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Karmapa - Teachings on Lineage

Karmapa - Teachings on Lineage

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Published by: Memento__Mori on Feb 07, 2011
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 ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱ  ེན་ནོ
HH 17
Gyalwang KarmapaUrgyen Trinley Dorje
Teachings on Lineage
 ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱ  ེན་ནོ
The first day of Gyalwang Karmapa’s Lineage Practice Teachings
December 31, 2008
These teachings, sponsored and organized by the Hwa-Yue Foundation from Taiwan, are the third in a series of teachings entitled: Lineage Practice Teachings. More than one thousand five hundred people filled the main assemblyhall at Tergar Monastery to listen to His Holiness deliver the teachings in a mixture of Tibetan and Chinese. Chinesedevotees from Taiwan and Hong Kong formed the majority of the audience. However, there were also disciples fromthe Americas, from Europe and Russia, and from other Asian countries including Korea, Vietnam and Malaysia.The morning and afternoon sessions began with prayers in Chinese, accompanied by traditional Chinese instruments – awooden bell beaten to keep time, and a bronze bell. At the morning session, representatives from the audience prostrated along with the Gyalwang Karmapa.His Holiness’ theme was teacher and student. He began by joking that these teachings, and the ‘English’ ones whichwould follow Monlam, were as much a test of his burgeoning linguistic skills as of his dharma knowledge andexperience. He then congratulated the audience on attending the teachings in spite of the economic downturn and therecent terrorist bombings in Mumbai. Speaking confidently and fluently in Chinese, he proceeded to explore theconcepts of teacher and student in Tibetan Buddhism, delighting his listeners with lively caricatures, humorous asides,and witty puns.(Please note that what follows is a précis of the English translation of the teachings given in Tibetan, so that you canshare some of the experience. We hope that a definitive translation from a full transcription of the Chinese and Tibetanwill be possible later.)
Because so many different interpretations of the word exists, Gyalwang Karmapa began byclarifying the meaning of ‘lama’, the Tibetan rendering of the Sanskrit word ‘guru’, as meaningsomeone who is ‘heavy with good qualities’. Hence a lama was someone who possessed thequalities necessary to develop students. The characteristics of a spiritual friend and a lama were basically the same. They should be well-educated in the Dharma, able to teach the Dharma, holdPratimoksha vows, and hold any other relevant vows, transmissions etc.Gampopa mentioned
three characteristics of a genuine lama
The first characteristic
was to have cut the ties to this life. No attachment to this life meant beingfocused on more than this life and paying no attention to the eight worldly dharmas, but it wasdifficult to find someone who was completely free of attachment to this life. It was possible to talk of three types of worldly interests: the white worldly interest of the Bodhisattva, who could enjoy being praised; the mixed worldly interest when people sometimes focused on future lives,sometimes on this life; the black worldly interest when all activity was fixated on this life only. A person who could only focus on this life was not a genuine dharma practitioner. A dharma practitioner should think of future lives and the path of liberation.
The second characteristic
of a lama was that they could guide their students with their greatwisdom; without wisdom and intelligence a lama was unable to teach the dharma to a range of students with different needs. A lama needed to know what things to abandon and what to practise,and had to be able to teach in a way that students could understand.
The third characteristic
was endowment with great compassion, so that a lama never gave up ontheir students, supporting them however bad they were. Without this great compassion, a lamamight well abandon a very difficult student. The ideal was that a lama would want to keep their 2
 ཀརྨ་པ་མཁྱ  ེན་ནོ
students from falling into the lower realms, even at the cost of his or her own life.In short, a lama’s good qualities should exceed their faults. An uneducated person able to helpstudents focus on the dharma and future lives, could be a lama, in the same way that a mother wholoved and cared for her children tried to pass on her best traits to them, in spite of her lack of education.Then how could a student assess a lama’s qualities? Gyalwang Karmapa warned that, except for afew extraordinary individuals, it was very difficult to assess a person’s qualities, and impossible toknow what they were thinking, so the only method was to observe the lama’s words, deeds andconduct, checking that they were in harmony, and that they did not contradict the dharma. Althougha skilled imposter might fool people for a short time, they wouldn’t be able to fool all of the peopleall of the time!In assessing a lama, we could also reflect on whether the lama was helping us, whether our mindswere becoming clearer or calmer, whether we were engaging with the dharma more. If the mind of astudent turned more to the dharma under a lama’s influence, then that was a genuine lama. A further sign was to feel joy at encountering a lama.If a lama had only a few good qualities it was still possible to take them as one’s lama, because itmight be that their qualities exceeded their faults, or that they held the altruistic intention.Gyalwang Karmapa referred to the First Jamgon Kongtrul Rinpoche who travelled across Tibet,receiving instructions from many lamas. Some of these were only village lamas, uneducated andilliterate, but he received transmissions and empowerments from them. In some cases he even hadto teach them the alphabet first! So, although the rule was to find a lama who possessed morequalities than we did, this may not always be the case, if we had a special purpose.Finally, there should be a mutual connection between the teacher and the student.Gyalwang Karmapa then turned his attention to what it means to be a ‘student’.According to Gampopa, a
student should possess three characteristics
: they needed t
o be able to‘bow down to the lama with respect that has no pride’
, the student must
follow the lama’sinstructions joyfully
, and finally the student must
engage in actions that are pleasing to thelama
.First, Gyalwang Karmapa explored what it means to be able to bow down to a lama with respectthat has no pride. He reminded us that often, out of ignorance, we believe we have qualities that wedo not possess, and this makes us vulnerable. We need to be protected from ourselves. The role of the lama is to teach us the path, otherwise we will be prey to our own afflictive mental states andemotions.Our very birth is the product of these afflictive mental states, and our karma controls when we willdie. The four sufferings of birth and death, ageing and sickness are beyond our control. What weoften call happiness is not true happiness but only a change in the degree of suffering or atemporary relief, similar to someone going from extreme heat into a cool place. At first they feelgreat relief from the heat, and then begin to feel cold, and finally they are freezing. Feelings of 3

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