Saturday, April 06, 2013
In a not too distant pass, well- really less than 45 minutes ago this Saturday, me and the others clapped our hands, stomped our feet, laughed, ridiculed, and pointed fingers at each other at the Main Temple. This now being the end of our fifth week of class-phew!!!, The first week of class felt like a month, and we have already just finished our first topic also. The weather at this time is just as awesome as weather gets around here; one day last week when we had that week off of debate while I was studying on my balcony I witnessed sunbow after sunbow all day long, from sunrise to sunset. It was just a day that only thin feather-like cirrus clouds floated high in the sky above and when the sunlight poked them it made a perfect roygbiv around it. Next to that, my favorite is the butterfly invasion, which is just a constant stream of small yellow and white butterflies flying up the mountain.
These days HHDL is in ‘da house’ so we see the constant flow of people who had received audience with him leave his residence with their necks bedecked with white Tibetan scarves and big ecstatic smiles on their faces as we debate. During night debates I at times think to myself ‘Wow, the sound that just emitted from my clapping hands can be heard by HHDL’. Ah! Such a childish thought really since with all of us clapping, stomping and yelling at the same time the cacophony just become background noise.
Being back in class is always a bit of a shock especially after vacation and one spent for the most part here, beside three super duper awesome weeks in Norway, in the winter. I sat on my ass for the most part, all sense of motivation totally evaporated from my system. It got quite dismissal for me especially towards the end of February when it was the most desolate and the weather was going straight up buck wild. I recalled my mild and amusing shock as I woke up one morning to see the town covered in snow and going to bed with most if not all of it melted.
As the date for the beginning of class approached I slow welcomed back my classmates, many whom had spent their vacations in some really high, really cold places such as, Ladakh, Spiti and Mon-Tawang which are as far as I know still snowed in. One of them had to take a helicopter to reach his village by the Indo-Tibetan Border. Everyone though looked refreshed and healthy from smacking on all that home cooked grub and receiving all that family lovin’.
When class started we had one very significant change and that was a new teacher. The school secretary had told me that our previous teacher Gen Tenzin Gyurmey a.k.a Gen Druptop was over worked by teaching two perfection of wisdom classes. Gen Druptop is the kind of guy who definitely prepares before class and his intellect as far as reasoning goes is superb. I could imagine that teaching one perfection of wisdom class will be enough but two is a heavy load for sure. And so they found us another teacher who’s teaching style to closer to our first teacher at Sarah College Gen Lodoe a.k.a Morphesus. He more than likely doesn’t prepare for class, he is filled with clever and cute anecdotes and has a roaring laugh as he schools us in debate in class. His name is Gen Thupten Kunkhyen but he is better known as Gen Tsa Gyakpa for reasons that are unknown to me. He is a bit of a chubby dude so I can see why there is the gyakpa (fat) part but the tsa part is still a mystery to me. He used to teach Collected Topics (བསྡུས་གྲྭ), intro to debate logic, to Upper TCV students, actually I wonder if he still does or not. His brother, who I think attended I.B.D., is the English Translator for the HHDL when he teaches here. Last year he would come to our afternoon debates to do some schoolin’ and he substitute taught us for one class when Gen Druptop went M.I.A. The word is that he has memorized mass corpuses of texts and that they are all fresh in his mind. One thing I can say for sure is that the dude can talk, our class time which is supposed to be an hour and a half long tend to go on for two hours. I have no doubt that homeslice could teach all day without any fatigue if given half the chance.
We have also changed teachers for our Wednesday cutting doubts (དོགས་གཅོད།) class, a class that helps us to generate debate out of our topics, Gen Alak Khenpo who I think is a classmate of Gen Druptop, teaches at Kirti Monastery up the road. His style of teaching is very similar to Gen Druptop with superb and ultrafast reasoning abilities and a badass memory. Though, based on his accent, I assume he is from the Amdo region of Tibet he speak very clear albeit lightning fast. In fact, now that I think about Geshema Kelsang Wangmo, who has been kind enough to answer my question over the phone, has this quality as well. She is also classmates with Gen Alak Khenpo and Gen Druptob, hmmmmm!
Although since this is technically our third year of the perfection of wisdom course, it is this year that we really get to study it. The first two years one get bits and pieces of it scattered about but this year we go in the study of the Mahayana path hardcore. The topic for this year is called The Arousal of Mind of Enlightenment (སེམས་བསྐྱེད།). Even though we will spend the majority of our time studying The Instructions or Advice for Gaining Enlightenment (གདམས་ངག), the course is named after the first topic studied.
So where does this all come from? Well, we get our order of topics to study based on the outline of the main Indian Buddhist text that we study, The Ornament of Manifest Realization (མངོན་རྟོགས་རྒྱན།) by the future Buddha Lord Maitreya. This a text takes all the topics found in the perfection of wisdom sutra literature which is quite vast and condenses them into 70 topics (དོན་བདུན་ཅུ) which is condensed into eight manifest realizations (མངོན་རྟོགས་བརྒྱད།). For each one of these manifestations one chapter is dedicated to it thus making the text eight chapters long. The first manifestation is the omniscient mind (རྣམ་མཁྱེན།), or the mind that a Buddha Superior (སངས་རྒྱས་འཕགས་པ) is said to possess. An omniscient mind is said to be “an ultimate exalted consciousness that realizes directly ten phenomenon, the arousal of the mind of enlightenment etcetera, (སེམས་བསྐྱེད་སོགས་ཆོས་བཅུ་མངོན་སུམ་དུ་རྟོགས་པ་མཐར་ཐུག་པའི་ཡེ་ཤེས།)” which is the definition of an omniscient mind. Of the ten phenomenon, the arousal of the mind of enlightenment is the first and the Ornament of Manifest Realization discusses the ten phenomenon in turn starting with the arousal.
What the Ornament actually states about the arousal is really brief, three four line stanzas in fact and so we have other many texts (which are stacked like a mountain next to my computer) that elucidates on these three stanzas. What the teacher lectures from is Panchen Sonam Drakpa’s “The General Meaning of the Perfection of Wisdom” (ཕར་ཕྱིན་སྤྱི་དོན།). The Ornament must be memorized of course and the important points from the General Meaning must be learn by heart. The other texts though they are extremely important are taught in class sometimes for they are mainly to be read on our own time if there is any. I find for myself that The Ornament and The General Meaning alone fill up all of my study time.
The arousal of the mind of enlightenment is extreme important to the practitioner of both the Mahayana and Vajrayana paths, for without it one is technically not on the path to enlightenment. The arousal is known as the door through which one engages the great vehicle path (ཐེག་ཆེན་ལམ་གྱི་འཇུག་སྒོ) which is explicitly stated in its definition.
As we got deeper in the study of this topic debates arouse thanks to the texts which guides us; does a Buddha Superior possess this mind or not? Or does he/she possess great compassion? If one is a Bodhisattva does that being necessarily possess the arousal of the mind of enlightenment? What are the criterion that is needed for the aspiration of the arousal of the mind of enlightenment (བྱང་ཆུབ་ཏུ་སྨོན་པའི་སེམས།) and the engagement of the arousal of the mind of enlightenment (བྱང་ཆུབ་ཏུ་འཇུག་པའི་སེམས།) which are the two main divisions of the arousal, for there are many different opinions stated in various texts. And there is even more to cover, our teacher said that all year could be spent easily on this topic but we have more than ten topics to study before exams roll around again. I just wanted to provide a brief snidbit into what I have been thinking about as far as class goes without boring you and without writing a lot like a sometimes tend to do.
I always think about this blog and I am glad that I have been able to keep it going for this long though my regularity in keeping it updated has been compounded by the amount of school work. Last year was just really bad in that respect and I hope I can be better this time around but of course that is yet to be seen. I hope that this find everyone around the world in happy spirits. Much Love.
P.S. If you are interested or curious about studying the Perfection of Wisdom, I.B.D. graduate Geshema Kalsang Wangmo la teaches it in English at I.B.D. two months in the spring and fall, mp3’s of her lectures and PDF class handouts can be downloaded from the classes’ blog http://ibd-buddhist.blogspot.in/. Class for this spring is to start this Monday April 8th.