On this day of Lhabab Duchen I would like to make an exhortation. Considering that karmic effects are multiplied on this day may we all be cautious about our speech. Due to this exhortation being in essence a request to study the works of Lama Tsongkhapa and follow his advice, my hope is that it will be non-controversial. My hope is this thread is something we can agree on.
I consider myself a non-sectarian practitioner, and have had the true joy of the company of lamas who see that the full expression of Buddha's teachings in Tibet, in all four traditions, are merely skilful means of expressing the final intent of the Conqueror of the Afflictions, Shakyamuni Buddha. The teachings of the Oral Transmission lineage of the Karmapas in particular have moved my heart and fortunately my teachers have always given me the freedom to connect with that.
However, the heritage of the majority of my masters is of the Gelug line. I do feel a responsibility to do justice to that heritage, as many of my masters have shown me time and patience, especially Geshe SN, who has treated me as one of his family. I am also only beginning to understand the profundity and richness of this heritage, due to the kindness of my teachers in pressing me to read and think about the teachings contained within it.
My proposal is that all of us who claim the spiritual heritage of Lama Tzongkhapa and his two sons should read their works directly. This should not be controversial. We should understand that Lama Tzongkhapa is not merely a deity to be relied upon. While the various liturgies and supplications that call upon him carry the blessings of our lineage, it is not enough to merely worship him. We must follow his advice- which is to rely on the wisdom of discernment as developed through hearing, contemplation and meditation to discern for ourselves the final intent of the Buddha, the view of emptiness as expressed in the Perfection of Wisdom Sutras and the works of the great trailblazers such as the Conqueror Nagarjuna and the Glorious Chandrakirti.
My advice is to read Lama Tzongkhapa's books as a first step to really being able to appreciate his unique presentation. No matter how wonderful our teachers are, no matter how profound the commentaries of later masters may be, as Gelugpas it is our duty to try to the best of our ability to understand Tsongkhapa in his own words. I am not the most intelligent person around- my attention span is short, but I do my very best to read Lama Tzongkhapa's works. His volumes on the topics of Sutra and Tantra are vast, but the essence of his intent is expressed in the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment or Lam Rim Chenmo. This text is available in the English and Chinese languages. The English translation is excellent- the product of a committee of translators, which pads the translation against the contamination of the eight worldly concerns through the effort and patience required to work together as friends.
On the basis of having studied the Lam Rim Chenmo, one will understand that Lama Tsongkhapa's profound wish for all his students was to study the great texts of the ancient Indian Nalanda scholars- especially the works of Nagarjuna and Chandrakirti. So this is our task. Monumental. The works are vast and the average geshe takes up to twenty years to study them- and even then that is not a guarantee of understanding. Like perhaps some of you I am only capable of so much- but I promise today on Lhabab Duchen to do my very best to follow the advice of Lama Tzongkhapa.
Lama Tzongkhapa made the approach to the great texts easier for us through his commentaries. So they should be our assist along with the instructions of our teacher especially regarding developing a wisdom that comprehends dependent arising and emptiness. The foundational practices for developing this wisdom are the collection of merit and purification of negativities and obscurations. So our study must definitely be combined with a practice that integrates these two.
But please, be brave like Lama Tzongkhapa and have the courage to really question and discern what is true for yourselves. It is hard work, but wisdom can only be developed through deep research and deep questioning. Remember that doubt can be a virtuous quality when it acts as an assist to developing an understanding of the view for ourselves.
I pray that all of us have the time and produce the joyful effort necessary to read, evaluate and contemplate the teachings of Lama Tzongkhapa in his own words. I pray that we all have the courage to approach the texts LTK recommends and exhorts us to read in the Lam Rim- the works of the great Nalanda masters. Then, on the basis of the guidance of our teachers and the blessings of the deities, may we develop the wisdom necessary to understand the meaning of those words and integrate them into our practice.
Please everyone, read the works of the Lama Tzongkhapa and the great Nalanda pandits. On the basis of this understanding, and a practice that combines the teachings of sutra and tantra, may we all achieve the state of enlightenment as quickly as possible.
A foolish man proclaims his qualifications,
A wise man keeps them secret within.
A straw floats on the surface of water,
But a precious gem placed upon it sinks to the depths