27th Kagyu Monlam: Day Three – Karmapa Teaches on the Fault of Abandoning the Dharma
December 26, 2009 – Under the Bodhi Tree, Bodhgaya
Once again students had the privilege of receiving Mahayana Sojong Vows directly from His Holiness the Gyalwang Karmapa, under the Bodhi Tree. In his reading of the Life of Milarepa, His Holiness reached the point where Milarepa was intentionally poisoned by a well-educated geshe who had become overwhelmed by jealousy and resentment towards Milarepa. Taking these events of Milarepa’s life as a departure point, His Holiness taught today on the danger of giving up the Dharma. Gyalwang Karmapa noted that the geshe in question had done extensive study of Dharma texts, but his actions reveal that he had completely abandoned the pure Dharma. His Holiness commented that giving up or abandoning the Dharma can also occur when we teach something that is not pure Dharma and present it as Dharma. Abandoning the Dharma does not only imply turning our backs entirely on all the Buddha’s teachings. It can also happen, His Holiness stressed, when we engage in sectarian partiality towards our own lineage or lama, and on that basis disparage other lineages or lamas.
When we accuse other lineages, lamas or philosophical systems of not teaching the pure Dharma, we are in grave danger of incurring the serious fault of abandoning the Dharma. Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out that giving up on the Dharma is considered a heavier negative deed even than killing one’s parents or an arhat, precisely because if we remain within the teachings of the pure Dharma, we have the chance to purify and correct all other faults.
As an antidote to counteract attitudes that veer towards abandoning the Dharma, His Holiness suggested that when we find another Dharma lineage or set of teachings, we may begin by noting that this particular presentation is not suited to us, at this moment. We should then make the aspiration that in the future we may become suitable to practice that Dharma, and moreover to be able to teach that Dharma to others. Gyalwang Karmapa noted that a diversity of presentations is required because of the diversity of people’s inclinations. Indeed, he urged his followers not to limit their study to their own lineage, but to study all other systems. Since bodhisattvas’ aim is to be able to benefit an infinite range of sentient beings with differing capacities and inclinations, we need to be conversant with a wide range of presentations of the Dharma, and other areas of study as well
When His Holiness revised the Kagyu Monlam prayer book in 2007, one of his express aims was to make it more inclusive of prayers from other lineages, reflecting his nonsectarian approach. This outlook was visible in action throughout His Holiness’ comments during this third day of the 27th Kagyu Monlam. As if to underscore his message, His Holiness selected an aspiration prayer composed by Lama Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Gelug order of Tibetan Buddhism, and offered commentary on that prayer during the morning session.