New English Translations of The Torch of True Meaning and The Chariot That Travels the Noble Path



26 December, 2014


The Torch of True Meaning is a famous text by the great master and scholar Jamgön Kongtrul Lodrö Thaye, which provides an explanation of the preliminary practices for meditation. In direct and colloquial language that makes it easily accessible, the text gives clear descriptions of the three main sections of meditation practice: the four common preliminary practices (the Four Thoughts that Turn the Mind); the four special preliminary practices (the four sets prostrations, Vajrasattva practice, mandala offering, and Guru Yoga); and the main practice of Mahamudra. Each section contains instructions on what to do and then how to bring the practice into your experience from your whole being.

For the first time in a published book, the bulk of Lodrö Thaye's pithy instructions on mahamudra practice are also included. Originally, The Torch of True Meaning was intended as a companion volume to the Ninth Karmapa's famous manual on mahamudra practice, The Ocean of True Meaning, in which these preliminary practices are not discussed at length.

An earlier English version of The Torch of True Meaning, entitled The Torch of Certainty was published in 1974. It was a wonderful work for its time, but now forty years have passed and there have been developments in translation that can be incorporated into a new version.The Karmapa has been teaching this text for the last years at Kagyu Monlam and will continue in the future, so this new translation is offered a support for his teaching activity.This year he will explain the instructions on Vajrasattva practice.

In ancient times, a Tibetan translator would work with a Sanskrit scholar to bring Dharma texts into Tibetan. This new version of The Torch of True Meaning is special in that the translator, David Karma Choephel, was able to read through the whole text with the Karmapa who made many suggestions that were incorporated into the book. End notes have been added to explain things that belong to the earthy Tibetan culture and might not be clear to readers. The notes also cover scriptural references and terms that are not readily known which a lama would explain to a student.

For those who want to engage in the actual practice, the new book also provides a fresh translation of the traditional practice text for the preliminaries by the Ninth Karmapa Wangchuk Dorje, The Chariot That Travels the Noble Path, which many know as the Mahamudra Ngöndro (or Preliminaries). There are two main differences between the new and old texts. The long lineage prayer had developed by accretion over the centuries as new lamas were added and the Karmapa has made it briefer. In the Guru Yoga practice, the Karmapa eliminated parts that had been appended in the past, moving the text closer to its original version.

In sum, this new book provides all one needs to do the traditional preliminary practices of the Kamtsang Kagyu.It gives very inspiring guidance on how to practice. Since the teaching involves mahamudra, it covers everything.  We may think of it as the preliminaries, but actually whatever Dharma practice we may do, we need the attitude of taking the Dharma completely to heart and letting it pervade our entire lives.

The book will be available at the Monlam and also from KTD Publications.

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