A Guide to The Words of My Perfect Teacher

A Guide to The Words of My Perfect Teacher

by Ngawang Pelzang
     
 

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This
guide provides readers with essential background information for studying and
practicing with Patrul Rinpoche's
Words
of My Perfect Teacher—
the
text that has, for more than a century, served as the reliable sourcebook to
the spiritual practices common to all the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. By
offering

Overview

This
guide provides readers with essential background information for studying and
practicing with Patrul Rinpoche's
Words
of My Perfect Teacher—
the
text that has, for more than a century, served as the reliable sourcebook to
the spiritual practices common to all the major schools of Tibetan Buddhism. By
offering chapter-by-chapter commentary on this renowned work, Khenpo Pelzang
provides a fresh perspective on the role of the teacher; the stages of the
path; the view of the Three Jewels; Madhyamika, the basis of transcendent
wisdom; and much more.


Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780834824218
Publisher:
Shambhala Publications, Inc.
Publication date:
02/10/2012
Sold by:
Barnes & Noble
Format:
NOOK Book
Sales rank:
632,910
File size:
4 MB

Read an Excerpt

From
Introduction

HOMAGE
TO THE VENERABLE MASTER endowed with the great compassion free from concepts.


Collect all your thoughts


And listen with excellent motivation.


To a forgetful mind the blessings of Vajrasattva


And the other Buddhas of the three times will never come.

As this quotation from the Vajra Pinnacle tantra shows, whether we are listening to the holy Dharma, explaining it, or practicing it, we should first turn our thoughts inward and examine our own minds.

There are just three types of thoughts that one can have as a human being: negative thoughts related to attachment, aversion, or bewilderment; neutral thoughts;
and positive thoughts of faith, determination to be free, and bodhichitta. If you have a negative thought, you should feel ashamed of yourself and quash it as it arises. As the saying goes:


Clean the lamp while it is warm,


Hit the pig on the snout with a pestle.

In this manner, you should avoid negative thoughts, transform your neutral thoughts, and listen, teach, and practice with especially positive thoughts.
Otherwise, if you only modify your outward conduct in the things you do and say, you will be a hypocrite, for as we find in the Collection of Deliberate
Sayings:


It is not with the hair, neither is it with the staff.

The
Buddha said:


Bring your own mind under control.


That is the Buddha's teaching.

He did not say:


Change the appearance of your body and speech.


That is the Buddha's teaching.

This is why we read in the sutras:


When the mind is pure, the body will be pure;


But purifying the body will not purify the mind.

Accordingly,
since people go to monks for spiritual protection and often summon them to help the dead, monks should cure the sickness in their own minds. That which cures the mind's sickness, the disease of karma and negative emotions, is the sacred
Dharma. Of the ten things that are called "dharma," this is the "sacred
Dharma," or Dharma that is qualified as sacred. Its definition is as follows:
just as medicine cures an illness, the Dharma transforms the mind, turning it away from the wrong path of nonvirtue. In this sense "Dharma," "cure," and
"transformation" mean the same thing. You should have confidence in this cure,
the Dharma. Once you know that the holy Dharma protects you from all the fears of samsara and the lower realms and is the source of benefit and happiness in this and future lives, and that the teachings of the sacred Dharma will therefore never let you down in this life, in future lives, or in the intermediate state, you have to have faith in it. It has been said:


Day and night, apply the precious wheel of faith


To the path of virtue.

and


Faith comes before all else, like a mother it gives birth to all;


The root of all Dharma is faith.

Who was it who taught this doctrine of the holy Dharma? It was:


The unsurpassable teacher, the precious Buddha.

—that is, the unsurpassable teacher, the incomparable, peerless King of the Shakyas.
He is the Lion of the Shakyas who as the
dharmakaya
is Samanta-bhadra, as the
sambhogakaya
is the great Vajradhara, and in his
nirmanakaya
form is Shakyamuni the protector of beings.

Just as the Teacher is beyond compare, so was his aspiration as the brahmin minister's son Ocean Dust, and so is his incomparable Teaching.

As we find in the Seven Chapters:


From the inconceivable, marvelous doctrine of the Buddhas


The supremely noble teaching will appear three times.

The
Secret Mantra Vajrayana appeared more than ten million kalpas ago when the
Buddha Once Come King taught, during the kalpa called Complete Array. In the future kalpa Strewn Flowers, when the Buddha known as Manjushri will teach, the
Secret Mantra will appear on a vast scale. At present, while the doctrine of the Buddha Shakyamuni endures, the Secret Mantra Vajrayana is taught extensively. These are the only three Ulpas in which beings are suitable vessels for receiving the teachings of the Secret Mantrayana.

What then is meant by the following passage from the Magical Net of Manjushri?


The teachings of the past Buddhas


Will also be taught by future ones.

It refers to the Secret Mantrayana, which will not be proclaimed on a wide scale.

The realm of the present Buddha Shakyamuni, the one thousand million-fold Saha world, is called the "world of no fear" not because it is very good. Rather, it is so called for its great evil. Sentient beings here are not afraid of desire,
they are not frightened by anger and they have no fear of ignorance, which is why it is called the realm of the Saha world. That incomparable Teacher taught


The unsurpassable protection, the precious sacred Dharma .
. .

—that is, the 84,000 elements of the Dharma. When these are all put together they constitute the Twelve Branches of Excellent Speech, which again together constitute the Three Pitakas. The Tripitaka is what is called the Conqueror's precious doctrine of transmission and realization. The Tripitaka itself is known as the Dharma of transmission because, just as we use handles to carry an earthen pot or leather bag, we use words to make the Dharma of realization unfold. The subject of the Tripitaka is the path of the superior threefold training, which is the Dharma of realization.

As to why this "path of superior training" is superior: non-Buddhist traditions have their own meditative concentrations and include ascetic practices in which one acts like a dog or an ox, but it is not possible to attain liberation and omniscience by such paths. Through the Buddha's path of the superior training,
Buddhists do attain the state of liberation and omniscience, which is why it is called the superior training.

There are no teachings belonging to the Sutrayana or Mantrayana that are not included in the Tripitaka and the threefold training. In the Basic Vehicle the subjects that are taught in the Three Pitakas—Vinaya, Sutras, and Abhidharma—are the three trainings: respectively, discipline, concentration, and wisdom.

In the Bodhisattva path, all the precepts that explain the root downfalls belong to the Vinaya Pitaka, and its whole subject is the training in discipline. All the sutras that teach the methods for developing concentration belong to the
Sutra Pitaka; and its whole subject, the meditation on how difficult it is to find the freedoms and advantages and so forth, is the training in concentration. All the explanations of the sixteen or twenty kinds of emptiness belong to the Abhidharma Pitaka; and its whole subject is the training in wisdom.

The descriptions of the Secret Mantra Vajrayana samayas belong to the Vinaya
Pitaka, and its subject is the training in discipline. The explanations of the common generation and perfection phases belong to the Sutra Pitaka, and its subject is the training in concentration. The explanations on the Great
Perfection belong to the Abhidharma Pitaka, and its subject is the training in wisdom.

To summarize, there are no texts and subjects belonging to these different vehicles that are not included in the Tripitaka and the threefold training.

Now,
who is the holder of the Conqueror's precious doctrine of transmission and realization? It is:


The unsurpassable guide, the precious Sangha . . .

—that is to say, the doctrine is held exclusively by the members of the Sangha and not by beings such as gods, demons, Brahma, or the Lord of the Universe.

The holders are the sublime members of the Sangha, and to hold the doctrine, they have to hold the Dharma of transmission by listening and explaining, and to hold the Dharma of realization by practice and accomplishment.

We should not look down like a dog, but look up like a bird, counting ourselves as members of the Sangha. If we look down and behave like ordinary men and women,
they will call us "corrupt monk, rotten monk!" A rotten monk is someone with shameful discipline, poor concentration, and a lack of wisdom. So instead we should look up and follow the Three Jewels: our teacher is the Buddha, the
Bhagavan. That which shows us the path that leads to the state of liberation and omniscience is the sacred Dharma, the Conqueror's Dharma of transmission and realization. Those who accompany us on the way to the state of liberation and omniscience are the noble Manjushri and the spiritual friends attending this present teaching, whose conduct is equally pure. Since we count ourselves as members of the Sangha, we should hold the Dharma of transmission and realization and never be driven to demeaning it. This is what we mean by
"members of the guiding Sangha."

Sangha,
or "yearning for virtue," refers exclusively to those who yearn for the path of the superior threefold training. It does not refer to those who are fond of negative actions, of business, disputes, or fights.

"Guiding"
means, having first been shown the path for liberating oneself and having attained liberation, showing ordinary lay people the path to liberation and guiding them on the path to liberation and omniscience as if leading them by the hand. This is why it is called the guiding Sangha.

Ordinary people have kings as their leaders, negative actions as their path, and people who act negatively as their companions—businessmen, thieves, hunters, friends whose mouths are full of empty oaths and lies, and those who destroy any virtue one might have. For this reason, you should think, "It is not right for me to follow such a path, so I shall never do so, for now I know the advantages of the Dharma and disadvantages of worldly paths."

These then are what we call the Three Jewels:


The unsurpassable teacher, the precious Buddha


The unsurpassable refuge, the precious sacred Dharma


The unsurpassable guide, the precious Sangha

—that is, the Three Rare and Supreme Ones. In this world precious things such as gold, silver, and wish-fulfilling gems are not all that rare. Sometimes old people with great merit find a precious wish-fulfilling gem. It is also possible that King Indrabhuti obtained one. But a wish-fulfilling gem can only be a source of food, clothes, somewhere to live, and possessions in this life;
it does not dispel all the fears and sufferings of this and future lives. The
Three Rare and Supreme Jewels remove all the fears and sufferings of this and future lives and give rise to all the benefits and happiness of this and future lives. Therefore, because the Three Rare and Supreme Ones are very rare in the world, they are called rare and supreme and not "abundant and supreme." You should understand that you need to have a thorough knowledge of the Three Rare and Supreme Jewels, so that whenever you listen to the holy Dharma, explain it,
or practice it, you will never leave their protection.

Of these Three Jewels, the Buddha is the one who shows us the path to liberation and omniscience. As the Buddha said:


I have shown you the methods that lead to liberation,


But liberation depends on you, so exert yourselves.

The
Dharma is what protects us, and nothing else can do so. Even the Buddha cannot protect us. When Devadatta seized the Tathagata's big toe and cried out in anguish, "Gautama, I burn, I am ablaze, I am consumed by fire!'" the Buddha could do no more than teach him the Dharma, saying:


Devadatta, from the depth of your heart recite:


"I go for refuge to the Buddha,


I go for refuge to the Dharma, I go for refuge to the
Sangha."

The
Buddha is not a catapult that can shoot stones up to the level of liberation;
no one can propel you to liberation if you do not practice the Dharma yourself.

Those who hold the Dharma are the members of the Sangha, and the Dharma they hold comprises 84,000 elements. Put together, these constitute the Twelve Branches of Excellent Speech, which in turn can be compiled as the Three Pitakas. The
Three Pitakas together constitute the Buddha's two precious doctrines of transmission and realization.

If we divide the Dharma into vehicles, there are what we call the worldly vehicle,
or vehicle of gods and humans, and the transcendent vehicle, or vehicle of complete liberation.

The worldly vehicle takes one from existence in the three lower realms to the level of gods and humans in the higher realms, and this is why it is called the worldly vehicle.

The transcendent vehicle comprises two vehicles: the Basic Vehicle, known as the
Vehicle of Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas, so called because it takes one to nirvana, the state of the Shravakas and Pratyekabuddhas; and the Great Vehicle,
so called because it takes one to perfect buddhahood beyond the two extremes.

The texts that indicate these graded paths are the Buddha's own teachings and the shastras of his followers. These exist in the form of the vast Buddhist canon,
a very large number of transmissions and widely dispersed with instructions, so the subject matter is infinite, and in this decadent age when the span of life is short it is impossible to learn it all, let alone practice it. As Saraha said:


Drink the cool, soothing nectar


Of your master's instructions until you are replete,


Else die exhausted in the plain of misery,


Still thirsting for the teachings in a myriad shastras.

Meet the Author

Khenpo Ngawang Pelzang (1879–1941) was a major teacher and abbot in the Nyingma Lineage of Buddhism in Tibet. He studied for years with a close disciple of Patrul Rinpoche, from whom he received direct instructions on how to study and practice with The Words of My Perfect Teacher.

The Padmakara Translation Group, based in France, has a distinguished reputation for all its translations of Tibetan texts and teachings. Its work has been published in several languages and is renowned for its clear and accurate literary style.

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