The Three Vows
Within the Nyingma tradition, the best known and most influential work of this genre is the Ascertainment of the Three Vows, composed by Ngari Panchen Pema Wangyal (mnga’ ris paN chen pad+ma dbang rgyal)]; 1487-1543) and its commentary by Lochen Dharmashri (lo chen dharma shri; 1654-1717).
Transcribed by Tenzin Namdrol
This is my last talk and I would like to do a kind of review about where we have come.
It seemed that everything we looked at through these 6 talks was seeped with motivation/intention and I would like to come back to that over and over again. It is a very important theme of this particular talk as well;
Usually, of course, we don’t know that. Usually, we have this experience of suffering that pervades our life, a sense of unsatisfactoriness, of restlessness, of anxiety and a sense that there is something wrong, but we are so caught up in a kind of speedy approach to our life, a blaming approach, we feel victimized, we feel there is something coming at us from the outside world.
“If my family, friends and circumstances…” I just got off the phone talking to my father and mother about funeral arrangements for my aunt who is slowly dying and if this could just work out, everything would be fine.
We constantly look for external circumstances to change so that our lives will be more peaceful and happy, but the incredible, subtle, extremely grounded wisdom of the Buddha is that it will never change from the outside.
Circumstances outside of us are not going to make our life better.
We forget, we hear it intellectually, we see it over and over again and somehow we miss it, we ignore it, we say “oh! yes,” I know that and then we move on.
The territory we have traversed through these talks is really looking at what it means to work with our minds.
We project out that harm, from a momentary explosion in our mind, into storylines, into things that we say and do.
When we do that, we have started with something small and we have made it bigger and have guaranteed that kleshas will arise again, because once kleshas are acted on with the three gates of body speech and mind, results will be created that will confirm our kleshas and tell us we are right to have that klesha.
“I am right to be angry, because the world is out to get me”. “I am right to be competitive because everybody is competing with me,” “I am right to be passionate because all of those beautiful, desirable objects are there and I want them and really need them”, etc., etc.
When the Buddha asked us to work with our minds, he asked us to look very deeply at this pattern that we have established of klesha arising because of causes and conditions from the past, because of circumstances we have developed from past kleshas and karma. Kleshas arise, they are easy there, comfortable there, addictive and we act on them and we create our world of suffering.
Everything is subject to change and if we understand that we have created this particular scenario of samsara for ourselves, we have the possibility of abandoning those habitual patterns and experiencing our world differently.
If we could begin, wholeheartedly and without a sense of religiosity, renounce those habitual patterns we will begin to experience, at least moments of freedom and extend that freedom in more extended periods.
This kind of freedom allows us the ground of growing our motivation.
When we begin to grow our renunciation, we are growing it from a mere reaction against, trying to avoid situations that are difficult in our lives and just find another cozy corner of samsara to curl up in.
This takes us to the topic of the three vows.
The nature of the bodhisattva vow (and it is a lovely translation!) “The nature of the bodhisattva vow is in mind moist with love and compassion that wishes to attain full enlightenment for others”. That’s the first part.
We begin, actually, to notice that there are others in the world besides ourselves. There are others and they are kleshaholics as well and going through the same difficulties we are.
We begin to discover that suffering is boundaryless and so it is natural to begin to understand the interdependence of all beings based on their fundamental nature of emptiness and the way in which our experience of suffering is tied with the suffering of others.
This gives us a very strong sense of urgency about beginning to take on more than what we thought of as our individual unshared karma. We begin to see our part in the shared karma of the pain of the world and this gives us some kind of ground to practice the bodhisattva vow.
I know these are teachings you have studied a lot here at Gampo Abbey and you have little signs around to summarize your training this way. This is the Mahayana training of joining the vow of Pratimoksha on whatever level you are practicing it and the vow of the bodhisattva.
That is, to make sure that our conduct of body, speech and mind is in accord with the bodhisattva vow. Under this presentation there are very detailed root downfalls, from the point of view of the tradition of Nagarjuna.
Many of these categories are quite familiar to us, from the Pratimoksha, from the precepts, but there is a slightly different flavor about these root downfalls and auxiliary downfalls, branch downfalls.
In the tradition of both Asanga and Nagarjuna, Dudjom Rinpoche says that all of various downfalls and root and branch downfalls of both traditions can be summed up in one simple downfall, which is wonderful.
This is the most challenging to practice but it is the core one that fulfills all of the others. It is very interesting to think about what it means to never give up on anyone.
I think about it as a lay person, as a wife and mother and family person, that it is very natural to love one’s close family members, natural to love my children, my husband, my parents, my aunt, my siblings.
It is very easy for us to love those who are dear to us, yet when we show the bias of loving those who are dear to us and not loving others, this is an issue in our life and one of the things that is a constant practice for me is to take the people who I find the most difficult to love, or people I would just ignore, and recognize that there is no reason to have a bias against them as less dear to me than those in my close family.
To realize that in any kind of report of a crime and those who are the criminals, who have committed incredible violence toward others, that they are dear to someone and it is very important that they be dear to me.
Very important not to have the bias of preferring certain loved ones and ignoring everybody else, otherwise we are just like everyone.
There is no more beautiful text, in all of Buddhism that I have encountered about working with our kleshas intimately and urgently, than the Bodhicharyavatara, because it is really saying that we have removed ourselves from care for others by self preoccupation and klesha holism.
So, gathering virtue is not just a Hinayana understanding of gathering virtue, it is gathering virtue all the more urgently and tirelessly as bodhisattvas practicing the Six Paramitas and important to understand it as a Mahayana discipline.
1. Generosity is meeting the needs of others. 2. Discipline is abstaining from all harm and that is a virtue which benefits others. 3. Patience disengages from conflict, which is a virtue that benefits others 4. Joyous exertion is taking great joy in our practice for the virtue of benefiting others 5. Meditation is single mindedly directing all of our practice toward virtue for the benefit of others 6. Prajna is possessing unmistaken wisdom again for the benefit of others
In each one we are more and more clearly developing our aspiration for the benefit of others, developing virtue, developing wholesomeness, developing a klesha-free existence for the benefit of others.
Think of wholesomeness or virtue as breaking the addiction to the kleshas, that is the core understanding through all the teachings that I am giving. It is the core understanding in Mipham Rinpoche; it is the core understanding in Pema Wangyal and also in Dudjom Rinpoche.
The third one, benefiting others, we would, maybe, normally think that this is practicing the Six Paramitas, but for Panchen Pema Wangyal or for Dudjom Rinpoche, this one is going further and this is associated with what I call the Four Means of Gathering.
These four, which are usually associated with developing skilful means on the seventh bhumi, I believe, are associated with: first, the generosity of bringing together those who are difficult to take, that is, magnetizing people to the Dharma.
1. So, first, the generosity of bringing together those who are hard to tame, perhaps a bit unruly.
2. Second, once you have attracted and magnetized them in some way, teaching the Dharma skillfully, accurately, engagingly, in a way that they can connect with, appropriate to where they are, what they need and helping them to connect personally with the Dharma.
3. Third, to lead them and inspire them to practice. That means, not only do you feel really good in your own practice, really awake in your own practice, but become a really skillful meditation instructor to inspire them, to help them connect very personally with practice.
4. Fourth, perfectly practicing what you are teaching, in case you have forgotten. These are the categories associated with benefiting others, so just to review these three, especially because you have them all over Gampo Abbey.
1. Not causing harm is never giving up in any sentient being
These three are considered the core practices, the core vows fulfilling the vows of the Bodhisattva and as we can see there is nothing in them that could possibly conflict with the Hinayana vow, the vow of the Pratimoksha.
Can we have any questions about this? I think I am going to pause and check in if you have questions about practicing the bodhisattva vow.
Morgan: Did Trungpa Rinpoche say “I never give up on anybody” or did he give instruction to his students?
JS-B: He said, “I never give up on anybody”, but he also asked us not to give up on anybody. He personally often said, “I never give up on anybody”.
Before I got involved in Buddhism I was quite politically active and found a big turn around to try and hold in my heart people who were otherwise demonized and seen as bad people. Public figures can take that sort of projection quite frequently.
JS-B: I can’t even imagine what it would be like to be those public people and how much hatred and projections they receive, how much they need loving kindness practice from us. And how much loving kindness practice for them could help and support them to be wholesome themselves, hopefully. That’s a very good point
Obviously, in our tradition things have become much more standardized over the centuries where people do not receive the bodhisattva vow before receiving the refuge vow disciplines as they are presented by the teacher.
There’s an interesting difference of opinion on this. I find it interesting that Nagarjuna, the great master of emptiness, understood that, sometimes, it is the bodhisattva vow that grabs you and then, one wants to practice the precepts.
Sometimes we learn about it in terms of something which is to be transcended. It is not clear to what extent it is even applicable to our practice here, if that makes sense.
We love stories, but they are more like rumors. (Laughter) The great master Asanga was such a profound teacher and had such profound understanding, I can’t imagine that he would denigrate the Hinayana, I can’t imagine.
I know the various stories you are talking about, I have read them, I have told them, but I don’t give them a lot of credence, beyond a kind of mythology that entertains us, gives us a kind of context at times but, I know that it is said that Asanga converted Vasubandu, but Asanga was a great yogin, very deeply realized being, as was Vasubandu, who was a little more of a nerd.
Jampa: Then, the second part of my question, to try to be clearer about it, is: Sometimes it is confusing that we say, “Never denigrate the Hinayana” and in the same breath we say, “but it is not enough”.
JS-B: I know, that is exactly right and when I get into the part of my talk when we talk about the three vows, this is what we are constantly working with, these various points of view about the three vows and about whether they are the same, different or whatever.
I think there is some finessing that needs to be acknowledged.
This text is one, but there are others as well and I will talk about that in a moment.
Even though I am covering this briefly, I think especially for those of you who Vajrayana practitioners, it is extremely important to study the relationship between the three vows and how the Vajrayana vow goes with the Mahayana and the Hinayana vows.
It is very easy for us to fall into a conceptual approach and, just because we read something, or because we think it, to think that it is true. Our samaya vows require that we have some kind of genuine authenticity in our experience of the Dharma,
Without that, we are just pretending completely, there is no authenticity in what we are practicing and what we are doing.
It requires a level of intimacy with our experience in order for the Vajrayana vow to be kept and it means that the samaya vow is extremely difficult to keep because the violations are constant, we are constantly discursive, we are constantly straying from the true nature, constantly ahead of or behind ourselves and not on the dot of our experience.
This is a very demanding vow. It is said that it is the easiest to break and most important to renew regularly and we can renew it, constantly, through our devotion. It is why devotion is so important in the Vajrayana.
The way Dudjom Rinpoche expresses it is that we must be constantly acting, speaking and thinking from the experience of the inseparability of bliss and emptiness in everything that we say, think and do so that we are coming from the experience of the inseparability of bliss and emptiness.
But they are very precise about the levels of killing.
These are very interesting to study and that would be a whole series of talks in and of themselves.
In “Perfect Conduct” it is very beautifully laid out and described.
I am sure there are commentaries on these 25 uncommon activities.
Of course, the samaya for the five buddha families associated with the mandala, there are samayas associated with each point in the mandala and the skillful activities associated with each and the fourteen root downfalls.
The samaya vow is relating of course to behavior and to speech, but especially to one’s mind, one’s intention and the ways in which one strays from sacred outlook by having any moment of doubt in the teacher, any moment of question of relationship with the yidam, any moment of question about the protectors, any way of denigrating any sentient being.
There are root downfalls making sure that women are not denigrated, for example.
The way one takes care of one’s practice materials; all of the ways in which one guards one’s samaya through attitudes.
They are vows relating very much to our fundamental motivations, especially with regard with rejecting anything.
That the problem with kleshas is not the kleshas themselves, but the ego clinging at the heart of kleshas, that concept that they are “mine”, so there is a very precise sense that we do not throw out anything.
The fundamental disciplines of the Vajrayana, Dudjom Rinpoche and Panchen Pema Wangyal talk about this, is that primarily through what is called a creation stage or generation stage practice and completion stage practice.
We are creating a samsaric visualization every day of our life and we are doing the samsaric practice of perpetuating suffering through the visualization of ourselves as victims and through external circumstances as the oppressor, or whatever version we have.
We are used to doing this, we have been doing this from beginningless time, we wake up in the morning and we arise as “me”, we walk through the world as a samsaric deity (Laughter) full of problems created by other people in our mandala.
What we find through our samaya vows is that we are asked to use our habitual patterns of arising as “poor old me who is having another day of problems” and generate an enlightened form given to us by our lineage, full of power and blessing.
We are asked to see ourselves as hollow and as unsubstantial as a creation, which is shockingly easy on some kind of level and shockingly difficult on another, because we want so much to grasp to ourselves.
We find that it perfectly fits our luge groove of creating ourselves as samsaric beings and we use that same habitual pattern with a completely different form that has been blessed and is constantly being filled with blessings from our guru and from the lineage
and we begin to discover that our habitual patterns of kunjung of klesha and kunjung of karma begin to be transformed in our duty of the practice. It takes time, it is why we have to do these practices and stay with them.
When we think about the vows of the Pratimoksha, specifically the monastic vows, I am not speaking of the Pratimoksha generally—as Dudjom Rinpoche does, I am here speaking specifically about the monastic vows.
Are they successive? (lower to higher)
When we try to practice all three, does one nullify the other? If the Vajrayana samaya vow is a superior vow and it contains the others, then, why do we take three? Do we need to drop out the lower vows and if so, why are we taking three vows at all, why not just go for the Vajrayana vow.
How are these three vows to be understood?
There are varieties of these kinds of questions and they sound theoretical, but they also come up in people’s actual practice of the vows. Panchen Pema Wangyal deals with this in a very Nyingma way and Dudjom Rinpoche supports him in that, so I would like to summarize some of the issues involved and how Dudjom Rinpoche answers them.
There are lots of other things that Jigme Lingpa writes about that I am not going to comment on.
That needs to be respected and each has different kinds of commitments. How do we actually understand this?
It is also important to understand that e
ach vow, having its own integrity and infractions of the vow, needs to be repaired in distinct ways for each of the three vows. This is why it is an issue and you can see that this could go on and on.
In the Nyingma school, it is said that each of these three vows had the same purpose and serve as antidote to the same thing so that there is a kind of basic view that all three vows are antidotes to the poison of the kleshas and that they fulfill the purpose of freeing the mind.
It is used in many, many different places, I have seen different versions of it, he is very clear, saying it is a poison plant.
A Vajrayana practitioner takes the poison of the plant and makes it more potent, almost like a serum, like culturing it and making it more intense. Then it becomes very useful in a different way than ordinary medicine.
Dudjom Rinpoche, Panchen Pema Wangyal, Jigme Lingpa are all very concerned to acknowledge the separate traditions and separate aspects of the vows, but say that when a person is following all three vows, with each successive level, one’s motivation becomes deeper,
Jigme Lingpa, however, has some concerns with this. He said it is very important not to see the vows as a kind of ladder with a lower one, a middle one and a higher one, each one destroying the integrity of the lower.
They are to be respected as separate traditions and separate streams.
However, the motivation with which one practices each of the vows is the key element and the motivation of each informs the one above it without in any way making the streams into one stream. So, more and more profoundly, one understands the meaning of the other vows through practicing successive levels of vow.
He says, above all, that the practice of the Vajrayana samaya vow gives one such a sense of clarity about the true nature of mind that what seemed defiling and problematic before becomes not a problem at all.
It is simply not a problem at all and one of the things that Jigme Lingpa says is that it means that, when under certain circumstances where there is any chance of misunderstanding, you follow the finest level of vow without being hooked by a sense of pollution.
What I am reminded of, and he doesn’t use this quote here but it is the famous Dzogchen quote, that if we are to understand how to practice we descend from above with the view and ascend from below with the practice.
That is, descend from above with the sense of the completely pure nature of mind, the completely pure nature of phenomena, while practicing the absolute, finest, most compassionate, most precise understanding of virtue, ascending from below.
This seems to be the perfect way to join together respects for the streams of traditions while developing, honing and one’s inner motivation so that one is not bothered by any seeming contradiction between the practices of each of the three vows.
I think I will stop there and see what questions you have.
“Better not to talk three and just talk about one”, the truth is that the world comes in threes and twos and all these different views and since you still need to deal with the relative truth of differences, keep developing the mind and not the bias against one or the other…
When you have three, there is this wonderful opportunity, because of the three different views all of which are complementary, this is a wonderful opportunity to go beyond bias altogether.
If you are just stuck with one tradition or the other, you have your biases.
But what I find is that then people have their Vajrayana bias and look down at the others, and that is what you are saying, it gets communicated, “We honor this, but … really the others are better” sort of.
It is really hard to come up with a way to teach so that it undermines bias.
Many people would love to just teach the absolute truth, because that doesn’t have any bias in it, but it doesn’t do you much good when you are faced with your ordinary life, filled with relative challenges where you completely close down around this issue.
For me, in teaching this or hearing teachings on this, what always resonates is, if you could develop any bias about the three vows you are undercutting the Buddhist teachings. Somehow you have to find a way to work with it as a liberating thing rather than something that further imprisons you, but that is so difficult, you know.
The Vidyadhara was such a Rime person, had this approach of being concerned especially about the practice traditions that might be lost and within that concern, wanted to preserve and respect each one on its own.
If you look at Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye and Patrul Rinpoche or Mipham Rinpoche, what they did was to voluminously collect and preserve, with their own integrity, all of these lineages of practices and hold them in their own integrity in this kind of very big view of respect, without trying to make them all one.
This is so hard for us. I am very involved with the inter-religious dialogue and we always want to make things the same in order to be comfortable.
I watch my own mind in dialog situations and want to say: Oh, that’s just like our this… rather than hearing that it is what it is and just appreciating and responding without trying to make one thing.
Ani Pema: In the early discussions of this place with the Vidyadhara, something that would be interesting to see if it ever happens, he presented this image of a central building and around it were all these other buildings.
He had the same view for Naropa, he wanted us to have a yogi school, again preserving practices that were going to be lost otherwise and he felt we would be kept awake by contact with people different from us, wanting either to lay things out in hierarchies, where we know that one thing is lower and the other thing is higher, or making it all the same…
Yeshe Norbu: Thinking about what Rachel asked you, you said that you have a personal opinion how the three can be practiced simultaneously.
Could you say something about what you thought.
I am thinking about it as someone who will be taking samaya vows soon and really having to establish what my relationship to all three levels of vows is, how I should be studying them and on what level and how to relate that back to my practice.
The level of attention to detail, the level of lack of aggression and being present with situations were absolutely remarkable. In his presence, there was a kind of cleanness that spoke wholesomeness; decency, he used to call it.
The kind of way he was in the world in a very precise, not kleshaholic, completely present, available to his immediate world and then not giving up on anybody. His way of practicing the Mahayana was exquisite, his qualities as a vajramaster were immeasurable.
My personal inspiration, I realized conceptually or in all these texts, there is a lot that you can go through, but for me it all comes together when I think of my teacher and recall the way he was in the world and the way he, in a very short life, put a great deal of very generous, tireless energy in the creation of places like this.
It really all comes together for me in that way.
Ani Pema and I had some conversations with him about Vinaya and the sense of how much he wanted Gampo Abbey to be the real thing and more pure in certain ways than things had become in Tibet; definitely avoiding legalism, always staying with this sense of gentleness, that precision, as well. That was my experience with him, the absolutely perfect joining of the three levels of the damsung.
Jampa: I just wanted to say something more about what I started saying earlier.
First, I wanted to thank you for the explanation because it really clarified a lot of things for me about the three vows and also made me realize a mistake that I think I have been making for a long time in thinking about their relationship.
JS-B: It’s lovely! Yes!
Jampa: … except that if you apply that to the Three Vows, like I think I am always doing, one problem is that, if you don’t feel like you are standing on the rug, then having the rug pulled out is not going to do anything (Laughter)
The second problem is, if you know that the rug is going to be pulled out, what idiot is going to stand on it? (Laughter)
With Rachel asking about dealing with the foundation in the Hinayana first, if we already know it is going to get pulled out from under us, why study it in the first place?
JS-B: I think that the other point is that, what I said about the Vajrayana, about how important it is to have a intimate personal experience of every teaching you study is so very important and how easy it is to get ahead of ourselves conceptually with studying the text that may not be the things we experience in our practice.
The constant challenge of joining study and practice together is that you are constantly developing your understanding of both, in your practice and in your study. Your study brings you questions that are fabulous for you to take to your practice.
In your practice you develop questions that you take back to your study, in that kind of back and forth quality so that it becomes intimate, personal and you have confidence that you actually know the Dharma in your bones.
Without the Hinayana, we don’t know anything in our bones, I am so sorry…. It just is not going to be true. Hinayana is what gives us that kind of knowing-in-our-bones certainty, because suffering is the ground of our experience in the way we come in.
JS-B: And then it is not Vajrayana
Dawa Chotso: Right, and then you start saying, what’s the point, why do that practice?
As my understanding of it grows, what it means to keep the discipline of body and speech and how that supports the discipline of mind. For me the answer is just the experience, which is what you are clarifying.
Lama Kunga: My name is Kunga, I am an addict addicted to klesha meltdown, especially if it contains chocolate and I am a nerd (Laughter). I absolutely loved the Nyingma teaching on the nine yanas and because of that, the Nyingma is really my secret, beloved school.
But isn’t there a sort of a bias built into that because one reads that and then one says with all one’s Western intelligence, well would you want to practice this lower stuff… go for Dzogchen! Isn’t that something that is really obtained in our Western culture?
JS-B: There are lots of things one can say in answer to that, but my fundamental understanding is that we could be on any particular path and any particular situation, practicing Dzogchen with the very finest of Dzogchen teachers and going on long retreats, but without the proper motivation, nothing is going to happen. Motivation is the most important thing for us to be looking at.
There is no guarantee on any practice that we do, or any teacher that we are with, whatever lifestyle we are in, whether it is monastic or lay, or a three-year retreat, whatever, if we do not have some kind of developed motivation and really look at our motivation, grow our motivation, expand our motivation….it is all artificial.
I think it is, in some way, very simple.
In some ways, that is depressing, because it means we really have to look at that and develop that.
We don’t even hear it any more, it is incredibly simple and it is up to us.
This is why we need teachers because they help us acknowledge our motivations and self deception about our motivation, it comes down to that. I am sorry to be simple minded about it, but….that’s my understanding.
We have a lot to carry away from here about the Three Vows and we will never be through really examining.
I am very grateful for the rug analogy and I think it is the pure beings who stand on the lower rug and the scruffy bodhisattvas on the middle rug and I will leave you with the thought that it is probably the nerds on the upper rug (Laughter)….
JS-B: … and they need to be brought down by the rugs being pulled, speaking from one nerd to another.
Gelek: When the talk started about what Jampa was mentioning, the thing that sprung immediately to my mind was when we watched Trungpa Rinpoche talking about the tantric path, the first talk that he gave.
After sitting there for ten minutes waiting for him to talk, he finally says: Who’s practicing tantra?
Then he went on in this big spiel about how, if you haven’t understood the basic teachings of the Hinayana, you are just kind of playing some weird funny movie.
Also, with the motivation, which seems pretty obvious that it is what we have been focusing on, but practicing the Hinayana bears certain fruits in terms of actually taming your mind in a real general way.
I watched this video with some monk talking to His Holiness the Dalai Lama saying he had this big aspiration when he decided to become a monk he wanted to learn about Madhyamika and master the Vajrayana meditation and he said actually none of that ever did anything, he wasn’t able to get that, but by just keeping his vows he saw his life completely transformed and changed in a way that he could not
How can you do any of these higher practices without understanding the most basic thing about how to sit shamatha, or whatever practice that is actually simple; but how many people have passed the third stage of shamatha?
Not me….and I spend hours doing it. Thought I would share that….
Ani Tsultrim: One of the things Ani Pema talks a lot on her tapes is honesty. You spoke about motivation, but I think that there is another aspect, which is about being honest about one’s own ability.
So, that example shows the need to get something that I can actually achieve, like some basic vows.
It’s a lot of yacking on my part, but I just wanted to share that.
JS-B: I think that honesty point is so important and really does help if we have a teacher or meditation instructor or someone to work with us. I remember when I first met the Vidyadhara, I was in this big question of why we even need a teacher.
This was in 1974 and I had been a Zen practitioner for three years, my teacher had died, did I really need another teacher? Rinpoche’s response was, we do need a teacher because we are so hard on ourselves.
So, honesty can sometimes be very harsh unless we have a teacher we are working with. The kindness of a teacher isn’t always necessarily nice, but it may provide a counterbalance to our underestimation of what we can do.
Sevgi: I want to comment on what Gelek said, that if we cannot tame our mind everything else is a joke. I kind of feel that way, because it will take me a few lifetimes before I can actually tame my mind.
They seem like tools to me, we need all the tools that we can use in order to tame our mind, because if we don’t have the aspect of emptiness from the Mahayana we will be stuck in the Hinayana and trying to…
Gelek: Don’t denigrate it …(Laughter)
Sevgi: …Can you please comment on that?
JS-B: I think you raise a very important point and it is also true that once we get some flavor of how extensive and painful suffering is for others, we may have greater motivation to tame our minds than we had before.
It is very important to understand that it is often our bodhisattva vows that really mean that we roll up our sleeves and say, I am really going to do this.
It is very easy to become discouraged by samsara and to feel that it is impossible for us to awaken, but one of the powerful things about bodhicitta is that absolute bodhicitta gives us a sense that we can do it, that it is possible.
It is not so much a closed, hopeless system and we are always going to slide backwards because we begin to understand something about the true nature.
I am so glad Pema is publishing this book on Shantideva, because if people are going to have just one Dharma book that they are going to really study for years and keep close, that is the one, the most powerful, direct way to fire up our intention to overcome kleshaholism.
Ryumon: You mentioned some texts and you used a couple, but I am wondering if there are others that you are going to share with us.
This one is called “Treasure of Precious Qualities” by Jigme Lingpa and there is a middle section on the three vows that is lovely. The other two are, “Perfect Conduct” that I have been teaching from all the way through, it is an absolutely beautiful book, very to the point, it doesn’t have all the categories, it is very clear in its view and very Rime in its intent.
“Buddhist Ethics”, from Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye, from the Gampo Abbey library, is an amazing and very rich collection looking in depth at the issue of the spiritual teacher, so this is another one.
And much more richly footnoted, there is a lot in this text that is very useful.
So, four texts: “Treasury of Precious Qualities”, by Jigme Lingpa; “Buddhist Ethics”, by Jamgon Kongtrul Lodro Thaye; “Perfect Conduct”, Dudjom Rinpoche; and “Distinguishing the Three Vows”, Sakya Pandita.
There are lots of other places where the three vows are talked about, I am sure there are lots of texts that I don’t know, that I haven’t studied that also talk about this.
Ryumon: It also occurred to me, as I was hearing the presentation, that as a Westerner it is very difficult to hear three different things that can all be of equal value without categorizing them from better to worse.
JS-B: One of the things that Jigme Lingpa says is that these three vows are useful for beginners, people in the middle place on the path and advanced on the path, but they are not different in their value and their power.
That’s a lovely way to say it.
The vows themselves are complete, they have their traditions and their aspects, but it is in our motivation how we use and understand the vows that we may find them more useful at the beginning, then in the middle and then, when we are further along on the path.
Well, I think that probably wraps it up. What I am hoping is that this series will whet your appetite for more of these kinds of things.
some kind of confidence that comes from understanding that they are very specific things that we can do moment to moment to overcome the sense of suffering we experience in our life and that through renunciation,
through benefiting others and through sacred outlook we could actually transform our experience from this current experience of suffering that we have. And it has been my very great pleasure to be here. Thank you!