Tsongkhapa’s Way of Compassion
A few months ago on my blog chat (an interactive function at the bottom of this page!), I was online and chatting with two of my students. On the chat, I gave them both a personal instruction to read a book called “Compassion In Tibetan Buddhism”. Within the book, there are two titles, “The Way of Compassion” by Lama Tsongkhapa and “Meditation of a Tantric Abbot” by Kensur Lekden. When I asked them to read and come out with a summary, they immediately agreed and did a good job.
I recently received an email from both Swee Keong and Freon on their blog write up, and thought that I should share it with my blog readers! I highly recommend this book to everyone…
Freon and Swee Keong, I am glad that you studied up on this book and finished your assignment. Whenever I give an assignment it is always 100% for the benefit of the person. The only way for there to be spiritual development, is if we have knowledge. Read and/or listen to the Dharma, and apply it daily. Otherwise Dharma work just becomes work, and by doing so… it may even collect demerit. Dharma is not work. The effort we apply into Dharma will never be wasted.
I wish you all well on your spiritual journey. Do let me know if you have read this book, and your reviews on it! From the book summary from Swee Keong and Freon you will see this book is very important for everyone to study. Everyone should purchase this book, read, contemplate and read again. Yearly it should be read once as a way to keep the vital information fresh in our minds.
I thank Swee Keong and Freon for their book review essays, thoughts and summaries. Very well done.
Title: Compassion in Tibetan Buddhism
Publisher: Snow Lion Publications
1. Tsongkhapa (Way of Compassion)
2. Kensur Lekden (Meditations of a Tantric Abbot)
Translator: Jeffrey Hopkins
Yong Swee Keong
Yong Swee Keong is a Multimedia University (MMU) graduate. Prior to joining Kechara, he worked as an application consultant for a company who are software vendors for banks. It was a prestigious job, and he traveled out of the country regularly for business.
When Swee Keong crossed paths with Kechara, it led him to think more about life. Beginning with Kechara Soup Kitchen, his volunteering that started out as social work brought him to know more about Dharma. It wasn’t long when he started joining pujas as well as volunteering in Kechara regularly.
In October 2011, Swee Keong made the most significant decision he has ever made in his life. Affected by the news of H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s health issues at the time, it drove him to quit his highflying career to serve the Dharma while his Guru is still alive. Now, Swee Keong is serving the Dharma in Kechara E-Division as a software engineer.
Freon graduated from University Malaya (UM), Malaysia’s best public university. Prior to joining Kechara, she has been working in various fields for the past 9 years, including a 1.5 year job placement in China.
As a part-time vegetarian, Freon first stepped into Kechara’s doors through Kechara Oasis. It was from here when she slowly got to know more about Buddhism and became a full time vegetarian. Her interest for Buddhism grew deeper with every visit she made to Kechara Oasis.
March 2011 was the turning point for Freon. Due to certain complications, Freon’s sister fell ill and became immobilized. It was only through H.E. Tsem Rinpoche’s help that Freon’s sister regained her mobility. Ever since then, Freon kept a keen interest in Dharma and started watching Rinpoche’s YouTube channel every day.
It was from here when she started volunteering in Kechara regularly as well, which eventually lead her to take a position in Kechara Oasis as their Marketing & Sales Executive.
Book review by Swee Keong
Chapter 1 to 10 “Meditations of a Tantric Abbot” by Kensur Lekden
How a person pursue the Buddhist path is categorized into three scopes. Within the small scope it is subdivided into small of the small, middling of the small, and great of the small. Both small of the small, and middling of the small are not even considered religious practitioner because they cannot even be considered religious. Only the great of the small is considered because they are concerned of future lives, virtues actions to be observed and non-virtuous actions to be avoided. Not many of us are even concerned of our future lives therefore we have no scope. We live in the “present” moment, a false sense kind of the present where we think we are living in the now not realizing that our daily actions have no long term gained in future.
For example having set the purpose and aim in our life, in this life, to look for a partner, to establish a family it will become a detrimental to pursue a religious practice because we have to give up our time working to feed and spend time with our family. There is not much time left to even think about pursuing spiritual practice. We lose much of our freedom in this way. The main reason is we didn’t consider future lives in the present moment while we are doing something in the present. We are working for the next hour, next day, next week, next month, next year but do we ever thought for our next life? If it is not there is no scope to speak of. We say plan for the future, no plan means no future. But this future is in fact this present life alone not future lives thus there will be no, a human, future lives.
Thus if we are concerned of our future lives then we are considered to be small scope motivated and we are ready to pursue a spiritual path. When we find ourselves or someone else not spiritually inclined this because we are not being unaware of future lives, and how the present moment do effect future lives. We have some amount of control in our immediate future, we can choose our own actions or “free will”, how we act and we do. For example working, shopping, some of which has bigger impact on our future such as buying a house or a car. Therefore we can have some amount of control over our future lives as well. To say that we can control now, the present moment but not the future because it is too far away will make it become true. This points to the lack of understanding of how virtue and non-virtue can effect the future. Thus when we understand these then it is logical to take refuge and seek guidance from the Three Jewels.
We need to know what are contained within the refuge by knowing about the Three Jewels, their differences, knowing that it is pure and do not take refuge in other things.
From this moment we may start thinking of future lives but we are still subjected to old age, sickness, and death, and being reborn again and again. Does it ever end? It is entirely possible. When we are open and can accept that it is possible we seek the paths which we can escape from all these suffering by overcoming desire, hatred, and ignorance because these are the 3 poisons which cause ourselves wandering continuously in this cyclic existence. Therefore it is said that our thoughts have turned from little motivated to middling motivated in our spiritual path. What then is greatly motivated? When we seek liberation not just for ourselves but for others as well then it is a greatly motivated. We believe the Three Jewels can help all sentient beings regardless of ethnics and forms because future lives are definite from the understanding we have in small scope. With great scope we would spur quickly to achieve liberation because cyclic existence span for infinitely long time into the future. Without concern of our welfare, pain, unpleasantness, rejection, disappointment we may experience we are solely focus on the happiness of others.
2. Chapter 1: Action
If one think of the future, especially future lives and its causes and conditions it is ethics which bring forth a happy human life or god life. Maintaining good ethics brings happiness, resources and capacity to learn as a human being. Not maintaining ethics open the door to all other migrations which one will experience too many suffering. There are no good conditions nor opportunities to learn and pursue the spiritual path in bad migrations. On top of holding the ten refuge vows the six paramitas are required for happy future lives. Contemplating the causes and effects of having and not having each virtue in this life one can conclude that all six of them must always be present and cultivated together constantly for achieving freedom of suffering for ourselves and others. Without experiencing the development of six paramitas we cannot help others not even ourselves.
Therefore one must start by listen or study the teachings, think and meditate. What is the subject to be study, think, and meditate on? It is equanimity. Without deeper understanding of equanimity one will always divide others to friends, enemies and strangers. Thus whatever we do will be contaminated and suffering accrued from our thinking and action. The purpose is to reduce them, their effect from the past. All suffering came from what we have done in the past. Therefore whatever we do now, how we think should be checked and thought over from the knowledge presented here that is seven cause and effect meditations beginning with equanimity.
3. Chapter 2: Cyclic existence
To leave cyclic existence one must have heard at one time in the past. The cyclic existence is the continuously living in any of the six form, formless in future lives with uncontrolled suffering ever present in any actions we do. We are born with contaminated mind and body because not knowing about the three poisons, desire, hatred and ignorance whatever we have done has created a tremendous force to support continuous suffering. Therefore we must acknowledge that suffering is ever present and the cure is also present as presented in the four noble truth.
Therefore to liberate oneself from all of these one must meditate on suffering in all six realms, suffering is impermanent, the three poisons are continuously creating suffering which seems to be permanent, and the realization of emptiness is an antidote to exhaust all suffering.
4. Chapter 3: Altruism
Due to evey being having been our mother in the past therefore to leave this cyclic existence alone one will never attain full enlightenment. Therefore one cannot even help our mothers from the past who are suffering, let alone our mother in this life. Meditating on the seven cause and effect beginning with equanimity, one constantly remains oneself to recognize all beings from bug onwards are our mothers. Thinking of their past kindness, we would want to repay their kindness they have given to us from the past and in the future.
Now we think of them as our enemies, strangers and friends in this life. In former lives they have suffered themselves whem giving birth to us. Now they are afflicted with anger and become our “enemies” but we still remember their past kindness therefore we want to help our mothers to heal and to escape from these sufferings and afflictions.
5. Chapter 4: Love and Compassion
The love we have for our friends and families are conditional and unconditional because of closeness in this life, living together and most familiar with. For our parents we owe it to them because parents have brought us up thru sweat and tears. For our friends we associate with them because of similarities and common interest we shared with them. The bonds are conditional because we may separate from them and choose not to like and love them any more. The love of parents for a child is stronger thus it is unconditional no matter how the child is ill treating their parents. But the love of parents for their child is only for these lives alone but not for future lives. If we wish to repay our parents kindness and love to us we can do so in view of this and future lives, thinking for their long term well being into the future.
We can extend this to our friend initially, and then strangers and our enemies. For our dearest friend whom we like it is easier to extend the thought for their happiness now because we are happy for their happiness and when we thought of being friends in the future of course we also want them to be happy for their future lives. Then we put our attention to sentient beings who are neutral to us such as animals who cannot return our kindness if we take care of their food and shelter. Therefore as we practice and mediate on the love of others with the thought of wanting them to be happy until we are able to think the same for our enemies and then forming a strong conviction that it is our sole responsibility for the happiness of others. Thus one is moving away from conditional love to unconditional love and compassion.
As an example when one has taken the duty of taking the welfare of animals by running animal shelter. The animals then rely on our care for safety and protection, they are happy now. Therefore for the sake of happiness and welfare of others thus one wish to become enlightened to be able to help all sentient beings. If one forsake and give up then one cannot become enlightened because enlightenment doesn’t come from not helping others, simply it means by not doing anything. But one also cannot help all sentient beings to become enlightened when one haven’t achieve enlightenment. But that is not true. One take the responsibility to become enlightened for the sake of all sentient beings while on the journey, walking the path serving sentient beings, thus enlightenment can be achieved. Thus the aspiration, conviction to become enlightenment, and the practice, taking of happiness and welfare of sentient beings, go hand in hand together.
To develop compassion one think of the three types of suffering and ten non-virtues and meditate on their causes and what we are experiencing ourselves are related to what we have done in our past. We generate the thought wishing our friends not to have those sufferings and wanting them to achieve happiness. Then we extend to those neutral to us and our enemies.
6. Chapter 5: Assuming the Burden
Wishing to help all sentient beings alone is not sufficient because one is a child of all sentient beings in the past. Wishing won’t be enough to repay one’s parents but taking the responsibility the ownership to help them is. Wouldn’t we want our parents to have long term happiness? Thinking and reflecting back of what has been on our mind an hour ago, yesterday, past week, what is our dominant thought? Is it for others or ourselves? Busy for others or ourselves? Therefore to help all sentient beings we would need to cultivate the thought to free all sentient beings from suffering and joined with happiness that is making it the dominant thought.
Also one needs to know how to help sentient beings and actually do it. Each sentient beings have different mental predisposition that needs to be overcome. Therefore investigation is needed to convince oneself that only a Buddha can help all sentient beings because of Buddha’s qualities and power he possessed and the path he has walked through. It is proven to work for all sentient beings. As the teachings from Buddha is taught to us now his promise to become enlightened is being fulfilled thru us indirectly. As each of us who walk the path towards enlightened for the sake all sentient beings all the Buddhas wishes are being fulfilled.
Therefore instead of hearing but not doing anything one must start to meditate on the three principle paths towards full enlightened with strong conviction. The effect will be felt in this present life. If it is not so strong the effect will only happen in next life. And if one only merely wishes the effect is also much lesser. Therefore throw away one’s fear and request the Three Jewels for assistance to achieve the promise to become enlightened for the of all sentient beings.
7. Chapter 6: Wisdom
The main purpose of all Buddhas is to teach emptiness to sentient beings for them to realize inherent existence of nature of all phenomena thus being able to escape cyclic existence and achieve enlightenment. The wisdom of having correct view is like a mother as it is needed for both middling and great scope while the method to achieve it is like a father. Even if one doesn’t understand emptiness but suspicion is created of non inherent existence of sentient beings it will create the cause for destroying cyclic rebirth. The benefit is as great as the number of sentient beings and it is even greater if one has the aspiration to achieve enlightenment for the sake all sentient beings combined with the thought to cultivate wisdom.
Without studying and cultivation people see their mind and body has belonging to “me” a person and thus can be identified and pointed to. People have been given label called names since they are born. When you talk and thought to yourself you refer to “I” and “me”. People have been thinking in this mode unconsciously since beginningless time. To generate correct view one needs to observe this “I” and “me” and constantly on the look our for it whether it is located in the senses and composite.
8. Chapter 7: Nagarjuna
Prior to Nagarjuna Buddha achieved enlightened but this is a common view to ordinary people as one who has achieved enlightenment one does not need to experience die. Therefore the Buddha came to this world teaching the Dharma to help people to free themselves by showing the way in a form that can be seen which is a physical body. Later Nagarjuna came to teach and revive the Dharma, giving teachings which are more suitable to the people after the passing of the Buddha. Nagarjuna established the Madhyamika system from his works “Six Collections of Reasoning” and “Treatise on the Middle Way”. By meditating on dependent arising, emptiness of nature of phenomena and of persons, one cuts thru the root of ignorance that the mind and body belongs to the “I” and “me”.
Therefore cyclic existence can be stopped and happiness doesn’t become a temporarily thing. The senses, body, feelings, consciousness arises the “I” or “me” as a person. However people viewed the “I” as a separate entity existing on itself alone. Then the “I” is different from the mind and body if it exists by itself. However if it exists by itself then where is the “I”? If it cannot be found outside of mind and body then the “I” doesn’t really exist by itself. If the “I” is inside the mind and body then it is the same as mind and body. If the “I” is the same as mind and body then why is a differentiation is made accord to the “I”? Observing the “I” and “me” in one’s thought the “I” arises during self talk and mental thought processes.
9. Chapter 8: Are a Person and Mind and Body the Same or Different?
The four steps meditation on selflessness
1. A person is inherently exist
2. This person must be same with mind and body or different
3. and 4. There is one “I” but mind and body which belongs to “I” are two. If there is only one “I” then there could only be one mind and body. Therefore the I is separate from mind and body and not one.
If it is separate from mind and body therefore the “I” must be able to be found. Meditate on patiently one sought the “I”.
Dependent-arising is compatible with emptiness. Because phenomena exists now, not by itself alone but based on causes. A person also exists based on causes. Therefore Buddhas existence is the result of sentient beings searching for happiness.
Since many of us misunderstood the nature of phenomena we continuously create the causes and conditions to wander in cyclic existence thru artificial and innate misconception. The former misconception is belief in wrong doctrine and the later misconception is inborn wrong conclusion while interacting with nature and other persons.
10. Chapter 9: Nothingness is Not Emptiness
By clearing our mind of all thoughts, making it empty doesn’t make it a meditation practice. It is impossible to meditate on emptiness if one hasn’t form a conceptual understanding of it. Therefore upon hearing and learning about the non-inherent existence of persons, and nature of phenomena, and the six elements that is earth, water, fire, wind, space, and consciousness one meditate on them constantly for long of time identifying and investigating their existence thus one creates a mental concept of emptiness. Through meditation one can arrive at an understanding that emptiness and dependent-arising are compatible with each other.
11. Chapter 10: Summary
From the small scope to great scope one meditates on the suffering of six migrations in future lives, seeking liberation from all of these and conclude not just one but all sentient beings who were our mothers deserve our payback by us achieving Buddhahood thus being able to free them from cyclic existence. Meditating and cultivating on the three principal paths one strive towards it from life to life until full enlightenment is achieved and thereafter one still continue benefiting all sentient beings teaching the Dharma until all of them are liberated.
Chapter 1 to 5 of “Way of Compassion” by Tsongkhapa
1. Chapter 1 Homage to Compassion
Compassion is the cause of Buddhahood which is the effect. Therefore it is even better to praise compassion than praising the Buddha. When one praise an act of compassion it means one can identify with compassion of others and rejoice at the act thus collecting merits. One also reduces one’s jealousy of others.
The hearers and solitary realizers are born from Buddhas because it is from the teaching of Buddhas that they achieve enlightenment of hearers and solitary realizers. Therefore they do not achieve enlightenment without assistance from Buddhas. Hearer may listen and proclaim the path of great scope to Buddhahood but they do not practice it, the conviction to be enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings. Solitary realizer is superior to hearer is because they practice merit and wisdom longer than hearer. However solitary realizer do not collect fully qualified merits and wisdom thus are lesser than a Buddha.
The Buddhas are born from Bodhisattvas because they are Bodhisattvas before becoming Buddhas. The Buddhas praise Bodhisattvas because 1) the cause of Buddhahood is from precious Bodhisattvas, 2) indirectly praising Buddhahood, the fruit of the path of Bodhisattvas, 3) one should support novice Bodhisattvas because of their great motivation to help all sentient beings and 4) those in any of 3 vehicles who heard the praise definitely enter the great scope.
Since hearers and solitary realizers are born from Buddhas which are born from Bodhisattvas therefore the root is also from compassion. Therefore compassion is the root of hearers, solitary realizers, Buddhas, and Bodhisattvas.
2. Chapter 2 Causes of Boddhisattvas
There are three causes of a Bodhisattva that is a compassionate mind, non-dual wisdom and an altruistic mind of enlightenment where the root cause is compassion.
The altruistic mind of enlightenment wishes to achieve Buddhahood for the sake all sentient beings where the object of attainment is one’s full enlightenment and the object of intent is to help all sentient beings. Both must be present to be considered as a cause of altruistic mind of enlightenment.
Compassion is present in the beginning, in the middle, and in the end on the path towards full enlightenment.
3. Chapter 3 Types of Compassion
Sentient beings are bounded by these six features:
- Contaminated actions and afflictions.
- Mind impel into cyclic existence
- Unending rebirth in cyclic existence
- No effort is required to go to lower realms
- Thorough afflictions i) ignorance, attachment, grasping, ii) compositional action and existence, iii) production of consciousness, name and form, six sources.
- Pervasive suffering of pain and change
When one delights in the suffering of enemies, has no feelings towards the suffering of strangers but become unbearable towards the suffering of friends one has a degree of pleasantness towards a friend. The closer one is to the person the greater the unbearable feelings. Therefore to generate great compassion one generate this strong feeling of cherishing and affection for all sentient beings.
The other two types of compassion are seeing the momentarily of impermanence and non-inherent existence exhibit in sentient beings. When one observes sentient beings as momentarily impermanent the thought of a permanent, independent person is removed from one’s mind.
4. Chapter 4 The Inexpressible Trail
In general one practices to develop the six paramitas together with compassion to become a Bodhisattva. Giving creates resources, ethics creates happiness, patience creates good appearance, effort creates virtue, concentration creates peace, and wisdom liberates one from wrong understanding.
For ordinary people one must practice both method and wisdom to progress on the path. One cannot practice one without the other including Bodhisattvas.
There are eleven grounds, the first ten are Bodhisattvas grounds, the last of which is Buddhahood. Each ground represents the quality of a Bodhisattva’s focal practice not neglecting the previous ground. Ignorance is still present and causes pollution up to seventh ground. However from eighth ground onwards ignorance has been destroyed and only the pre-disposing latencies are present to cause pollution. The Bodhisattvas ground are superior to hearers and solitary realizers because of its four features which increases on each ground. They are twelve sets of a hundred qualities, greater power on each ground in removing stains from ignorance, perfections of six paramitas, and higher rebirth.
5. Chapter 5 Very Joyful
The very joyful is the first Bodhisattva ground and advances to higher ground with great enthusiasm. On this ground the Bodhisattva has abandon the self which could cause fear and stop one from progressing the path, bad ethics and conduct which could lead one to the wrong path, and doubt which could make one hesitate of the path. The Bodhisattva no longer possible to be born in lower realm because the cause and condition have exhausted.
Even on this ground the Bodhisattva outshine hearers and solitary realizers because of their lineages which bring forth conviction to full enlightenment with their compassion. The merits is very much greater than hearers and solitary realizers.
6. Chapter 6 Hinayanist Cognize Emptiness
Hearers and Solitary Realizers have realized emptiness therefore they have remove all seed of afflictions and they are not reborn. Meditating on sixteen attributes of the four noble truths does not make one realize emptiness but the coarse form selflessness of a person. Asanga stated that afflictions are removed by practicing selflessness and the attributes are the means of training our mind.
7. Chapter 7 Liberation Is Impossible Without Wisdom of Emptiness
One who makes the mistake of not seeing the four noble truths as they are in reality will perceive one is reborn thus generating doubt over Buddha’s teachings. The reason is one still holds conceptual of true existence as valid, having not realize the non-inherent existence of phenomena and selflessness of a person. To abandon the seed of afflictions by meditating on sixteen attributes of the four noble truths is insufficient. One must cognize and meditate on the inherent existence of person and phenomenon initially and then the non-inherent existence of both of them.
8. Chapter 8 Difference Between Hinayana and Mahayana
Emptiness is taught to both Hearers and Solitary Realizers, and Bodhisattvas but it is fully taught in the Bodhisattvas path. For Hearers and Solitary Realizers mere cognition of suchness is sufficient for liberating from cyclic existence. Bodhisattvas have full mastery over emptiness from a broad, unlimited reasoning, wisdom mind and thus being able to teach emptiness to Hearers and Solitary Realizers. In addition they are defined by their great aspirational prayers and dedications, the two great collections of merit and wisdom, vast compassion towards all sentient beings, and conviction to become fully enlightenment for the sake of all.
9. Chapter 9 Perfection of Giving
Without resources in human life one suffers tremendously because one cannot live comfortably and the only dominant thought is how can one survive to get the next meal. Therefore a happy life one needs resources. From the practice of giving one obtains resources easily in future even if one’s wish is happiness in this cyclic existence. However one has let go the fault of holding to resources and created the conditions to meet a spiritual guide who will teach the sufferings of cyclic existence and the means to achieve liberation. Through the perfection of giving a Bodhisattva is able to give away their body, fresh, life, and possession without attachment. For the practitioner one should generate the aspiration to readily give away one’s body, possessions, and roots of virtue without regret for the sake others when one practices giving.
10. Chapter 10 Perfection of Ethics
Ethics is the abandonment of non-virtue by holding the ten refuge vows. While giving will create the condition for one to obtain resources in future happy human life the foundation is based on ethics. Without ethics just solely giving will cause one to go to lower realms. Therefore one must maintain ethics while giving. When one goes to lower realms one hardly has the opportunity to do virtuous actions instead one easily collects enormous amount of non-virtue. Therefore ethics is the base of all auspicious qualities. Here ethics is said to be truly pure when one cognize suchness otherwise ethics are still faulty although externally it looks one is properly is keeping ethics.
11. Chapter 11 Perfection of Patience
In cultivating patience one meditates on the faults of anger.
- One cannot reverse the harm others done to us by being angry, it is senseless.
- One who is suffering from previous bad karma does not wish to continue suffering thinks that by being angry at others the suffering will go away.
- Virtue collected from long time is destroyed by being angry.
- Impatience causes one to be born in lower realms, an ugly face, cannot discriminate between what is right and wrong and destroys oneself and others.
By being patience one develops the opposite of the faults of impatience which is to be born in human or god realms, a beautiful body, able to discern right from wrong, and remove non-virtues from anger and so forth.
12. Chapter 12 Perfection of Effort and Concentration
Attainments come from putting effort in doing virtue that is giving and so forth. If one delights in virtue and perform giving, ethics, and patience, through effort one collects merit and wisdom. On concentration one becomes sharp and discern able the subtle aspects of the four noble truths.
Ten points I feel is important to keep in mind always.
– Meditation is one the best method for taming the mind.
By meditating one can relax the mind and see how the Dharma knowledge we learn from hearing, and studying can be applied into our lives. One prepare beforehand the meditation topic and while during work or play the mind is more readily able to recall the antidote when one encounters suffering from obstacles due one’s negative qualities. One is able to respond positively instead of negatively in situations.
– Study and practice are the core method to a Buddhist practitioner.
Without studying one cannot think of something from the thin air. By studying one discover the thoughts and ideas of the teachings. Therefore one can apply the teachings to improve one’s character, attitude and behavior and therefore the work and relationship become a teamwork.
– Although it wasn’t mentioned in the book one can infer logic and debate are methods to train the mind.
The book has put forth many questions, arguing for and against different topics. It is also a good weapon to attack the wrong view of self.
– One of the main reason Buddha is here is to teach emptiness or creating the conditions conducive for sentient beings to learn emptiness.
Buddha has realized the suffering of all sentient beings trapped in cyclic existence due to the wrong conceptions of an inherent existence self. It is a disease so serious that everyone thinks that they are happy but it is actually suffering.
– One can only learn emptiness by practicing compassion.
That is to say by doing virtue one thus creates the good karma to receive the wisdom for learning emptiness. There is no way around it because negative karma would prevent us to listen to advise of others let along a spiritual guide.
– Cyclic existence is the trapping of believing one truly exist forever.
Sentient beings are deluded into believing that they are truly existence because of the self which the senses serve to fulfill it by being able to observe an external object in relation to self. Thinking that I am not exist is not very healthy either. After studying one meditate to search for the ‘I’ or ‘mine’.
– Thinking for the sake of others will reduce our self grasping.
By working and thinking of others under a guru’s mandala self-grasping is reduced by focusing on self and thus create the conditions to receive the teachings.
– Being spiritual or religious means at least one must motivated of future lives.
Just thinking of today, this lives alone is not spiritual. The fault is that one does not believe that virtue do indeed cause one to born a happy human life in future. One thinks that one has only one life alone or having a short term view of this life is important.
– The fastest way to escape is to become fully enlightenment for the sake of others with full conviction.
By dedicating our prayers to full enlightenment this create the causes us to achieve enlightenment faster based on our conviction. If the aspiration is maybe then one is also ‘maybe’ become enlightenment in an unspecified future.
– The defining feature of Bodhisattva path are the great aspirational prayers and dedications, two collections of merit and wisdom, vast compassion towards all sentient beings to achieve full enlightenment.
The Bodhisattva path is the surest way of lasting happiness for everyone because without the kindness of others one is not able to meet the Dharma today. Therefore I wish to walk on this path until full enlightenment because all the suffering in cyclic existence I have experience enough of it.
Book review by Freon Tee
Name ten points you learned from the book, how it affects you and describe each of the ten points and send the report to me
These are the 10 points that I have learned and effecting me. The 10 points are:-
- What it means to be a Buddhist
- Hearing, Thinking and Meditating
- Importance of equanimity
- Cyclic Existence
- Importance of Altruism, Love & compassion, Assuming the burden
- Realized the emptiness of inherent existence
- Importance of Giving
- Importance of Ethics
- Importance of Patience
- Importance of Effort and concentration
Book Title: “ Meditations of a Tantric Abbot”- Kensur Lekden
“Way of Compassion” – Tsong-ka-pa
Translator: Prof. Jeffrey Hopkins
This book is the combination of Kensur Lekden’s meditations and Tsong-ka-pa’s detailed explanation affords a unique blend of the oral and written traditions of Tibetan Buddhism on the principal motivation for enlightenment, compassion.
Point 1: What it means to be a Buddhist
Notes from the book:
- In Buddhism persons are identified from the viewpoint of capacity- great, middling, or small.
- The small of the small do not practice any religion, but only strive for happiness in this present existence. Like animals these beings do not achieve any virtue at all
- The middling of the small engage in both religious and non-religious means to achieve happiness in the present for only themselves, not for their friends or even their own future lives. Due to this low motivation, their activities cannot function as religious practice
- The great of the small engage in virtue, seeking happiness, comfort, food, drink, resources and so forth mainly for future lives. Because they practice not for the sake of others but for their own temporary welfare in cyclic existence-the beginningless round of birth, ageing, sickness, and death- they are the lowest among actual religious practitioners, but due to their longer perspective are included within the count of actual devotees.
- A person exceeds the thought of a being of small capacity when he realizes that there is no peace until he no longer has to be reborn through the force of contaminated actions and afflictions. Progressing, he decides to obtain liberation from all types of cyclic existence and seeks the bliss of the extinguishment of suffering. …he identifies foes and, by aiming to overcome them, generates the attitude of a being with middling capacity. Through proper meditation he can then be liberated from cyclic existence as a Foe Destroyer (Arhat)
- These latter realize that attaining the happiness of a god or a human in the next lifetime is not sufficient either for themselves or others. They are concerned about the four faults in all sentient beings…
- They believe in Three Jewels have the power to protect all beings from these four faults and go for refuge to Buddha, his Doctrine, and the Spiritual Community from the depths of the heart.
- Because of the difference in motivation, one instance of refuge by the great is more powerful than a hundred thousand refuges by the small. Thus whether hearing, thinking or meditating, one should precede all practice with the refuge of a being of great capacity.
1) I aim to be a Buddhist
- At this point, I have checked on my motivation and the type of capacity of a Buddhist of myself. I found that I am in the small of the small capacity, which in this book not even qualifies to label myself as a Buddhist.
- Even though I have taken refuge, but I do not strive to think to leave the cyclic existence or to practice happiness for future lives. I do not practice day and night every hour by practicing like a being of great capacity. Even I take refuge, it is not from the depth of my heart. What I understand in Buddhist theory remains a theory. Thus I aim to practice the dharma.
- To practice the dharma. Refuge is the most important door. Thus, Guru Devotion is the most important factor. Without a Guru we can’t even know the power of Three Refuge, understanding the methods to practice not to mention the methods to help others sentient beings.
Point 2: Hearing, Thinking and Meditating
Notes from the book:
- Humans are doers of deeds, Buddhism explains how to act- how to adopt the means to make oneself and others happy. This involves, hearing, thinking and meditating.
- Hearing means to listen to the explanations of a guru or read books in order to discover what is to be practiced and why.
- Having heard in this way about practice of the path, one should think about the cause and effect relationship between the paths and their fruits, until conviction is generated.
- Shakyamuni Buddha said:” to determine what you did in the past, examine your body. Examine your mind to discover what will come in the future.”
- One should cultivate meditative stabilization in order to free the mind from distraction.
- Meditation is the most powerful means of re-structuring the mind
- At the end of each session of meditation, one should dedicate its merit to the welfare of all beings. A story from Shakyamuni Buddha’s teaching illustrates how dedication protects and maintains virtues.
- Virtue of a meditative session is dedicated to help and bring happiness to limitless sentient beings, then until that actually occurs, the virtue will not be lost.
1) Guru Devotion
- In this degenerated age, it is very important to have guru devotion. Without a Guru, we are lost. Which dharma book to read, how to hear, how to meditate, what is the thought will not be the correct one. Only when we have great, in depth guru devotion, will we cultivate the confidence towards our Guru and follow the instructions from our Guru. This is very essential because we first learn dharma from Hearing. Thus I must learn to keep clean samaya with Rinpoche.
- I always think that meditation is not important and it is waste of time. From this point I have learned, meditation is important to stabilize the thought, to re-structure the mind.
- Not to forget at the end of my meditation, to dedicate to all sentient beings not just for my close ones and myself.
Point 3: Importance of equanimity
Notes from the book:
- Cultivation of equanimity is an important initial meditation
- If one does not abide in equanimity, believing that all beings… should be equally happy and free from suffering, pure religious practice and meditation cannot occur.
- Since cyclic existence is beginningless, there is no sentient being who has not acted as a nurturing friend.
- Cultivation of equanimity begins the process of mental transformation culminating in Bodhichitta. An altruistic aspiration towards enlightenment.
- At that point one attains the 1st level of the Mahayana path of accumulation. The door to Mahayana – Generate aspirations to highest enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
1) Practice equanimity
- Without practicing equanimity, I will still have attachment and hatred towards my friends, enemy. This differentiation will not bring any good to me and it is actually senseless. If I would to believe there is cyclic existence and karma. Not to mention that I can’t progress further to become a Buddhist, then I have to learn to cultivate equanimity.
- Equanimity is not only practiced towards humans’ relationship but also towards beings in the other realms. For example – towards the animals. I have to learn to view them as my friends or mother from the past life.
- Without practicing equanimity, I do not think I am qualify to be on the Mahayana path.
2) Meditating on equanimity
- To cultivate equanimity, this helps me to tame my mind or to transform my mind towards love and compassion.
- The best way to practice equanimity is through meditating. Begin from the neutral person, to a friend or family member we are attached to and finally to an enemy.
Point 4: Cyclic Existence
Notes from the book:
- Cyclic existence- a state impelled by the force of actions and afflictions in which one is forced to assume a contaminated mind and body.
- Caught in the process of cyclic existence, one must then be born, grow old, become sick, and die again and again in the six types of migrations.
- The afflictions of desire, hatred, and ignorance are the support of contaminated actions and thus are the final root of cyclic existence. All common beings powerlessly engage in actions through these three poisons.
- One must develop the wish definitely to leave this state and attain a peace in which all suffering is extinguished. This can be understood through the four noble truths: true suffering, true origins of suffering, true cessations of suffering, true paths.
- According to the Svatantrika-Madhyamika system, there is a subtle mental consciousness that is the person who has travelled from life to life since beginningless cyclic existence. The predispositions or seeds for generating the capacity to free oneself from bondage are established on this subtle mental consciousness by hearing about the wish to leave cyclic existence.
- When one hears or thinks of this doctrine, these potencies are activated, providing the capacity for quickly generating the paths of liberation.
- One should generate the thought “ I will free myself from misery and attain the peace of extinguishment. Then, having fulfilled my own aims, I will cause all beings throughout space to abandon suffering.”
1) Understanding the horrible of the cyclic existence
- At this point, I understand that I can never leave this cyclic existence. I will be wandering in the six realms again and again, suffer the pain of being reborn to death, powerlessly, under the influence of the 3 poisons.
2) The importance of sharing Dharma with people
- From the book, by listening to why we must leave cyclic existence it will leave a seeds of enlightenment for people. Hence, I shall inform people that I come across, about cyclic existence and other dharma knowledge. At least this is a gift for the person I care for not only this life but also their life after life. I believe in previous life, there must be some one who was kind and brave enough to tell me this doctrine and thus today I am fortunate to hear and learn more about cyclic existence and the methods to leave it.
Point 5: Importance of Altruism, Love & compassion, Assuming the burden
Notes from the book:
- If the intention to overcome the process of cyclic existence is not conjoined with altruism, one will attain only freedom from suffering, not the Buddhahood….Therefore, the altruistic aspiration, called the mind of enlightenment (bodhichitta) is most important
- The aspirational mind of enlightenment is the wish to attain Buddhahood in order to help all sentient beings; it marks the beginning of a Bodhisattva’s accumulation of meritorious power in conjunction with wisdom and continues until Buddhahood…
- To become a Bodhisattva …. It involves 7 steps in the system transmitted from Buddha to Maitreya to Asanga:
- recognition of all sentient beings as mothers,
- becoming mindful of their kindness
- intending to repay their kindness
- unusual attitude
- altruistic mind generation
Love & compassion
- The King of Meditation Sutra (Samadhiraja) says that the benefit of cultivating love with all sentient beings as the field of observation is immeasurably greater than that of offering to Buddhas and Bodhisattva over many aeons …
- To cultivate Love… one should first take as the object of observation a friend… when this becomes easy, one should consider a neutral person … then, one should consider an enemy and cultivate love until there is no different between the wish for happiness that one has for the friend, the neutral person, and the enemy. The meditation should be extended slowly to all sentient beings throughout space…
- The next step is to cultivate compassion. …A compassionate mind is all sentient beings who have any of the three suffering- of pain, of change, and of being so composed as to be always ready to undergo pain.
Assuming the burden
- …for generating a mind of enlightenment is the unusual attitude, which involves cultivation of love and compassion with special force….
- One should take upon oneself the task of making them happy and freeing them from suffering
- Persons who have generated the unusual attitude need to know how sentient beings can be freed from suffering and made happy; otherwise their meditation can only be a wish
- Upon investigation they discover that only those who have the status of a blessed Buddha can actually bring vast benefit to others.
1) I have to cultivate Altruism, Love and compassion, Assuming the burden.
- Without these 3 precepts, I can never understand the way to cultivate towards enlightenment mind. If I care about the people around me, and I understand that the person around me no matter they are my friend or enemy or neutral now, somehow we have karmic connection for many life times. By understanding the suffering that I am facing and they are facing; I will therefore learn to cultivate Altruism, Love and compassion. But without Assuming the burden, it is hard to free others.
- Thus it is essential to begin at this life, where I can still understand the Dharma and I can still practice.
- With the mind that I can’t control my rebirth. People around me too suffer on wandering in samsara, thus, If I am truly sincere in caring for the people around me, this life is the chances for me to cultivate these 3 precepts and benefit others.
Point 6: Realized the emptiness of inherent existence
Notes from the book:
- The cause behind sentient beings’ uncontrolled travelling in cyclic existence is misconception of the nature of the objects.
- Wisdom that realized the emptiness of inherent existence is like a mother giving birth to the auspicious attainments in Hinayana and Mahayana, allowing abandonment of obstructions and attainment of the fruits of both vehicles.
- Without realizing the emptiness of inherent existence. I will look at things and phenomena that happen around me as permanent, as real.
- Hence, I will still develop the 3 poisons, which will lead me to stay in the wheel of karma, dragged down by currents of samsara, “pleasure” which is actually impermanent and not at real peace.
- I tends to forget that whatever happens now is like a dream. If I understand more in emptiness, contemplate on it, it will be easy for me to cultivate equanimity, love and compassion and thus liberate myself from samsara.
Point 7: Importance of Giving
Notes from the book:
- The supramundane perfection of giving Is the first supramundane cause of complete enlightenment
- Bodhisattva has no taints of attachment with respect to giving away his body, life, and resources. Even though he gives away, his continuum remains firm without changing its aspect
- The Subduer, understanding the thought of all migrators and knowing that these resources arise from merit accumulated by previous giving, discoursed on giving from the very first for it is easy to engage in this method.
- Chandrakirti’s root says:
All these beings want happiness, but human
Happiness does not occur without resources
Knowing that resources arise from giving
The subdue first discoursed on that
- With respect to putting into practice now …you should, through imagination, train in giving your own body to others and in the special ways of generating joy. .. You should consider that even if you do not give these away, they will disintegrate; thereby, you will have to lose them, and thus it would be better to give them first through your own thought as if you were actually giving them.
1) Importance of Giving
- At this point, I learned that to gain resources; to collect merits we are to learn how to give.
- Through giving we are not only able to extinguish immediately the suffering of others, this creates the causes to meet a Superior being and able to gain the supreme joy.
Point 8: Importance of Ethics
Notes from the book:
- [Having] ‘proper ethics’ (shila) means that one does not assume afflictions which motivate faulty ethics and that sinful actions discordant with formulated codes do not arise.
- … due to its being a cause of happiness, it is taught by the excellent
- …if you lack of proper ethics, the resources that are the fruit of giving will mature not in happy migration but in a bad one.
- It is extremely rare to achieve virtue during a bad migration, in which the accumulation of sins is extremely powerful; thus, one must continue in only bad migrations.
- Faulty ethics is a source of many faults, such as being led to a bad migration; therefore, immediately after discoursing on giving, the Conqueror who had overcome all sins spoke on the achievement of accompanying giving with ethics so that the benefits there of would not be wasted.
1) Important of Ethics
- At this point, I learned that to reborn in a good state, keeping good ethics is very important.
- For instance if I become an animal, e.g: cats. I can only keep on doing non-virtuous actions. Such as killing for food, to be ignorant etc. And, I can never get out from this bad state unless I begin to keep the ethics.
- This is the reason we take refuge under the Three Jewels, we have 5 precepts to follows. These precepts are not to limit our freedom but to free us from future bad migration.
Point 9: Importance of Patience
Notes from the book:
- If you become angry with someone who harmed you, then since the harmed cannot be reversed, does resenting him reverse the harm already done? It does not; therefore, resentment is certainly senseless here.
- Resentment…not only is it purposeless, but it is also unfavorable to your welfare in future lives because time spent in anger impels unpleasant fruition after death
- Impatience not only is a cause projecting vast unpleasantness as its fruition but also consumes collections of merit accumulated over a long time.
- When anger is generated, it destroys roots of virtue even if neither the object not the base are Bodhisattvas
- Through cultivating patience…. One attains a beautiful body, is dear to and cherished by holy beings, becomes skilled in knowing the right-the suitable-and the wrong-the unsuitable, after death takes birth as a human or god, and removes non-virtues accumulated through anger and so forth. Reflecting on these, you should generate the power of patience
- …a Conqueror Child has the pure perfection of patience, so he attains the four pure concentrations….
- A Bodhisattva on the third ground overcomes the darkness of faults that destroy virtues, he becomes very sharp like the sun, but he does not get angry with faulty beings. This is because he has become extremely well accustomed to patience….
1) Important of Patience
- At this point, I have learned that it is senseless to get angry, instead it is very important to cultivate patience.
- Patience is important to hold the virtues deeds that we have accumulated since the start of time.
Point 10: Importance of Effort and concentration
Notes from the book:
- All auspicious attainment follow after effort, the cause of the two collections of merit and wisdom
1) Importance of Effort and concentration
- At this point, I have learnt that laziness and the inability to concentrate will hinder me to collect merits and wisdom. Thus in order to collect merits and wisdom, I will need to learn to make the right effort with full concentration.
Before I read this book, I was not aware that how a Buddhist is supposed to practice in daily life. Why is it important to have mind transformation? This is a very good book that shares on the methods to escape from cyclic existence to the ways to achieve enlightenment. It also covers on the grounds of Bodhisattvas level, what have the Bodhisattva achieves, the importance of reaching each Bodhisattva level and what is in the level and how to reach it. This book also clarifies on what are the wrong views that we use to have in Dharma. In this book, it also shared on how to meditate on certain topics.
I also learnt about some of the qualities that an enlightenment beings have. I have learned that some qualities are essential to free myself and others, such as practicing equanimity, love and compassion, important of practicing Giving, patience etc. To my surprise these fundamental qualities are actually part of Bodhisattva path. To think deeply, it is important to cultivate these 10 points while I am still in a human forms, and at least not to be reborn in a bad state, if possible aim to be free from cyclic existence not only for myself but also the people around me.
I thanks H.E Tsem Rinpoche for this book that open up my mind. May I transform quickly and remember the essential points mentioned above.
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