Persevere in listening to Master Jih-Chang’s Discourse

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Teacher’s greatest hope –  each and every student would earnestly resolve to listen, contemplate and cultivate the teachings of Lamrim continuously!

In one cycle of life and death, a practitioner would particularly pay attention to: when my mind faces a situation, would the right views arise clearly? Would it be able to defeat my habitual afflictions? If so, how much time would be required to defeat them? What is the frequency (of afflictions arising)? If they manifest again, would they still be so forceful? Or have they weakened?

A diligent person cultivating on the path to liberation would be particularly concerned on – how did I progress in taming my afflictions?  Have I learned the Lamrim well? Has my faith in the Teacher and the Three Jewels increased steadily? Has the upholding of the precepts become more purified?

As a Lamrim learner, these are the essential points that we need to take note. Should we hope to attain the human life of leisure and opportunity and receive the teachings to attain Buddhahood, these are the fundamentals. When we think of Master’s assiduous instructions each time, we must pay attention to the teachings in the Lamrim concerning listening, contemplation and cultivation. We must not give up on learning Lamrim. If we do so, we really would not know the right directions in life. Therefore, everyone must repeatedly and continuously practice, since establishing the right views in our mind and reversing our habitual afflictions from beginningless time would not happen overnight.

Teacher cited this paragraph from Lamrim to expound the importance of learning Lamrim: “C. The greatness of enabling one easily to find the Conqueror’s intent – The classic texts – the scriptures along with their commentaries – are the supreme instructions. Yet, even if beginners – persons without extensive training – delve into them, they will not discover their intended meaning without depending on the personal instructions of an excellent being. (English Lamrim Chenmo Volume 1 Pg 53) As we are not accustomed to cultivating, we have not cultivated the habit to learn The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment. This is our present state of mind. Teacher explained that as this is our present state of mind and if we do not rely on the Lamrim, a supreme teaching, then even if we were to learn other great sutras and great commentaries, it would be very difficult for us to understand the intended meanings, “Even if they find the intended meanings their search will require a very long time and a great deal of effort.”

When Teacher was expounding this paragraph, she raised a question, “In fact, by just looking at this phrase alone, “a great deal of effort”, let us consider how many would be willing to invest a great deal of time, mind and energy to contemplate on the intended meaning of just one phrase in the sutras and commentaries and make “a great deal of effort”? Willing to make “a great deal of effort”? Majority would be like this – unable to understand and just let it pass. We failed to understand it ten years ago and even twenty years later. We just let it passed.

Are we not like this most of the time? If we could not even make a great deal of effort in the sutras and commentaries, then we would not be able to understand their intended meanings. Since this would be so and without a Teacher’s instructions as well, we would definitely not be able to understand them. Thus, Teacher told us that if no environment exists and without relying on a Teacher, few would be able to cross over! Laziness, numerous obstacles and suffering of illnesses and so forth would be sufficient to ruin one’s wish to cultivate the path.

“However, if they depend on the personal instructions of a guru, they will easily come to know the intended meaning.” (English Lamrim Chenmo Volume 1 Pg 53) Teacher explained that she had previously asked Master Jih-Chang about this phrase “easily come to know”. What was the basis of contrast to make it become “easily”? Of course, this is in contrast with not relying on the “personal instructions of a guru”. When you rely on the guru, it then becomes easily. Master expounded that these two words “easily” and “difficult” could take immeasurable eons [to understand]! This would mean going through extreme suffering, extreme suffering for immeasurable eons. Even then, this kind of instruction could still likely not be understood.  Time is wasted by having the countless wrong views and understandings, thus enduring all kinds of sufferings and paying a heavy price.

So the word “easily” does not mean “a few minutes” or “a few years”.  Once we start learning without gaining the essence of practice, practise blindly, or conceive all sorts of very strange concepts, which is not having a pure lineage of right view, yet continue practising or ill-advising others, not sure how much non-virtuous karma will be created from that! Further, due to this non-virtuous karma, we will need to pay a great price [suffering] for it!

If we do not earnestly check and compare ourselves with what is mentioned in the sutras and commentaries, will this become a bad habit?  Once the bad habits are formed, will you further transmit and tell others? If you use this to tell others, without knowing how to breakthrough yourself, others will not know how to do it too. At the end, a blind person leads a group of blind persons. Will this karma come back to you? It will surely tie you down relentlessly!

However, as we rely on The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, following the goal as per the teachings of the excellent teacher, a pure goal, then comparatively, it is so much easier for us. That is why it says “easily”!

In spite of this, due to our lower wisdom level, we are not able to gain the intended meaning without the light of wisdom by the sages shining on us. Even if we listen to Lamrim, we may have difficulty understanding it. Therefore, we must listen, study Master Jih-Chang’s discourses on the Lamrim in his 160 tape recordings to comprehend it clearly. If we can regularly listen to the Lamrim teachings, follow and practise in accordance to the pure stages of the path, Master Jih-Chang will be most pleased about it. Master Tsong-Kha-Pa will also be very pleased about it!

Thus, Teacher hoped that, “really hope that we could persevere to attend the Lamrim classes, persevere to listen to Master Jih-Chang’s tape recordings!  This is how we shall repay the kindness of Je Rinpoche (Master Tsong-Kha-Pa), who has written The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenmentand also not let down his hopes on us. The best way is to listen word by word, learn word by word, hold it in our heart and mind, and cherish it like a great treasure.  Also transmit these treasured thoughts to others. I feel this is the most extraordinary and wonderful thing that you all have done! Therefore, you must persevere to listen and continue to learn.  If we are able to continuously and persevere unremittingly to learn, contemplate and practise The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, we will gradually gain experience in cultivating our minds.”

Teacher understood our situation very well! She advised us not to conclude with the thought, “I know, that is to listen & learn the Lamrim well.”  If the concepts mentioned at the beginning were not understood clearly, when you tame your afflictions in real life or encounter difficulties in your learning, you would have no idea of the relationship between listening and learning word by word. It would not even strike you to use Lamrim to resolve the problems.  Therefore, from this discourse, hopefully everyone can earnestly listen and contemplate.

Translation & review by: Chong Lee Hiang, Lim Pui Yar, Chiang Sheau Huey