Gyalwang Karmapa’s teaching on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer: Session Three
28 February, 2012, Monlam Pavilion
The specialness of the 2012 Gutor
Gyalwang Karmapa began by describing how special Losar had been this year for him. For the first time since he came to India, there had been a complete Gutor Mahakala ritual, including the empowerment, mantra recitation, the practice, the Cham dance, and the concluding activities. The Gutor ritual itself had been a revival of a particularly important text and melody. He hoped that those who were returning home at the conclusion of the teachings would share his happiness.
However, he warned, there is the danger that such things, especially the Cham dancing to which many people were invited, might be misunderstood and become a form of entertainment. He had heard that in Japan there is a parallel tradition, but there the whole event becomes a form of meditation for both observers and dancers. It would be good if the Tibetan tradition could be like that.
Following a request from some attendees, Gyalwang Karmapa conferred the refuge vows. There are two forms of refuge: repeating the refuge and taking the refuge vows. Reciting the words and feeling inspired was one aspect, but taking the refuge vows you have to make the commitment with the intention that it will be for the rest of your life, he explained. The refuge vow is the basic foundation for all Buddhist vows.
His Holiness then gave a short teaching on the meaning of refuge.
Having taken the refuge vows there are some precepts to observe, instructions on what has to be done and what should be given up. The usual analogy is the Buddha as doctor. When we are ill we visit the doctor and he prescribes medicine for us. We have to follow his instructions in order for our illness to be cured. In the same way the Dharma is the medicine; we have to put it into practice. Otherwise there is little sense in claiming to be a Buddhist. A man goes to the temple; he prostrates three times, and recites prayers. He seems to be devout, but what did he pray for? That his enemy be destroyed, his enemy’s family also, and so forth! That is not practising Dharma. The man has the appearance of being devout but he is not a Dharma practitioner.
It is important to realise that we do not go for refuge to please the Buddha; the practice of Dharma demands that we understand what Dharma is and practice accordingly.
Continuing the teaching on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer
Devotion is the head of meditation, as it is taught.
As ones who pray always to the lama who opens
The gate to the treasury of oral instructions:
Please bless us to develop genuine devotion.
In the teachings of great masters such as the Nyingma master Longchenpa and the Third Gyalwang Karmapa, in the Geluk tradition and the Sakya tradition, in all schools of Tibetan Buddhism, guru yoga is seen as the supreme medicine to cure all diseases; it is called ‘white ginseng’, a substance which can be used to treat all diseases in traditional medicine,.
The English word ‘devotion” implies some sort of feeling which does not fully express the meaning of the Tibetan word mögü [Tib.mosgus]. Mögü is a compound noun. The first part mö implies longing, whereas the second part gü means showing deep respect and implies the actions which follow from deep respect.
The best example of mögü in action is Jetsun Milarepa. He killed thirty-five people– that’s a terrible thing. I doubt anyone here has such a heavy misdeed, commented the Gyalwang Karmapa. Because of this great non-virtue, Milarepa felt that he had no choice but to practice Dharma and he was desperately determined to find someone who could teach him. He was not half-hearted about this. He had such strong resolution, unlike us. He believed that he needed to do exactly what his teacher told him to do because he saw no alternative. It is sometimes said that if you have mögü it is always foremost in your mind, and everything else is coloured by this perspective of devotion to the lama.
Generally mögü can have different levels depending on the person’s capacity. Most importantly, we have to focus on positive qualities in others. Even if we can only see one positive quality, we need to accept it, rejoice in it, and respect it. By doing this we generate our own positive qualities. Mögü does not come of its own accord. It has to be developed step-by-step. We need to look at the people around us and focus on their positive qualities; then mögü will develop naturally within us. If we only focus on their negative qualities we will simply produce more negativity in ourselves.
Similarly, in the relationship between lama and student, it is important to concentrate on the positive qualities of the lama, not the negative ones: seeing the lama’s positive qualities, rather than their faults. There is even the danger that sometimes we may project faults onto the lama. It is said that the lama is the mirror of the student. If our mind is full of faults and negativities we may project these onto the lama.
But the lama is the spiritual friend, the Dharma friend whom we can trust. Therefore, when we talk about mögü it means trying to implant all the positive qualities of body, speech and mind which the lama has, in ourselves. It is said that if someone wants to attain Buddhahood, mögü alone can be taken as the path. If you can really see the positive qualities of the lama and try to cultivate them in yourself that is the main practice. There is no need to do anything else.
Lord Gampopa told his students, who included the First Karmapa, that he had done all the hard work already on their behalf; he had completed all the practices and accumulations, and undergone all the hardships. All they needed to do was to pray. Gampopa said that he had put the Dharma into practice, especially the things which were most difficult, and integrated them into his being, leaving his students only the easy and pleasant things to do.
Gyalwang Karmapa continued: The great masters of the past have prepared the way for us. They have undergone the hardships on our behalf and now it is all up to us. We have to develop diligence and joyful effort, aspiration, longing and determination, so that we can develop and activate all the lama’s positive qualities within ourselves.
As Milarepa said, “I have undergone hardships and completed all these practices for future generations, so that there may be no obstacles for them, and they can develop positive qualities unimpeded.” This is more than an intellectual understanding it has to be internalized and become a living experience.
This section is in two parts: shamatha [shinay] and vipassana [lhathong] meditation. The third verse deals with shamatha.
The main practice is being undistracted, as it is taught.
As ones who, whatever arises, rest simply,
Not altering, in just that fresh essence of thought:
Please bless us with practice that is free of conception.
According to the Mahayana view, meditation is divided into that which is reflective or analytical, which is linked with vipassana [lhathong], and placement meditation which is linked with shamatha [shinay or calm abiding medtation]. However, within the Vajrayana, in anuttarayoga tantra practice, even placement meditation can be a part of vipassana.
Placement meditation is the basis and extremely important both for the mundane path and for the path beyond samsara. Actually, without it one cannot advance along the mundane path, because the main criterion for progress is stability of the mind, how one-pointed you focus can be. Likewise stability of mind is necessary for a spiritual path. These days there are so many distractions that it is very difficult to develop shamatha. In fact, some say it is almost impossible, so it is better to recite mantra so that you are reborn in Dewachen or Sukhavati.
Milarepa was fortunate to be born when he was. If he were to be born in the 21stcentury, even he might be distracted if he were offered i-phones and i-pads. He might begin playing computer games!
Traditionally, there are two ways to develop shamatha. One is to go to a solitary place and meditate undisturbed, but perhaps this is almost impossible these days.
The second way is not to go to a special place but to develop awareness of what is happening in your mind and relax into the natural state. I suggest this is the best way in this age, as it is almost impossible to be free of all distractions. You could go into the Himalayas, up Mt Everest, and even there your mobile phone might ring!
In the text ‘being undistracted’ is a reference to the practise of mindfulness; mindfulness is the guardian of our mind. If you are ‘undistracted’ you are aware of whatever thoughts arise in your mind. For instance, if an afflictive emotion arises, you do not focus on it -the object-but rather look at the subject, the point where the emotion is arising. And being mindul of that, you see the freshness of the mind. You can watch the emotions arising in your mind. That is meditation.
If you forget to look at the subject, if you are distracted by the object of the thoughts, and lose your focus on the subject you will be distracted and you will have lost your meditation.
It is like the difference between throwing a stone at a lion and a dog.
If you throw stones at a lion, the lion doesn’t run after the stones, a lion will look for the source of the stones and then attack the person throwing the stones ––you! So that’s the end of the stone-throwing. Whereas, if you throw stones at a dog, the dog will chase the stone, so you can throw another stone, and another, and it will chase after them.
If, when you experience an emotion, you follow it, then you will continue to follow as more thoughts arise, and your concentration will be lost as you chase after them. In the end you will be overwhelmed.
On the other hand, if, when a strong negative emotion arises, you look at the emotion itself, focussing on it, your mindfulness will catch the nature of your mind. Then, even strong negative emotions lose their power.
Some people misunderstand the instruction “watch the thought” as meaning that they should hold on to the thought or emotion, but that thought is already in the past. It has gone. Nothing is permanent and powerful emotions keep changing. The awareness you need to develop is an awareness of your mind, not of particular thoughts and emotions. Looking at the nature of the mind means being aware of that awareness.
Gyalwang Karmapa’s advice was to find an experienced master to teach you how to meditate; listening to this talk is not enough.
The second aspect of meditation is vipassana [lhathong] or analytical meditation, as expressed in the verse:
The essence of thought is the dharmakaya, as it is taught.Not anything at all, yet arising as anything,
In unceasing play we arise: Please bless us
To realize samsara and nirvana are inseparable.
Gyalwang Karmapa commented that, when we talk about the nature of thought as the dharmakaya, it can be understood in two ways. The first way is that the nature of our mind is emptiness. So the essence of thought is emptiness — is the dharmakaya.
The second way is to consider a strong negative emotion such as anger. This negative emotion has two parts – clarity and awareness, and the klesha or negative part. The knowingness and clarity part of anger will continue until enlightenment but the kleshapart has to be eradicated. In muddy water it is impossible to separate the mud from the water. Likewise the sea and its waves cannot be separated. The waves are naturally part of the sea. They do not disturb the sea. Sea and waves are inseparable.
This is the nature of the insepararbility of thoughts and the dharmakaya.
In the story of Milarepa it is said that we should first follow the vipassana path of reflection and then develop placement meditation. However, if you are an advanced practitioner you can begin with the latter. The nature of mind is clear light. It is said that ‘undistracted’ is the actual meditation whereas loving kindness and compassion are the activity of the meditation –the result.
When we talk about bodhisattvas, some are committed to work only for the purposes of others, some work for others and for themselves, and then there are some who work mainly for their own benefit. His Holiness referred to an example he often uses: It is like when a house is on fire. Someone is sleeping, when the house catches fire. He wakes up, smells smoke and instinctively runs to the door in order to escape, but at the door, with one foot inside and one foot outside the house, he remembers the other members of his family still trapped inside the house, so turns around and goes back in to save them too.
If someone says they are working only for the benefit of others, it is usually not the complete truth. We also benefit. Being concerned for one’s own welfare is fine, but there should be a balance – we have to be concerned for the welfare of others as well, and this concern is an outcome of analytical meditation. If you have ten apples, you will not be able to eat them all at one time, and there is the danger that if you keep them, some will become rotten before you get chance to eat them. The solution is to eat one and give away the rest. But this seemingly unselfish act may result in benefits for you too. The following day someone may have oranges and offer you one, or bananas and so forth. When we talk about love and compassion it means we should never neglect the welfare of others, we should always consider their welfare, but we can be concerned for our own welfare too.
In all of our births may we never be separatedFrom the perfect guru, enjoying Dharma’s splendour.Perfecting the qualities of the paths and levels,May we quickly reach the state of Vajradhara.
Gyalwang Karmapa expressed his joy that the whole mandala of trulkus, rinpoches, sangha and devotees had been able to gather together to participate in a great festival of Dharma. He hoped that it would happen again and again, not just in the present life but in future lives as well.
He said: I pray from the bottom of my heart, we shall have these dharma festivals again and again, life after life; that we can work for the benefit of all sentient beings; That is my principal prayer here, and I am sure you also share this aspiration.
In conclusion HHGK spoke about the unique power of the2012 Monlam because of the different factors which had come together; it was being held in a sacred place, Bodhgaya; it was being held at a special time, the Month of Miracles; both men and women were praying together; the four pillars of the sangha were present together - bhikshus, bhikshunis, upasikas and upasikis; and there was strong samaya between students and teachers. All these factors increased its power.
Finally, His Holiness wIshed everyone enduring happiness and well-being.
Horst Rauprich from Karma Leksheling, the Gyalwang Karmapa’s centre in Germany, gave a thank-you speech and the three day teaching concluded with a mandala offering to His Holiness.
Report by Jo Gibson, photos taken by Karma Lekcho, Filip Wolak, Liao Guo Ming, Palten Nyima