We just had the blessing to attend the teaching and advise given this morning as we celebrate saga Dawa, I am happy to take this opportunity to address you on this special day.

First, I wish to thank each of you for your steady concern to study and practice the precious Dharma and encourage you to pursue such noble activity and meaningful way of life.

His Holiness message is clear: As bodhisattvas, we need to practice the teachings of the Buddha: we are reminded to generate Bodhicitta. To achieve this, it is necessary for each and every one of us to acquire the realisation of Emptiness.

  • The crucial point to do this is: invite all Buddhas together with all sentient beings and take the time to feel that you are in their presence. Doing so, place yourself under the blessings of all Buddhas and Bodhisattvas by taking refuge. Do this while being aware of the interdependence with all sentient beings. This is the basis for the development of Bodhicitta.
  • This awareness will lead you to realizing Emptiness. This interdependence is an factual reality that you are addressing; however know that as long as we are under the power of conflicting emotions, we are far from perceiving it or realizing it. 
  • When you generate Bodhicitta, the next thing is that is can be destroyed easily by the ceaseless flow of your thoughts. This is what is called distraction: your mind is distracted at the first opportunity. The distraction of Bodhicitta entices the proliferation of "conflicting emotions". It is not that you do not have the mind of enlightenment, but you are getting constantly distracted from it.
  • This is a good point, as it means you can come back to Bodhicitta from simply abandoning distraction. Through regular training, you come to realise that it is not something you need to invent or create; nor is it an ideology that you need to adopt but it is your natural state; not even a simple idea that you need to push into your head: it isone of the primordial qualities of the nature of your mind. 

Unceasing compassion comes from clarity induced by emptiness. It does not come from conceptual thinking. 

  • We all look for happiness for ourselves; to the point that we became masters at it. If we realize interdependence through the practice of meditation, then we will spontaneously have compassion and our wish to achieve long lasting happiness transforms into a non-egocentric quest touching all beings. This is Ultimate Bodhicitta, which is a non-conceptual state of mind.
  • Another crucial point, His Holiness reminded us, is that, to realize Emptiness, we must study the Dharma; that is Teachings of the Buddha. His Holiness exemplified this by quoting several sacred texts by heart, inviting us to study these.

Without this type of approach, how can we practice? 

As mentioned by His Holiness, three main texts serve as the basis to study Bodhicitta:

1. The Bodhicaryavatāra by Shantideva. Shantideva was a Buddhist monk living at the monastic university of Nalanda in the 8th century. He was particularly educated on the philosophical principles of Nagarjuna on Madhyamaka. Rather unconventional, he was often absent from prayer sessions and debates, which earned him a poor reputation. As a result, he was once challenged to deliver a speech before the monastic assembly; it was then that he taught Bodhisattvacharyavatara.

The subject is Bodhicitta. Chapters after chapters, Shantideva elucidates the benefits of Bodhicitta, how to generate it, how to increase it by mastering the practice of paramitas.

These various levels of mastery are necessary for us to compensate for the fact that, once we have generated it, we are easily distracted from it. This happens when we pay so much attention to everything we see, hear, everything that is perceived by our sensory consciousnesses.

2. The Madhaymakavatara, written by Chandrakirti, is a commentary on the Middle Way, between nihilism and eternalism; between relative truth and ultimate truth, between solidifying or grasping and discarding or ignoring what we perceive. We must be aware of what is happening every moment in our daily life; we do not need to grasp at these perceptions, but we do not need to ignore them either.

This text, the Madhyamakavatara, is an essential text widely studied in Buddhist schools, both philosophical and meditative. The method presented by Chandrakirti for establishing the 'View' in this work is one of the most revered over the ages. It is important that any serious practitioner pays attention to the study of the View and how it should be established.

3. AbhiSamayaLamkara revealed by Maitreya to Asanga. This Mahayana Sutra is a basis to gain clear realization about relative and ultimate truths.

The text's full title is:

  • Sanskrit: Abhisamayālaṅkāranāmaprajñāpāramitopadeśaśāstra
  • Tibetan: ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་ཕ་རོལ་ཏུ་ཕྱིན་པའི་མན་ངགགི་བསྟན་བཅོས་མངོན་པར་རྟོགས་པའི་རྒྱན་ཅེས་བྱ་བ།

Which means:

  • abhisamaya- མངོན་པར་རྟོགས་པ།- "Realization"
  • alaṅkāra- རྒྱན།- "Ornament"
  • nāma- ཞེས་བྱ་བ།- "known as"
  • prajñāpāramitā- ཤེས་རབ་ཀྱི་ཕ་རོལ་ཏུ་ཕྱིན་བ།- Perfection of Wisdom
  • upadeśa- མན་ངག།- Pith Instruction;
  • śāstra- བསྟན་བཅོས།- Treatise.

Another pragmatic point His Holiness made is that, if there is at least one day to practice some insight into the mind of enlightenment, it is today, the day of Saga Dawa Celebration. Today indeed, while the merit is already extraordinary as it is the day we celebrate the occurrence of the birth, enlightenment and parinirvana of Lord Buddha Sakyamuni, but also, it is a day of solar eclipse and therefore, merit is again multiplied by 100.000. 

We should not speculate but know that as a fact: Today, whatever you will do has much importance. It is certainly a day, to be careful and mindful. For those who wish so, an excellent opportunity to take So-Jong Vows; it is the time to make efforts to refrain from non-vegetarian food, if we are not doing so daily already. 

Of course, if it is excellent to practice vegetarianism, if you don’t, you just miss a significant opportunity to do something good, that's all! One doesn’t need to develop a kind of self-inflicting state of mind. To indulge in negative thoughts is another negative karma that one should refrain to create: by all means, do not generate a negative state of mind.

About the prayers recited by His Holiness and his monks, which clearly address what was reminded above, you can find most of them or similar ones in the Kagyüd Monlam Book. Even if the versions recited by His Holiness belong to the Gelugpa tradition transmitted by Tsongkhapa, the meaning is the same.

So for example, you will find the "Recollection of the Three Jewel", the "Branch of invitation" (of Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, etc.); the "Seven Branch Prayer", the "Branch of Confession", the "Branch of Generating Bodhicitta", "Prayer for the Dharma to flourish" etc.

In addition, today it is good in your personal practices to evoke the Buddha Sakyamuni by praising him and reciting his mantra :| TADHYATHA OM MUNE MUNE MAHA MUNA-YE SVAHA ||

Regarding Bodhicitta, it is also excellent to recite the 37 Practices of a Bodhisattva composed by Gyalsray Thogmed. These are the quintessence of all the teachings on Bodhicitta or compassion & emptiness; an excellent guide for the attitudes to adopt in the different situations that arise in your daily life.

You need to know that when you achieve Buddhahood it is something universal, not just only in this planet. As it said, His Holiness Karmapa emanates in a billion universes. It is something we cannot conceive, as we are so far unenlightened and only understanding those concepts mentally, dualistically. We only incarnate on this planet because our conceptualisation is a very limited way to access reality that impeach us to imagine our potentials; we could be manifesting in a billion places simultaneously. This requires training based on the realisation of emptiness. 

Similarly, as we will be reciting the praise to the Twelve Deeds, that are addressing to all 1000 Buddhas, not only Buddha Shakyamuni, we talk of the manifestation on this earth, which is relative; from this view point, during this kalpa, the 1000 Buddhas are all enlightened in Bodhgaya, all start teaching in Varanasi, and so forth. 

To understand those concepts of space and time to be also relative and therefore limited, we must gain insight through meditation, not through thinking, which approach is not enough. Meditation will lead you to realise that each of these Buddhas is timeless and manifests in countless realms of existence.

To remind you today:

1. Feel in the presence of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas as much as you can, as if not, it means that you are being distracted, as the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas remain in space and they do not disappear when you lose this awareness.

2. In their presence, take Refuge and develop Bodhicitta, remembering that you are surrounded by all beings;

3. Do something to study the precious teachings of the Buddha, reciting in Tibetan the 37 practices is excellent; yet, contemplating the meaning of these words in your language is insightful and beneficial.

4. Then also practice Shinay meditation, the basis for realizing Emptiness. Practice breathing meditation and calm abiding. Take some time for that. 

Refrain from outdoor work, where you might kill some beings; when you walk, avoid as much as possible walk on the grass or gravel. 

At the end of the practice, it is good to recite Dorje Sempa mantra, applying the four powers of purification:

1) Laying aside, also called "confession"

2) If some wrongdoings come to your mind, have the humility to acknowledge it and regard it as wrongdoing. Do not engage in deceit or conceit; 

3) Commit not to engage again in such wrongdoing;

4) Apply the antidote: recite Dorje Sempa mantra, or even better, re-establish yourself in Bodhicitta. The most powerful antidote is to re-establish the ultimate purity of self (rang-tong) and phenomena (shän-tong).


by Lama Gelong Sangyay Tendzin | Saga Dawa 2020