A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes by Sakya Pandita

Sakya Pandita Kunga Gyaltshen. A Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes: Essential Distinctions Among the Individual Liberation, Great Vehicle, and Tantric Systems. Transl . by Jared Douglas Rhoton. Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2002. Paperback, xiv + 369 pp.

Sakya Pandita’sA Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes, authored in the thirteenth century, is a brilliant polemical work. Because of the controversial nature of some of Sakya Pandita’s arguments, it has triggered an abundant commentarial literature. The present volume includes a full first-time English translation of the text along with six of Sakya Pandita’s letters and a complete transliteration of the Tibetan text.

Sakya Pandita, one of the greatest monastic scholars of Tibet, was a purist in all matters regarding the Buddha’s teachings. In his Clear Differentiation of the Three Codes, he applied his critical acumen—combining scriptural knowledge with sound reasoning—to an intrinsically controversial topic—the clarification of what is dharmically true in the three branches or “vehicles” of Buddhism. His trenchant criticisms, especially of the Tibetan schools, was bound to upset some of his readers, though he made it clear that his intend was not to slander anyone, merely to elucidate.

His treatise, composed in deliberately straightforward verses, is still highly readable, and even 800 years later, we can readily appreciate the sting of his critical comments. His treatise addresses both major and minor errors or unlawful deviations from the Dharma, and Rhoton’s ample notes help the reader through the conceptual jungle of a philosophical work of this nature. While some of Sakya Pandita’s observations will be of interest primarily to scholarly students of Buddhism, others offer food for thought also to the contemporary lay practitioner.

Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
Reproduction in any form requires prior permission from Traditional Yoga Studies.

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