truth about the cessation of sufferings called Emptiness Samadhi? When we attempt to discuss the original entity of all dharmas, how should we characterize it? And what does nirvana mean?

    From the perspective of the noble truth about the cessation of sufferings, we can treat nirvana as a vessel that can hold the five aggregates. Then how should we characterize this vessel - nirvana - itself? We use the word “emptiness.”

    For instance, we use a cup to hold ice cream. When the ice cream overflows because there is too much of it, we can only see the ice cream but not the cup. When that happens, how do we show the vessel by itself, where is the cup in this example? We have to finish up all the ice cream and wash up the cup. Once all the ice cream is gone, the cup itself will be clearly seen.

    Therefore, when we talk about the nirvana by itself only, it is similar to presenting only the vessel itself. We have to characterize it as being in a state of emptiness, which means that it does not contain or hold anything. When it is filled up with things, it cannot be seen. The noble truth about the cessation of sufferings points to the realization of nirvana. What is nirvana? It is the vessel. When the five aggregates are eliminated, this vessel called nirvana will become “visible.” Thus, the vessel called nirvana must be in a state of emptiness. (Part 10)

    1. It's wonderful that you write this article for readers. I will copy it for my blog.
      Thanks a lot!