The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

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JKhedrup
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The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

Post by JKhedrup » Wed Jul 02, 2014 8:32 am

My teachers have always pushed me to learn more, to think outside the box, and to investigate divergent views. Indeed, it seems that this is what Lama Tzongkhapa himself did so this would seem to be the approach Gelugpas should emulate. I understand in the early days of Western Buddhism little was translated in terms of texts but now we have such a plethora of materials available.

At the very least, people should read Tsongkhapa in his own words, and in the words of his two direct disciples, Gyaltsabje and Khedrubje. Later commentaries are suitable introductions and supplements, but a Gelugpa not reading Tsongkhapa is like a Vaishnava not reading the Bhagavad Gita or Shia and Sunni Muslims not reading their respective hadiths. Knowledge is power, and everyone who wishes to follow Tsongkhapa's tradition deserves nothing less than reading him in his own words and emulating the approach he advises in his works.

This statement from Zilkar Rinpoche sums up what I believe to be the truest way of honouring Lama Tzongkhapa through our study and practice: Following LTK's advice, and with courage, approaching the Indian treatises ourselves to form our own opinions, rather than taking someone else's word for it:

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If one wants to study “the Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment”(Lam Rim Chenmo) in depth, one needs to supplement one’s practice with the study of the five major treatises examining the subjects written in the Great Treatise. Why is this necessary?

The first reason is that, while “The Great Treatise on the Stages of the Path to Enlightenment” authored by Je Tsongkapa is a set of conclusions based on his own experiences and realizations, he did not really elaborate on the reasons and the details that support his conclusions. Thus, we will need to learn the rationale and logic behind the conclusions during the course of our study. If we focus only on the conclusions found in the text, the conclusions will always be Je Tsongkapa’s conclusions, and not our conclusions. Therefore, we must learn what it is that supports these conclusions.

Secondly, what are covered in the great treatise are essential, concise teachings, comments, and instructions. Many philosophical theories were not explained explicitly and completely, and thus need to be supplemented by the study of the five treaties.

For example, the section of “Taking Refuge to the Three Jewels” dealing with persons of lower capacity of the Great Treatise must be supplemented with the explanations in the “Uttaratantra” and in “The Ornament for the Mahayana Sutras”. The theories of karma and its effect in the Great Treatise are sourced mainly from the Abhidharmakosha-shastra, so if we only study the Great Treatise, we may not have a solid understanding of the subject. In addition, the subject of karma and its effect in the Abhidharmakosha-shastra is presented from a particular Tenet’s point of view that incorporates the capacity of the learner to comprehend it. If we do not understand this, we will not be able to comprehend the explanation of karma and its effect in the Abhidharmakosha-shastra as well.

Furthermore, in the section of the Great Treatise dealing with persons of medium capacity where the Four Noble truths are taught, the subject such as the sixteen aspects of the Four Noble Truths frequently quoted in various scriptures are not explained in detail. In addition, the Truth of the Cessation and the Truth of the Path were not explained. Therefore, supplemental study has to be undertaken.

Again, in “The Ornament of Clear Realization,” the section dealing with the Bodhicitta for persons of great capacity, twenty-one different kinds of Bodhicitta and the ways of cultivating them are mentioned, but none of these points are covered in the Great Treatise. The Calm Abiding (Samatha) section should also be supplemented with the “Sravaka Level” and the “Bodhisattva Level” contained in the “Compendium of Determinations”. We should refer to the viewpoints found in the Abhidharmakosha-shastra, the “Sravaka Level,” the “Bodhisattva Level,” and the “Compendium of Knowledge”, when studying the mental afflictions, which is the Truth of Cause in the Four Noble Truths.

In summary, the essence of Buddha’s teaching is embodied in the three volumes of the Perfection Wisdom Sutra. Because the Perfection Wisdom Sutra is immensely vast, deep, and difficult to fathom, we need to study “Four Tenets “, “Entering to the Middle Way”, “Fundamental Verses on the Middle Way”, and the “Special Insight” section of the “Great Treatise”, in order to understand the profound view of emptiness directly and explicitly presented in the Perfection Wisdom Sutra. In order for us to understand the extensive deeds or the method side of the teaching, which is indirectly and implicitly presented in the Perfection Wisdom Sutra, we need to study the “Grounds and Paths”, “The Eight Categories and Their Seventy Topics” and “The Ornament of Clear Realization”.

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Konchog1
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Re: The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

Post by Konchog1 » Wed Jul 02, 2014 9:24 pm

JKhedrup wrote:My teachers have always pushed me to learn more, to think outside the box, and to investigate divergent views. Indeed, it seems that this is what Lama Tzongkhapa himself did so this would seem to be the approach Gelugpas should emulate.
I think it's important for people to be aware that rime seems to come in three forms: 1. Understanding and respecting different schools and keeping them separate. (Jamyang Khyentse Chokyi Lodro) 2. Combining different schools and teachings together around a framework. (Je Rinpoche) and 3. Creating a Dharma soup that gives no benefit.
Equanimity is the ground. Love is the moisture. Compassion is the seed. Bodhicitta is the result.

-Paraphrase of Khensur Rinpoche Lobsang Tsephel citing the Guhyasamaja Tantra

"All memories and thoughts are the union of emptiness and knowing, the Mind.
Without attachment, self-liberating, like a snake in a knot.
Through the qualities of meditating in that way,
Mental obscurations are purified and the dharmakaya is attained."

-Ra Lotsawa, All-pervading Melodious Drumbeats

JKhedrup
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Re: The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

Post by JKhedrup » Thu Jul 03, 2014 7:27 am

The Rime approach is the one I advocate, but actually what I wrote above is a bit of a different issue.

It is more tied to Lama Tzongkhapa's approach which emphasizes investigation of the great Indian texts by the students themselves, rather than just relying on the interpretations of later teachers and their lamas. However, these days in many cases it does not seem that this approach is honoured in the Gelug tradition. Instead, we have in some cases Guru-ism, relying only on later commentaries or on compendiums of modern oral teachings. Tsongkhapa in Lam Rim Chenmo makes it clear this is not the approach he advocates:

Lam Rim Chenmo page 50 (Snow Lion):
There are tose who conclude that any classic text should be considered only an explanatory teaching, therefore lacking the key points for practice. They hold that there are separate personal instructions that teach the core meanings that are the heart of practice. They then imagine that there are two separate forms of the excellent teaching- a teaching that is explained to you and a teaching that you practice.. Know that this attitude precludes the development of great respect for the stainless sutras and tantras as well as the flawless treatises that comment on their intent...
Lama Tsongkhapa then goes on to explain that beginners need to rely on a teacher to help them uncover the meaning of the great treatises as they are difficult to penetrate. But he never advocates leaving them aside, he always exhorts his students to consult the Classic texts. This reveals deep humility as LTK always tells people to read the classics in his writings rather than promoting his own commentaries, which are extremely extensive. This is a very telling approach.

zerwe
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Re: The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

Post by zerwe » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:02 am

Khedrup,
Could you recommend a text that presents a good over view of the Ground and Paths at the sutra level?
I am studying Jetsun Choekyi Gyaltsen's Presentation of Tenets and have found that this is
an area where I have a bit of a gap in my knowledge.
Shaun :anjali:

Bakmoon
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Re: The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

Post by Bakmoon » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:42 am

JKhedrup wrote:At the very least, people should read Tsongkhapa in his own words, and in the words of his two direct disciples, Gyaltsabje and Khedrubje. Later commentaries are suitable introductions and supplements, but a Gelugpa not reading Tsongkhapa is like a Vaishnava not reading the Bhagavad Gita or Shia and Sunni Muslims not reading their respective hadiths. Knowledge is power, and everyone who wishes to follow Tsongkhapa's tradition deserves nothing less than reading him in his own words and emulating the approach he advises in his works.
It seems a terrible shame that more people don't study Tsongkhapa's works now that some of them are in translation. I have a copy of Je Tsongkhapa's Ocean of Reason commentary on the Mulamadhyamakakarika and I find it mind-blowing just how much information he is able to draw out of the text, and just how clear it is. Most other commentaries I read go through the arguments so quickly it goes in one ear and out the other for me, but Je Tsongkhapa explains everything in such detail it is much easier to digest. My only regret is that his commentary on the Madhyamakavatara hasn't been translated yet.

Urgyen Dorje
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Re: The true Gelug approach: developing our own conclusions

Post by Urgyen Dorje » Fri Aug 07, 2015 3:47 pm

His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressed us at the International Conference on Tibetan Buddhism at Emory. At the time he said something very similar to this. He encouraged us to not rely on yigcha, monastic textbooks, but to rely on Tibetan source materials and the Indian source materials before them. Precisely for all these reasons. To understand the intention of the Tibetan masters and the Indian panditas before them.

"This statement from Zilkar Rinpoche sums up what I believe to be the truest way of honouring Lama Tzongkhapa through our study and practice: Following LTK's advice, and with courage, approaching the Indian treatises ourselves to form our own opinions, rather than taking someone else's word for it"

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