Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

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Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:50 pm

Below is a link for a story about Ven. Tenzing Gache from America, who was one of 16 chosen from his study division of 118 to join an important debate at Sera Jey known as the Rikchung.

Though I have neither the capacity nor the interest to do the extensive Gelug studies found in the geshe program, I rejoice in the effort, determination and capacity of Ven. Gache. There are very few Westerners who are able to excel in such a difficult environment. It is more impressive taking into account Ven. Gache's struggle with fluency in the Tibetan language. An interesting story for anyone curious about what it really takes to become a "scholar" in Gelug's great monasteries:

http://mandala.fpmt.org/archives/mandal ... rik-chung/

Standing upright on a woodblock throne, before an assembly of several thousand monks, the Sera Je abbot invited my partner and me to rise. After prostrating, we donned our da gams (heavy wool capes) and gently paced up the central aisle towards the throne. After touching heads with the abbot, we returned to the center of the assembly, my partner in the second aisle and me in the central one. Slowly I began to chant my thesis [in Tibetan] for the debate: “Bodhichitta is the wish, for the benefit of others, to achieve perfect and complete enlightenment …


The journey is even more impressive considering Ven. Gache started out in the Plum Village tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, and initially was not completely convinced that intensive study was the way to go:

Despite the inexplicable force that had called me and that convinced me to stay, the first years at Sera were far from straightforward. Specifically, I had significant doubts about the entire monastic system in the Tibetan tradition. In many Buddhist traditions, study is considered a beneficial but potentially misleading approach to the Buddha’s teachings. The Buddha himself warned a follower intent on philosophical inquiry that he was like a man shot with an arrow who would not treat his wound until he knew the craftsman of the arrow. For me, the original decision to become a monk had come during a retreat at Plum Village, Thich Nhat Hanh’s monastery in France. Thich [Nhat Hanh] warns: “Perfect understanding is awakened mind. It is not knowledge you can get from a university or even an institute of Buddhist studies. At some institutes of Buddhist studies, the monks and nuns squeeze so much knowledge into their heads. The teachers say a lot, the students take many notes, but the teaching has little to do with everyday sufferings and difficulties. When I see a novice working hard at university studies, I know that he or she will have regrets and difficulties in the future.”1

In apparent contrast, the Tibetan (and especially the Gelug) tradition compares meditation without study to climbing a bare rock face with crippled hands. The monastery reflects this perspective: study and debate drive the regime, and the loud clapping of hands and shouting of logical consequences juxtaposes sharply to the tranquility of, for instance, a Thai forest monastery. My misgivings were not just a simple adjustment struggle, and I presented my concern to Choden Rinpoche, as his counsel had been the catalyst for my choosing Sera in the first place. Rinpoche approved of my strong wish to do retreat, but emphasized that if I went through Sera’s study program first, my retreat would be much more meaningful.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Sun Sep 08, 2013 12:55 pm

I soon made the decision to attend his class, meaning I would have to enter the debate program. To appease my doubt, I kept three points in mind: 1) if Milarepa faithfully followed the seemingly incomprehensible advice of his guru, Marpa, and achieved a great purpose, surely I could follow the more intelligible advice to enter a study program, 2) if the Tibetans really do possess a path to enlightenment, somebody needs to go through the experience of their monastic system to be able understand and bring this treasure to others, and 3) the Sera Je discipline reads: “Even if one’s mind is equipoised in the non-conceptual samadhi of bliss and clear [light], one must arise from that samadhi and listen. This is not because profound tantric recitations and the non-conceptual samadhi of bliss and clear light are not important, but because these very rules of the monastery and college are even more impor
tant
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby zerwe » Tue Sep 10, 2013 3:46 am

Great post.
Shaun :namaste:
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby Alfredo » Thu Sep 19, 2013 6:38 am

A few more in this vein. First, Nicholas Vreeland, whom the Dalai Lama last year appointed abbot of Rato Monastery (India):

http://www.pbs.org/wnet/religionandethi ... and/11256/

Kelsang Wangmo (a German), the first female geshe:

http://mandala.fpmt.org/archives/mandal ... ng-wangmo/

And of course http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georges_Dreyfus
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Thu Sep 19, 2013 10:02 am

Kelsang Wangmo is fantastic. And having interacted with her personally, I know she is also humble- so she really stands out. Sometimes the super-scholastic types who do well in the monastic university environments don't have the greatest people skills (KW is the only one I know of those mentioned, so this isn't a personal comment). A good teacher in the West requires many qualities- the scholarship is a very important one that I feel is lacking, but also teaching skills, a little bit of charisma, and an open personality(someone who students feel they can talk to) are all important.

Becoming a teacher in the Gelug tradition is necessarily a long term process- certainly in FPMT now it is not a very easy thing (it was easier in the past). It takes years of study to be qualified to teach anything beyond introductory meditation. This has meant growth is smaller, but I feel that is made up for in quality,
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Sep 20, 2013 1:17 pm

In terms of the lengths to which the students of old Tibet went to learn the dharma it is really incredible to hear stories.

We have an older Geshe here, from Ganden Jangtse, who often tells me stories about what it was like to study in old Tibet. Today he told me some stories about the Jang Gunchoe/ Winter debate session. Monks from the 3 Seats would travel from long distances and stay in very difficult conditions. Often when washing their faces in the morning the water would be covered with a layer of ice. As they debated late into the night and temperatures dropped, hands became chaffed and blistered.

The great scholars in their own way went through austerities just like the meditators living in the caves. The jewel of the dharma is something that for most of us will take great sacrifice and effort to achieve. In terms of the access to the teachings and conditions we enjoy in the west, we are very fortunate. But I do think the outer conditions of Tibet and the lack of distraction provided an ideal environment to purify negativities, accumulate virtue and focus single-pointedly on the teachings.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:44 pm

From Lama Zopa Rinpoche:


Now what is needed are people who will sacrifice their lives, as they did in India, Tibet and Nepal, not just to study the Dharma like at a college or university, but to actualize the teachings in a monastery or isolated place. In Tibet, the mountains were full of caves like ants' nests, where people would go to practice without distraction. This is how Buddhism really comes alive – when it is not just words, not just scholars, but really living Buddhism. When study and realization come together, Buddhism will really last. Wow, then like an ocean in the heart and the mind, it will spread and be preserved. Otherwise, if it is just like learning in a college, it won't last long. That's like throwing tsampa on water: It stays on top and doesn't sink – it is shallow. For Buddhism to really be preserved in the West as it was in Tibet and India, we need people who will sacrifice their lives to completely actualize in the heart what was explained by the Buddha. We need to realize all of this in our hearts in the West."
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:57 pm

Really makes you appreciate "Geshe" Michael Roach even more, doesn't it?
Note that, in the higher tantras, there is talk of a self and an I, even though in the lower teachings the absence of self and the absence of I is what is always proclaimed. - Tony Duff
To educate the educated is notoriously difficult. - Jacques Barzun
སརྦ་དྷརྨ་དྷཱ་ཏུ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Sep 20, 2013 7:58 pm

Not sure how to take that comment LOL,or which of the little blurbs to connect it to. :namaste:
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby dzogchungpa » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:02 pm

JKhedrup wrote:Not sure how to take that comment LOL,or which of the little blurbs to connect it to. :namaste:

It is sarcasm. :smile:
Note that, in the higher tantras, there is talk of a self and an I, even though in the lower teachings the absence of self and the absence of I is what is always proclaimed. - Tony Duff
To educate the educated is notoriously difficult. - Jacques Barzun
སརྦ་དྷརྨ་དྷཱ་ཏུ་ཨཱཏྨ་ཀོ་྅ཧཾ༔
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Fri Sep 20, 2013 8:11 pm

Slow on the uptake today, my bad :tongue:
Too bad Sera doesn't offer courses on Karmic Management
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2324
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:26 pm

Some more comments-LZR talking about HH Dalai Lama's increased emphasis on meditation:

I heard from a geshe in Taichung [Taiwan] that after the last big Mind and Life Institute conference that was held in Drepung Monastery [in India] this year, His Holiness met with all the abbots and emphasized that the monks must meditate. His Holiness said that when the monks gather for prayers and debate they should do 15 minutes of silent meditation on the lam-rim. This is the first time there has been such an announcement since leaving Tibet. The main emphasis of these monasteries is to ensure the deepest, most extensive study of Buddhist philosophy, but even the monasteries are being asked that the monks meditate.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2324
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Sep 23, 2013 5:30 pm

And how to actualize this:

So, I am planning to put together this group of people to meditate and gain realizations and this is what is needed for the FPMT organization to develop for the benefit of sentient beings. It is a very, very, very important project because the extensive study of philosophy is something that is done not only in the FPMT, but also in other organizations; however, meditating and actualizing the lam-rim in retreat, that is something else. We really need the lam-rim realizations in the heart. It’s not easy to attain shiné, even for those who completely dedicate their lives to this. There are so many problems, like lung disease and sickness. Not everyone who tries to achieve shiné can do so; it requires a lot of merit to attain the fully characterized shiné. If one person achieves shiné, then all the other realizations – renunciation, bodhichitta, the direct perception [of emptiness], as well as the tantric realizations – will easily be achieved. Therefore even if there are one or two people who succeed, that will help a lot in this world. It will help in the West and in the East, because they will be able to achieve enlightenment for sentient beings and also they will be able to teach from their experience to the students and to the public. That is my wish.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby Malcolm » Mon Sep 23, 2013 6:43 pm

My partner began by asking whether calm abiding was necessary for the attainment of bodhichitta, to which I responded it was.


This is not correct, because if it was, Shakyamuni could not have first aroused bodhicitta in the hell realms.

M
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Sep 23, 2013 7:49 pm

You are on the ball Malcolm... I think it is a very reasonable qualm so I asked Geshe SN what he thought of it while bringing his evening drink.

Geshe la said the Rikchung candidate was correct, in asserting calm abiding/shinay was necessary for the attainment of bodhicitta.

How then, does one explain Lord Shakyamuni's arousing of bodhicitta in the hell realms?

Geshe la certainly a new attainment of Shinay would not be possible in the hell realms, especially when one looks at the texts and the various conditions that are required for Shinay. However, the shinay had been achieved to some degree in a previous life. Just as the imprints for bodhicitta were there, which allowed it to be arisen from hell from witnessing the suffering there, a level of calm abiding had been attained in a previous life. This attainment does not necessarily carry over from rebirth to rebirth, but in this case it did.

So, Shakyamuni was able to bring forth the Shinay necessary to arise bodhicitta despite the difficult conditions of the hell realm.

Would love to explore this further but further input from Geshe la would have to wait until breakfast (European time).
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2324
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Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby Malcolm » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:10 pm

JKhedrup wrote:You are on the ball Malcolm... I think it is a very reasonable qualm so I asked Geshe SN what he thought of it while bringing his evening drink.

Geshe la said the Rikchung candidate was correct, in asserting calm abiding/shinay was necessary for the attainment of bodhicitta.

How then, does one explain Lord Shakyamuni's arousing of bodhicitta in the hell realms?

Geshe la certainly a new attainment of Shinay would not be possible in the hell realms, especially when one looks at the texts and the various conditions that are required for Shinay. However, the shinay had been achieved to some degree in a previous life. Just as the imprints for bodhicitta were there, which allowed it to be arisen from hell from witnessing the suffering there, a level of calm abiding had been attained in a previous life. This attainment does not necessarily carry over from rebirth to rebirth, but in this case it did.

So, Shakyamuni was able to bring forth the Shinay necessary to arise bodhicitta despite the difficult conditions of the hell realm.

Would love to explore this further but further input from Geshe la would have to wait until breakfast (European time).


I think your Geshes answer is speculative at best. It amounts to saying that anyone who had attained rebirth in a deva realm has the sufficient causes for arousing bodhicitta.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Sep 23, 2013 8:14 pm

No I don't think so, because the imprints of both the Shinay and bodhicitta must be present, this is clear from the answer. And the imprints for bodhicitta are more difficult to cultivate, many practitioners of different paths attain different levels of calm abiding, bodhicitta is far rarer.

I have heard mentioned by Geshe la and several other masters that BSM was able to arouse Bodhictta in the hell realm only because of extensive cultivation of love, compassion and so forth in previous lifetimes. The arousing of bodhictta in hell is extremely rare, most beings give rise to it in the human realm. I would think the imprints for Shinay are far more common, since many beings have at some point been born in the Devas realms that require its cultivation.

Since BSM arising of BC required both these imprints (compassion etc. as well as Shinay), I don't think you can draw that conclusion from what Geshe la said. Because in these deva realms most beings are not cultivating BC. It is clear that both are required, one isn't enough, as G. indicated in his answer:

Just as the imprints for bodhicitta were there, which allowed it to be arisen from hell from witnessing the suffering there, a level of calm abiding had been attained in a previous life.
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby Malcolm » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:00 pm

JKhedrup wrote:No I don't think so, because the imprints of both the Shinay and bodhicitta must be present, this is clear from the answer. And the imprints for bodhicitta are more difficult to cultivate, many practitioners of different paths attain different levels of calm abiding, bodhicitta is far rarer.

I have heard mentioned by Geshe la and several other masters that BSM was able to arouse Bodhictta in the hell realm only because of extensive cultivation of love, compassion and so forth in previous lifetimes. The arousing of bodhictta in hell is extremely rare, most beings give rise to it in the human realm. I would think the imprints for Shinay are far more common, since many beings have at some point been born in the Devas realms that require its cultivation.

Since BSM arising of BC required both these imprints (compassion etc. as well as Shinay), I don't think you can draw that conclusion from what Geshe la said. Because in these deva realms most beings are not cultivating BC. It is clear that both are required, one isn't enough, as G. indicated in his answer:

Just as the imprints for bodhicitta were there, which allowed it to be arisen from hell from witnessing the suffering there, a level of calm abiding had been attained in a previous life.


Even Rakshasas love their children, so I find their answer a bit hard to accept. But that is not what I am objecting too. I am objecting to the idea that śamatha is a necessary precondition to the arousal of bodhicitta. Now you are answering that imprints for both must be present. So you are shifting your answer.
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འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby JKhedrup » Mon Sep 23, 2013 9:03 pm

LOL Malcolm it wasn't my answer, it was the Rikchung's answer. I thought your point made sense, and so asked Geshe la out of curiosity, he replied with the original answer posted above, which I bolded again, making clear both were necessary in his opinion from the beginning.
In Geshe la's answer he mentions both these imprints from the beginning, so your statement about any being born in the deva realm having sufficient causes for arousing bodhicitta was a bit of a stretch. You cannot really reasonably draw that conclusion from what G. said, as he mentions both CA and BC in his answer. That's all I'm sayin'.

If the requirement of Shinay for the arising of Bodhicitta is something debatable, that would be something to explore. Perhaps there are different views across the traditions,
In order to ensure my mind never comes under the power of the self-cherishing attitude,
I must obtain control over my own mind.
Therefore, amongst all empowerments, the empowerment that gives me control over my mind is the best,
and I have received the most profound empowerment with this teaching.
-Atisha Dipamkara
brtsal ba'i bkhra drin
JKhedrup
 
Posts: 2324
Joined: Wed May 30, 2012 8:28 am
Location: the Netherlands and India

Re: Westerner who really makes it work at Sera

Postby Malcolm » Tue Sep 24, 2013 4:42 pm

JKhedrup wrote:LOL Malcolm it wasn't my answer, it was the Rikchung's answer. I thought your point made sense, and so asked Geshe la out of curiosity, he replied with the original answer posted above, which I bolded again, making clear both were necessary in his opinion from the beginning.
In Geshe la's answer he mentions both these imprints from the beginning, so your statement about any being born in the deva realm having sufficient causes for arousing bodhicitta was a bit of a stretch. You cannot really reasonably draw that conclusion from what G. said, as he mentions both CA and BC in his answer. That's all I'm sayin'.

If the requirement of Shinay for the arising of Bodhicitta is something debatable, that would be something to explore. Perhaps there are different views across the traditions,



I meant in the form realms, actually. The mind of any being in the form realm is concentrated to a degree extraordinary to a human being.

In any event, I think there is a problem of infinite regress in this argument in general. That is why I brought up the Buddha in hell point. This is traditionally where it is considered that Buddha first aroused bodhicitta. But of course it is a myth, and as such subject to interpretations.
http://www.bhaisajya.net
http://www.bhaisajya.guru
http://atikosha.org
འ༔ ཨ༔ ཧ༔ ཤ༔ ས༔ མ༔

Though there are infinite liberating gateways of Dharma,
there are none not included in the dimension of the knowledge of the Great Perfection.

-- Buddha Samantabhadri
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