Basic goodness is fundamental to the Shambhala tradition. It was a primary focus of the Vidyadhara Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche’s teaching toward the end of his life and has been key to Sakyong Mipham Rinpoche’s teaching since. The Tibetan for basic goodness, döné sangwa, appears in the Vidyadhara’s Shambhala terma. As far as the Translation Committee is aware, it is a term unique to the Vidyadhara’s terma. Thus far, we have not found it elsewhere, not in Tibetan literature in general, including such likely sources as the mahamudra and dzokchen presentations of buddha nature and primordial purity, nor in the Vidyadhara’s own early Tibetan terma and writings.
Nevertheless, there is one important dzokchen term that seems to be closely linked to basic goodness, a connection that the Vidyadhara pointed to during his presentations of vajrayana at the Vajradhatu Seminary: künsang, or “all good.” In its expanded form, küntu sangpo, it refers to the primordial buddha Samantabhadra; in its abbreviated form it points to the principle that Samantabhadra represents.
“All good” is an important phrase in the Nyingma tradition. Longchen Rabjam, the great fourteenth-century dzokchen master, powerfully presents künsang in The Treasury of Dharmadhatu, one of his Seven Treasuries—seven seminal texts that have formed the backbone of the Nyingma tradition up until the present day. Longchenpa wrote:
Within the womb of the expanse, spontaneously and always present,
Samsara is all good, and nirvana is good too.
Within this space of the all good, neither samsara nor nirvana has ever existed.
Appearance is all good, and emptiness is all good too.
Within this space of the all good, neither appearance nor emptiness has ever existed.
Birth and death are all good; pleasure and pain are all good.
Within this space of the all good, birth and death, pleasure and pain, do not exist.
I and other are all good; believing that things last forever and denying them completely are all good.
Within this space of the all good, I and other, believing and denying, do not exist.
Taking what does not exist to be existent, we do our labeling in a state of confusion.
Its nature is like a dream, without any basis.
How strange that we imagine that samsara and nirvana have their own real characteristics.
Everything is all good—great spontaneous presence.
Longchenpa’s presentation of künsang emphasizes the “all” in all good, or the “basic” in basic goodness. Künsang is not just an experience, however deeply positive. It is all-encompassing, including everything without exception, from our visions of enlightened society to the hells of war and genocide. It is the basic, fundamental fact about all that appears to exist, however beatific or grotesque its manifestation. In proclaiming döné sangwa, the key teaching of Shambhala, the Vidyadhara brought this realization of the ancients into the present age.
The Nalanda Translation Committee thanks and acknowledges its debt to the previous translations of The Treasury of Dharmadhatu by C. Ives Waldo III and Richard Barron.
We lost a dear friend and colleague this spring with the passing of Chris Keyser. Chris was a founding member of the Committee in the mid-1970s, working on a variety of projects in those seminal years. She was the main translator of “Intensifying Devotion in One’s Heart: The Supplication ‘Crying to the Gurus from Afar’” by Jamgön Kongtrül the Great. Please visit her tribute page on the Chronicles at: https://www.chronicleproject.com/tribute-to-christine-keyser/