The Jewel Ornament of Liberation
Introduction to the teachings based on Gampopa's text "The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel of the True Dharma The Jewel Ornament of Liberation".
We now start with the actual teaching of the Dharma with the listening to the Dharma on our part. When we think of this, it is of great importance that we first remind ourselves of the fact that all the sentient beings which live within this universe have each and every one been our fathers and our mothers. They have been our parents, not one of them excluded. When we think of them, especially of the parents in our present life, then we see that all of these beings, who have been our parents “ our fathers and mothers, have shown us immeasurable kindness. When we further look at them, we see that their only wish is to experience happiness and that they try to bring about this happiness by all kinds of means.
Similarly, when we look at them again, we see that their other wish is to avoid suffering at any cost, and again they try to avoid such suffering by whatever means. But if we then again look at all of these beings who have been our parents throughout all of our lifetimes we see that the actions which they employ to bring about such happiness and to avoid such suffering are actually contrary to their aim. They do not know what the proper means are to bring about happiness, they do not know what the proper means are to avoid suffering, and in their endeavours to do so they only accumulate more causes for further suffering. If we look at all these beings who have been our parents in such a way, then we can give rise within ourselves to the thought that now we ourselves will endeavour to attain the liberation of suffering and to bring about the liberation from suffering for all these beings. If we practise and study accordingly, if we go about this practicing and studying of the Dharma with such a wish, then we practise according to the ideal of the Greater Vehicle, the Mahayana, and Rinpoche asks us to please give rise to such an attitude within ourselves.
Having come together now in order to learn and practice the Dharma, it is of great importance that we give rise to a certain attitude, to a certain motivation, within ourselves. We could easily just sit here and brush up our general knowledge by way of listening to the wise and profound words that the great Gampopa has spoken. We could think to ourselves: Surely Gampopa had a few very wise and deep things to say, and I have come here now and I will listen to them. But if we listen to these words that Gampopa has spoken with the proper motivation, which should be the motivation of the Greater Vehicle, the Mahayana, then this will be so much more effective. Just brushing up on our general knowledge will of course be beneficial, but if we sit here and listen to Dharma instructions with the motivation that not only benefit for ourselves may arise out of this, but much greater benefit for the sake of all beings, then this benefit will be so much deeper and so much more meaningful. Even the Buddha himself has a long time ago said that everything that appears and arises, everything that happens in the world, everything that we experience, comes about through the motivation or the attitude with which we go about our activities. Therefore, if we listen to such advice and take it to heart, it is clear that giving rise to the motivation that brings about the greatest benefit through listening to such Dharma teachings is so much more beneficial.
The actual Dharma teaching that Rinpoche will start out with today is a teaching by the Noble Gampopa, a text which is known under the title of "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation". It is a very famous text, a very profound text, which has been translated into several languages already, and it is quite well known. This is, one could say, the pinnacle of all the different teachings which Gampopa has given. Gampopa spent a long life giving all sorts of instructions and teachings, composing various texts, but The Jewel Ornament of Liberation, this text which in Tibetan is known as the Dakpo Targyen, is the most famous one. It contains his profound words explaining the Mahayana Path. It is a manual of how to go about with one's study and practice of the Path of Mahayana. And Gampopa himself, who is also known by the name Dakpo Rinpoche “ that is why the text is called Dakpo Targyen “ has said that in the future there may be a time when there are students who regret that they have not been able to meet me. If such students take this manual to hand, study it, employ the means which are explained in this manual, if they take them to heart and make them part of their own being, then this will be the same as if they have met me in person. So this book is extremely profound, and it is for those who do not only want to read and possibly think a little bit about Mahayana Dharma, but who have made the decision to make this Mahayana Path into a Path of their own, who want to take up such practice and also bring it into their daily lives. It is for those who do not just want to leave it with theoretical musings and so forth. So therefore, this text is of great importance. It is a so-called Gradual Path, a graded path. It explains not only the basic ideas of the Greater Vehicle of the Mahayana Path, but also how to employ these, how to bring these into one's everyday life and how to practice accordingly. Therefore, this text is extremely profound and precious, and one should know these points, one should know these things, before going about to study this text or to listen to teachings about it.
When we look at the title of the present text here, the full title of the text is: "The Wish-Fulfilling Jewel of the True Dharma“ The Jewel Ornament of Liberation". When we think about this title, we will find the key word in the title to be 'liberation'. Now we may think: What is this liberation about? What is meant by the term 'liberation' here? Whether or not we are a person who practices a certain religion, whether or not we are a person who follows a spiritual path, or whether or not we subscribe to a certain view, what we all share is the wish to experience happiness and to avoid suffering. Within this text, "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation", we find the means of how to bring suffering to an end and to achieve liberation. This book deals exclusively with such points. It deals with the bringing about of the end of suffering and the bringing about of happiness. It teaches us the means of how we can actually come to such a realization, how we can come to achieve such happiness. This is what is meant by the word 'liberation' in the title.
In order to further talk about this term 'liberation' which we find in the title of our text here, we have to know that the Buddha has taught different meanings of that term. According to whichever instruction or teaching he gave, according to whatever students he taught, the term 'liberation' takes on different meanings. If we take them all together we can say that there is the meaning of liberation according to the Greater Vehicle, the Mahayana, and then there is the meaning of the term liberation according to the Smaller Vehicle, or the Hinayana. If we were to practice or to study according to the Smaller Vehicle, we would start off by trying to understand the so-called 12 links of interdependent origination, and we would have to start off from the last of these and work backwards until we have understood the first. We start out with becoming conscious of these and thinking our way backwards through each and every one of them until we have finally understood them. And as we do so, the world as we presently perceive it will gradually dissolve - it will disappear because the way we perceive this world will change. So when we bring about the dissolution of this world as we presently perceive it, by way of going through the 12 links of interdependent origination, then we have attained liberation, we have attained freedom. This would be the aim of practicing according to the method of the Smaller Vehicle, the Hinayana. But the practice according to the Greater Vehicle, or Mahayana, does not leave it at that. It makes us strive for even more insight, for even more understanding. And the only insight and understanding which puts us into a position to really see and perceive everything that appears as it really is, is the knowledge or wisdom that comes about through the realization of complete liberation or complete Buddhahood. So the liberation that we strive for, which we are after when we practice according to the Mahayana, is this liberation of complete Buddhahood, this complete omniscience which comes into being when we have completely freed ourselves of all obscurations, of all veils, of everything that lets us see or perceive the world as we seem to think it is but as it actually not really is. So having rid ourselves of all of such veils, obscurations and defilements, having become completely, absolutely free of everything that obscures our perception of this world, we have then reached the complete omniscience, or the complete liberation, of Buddhahood. This is the kind of liberation that is meant when we talk about the liberation that is mentioned in the title of this text here.
Continuing in such a way, we employ the means and the insights which come about upon this path of the Greater Vehicle, and we strive to come to the point of gaining that greater insight, that greater liberation, which allows us not only to free ourselves, but to come to the complete awakening of a Buddha, or to the complete omniscience which is reached when we attain such Buddhahood. This is the meaning of 'freedom' according to our text here - 'freedom' or 'liberation'.
When we talk of freedom, this necessitates the presence of something that imprisons us, and we may wonder: What are we talking about here? We live in a free country, we have free will, we can do, eat, drink whatever we like. Now, this is not what we mean when we talk about freedom. What we mean by freedom or liberation is the becoming free of our perception of the world of phenomena and appearances as they seemingly are and becoming free of the habitual tendencies which we give rise to according to the way we perceive things. So if we now look at this world, if we look at that which we perceive, there seems to be a world, there seem to be all sorts of beings within this world, and right in the midst of all of this we find ourselves. We experience all kinds of sufferings, as do all of these other beings which seemingly exist. All of this comes about simply because we make a distinction between that which we perceive and the perceiver. We are caught up in this dualism of thinking that that which we perceive, and the one who does the perceiving, are different, are not one and the same. We are caught up within this idea, within this dualism, and this is exactly what gives rise to all sorts of ideas and actions and so forth which then bring about harmful ideas which let us experience all sorts of sufferings again, and these sufferings are exactly what we want to avoid because we want to experience happiness just like all other beings want to do. So when we speak of freedom or liberation here in the title of this text, Gampopa does not mean ultimate freedom or ultimate liberation. He means liberation in respect to our faulty perception. He means the liberation, or the becoming free, of the way in which we perceive phenomena and appearances, in which we perceive the world and everything around us. It means to become free, or to be liberated, of the faulty ideas and concepts and so forth which we attach to, that which we perceive, what seemingly appears and exists around us. This is the kind of freedom, or the kind of liberation, which is meant within the title of this text.
It is within such a context that we perform that which we might call 'Dharma practice'. When we practice the Dharma, we might do so with the understanding that Dharma practice is something that makes us feel better, something like a spiritual wellness camp or something like this, and this would be okay. But if we practice according to such a view, or with such an attitude, then rather quickly we will see that this practice of the Dharma actually becomes more of a burden than a blessing. We have all sorts of things to do within our daily lives all sorts of jobs and all sorts of actions to perform “ and if we practice the Dharma only with such a rather limited view, then it becomes only one more action that we have to perform, it becomes only one more thing that we have to think of, it becomes just one more thing that we have to do. And after a short while it will not be a blessing anymore, it will not make us feel better, it will not liberate us of anything, but just become one more thing on our daily agenda. It will actually imprison us even more. If, however, we come to bring about the basic understanding of what all of this Dharma is about, then things take on an altogether different shape. The first intention of any Dharma is to see that there is suffering in this world, among all of these beings, and that these beings want to be free of such suffering. Just as we want to experience happiness and bliss and just as we want to avoid suffering, all other beings“ not a single one excluded “ have that same intention. So first we have to see that this is indeed so. Having seen that this is so, we have to think about the means of how to bring about an end of such suffering. And when we have found such means, when we have discovered them, we have then to employ them until such suffering is actually really brought to an end. And if we make such a basic knowledge, such a basic understanding, our own, then all of this Dharma study, practice and so forth become that much more meaningful to us. And if we practice accordingly, if we practice on the basis of such an understanding, then our practice and study of the Dharma will become so much more joyful because we become more and more enthralled by it. The more we deal with Dharma, the more we practice and the more we study, the happier, the more joyful, we become to be given such a rare and precious opportunity to become free of suffering and to bring about lasting happiness. We become so happy and joyful about this that we want to tell just everybody. And of course our practice of the Dharma and our study also become so much more effective then. So when we talk about Dharma and freedom as we do here in the title of this text by Gampopa, "The Precious Jewel Ornament of Liberation", and so forth, it is this kind of Dharma, it is this kind of freedom, which is so much more profound, so much deeper, than anything that is just superficial, and it takes on an altogether different meaning if we think about these points and if we make such basic understanding our own.
When we look at the title of the text again, it is not just made up of the word 'liberation', but it is called "The Precious Ornament of Liberation", or "The Jewel Ornament of Liberation". The term 'liberation' has been explained. What does Gampopa now mean by 'Precious Ornament' or 'Jewel Ornament'? This text contains six main points, which explain what all of this liberation is about, and these six points (the cause, the condition, and so forth Rinpoche will explain them later on in detail) are the ornament, that which beautifies the liberation, which is the main point of the text. This is to be understood: Just as we ourselves put on ornaments, jewellery or whatever, there is that body of ours which is already there, but nevertheless, in order to beautify it, to make it more attractive, we put on ornaments jewellery and earrings, bracelets, etc. It would not be necessary, because that does not make our body more present, but we do so nevertheless. In the same way, these six points - by way of which Gampopa explains what all of this liberation is about, how it is brought about and so forth beautify or ornament the main point of liberation.
So this should be it for this morning. Rinpoche has just given us a quick overview of what is coming in the next couple of days. We've talked about the title of the text, and now we should have a fairly decent idea of what is ahead of us. That's it for now.
There are probably no questions now this morning. It will be much better to keep any questions till the end of the afternoon session. Since we still have some time left, we should rather use it for performing five minutes of shamata meditation, or 'peaceful resting'. This shamata, or "shine" meditation, as it is also known, is beneficial for everyone. Whether we have already gained great insight or whether we are beginners just about to start upon the Path, the meditation of shine or shamata, of peaceful resting, is always very beneficial. Why do we have to practice such peaceful resting? We should practice it because our actual problem, that which gives rise to all of our problems and sufferings, is that inner disquiet of which we suffer, that habit of ours to let our thoughts follow that which we perceive, to attach our inner thoughts to outer perceptions, which then makes us experience all kinds of things, which makes us do all kinds of things and which makes us even more disquiet. If we allow these thoughts, which habitually attach themselves to outer perceptions, to come to rest within ourselves, we will immediately feel, or we will immediately experience, the result of becoming quieter, of becoming more peaceful, of becoming more at ease or more restful. Therefore, it is very beneficial to practice this meditation of peaceful resting, of shine or shamata, as it is known, and Rinpoche suggests we do so now for about five minutes or so.