The four reliances - rton pa bzhi

folio 60-1-148a etc.

(font : Tibetan Machine Uni)

About the four reliances, the sutra of reference is " The Sūtra of the Teaching of Akṣayamati " (in the Derge Kangyur, Discourses, General sutra section, 175). You can find it in Tibetan at : adarsha.dharma-treasure.org - Kangyur, Derge, Sūtra,

༄༅༅། །རྒྱ་གར་སྐད་དུ། ཨཱརྱ་ཨཀྵ་ཡ་མ་ཏི་ནིར་དེ་ཤ་ནཱ་མ་མ་ཧཱ་ཡཱ་ན་སཱུ་ཏྲ། བོད་སྐད་དུ། འཕགས་པ་བློ་གྲོས་མི་ཟད་པས་བསྟན་པ་ཞེས་བྱ་བ་ཐེག་པ་ཆེན་པོའི་མདོ།

Etienne Lamotte called it the catuḥpratisaraṇa sutta (but this is not it’s real name).

Mipham Rinpoche (1846-1912) in the « Sword of Wisdom » mentioned also four reliances, but their meaning is very far from the meaning of the reliances in the sutra mentioned above.

For example,in this sutra the four reliances start by :

« Rely on the meaning(ultimate reality), but not on the word »

The meaning of the terms « meaning » and « word » in this sutra are not at all the same as in Mipham’s reliances.

According to the explanations of the Buddha in this sutra “Word” refers to a “mundane understanding (relative)” of generosity etc,


/ tshig 'bru zhes bya ba ni gang 'jig rten pa'i chos dang bya ba la 'jug pa bstan pa'o/

and “meaning” refers to a “world transcending realization (absolute)”.etc.


/ don ces bya ba ni gang 'jig rten las 'das pa'i chos rtogs pa'o/

We must also understand that it doesn’t imply that we should reject the mundane understanding but transcend it. In fact, we can say that the four reliances are gradual instructions on Absolute Reality or on the Nature of Mind.

Excerpt from the Sūtra of the Teaching of Akṣayamati
/tshig 'bru zhes bya ba ni gang zhi gnas dang lhag mthong gi tshogs bstan pa'o/
What does “word” means ? To rely on shine (Calm-abiding) and lhagthong(insight)


/don ces bya ba ni gang rig pa dang rnam par grol ba'i ye shes so/
What does “meaning” means ? To rely on Rigpa and  wisdom of complete liberation.

This sutra is still only available in Tibetan (as far as I know), it will be translated (in progress), within the framework of 84000-Translating the words of the Buddha (website : read.84000.co). I sincerely rejoice in this project and in the translators’work, which I find good and honest. Please read the new translation of “The Sūtra on Reliance Upon a Virtuous Spiritual Friend” Derge 300. There is an important correction in it.