Gyalwang Karmapa’s Teachings on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer Session Two: Material Things cannot bring True Happiness
27 February, 2012 Bodhgaya (Monlam Pavilion)
Gyalwang Karmapa began the second day of his teachings on the Vajradhara Lineage Prayer by providing further explanations on the previous day’s teachings on the history of the Karma Kagyu lineage. His Holiness spoke at length on the role of Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche in the history of the Karma Kagyu tradition.
He said that Jamgon Lodro Thaye is the first Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche and his reincarnation, Jamyang Khyentse Oser, was born as the son of the Fifteenth Gyalwang Karmapa, Khakyab Dorje. The Fifteenth Gyalwang Karmapa decided to include him as one of the heart sons, along with Tai Situpa, Shamar Rinpoche, Gyaltsap Rinpoche, Pawo Rinpoche and Treho Rinpoche. Including the Karmapa, this brought the total number of heart sons in the Karma Kamtsang tradition to seven. Gyalwang Karmapa said Jamgon Kongtrul was clearly predicted in the prophecies of Lord Buddha. He said Jamyang Khyentse Wangmo and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye were extremely influential figures in the rime or the non-sectarian movement in Tibet. They propagated all the teachings of Tibetan Buddhism.
They received all the empowerments and instructions available during that time. They not only remained non-sectarian in principle but also actively practiced it. Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche traveled all over Tibet and received transmissions from whoever had them. For instance, there was a story about how Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche received a rare transmission from a blind person. He read line by line and had the blind person repeat after him, thereby receiving the transmission. How much effort they put into receiving these teachings is something beyond our imagination.
Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye also compiled the Five Treasuries, which run into hundreds of volumes. He was so indefatigable, according to one story, that when he was over 80 years old and found it difficult to write, the pen was tied to his hand. His activities included the composition, The Prayer for the Well-Being of Tibet, which is read during the Kagyu Monlam. Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye personally used to read it six times a day. The relationship between Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo and Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche is so strong that it should serve as a role model for all of us. They were both each others’ student as well as teacher to each other. The Fifth Gyalwang Karmapa predicted that anyone who had the opportunity to come in contact with Jamgon Kongtrul and Jamyang Khyentse Rinpoche would be liberated from samsara (the same was also said to apply to Terton Chogyur Lingpa.)
In addition, Jamgon Kongtrol Lodro Thaye is extremely important not only for the Karma Kamtsang school but also for Tibetan Buddhism as a whole. His detailed notes on the teachings and transmissions he received amount to one big volume, about 1,000 pages long. It was published in Tibet last year and is a great source of information. Jamgon Kongtrul’s work is invaluable for all those who want to know the history and details of the 13 tantric and sadhana practices, which originate from Marpa. We have preserved these teachings so purely because of Jamgon Kongtrul’s efforts.
The Fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje and Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye enjoyed a great relationship. The Second Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche, Jamgon Khyentse Oser, was the son of the Fifteenth Karmapa Khakyab Dorje. Khakyab Dorje had great devotion to Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. Consequently, before he passed away, he had told the Karmapa that he would come back as his son. Jamgon Khyentse Oser, the Second Jamgon Kongtrul, was a great master of Mahamudra. The Sixteenth Karmapa would seek the help of Jamgon Khyentse Oser whenever he had questions regarding Mahamudra. Although he was the son of the Karmapa, he was said to have a very humble demeanor. He was able to connect with everybody easily.
As you all know, the Third Jamgong Kongtrul Rinpoche—Lodro Chokyi Senge—was extraordinary in both dharma and mundane activities. He was an important confidante of the Sixteenth Karmapa, for whom he did a lot of work, including building and looking after the Buddhist institute in Rumtek monastery in Sikkim. Unfortunately, he passed away in a car accident. Many people believe if he had not passed away, the Karma Kagyu School would not have become embroiled in so many conflicts. His activities were very widespread and many of you who met with him must still feel those connections. When the Sixteenth Karmapa was ill, Jamgon Kongtrul went out of his way to serve his teacher. I have heard that before he passed away, the Sixteenth Karmapa said, that even though he might not have had the opportunity to pay back his gratitude in that life, he would do so in the next life.
The Fourth Jamgon Kongtrul was recognized by me when I was just a child. When I was in Tibet, there were some restrictions on recognizing reincarnations. In spite of these restrictions, I was able to recognize over 40 trulkus, some overtly and some secretly. Of them all, the clearest was Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche. With regards to the others, I had a mixture of clarity and lack of clarity. But amongst all of them Jamgon Kongtrul was extremely clear. I am confident that his activities will be beneficial for all of the Karma Kamtsang tradition. His activities will be strong and stable. I also request all of you to contribute and support him in his activities, for Buddhism in general and the Karma Kamtsang in particular.
Since I have a knack of getting caught up in problems, I request all of you to support Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche’s activities. In 2012, it will be 20 years since the Third Jamgon Kongtrul passed away – and the bicentennial of the birth of the First Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye. Consequently, the theme of the next Kagyu Monlam will be Jamgon Kongtrul and his activities.
We have the teachings of Buddha because of Shakyamuni Buddha’s efforts and dedication for many lifetimes. If we talk about Buddhism, it comes from the tireless work and efforts of many great beings in the past. The Karma Kamtsang tradition is the same. The school is flourishing because of the many masters who worked tirelessly. The fact that we have a living tradition is due to the efforts of these masters. The teachings have been preserved thanks to this great effort by a great many people. If we know what their activities were and the efforts that they made, we will be able to appreciate it more and it will help us understand the greatness of these teachings and the tradition, and to follow in the footsteps of these masters. It will also help facilitate a certain kind of devotion and appreciation to arise in our minds. Otherwise, if we take it for granted, genuine devotion may not arise. It is therefore important to know the stories and be inspired by these masters. Therefore, I am spending time talking about these masters.
Gyalwang Karmapa pointed out that as the head of the Karma Kagyu Lineage he also finds it necessary to say a little bit about troubles that had befallen the Karma Kagyu School. He said since we are all samsaric beings, some attachment and aversion is inevitable. He, however, said it is important to take a long view. He said that it is important to be mindful and not fall into the trap of attachment and aversion because there is the risk that it might lead to the disintegration of the Karma Kagyu’s golden lineage. Some attachment and aversion might sometimes be necessary. Nonetheless, it is important from our side to exercise caution and refrain from getting involved in conflicts. We have to remain sincere, have a good heart and not do anything negative or harmful to others. This will be important in the long run for the long-term interest of the Karma Kagyu tradition. He said that it was difficult for him to talk about these matters but as the lineage holder of the Karma Kagyu tradition, he had to say a little about these things. However, he could only say so much and then it was up to us to think more about these matters.
Gyalwang Karmapa then came to the main teachings focused on the Mahamudra Lineage Prayers, or Dorje Chang Tungma. He went on to explain the following stanzas:
Revulsion is the foot of meditation, as is taught.
To this meditator who is not attached to food and wealth,
Who cuts the ties to this life?
Grant your blessings so that I have no desire for honor and gain.
His Holiness further explained the Tibetan word shenlok. He said there are many different translations of this word, such as ”detachment,” “revulsion” and “disgust.” Gyalwang Karmapa said that the closest meaning of the word is perhaps the feeling one experiences when accidentally stepping upon a pile of feces on the road. While sometimes detachment can be interpreted as being indifferent to both good and bad, Gyalwang Karmapa said he does not think that is “shenlok.”
One of the most important yogis, Jetsun Drakpa Gyaltsen, a great Sakyapa master, said that if you are attached to this life, you are not practicing dharma. If you are attached to samsara, then it is not renunciation. If you are attached to yourself, then you are not a true bodhisattava. If you are clinging, then it is not the right view. The Four Dharmas of Gampopas are in essence the same. For a person to be totally liberated from samsara there has to be e a hand, feet and the main body.
In addition, Gyalwang Karmapa said that for detachment or revulsion there is one-sided or incomplete detachment. For instance, if you were to put grass in front of carnivorous animals, they would not eat it; that is not complete revulsion. If you put meat in front of a deer, it will not eat it because deer are herbivorous. Also, most of the birds, except crows, do not hoard things. These are all kinds of detachment but not complete detachment. Rather, it is simply not in their nature to be attracted to them.
What do we mean by true renunciation, true detachment, or true revulsion? There are three levels of detachment. At the very least, we need to feel revulsion with this life. At the level of beginners, we see no use being attached to this life. If we are more advanced, then we feel no attachment to samsara. If we are very advanced, then we are not attached to peace or complete or partial peacefulness.
How should we feel disgusted with this life? This is my opinion, so I am not claiming that it is correct: when we say we practice dharma, what we mean is that we practice it primarily eyeing our future lives. If you just practice for this current life, then it is not real dharma. Practicing Dharma is not for this life, it is for the long run. Of course, we have to earn a livelihood but the main purpose of dharma is for the benefit of future lives. But if we get our priorities wrong, dharma becomes less important. Most people have got their priorities wrong and have got it upside down. Therefore, it can be said that whether you are a practitioner or not depends upon whether you are looking at the short term or the long-term benefit.
For instance, Milarepa completely gave up the welfare of this life. He lived in the Snow Mountains, and he did not have anything to eat, nor did he have any companion. It is not possible for us to follow his example because we might die of hunger, cold or loneliness. I am not saying that everybody has to practice like Milarepa. But what I am saying is that it is important to think about the long-term. As a dharma practitioner, our goal is the long-term, and the rest is secondary. That is what we mean by the term dharma practitioner: someone who prioritizes the welfare of a future life over the present life. For example, a dharma practitioner can be a businessman, but his or her main goal is practicing for future lives. In this way, if business is not so good, there is no major cause for concern, because, as a dharma practitioner, business is only a secondary objective, not the primary one. Though there may be problems with the business, there are other things that could be done. There is no need to commit suicide. There are many monks and nuns here. Some are true sangha, and others are not. Some of them only come to take tea and bread or to collect alms. Attending Kagyu Monlam with material goals is not right because we are here to pray for world peace. On the contrary, if we practice properly and accumulate merit, coming here will become meaningful.
The people who do not believe in future lives can also practice dharma. Generally there needs to be some merit in order to generate belief in the next life. For instance, some of us believe that our happiness comes from external or material things. If we look deeply then material things are not the source of happiness. Many people from developed countries have come to understand this. Material things do not bring lasting peace and happiness; they produce more difficulties, more problems, and unhappiness. When we think about it carefully, to only pursue material things is not the source of our happiness. We have to understand that true happiness has to come from within, from developing a certain kind of contentment. It is not based on gaining material things.
Therefore, having detachment, some kind of renunciation, or distaste for material things will bring happiness to our lives. This is another way of understanding not being attached to this life. Material things do not necessarily bring lasting peace. Real happiness has to come from within. So when we talk about shenlok, it is sometimes also said that “meditation” should not be taught to the wrong person because then it will be used for wrong objectives. Meditation has to be given to the person who has developed disgust with the samsaric state of being. Therefore, the great masters have said meditation has to have the right ownership. The foot has to be strong because with a good foot a person can walk towards enlightenment. If you teach meditation to those who have aspirations only for this life, it will be used for that purpose and nothing more. It is therefore important to use it in the right away.
Then Gyalwang Karmapa related three stories. The first one was one about Gyalwa Yangonpa’s encounter with Zambala, the God of Wealth. Once Gyalwa Yangonpa was in retreat and making a water offering to Zambala. Out of the water bubbles appeared two Zambalas, one black and the other yellow. The Zambalas told him they wanted to give him whatever he asked for. Gyalwa Yangonpa said,” I do not need anything because I live in solitude in a remote area.” He told Zambala, “If you really want to give something, please give it to the beggars.”
The second story was of Druptop Ugenpa, who was a student of Karma Pakshi and Gyalwa Gotsangpa. He once came to Magadha in India. There he had a vision of the Indian deity Ganesha. Ganesha offered to become his protector, if he made torma offerings to Ganesha and stayed in Bodhgaya for three years. In addition, Ganesha would also offer him one third of the world. His Holiness said he was not sure whether the world meant the whole world or just India. Gyalwa Gotsangpa responded: “I know that you need meat and blood, which I cannot give you. And how long I stay in Bodhgaya is totally up to me. Moreover, if you gave me one-third of the world, what would I do with it?” If you are too attached to material things, you end up losing your independence.
The third story was 900 years old. Once upon a time a rich man lived next door to a poor man. Every evening, the rich man would hear the poor man sing and wonder why the poor man was so happy. Was it because he had so little money? So one day, after the poor man had gone out to go begging, the rich man left a huge piece of gold, as big as the size of a goat’s head, in the man’s room. When the poor man came back, he was surprised to see it. He thought that somebody must have forgotten it and contemplated ways to return it to its owner. However, later he thought that it must have been left by higher beings, who perhaps wanted to look after him because he was so poor. Then the poor man began to make plans about how to spend the gold, how to invest the money and how to build a new house. Lost in thought, he forgot to sing that night. Meanwhile, the rich man was watching the poor man from the window. This proves we often lose sight of our goals. We pursue wealth to seek happiness. This is not right. Material things will never bring us lasting peace and happiness.