Attending to our Karma

Samyaksambuddha

“Buddhism, particularly in its Tibetan form, often contains ritual ceremonies, or pujas, directed toward various Buddha-figures or fierce protectors in order to help dispel obstacles and accomplish constructive purposes. Performing these ceremonies provides conducive circumstances for negative potentials to ripen in trivial rather than major obstacles, and positive potentials to ripen sooner rather than later. If we have built up overwhelmingly negative potentials, however, these ceremonies are ineffective in averting difficulties. Therefore, propitiating gods, spirits, protectors or even Buddhas is never a substitute for attending to our karma – avoiding destructive conduct and acting in a constructive manner. Buddhism is not a spiritual path of protector-worship, or even Buddha-worship. The safe direction of the Buddhist path is working to become a Buddha ourselves.”

[From Taking the Kalachakra Initiation by Alexander Berzin]

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Reciting Mantras from Books

Puṇḍarīka-Lokeśvara

Puṇḍarīka-Lokeśvara

[Clarification – the following comes from the Vimalaprabha, which is a commentary on Kalachakra-tantra written by Pundarika, the second Kalki. The context of this quote is in reference to practices within the Anuttarayoga Tantra class (see this post, which includes a listing of the different classes of tantra within the Indo-Tibetan tradition). Elsewhere, in a discussion about this quote, a friend brought up the fact that there are mantras which are commonly known and used that do not require empowerment or teachings. For example, the mantra of Chenrezig. I agree, and realized my post could be taken the wrong way. Hence, this note. That said, I stand behind the idea that tantric practice requires empowerment from a qualified Dorje Lopon (Vajra Acharya), and without such, can lead to further entanglement in samsara, confusion, and other afflictive states. This is due in part to the many misconceptions that are held regarding tantric practice and teachings. I am also reminded of the analogy given of tantra, that it is like a snake in a bamboo tube. There are only two ways to go–up or down. I am ever grateful for my kind teachers who guide me on the path.]

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“People who practice the sadhana with mantras read from a book and who are excluded from traditional teachings become mentally afflicted.

“What if the traditional teaching is received from a book? Then it is disclosed by the text of the composition, which has a provisional meaning.

“Those who practice the sadhana of gods and goddesses, with mantras that are read from a book, miss the true meaning of mantra and aim to eat space.

“For the adepts with the vigor of a steadfast mind or who pray with recitation of mantras, a desired mundane siddhi may arise.

“Those devoid of practice do not succeed by means of the recitation of mantras, fire offerings, and the means of worshiping shrines. These words are in accordance with the fact.

“Therefore, for the sake of the sadhana of the teachers, bodhisattvas, and gods, the wise receive this very essence of mantra with every caution.”

[From the Vimalaprabha (Stainless Light) commentary. Translated by Vesna Wallace]

Master Dolpopa’s Mountain Doctrine

Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen

Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen

This has been on my wish list for a while now. Published in 2006, this is the first English translation of Dolpopa Sherab Gyaltsen’s masterpiece titled Mountain Doctrine wherein he gives precise teachings on the rangtong (self-emptiness) and zhentong (other-emptiness) views. I am currently re-reading The Buddha from Dolpo by Cyrus Stearns, which is excellent–both in offering a basic biography of Dolpopa as well as providing many of his arguments regarding Buddhanature and other teachings. Dolpopa was also a master of Kalachakra tantra, and is recognized as such even to this day by many of the Vajrayana lineages (not just the Jonang).

For those who are interested in Buddhadharma but have never heard about Dolpopa, I recommend checking him out (probably starting with The Buddha from Dolpo). Hopefully we will see more from Dolpopa in English, as his collected works are gaining attention in academia.

Other related books of interest:

The Buddha from Dolpo (by Cyrus Stearns)

The Essence of Other-Emptiness (by Jetsun Taranatha. Translated by Jeffrey Hopkins)

The Kalachakra Tantra: The Chapter on Sadhana Together with the Vimalaprabha Commentary (translated by Vesna A. Wallace)

Introduction to the Kalachakra Initiation (by Alexander Berzin)

Ornament of Stainless Light (translated by Gavin Kilty)

An Intro – Part 8

[See preceding posts in this series – parts 12345 , 6 and 7]

The intervening period between 2007 and 2011 found me mostly on my own, attempting to put into practice in my daily life what I had learned up until that point from my teachers. My work schedule again interfered with me actually participating at the dharma centers I previously attended. However, my interest in the Dharma was not diminished. I kept up a rather vigorous study of Buddhism coupled with a not so vigorous – yet regular – dharma practice (e.g. the Vajrasattva sadhana, mindfulness practice, shamatha meditation, loving-kindness meditation). And while the tradition I embraced is Mahayana/Vajrayana in orientation, I also followed the examples of my teachers by studying Theravada as well – suttas (sutras) from the Pali Canon and so forth. I was taught that the Mahayana/Vajrayana tradition is actually rooted in the Theravada tradition and does not contradict these earlier and well respected teachings, but rather, that it is built off of them as a foundation and is inclusive of the venerated ‘Teaching of the Elders.’

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