The Parting From the Four Attachments

Instruction on the Parting From the Four Attachments

By Jonang Kunga Drolchog 


Kunga Drolchog (Kun dga’ grol mchog, 1507-1566), considered to have been a previous rebirth of the famous Tāranātha, was an important master of the Jonang tradition. Traditionally, the Jonang tradition has been closely connected with the Sakya tradition as this work witnesses. It is a commentary on the important Sakya doctrine, the Parting from the Four Attachments (zhen pa bzhi bral) attributed to Sachen Kunga Nyingpo (1092–1158), founding father of the Sakya tradition. The verse is generally understood to be a summary of all of the Buddha's teachings. 

 The Parting from the Four Attachments

[1.] If one clings to this life, one isn’t a dharma practitioner (tshe ’di la zhen na chos pa min)
[2.] If one clings to the three realms, it is not renunciation. (khams gsum la zhen na nges ’byung min)
[3.] If one clings to one’s own benefit, it is not bodhicitta. (bdag don la zhen na byang sems min) 
[4.] If grasping occurs, it is not the view. (’dzin pa byung na lta ba min)
Sachen Kunga Nyingpo 

Sakya Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen (1147–1246) informs us that that Kunga Nyingpo received this fourfold instruction at the age of twelve in a direct vision from the Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī, having spent half a year in retreat under the guidance of Bari Lotsāwa (1040–1112).

Shows the orange form of the Bodhisattva Manjushri, holding sword and scripture
Bodhisattva Mañjuśrī
Being an important key instruction of the Sakya tradition, there are several collections of commentaries on these lines which have already been translated into English, but Kunga Drolchog's commentary has not been included in these collections. This explains why it is generally not so well-known, and why it is the only of the older existent commentaries on the Parting from the Four Attachments that has not been previously translated into English. The commentary is a synthesis of explanations by Rigdzin Drakpa and Sakya Paṇḍita and follows both commentaries very closely. A specificity of these commentaries is  that they equate the four formulations of the Parting from the Four Attachments with the famous Four Dharmas of Gampopa

Instruction on the Parting From the Four Attachments:[1]

One first takes refuge and [develops] bodhicitta.

[1.] Then, with respect to the attachment to this life, [one should consider that this life] resembles water bubbles[2] in the water. Since there is no value in entertaining attachment [to this life], one should contemplate the uncertainty of the moment of death.
One should contemplate that there are many conditions [which can cause] death. One should contemplate that nothing whatsoever is of help at death. Through the [afore-mentioned] three [contemplations] one develops a desire to wholeheartedly engage in dharma [practice]. 

Thus, one should start out with the instruction of “mind having turned towards the dharma”.

[2.] This entire saṃsāra made up of three realms resembles poisonous fruits.  Even though [they] momentarily appear to be seemingly delicious, one [will feel] pain and parts from this life if [they] find their way into us.
Since one who clings to [that] deludes himself, one should contemplate about the mode of being of saṃsāra: even if one becomes a Cakravartin, one has to die and perishes in the end. Because of bearing in mind that one does not pass beyond suffering [by attaining fortunate states within saṃsāra such as these], the "dharma turns towards the path".

[3.] Attachment to self-benefit resembles fostering an enemy’s son. Even though the momentary joy seemingly appears to be joy, on the long-run it will inflict harm.

As is exemplified by [that], if one is attached to self-benefit, also the momentary happiness will turn into an obstacle for awakening on the long-run. Hence, to solely liberate [one]self from the three realms which are of the nature of suffering will not help. “Because there is not a single one among the individual sentient beings which had not been our father or mother [in previous lifetimes], I will [endure] taking rebirth in hell realms for aeons and aeons [to come] if they should then obtain supreme well-being, Buddhahoood.”—By repeatedly giving rise to a mind-set in one’s continuum which considers [this thought] to be easy, and meticulously cultivating it, one "dispels the delusion of the path."

[4.] If one is attached to things and characteristic signs, it resembles grasping onto the water of a mirage. Even though water momentarily appears, it doesn’t quench the thirst because there is not anything to drink for one’s mouth. Even though this saṃsāra appears to the deluded mind, it lacks any essence that can be established when being thoroughly examined [by means of higher knowledge]:

Mind is not engaged with the past. Mind will not be engaged with the future. Consciousness is [also] not engaged with the present. Thus, one has ascertained that all phenomena are free from elaborations.
Hence, since"deluded appearances appear as wisdom", it has been said that one will attain Buddhahood.
The dharma listened to, first of all (Kun),
Pleased (dga’) [my] own mind. Being an instruction which draws from the dohas,
It unties (’grol) the mental knots. 
The path of the Teacher has been written down in accordance with the words of the supreme (mchog) gurus.[3]

This Instruction For the Parting From the Four Attachments has been gathered from the [commentary on the Parting From the Four Attachments] composed by Nubpa Rigdzin Dragpa, and was refined with the [help of the] words of the glorious Dharma Lord Sakya Paṇḍita.

English translation: Rolf Scheuermann

[1] “Zhen pa bzhi bral gyi khrid yig.” In: Gdams ngag mdzod : a treasury of precious methods and instructions of all of the major and minor buddhist traditions of tibet, brought together and structured into a coherent system. Paro: Lama Ngodrup and Sherab Drimey, 1979-1981 (TBRC W20877, 18 vols), vol. 18, 128,1–130,1.
As is explained in the colophon, Kun dga’ grol mchog’s commentary on the Parting From the Four Attachments bases itself very strongly on the famous commentaries on this doctrine by Sa skya Paṇḍita (Zhen pa bzhi bral gyi gdams pa, SPZZBD) and Nub pa rig ’dzin grags pa (Nub pa rig ’dzin grags kyis mdzad pa’'i zhen pa bzhi bral, NRGZZB).
[2] Read chu bur instead of chu sbur.
[3] Even though this concluding verse does not explicitly name Kun dga’ grol mchog as the author, his name is clearly visible. The verse follows a specific Tibetan tradition where the author perpetuates his name by dropping a part of it in each line.

The following commentaries (English, German) on the subject are available:

An article on the relationship between the Four Dharmas of Gampopa and the Parting from the Four Attachments can be downloaded here.

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