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Geshe Tenley continues his teachings on the lam-rim, making use of Pabongka Rinpoche's Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand. The text is the seminal lam-rim text of the 20th century. It is a transcription of a twenty-four day lam-rim teaching given in 1921. Offered as a "practical teaching," it is less scholarly than Je Tsongkhapa's Jangchub Lam-rim Chen-mo or The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment and as such it is the text from which most modern lamas teach lam-rim.
Recently, Geshe-la has been focusing on actualizing the teachings through meditation, and spending a good portion of each class guiding us in specific meditations on the lam-rim topics we have been studying to help us understand what is meant by “meditating on the lam-rim” and show us how we can integrate these meditations into our daily practice. As our teachers repeatedly stress, we will not make progress if we only ingest the teachings intellectually. It is only engaging in the three wisdoms (listening, reflecting and meditating) that we will actually make changes in our minds. Receiving this type of practical guidance from an experienced teacher such as Geshe Tenley is a great blessing, and we are very fortunate to benefit from his guidance.
Summary of March 28, 2021 Class
After a brief warm welcome to students by Geshe Tenley, we began class with the calm-abiding meditation which we have been practicing for many weeks, preceded by a brief meditation on the breath. Geshe-la reminded us to continue with the same meditation object we have used previously, preferably Shakyamuni Buddha, and to aim for a clear and stable focus. Maintaining clarity will lead to understanding while stability will lead to concentration in which thoughts stop appearing. With consistent practice, unifying clarity and stability, eventually our minds will have the ability to develop the wisdom of insight.
Next, we practiced a silent glance meditation to briefly review the first five points of the Seven Point Mind Training, the topics covered in Days Seventeen – Nineteen of Liberation in the Palm of Your Hand, Outlines 344-359 (page numbers vary according to the edition of the book).
- Calling on one’s Guru-Deity for guidance before beginning the meditation
- Reviewing the Preparatory Practices
- Generating Ultimate Bodhicitta by meditating on emptiness and Relative Bodhicitta by equalizing & exchanging oneself with others
- Converting Unfortunate Circumstances into a Path to Enlightenment by not being overcome by difficulties
- Applying the Five Powers both during life and at the time of death
- Criteria of Having Trained the Mind
To effectively do this glance meditation, one must first read the text and then contemplate these points, not just once but repeatedly, every day, so that we are very familiar with them. It is possible to change our minds. Lama Tsongkhapa serves as an example. When Lama Tsongkhapa was told by the deity Manjushri, with whom he held a special relationship, that his inability to completely understand the wisdom teachings was due to his lack of merit, Tsongkhapa undertook an intensive retreat to accumulate merit and purify the negativities creating obstacles to his understanding.
Purifying negativities is also essential to increase our understanding of texts and to help us develop positive qualities. The sign that we are successfully putting the advice from our spiritual teachers into practice is that the texts we read make sense and we are always happy to apply them to our daily lives by helping others.
Next Geshe-la turned to Point 6 of the Seven-Point Mind Training, Day Nineteen, Outline 360 – The Eighteen Commitments of the Mind Training Practice. Points 1-3 are grouped into one group - Always keep to three general points:
1) Keep all vows, even the most basic and do not disrespect other traditions.
2) Do not ignore social conventions out of arrogance.
3) Do not be biased toward friends and mistreat enemies or even animals.
Geshe-la spoke about the timeliness of this advice. The problems arising from racism and disparaging others different from us dominates much of the news. We are also recognizing that all beings, even animals, suffer and want happiness and so we are learning to treat them more compassionately. Our contemporary culture is recognizing the validity of what the Buddha taught thousands of years ago. We can be grateful that we have faith in the Buddha and rely on his teachings about ethics, compassion, and emptiness. Taking refuge and other vows such as those of the bodhisattva cement our commitment to strive to transform our minds from self-interest to concern for others, even if it is not easy.
Following a short question & answer session, we concluded with prayers.
Seven Steps to Train Your Mind by Gomo Tulku
Advice from a Spiritual Friend by Geshe Rabten & Geshe Dhargyey
The Seven Point Mind Training by Alan Wallace
A Guide to the Bodhisattva Way of Life by Shantideva, translated by Vesna & Alan Wallace
The Way of the Bodhisattva
by Shantideva, translated by Padmakara Translation Group
Geshe Tenley is the Resident Teacher at Kurukulla Center for Tibetan Buddhist Studies in Boston. He was ordained by the late Gyume Khensur Geshe Urgyen Tseten Rinpoche in 1990 and began the program of studies to become a geshe at Sera Jey Monastic University. During the course of his studies, he has received many teachings from His Holiness the Dalai Lama as well as many other highly qualified masters. In 1998, he received his full ordination (gelong) vows from His Holiness and received his geshe degree in 2008. He began teaching at Kurukulla Center in 2005 and was appointed the Resident Teacher by Lama Zopa Rinpoche in 2010. Geshe Tenley is well-known for his approachability and kindheartedness. His extensive activities in the US and around the world bring great joy and benefit to everyone he meets.