Three wisdom tools

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Three wisdom tools (Skt. śruta cintā bhāvanā; Tib. tö sam gom sum; Wyl. thos bsam sgom gsum) —

  • the wisdom of listening and hearing,
  • the wisdom of contemplation and reflection, and
  • the wisdom of meditation and application.

Contents

Commentary

The great master Vasubandhu wrote:

Observing discipline, and having heard and contemplated the teachings,
One applies oneself intensively to meditation.[1]

Ultimately, we need to meditate in order to gain true realization. But as Jé Tsongkhapa put it we can only meditate on what we have reflected on and we can only reflect on what we have heard.

Ashvaghosha said:

The man of little learning is as if born blind.
How can he meditate? On what can he reflect?
Study then with diligence, reflect and meditate;
Through this, vast wisdom will arise.[2]

Study is a support for practice but also a real form of practice in itself. If we are studying a text then as Jé Tsongkhapa says:

At first, one should look for extensive listening.
In between, one should take all the texts so that they appear as advice [for one’s practice],
Finally, one should practice day and night.
All this should be dedicated to the growth of the [Buddha’s] teaching.[3]

So we have to go over a teaching and repeat it in our minds—if possible, memorize it. Then it is available to us for contemplation, through which we can refine our understanding.

And then by really meditating on it we can counter the force of our habits and delusion, which are so strong and so ingrained that they can only be uprooted through meditation.

As Chökyi Drakpa says in his commentary on the Longchen Nyingtik Ngöndro:

Through the wisdom that comes from hearing, you are able to recognize the disturbing emotions.
Then through the wisdom that comes from reflection, you are able to overcome the disturbing emotions temporarily.
And finally, through the wisdom that comes through meditation you conquer completely the enemy of negative emotions, and obtain the confidence of the inexpressible wisdom of discriminating awareness.

Notes

  1. Treasury of Abhidharma, VI, 5
  2. Treasury of Precious Qualities, p.246
  3. Noble Intentions

Oral Teachings Given to the Rigpa Sangha

Internal Links

Further Reading

  • Sogyal Rinpoche, The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, ‘The Three Wisdom Tools’, pages 125-126.
  • A Treasury of Dharma (The Mengak Study Pack), Editor's Introduction (Rigpa: 2005), pages v-x.
  • Dzogchen Ponlop, Mind Beyond Death (Snow Lion: Ithaca, 2006), pages 34-44.
  • Andy Karr, Contemplating Reality (Shambhala Publications: 2007), 'Preface', pages xi-xii and 'Ropes and Snakes', pages 7-15.
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