“After I pass away and my pure doctrine is absent,
You will appear as an ordinary being,
Performing the deeds of a Buddha
And establishing the Joyful Land, the great Protector,
In the Land of the Snows.”
-Buddha Shakyamuni in the Root Tantra of Manjushri
Who Was Tsonghkapa?
The history of Buddhism in Tibet has been turbulent, going through periods of revival and decline. Lama Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) was a Buddhist scholar and saint who lived in Tibet during a time when Buddhist teachings had degenerated. Through deep study, profound practice and high attainments, Lama Tsongkhapa led a renaissance of pure Buddhist teachings by emphasizing study, morality and distilling the best teachings from the existing schools of Buddhism in Tibet and from Indian Buddhist masters. His teachings became the basis for the establishment of the Gelug monastery, a monastic institution which survives to this day although it has since relocated to South India.
Revered as an emanation of the three great Bodhisattvas; Avalokiteshvara, Manjushri and Vajraprani, Lama Tsongkhapa embodied the respective profound qualities of enlightened compassion, wisdom and spiritual power of all three Beings.
Among the many renowned teachings he gave and dharma texts he composed, Lama Tsongkhapa’s Lamrim Chenmo, translated as The Graded Stages of the Path to Enlightenment, is considered one of his greatest works and is widely studied today, by both ordained Sangha and laypeople all over the world.
Despite his high attainments and enlightened qualities, Lama Tsongkhapa never exhibited any public display of miraculous powers, such as clairvoyance, and expressly prohibited his disciples from doing so. Instead, Lama Tsongkhapa focused on studying and teaching pure Buddhadharma, and was a role model of pure virtue. The Gelug school of Buddhism, which means “Virtuous” tradition, arose out of his teachings, and has become one of the fastest growing Buddhist schools on the world today.
Essence of True Eloquence
On November 3rd, His Holiness the Dalai Lama arrived at New York’s Beacon Theater to fulfill the invitation of Tibet House US and the Tibetan Buddhist Learning Center to teach from Je Tsongkhapa’s ‘Essence of True Eloquence’.
His Holiness stated that he had received the transmission of ‘Essence of True Eloquence’ from Ling Rinpoche on the basis of a commentary by the 2nd Dalai Lama, who, like the First, was a truly great master. The Second was known as a non-sectarian with a yellow hat. His Holiness clarified that he was not going to be able read the entire text and asked who had made the textual selections in the brochure, remarking that he would depend on his own selections and follow his own way.
The early verses include a salutation to the Buddha, homage to Manjushri, and to the pioneers Nagarjuna and Asanga. That done, Tsongkhapa makes a pledge to compose the text. He quotes Dharmakirti as saying,“If it’s opaque to you, how can you explain it to others?”
Prompted by the Buddha’s remark:
The way is empty, peaceful, and uncreated.
Not knowing that, the living beings wander.
Moved by compassion, he introduces them
With hundreds of reasons and technical procedures,
His Holiness recalled the verse in the Three Principal Aspects of the Path:
Swept by the current of the four powerful rivers,
Tied by strong bonds of actions, so hard to undo,
Caught in the iron net of self-centredness,
Completely enveloped by the darkness of ignorance,
Born and reborn in boundless cyclic existence,
Ceaselessly tormented by the three miseries
All beings, your mothers, are in this condition.
Think of them and generate the mind of enlightenment.
He said we all grasp at a self, and only by employing our intelligence can we attain liberation and enlightenment. We have to understand and realize emptiness. “Although,” he joked, “some might find it easier to remain in cyclic existence, thinking that it’s not too bad and that they are enjoying it; especially American samsara. If, on the other hand, you aspire for liberation, there is no choice but to discard the view of intrinsic existence.”
His Holiness highlighted the distinction between destructive emotions like anger that requires a specific target and constructive emotions, like compassion, that can be directed to a general target. As an example, he suggested that as each of us desires happiness, there are grounds for generating compassion for all beings. He remarked that the most effective antidote to destructive emotions is an understanding of emptiness. Continue Reading Here…