The two obscurations

78 Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature

Part of an ongoing series of teachings (retreat and Friday) based on the book Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature, the third volume in The Library of Wisdom and Compassion series by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Venerable Thubten Chodron.

  • Afflictive obscurations
  • Grasping at true existence
  • Confusion, attachment and animosity
  • Afflictions and their seeds
  • Cognitive obscurations
  • Latencies of grasping at true existence and latencies of afflictions
  • Differences between afflictive obscurations and cognitive obscurations
  • Description of mistaken dualistic appearance
  • How arhats, pure ground bodhisattvas and buddhas apprehend the two truths
  • Non-afflictive ignorance

Samsara, Nirvana, and Buddha Nature 78: The Two Obscurations (download)

Contemplation points

  1. Take some time to consider the dukkha that sentient beings cause each other – not due to earthquakes, cyclones, or the natural aging process, but the pain and suffering that beings inflict on each other in their confusion. To what extent have you contributed to that dukkha throughout your life? What negative habits have come from previous lives, leading you to harm others and what can you do to purify them? What negative habits are you cultivating in this life that you don’t want to take with you to future lives? Purify those as well. Make a determination to be mindful of your mental states so that none of your words and actions harm others. Resolve to do your best to create harmony, to lift up the oppressed, to include the excluded, and to help settle disputes.
  2. What are the two obscurations? Describe each in your own words. Which have to be removed to attain liberation? Which have to be removed to attain full awakening?
  3. What does it mean that there is the “appearance of inherent existence?” Where does the obscuration exist? What is the only consciousness that does NOT have mistaken dualistic appearances?
  4. Although beings who are not yet Buddhas cannot see both veiled truths and their emptiness at the same time, the fact that they had a direct perception of emptiness influences how they see and interact with the world around them. Take some time to reflect on how a being at this level must toggle between conventionality and its emptiness, and how having that direct perception of emptiness might influence how they would perceive conventional phenomena.
Venerable Thubten Chodron

Venerable Chodron emphasizes the practical application of Buddha’s teachings in our daily lives and is especially skilled at explaining them in ways easily understood and practiced by Westerners. She is well known for her warm, humorous, and lucid teachings. She was ordained as a Buddhist nun in 1977 by Kyabje Ling Rinpoche in Dharamsala, India, and in 1986 she received bhikshuni (full) ordination in Taiwan. Read her full bio.