Persevere in following our Master to learn the Lamrim
Lunar 25 October is the birth and passing of Master Tsong-kha-Pa’s. On this day, Monastery organised the Refuge cum Light Offerings festival. For those Lamrim students who attended the 2012 Refuge cum Light Offerings festival, their greatest joy was being able to receive the blessings from Monastery successor, Teacher, when she gave a discourse on “Persevere in following our Master to learn the Lamrim”! Teacher said that Master Jih Chang’s greatest wish was that every Lamrim student in Monastery will continually make the resolution to seriously persevere in listening, contemplating and practising the Lamrim!
Teacher pointed out that a practitioner will during his lifetime pay particular attention to this – when facing a challenging situation, are the right views in my mind evident? (Am I) Able to overcome afflictions? If yes, how long does it take to overcome? How often did the afflictions arise? When the afflictions arose again, are they as intense as before? Or has it weakened?
For those who strive diligently to achieve liberation, they are very mindful how they have been managing their afflictions. Have they been learning the Lamrim well? Have their faith towards their Teachers and the Triple Gems been increasing? Are their practices getting purified through maintaining the vows that they have taken and upheld?
These words by Teacher are what we, Lamrim students, should pay utmost attention to. These are the foundations for those who wish for a life of leisure and opportunities and to be able to receive the teachings towards Enlightenment. Teacher reminded us that whenever we think of Master Jih-Chang’s earnest instructions, we need to focus on listening, contemplating, practicing the Lamrim, and must not stray away from learning the Lamrim. Otherwise, we will lose our direction in life. Therefore all of us must continuously and repeatedly learn the Lamrim. In order for us to establish the rights views in our hearts and to overcome habitual afflictions, it will take tremendous amount of time and effort which cannot be achieved overnight.
Teacher extracted from the Lamrim text (English Lamrim Chenmo Volume 1 Pg 53), “C. the greatness of enabling one easily to find the Conqueror’s intent”, and followed by – to emphasize the importance of learning the Lamrim. Teacher noted that currently we have not reached the stage where we can apply the teachings habitually and consistently. Given our current situations, if we do not rely on the supreme Lamrim teachings to help us to practise, and we anxiously proceed to practise other sutras at this stage, we will face difficulty in comprehending the true intent of these sutras – “Even if they find the intended meaning, their search will require a very long time and a great deal of effort.”.
When explaining this phrase, Teacher brought up a question on, when looking at these words – “a great deal of effort”, contemplating it, how many people are willing to spend long time and tremendous effort over the years to contemplate on a single line in the sutras? And willing to make a great deal of effort? Most people will simply put aside what they do not understand and move on. Therefore, whatever they did not comprehend 10 years ago will remain uncomprehend til 20 years later.
Are we like that most of the time? If we are unwilling to put in tremendous effort and time in understanding the sutras, it will be impossible for us to understand the true intent of the teachings. The intent of the sutras is not easy to understand, without the guidance from the excellent teacher, one would not be able to learn and benefit from the sutras. Hence, Teacher reminded us that without a proper learning environment and relying on an excellent teacher, very few people can walk along the path towards Enlightenment! Laziness, the many obstacles, illnesses and sufferings etc, are sufficient to destroy our desires to learn and practise the teachings.
“However, if they depend on the personal instructions of a guru, they will easily come to know the intended meaning. These instructions of the 《Lamp for the Path to Enlightenment》 will readily bestow certain knowledge of the key points of the Buddha’s word and the treatises.”( English Lamrim Chenmo Volume 1 Pg 53) Relating to this part, Teacher explained, previously when Master Jih-Chang was asked about ‘will easily come to know the intended meaning’, what is it compared with that it becomes ‘easily’?
Of course, it is to compare with not depending on the personal instructions of a guru. After depending on the guru’s instructions, it becomes easily achievable. Master Jih-Chang also mentioned that the time frame between ‘easily’ and ‘difficult’ can be measured in terms of limitless eons! These eons can be enduring of extremely great sufferings and still not necessarily gain the understanding of the instructions. Time is wasted by having the wrong views, thus enduring all kinds of sufferings and paying a heavy price.
Therefore this word, ‘easily’, is not in terms of ‘a few minutes’ or ‘a few years’. Once we did not grasp the key points in our learnings and practice blindly, having learned all the strange views – which is having no pure lineage to guide us, and just continuously practice, even conveying incoherent views to others, we will be creating a lot of bad karma! Also, we will have to pay a high price for creating such bad karma!
Without understanding and validating with the sutras seriously, will it cultivate into a bad habit? With this bad habit, will you be sharing (your views) with others? If you do this, not only will you not achieve breakthrough, others will also not know how to achieve any breakthrough. In the end, the blind leading all the blinds. Will this karma return to oneself? There will be no escape road then!
However, Teacher said that it is precisely that we rely on the ‘Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, rely on the Excellent Teachers’ instructions that are based on religious directives, pure religious directives that one should compare with. This is what ‘easily’ refers to!
Despite this, Teacher mentioned that due to our wisdom that has not gained sufficient foundation yet, if we do not have the light of wisdom from a wise excellent teacher to guide us, we will not be able to understand the teachings. Even if we were to listen to the Lamrim, we will encounter difficulty understanding it. Therefore, we must listen and learn from Master Jih-Chang’s 160 tapes of discourse on the Lamrim in order to achieve the understandings. If we can frequently listen to the Lamrim instructions, follow the pure teachings stages by stages, this will delight Master Jih-Chang and Master Tsong-Kha-Pa!
Therefore Teacher hoped that we can persist and come for Lamrim classes, persist to listen to Master Jih-Chang’s tapes! This is to repay Je Rinpoche’s (Master Tsong-Kha-Pa) kindness, for giving us the Lamrim and his wishes for us. The best method is to learn word by word, listen word by word, and hold it preciously in our hearts. We hold it in the highest esteem and spread to others. I feel this is where everyone of you is most excellent and terrific! Therefore, persist to listen and learn. Through the years, untiring perseverance to listen to the ‘Stages of the Path to Enlightenment’, we will slowly gain the experience in practicing our mind.
Teacher knew our situation very clearly, so it is suggested that we should not just listen for the conclusion and think, ”I know, just listen to the Lamrim well”. If we did not listen to understand the initial instructions clearly, we would not know how to handle when problems arise or when we face difficulties in learning, and the connection between listening word by word and learning word by word, we will not use Lamrim to solve our problems. Therefore, with this discourse, hope everyone can seriously listen and contemplate.
Translated and reviewed by: Loke Mun Yee, Wang Xiuli, Dawn Chen