The Sword of Wisdom for Thoroughly Ascertaining Reality Mipham Rinpoche


The Dharma taught by the Buddha depends entirely upon the two levels of truth,The relative truth of the mundaneand the truth of the ultimate meaning… The conceptual mind is that which conceives of objects by way of general images,associating them with names to form concepts,from which stem all manner of words and thoughts…


The Sword of Wisdom For Thoroughly Ascertaining Reality


by Mipham Rinpoche


Part I





You have not the slightest confusion about philosophy,

And have completely abandoned every fault,

Your mind has no doubts about the three points[1]—

Before Mañjushri, the treasure of wisdom, I bow. (1)


Profound, vast and difficult to realize

Is the nectar-like teaching of the sugatas—

To those who long to taste it,

I here grant the light of intelligence. (2)


The Dharma taught by the Buddha

Depends entirely upon the two levels of truth,

The relative truth of the mundane

And the truth of the ultimate meaning.[2] (3)


If one is to apply an unerring and certain mind

To the nature of these two truths,

One must cultivate the excellent vision

Of the two flawless valid cognitions.[3] (4)


These appearances in all their rich variety

Arise through dependent origination.

Something that is truly independent,

Like a lotus in the sky, will not appear. (5)


It is a complete gathering of causes

That functions to bring about an effect.

All effects, whatsoever they may be,

Depend upon their own particular causes. (6)


It is by knowing what is or is not the case

In terms of causes and their effects

That we pursue one thing and avoid another,

Whether in crafts or in philosophy— (7)


They all have this as their starting point.

This includes not only worldly disciplines,

But also the training that transcends the world.

All phenomena, arisen in mutual dependence, (8)


Naturally possess their own particular

Characteristics, which are uniquely theirs.

The plain and simple facts of the conventional—

Solidity, fluidity, warmth and so on—are incontestable. (9)


Even just a single thing has countless properties,

And can be classified in infinite ways,

Based on affirmation and negation.

These are natural features of the thing itself. (10)


An object that is perceived clearly and directly,

Has properties that seem separate and distinct,

But these distinctions are mental designations,

Distinguished and engaged with by conceptual mind. (11)


Actual substance and what is imputed conceptually—

These are two ways in which one can understand

All that can be known, and many are the categories

That come from further elaborating on these two. (12)


Just so, they have their own causes, effects and natures,

But when phenomena are investigated authentically,

That which brings about arising can not be observed,

Nor is there anything that arises in dependence. (13)


Each thing appears with its own identity,

Yet is empty by its very nature,

Absolute space with threefold liberation,

The very nature of the ultimate. (14)


How something functions and how it depends

Are both aspects of its particular nature,

So it is with a thing’s nature that reasoning ends,

And it would be futile to enquire any further.[4] (15)


This kind of evaluation of things in their nature,

According to each of the two levels of reality,

Is proven by the basic facts of how things are,

So it is reasoning that establishes what is tenable. (16)


How things appear or how they ultimately abide,

Can be known through perceiving their nature directly,

Or it can be inferred unerringly based on

Something else which is clearly apparent. (17)




Direct perception itself is of four kinds:

Unmistaken sensory, mental, self-awareness

And yogic; all of which are non-conceptual,

Since their objects appear with specific characteristics. (18)


Without these direct perceptions

There would be no evidence and hence no inference,

And any perception of things arising from causes

And then ceasing would become impossible. (19)


If that were the case, how could we ever

Understand them to be empty and so on?

Without relying upon the conventional,

There can be no realization of the ultimate.[5] (20)


Cognitions brought about by the five senses

Clearly experience their own objects.

Without this direct sensory perception,

Like blind folk, we would fail to see. (21)


Mental direct perception arises from the faculty of mind,

And clearly determines both outer and inner objects.

Without it, there would be no aspect of consciousness

Capable of perceiving all types of phenomena. (22)


Yogic direct perception is the culmination of meditation

Practised properly and according to the instructions.

It clearly experiences its own objects, and without it

There would be no vision of objects beyond the ordinary. (23)


Just as this direct experience can eliminate

Misperceptions about outer forms and the like,

This is also how it is within the mind itself,

If there were some other knower, there would be no end to them. (24)


A mind that is cognizant and aware

Naturally knows its objects, but at the same time

Is also aware of itself, without relying upon something else,

And this is what is termed “self-awareness.” (25)


Any experience of the other direct perceptions

Is only determined to be actual direct perception

By means of self-awareness; without this

There would be no way of establishing it. (26)


The root of inference lies in direct perception,

And direct perception is determined by self-awareness.

It all comes down to the experience of an undeluded mind;

There are no other means of establishment beyond this. (27)


Therefore, it is based on direct perceptions,

Which are non-conceptual and undeluded,

That misperceptions of apparent phenomena

Can be decisively eliminated. (28)


The conceptual mind is that which

Conceives of objects by way of general images,

Associating them with names to form concepts,

From which stem all manner of words and thoughts. (29)


Even for someone unaware of the proper expression,[6]

Generic images will appear in the mind,

Ready to be named, and through such concepts,

Objects can still be pursued or avoided.[7] (30)





Without this conceptual mind,

There could be no conventions of affirmation or denial,

And it would be impossible to infer anything

Or communicate the points of training. (31)


Conceptual thought enquires into and establishes

That which is not evident directly, such as future pursuits.

Without this ability to infer things conceptually,

We would all become like newborn babies. (32)


A reason is information that allows us to know something else.[8]

The reason must be a feature of the subject,[9]

And there must be positive and negative logical pervasion[10]—

When these three modes are present, there can be no delusion. (33)


From a reason that is arrived at through

Valid direct perception and valid inference,

What is hidden can be logically inferred,

And things can be proven by means of relationship. (34)


There are reasons that are results and natural reasons.[11]

When a thing is not observed or its opposite is seen,

Something is negated for the reason that it can not be observed—

Like this, there are three types of evidence in all. (35)


From a genuine perspective, all appearances

Are now, and always have been, the same;

And since a pure mind sees only purity,

Their nature remains entirely pure. (36)


Real functioning things dependently arise,

And what is unreal is dependently imputed;

Therefore both the real and the unreal

Are empty by their very nature. (37)


In the way things are, one can not separate

A thing which is empty from its own emptiness.

So appearance and emptiness are indivisibly united,

This is inexpressible—one must know it for oneself! (38)


Any affirmation, whatsoever it may be,

Must affirm either existence or identity;

And any negation, whatsoever it may be,

Must negate either existence or identity. (39)


Negations and affirmations based on what is valid

May be set out definitively in the proper way,

And then, while remaining logically consistent,

One can prove a point to others or make a refutation. (40)


When it comes to refutation, you can compose

Your own syllogisms including all three modes,

Or you can state the consequences that follow

From the opponent’s very own assertions. (41)


Within the conventional, there is that which

We call “impure and narrow vision” because

Reality and appearances do not coincide,

And a vision in which things are purely seen. (42)


This makes two types of conventional validity,

Like seeing with eyes that are human and divine.

The difference between the two lies in their

Essential natures, causes, results and functions. (43)


One is an undeceived cognition of limited scope,

That arises from a correct perception of its object,

Clearing misperceptions of things in a narrow field of vision,

To bring a thorough apprehension of a given object. (44)


One is a pristine cognition of what is vast in nature,

That arises from an observation of precisely how things are,

Clearing misperceptions of objects beyond the imagination,

To bring the result of wisdom that knows all there is. (45)


The absolute as well has its two aspects:

Categorized and uncategorized conceptually,

And then to evaluate them, two types of validity

For looking into what is ultimately true. (46)


It is by relying on the former that one reaches the latter.

Like impaired vision that is healed and made pure,

When the eye of valid cognition is fully developed,

The truth of purity and equalness can be seen. (47)


It is because the mind, both with concepts and without,

Is sometimes deluded—as when perceiving two moons,

Dreaming or believing a rope is a snake[12]—and sometimes not,

That we have the categories of valid and invalid cognition. (48)


Without these categories of valid and invalid cognition,

A clear separation between the deluded and false

And the undeluded and true would be impossible,

And the tenets of philosophy could not be put forward. (49)


When we investigate on the level of reality,

In spite of all these conceptual elaborations,

Based on classifications such as direct perception,

Inference, valid and invalid cognition and so on, (50)


All is empty by its very nature.

And this natural simplicity itself

Is a feature of all conventional constructs,

Just as heat is a property of fire. (51)


So it is that appearance and emptiness

Are inseparable in all phenomena

As the method and its outcome,[13] which is why

You can not negate one and affirm the other. (52)


“Without investigating what is and is not valid,

But through mundane perception alone,

Can one enter into the ultimate?” you may ask.

It is true that this is not ruled out. (53)


Seeing how this thing is produced from that thing

Is the direct perception of ordinary people,

Based on which they infer and make predictions—

In fact, this is “pramana” in all but name. (54)


Without the two kinds of conventional valid cognition,

Pure visions would seem false, and, even for the impure,

It would be unfeasible to say of a conch shell,

“White is its true colour, and yellow it is not.” (55)


Without the two approaches to ultimate analysis,

We would not know the unity of the two truths,

The ultimate would fall into conceptual extremes,

And be a cause for its very own destruction. (56)


The relative, that which is examined, is not real.

So too the probing mind and self-awareness.

When we look, they are not there, like the moon in water—

This is the ultimate indivisibility of the two truths. (57)


This is the one truth, nirvana, the limit of reality,

It is the ultimate state of all phenomena,

Enlightened being wherein knowing and known are inseparable,

Pure wisdom experience, without limit or centre. (58)


Once the excellent eye of discriminating wisdom

Has opened to the profound and vast like this,

One sees the noble path travelled by

The bliss-gone buddhas and their heirs, (59)


Those enlightened beings of mighty intelligence.

This is the way of the sutra and mantra vehicles,

So difficult to find. When we have the opportunity,

Let us not fail to gain the result! (60)


Possessing in this way the four reasonings,

And endowed with the light of intelligence,

Let us not be deceived by others, but investigate

And be sure to follow the four reliances. (61)


If we do not have this understanding,

Then, like a blind man leaning on his staff,

We can rely on fame, mere words or what is easy to understand,

And go against the logic of the four reliances. (62)


Therefore do not rely on individuals,

But rely upon the Dharma.

Freedom comes from the genuine path that is taught,

Not from the one who teaches it. (63)


When the teachings are well presented,

It does not matter what the speaker is like.

Even the bliss-gone buddhas themselves

Appear as butchers and such like to train disciples. (64)


If he contradicts the Mahayana and so on,

Then however eloquent a speaker may seem,

He will bring you no real benefit,

Like a demon assuming Buddha’s form. (65)




Whenever you study or contemplate the Dharma,

Rely not on the words, but on their meaning.

If the point is understood, it matters little

How eloquently or not the words were spoken. (66)


Once you have understood what the speaker

Intended to communicate, if you then continue

To think about each word and expression,

It is as if your elephant is found, yet still you search. (67)


If you misinterpret the words they will only increase,

And you’ll never stop till you run out of thoughts,

All the while straying further and further from the point.

Like a child at play, you’ll only end up exhausted. (68)


Even for a single phrase like “Fetch the wood!”

Out of context, there’s no end to what it might mean.

Yet if you understand what is meant,

The need for the words ends just there. (69)


When a finger points to the moon,

The ignorant look at the finger itself.

Fools, who are attached to language alone,

May think they understand, but it will not be easy. (70)

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