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94871453 Sangye Khandro Naropa Conference Talk

94871453 Sangye Khandro Naropa Conference Talk

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10/13/2013

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Address to the Naropa Conference
October 2000
by Sangye Khandro
First of all, I would like to express my appreciation to Judith Simmer-Brown for inviting andencouraging me to attend this conference to discuss Buddhism in general, and especially toexamine the different ways that Buddhism is being propagated in the west. It is actually an honor and pleasure to have this opportunity to address all of you who are here to learn more about howwe, as a Sangha, spiritual community, can help to further establish Buddhism in our country.Establishing Buddhism in the west is definitely the cause that many of us have dedicated our lives to - over the last several decades. I feel that I for one have been extremely fortunate to beinvolved in inviting, hosting, and translating for many great Bodhisattvas who have come to bless this soil. I have dedicated the last thirty years of my life to the establishment of severalsmall Buddhist temples, and since I am a translator, I have had the honor of acting as theinterpreter for many great teachers; and have helped to translate many sadhanas, commentaries, pointing-out instructions, life stories, and even part of the epic of Gesar of Ling. I usually don'tattend conferences or public gatherings to discuss Buddhism, but this time I feel it is a timelyopportunity to express not only my own view but the view of many Buddhist leaders, teachers,and practitioners whom I am hoping to represent here. We are in a time when there are manygood teachers and practitioners in this land. Many of them feel that a new era must and isdawning in the propagation of the doctrine in the west. That now, rather than just participating inweekend workshops and seminars, the time has come to really establish the heart of the doctrinein the west - which is that of scriptural understanding and practical realization. I am grateful for this opportunity to speak out concerning some of the important issues involved in this processand some of the problems that we are facing. I also wish to thank you for expressing your interest by coming to share your time with me.What comes to my mind as the first point of consideration is the need to acknowledge thefounder of this great religion and way of life, Lord Buddha Shakyamuni. It seems that if itweren't for the Buddha, we would not be here discussing Dharma and the different aspects of our own spiritual development as well as the impact that this is having on others. Sometimes weBuddhists tend to overlook the Buddha and just take him for granted. Actually it is completelyamazing that 2,500 years ago a human being became fully enlightened, taught Dharma and thatDharma is as relevant today as it was then. Most of us speaking at this conference would have tosay that without the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha - and the embodiment of the Three Jewels, our own spiritual teachers - our lives would be so different that most probably we would not have themerit or knowledge to teach about the spiritual path. That means we wouldn't be here at thisconference, and for sure this conference would not even be held.So that we can maintain the honor and dignity of this great tradition, before teaching or discussing Dharma, it is traditional for the teacher and listeners to acknowledge and supplicatethe Buddha, the lineage, and our root teachers. I would like us to begin by taking a moment tosilently remember their kindness and receive their blessings. As the Buddha himself said, "For whoever thinks of Buddha, Buddha is sitting in front of him or her, always bestowing blessingsand removing all obscurations." As it states in the King of Samadhi Sutra, "With a stainlessgolden-colored body, and majestic flawless beauty, as the Protector of this world, whoeve
 
 brings his form to their mind and abides there, is in the samadhi of the bodhisattvas." Bringingthe Buddha to mind for some may mean entering into the awareness of the nature of Buddha asthe four kayas and five wisdoms. For others. according to their faculties. this may mean or include a basic appreciation for Gautama Buddha. Whatever the case may be, in order to focusthe mind you may visualize or hold the regard that the Buddha is in the space in front of yourself,seated peacefully upon a jewelled throne, and that he is golden colored with auspicious signs andmarks. He wears the three robes of Dharma and is seated in the indestructible posture. His righthand is extended down in the gesture of the earth conqueror, and his left hand holds a bowl filledwith nectar in the gesture of equanimity. His wisdom body radiates boundless light rays in alldirections, which illuminate the darkness of ignorance in our minds and the minds of all living beings - awakening our indwelling precious Buddha nature. Consider his presence as we sharethis time together, and consider that our mind streams are blessed with the timeless wisdom blessings of the lineage. (Moment of Silence)Sometimes in the west, we are more concerned with what we are receiving than with where itcame from, or what the lifestyle of the individual who taught it was. It is important for us toidentify and humanize the process of spiritual development but not to lose sight of the source andthe continuity of lineage. Before the Buddha himself passed into Nirvana, some of his maindisciples - including Ananda - asked the Buddha four questions. One of them was how shouldthey compile the precious three Baskets of teachings? The Buddha replied, "Fortunate children,as for compiling my teachings... At the beginning of all Dharma texts you must write," Thus Ihave heard, and at the end you must write, "I praise and rejoice in this the speech of theConqueror." This is the reason why at the beginning of all the sutras it reads exactly as theBuddha requested, "thus I have heard...," indicating that the disciples compiling the teachingwere acknowledging Buddha as the source. When these sutras were brought into Tibet andtaught, it was necessary to translate them into the Tibetan language. The great translators alwayskept the original Sanskrit title whether the text belonged to sutra or tantra, and then followed that by the Tibetan translation. The reason for this is not because they didn't know how to translatethe Sanskrit titles. It is because this honors and demonstrates the purity and source of the lineage.After the title, if the text is a Sutra, then homage is rendered to the Omniscient One. If the text isa shastra, then homage is rendered to Manjushri. If the text is tantra, homage is rendered to allthe Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. In this way, when teachings and commentaries are given, oneknows which category of Buddhas teachings they belong to. The shastras are enlightenedcommentaries composed by great teachers who possess knowledge and realization, and sincethey are representing the same source as Buddha's speech, they must be capable of guidingstudents to realization. I mention this because it shows us how the source and authenticity of lineage has always been a significant part of the Buddhist tradition.The word for lineage is gyud in Tibetan, which means continuity. In the case of Buddhism, particularly Vajrayana Buddhism, this means the continuity of wisdom blessings which areunbroken and uninterrupted by contributing circumstances. From the time of our guide BuddhaShakyamuni up to our present spiritual teacher, this lineage or continuity has continued - whichis our connection with primordial wisdom. This is not a blood lineage based on a monarchy because Buddha Shakyamuni abandoned the kingdom to become a homeless renunciate. This isnot a patriarchal lineage because Buddha Shakyamuni abandoned his family lineage in order toserve the needs of all living beings. This is a lineage of wisdom and methods which use the mindto purify the mind by cleansing the mind with the nectar of the wisdom point of view - in order to go beyond or transcend ordinary karmic habits so that ordinary phenomena becomes the pureappearance of wisdom. This is a wisdom lineage of fully enlightened teachers who havecontinuously brought countless beings to perfect liberation through the unbroken transmission of this Dharma. Therefore it is extremely rare and precious to have made this connection with theBuddha, which is referred to as a finding a precious human rebirth which we can fully appreciate
 
and cherish as our vessel on this path. As long as we are dying and being reborn, it is importantto pray to take a precious human rebirth through which we can continue to connect to thewisdom of Dharma lineage. During this fortunate age of time when one thousand Buddhas willmanifest in the world to bring countless beings to liberation, the kindest Buddha of all for us isthe fourth Buddha Shakyamuni. The reason for this is that he came into this world and taughtDharma which is still present and flourishing during our lifetime.
"Hierarchy occurs naturally on the spiritual path since it has to do with theprinciples of heaven, earth, man and merit."
Even though the Buddha lived some 2500 years ago we can have confidence that we still haveaccess to his authentic teachings at the present time. I know for certain that I have beenextremely fortunate to have continual access to the pure teachings and blessings of Dharma sincethe time that I was first introduced to them. This connection has changed and improved my lifein many countless ways, giving me temporary happiness and satisfaction - but more importantly,it has given ultimate meaning to my life because it has allowed me to understand that there trulyis such a thing as unconditional love; and that the purpose of this life is something much greater than our immediate lifetime. Now I am able to prepare for the moment of death and what follows by knowing that there is a path that leads to liberation from the suffering of samsara, and that this path can bring permanent benefit to all living beings. Finding this direction is due to the kindnessof the lineage, and especially of my root teachers in this lifetime. It should be the case that themore we learn and practice Dharma, the greater our appreciation for the Buddha, the lineage, andour teachers becomes. We appreciate the profound authority of the teacher as our guide on this path: his or her patience, impartial kindness, skill and great wisdom qualities. The more we canappreciate the teacher, the more we can grow on the path and basically become ready to enter the path of Vajrayana. If there is no discovery of or appreciation for our root teachers then asTrungpa Rinpoche said, 'Entering Vajrayana is like a blind man trying to see the sun, it isimpossible.'Since we were not born into this religion or way of life, the notion of faith was an experience thatmost of us were lacking before we entered the door of Dharma. Having faith means seeingqualities in others that are much more wonderful than and superior to our own. Love and faithare of the same essence, which means deep caring. The difference is that love is directed towardsothers on many levels, and faith is directed towards sublime beings including the Buddhas andenlightened guides because of seeing their exalted noble qualities. The nature of faith is to thentrust in these sublime beings in order to receive the blessings of wisdom energy that benefits youand others. True faith gives rise to the vast, unconditional love of compassion that benefitscountless beings. To feel and know this love is to discover the most blissful feeling that a human being can ever know because this is the door that opens us to the qualities of our own Buddhanature. This occurs through the kindness of the spiritual teacher. We cannot just pick up a book, become inspired by what we read, and expect to discover these qualities. It is as the greatMahasiddha Sarahapa said, "Absolute, inherently born wisdom mind only comes from the hand- print of the purification of obscurations and great accumulation, or from being blessed by ahighly realized guru. You must know that to try to depend on another method than that isfoolish." The truth is that we need to become inspired by the living examples of this wisdomnature. In order to recognize our own wisdom qualities, we must depend upon outer positivecircumstances - which in the case of Buddhism means meeting those who can show us thecorrect way to do this.

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