Chapters Ten, Eleven, and Twelve introduced the vocabulary of cyclic existence and nirvana. Another more traditional way of presenting similar material is in the context of the four truths, བདེན་པ་བཞི་.
Most English speakers of the Four Noble Truths, but in the Tibetan tradition they are the Four Truths for Superiors or Four Truths for Aryas, འཕགས་པའི་བདེན་པ་བཞི་. It is not the truths that are noble, but it is that these are truths (phenomena that exist) for Aryas, or people that have perceived reality correctly and transcended their afflictions.
Therefore, since it is true only for the noble ones, it is called the truth of the noble ones.
It's also worth nothing that what is being translated as truth, བདེན་པ་, has a more specific meaning in Tibetan buddhism. In English is (for me at least) has the flavor of an abstract, conceptual idea that hopefully reflects reality in some way. In Tibetan, བདེན་པ་ (satya) means 1) truth, and 2) reality--what exists the way it appears. Thus the truth is an existent, not an abstract concept or idea, that abides the way it appears for Aryas, people that have correctly identified the meaning of reality and removed their afflictions. To put that another way, they are not propositions about reality but categories of phenomena.
བདེན་པ་བཞི་ four truths
འཕགས་པའི་བདེན་པ་བཞི་ four truths for superiors (those who have seen selflessness directly teach these truths)
ཀུན་འབྱུང་ is short for ཀུན་དུ་འབྱུང་བ་
1) སྡུག་བསྔལ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་ and 2) ཀུན་འབྱུང་གི་བདེན་པ་ concern འཁོར་བ་ (saṃsāra, cyclic existence)
3) འགོག་པའི་བདེན་པ་ and 4) ལམ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་ concern མྱ་ངན་ལས་འདས་པ་ (nirvāṇa)
In both pairs, the effect precedes the cause.
Notice how tricky language is here. Read this list again, but with brackets to emphasize that it is speaking about existent phenomena and not propositions or ideas.
In Buddhist philosophy, a cessation is an existent phenomena that is permanent (as in static or unchanging, not eternal). Thus the absence of the phenomena that are suffering is itself a phenomena.
To reiterate, because this is very important and a little subtle, in Tibetan Buddhism, the four truths are not treated as general propositions or concepts (in the sense Westerners typically thing of “truths”) but rather as categories of specific phenomena. Thus the translation above of “truths that are …” instead of “the truth of …”.
སྡུག་བསྔལ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་ thus is not making a statement about life being miserable. It does not mean “the truth of suffering.” It means truths which are suffering. སྡུག་བསྔལ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་ are the bodies and minds of everyone in cyclic existence and, in a derivative way, the physical universe as the environment formed by past actions (karma) motivated by afflictions (attachment, aversion, and ignorance).
ལམ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་ is not an assertion that there is a way to attain nirvana. ལམ་གྱི་བདེན་པ་ are the actual paths (mental events) that lead there. They are truths for Aryas because they are the mental events an Arya must generate to transcend afflictions.
There are those that would say སྡུག་བསྔལ་ should not be translated as suffering. In some places, it's common to hear it translated as unsatisfactory. However, (in my opinion) the Buddha was not talking about the truth of unsatisfactory phenomena nor was he teaching a radical doctrine about transcending dissatisfaction. This feels weak. He did not sit under the Bodhi tree for a week to disprove the Rolling Stones. Yama, the lord of death, is not fearsome because he makes us dissatisfied – not to say that samsara isn't full of dissatisfaction. Yama and death is fearsome because time and again we suffer, greatly, over and over again. We grow old, we get sick, we die. Every aspect of our lives is out of our control, yet we fight it. The word སྡུག་བསྔལ་ is, indeed, suffering. Suffering, however, in Tibetan Buddhism has complex meaning and a wider range than suffering does in English.
There are three types of suffering:
The first type of suffering is our good, old-fashioned suffering. Pain, sickness, death, etc.. The second type of suffering is, surprisingly, pleasure. Dissatisfaction also fits into this category. Pleasure is understood to be like drinking salt water or scratching an itch. We never get enough and it only leads to discomfort or pain that must be alleviated through more pleasure seeking. The third type of suffering is because we are in samsara, afflicted with ignorance, attachment, and anger, and thus every aspect of our lives--our food, our water, and our very bodies--are, in fact, phenomena which are sufferings.
The first of the four truths is synonymous with cyclic existence. In the traditional, person-oriented presentation, the most important unsatisfactory phenomena are the psycho-physical aggregates of body and mind: ཕུང་པོ་
ཕུང་པོ་ལྔ་ the five་aggregates (or heaps)
གཟུགས་ form, rūpa
ཚོར་བ་ feeling, vedanā
འདུ་ཤེས་ discrimination, saṃjñā
འདུ་བྱེད་ compositional factors, saṃskāra
ནམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་, རྣམ་ཤེས་ consciousness, vijñāna
Identified explicitly, the five aggregates, ཕུང་པོ་ལྔ་, are:
These five are also often seen as aggregate of form, aggregate of feeling, etc..
These five are NOUN-NOUN phrases with connective particles. The four main uses of connective particles are:
Previously, you saw སྣོད་ཀྱི་འཇིག་རྟེན་, which is a NOUN-NOUN phrase also with a 6th-case connective. Literally it means VESSEL-6TH-DISINTEGRATING-SUPPORT. In this case, the 6th case is appositional: the vessel (or environment), that is to say, the transient world. The vessel or environment is being equated with the transient world.
In contrast, the NOUN-NOUN phrsaes above are examples of compositional connectives. གཟུགས་ཀྱི་ཕུང་པོ་ is neither form's aggregate nor physical aggregate. It is aggregate of forms in the sense of aggregate [composed of] forms.
The five aggregates may generally be referred to as the aggregates of body and mind – where the body refers to the first four aggregates and the mind refers to the fifth. This is not strictly accurate. The fourth aggregate, འདུ་བྱེད་ཀྱི་ཕུང་པོ་, compositional factors, includes many impermanent phenomena that are neither physical nor mental (along with many mental phenomena).
Concerning the aggregates, see Perdue, Debate in Tibetan Buddhism, pp. 363-64 and Harikawa, History of Indian Buddhism, pp. 43-44.
མི་རྟག་པ་ impermanent phenomena
The third category, ལྡན་མིན་འདུ་བྱེད་, viprayukta-saṃskāra, is a group of impermanent things that are neither physical nor mental, they are neither matter nor ways understanding. Alex Berzin translates this as non-associated compositional factors.
གང་ཟག་ person (an important type of ལྡན་མིན་འདུ་བྱེད་)
Impermanence (མི་རྟག་པ་) is itself neither phsyical nor mental. However, impremanence is itself impermanent, not some sort of abstract, unchanging quality. This, impermanence is put in the category of non-associated compositional factors. Likewise, person (གང་ཟག་) is a designation for a collection (an aggregation) including both physical and mental phenomena, but is itself neither physicl nor mental. Thus, it is also a non-associated compositional factors.
The definition of ལྡན་མིན་འདུ་བྱེད་ is:
མཚན་ཉིད། ༡་བེམ་ཤེས་གང་རུང་མ་ཡིན་པའི་དངོས་པོ། ༢་གཟུགས་ཤེས་གང་རུང་མ་ཡིན་པའི་དངོས་པོ། ༣་བེམ་ཤེས་གང་རུང་མ་ཡིན་པའི་འདུས་བྱས།
Definitions: (1) a thing that is neither matter nor consciousness; (2) a thing that is neither form nor consciousness; (3) a compounded phenomenon that is neither matter nor consciousness
The divisions are:
དབྱེ་བ། ༡་གང་ཟག་ཡིན་པར་གྱུར་པའི་ལྡན་མིན་འདུས་བྱེད། ༢་གང་ཟག་མ་ཡིན་པར་གྱུར་པའི་ལྡན་མིན་འདུས་བྱེད་
Divisions: (1) non-associated compositional factor that arises as a person; (2) non-associated compositional factor that does not arise as a person
Here are the comments from the UMA Tibet dictionary:
Examples of this include wide categories which cannot be tied down to being just matter or just consciousness, such as thing (དངོས་པོ་), specifically characterized phenomenon (རང་མཚན་), that which is able to perform a function (དོན་བྱེད་ནུས་པ་).
Here is the definition from Rangjung Yeshe:
Nonconcurrent formations are defined as any formation which is neither endowed with matter nor [concurrent with] mind in the case when matter is composed of material particles and mind is what is conscious and cognizant.
In abhidharma there two main uses of གཟུགས་
The first sense is seen in གཟུགས་ཀྱི་ཕུང་བོ་, the first of the five aggregates. The second sense is seen in a different context, as one of the twelve sources (སྐྱེ་མཆེད་), āyatana.
སྐྱེ་མཆེད་ source [produce + increase]
Concerning visible forms, colors, and shapes, see Hopkins, Meditation on Emptiness, pp. 223-26 and Perdue, Debate in Tibetan Budhism, pp. 192-200.
The twelve sources (སྐྱེ་མཆེད་)--so called because they are the sources of consciousness—are the six sense powers (དབང་པོ་ ) and their objects (ཡུལ་). The first five sense powers are physical, but the sixth is mental, being any of the six consciousnesses insofar as they act as causes of the next moment fo consciousness.
དབང་པོ་ sense power, indriya
ཡུལ་ objects, viṣaya
དབང་པོ་[ལ་དབྱེ་ན་] [when] sense powers [are divided]
One might wish to translate མིག་གི་དབང་པོ་ as visual sense power. However, the literal meaning of the term is sense power of the eye. Likewise, if ལུས་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་ is translated as physical sense power, this would be incorrect because four other sense powers are “physical" (in the sense of being material phenomena).
The six objects of these six sense powers are the following. Notice that form has two divisions itself.
ཡུལ་[ལ་དབྱེ་ན་] [when] objects [are divided]
As mentioned, གཟུགས་ is used in its narrower sense here. Here it means color and shape. Below is the traditional way of expressing this division.
When form sources are divided, there are two: shapes and colors.
OBJECT TO BE DIVIDED + ལ་དབྱེ་ན་ + DIVISIONS [NUM. OF DIVISIONS] + ཡོད།
ཆོས་ refers to the entire range of existents (as objects of consciousness), for, although the sense consciousnesses know only impermanent phenomena such as forms and sounds, mental consciousness are capable of knowing permanent phenomena.
The sixth sense power, ཡིད་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་, the mental sense power, can be expanded into six consciousnesses (རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་)
རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་ (dividing ཡིད་ཀྱི་དབང་པོ་)
རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་ (རྣམ་ཤེས་) and ཤེས་པ་ are both translated as consciousness. ཤེས་པ་ is broader than རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་. In the five aggregates, feeling, discrimination, and non-associated compositional factors are included in ཤེས་པ་, but are distinct from རྣམ་པར་ཤེས་པ་, the fifth.
ཀུན་དུ་འབྱུང་བ་ source, origin
དགའ་ལྡན་ Tushita pure land
དགའ་བ་ happiness, joy
མཐའ་ end, extreme
འདུ་བྱེད་ compositional factor
འོག་མིན་ Akanishta pure land, Akaniṣṭha
རིག་བྱ་ tangible object
རོ་ taste, corpse
མཁྱེན་ know [H] V
མངའ་ exist II; have VIII; exert (oneself), have control (over), have sovereignty (with respect to) II (pp. 117)
ཆགས་ attached to III
མཆིས་ exist II
འཇིགས་ fear, be afraid II
ཐིམ་ dissolve III
རྟེན་ depend on II
བརྟེན་ past and future of རྟེན་
ལྟ་ look VI
བལྟས་ past of ལྟ་
གདའ་ exist II
འདུག་ exist II
འཕངས་ past of འཕེན་
འཕེན་ propel, throw, shoot V
ཕྲད་ meet with IV
ཀུན་ཛོབ་པ་ conventional, veiled [thoroughly covered]
དོན་དམ་པ་ ultimate [highest object]
འོག་མ་ lower, later, following
… དང་བཅས་པ་ possessing ...
… དང་ལྡན་པ་ possessing ...
… དང་བྲལ་བ་ free from ..., lacking ...