Eight kinds of implied and indirect teachings

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Eight kinds of implied and indirect teachings — the four kinds of implied teaching (Tib. དགོངས་པ་ཅན་, Wyl. dgongs pa can) and the four kinds of indirect teaching (Tib. ལྡེམ་དགོངས་, Wyl. ldem dgongs).

Four Kinds of Implied Teaching

  1. Teachings implying the equality of all phenomena include statements by the Buddha, such as “At that time, I was the Buddha Vipashyin.” In this way, he showed that the buddhas are all essentially equal within the expanse of the dharmakaya.
  2. Teachings implying another level of meaning. Having the ultimate in mind, not just merely the conventional level, the Buddha said, “All phenomena lack inherent identity” and in the Heart Sutra he said, “No form, no feeling…etc.”
  3. Teachings implying fulfillment at a future time include statements such as “Merely by recalling the name of this Buddha you will be born in their paradise.” This does not imply that one will be reborn there in the very next life, but at some point in the future.
  4. Teachings for the humbling of pride and conceit include those belittling generosity and praising discipline and so on given to those who believe generosity to be the highest practice, in order to encourage them to adopt other practices.

Four Kinds of Indirect Teaching

  1. The indirect teachings aimed at introducing people to the path are those given to shravakas in order to introduce them to the path in a gradual way. They are taught in view of what is true on a relative level only. This includes, for example, teaching that there is no self of the individual, but that the phenomena of form and so on do exist.
  2. Indirect teachings on the nature of phenomena are taught from the ultimate perspective. They include such teachings as those on the absence of inherent identity and primordial nirvana.
  3. Indirect teachings connected with antidotes are given in order to eliminate faults in the minds of the disciples to be trained. For example, in order to address the disparaging view that there is a difference between the buddhas in terms of their qualities, the Buddha said, “When I was the Buddha Vipashyin…” and so on.
To give some more examples:
As an antidote to the disparaging view that the Dharma is easy, the Buddha said that understanding the teachings of the Mahayana is the result of worshipping buddhas equal in number to the grains of sand in the river Ganges.
For the sake of those people with lazy attitudes who think, “I will not be able to train in the path!” the Buddha said that by praying to be reborn in Sukhavati, one will actually be reborn there.
In front of people who were proud of their family (or caste), beauty, wealth and so on, the Buddha praised others. As an antidote to the attachment to mundane objects, he praised supermundane riches. To those who were overcome by grief and remorse at having done negative actions like injuring a noble being, he taught how even doing harm to the buddhas and bodhisattvas establishes a positive connection.
4. Indirect teachings expressed in metaphors are indirect teachings expressed metaphorically in order to counter the view of some non-Buddhist extremists who believed that the teachings of the Buddha were easy to comprehend. For example in the Udanavarga (Verses Spoken Intentionally) it is said:
Father, mother—slay them both!
Your king, the two of pure life,
The country and the royal court destroy!
In doing so, a person will become pure indeed.
This was stated with the meaning that one should abandon craving and grasping (here called father and mother), the ignorance of the all-ground (king), the view of “I” and the belief that your own ethics and discipline are supreme (two of pure life) and the senses and consciousnesses (country and royal court). All similar statements are known as ‘indirect teachings expressed in metaphors.’

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