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The Formula for Entering Non-Conceptuality

Formula for Entering into Non-Conceptuality

Lhasa Kangyur, vol. 57, pp. 5-24.1

In Sanskrit, Ārya avikalpapraveśa nāma dhāraṇī.2

In Tibetan, ’Phags pa rnam par mi rtog par ’jug pa zhes bya ba’i gzungs.3

[In English, The Noble Formula called “Entering into Non-Conceptuality”.]

Homage to all the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas!

Thus have I [2a] heard. Once, the Transcendent Conqueror was staying with a great assembly of monks and a great host of bodhisattvas in a mansion at the heart of the non-conceptual sphere of reality, [a realm] superior to all three realms. He was together with these bodhisattvas, great beings:4 Non-Conceptuality, [2b] Non-Conceptual Illumination, Non-Conceptual Moon, Non-Conceptual Hero, Skilled Teacher of the Doctrine of Non-Conceptuality, Non-Conceptual Nature, Non-Conceptual Intelligence, Roar of Non-Conceptuality, Non-Conceptual Pervader, Lord of Non-Conceptuality, Non-Conceptual Lord of Great Love,5 and the noble bodhisattva, great being, Avalokiteśvara.6

Then, the Transcendent Conqueror, surrounded by a retinue of many hundreds of thousands, [3a] looked straight ahead and [did] this. He taught the doctrines of the Great Vehicle beginning with the non-conceptuality of phenomena. Thus, purveying the whole retinue of bodhisattvas, the Transcendent Conqueror proclaimed to the bodhisattvas:

Sons of the Lineage, grasp the mnemonic formula7 called “Entering into Non-Conceptuality”! If he or she grasps that, a bodhisattva will quickly achieve the qualities of a Buddha and be elevated for all time.

Then, [3b] from within that retinue the bodhisattva, great being called Non-Conceptual Illumination rose from his seat. Moving aside his upper robe from one shoulder and planting his right knee on the ground, he bowed in the direction of the Transcendent Conqueror with his palms joined, whereupon he asked this of the Transcendent Conqueror:

Transcendent Conqueror, please explain the formula for entering non-conceptuality, which upon hearing a bodhisattva will apprehend, recite, properly apply the mind, and even teach extensively to others.

Thus he requested, and the Transcendent Conquer proclaimed:

Sons of the Lineage, on that account, listen closely and bear it well in mind, and I will explain the formula for entering into non-conceptuality.

They replied, “Good, Transcendent Conqueror!” Those bodhisattva great beings listened with their full attention to the Transcendent Conqueror, and the Transcendent Conqueror said these words to them:

For those sons of the lineage,8 [4a] listen to the doctrine whereby a bodhisattva, great being comes under the influence of non-conceptuality!

Having reflected upon non-conceptuality, one completely abandons all conceptual designations.9 Initially, it is like this. One completely abandons all designations conceiving of inherent nature in either apprehended objects or apprehending subjects. Concerning that, the designation of a thing as belonging to a person10 is a designation conceiving of inherent nature. The things contaminated [with this kind of conceptuality] are the five aggregates that are grasped at.11 These are the aggregate of forms that are grasped at, the aggregate of feelings that are grasped at, the aggregate of discriminations that are grasped at, the aggregate of [mental] formations12 that are grasped at, and the aggregate of consciousness that are grasped at. How does one thoroughly abandon these designations conceiving of inherent nature? One abandons them completely by not applying the mind to [their] manifestations in terms of how they appear.13

When the [bodhisattva] gradually14 abandons those designations conceiving of inherent nature, [4b] there arise—in terms of becoming apparent—conceptual designations analyzing the antidotes that are separate from that [set of designations conceiving of inherent nature]. These are: conceptual designations analyzing [the perfection of] giving, conceptual designations analyzing ethics, conceptual designations analyzing patience, conceptual designations analyzing concentrations, and conceptual designations analyzing wisdom. It is like this. They either analyze the entity, or they analyze the qualities, or they analyze the essence. The [bodhisattva] thoroughly abandons those by not focusing the mind on them.

When s/he completely abandons those, other conceptual designations analyzing suchness arise in terms of becoming apparent. These are: the conceptual designations analyzing emptiness, conceptual designations analyzing suchness, conceptual designations analyzing the horizon of truth,15 as well as conceptual designations analyzing signlessness, the ultimate, and the sphere of reality.16 [5a] It is like this. They either analyze own-characteristics, or they analyze qualities, or they analyze essence. The [bodhisattva] thoroughly abandons those conceptual designations analyzing suchness by not focusing the mind on them.

When s/he completely abandons those, other conceptual designations analyzing attainment arise and manifest in the senes of appearing. These range from conceptual designations analyzing the attainment of the first ground up to the conceptual designations analyzing the attainment of the tenth ground, as well as conceptual designations analyzing the attainment which accepts that phenomena are unproduced, conceptual designations analyzing the attainment of a prophecy,17 conceptual designations analyzing the attainment of an absolutely pure Buddha-field, conceptual designations analyzing the attainment of [the ability to] completely ripen sentient beings, and conceptual designations ranging from those analyzing the attainment of empowerment on up to those analyzing the attainment of omniscience. It is like this. Either they analyze own-characteristics, [5b] or they analyze qualities, or they analyze the essence. The [bodhisattva] completely abandons those conceptual designations analyzing attainment by not focusing the mind on them.

Thus, when a bodhisattva great being completely abandons all aspects of the designations of conceptuality by not taking them to mind, s/he strives intensely for the realm of non-conceptuality. Despite the fact that [at first] they do not [even] temporarily come into contact with the realm of non-conceptuality, they possess a proper meditative concentration that will contact the realm of non-conceptuality.18 When they pursue it by relying on that authentic yoga, when they pursue it through meditation, when they pursue it by doing it many [times], when they pursue it by truly focusing the mind on it, then they actually contact the sphere of non-conceptuality, uncompounded and spontaneous, whereupon they gradually14 abandon conceptuality.

Why is the sphere of non-conceptuality called “non-conceptual”? Because it has utterly transcended all analytical imputations,19 because it has utterly transcended all imputations that instruct or exemplify,20 because it has utterly transcended all imputations of senses,21 because it has utterly transcended all imputations of objects,22 [6a] because it has utterly transcended all imputations of knowledge, and because there is no place [in it] for all the afflictions and all the obstructions to omniscience. Therefore, the sphere of non-conceptuality is called “non-conceptual”.

What is non-conceptuality? Non-conceptuality is without form, without instruction, without a basis, without appearances. It is not knowledge and does not abide. The bodhisattva great being who well abides in the sphere of non-conceptuality sees all phenomena as similar to the vault of space with a non-conceptual wisdom that is not different from what is known.23 The non-conceptual consciousness attained subsequent [to meditation] sees all phenomena like an illusion, mirage, dream, apparition, echo, reflection, a moon in water, and an emanation. One attains a vast place in great bliss.24 One also attains wisdom, a great exalted wisdom, and vastness. [6b] One also attains a vast power at great explanations. One is able to effect25 all the various aims of all sentient beings in all times. One spontaneously performs the deeds of a buddha without interruption.

Sons of the lineage, it is like for example a wish-fulfilling jewel radiant [among] a variety of very precious substances underneath a singularly hard and solid rock.26 It is as though [underneath that rock] there is a great treasury filled to the brim with a variety of different riches such as highly valuable silver, highly valuable gold, and highly valuable rubies. Then, some person desiring a great treasure comes, and [another] person who knows of that vast hoard says these words to him:

“Hey you,27 underneath that extremely hard and solid rock there is a great vault of precious things filled to the brim with shining treasure. Underneath that, there is a great precious treasure, a wish-fulfilling jewel. First of all, you should dig all manner of rock. When you have dug that, stones that appear as silver will be visible to you. [But] you will not perceive the great treasure. When you have come to understand that, dig [further]. Having dug, stones that appear as gold will be visible, but in that as well you will not perceive the great treasure, [7a] and when you know that, dig [further]. Having dug, stones that appear as a variety of precious substances will be visible. In those also you will not perceive the great treasure, and understanding that, dig [further]. My friend,27 if you make a good effort, then without doing any [more] digging or exerting yourself,28 you will see the great precious treasure of the wish-fulfilling jewel. When you have obtained that great precious treasure of the wish-fulfilling jewel, you will be rich and enjoy great wealth. This will be a potent force for both your and my welfare.”

In that way, Sons of the Lineage, this serves as an example in order to know as much as possible the following meaning. That “singularly hard and solid rock” is a metaphor29 for the thorough afflictions in the form of discriminations and distinctly abiding in duality.30 That “great precious treasure which is the wish-fulfilling jewel” is a metaphor for a bodhisattva, great being. The “person who actually knows of the great treasure” [7b] is a metaphor for the One Gone Thus, the Foe Destroyer, the authentically complete Buddha. That “rock” is a metaphor for the conceptual designations of inherent nature. That [command] “dig!” is a metaphor [meaning] “don’t apply your mind” [to those designations]. The “stones that appears as silver” is a metaphor for antidotal conceptual designations. The “stones that appears as gold” is a metaphor for conceptual designations regarding emptiness and so forth. The “stones that appear as various precious things” is a metaphor for conceptual designations regarding attainment. The “attaining of the great precious treasury that is the wish-fulfilling jewel” is a metaphor for contacting the realm of non-conceptuality. Sons of the Lineage, thus through this intricate example you should understand [how to] enter the realm of non-conceptuality.

Sons of the Lineage, you might ask, “Does a bodhisattva great being engage the realm of non-conceptuality, while thinking closely on those aforementioned teachings of conceptual designations?” Sons of the Lineage, concerning this, regarding a bodhisattva great being [8a] thus dwelling in the realm of non-conceptuality, when a conceptual designation of the inherent nature of form manifests, s/he contemplates it like this. When someone uses the phrase “my form”, they are employing conceptuality. When they use the phrase “others’ forms”, they are employing conceptuality. When they use the phrases, “a form is born”, “it ceases”, “it is afflicted”, “it is purified”, they are employing conceptuality. When they use the word “formless”, they are employing conceptuality. When, concerning form, they use the phrases, “it does not exist even by way of [its own] nature”, “it does not exist even as a cause”, “it does not exist even as an effect”, “it does not exist even as an action”, “it does not exist even as something one possesses”, or “it does not exist even as something one engages in”, they are employing conceptuality. If they use the phrase “form is cognition-only”, they are employing conceptuality. When they use the phrase, “Just as there is no form, similarly there is not even the cognition of the appearance of form”, they are employing conceptuality. This is what I think.

Sons of the Lineage, it is like this. Even though a bodhisattva great being observes neither form nor the cognition of the appearance of form, [8b] it is not the case that they completely do away with cognition.31 They do not observe any phenomena except for cognition, but they do not actually perceive that cognition as unreal.32 They do not actually perceive unreality outside of cognition.33 They do not actually perceive even that the unreality of the cognition appearing as form and the cognition [itself] are the same. They do not actually perceive even that they are different. They do not actually perceive the cognition, which is unreal, as a real thing. They do not actually perceive it as an unreal thing.

Sons of the Lineage, this is how one enters into the realm of non-conceptuality. When that is the case, a bodhisattva great being thoroughly dwells in the realm of non-conceptuality. [That method should] similarly be applied to feelings, discriminations, compositional factors, and consciousness. It should similarly be applied to the perfection of giving, [9a] the perfection of ethics, the perfection of patience, the perfection of effort, the perfection of concentration, and the perfection of wisdom. It should similarly be applied to [everything] from emptiness on up to omniscience.

Sons of the Lineage, with regard to this if a bodhisattva great being manifests conceptuality using omniscience [as its object], they contemplate like this. When someone says, “My omniscience”, that is employing conceptuality. When they use the expression “Others’ omniscience”, that is employing conceptuality. If they use the term “this” referring to omniscience, that is employing conceptuality. If they use the phrase, “obtain omniscience”, that is employing conceptuality. If they use the phrase, “omniscience is free from afflictive emotions and obstructions to knowledge”, that is employing conceptuality. If they say, “omniscience is absolutely pure”, that is employing conceptuality. If they say, “omniscience does not exist”, [9b] that is employing conceptuality. If they say that omniscience does not exist by way of entity, as a cause, as an effect, as an activity, as a possession, or even as something in which one engages, that is employing conceptuality. If they say that omniscience is merely cognition, that is employing conceptuality. When they use the phrase, “Just as omniscience does not exist, so too the cognition that appears as omniscience does not exist”, that is employing conceptuality. So I think.

Sons of the Lineage, it is like this. Just as a bodhisattva great being does not observe omniscience, so too they do not observe the cognition appearing as that [omniscience]. Nevertheless, it is not the case that do away entirely with cognition. They do not observe any phenomena except for cognition. However, they do not actually perceive cognition as unreal. Nor do they actually perceive any unreality except for cognition. Neither do they actually perceive the non-existence of the cognition appearing as omniscience and the cognition [itself] as the same. [10a] Nor do they actually perceive them as different. They do not actually perceive the non-existence of cognition as a real thing. They do not perceive it as an unreal thing.

Sons of the Lineage, all those conceptions of omniscience do not actually perceive that which is unanalyzable, of which is said “[This is] the non-conceptual sphere of reality”.34 Thus, this is the way to engage in the sphere on non-conceptuality. Sons of the Lineage, in that way a bodhisattva great being abides well in the sphere of non-conceptuality.

Sons of the Lineage, sacrificing as many bodies as there are particles of sand in the river Ganges is not equivalent to the merit of grasping, writing down, bearing in mind, and reading this enumeration of the doctrine. The giving of gifts as many as the particles of sand from the Ganges river that it would take to fill this worldly realm is not equivalent to it. The mass of merit [that would arise from] making out of jewels as many images of the Buddha as there are grains of sand in the Ganges River, filling this worldly realm with them, and then giving them away is not equivalent to it. [10b]

Then the Transcendent Conqueror spoke these verses:

If one contemplates non-conceptually

On this excellent doctrine, Sons of the Conqueror,

S/he will transcend conceptuality whose road is rough

Gradually s/he will attain non-conceptuality.

More supreme than that is the unwavering, thorough peace

Unparalleled in terms of evenly empowering [all],

It is non-conceptual bliss.

This the bodhisattva will attain.35

When the Transcendent Conqueror had proclaimed these words, the retinue consisting of the bodhisattva great being Non-Conceptual Illumination and all the rest and the whole world—the gods, the humans, and the demigods, along with the gandharvas—rejoiced and praised that statement by the Transcendent Conqueror.

This completes the Noble Formula called “Entering Non-Conceptuality”. It was translated and finalized by the Indian masters Jinamitra and Dānaśīla, and the senior [Tibetan] editor and translator Kawa Peltsek.

1rnam par mi rtog par ’jug pa’i gzungs.” In bKa’ ’Gyur (Lha sa). TBRC W26071. 57: 5 - 24. Lha sa: zhol bka’ ’gyur par khang, [194-]. http://tbrc.org/link?RID=O1PD11016|O1PD110161PD11240$W26071 (Accessed March 29, 2020). See also འཕགས་པ་རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པར་འཇུག་པ་ཞེས་བྱ་བའི་གཟུངས།, D.143, vol. 57, 1b.1-6b.1, http://www.thlib.org/encyclopedias/literary/canons/kt/catalog.php#cat=d/0143 (Accessed June 2, 2020).

2आर्य अविकल्पप्रवेश नाम धारणी।

3འཕགས་པ་རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པར་འཇུག་པ་ཞེས་བྱ་བའི་གཟུངས།

4All the following are to be considered as names of the Bodhisattvas, such as Avikalpa, Avikalpāloka, and Avikalpacandra, etc. Since each of these names contains the word “non-conceptual”, the topic of this sūtra, they have been translated into English.

5“Love” (བྱམས་པ་) is also the Tibetan for the Sanskrit name Maitreya, the bodhisattva who is destined to be the next Buddha.

6བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔའ་སེམས་དཔའ་ཆེན་པོ་འཕགས་པ་སྤྱན་རས་གིགས་དབང་ཕྱུག་ (2b.5-6). This name is included in its Sanskrit form because Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva of compassion, is so well known. It means “Lord who looks down”.

7གཟུངས་ཟུངས་ཤིག་ (3a.5). The Tibetan word, གཟུངས་, is the equivalent of the Sanskrit धारणी meaning “a formula, spell”. Here I’ve added “mnemonic” because of the double entendre in both Tibetan and Sanskrit with the verb, ཟུངས་ཤིག་, “grasp, hold” (Sanskrit root, धा).

8རིགས་ཀྱི་བུ་དེ་དག་ལ་ (3b.7-4a.1). This section from 3b.7-6a.3 is translated with interspersed analysis by Gomez, “Indian Materials on Sudden Enlightenment”, 409-411.

9རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པའི་མཚན་མ་ (4a.2) corrected to རྣམ་པར་རྟོག་པའི་མཚན་མ་ following Degé 2b.2. The Tibetan word མཚན་མ་ which in Sanskrit is निमित्त is nearly impossible to translate. It could also be translated as, “sign”, “token”, “mark”, or “character”. Each of the translations has its own inadequacy in terms of encompassing the full scope of the presumably intended meaning. At the time of this writing, “designation” seemed the best candidate.

10གང་ཟག་དང་བཅས་པའི་དངོས་པོའི་མཚན་མ་ (4a.3-4).

11ཉེ་བར་ལེན་པའི་ཕུང་པོ་ལྔ་ (4a.4). Gomez, “Indian Materials”, p. 409, translates this as “the five aggregates of grasping”.

12འདུ་བྱེད་ (4a.5). This word is difficult to translate. Some use “compositional factor”, “volition”, “karmic formation”, or even “emotion”. A literal translation is something like “collector” or aggregator”. This could mean a general category that collects everything not previously covered or something whose composition is made up of different factors. The broad range of phenomena that this category covers is best evoked perhaps by a general term such as “formation”. “Mental” is added because the four aggregates other than “form” are all considered to be mind-based.

13སྣང་བར་འགྱུར་བའི་ཚུལ་གྱིས་མངོན་དུ་གྱུར་པ་དག་ཡིད་ལ་མི་བྱེད་པས་ཡོངས་སུ་སྤོང་ངོ། (4a.7). This is an important line, describing the crux of the method.

14Gomez, “Materials”, 409-420. Concerning the use of the term “gradually” in this quote, he states (409), “… the reader should not overlook the fact that the expression “gradually” (rim gyis) occurs twice in the Tibetan translation …, but is not attested in the Chinese version of the Sūtra.”

15ཡང་དག་པའི་མཐའ་ (4b.7). Gomez (410) translates “apex of reality” and gives the Sanskrit भूतकोटि.

16ཆོས་ཀྱི་དབྱིངས་ (4b.7) = धर्मधातु, dharmadhātu.

17ལུང་བསྟན་པ་ (5a.5). Namely, the prophecy by one’s teacher of one’s future enlightenment.

185b.2-4. This is an important line highlighting the difference between gradualists and suddenists. The gradualists describe a long path which one travels on from point A to point B. The suddenist, as this text describes, describes a method of meditation where one places oneself at point B from the start. Initially one will not even for a moment experience being at point B, but eventually one will just arrive.

19དཔྱད་པའི་རྣམ་པར་བརྟག་པ་ (5b.6)

20བསྟན་པ་དང་དཔར་རྣམ་པར་བརྟག་པ་ (5b.6-7) Gomez (411) does “beyond all the discriminations of speech, of analog, of the senses ….”

21དབང་པོར་རྣམ་པར་བརྟག་པ་ (5b.7).

22ཡུལ་དུ་རྣམ་པར་བརྟག་པ་ (5b.7).

23ཤེས་བྱ་དང་ཁྱད་པར་མེད་པ་རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པའི་ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་ཐམས་ཅད་ནམ་མཁའི་དཀྱིལ་དང་མཚུངས་པར་མཐོང་ངོ། (6a.4-5, NT 5b.5). The Degé edition (3b.4) corrects ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱི་ཆོས་ with ཡེ་ཤེས་ཀྱིས་ཆོས་, which is how it is translated here.

24བདེ་བ་ཆེན་པོ་ལ་གནས་པ་ཤིན་ཏུ་རྒྱས་པའང་ཐོབ་བོ། (6a.6-7).

25བྱེད་ (6b.1). Unclear reading in the Lhasa version is clarified by the Narthang version (NT 6a.2).

26བྲག་གཅིག་ཏུ་མཁྲེགས་ཤིང་སྲ་བའི་འོག་ན་ (6b.2). Taking གཅིག་ཏུ་མཁྲེགས་ as a composite adjective. Below for variety this is translated as “extremely hard”.

27ཀྱེ་སྐྱེས་བུ་ (7a.2). Literally, “Oh creature!” or “Oh person!” which translation is awkward in English.

28བརྐོ་བའི་མངོན་པར་འདུ་བྱ་བ་མེད་ཅིང་འབད་མི་དགོས་པར་ (7a.2-3).

29ཚིག་བླ་དྭགས་ (7a.6).

30These are respectively འདུ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་རྣམ་པ་ཀུན་ནས་ཉོན་མོངས་ and གཉིས་ལ་སོ་སོར་ཉེ་བར་གནས་པ་ (7a.5-6).

31རྣམ་པར་རིག་པ་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་ཐམས་ཅད་དུ་ཆུད་གཟོན་པ་ནི། མ་ཡིན་ནོ། (8b.1).

32རྣམ་པར་རིག་པ་དེའང་དངོས་པོ་མེད་པར་ཡང་ཡང་དག་པར་རྗེས་སུ་མི་མཐོང་། (8b.2).

33རྣམ་པར་རིག་པ་མ་གཏོགས་པར་དངོས་པོ་མེད་པར་ཡང་ཡང་དག་པར་རྗེས་སུ་མི་མཐོང་། (8b.2).

34གང་རྣམ་པར་མ་བརྟགས་པ་དེ་རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་པའི་ཆོས་ཀྱི་དབྱིངས་སོ་ཞེས་ (10a.2-3).

35This verse is difficult: དེ་ལས་རབ་ཞི་མི་གཡོ་མཆོག །དབང་བྱེད་མ་ཉམ་ལ་མི་མཉམ་པ། །རྣམ་པར་མི་རྟོག་བདེ་བ་ནི། །བྱང་ཆུབ་སེམས་དཔས་ཐོབ་པར་འགྱུར། (10b.2-3). Its translation is tentative to say the least.

The Formula for Entering Non-Conceptuality
Collection Indo-Tibetan Buddhist Translations
Visibility Public - accessible to all site users
Author Mahāyāna Buddhist Sūtra