Unity in Duality - Tendrel Report - 5. U.D. Introduced Through an Exposition of Tendrel The View of Tendrel

His Holiness the XIV. Dalai Lama, Ven. Tarab Rinpoche and top scientists

5. Unity in Duality - Introduced Through an Exposition of Tendrel.
    Tarab Tulku, Dr. Phil. / Lharampa Geshe

The view of Tendrel *1, the interdetermination of reality, is basic to Tibetan Buddhist knowledge and wisdom. The view of Tendrel originates in India as far back as Sakyamuni Buddha, 500 years before Christ, right at the beginning of the Buddhist period, and seemingly has roots all the way back to the ancient Brahmanic tradition, and to the 4th millenium before Christ. It is thought that the ancient Brahmanic knowledge may be connected with the root of western *2 knowledge.
    Buddhism was first introduced in Tibet in the 8th century AD, and since this time it has continuously developed theoretically as well as being applied practically. From the 11th century onwards we find an unbroken living tradition of academic study and practice continuing on into this century. In India this ancient tradition did not continue and it therefore only survived as part of the Tibetan culture.
    Basically Tendrel contains the understanding of "the inter-determinate nature of all that exists". In accordance with general Buddhist ideas the rules governing the cause and effect nature of existence in turn imply compounded nature of everything that exists together with the moment-to-moment-changing-nature. Asanga (c. 395-470), one of the two most important Buddhist philosophers, set forth the rules of the interrelationship between subject-object, implying that the object does not exist in and by itself independently of the experiencing subject, because the root of the object is no different from the root of the subject.
    Nagarjuna (c. 150-250), the other of the two most important Indian Buddhist Philosophers, expressed the view concerning Tendrel that both subject and object realities only exist conventionally and neither of them exist in and by themselves. Everything existing -- subject as well as object -- exists in an interrelated way. In this connection Nargajuna found that conventional reality expresses itself in the unity of the four pairs of opposites: becoming and cessation, the finite and the infinite, localization and de-localization, as well as part and whole.

1. Tendrel (Tib. rTen-'brel) is often translated as: "interdependent origination".
2. Acording to Gendün Chöpel's research on the origin of the Brahmins (Tib. Ge-'dun chö-'phel), rGyal-khams rigs-pas bskor-ba'i gtam-rgyud gser-gyi thang-ma (Scientific Expedition to Various Countries), 1990, Tibet (ISRN7 - 80589 - 002 - 1/z.1).


The view of Tendrel has a special value for the modern world where present developments have given rise to a highly rational, material and technological culture, a development which is very useful in many respects, but often at the expense of personal and human loss. In this context the view and application of Tendrel seems for me to carry a great potential for healing many of the wounds pertaining to our present condition.
    Unity in Duality - Tendrel - also seems to furnish a major meeting point between inner wisdom and science. The Unity in Duality paradigm informs and supports ancient knowledge, ideas and systems, and at the same time, many aspects of these interconnected unities find correlations in natural laws discovered by modern sciences, and play an important role today.
    This modern knowledge, however, has been mainly used for exterior or material development - in line with the prevailing trend, which is due to the fascination directed towards the "object" even within the "soft" sciences. Therefore, until now, this deep knowledge does not seem to have had its full impact in the personal, social or environmental spheres.
    In the ancient cultures of Tibet and India their "soft" sciences applied the knowledge of Tendrel quite naturally to the subject pole of the subject-object interrelationship, and there was an unbroken continuity of application of this to philosophy, metaphysics, epistemology, science of mind, personal and transpersonal investigation and practice. In these ancient cultures the view of Tendrel has been used as a basis for understanding ourselves and our experience of reality and it was upon this basis that personal as well as spiritual development unfolded.
    Looking into Buddhism we thus find that it is based on a progression of philosophical views with a keen interest in the science of mind, the epistemological questions, as well as those of ontology. Basically Buddhism has always been pre-occupied with the investigation of the nature of reality in its mutual interrelation between subject and object. Furthermore, Buddhism has been deeply concerned with research into why that which we experience is not in accordance with the nature of reality, and has developed practices in order to allow for realizing the perceptive / cognitive errors so as to rejoin the basic nature of reality.
    Seen from a Buddhist point of view the epistemological and ontological questions asked can only be investigated in the light of the inter-determination of reality, Tendrel. Nagarjuna thus praised Buddha most highly because of his presentation of Tendrel. Nargajuna holds that if it were not for the inter-determinative nature of reality, Tendrel, there would be no possibility of becoming, no possibility of continuation, and no possibility of the disintegration of phenomena.
    Tsongkhapa (1357-1419), one of the most famous Tibetan scholars and founder of the Gelugpa school, composed a renowned hymn of praise to Buddha, for the great insight which Buddha had made available by means of the Tendrel view.
    It seems to me, that the Tendrel view is not culturally dependent and not limited to a certain time in history. It is universal knowledge, which can be extremely useful to anyone, in any culture or in any time for dealing with reality in a fulfilling and genuine way.