Monlam Pavilion, Bodhgaya
February 2, 2020
After requesting everyone to rouse bodhicitta before listening to the teaching, Gyaltsab Rinpoche gave the refuge vows to those who had requested them. Before giving the vows, he taught the significance of refuge. Since, the Bhagavan Buddha is the only one who can protect us from suffering and the causes of suffering, we take refuge in the Bhagavan Buddha. Because his teachings are the source of protection and liberation, we go for refuge in the Dharma. And, the foundation for the Dharma to remain a long time in this world is the Sangha. For that reason, we take refuge in the Sangha.
In order to arouse the aspiration of bodhicitta he instructed: “Now, think to yourself you must bring all sentient beings, all of our mothers who are limitless as space, to a state of completely perfect Buddhahood. It is that for this reason we are listening to the Dharma.”
Mind Training: The Seventy-Two Exhortations
Gyaltsab Rinpoche explained that His Holiness Gyalwang Karmapa had asked him to teach this text by the renowned, renunciate and 11th century Kadampa master and meditator, Kharak Gomchung. Kharak Gomchung, like Milarepa, concentrated on samadhi meditation. In the beginning, he received many pith instructions from Gönpo Sonam Gyaltsen. After that, he went to many different lamas including Gönpawa [1016 – 1082 CE] who was based at Radring Monastery. He received and practiced these many different instructions including those on mind trainings from Atisha. When doing a long retreat in his cave, he combined all of these instructions and underwent many hardships to practice until he came to the ultimate end of practice. Of his many students who received his pith instructions, the primary disciple was Geshe Potowa, who passed down these instructions.
Now in this teaching and in general, the words of the mahasiddhas are all based fundamentally on the words of the Bhagavan Buddha. On all of the occasions when the Buddha taught the perfect Dharma, he taught it with virtue in the beginning, virtue in the middle, and virtue in the end, Rinpoche stated. And for that reason when we teach the Dharma, we should teach it so that it is virtue in the beginning, middle, and end.
Virtue in the Beginning
The first line of the text teaches with virtue in the beginning. The text says,
I prostrate to the gurus.
Rinpoche emphasized that the first and greatest lama for all sentient beings is the Bhagavan Buddha. It is said in the Sutras that, “Even those who have achieved peace in the higher realms are to be taught by the Buddha.” Rinpoche elaborated that any sentient being who has not abandoned all of the obstructions must still receive the Dharma. For instance, even those among all sentient beings who have achieved a state of peace, including the greatest of sravakas, arhats, and pratyeka buddhas who have entered into nirvana without remainder, still receive the teachings of the Bhagavan Buddha. Even the great bodhisattvas who dwell on the tenth bodhisattva level such as Manjushri and Samantabhadra also go for refuge in the Buddha because they have not yet developed the qualities of abandonment or realization of a buddha.
Great bodhisattvas and arhats also take the Buddha as their source of refuge. For this reason, it is hardly worth mentioning that those of us who have all the afflictions must go for refuge in the Buddha as well. Everyone listening to the teaching must prostrate to the Bhagavan Buddha in the beginning. Not only do we prostrate to the Buddha, but also for us Kagyupas, we must prostrate with our body, speech, and mind to the great beings – Tilopa, Naropa, Marpa, and to Milarepa and Gampopa, and to all of the mahasiddhas who have appeared over time, who are like buddhas.
We also need to prostrate and go for refuge in the first Karmapa, Düsum Khyenpa, and all the Gyalwang Karmapas. We also need to think to ourselves that we are going for refuge in Atisha and Dromtönpa and the masters of the Kadampa lineage as well as Kharak Gomchung and his lineage of disciples.
Rinpoche then continued reading the first three lines of the first verse:
Precious jewel and spiritual friend,
Yidam deities, and three jewels,
I supplicate you, be my crown jewel!
Rinpoche expanded on this verse. The spiritual friend means the person or the lama who gives us the three trainings in discipline, prajna, and samadhi. First, it means the lamas who give us the superior training in discipline, whether the vows of the lay person or the vows of the novice and bhikshu. This is the spiritual friend who gives us the superior training in discipline. Then following that, there are the lamas who teach us the Dharma so we can develop the light of prajna. These are the lamas who teach us the superior training in prajna. Following this, it means the lama who gives us the superior training in samadhi. The spiritual friends who give us these trainings are like precious jewels. In the world, one of the most valuable things is a wish- fulfilling jewel that can grant us everything. In this way, spiritual friends are like a wish- fulfilling jewel. Rinpoche noted that actually they are even greater than a wish-fulfilling jewel because the lamas who enable us through the three trainings ultimately lead us to achieve the result, the state of Buddhahood. When spiritual friends bring us to realize this, it is distinct from worldly happiness such as prosperity. This is not the ultimate happiness. The ultimate happiness is complete Buddhahood. For this reason, we supplicate the spiritual friends.
Then come the yidam deities, the ones for whom you have received the empowerment or to whom you practice. We receive the empowerments of yidam deities such as Amitabha, Avalokitesvara, Manjushri, and so forth. Of those for whom we have received empowerments, we may have particular devotion, or, in some cases, our guru has instructed us to a particular practice of Amitabha or Avalokiteshvara. In this case, they are the ones we practice and the ones who are our primary yidam deities.
It is also a supplication to what all of us take refuge in – the three jewels. The highest part of our body is the crown of our head. We request the yidam deities to stay there as a form of crown jewel. Once we have taken them as the crown ornament, and our body, speech, and mind have come under their protection, we become inseparable. When we meditate or visualize them above the crown of our head, within this lifetime and in all of our lifetimes, this will distinguish us from all other sentient beings by our merit and other interdependent qualities.
When they stay above the crown of our head, we request their protection against all suffering. In mind training, however, we have a particular supplication, which concludes verse one:
While being my crown ornament,
Please look upon my shameless mind.
Rinpoche elaborated further. In our minds, we have many inappropriate thoughts such as pride or envy. If others could see our pride or envy, then we would be embarrassed. And, if we do not show it, we hide it. This is what is called ‘my shameless mind.’ The only person who knows we have these thoughts in our mind is ourselves. Our mind is not hidden. We can know our own mind. When we become aware of our embarrassment at our own faults, we will think we need to discard these faults. We make the request, ‘Please help us get rid of these faults.’ We ask the Buddhas and the mahasiddhas who have powers of great clairvoyance to see our minds. We request for them to look upon us and to see our shameless mind. Kharak Gomchung is teaching that we need to see our faults and remedy them.
Verse two begins:
For phony practitioners who lack dharma
And have shameless, wrong intentions,
Our own mind, Rinpoche clarified, has faults that are contradictory to the Dharma, such as pride and envy. When we have these thoughts, we lack Dharma in our mind because these are wrong thoughts. We are phony practitioners. We are like charlatans acting as if we have Dharma. So, this is taught to people who have shameless thoughts in their mind but do not recognize their faults as being faults. They have ignorance. In addition to ignorance, they also have pride, envy, and attachment to sensory pleasures. These are wrong intentions. For this reason, this is being taught.
The verse continues:
I’m giving advice as a remedy
Here, the remedy being given is bodhicitta, loving kindness, and compassion. It is pointing out your faults and distinguishing them from your good qualities. I am giving this advice, ‘Look at your own mind, that is something you must give up, that is a fault that is a cause of suffering that goes against the teachings of the Buddha.’
As it says:
This will help you long, so listen!
Rinpoche clarified the text for us. The meaning here is that if you are given this advice, it will help in this lifetime and many future lifetimes. It is the antidote to these faults. So, you should listen. It is given as an exclamation. In Tibetan, all these verses end in the word, ‘ang’; so, it is like an instruction or exhortation.
Verse three begins:
If you do not expose your faults,
These are the faults and thoughts of afflictions that we fail to recognize. Rinpoche posed the question, “If you do not know them yourself, then how anyone else can know them either?” He continued expanding on the verse. It is like digging something up that is hidden underground. In giving this advice, it exposes your faults.
The text says:
You will not understand, you dolt.
A dolt is someone who does not understand. They are unaware that their faults are faults. They are like dummies. If I don’t expose your own faults, you will not understand them. For that reason, if they are not pointed out to you, you will not have any prajna about them.
Rinpoche continued reading from verse two:
If you don’t listen to loving advice
You’ll just get worse and worse.
This advice, Rinpoche explained, is given with love. Here, love refers to loving-kindness which is the wish that others —in this case, you the listener— achieve happiness and its causes. The reason is that if you have faults, they will be causes for you to experience suffering for many lifetimes. Kharak Gomchung is saying, “In order to eliminate these faults, I am giving you this advice to bring you the causes of happiness. If you have the faults of pride and envy, you will not have happiness. If you do not listen to this advice, you will get worse and worse. In the next life, you will fall into the lower realms being reborn as an animal or a hell being.”
This teaching is how to understand your own faults and the advice for the antidotes and its remedy. All of this is given in the form of the virtue in the beginning.
Virtue in the Middle
Following this, begins the virtue in the middle. Sentient beings cycle through the six realms of samsara. When they do slight virtue, they are reborn as gods and humans and experience all of the great pleasures, have a good name, or a fine body. But if we do not recognize the faults within our own mind, we will destroy our own happiness. How do we do this? When we are born as gods or humans, we might have a good body and have a lot power. However, we denigrate other people. We do things to bring others down. We engage in activities to ruin their own happiness which in turn destroys our own happiness. There are many stories of how this happens in the Jatakas, the stories of the Buddha’s previous lives. Read these stories and you will know, advised Rinpoche.
This is also taught very clearly in The Way of the Bodhisattva:
Though they want happiness,
They destroy their own happiness as a foe.
We do misdeeds and because of that we experience the result of suffering. Then, wanting to alleviate the results of that, we do even more misdeeds. We feel hunger and thirst. We do misdeeds like killing or stealing. We multiply our misdeeds by a hundred-thousand times.
We can also see this with animals. In addition to experiencing the suffering of animals, they also do misdeeds such as killing each other, fighting, and other unvirtuous activities. Then in a future lifetime, they fall to even worse places. This is explained clearly in the Jatakas and The Way of the Bodhisattva.
Verse four of The Seventy-Two Exhortations is as follows:
Your present sufferings all occur
Because you’ve done wrongs in your past lives.
Rinpoche explained the verse as follows: All the pains and difficulties we experience are all results of the mistakes and misdeeds in previous lives. This suffering is something that we made for ourselves so we have to bear the hardship.
The final lines of the verse are:
The fault is yours, prepare to bear hardship.
Do not take the moral high ground.
This means not blaming others. If we think about it in the manner taught here, we will be able to decrease our suffering and can eliminate the causes of suffering.
Continued Aspirations and Dedication
This concluded the teachings for the day. However, Rinpoche spoke on some recent suffering. He noted how in many different countries of the world, new illnesses are appearing these days. During the Monlam, as part of the activities of the Gyalwang Karmapa, we recite The King of Aspirations: The Noble Aspiration for Excellent Conduct and other great Mahayana aspirations as a method to eliminate this sort of suffering. Rinpoche said, “Everyone please think of this as we recite the aspiration prayers.” As Mahayana practitioners, we should think of all sentient beings. We should think about diseases of birds, insects, and other animals.
In addition, there are also diseases that may be caused by non-human beings such as gods, spirits, or demons and so forth. This is as described in the life story of Milarepa where gods and other local deities would cause diseases and contagions. He taught methods to eliminate them. This is also something we should keep in mind.
Rinpoche continued. Recently in Australia, there were also bush fires. Thousands upon thousands of animals were killed though we do not know the exact number.
Rinpoche then spoke to some of his concerns. He said that many humans commit misdeeds. In fact, many humans commit misdeeds for the sake of business. It is important that we give these misdeeds up. It is as the Buddha taught in the Jatakas. In these life stories, it is clear that causing other sentient beings suffering to sustain your own body is a cause of illness. Rinpoche noted that, it is his own prayer to pacify this. He urged everyone – do not kill so many chickens, pigs, or fish.
As this first session concluded, he requested, “Please dedicate all of the virtue of teaching and listening for the sake of all beings.”