17th Gyalwa Karmapa"Buddhism is a way of life through which we develop the qualities of our mind.
This way of life is very unusual, as it is a means to attain happiness without harming others.

THE 17th GYALWA KARMAPA

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The 25th summer course is finished: the state of enlightenment, the Buddha, studied as three bodies and five wisdoms was explained in detail. Through his various explanations, Khenpo Chodrak Rinpoche has a gift to question our beliefs, those that we take as certainties. He leads us to revisit for example such notions as calm abiding and insight meditations. When we speak of shamatha (calm abiding – shine), and vipashyana (insight – lhaktong), the first reaction is to associate these two terms exclusively with meditation.

Here’s what Khenpo had to say: “There is no Buddhist practice that doesn't belong to shamatha or to vipashyana; oftentimes people limit these two practices to that which they consider meditation. A person who does not see that, thinking that Dharma study does not belong to one of these two practices shows that he ignores what Buddhism is. The act of making an offering also belongs to one of these two practices. Jamgon Kongtrul in Gateway to Knowledge explains: “A person who cannot categorize a Buddhist practice in one of two categories of shamatha or vipashyana does not know what Buddhism is.” If while studying, we focus on each word, it is shamatha; contemplating the meaning behind the words to acquire a true comprehension of reality, is vipashyana.”

During the summer course, sometimes we dig into details of a subject that comes up through questions, but we always return to the essential. As the accomplished master Sakyapa Dechung Kunga cites, “The meaning of all Dharma teachings and key instructions is that of refuge.” Khenpo then invites us to practice refuge to deploy all the meanings: “When we recite a refuge formula together during a ritual, of course we follow the rhythm of the group. But once we’re alone at home, when we recite the refuge prayer saying “I take refuge in the Buddha”, it is useful to stop and contemplate just what the qualities of the Buddha are. We can do the same for the Dharma and the Sangha.” That is how refuge becomes a progressive exploration of meaning. Sangye Nyenpa, a disciple of the 15th Karmapa, was known to do a practice everyday in three hours, a practice which was supposed to take half an hour because he took the time to contemplate the words he was reciting.

There was also a historical dimension during the summer course: we are going back to the origins of the practices that we accomplish. How, for example, Gampopa in the 12th century integrated the practice of Lojong, or mind training into the Kagyu tradition, making it accessible to as many as possible. In fact, the practice of mind training allows for deep inner transformation due to compassion practice; that is what prepares the practitioner for the approach of the illuminating knowledge of mahamudra and the deeper meditations of our tradition. What we practice today is the fruit of the activity of masters who consecrated their lives so that this knowledge would remain living.

There are two remaining themes which, over the years of the summer courses, come around time and again, through various aspects. Khenpo Rinpoche regularly reminds us that the path that we are on is the Mahayana, the greater vehicle which has two references: all beings and enlightenment. Beings are the object of our compassion and enlightenment supposes that we have recognized the absence of the individual and phenomena. Compassion and higher knowledge, two recurring themes, are the two aspects that will be studied next year.

The Diamond Sutra will be taught in July 2018. It is one of the most well known sutras of the greater vehicle of Buddhism, describing the path of the bodhisattvas in detail. I hope that many will be present to appreciate this experience of text transmission, an immersion in the universal knowledge taught by the Buddha.

Puntso, program director at Dhagpo

 

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