It is reasonable, for several reasons, to place before 1332 a writing which, moreover, bears all the marks of youth (I recall that Longchenpa was born in 1308): the address to the Karmapa, entitled rGyal ba Rang byung rdo rje la phul ba'i dri yig (in gSung thor bu, vol 1).
In addition to the date of death of the addressee, another element supports the hypothesis that this is an early work: Longchenpa signed it with his ordained name, Tültrim Lodrö (Tshul khrims blo gros), which is rare in all the great works of maturity. Moreover, and this is more decisive, it bears witness to doubts (the tshom, the term appears more than once in the body of the text) about the points to which the future master of Gangri Thökar was to devote the most massive developments in his major treatises. This is not a letter sent to the Karmapa during one of his stays in China, since the text was, according to the colophon, composed in his presence.
This writing is of great importance in that it shows us what were the perplexities of the young Longchen Rabjam; it throws a considerable light on his future works, insofar as these same questions were to be abundantly taken up and meditated upon.
To say a word about Lonchenpa's way of composing, various details lead us to believe that he hardly touched up his writings once they were finished. On the other hand, it is only too clear that he liked to rework his work (I mean, to write again on the same subjects) a hundred times: the same points (especially those to which this address to Rangjung Dorje refers) are repeatedly reworked and reworked in many of his writings, with only minor differences.
It is clear that Lonchenpa never had in mind a global project, an overall plan of his work, where each treatise would have filled a precise place, without any redundancy, in order to exhaust a maximum of themes in a minimum of pages. On the contrary, each of his great treatises seems to be a microcosm of his thought, a mirror in which the whole system is reflected according to a particular perspective and which would still be self-sufficient even if all the rest of the work were lost. Or, more precisely, instead of each treatise being like a part integrated in a whole (which would be the work), it is itself to a certain extent an organism, rather than an organ, in which a state of development of the author's thought is expressed.
This adds to the difficulty of studying his thought, since it is often necessary to compare ten or fifteen texts, apparently very similar and, at the same time, subtly different, in order to know his doctrine on this or that capital point.
Moreover, since the colophons do not contain any indication of dates (with four or five exceptions out of 303 writings listed), it is only at the price of a long and complex investigation that one can conjecture what may have been the final state of his reflection. Hence the importance, which I would say is crucial for the understanding of his doctrine, of the research I outlined in my thesis on the chronology of his work.
I feel that we have, in a way, with the address to Rangjung Dorje, the germ from which the whole work was to emerge, once the author came into contact with the sNying thig tradition. This seems to invalidate the idea of Lonchenpa as a simple apologist for the thought of this tradition, and to give him the status of a thinker who started from a genuine philosophical questioning and built his doctrine from an authentically personal research, albeit nourished by the immense corpus that the examination of the quotations and references brings to light. Moreover, there are already in this text some traces of a knowledge, at least vague and bookish, of the sNying thig. Lonchenpa apparently did not discover it entirely from Kumarādza, whom he had not yet met, according to his biographies, at the time he may have written this text.
The more I reread this text, the less it seems to me to be the simple expression of a young student's naivety in dealing with matters still beyond his capacity. If there is anything undeniably juvenile about it, it is its prodigious impertinence, of which, incidentally, the Karmapa was certainly not the target. This little piece of writing, in its apparent candor, seems to me to be a choice piece in the ironic genre, highlighting without any complacency (but under the polite and submissive appearance of a set of questions respectfully addressed to a master) the doctrinal weaknesses of authors who, at first sight, are in the same "camp" as Lonchenpa. He combines in a few words a large number of vexing questions, precisely of the kind that have the gift of upsetting the rnying ma pa masters of our day. There is much to be said, moreover, about Klong chen rab 'byams' particular humor and (somewhat differently) about the sense of hilarity in his work.
This entirely versified text comprises, as its title indicates, a set of questions submitted to Rangjung Dorje (after a brief eulogy of the recipient).
2. Translation of the address to Karmapa Rangjung Dorje
Here is the translation of the philosophical part of the text (I have omitted the introductory and concluding tribute, etc.).
 Dang po'i sangs rgyas de gang  zhig | | Sems nyid yin na 'gro kun la | yod phyir sems nyid thog mtha' med | | de la dang po ji ltar rung |
"What is the primordial Buddha?
If this is the essence of the mind (sems nyid), then in all beings
It is present, since the essence of the mind is without beginning.
How [then] would it be acceptable [to call it] "primordial"?
O na sangs rgyas gzhan yod na | tshogs gnyis sngon du song ma song |
Song na tshogs gnyis ston pa po | yod na de nyid dang po 'gal |
If he is, [of two things one:] either there is a preceptor (ston pa po) [who taught him to perfect] both provisions,
And there is a contradiction [in the assumption that the one we were talking about] is the first.
Med na rang bzhin dran pa po | gdod ma'i gang zag de su zhig |
3. Or,] if he has not [had a master], what is that original person
Who naturally becomes aware [of what to know and practice]?
Tshogs gnyis sngon du ma song na | | sems nyid ma yin tshogs ma bsags | de 'dra'i sangs rgyas mtshar cig kye |
4. If [his Awakening] is not preceded by the double accumulation ,
How strange that such a Buddha
Who is not the essence of the mind and which does not perfect [either] the accumulations!
mDo dang rgyud sder 'gro kun la | | rgyal ba'i mtshan dpe 'od zer sogs | | dar-yug chen po'i dpes bstan pa | | don la yod dam med pa nyid |
5. In the sūtra and tantra, [the presence] in all migrants
Of the signs, marks, light rays, etc., of the Conquerors
Is taught by the example of the great silk fabric.
Are they really present or not?
Med na gzhi dus sems can la | | de med phyir na 'arm dus su | | bsgrub kyang sangs rgyas rung ma yin | | dag rgyu med phyir dag 'arm med | | sangs rgyas rung ba ma yin no |
6. If they are not, then, like, at the time of the base,
Sentient beings lack it, [so it follows that] at the time of the fruit,
In spite of the accomplished practice, one will be unable to achieve [the state of] Buddha:
If there is no pure principle (dag rgyu), there is no fruit of purification (dag 'bras),
And, [therefore,] Awakening is impossible.
Don la yod na rtag ther zug | | bdag bzhin 'gyur zhing 'bad med kyang | 'tshang rgyar ci phyir rung ma yin |
7. But if [all these qualities of the Buddhas] really exist [in deluded sentient beings, then Awakening] will be eternal, stable,
Like the ātman [of the brahmins], and why, even without effort,
Wouldn't we wake up?
Dri mas bsgribs phyir 'bad ce na | | gdod nas dag pa'i chos sku la | | bsgrib bya sgrib byed gang la 'thad |
8. "- It is because they are veiled by defilements that one [must] make an effort",
Says one. But how, in the primordially pure Dharmakāya,
Could the "obscured" and the "obscuring" be possible?
De nyid sems nyid yin lugs la | | dri mas sgrib par mi 'gyur na | | gzhan la dri mas bsgribs ci gnod |
9. If it is the mode of being of the essence of the mind,
It cannot be obscured for [this essence of the spirit] by the defilements [of superficial reality].
What does it matter if it is obscured for some other [cognitive faculty]?
Laṅ kar gshegs pa'i mdo las kyang | don la yod na bdag mtshungs gsungs |
10. In the Laṅkāvatāra sūtra also,
It is said that if [the qualities of the Buddhas] were truly present [in sentient beings], it would amount to the same as the ātman [of Brahmanism].
gZhan yang bde-gshegs  khams de ni | | dri ma bral tshe snang bar 'gyur | | gzhi dus nyid nas yod ces na | rdo rje gdan 'gro'i skye bo la | rdo rje gdan dang de yi lam | | gzhi nas sems la yod ces mtshungs | | rgyu la 'bras gnas skyon du 'gyur |
11. Moreover, if we say that "this sugatagarbha
That, at the moment when it will be rid of the defilements, will manifest himself,
Was present since the moment of the base",
That is to say, in the individual who goes to Bodhgāya,
Bodhgāya and the road leading to it
Are present in his mind since the beginning :
One would fall [thus] into the trap of the pre-existence of the effect in the cause.
Zhi khro la sogs 'gro kun la | | rang bzhin grub pa'i dkyil 'khor nyid | | don la yod dam med pa nyid | Med na mdo dang rgyud sder gsungs | | la las sgrub pa'i dkyil 'khor mthong | de la dper ni rung ma yin |
12. This "maṇḍala naturally established in all migrants," which is referred to
In [texts] such as The Peaceful and Terrible [Divinities
Is it really there or not?
If it is not there, then the maṇḍala of practice, perceived by some,
Of which there is mention (gsungs) in [some] sūtra and tantras,
Is not suitable as an example.
Yod na lus sems gang la yod | Lus la yod pa shi ba'i tshe | | dkyil 'khor lha rnams lus bzhin 'gyur |
13. But if it is there, where, in body and mind, is it?
If it is in the body, at the time of death,
It will happen to the deities of the maṇḍala the same as to the body [which decays].
Sems la yod na sems de ni | | mgo mjug med phyir lha gnas dang | | brten pa'i lha rnams ji ltar 'grub |
14. If it is in the mind that they are found, as this mind
Is without extension, how will be found there (ji ltar 'grub) the divine dwellings
What about all the deities they house (brten pa'i lha rnams)?
Khor 'das snga phyi dus mnyam bzhag | | srid snga nyid na srid pa de | | dang po gang las byung ba nyid |
15. As to whether the saṃsāra and the nirvāṇa are one prior, the other posterior, or whether they are simultaneous,
If the saṃsāra is earlier, then
Where did it originally come from?
Ma rig las las byung zhe na | | de yang dang po gang las byung | | sems nyid las byung de nyid na | | sems nyid skye med dngos po med | de la ma rig la sogs pa'i | | rgyu rkyen dngos po 'byung ba ni | | dngos med las dngos 'byung ltar gyur |
16. "- It is, it is said, from unintelligence and karman that it comes."
But what did they initially do?
"- Of the essence of the mind!" - If it were so,
This essence of the mind which is unborn and a non-thing
Would be the source of the things [with] causes and conditions
Such as unintelligence:
This would be the view of the production of things from non-thingsl.
On te ma rig la sogs las | | gzhan 'byung srid pa yod ce na | | mtshar cig sngon med bzhad gad rgyu |
17. But if we say that it is possible that things like unintelligence
The others are from ,
How strange, and unprecedentedly ridiculous!
Mya ngan 'das snga de ltar na | 'gro bas ma bsgrubs sa lam bgrod | | de 'dra'i myang 'das ji lta  bu | mNyam bzhag gang zhig gang gis sgrub |
18. But if [one were to posit] the anteriority of nirvāṇa,
Then the lands and the ways would be traversed without the migrants having applied themselves to it.
What then would such a nirvāṇa be?
And what good is any kind of recollection?
bsGrub bya sgrub byed med na yang | | 'khor 'das gzod nas tha dad na | | srid ni ther zug sangs rgyas min | | mya ngan 'das lam don med 'gyur |
19. If, although there is nothing to do and no practice,
Saṃsāra and nirvāṇa were from the beginning distinct,
The saṃsāra would be firmly [determined as such], a non-Awakening,
And the Way [allegedly to the] nirvāṇa would be nonsense.
gZhan yang zhi bas srid snga na | | sangs rgyas rnams la dang po rang | | lam sgrub dge sdig ston pa nyid | | mi 'gyur thams cad de dus mtshungs |
20. Besides, if it was the saṃsāra that preceded the nirvāṇa,
Then the one who was the first of all the Buddhas
Would not have had a master to instruct him in the practice of the Way, virtue and vice,
For at that time all were equally [misguided].
dMus long mnyams pos mnyam po la | lam mkhan mi nus nyid bzhin no |
21. A blind man would not know, for one of his own kind,
Point the way, for both are equally [plunged into darkness].
'Khrul 'di rgyu bcas rgyu med zhig | | rGyu bcas yin na dang po yi | 'khrul rgyu de la rgyu yod med | | yod na dang po'i 'khrul rgyur 'gal | | med na rgyu med 'khrul rgyu med |
22. Either it has a cause or it has no cause.
If he is endowed with it, then does this initial cause of delusion
[Itself] have a cause or does it not?
If it has one, then that contradicts [the fact that it has been called] "first cause";
But if it has no cause, the cause of error does not exist.
Dang po'i 'khrul pa mi 'dod na | | da lta'i 'khrul pa rigs mi 'gyur | | 'On te 'khrul pa'i rgyu med na | | sna tshogs 'khrul 'di gang las byung |
23. And if one does not profess [the existence] of an initial error,
The present delusion is contrary to reason.
Indeed, if there is no [primary] cause of delusion,
Where then does this diverse delusion [that we experience] come from?
Chos can chos nyid gcig tha dad | | gzhan yin dang po nyid ce na | | chos nyid 'khrul pa sna tshogs 'gyur |
24. Are the phenomenon (chos can) and the essence (chos nyid) the same, or different,
Or something else, [i.e., neither the same nor different]?
In the first hypothesis, the essence will be the diversified bewilderment.
Tha dad nyid ni chos rang bzhin | | tha dad chos can chos nyid du | 'gyur ba de 'dra gang las yin |
25. "The difference is [in] the nature of the phenomenon," [one says];
But where would it come from that a phenomenal [reality],
Different from an essential [reality], would change into it?
gNyis yin na'ang skyon gnyis po | | snga ma bzhin du so na gnas |
26. But if [one asserts that] they are both, there are two faults [in such a position],
As [those we met] before, in each case .
On te gcig dang tha dad min | don min nyid na chos can dang | chos nyid so sor bzhag med 'gyur |
27. To say that they] are neither the same nor different,
Is the very absurdity, which would imply the impossibility of determining
In their specificity the phenomenon and the essence.
Ma rig la sogs 'gro 'khor ba'i | sgrib pa gar brten ji ltar sgrib |
28. On what do the saṃsāra's obscurations, such as ignorance, rest?
And how do they blind (ji ltar sgrib) the migrants?
Sems nyid gzhi rtsa kun dang bral | | rten med rang bzhin skye ba med | ye nas stong la sgrib mi nus |
29. The essence of the mind,  which is devoid of any foundation and principle,
Without basis, not generated [by its own] nature,
Empty from the beginning, cannot be veiled.
On te sna tshogs sems sgrib na | de-nyid sgrib yin sgrib ci dgos | De lta na yang sgrib ce na | sna tshogs sems gang gang las byung |
30. If [one says:] "it is the spirit of diversity that is obscured",
Since it is he who is the occultation, to obscure him would be vain!
And if it is said that in spite of this [it is he who is] veiled,
Where does this spirit of diversity come from?
| da lta gar gnas ji ltar sgrib | | sems ni sems nyid la brten na | sems nyid gang la brten pa yin |
31. Where does it remain at the moment, and in what sense is it obscured?
If [it is said that] the mind rests on the essence of the mind,
What is the basis for this?
rTen sa med na brten pa med | rten med sgrib pas su la sgrib | 'khor bar 'ching byed grub ma yin |
32. If there is no support, nothing is based on it;
And who would be blinded by an unfounded occultation?
That which binds us in the saṃsāra is not established!
lTa sgom spyod pa 'bras bu rnams | | ngo bo gcig gam so so ba | gcig na dang por bar dang mtha' | | lta sgom spyod 'bras bstan min nam |
33. All [these things such as] View, Meditation, Conduct and Fruit
Are they identical or diverse in essence?
If [we affirm their] identity, [what about this:] do we not teach that there is a beginning, a middle and an end
In View, Meditation, Conduct and Fruit?
O na tha dad nyid ce na | | de dag ngo bo mi gcig pa'i | | chos kyis ya bral don mi 'grub |
34. "They are therefore different", one might say;
But then, due to the fact (chos kyis) of their essential disparity,
One will not achieve his ends [by means of dismembered] elements (ya bral) .
Shin tu mnyam bzhag rnal 'byor pa | | gang snang rang sar 'jog pa na | | snang yul tha mal snang 'di dang | | goms yul lha skye thig le 'od | | la sogs mi g.yo mngon sum lam | | snang ba'i yul la khyad yod med |
35. For the practitioner (rnal 'byor pa) [immersed in] very deep contemplation,
Is there a difference between the objects he perceives,
On the one hand, [in the case of] ordinary apparent objects (snang yul tha mal)
When he leaves to itself (rang sar 'jog pa) whatever may appear,
And, on the other hand, [in the case of] apparent objects such as divine bodies, "drops" (thig le) and lights
Of the Way of the unchangeable (mi g.yo) intuitive evidence (mngon sum)?
Yod na gang snang thams cad kun | | rgyal bas mnyam nyid gsungs dang 'gal | Med na mchog gi stong gzugs nyid | mthong ba tsam gyis mtha' yas pa'i | yon tan rgyud sder gsungs pa 'gal |
36. If there is one, it contradicts what the Conquerors said
Of the equality of all that may appear.
If there is none, it is in contradiction with what the Tantras say:
Infinite qualities [obtained] by simple perception
Of empty supreme forms (śūnyabimba).
dBang po rnon po las dang po | 'bad pas tshe gcig sangs rgyas nyid |  | 'thob ces gsungs pa de yang gang | | sa dang lam ni gang du 'du |
37. Who are these "beginners with acute faculties",
Of which it is said that in one lifetime they can
To which Earth (bhūmi), to which Way (mārga) do they belong (gang du 'du)?
rGyal dang rig 'dzin gang zag rnams | | dgongs dang brda dang snyan khung brgyud | | gsungs na dgongs pa'i brgyud lung gang | | Kun bzang chos sku chen po de | dgongs dang ma dgongs mtha' las 'das | de yis gzhan la ji ltar brgyud |
38. When we speak of the [three] transmissions (brgyud) - that of Mind (dgongs), the symbolic (brda) and the oral (snyan) -
In all these beings [such as] Conquerors and vidyādharas,
What is the Mind transmission ?
This great Reality Body of the Excellent In All Respects (Samantabhadra)
Is it not beyond the extremes of "Mind" and "non-Mind"?
How [then] would he transmit anything] to others through this [so-called Mind]?
Rig 'dzin brda yi brgyud pa yang | tshig dang yi ger chos bstan pa | | yod na brda yis ji ltar brgyud | | snyan khung brgyud dang khyad ci yod |
39. As for the symbolic transmission (brda brgyud) itself,
If it is said that the Dharma is taught there by words and texts ,
In what sense is it transmitted by means of symbols?
How does this differ from oral transmission?
Khor 'das dang po'i gyes mtshams sam | dbye gzhi gang las ji ltar byung | Sems can gsar skye yod dang med | yod na sems can thog mtha' nyid | yod 'gyur 'khor ba'i thog mtha' yod |
40. From what "differentiating boundary" or from what "basis of opposition",
And in what way, did the saṃsāra and nirvāṇa occur?
Is there an initial production (gsar skye)of sentient beings or is there none?
If there was one, there would be a primordial beginning
Sentient beings, and the saṃsāra would have a prime term.
Med na sems can 'di dag kun | dang po gang las ji ltar byung | Dang po gsar skyes ma byung na | | da lta sems can dmigs mi 'gyur |
41. But if there is none, then all these sentient beings,
Where did they come from initially and how did they appear?
If they had not been produced first,
We wouldn't see sentient beings now..."
The last lines of the text contain a few formulas of deference accompanying these questions, presented to the Karmapa as doubts about the doctrine.
We confess that we have not yet investigated whether there is a reply from Rangjung Dorje which, with any luck, could be dated. It may be that if such a document is preserved among the works of this Karma pa, it would not have attracted attention, being addressed to a Tshulthrims Lodrö in whom no one may have thought to recognize Longchenpa.
 This rule should not, however, be turned into a system. Thus, we know with certainty that the commentary on the Yid bzhin rin po che'i mdzod is not a work of youth, despite its relatively exoteric character, the use of this pen name and its placement at the head of the Khyen brtse edition of the Seven Treasures. The criterion, taken in isolation, is therefore unreliable, even if it retains, in our eyes, a value of clue when combined with other signs.
 I understand thog mtha', en bloc, in the sense of "initial end", first beginning, and not in the sense of "beginning and end".
 There is indeed a strangeness in the doctrine of the Adibuddha: on the one hand, he is identified with the Dharmatā, and, as such, he is timeless, rather than original; on the other hand, he is indeed made the first teacher, the source of all teachings, and, in this respect, he is well situated in temporal anteriority.
 The Awakening would not be inherent, but adventitious, produced, constructed by means of the elements of the Way.
 Provisions of merit (bsod nams) and principal knowledge (ye shes).
 That is to say, since every Awakened One is dependent on an earlier Buddha, there would be a contradiction: the first Buddha would be inconceivable. Indeed, having received the teaching of the elements of the Way from no previous Buddha, he would not have been able to cultivate its practice, let alone obtain its fruits. Therefore, he would not have become Enlightened and could not have taught the one who would become the second Buddha. Thus, enlightenment would be impossible, or at least totally unknown in this world.
 There remains, in fact, the hypothesis of an adept without a master, on the model of the Pratyekabuddha, the "solitary Awakened Ones" of the Lesser Vehicle, whose existence is constantly postulated by the great treatises of the Mahāyāna. But in the case of the "supreme and perfect Awakening" proper to the Mahāyāna, the idea of a spontaneous Awakened One is never seriously considered in the classical doctrine.
 Another hypothesis: Awakening is neither inherent nor the product of causes and conditions. In this case, it is somehow produced randomly and without causes, like the "sky-flower". This hypothesis, which is the ruin of Buddhism (which would then be totally vain as a praxis and as a theory articulated to this praxis), is rejected as strange by the author. It is true that, in this case, it would be ridiculous to bother with such an Awakening, which would arise unexpectedly and randomly, and which, moreover, would have no reason not to disappear after having occurred, – which would entail, for the Awakened being, the possibility of falling back into saṃsāra.
 Dar yug chen po'i dpe, an image present in both the Avataṃsāka and the Tathāgatagarbha sūtra, and which illustrates the presence of the Awakened qualities in the gotra of ordinary saṃsāra beings. It is particularly developed in Asaṅga's commentary to the Ratnagotravibhāga. Here is what it means: one imagines a huge canvas on which is painted, with the utmost realism, a life-size, infinitely detailed image of the whole universe; then one imagines this canvas gathered up, folded, into a single atom; then one assumes that each atom contains such an infinite image of the universe. In the same way, the infinite principled knowledge (ye shes / jñāna) of Enlightenment, with all its attributes beyond imagination, is present in the minds of ordinary sentient beings (or perhaps even in their bodies; at least this is how our author interprets this allegory in Theg mchog rin po che'i mdzod (p. 218 of the A ’dzom’brug pa edition). There are a few other occurrences in his work, for example: Sems nyid Ngal gso'i 'grel pa shing rta chen po (n° 217), vol. I, p. 323 and 345, and Grub mtha' mdzod, p. 233).
 Are the qualities of Awakening present in the "basis", that is to say in the condition of sentient beings even though they have not yet embarked on the "path", or is their presence only in the sense of a mere virtuality, or even of a pure possibility? To affirm their actual presence in the base would be unusual, since it would imply, for example, that beings possess omniscience without their knowledge. To posit that their presence is virtual is the thesis of the pre-existence of the tree in the seed, generally rejected by Buddhists as peculiar to the Brahmanical system of Sāṃkhya. Finally, to speak of a mere possibility of Awakening in sentient beings is, in essence, to remove all purpose from the theory of Buddha nature.
 The author dismisses out of hand a theory that would nevertheless be regarded, in modern Tibet under the dge lugs pa magisterium, as the soundest and most solid: that according to which there would be nothing positive in beings by which they would be destined to Awakening, the "buddha-nature" being merely a purely neutral possibility, in everyone, insofar as he is devoid of a nature of his own, of wandering in the saṃsāra as well as of obtaining Awakening. Among the dGe lugs pa, indeed, to say that erring beings are buddhas in potential, in no way implies the idea of any pre-existence of the Enlightened qualities in their mind stream, even in a somewhat embryonic form. Indeed, one cannot regard the theory of "natural light" as elaborated in this school as implying any form of pre-existence of the Fruit in the Basis. All the more reason why the actual presence of the Awakened qualities in an already fully developed, though veiled, state is rejected by the dGe lugs pa as sheer nonsense. This is, however, the theory defended by the great contemporary of Klong chen rab 'byams, Dol po pa (1292-1361). In another, perhaps more subtle form, Klong chen rab 'byams is not far from it.
 How can one already possess enlightenment and yet have to acquire it? If one has it, how can one not be aware of it? How can one conceive of producing what one already has?
 The author gives the common solution, taken so to speak from the catechism or vulgate of Tibetan Buddhism. Even today, when one asks Tibetan religious scholars the same questions that the young Klong chen rab 'byams asked in the fourteenth century, one hears the same platitudes answered, especially (and this is piquant) by those who claim to follow this author... This simple theory of adventitious defilements, from which the pure nature of Buddha must be freed, is more typical of Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan than of Klong chen rab 'byams. In Klong chen rab 'byams, it is found and is even frequent; but the substance of his thought on the relationship between the veiled absolute nature and the veils that cover it seems to go much further than Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan.
 The author goes straight to the key point: for whom is the essence of mind (sems nyid), identified with the Body of Reality (Dharmakāya), veiled? It certainly cannot be for itself, since, by hypothesis, it is, on the one hand, free from the subject-object duality, which would be presupposed for it to contemplate itself, in a possibly inadequate way, and, on the other hand, it is intrinsically devoid of occultations. It is, one might say, a pure immediate vision without seer and without seen, intrinsically luminous, and whose transparent essence (zang thal) excludes the very idea of obscurations (āvaraṇa).
 If the Dharmakāya were not concealed, we would already be Awakened. But it cannot be concealed in and of itself; therefore, it is concealed only for us. But, the author says very strongly (and few seem to have said this so clearly in Tibet), if it is hidden only for us (for the ordinary mind, sems), it does not matter. Indeed, there is no autonomous existence of the ordinary mind, formed of the eight consciousnesses (vijñāna) and all the pseudo-objective perceptions that characterize the mind streams of misguided beings. It is "encompassed in the sphere of Intelligence" (rig pa'i klong du bzlum pa), of which it is the expressive display (rtsal las rol par shar ba), according to the terminology of rDzogs chen. In more common terms, we could say that it is wrapped up in the omniscient principial knowledge of the Buddhas. To this extent, we cannot be Enlightened, so to speak, in the plane of the Body of Reality, while being lost on the plane of the ordinary mind. Or, at least, such a way of speaking, if it is capable of acceptable meaning, is more the statement of a problem than the articulation of a solution.
 The doctrine of the pre-existence of the effect in its cause is consistently refuted by Buddhists as typical of Sāṃkhya speculations. The point that Klong chen rab 'byams challenges is the idea of the pre-existence of the qualities of Enlightenment in the mind (sems). The relationship between the mind and its timeless enlightened essence is a difficult question to elucidate in the Buddhist framework without the doctrinal input of rDzogs chen.
 The author is certainly thinking of Vajrayāna sūtras, such as the mDo dgongs 'dus of the Anu-yoga.
 Klong chen rab 'byams alludes to the relationship between the maṇḍala "meaning" (or signified, don gyi dkyil 'khor) and the maṇḍala"illustrative" (dpe'i dkyil 'khor). In the gSang ba snying po, for example, the "meaning" is the maṇḍala of the base (gzhi'i dkyil 'khor), which is illustrated and indicated by the maṇḍala of the Way, in other words, the one that is presented to the disciple in the consecration, and mentally produced at the developmental stage (utpattikrama / bskyed rim), etc. More specifically, here, the phrase "perceived by a few" probably refers to the visionary practices of the sampannakrama of the Kālacakra and those of the sNying thig.
The meaning of the argument is this: if the qualities symbolized by the illustrative maṇḍala do not exist in the "base," in other words, in the essential nature of the practitioner, there is no agreement between signifier and signified, or between example and meaning. Therefore, the maṇḍala of the base must actually be present, in some way, in the psycho-physiological compound of the practitioner.
 The higher tantras all affirm this in some way, and even more so the sNying thig in its various forms (with which the recipient of the present text was eminently familiar). It is constantly asserted there, in fact, that the maṇḍala of the peaceful deities is naturally present in our hearts ("purple tent," "carnelian palace," "citta palace," etc.), and that of the terrible deities, in our heads ("conch palace"). From the point of view of Buddhist common sense, or of ordinary Tibetan scholasticism, the inscription of this eternal and infinite nature in any point of the extent and duration has something paradoxical to the point of ridicule, in spite of the traditional comparison, recognized above, of the "great silk fabric".
 Litt. "neither head nor tail," but the meaning is that the mind has no volume and as such is not a place where anything can be found. There is, in the literature of the Mahāyāna and the tantras, a whole theme of the location in relation to Buddha-nature (either a meditation on its location in body and mind, or conversely its presentation as the place (gnas) of everything. On this point, cf. for example, Dol po pa Shes rab rgyal mtshan, Ri chos nges don rgya mtsho, p. 12-14).
 This is typically a question that can only be satisfactorily answered from the teachings of the rDzogs chen snying thig. To this extent, the idea that the rDzogs chen is the "high point" from which the philosophy and practices of Tibetan Buddhism make sense is corroborated. Klong chen rab 'byams is not merely someone who strived to elucidate the literature of the rDzogs chen in particular, but also one who intended to elucidate the whole of Buddhism by placing himself (sometimes merely implicitly) in the specific perspective of sNying thig.
 This answer is obviously absurd. We are indeed slipping from the register of efficient causality, which is a matter of temporal successiveness, to another register, which has nothing to do with the anterior and posterior.
 In a doctrinally bastardized version of rDzogs chen, the essence of mind (sems nyid) is evidently envisaged more or less as the material cause (the stuff) of the tribulations of the ordinary mind. This substratum is conceived as intrinsically pure but neutral enough to allow the endless metamorphoses of the saṃsāra to emerge within it. This is a point that Klong chen rab 'byams clarifies, in the context of the sNying thig treatises, when he discusses the topic of the "seven [doctrines on the] basis" (gzhi bdun). There is a contradiction between the idea of an immutable purity, on the one hand, and the notion of infinite plasticity, on the other, even if both can be illustrated by the single example of the mirror, an indeterminate substrate, the basis for the manifestation of infinitely varied images. Not only does this conception of an underlying, eternally pure object of phenomena seem more Brahmanical than Buddhist, but it also does not seem to be in conformity with the doctrine of the sNying thig.
 One cannot escape this problem whenever one wants to posit some immaculate primordial Ground that is in some way the source of all the diversified modalities of the saṃsāra and the nirvāṇa: how from the pure does the impure arise? This is one facet of the problem of the articulation of mind (sems) and Intelligence (rig pa), in other words, the essence of mind (sems nyid) or the principial knowledge (ye shes). The final doctrine and hidden intention of Klong chen rab 'byams, on this point, seems to us to be that the saṃsāra proceeds from the Ground not accidentally, but necessarily, despite what one might imagine after a cursory reading of the "beginning myth" of the sNying thig. That said, taking things naively, the production of delusion from a not-neutral, but inherently enlightened Ground is just as incomprehensible as the production of Enlightenment from a saṃsāra that is totally alien in nature to the qualities of Enlightenment.
 In Buddhist scholasticism, a thing (dngos po) is what is efficient (don byed nus pa), that is to say, in short, what is inscribed in the chains of causal production that belong to the register of duration. A being that is a non-thing has all the opposite characteristics (eternal, inefficient...). That duration can proceed from the eternal, that some effect can result from the inefficient, would be quite inconceivable according to Buddhist philosophers in general.
 The Tibetan text is not very clear. It may be asked whether the absurd error here challenged would not consist in positing a more radical kind of unintelligence than that which is assumed to constitute the first moment of the saṃsāra. It is clear that one cannot get out of this difficulty by such subterfuges and speculative hypostases. One can complicate the model by adding as many mediations as one likes, the articulation of eternity and duration, of the immaculate and the defiled, will always remain eminently thorny as long as one does not equip oneself with adequate conceptual instruments. It is also possible, and the context invites this reading, that the author has in mind the absurdity of an Enlightenment proceeding from delusion, as if (according to the ordinary doctrine of modern Tibetan scholasticism) one could produce the elements of the Buddha state from the situation of delusion. For Klong chen rab 'byams, apparently, the idea of producing the qualities of enlightenment from virtues of the ordinary mind and inscribed in duration (a doctrine which seems to us to be that of the dGe lugs pa) is a crudeness of thought.
 The doctrine of rDzogs chen cannot consist in the position of a pure and simple pre-existence of Enlightening in ordinary beings. It is my constant opinion, and the texts establish it abundantly, that the references to the original and primordial (ye nas... gdod ma nas...) in rDzogs chen have nothing to do with temporal anteriority, but point to the order of timeless Reality (chos nyid), which is without before or after (snga phyi med pa).
 As most of his work attests, the author holds to the idea of the utility of the elements of the Way, even though in places he seems to reject it in the most formal way. He has clearly arrived at a conception of the basis, the Way and the fruit in which "subitism" and "gradualism" are not massively and irreconcilably opposed, nor are they combined in an artificial and purely metaphorical way, nor are they placed side by side without any effort at reconciliation.
 The author, having raised a doubt about the possibility of the production of the impure from the pure and of the pure from the impure, thus poses, purely as a school hypothesis, the real existence of the pure and the impure, each on its own side, as two heterogeneous substances without communication. In such a case, mediations would be impossible. The Buddhas would be from all eternity Enlightened and the deluded beings doomed to go round and round in the saṃsāra without end. If this were so, it goes without saying that the teaching and practice of Buddhism would be purposeless, since it would have no fruit.
 Again, the same problem is posed, but this time in its conceptually purest form, without mixing temporal elements. There is here an implicit allusion to the Saṃdhinirmocana sūtra, which, in a famous passage, explains the impossibility of the difference and identity of the two realities, taking this difference and identity according to each of the two realities. Cf. my (French) translation of the Mi pham's Shes ’grel ka ta ka (p. 49 ff.).
 At the moment of awakening, the ordinary mind (sems), which belongs to the phenomenal aspect, is sublimated into its essence, the principial knowledge (ye shes) or Intelligence (rig pa). If one posits their identity, then principial knowledge and its infinite vision will be confused with the chaos of the becoming of the mind, which is inadmissible. One then posits that difference is the proper of one of the two terms of the dichotomy, as if the essence were the identical in itself, as opposed to the phenomenon, which would be the different in itself. But, not to mention the obscurity of such a way of speaking, one may wonder how the different-in-itself could well return within the identical-in-itself.
 That is to say, the passage from phenomenon to essence will be inconceivable, just as, incidentally, the relationship by which one of the two terms is the essence of the other, while the second is the phenomenon of the first (there must be a difference, but a difference such that the one is constitutively related to the other. To think this requires a speculative logic, which the greatest Buddhist thinkers practice spontaneously, but which has not been, as such, the object of a thematic development. It is like Aristotle according to Hegel, who uses it when he is a metaphysician, but ignores it when he deals expressly with logic.
 Klong chen rab 'byams here unveils the invalidity of the visual model implicit in the very idea of occultation (āvaraṇa). Indeed, it only makes sense if x (ignorance, etc.) can be said, in any way, to veil y (essence) from z (the ordinary mind, for example). Now, in the present case, the application of the metaphor to what it is supposed to illustrate does not hold: on the one hand, the obscuring or veiling term, x, is not separable from the blinded subject, z, and they are basically one and the same thing. One cannot imagine z without x, i.e. the mind (sems) delivered from its shadow (sgrib pa), since it is the very shadow that blinds itself to its own essence. Thus there is nothing like the interposition of a veil between a seeing subject and its object.
To which it must be added that y, the essence, is not an object that can be seen or not seen: it is intrinsically vision or light, an essentially lucid light, which nothing can obscure, and which, moreover, can only be seen by oneself, and not by a foreign eye. However purified it may be, the mind (sems) will never see it. However darkened it may be, it will never be veiled. Thus any conception of the Basis, the Way and the Fruit is intensely paradoxical. I believe that the entire work of Klong chen rab 'byams proceeds from a singularly acute awareness of this paradox, which may not have caused most Tibetan writers as much anguish as it seems to have affected the masters of East Asian Buddhism. Most Tibetan thinkers may have been blinded to this abyss, entertained by the assurance that all their tantric "spiritual technology" gave them. It certainly gave them a sense of a possible practical resolution to what was now a vain problem of pure theory.
 Another series of difficulties, relative to the conception of the relation essence / phenomenon under the species of the relation between foundation and founded thing.
 Collapse of what rests on the abyss, on the unfounded Ground. Illusion, it is said, is supported by Reality, as reflected images are based on the mirror (a comparison rather peculiar to rDzogs chen; the gZhan stong pa have their own examples to illustrate this point). But, in truth, there is no mirror, nothing that can be firmly grasped: Klong chen rab 'byams is not a supporter of the doctrine conceived by his great contemporary Dol po pa of Jo nang; he cannot accept the idea of a substratum of illusion itself established as real (bden grub). Hence, the terms "base", "background" or "foundation" are paradoxical, to say the least, and, even more so, the existence and nature of what is supposed to rest on this foundation are problematic. Dol po pa that clearly states that the Dharmatā is the foundation of the saṃsāra without being its cause.
 After asking (or questioning) Rang byung rdo rje about the categories of the Basis, the Path and the Fruit, our author moves on to the elements of the Path. Indeed, it is under these three headings that the Path is presented in most of the rDzogs chen treatises. Reflection on the nature of the Path is not simply the practical side of what the analysis of the basis (absolute nature, origin and nature of error, etc.) would be the theoretical side. Indeed, here, it is a question of questioning the possibility of principle of a Path, i.e. of a mediation between the Basis and the Fruit. The author has plunged us into perplexity as to the relationship of dharma and Dharmatā, to use the language of the treatises attributed to Maitreya; he has shown, on the one hand, the difficulty of making the dharma proceed from the Dharmatā, or resting on it in any way, and, on the other hand, the impossibility of producing Enlightenment, either as the result of causal combinations in the phenomenal plane (dharma) or as a de-occultation of the Dharmatā. In other words, he showed the unintelligibility of all the current doctrines relating to the determination of the Basis, on the one hand, and the relationship of the Basis and the Fruit, on the other.
Now he intends to show us the no less paradoxical character of the claim to articulate Basis and Fruit through the mediation of the Path. It is true that in many of the teachings of rDzogs chen, the Basis seems to be already established (lhun grub) in the condition of the Fruit, on the one hand, and the Path seems to be nothing more than the View (lta ba), as a direct (mngon sum) confrontation (ngo sprod) with the nature of the undifferentiated base of the fruit, - meditation (sgom pa) and conduct (spyod pa) being only the progressively total installation in this View.
But it is true that one can still raise difficulties about the distinction between the Basis (gzhi) itself and the View (how can one see, not see, who sees, who is blinded, etc.), and then about the progressive development of meditation (sgom pa) and conduct (spyod pa), a progression compared, in most texts, to the succession of phases of the moon.
 That is to say, how would one establish the identity of these various phases of the spiritual path, which, as they are successive, cannot be confused?
 Ya bral don mi 'grub, a formula that is difficult to render in English, but which carries the idea of disjointed ingredients whose union alone could bear fruit. How can the View be what it should be, if it is different from the content that reveals itself in it? Indeed, if it were something added to it, there would be a residue of dualism, a superfluous spectator of the Absolute added to the Absolute itself. If meditation were separate from the view, then there would be a need for adjuncts extraneous to the mere self-revelation of the absolute in the view, and the result would be that the basis would not be intrinsically perfect (lhun grub). The same would be true if conduct and fruit were separate from view and meditation. This is, moreover, the meaning of the Three Maxims that highlight the key points (Tshig gsum gnad du brdeg pa) which, according to tradition, form the "testament" ('das rjes) of dGa' rab rdo rje. Klong chen rab 'byams does not futilely invent difficulties, nor does it play with purely theoretical speculative paradoxes. On the contrary, it seems difficult for a person who does not ask such questions to have any idea of what is called rDzogs chen. It is in this sense that, in the very logic of this spiritual tradition, it seems to us that it would not be right to reject philosophy en masse in the name of meditative practice.
 Most likely an allusion to the visions of Thod rgal. It is not impossible that the author is contrasting here the practice of Khregs chod, where the ordinary mind is allowed to resolve itself into its essence (or "natural state"), and the visionary practice of Thod rgal. In this reputedly supreme version of rDzogs chen practice, development is progressive. Moreover, it is necessary to believe that these visions bring something to the adept in the course of their unfolding, otherwise, for him, "they would be worth no more than a stone", as our author says in substance in a passage of the Lung gi gter mdzod.
This passage is the only one in this text that suggests that its composition may be later than we have assumed, since we do not know whether the author had already come into contact with the teaching of the sNying thig at the time we have located its composition. He may have received at least the rudiments of one or other of the two sNying thig, or of some other similar cycle, either from Karma pa or from gZhon nu don grub, two of his teachers who seem to have been deeply versed in this tradition. Moreover, he certainly had in view also the luminous visions obtained during the completion phase of the Kālacakra, of which we have seen that he had studied with several of his masters the Sixfold application (Ṣaḍaṅgayoga), although he was later to distinguish sharply in certain texts of the Seven Treasures between the two types of luminous visions, those of the Thod rgal and those developed in the Ṣaḍaṅgayoga.
 The term "empty forms" is part of the technical terminology of Kālacakra-tantra.
 There is certainly an allusion here to the extreme case of the "simultaneousists" (cig car ba) who are characterized as individuals who obtain Enlightenment in the very instant of the confrontation (ngo sprod). Their status is not without a theoretical problem. If they were not deluded in the previous instant, the confrontation itself would be superfluous; but, since they awaken in an instant, we can suppose that they were, for example, according to the ordinary nomenclature of Buddhism, bodhisattvas of the tenth Earth (bhūmi). But the whole point of the doctrine of simultaneous awakening lies precisely in the negation of the mediations of the Path: It has no other meaning than to posit, at least as a textbook case, the possibility of the instantaneous liberation of any being, provided that he perceives, even for a single instant, Reality, "without even a hair of virtue" (dge ba'i rtsa ba spu tsam yang med par), as the tantras of the rDzogs chen say about the liberation of the primordial Buddha Samantabhadra.
 The main difficulty with this doctrine seems to lie in the fact that it posits a transmission, and therefore a communication, between beings otherwise assumed to be identical in nature. Thus, in many of the tantras of the rDzogs chen (beginning with the Kun byed rgyal po, which is sometimes given as the general mūla-tantra of the Great Completion) the audience ('khor) is emanated from the preceptor (ston pa). For example, the following lines can be read at the end of the first chapter of this tantra (rNying ma rgyud 'bum, mTshams brag, vol. I, pp. 6-7):
"[Question of Sems dpa' rdo rje:] - O master of masters,  sovereign creator of all things! Could it be that the master himself is the drop (thig le / biṇḍu) devoid of discursive proliferations? That the whole audience is the drop devoid of discursive proliferations? That the whole of the teaching is the drop devoid of discursive proliferations? That all times and places are the drop devoid of discursive proliferations? If all these things are of the nature of [this] drop (or: are of a punctual nature), what then does the teacher of teachers teach? For whose benefit does he turn [the Dharma wheel of] meaning that he sets in motion before his audience ('khor du 'khor ba'i don ci na 'khor)? And why does he instruct [this] audience in what he expounds? How can time and place be one? – "I, the essence of the spirit, the sovereign creator of all, am the essence (snying po) of all things. This essence, free from discursive proliferation, is from the beginning punctual (thig). What is the meaning (don) of this drop (thig le) originally devoid of discursive proliferation? It is that the preceptor, the teaching, the audience, the places and the times, originally from me, are from the beginning [this] drop. Such is the teaching of my natural biṇḍu. »
 It must be said that the term dgongs pa is equivocal. Sometimes, it is only an honorific term for the mind (sems); sometimes, it designates the thought or its content, or even the intention - the spirit, as opposed to the letter - of a discourse. This is why we have chosen the term Idea, with a capital letter, with the Plotinian conception of Ideas in mind, since we borrow a certain number of terms from the lexicon of Plotinus' French translators. Finally, as J.-L. Achard (who translates everywhere dgongs pa as "contemplation", which we reserve for bsam gtan) has well seen, this term is sometimes taken as an honorific of sgom (meditation). In short, this idea of dgongs brgyud denotes the immediate transmission, from mind to mind, of what is the substance of the thought of the one who is communicating, in a state of contemplative communion between the two (or more) communicating terms.
 Here too, the paradox lies in the fact that the idea of communication (or transmission) presupposes distinct terms, between which communication takes place, by means of some mediation. Now, here, the terms are confused, and the message, in which we cannot distinguish signifier and signified, is not itself other than the one who sends it. As a verse from the Kun byed rgyal po says, "I teach my own nature to myself."
 What makes the three transmissions different is not so much the medium or instrument of communication as the mode in which it takes place. The Mind tranmission is associated with the Dharmakāya; the symbolic transmission is related to the Saṃbhogakāya. The former is purely and simply immediate; the latter operates by the simple revelation of the forms radiating spontaneously (rang gdangs) from the principial knowledge (ye shes), without otherness of signifier and signified, but, on the contrary, in a perfect unphrased adequacy of form and substance. The theory of symbolic transmission is linked to the resolution of the previous difficulty - that of the practical usefulness of the visions of the Thod rgal in relation to the simple repose in the natural state of the Khregs chod.
 dBye gzhi, "basis of opposition": a differentiation is always made on the basis of a common substratum; an opposition can only be understood by means of a certain coappartenance of opposites, by which they are related to each other in their very opposition. The purely disparate that merely coexists side by side is not considered as "opposed". The problem here is that the subject of delusion in the saṃsāra (mind, sems) and the subject of ultimate deliverance (sems nyid / ye shes / rig pa) are not exactly the same thing, so that mind as such can be said never to be liberated (since, in the immediate vision of principial knowledge, it ceases to exist in this "mind" mode). There is some difficulty in positing a common basis for liberation and wandering, which would be the same individual successively alienated and then Awakened.
Certainly, the rDzogs chen tends to posit the existence of an original Ground (ye gzhi), the common basis (spyi gzhi) of the saṃsāra and the nirvāṇa. But it is true that, here again, this doctrine is, more than anything else, the statement of a problem: when one reflects on what is in question, it appears that this Ground, presented as anterior to both delusion and enlightenment, and therefore as indeterminate with respect to them, is not as truly neutral (lung ma bstan) as its character as a common basis would seem to require. It falls more on the side of enlightenment than on that of delusion. The only base that the texts of the rDzogs chen systematically say is neutral (lung ma btsan) is the kun gzhi, the universal substratum, which is on the side of delusion. It is itself based on the primordial Ground, but it is radically different from it. It is often forgotten that in addition to the ye gzhi or primordial Ground (perhaps comparable to the kun gzhi ye shes, *ālayajñāna, of the doctrine of Dol po pa) and the ālayavijñāna, the rDzogs chen pa posits a third kun gzhi. In any case, by and large, the doctrine of sNying thig requires one to posit that it is enlightenment itself that is the common basis of enlightenment and misguidance, which is ultimately excessively profound from the speculative point of view, but is nonetheless totally paradoxical on first approach.
 The sNying thig presents a kind of myth of beginning and fall. The question of the first beginning seems naive, and even out of place, in a Buddhist author. However, it is not a vain cosmological curiosity. The narrative form of the beginning myth is indeed required to emphasize the in a sense accidental character of the deviation from the natural condition. It is the same in this respect as in Lucretius' evocation of the clinamen (De Rerum Natura, II, 217 ff.) : "In the fall that carries them, by virtue of their weight, straight through the void, in an undecided time, in undecided places, the atoms have deviated a little... (corpora cum deorsum rectum per inane feruntur | ponderibus propiis, incerto tempore ferme | incertisque locis spatio depellere paulum...)". Cf. also ibid. p. 292 ff: "...It is the effect of the slight deviation of the atoms | in a place, in a time that nothing determines... (id facit exiguum clinamen principiorum | nec regione loci certa nex tempore certo) ". The same is true of Rousseau's staging of the exit from the state of nature.
 An unbearable assumption according to the common logic of Buddhist philosophy: that first moment of the saṃsāra would be an effect without a cause, a "sky-flower."
 I insist that this question is falsely naive. Classical Mahāyāna thought would answer it by positing nonproduction in the absolute on the one hand, and, on the other, conditioned production without beginning in surface reality. Klong chen rab 'byams is obviously familiar with this primary response. But he is trying here to grasp the very particular regime of causality that comes, as it were, to double the regime of conditioned production in duration (a bit like Spinoza's) by a regime of expressivity (according to all the weight that Deleuze gives to this term in his justly famous book), linking what is of the order of the eternal and what is of the order of the duration. This is a problem that is not considered by most Tibetan authors.