View, Practice, and Conduct as a Single Intention in Jikten Sumgön’s Teachings (seminar)

Key information

10:00 am to 1:00 pm
Brunei Gallery

About this event

Dr Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (Ruhr-Universität Bochum)

Note: Internal event not open to external attendees.


A major academic stimulus to my work has been David Jackson’s Enlightenment by a Single Means: Tibetan Controversies on the “Self- Sufficient White Remedy” of 1994, a milestone in Tibetological research. With it, he introduced and investigated some of the key issues in a Tibetan controversy of the new translation period. During that era, those who taught in an analytical and discursive style often became involved in heated debates with those who preferred nonanalytical direct instructions. These two positions are sometimes referred to as the “intellectual,” with Sakya Paṇḍita as the renowned representative of the Sakyapas, and the “anti-intellectual” or “anti-conceptual,” with Gampopa as head of the Kagyü tradition.

Jackson himself felt that he had “not, however, succeeded in presenting the Great Seal masters or their teachings with anything like their original striking power and appeal. The soaring, utterly non-worldly viewpoint from which these masters often spoke is difficult to reduce to a doctrinal system.” (pp. 6–7)

To optimally portray these masters and their teachings, a source suggesting itself is Jikten Sumgön’s Single Intention, an outstanding Tibetan work that condenses the “ineffable” (brjod du med pa) into 150 core formulations. In our seminar, I will attempt to present the Single Intention’s “original striking power and appeal” based on some vajra-statements from the view, practice, and conduct chapter. In these statements, Jikten Sumgön explains that what others hold to be a “correct view” (lta ba) is useless for him unless it is “endowed with realization” (rtogs pa), and what others hold to be “Great Madhyamaka,” “Great Perfection” and even “Great Mudrā” for him still does not reach the realization of the mind. Instead, having been introduced to the nature of the mind by an authentic guru, habituation (goms pa) to that nature is practice (sgom pa). By reading together this and related material, we will discover that only three generations after the great yogi-poet Milarepa had transmitted his insights to a few close disciples in remote retreats as songs, the Kagyüpas had now developed a consistent program that presented these insights to a large audience, without, however, losing the their “original striking power” and getting only lost in words.


Jan-Ulrich Sobisch is on the faculty of the Center for Religious Studies at Ruhr-University, Bochum. He studied Tibetology, Indology, and philosophy at Hamburg University from 1985 to 1992 with David Seyfort Ruegg, Lambert Schmithausen, and David Jackson, under whom he completed his dissertation on the three-vows literature. From 1994 to 1999, he was working under Albrecht Wezler for the Nepal-German Manuscript Preservation Project when he discovered and cataloged the complete thirty volumes of the writings of Amé Shab (1597–1659). From 2003 to 2016, he was a professor at the University of Copenhagen, during which time he published on the Hevajra Tantra and its associated Tibetan teachings in the Sakya school. For the past ten years, he has been focused on the unique dGongs gcig tradition of the Drigung Kagyü school. In 2016 he received the prestigious Humboldt Research Award in recognition of his scholarly achievements.

Organiser: SOAS Centre of Buddhist Studies

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Sponsor: Khyentse Foundation