2011 LAMRIM CLASS!
About 2 months ago, it was decided by the Kechara Education Committee that they wanted to step up their education classes. They wanted to hold classes for more serious students who wanted to learn the Lamrim* with a progressive syllabus and exams to measure their understanding.
Although it could be argued that the understanding of the Lamrim is not through memorization for the sake of answering exam questions (but more of the results attained through contemplation, followed by the application of your understanding), it is however easier for some people to have a structured syllabus and a set of questions at the end of it to pick their brains a little. These classes are optional and it was open to all to join. Those that did join knew the style that would be used. Even in the monasteries, there are debates and exams to test the students’ knowledge, memorization and understanding.
There are 48 students who have signed up for the 2011 Lamrim class. These students will study in an 80-week program led by Mr Ngeow (Liaison and Head of Education Committee) and Thierry Janssens (a successful architect and interior designer). The classes are held every Friday, with Thierry conducting the class once a week for 2 weeks, followed by a re-cap class on the 3rd week held by Mr Ngeow. This pattern of teaching will repeat itself till the 80th week.
They are both very well-read on the Lamrim, but being their humble selves they clearly clarified with the class participants how they are ALL students during the Lamrim class (including themselves)….that there shouldn’t be a “I am your teacher, you are my student” relationship.
They strongly encouraged the participants to investigate and question, but not to doubt. To not just accept things just because it is being “taught” to them. If they are unsure they should question and clarify in order to validate their understanding. They cited a quote from Sakya Pandita, “To treat it like a dog treats food”. This is in relation to learning the Dharma. When a dog gets food put in front of them, they don’t question it and just gobble it up. Learning the Lamrim should not be done in that manner.
Written by Pabongkha Rinpoche, who gave a 24-day discourse in 1921, he requested Trijang Rinpoche (junior tutor of HH Dalai Lama) to transcribe his teachings into the book that is now called “Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand”.
Pabongkha Rinpoche was a practitioner of the Gelug lineage (aka New Kadam lineage) which was started and taught by Lama Tsongkhapa. Lama Tsongkhapa had combined 3 lineages (aka Old Kadam Lineage: Classical, Stages of the Path and Oral Instruction lineage) from Atisha, who had taught those 3 lineages after combining the existing Extensive (Compassion) and Profound (Wisdom) methods together. If you have the Lamrim, you could refer to page 39 to read more extensively on it.
It could be said that what Pabongkha taught was what Lama Tsongkhapa taught, so why not just follow the direct teachings of Lama Tsongkhapa?
During Lama Tsongkhapa’s time, it was very monastic-centric. Those that studied within the Gelug lineage were all monks and nuns, i.e. only people in robes. Pabongkha Rinpoche had taken the teachings and taught it to both the lay people and those within the monastic system. He was seen to be revolutionary, and what he taught could be understood by those who had never entered the monastery. It wasn’t that it was a no-no to teach the lay people, but it just wasn’t a norm.
For the students at Kechara House, the 80 week program will be divided up into 6 parts: The Preliminaries, The Preparatory Rites, Foundations of the Paths, The Small Scope, The Medium Scope and The Great Scope.
They are the modern people of today who are learning 2,500 year old teachings that have withstood the test of time. Amongst the group of students are full-time staff such as David Lai, Jamie Khoo, Jeffrey Gan, Khong Jean Ai and Khong Jean Mei.
*‘Lam’ means path and ‘rim’ means stages. Together it means that by reading the Lamrim, it shows you step-by-step the path towards enlightenment.
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